Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gov. Kasich like other politicians - fails to acknowledge real cause of money woes

Ohio Senate Bill 5 is stirring debate and raw emotion around the state.

Governor John Kasich certainly wasted no time in stirring the pot as he took the reins of our state government. Within days of his inauguration, he announced intentions to eliminate collective bargaining for law enforcement, fire fighters and teachers.

I feel that I understand part of where Kasich is coming from. I have been strongly opposed to much of the demands that unions have made for many years. I feel that unreasonable demands from unions, primarily those involved with industrial workers, are largely responsible for the fact that many American workers have lost their jobs to foreign competitors.

There was a time when labor unions were necessary in order to keep factory workers from being virtual slaves. Unions then became “too big for their breeches.” The level of protection given to lazy and inept employees, forcing an employer to keep non-productive “workers” is just one example of unions crippling many employers. As bad is it is seeing jobs shipped out-of-country, I don’t feel too sorry for staunch union workers who have spent decades bringing these changes upon themselves.

There is also another side to the situation. First of all, it was widely reported that Kasich came to his governor’s job with a huge chip on his shoulder regarding police and firefighters. It seems they were correct.

Just a week ago, there was much publicity about Kasich berating a law enforcement officer … for doing his job. Now, he has begun an all-out attack against Ohio’s law enforcement and firefighters. He is also including our teachers in his strong-arm attempts to place the blame for Ohio’s money woes on many of those who we, and our children, need most.

As someone who does not receive the benefits afforded the afore-mentioned groups, I admit to some jealousy as to the benefits they receive. It is more accurately, an I-wish-we-had-those-kind-of-benefits-type of jealousy.

Before I move on, I looked at the Ohio Sunshine Law website. It states that State of Ohio employees who have served more than one year, receive full benefits, including health, dental, eye-care, and life insurance. That sounds, to me, like the very things Kasich is looking to take away from people who face danger, and our children, daily.

I have come to believe the rumors that Kasich has a burr under his saddle and is looking to make those who are most deserving of a watchdog to keep their jobs tolerable, his whipping boys and girls.

I want to know why legislators, at all levels, are so quick to point fingers at everyone but themselves when it comes to blame for out-of-control spending.

Schools and cities do not have enough money to continue to pay fair wages and benefits to employees and staff to safe levels. Do you think for a minute that Kasich has given a thought to the fact that a large part of the problem is that our government is tripping over itself in mandating things that must be done, or risk losing more funding?

A good example for city and schools alike is the EPA storm water runoff mandate from last year. The federal government gives no choice in the matter. It doesn’t matter what the cost, they say, you will just do it.
How many jobs and raises do that, and countless other laws and mandates made by an out-of-control government, cost us every year?

Ted Strickland was truly an abomination as governor, but, I fear that John Kasich may be more of a cancer to our Great State of Ohio than we can afford.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Slow down out there ... the life you save may be your own

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Spring is in the air, and all around the area, young drivers, tired of being constrained by snow and ice are ready … they feel, “the need … the need for speed.”

As the air warms and roadways clear, an adrenaline rush turns feet into lead weights on the accelerators of vehicles operated by teenage drivers who think themselves invincible.

Parents, teachers and law enforcement officials do their best to warn young drivers of the dangers lurking on the road but too many teens, and a good many adults, choose to ignore the warnings.

Spring is still more than a month away, but I am already seeing too many examples of drivers suffering from spring fever. There is an old saying about it taking “a 2x4 to hit you between the eyes” in order to get one’s attention. The reality is that aggressive and inattentive driving can lead to a telephone pole hitting you between the eyes … literally.

In a matter of weeks we will begin to hear that it is prom time. Schools will begin to have mock crashes to re-educate students to the dangers of drunken driving and texting will driving. These are good lessons. They are lessons learned from real crashes. Those crashes resulted in real families losing real sons and daughters.

How about, we don’t wait until “prom time” to think about dangerous driving practices? How about, we adults stop thinking that warnings against aggressive and inattentive driving are only for young and less experienced drivers?

Roadways are becoming more congested with each passing year as more and more drivers take to the highway.

I lament that the days of driving on a rural roadway, night or day, and rarely seeing another vehicle are long gone. I remember that in the not-so-distant past, one could take “the back way” to get to many destinations without dealing with much traffic. Today, “the back way” is often just a heavily traveled as the main routes.

All of this adds up to more dangerous roadways. More cars and less patient drivers are a recipe for trouble. Most of us feel that we spent most of this past winter driving in slow motion. Roadways were ice and snow covered for a large part of the past couple of months. Motorists adapted to the road conditions and slowed accordingly.

