Saturday, September 11, 2004
I'm leaving for Pittsburgh in a little more than an hour. Part of me is feeling incredibly guilty about this. I'm going there for a football game
, which I admit to greatly looking forward to watching and seeing a bunch of my friends.
Still, it is 9/11
I will be away from my wife and daughter. That makes it worse.
I'm sure there will be a moment of silence at the stadium. It won't be nearly enough. There are plenty of reasons and justifications to just go out and have a good day -- filled with plenty of beer, grilled meats, and cigars (but no strippers, honey. Promise.
) -- on this day of sadness and loss. I generally prefer the idea of a wake to a somber funeral.
I won't forget, I won't forgive, but I will live.
It Keep Getting Worse In Eastlake
This is huge. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer
investigation, the City of Eastlake overcharged property owners about $5 million dollars
in the last 16 years, and used the money to help pay for the minor league ballpark. The Lake County Auditor's office never caught the mistake, and kept giving them the money.
Eastlake's finance director submitted documents to the county that overstated how much money the city should receive.
The county Budget Commission did not catch the problem and allowed inflated property tax bills to be sent to Eastlake property owners.
Council President Chuck Hillier said the over- collection is another example of years of financial mismanagement in this city of 20,127.
"It's all coming home to roost right now," Hillier said. "I'm amazed this could even happen."
State law allows Eastlake to collect only the amount needed to make payments on the $7.1 million sewer loan - about $740,000 a year. But taxpayers were charged more in every year but one, including an extra $600,000 in 2001.
A Plain Dealer review of records shows Eastlake used at least $2 million of the money to make payments on loans for a new municipal complex, which opened in 1994. And $1.6 million more has gone toward interest payments on loans for Eastlake Ballpark, home of the Lake County Captains, a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson is a member of the Budget Commission along with the county auditor and county treasurer. Coulson said Eastlake officials should have made the county aware of the problem and should not have spent the extra money. He also suggested the county find a way to reduce future property tax collections to rectify the error.
County Auditor Edward Zupancic defended his office's role in the over-collection but acknowledged Eastlake had received too much money from the sewer tax.
First, since I so rarely do, kudos to the Plain Dealer and reporter Mark Gillispie. They are obviously doing a lot of looking into Eastlake's budget problems and the costs of the minor league ballpark. This is just the newest piece coming to light.
Things are just getting worse as far as the fiscal problems here. This is just unbelievable.
Jack Masterson was Eastlake's finance director from 1990 until May this year, when he quit to take the same job in Green. He said he thought he followed proper procedure in submitting the city's tax budget.
"When I put together the needs for debt service and passed it on to the county, I was assuming whatever was needed would be given to us," Masterson said.
He said he used sewer money to pay the interest on the ballpark because he expected to reimburse the debt service fund with promised grant money and other revenue sources, none of which the city has received. Eastlake began using sewer money on the stadium loans in December 2001.
Don't know what the code of ethics are for municipal finance directors, but taking the money from the debt service fund to make payments on the ballpark loans looks at least somewhat questionable.
This is mind-blowing. The City of Eastlake is going to be facing some big lawsuits and has to find a way to rebate money back to property tax owners, while trying to close a deficit. I didn't think the stadium would destroy this city, but right now it doesn't look good.
Eastlake has a lot to offer people to who live here and looking to live here, as far as location to the highway and being right by the lake. The municipal government and the prospect of more taxes and fees to pay for all the past sins will be a killer.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Local Property Tax
Ohio, like many states, relies heavily on real property taxes to pay for the local government and the schools. I'm not going to get into the history, issues of fairness, or logic of the system. It is what it is and won't be changing anytime soon.
I didn't back the operating levies for Eastlake because the crisis came about from mismanagement and (purposefully, I believe) overestimating future tax revenue. You don't throw more tax money to idiots after something like that until there is enough turnover regarding who is in charge and those in have shown that they won't be doing the exact same thing. I suspect many other voters felt the same way.
It's been over a week since I wrote anything about the financial crisis in my little 'burb
, Eastlake. One of the things I've been thinking about is the real property tax burden in Eastlake. When the emergency levies failed March and August, I couldn't help but wonder if the residents were just feeling overtaxed.
In general, Lake County is reasonable with its overall real property tax levels
(at least when compared to Cuyahoga County
). That's part of why the population has been growing in Lake County and more housing developments are arising.
(I should make clear, that I am not a homeowner. I've never been a homeowner. We rent the house in which we live. My responsibility for property taxes is indirect -- only as a component of our rent. Anyone who has or thinks they have more knowledge on this matter is encouraged to let me know where I am wrong. )
I was surprised to learn that Eastlake's real property tax burden is about average for all of Lake County. I expected it to be one of the higher levels, as one of the older communities and the 3rd largest city in the county.
So, if the real property tax burden in Eastlake is not crushing, why else were voters so opposed? Part of the reason why the residents in Eastlake would not back the last 2 levies for the city might be simple perception. The perception is that residents have been continually bombarded with real property taxes on the ballot
. Since November 1999, the residents of the City of Eastlake have had to vote on 17 real property tax levies (and 1 sales tax
) for either renewal, continuance, replacement or just new. This includes county-wide, schools and library levies.
* ADAMHS tax levies failed twice
in the full county vote
That means Eastlake voters approved 9 of 11 levies with regards to Eastlake operations and services, and 14 of the 17 total levies for all of Lake County. Voting on 18 tax measures in less than 5 years. 3-4 tax issues each year. It just looks bad, and it won't be changing soon.
The city and county need to think about this. They keep putting property tax issues on the ballot, and people will get weary. They will ask, "What? Again?" No matter how much they may want to support the service or the school or library. There comes a point where every person says, "enough."
Eastlake seems to be reaching that point. I think it is only a matter of a couple years before it becomes county wide.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Is the Cleveland Economy Improving?
A little. At least if you go by sales of used office furniture
. All things considered, it's not a bad way to evaluate.
Not My Fault
Haven't been able to post for over 12 hours. Seems all blogspot blogs were down
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
More Cats and Dogs
Clear Channel Communications, the liberal radio enabler
I haven't had much to say about the race for the 14th District U.S. House of Representatives seat. Mainly because, I doubt the outcome is really in question. Steve LaTourette (R) is the incumbent -- and who will probably win -- and his challenger is Capri Cafaro
(D). Ms. Cafaro won the primary despite her youth, inexperience, own involvement with Traficant and Youngstown corruption
, and not actually living in the district -- helped by her family wealth (not that there's anything wrong with that). Her family was one of the original developers of shopping mall, and have always been bi-partisan in campaign contributions
. The 26 year-old recently "clarified" her remarks
suggesting she had been on Senate and House members staffs for the last 8 years.
Cafaro actually worked for less than two years as an unpaid intern in the press offices of two U.S. senators. She said Tuesday she understands how people may have been misled by her recent statements.
At a joint appearance with LaTourette Aug. 24 at Lakeland Community College, Cafaro said, "After spending almost eight years living and working in Washington as a staffer in the United States Senate for both a Democrat and a Republican, I've had an opportunity to build relationships with the members of Congress - particularly the Democratic delegation of Ohio - that will give me an opportunity to be a little bit different than your typical freshman congressperson."
LaTourette immediately challenged her on that point noting that Cafaro had worked for about two years as an unpaid staff member for Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat of Massachusetts, and then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a Republican of New York. Cafaro did not directly respond to LaTourette.
A Cafaro campaign flier states "While some candidates talk about being able to work with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, Capri has already done it. During her eight years in Washington, Capri worked for Democrat and Republican senators. Capri focused on health care, education and Social Security issues."
According to Cafaro's testimony from a 2003 trial in U.S. District Court in Cleveland involving a former colleague, she said she worked in 1996 and 1997 in an unpaid, "internship type of situation in the press office of both Sen. Kennedy and Sen. D'Amato."
Cafaro said Tuesday the flier is not meant to suggest she worked eight years for U.S. senators, but is meant to note that during the eight years she lived in the Washington, D.C., area she spent a part of that time working for senators.
Can't understand how people were misled.
Her campaign headquarters is in the Great Lakes Mall
, occupying an old bank by an entrance next to a hair salon and nails place. I see it every time I go to the mall, because that is the entrance I usually use. There are always a few cars with hers or a Kerry Edwards bumper sticker (mostly out of state or from the Columbus area) in the lot near the entrance. The door to her headquarters
is usually open, with some handwritten sign. Today I noticed she had this picture
on the door, and I just started laughing.
Even if I thought she had a chance, I wouldn't vote for her. I decided it a few weeks ago when I looked at her site. It's on her issue page
. Notice any particular issue missing from this page? Something anyone running for Congress should be willing to address and put on the record where they stand? Yep, the war on terror and the Iraq war is most conspicuous by its absence. Hard to take a candidate seriously when they are too afraid to put their views on one of the major issues of the 2004 election out there.
An Amber (child abduction) alert for Northeast Ohio just interrupted the "Elmo's World" segment of Sesame Street. I sat there listening as my daughter kept looking at me with confusion. It was the description of the child that caught me off guard. "15 years old, white, brown hair, blue eyes, 120 pounds, with a tattoo on her right arm," Huh?
"That says 'baby girl,' a tattoo on her left arm," Another one?
"of a marijuana leaf and a mushroom, a third tattoo on her lower back of a tribal design, " Good grief!
"Another tattoo on her lower abdomon." I didn't catch the type, because I was just trying to figure out how a 15 year-old has 4 different tattoos. WTF?
Doesn't sound like a true kidnapping, so much as running off. She got into a white van with a guy around 18 years-old and a female of around the same age. Here's a bonus, the van has West Virginia plates and is known to be headed back there. Not sure if an Amber Alert was meant to be used for this sort of thing.
The girl was found safe in West Virginia
Remember the Iranian judo master who
refused to fight his Israeli opponent
showed up overweight f0r his match and was disqualified. Here's a shocker. He really did simply refuse to fight a Jew
. Naturally, Iran, treats this accordingly:
Iran have given judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili a $125,000 reward, saying he sacrificed a gold medal at the Athens Olympics by refusing to fight an Israeli, a sports official said on Tuesday.
State television showed Miresmaeili at an award ceremony receiving the same sum as Iranian Hossein Rezazadeh, who took the super-heavyweight weightlifting gold at the second Olympics in succession.
"He would definitely have won a gold medal if he had taken part," said the sports official, who declined to be named.
"By refusing to fight, Miresmaeili followed the policies of the country," the official added.
Well, at least Iran isn't thumbing its nose at the world over nuclear weapons. Oh, right.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Watched some college football, watched some baseball, had a good dinner and day with some friends, drank some bourbon, ended up buying a new refrigerator -- not sure if it will actually fit through the doors -- and of course spent a lot of time with the wife and daughter. Spent no time on this blog and only a few posts over at Pitt Sports Blather
Quick look around the blogs and news sites tells me I didn't miss much.