This past week, we woke up and found roadways clear. There is a natural tendency to want to speed up. Maybe we are attempting to make up for time lost during the winter.

We must be aware of the many dangers lurking on re-discovered bare pavement. Potholes can cause serious damage. Driving at “100 percent alertness, 100 percent of the time,” is a phrase coined by Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul Weber, who is stationed at the Piqua Post. Weber has made a personal mission of educating drivers on the dangers of inattentive driving.

One of my concerns is that many of the same parents who preach safety to the young drivers in their family, fail to “practice what they preach.” If someone is killed by an aggressive or inattentive driver, it makes no difference if the driver was 17 or 40 years old … they are just as dead.

As parents, we need to lead our children by example. That leadership extends to times when we are behind the wheel. Even little kids absorb what dad or mom are doing and saying as they drive the family car. I believe that we can begin to develop safe driving habits in our children, and grandchildren, when they are still sitting in a child safety seat.

If you think that your child is not paying attention, just think about how many times you may have uttered a “dirty word” when you thought a child wasn’t listening, only to have them repeat the word, usually at the most embarrassing moment. Kids are paying attention.

This spring, encourage your teenage drivers, and maybe take time to heed the advice yourself, the arrival of warmer weather is not the time to “feel your oats” or “blow out the carburetor,” or whatever excuse one might use for driving a nearly-one-ton wheeled weapon with reckless abandonment and endangering the lives of innocent bystanders.

When you get behind the wheel this spring, let’s put down the cell phone, the iPad, the electric shaver, the curling iron, the lipstick and the Big Mac. How about we all slow down and “smell the roses?”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Heck-of-a-storm ... it's all relative

Our latest round of winter weather, once again, has news and weather reporters pawing the earth, or in our part of the country, pawing the ice, as they report snow, ice, wind and other generally catastrophic conditions from coast to coast.

If these prognosticators keep going, it will be necessary to invent new adjectives to describe storms as they have used up all of the existing ones.

As we watch and listen to reporters in Dallas describe their inch of snow while their counterparts in Chicago brave blizzard conditions, we hear much talk of “worst ever” and “unlike anything before.”

Sure, the weather is bad, but I believe that there is a perspective that we don’t often think about and one that our news and weather folks choose to ignore.

First of all, let’s look at the population of the United States in, say, 1810. The Census Bureau indicates that just over 7 million people lived here. The population rose to around 92 million by 1910. The United States census of 2000 shows us close to 300 million strong.

Next, we must consider communications ability during the time period. And last, we must look at our dependency on others from generation to generation.

One might suggest that media members have become more prone to embellishment as we have progressed but, I believe that may not have changed that much. I have no difficulty believing that journalists of centuries-past were as quick with an extra adjective and any of their 21st century counterparts.

One of the more serious factors is the sheer number of “media outlets” today. A century, or two, ago, there weren’t that many newspapers. And, of course, there was no radio or television, let alone anything like the Internet.

Now, it seems everyone thinks they are a reporter, and many media outlets encourage this. So, when a single flake of snow falls from the sky, there are a hundred people there, cell phones in hand, to take photos and cry, “it is snowing.”

Adding to the circus is the professional media who must report each and every aspect of the storm. I think they get bonus points for reporting from the most precarious or dangerous spot. The reasoning is that we are a “visual society.” The translation is that we have become too lazy to get off the couch and go look out the window.

When the good citizens of America had a blizzard or an ice storm in the 1800s, rather than looking to alert the media, folks hunkered down at home and rode it out. Most grew their own food so going hungry wasn’t an issue. There was no electricity to go out. There were no cars to slide off the road.

For the most part, Americans were heartier people then. Today, the thought of doing manual labor to dig out after a storm is beyond the ability of many Americans. 

All of this adds up to my belief that many storms and weather events of today are no more powerful than those of the past. The differences are that our population has grown enormously, so more people are in harm’s way. A vast majority of our population have few skills to fend for themselves, even for short periods without electricity, fast food and WalMart.

We go through periods of cold and snow. We endure times of heat and drought. The media will continue to keep Americans informed. Some media outlets will choose to document every detail of every event. They may also relish the opportunity to speculate how each event might be the “most powerful” or “most destructive” of all time.

Rest assured that it is all relative. Storms and other weather events have been happening for centuries. We just have more people affected now, because we continue to grow, and more damage because there is more property in harm’s way.

It is also a reminder that we humans can believe what we like about being in control, but when it comes to Mother Nature, we are just along for the ride … and sometimes, the ride gets rough.