Thursday, May 28, 2009

The importance of a Safe Community

The other night I was working on my computer when I heard voices outside. We live in the downtown area so hearing loud conversations as people walk by isn’t unusual. This was beyond loud conversations, it sounded like an argument. I waited but the tone didn’t abate and as the volume grew louder you could tell there were a large crowd involved.

I shut off the lights and looked through the blinds. Out on the both sides of the street stood two groups shouting profanities at each other. It is perhaps ironic that the group on the opposite side of the street was standing in a church parking lot. Both groups were a mix of males and females, black and white. I couldn’t make out what they argument was about but it seemed to be escalating so I called the police. The police responded within a few minutes and were able to break-up the scene before it escalated.

I probably won’t learn what lead to the argument but I have a hunch that the recent loss of local jobs helped set the stage. The pullout of DHL from the airpark, plus the impact on airpark associated jobs, is between 6,000 to 10,000 jobs being lost. The effect is people are more stressed as a result of losing their jobs and having more time on the hands to get angry with their neighbor. The problem will be exacerbated by the upcoming summer months. Tempers will become shorter as temperatures rise.

Two events in Ohio cause me to wonder if events such as those the other night might not be on the rise. Toledo is laying-off police officers as a result of tax collections being 11.5% off from last year or $4 million less than last year’s revenues. Columbus is facing a similar situation but has yet to lay off any police officers. Laying off police officers causes residents to feel less safe. Combined this feeling of unease with other stresses (poor economy, job loss, health care), tempers could flair resulting in violence.

City leaders have to realize that as times become direr, public safety has to of paramount importance. It isn’t about balancing the budget; it is about maintaining the safety and security of the community. Detroit is a study in what happens as jobs and employers leave and the city is unable to attract new businesses. Tax revenues fall and public services are cut. The city becomes less attractive to new business as perceptions grow that it is unsafe.

I don’t follow Toledo enough to know what lead to the decision to lay off police officers. What I do know is Toledo is considered Detroit South and can ill afford to be perceived as an unsafe community. Toledo residents are buying firearms in record numbers because they fear for their safety. Toledo leaders need to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

Detroit and Toledo both serve as a reminder of the need for local leaders to maintain a safe community in order to experience economic recovery. Economic recovery can only happen if new businesses choose to locate in the community.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.  There are various claims to where the tradition first began, many point to the various women’s groups in the South that began decorating veterans graves during the 19th Century.  President Johnson declared Waterloo, NY as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966.


Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.


In 1915, Moina Michael began the tradition of wearing red poppies to honor those who died serving the nation during war.  She probably developed the custom based on the poem, In Flanders Fields:


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


John McCrae, 1915.


She wrote her own poem based on In Flanders Fields:


We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.


Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.


Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.


There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.


Source:  US Memorial Day History

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Standards for Vehicles

On Tuesday, the Obama administration set higher mileage and emission standards to take effect in 2012 and to be achieved by 2016.  The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today's standards. According to news reports, passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg and light trucks 30 mpg.

A draconian mandate of this sort always carries more consequences than are first apparent.  The mileage stipulated requires cars and light trucks can only be achieved through the use of lighter materials for engines and bodies.  The physics of moving four adults means vehicles can only be compressed so far.  Lighter materials for engines and bodies will increase fuel efficiency but eventually those limits will be reached.  Options to further increase fuel efficiency become few to non-existent at that point.

Rather than set some arbitrary number for MPG, a better approach would be to reduce the need for the number of automobiles on the road.  Los Angeles has some of the worst traffic congestion in part because it has the fewest options for mass public transit.  I heard a report this morning by a business reporter that the US should follow the European model that does not mandate MPG (and where fuel costs $6.00 per gallon).  The reporter's supposition is that the cost of fuel controls the fuel efficiency of European vehicles.  The reporter seems to overlook the vastly superior mass transit systems of Europe compared to the United States that eliminates much of the need for travel by private conveyance.

The Obama administration’s new fuel mandates forces the use of more plastics in automobiles, a material made from petroleum.  This seems to contradict the stated reasons for increasing fuel efficiency, to reduce dependency on foreign oil.  The use of more plastics and lighter bodies does not reduce the need for light trucks to be able to haul loads.  Load requirements mean engines will still have to produce enough horsepower to haul loads, reducing load capacities means more trips or more trucks to haul the equivalent load.  The effect is zero or even negative fuel savings as well as increased pollution.

Fuel additives were the latest attempt to reduce dependency on foreign oil but the results so far have been unimpressive.  The ethanol industry is failing to produce a profit despite government requirements to use the additive.  The increase use of ethanol had the unintended consequence of increase food costs associated with increase in corn prices.  Corn was identified as the preferred material to manufacture ethanol even though only a relatively small amount of the corn cob produces ethanol.  The rest is waste.  Comparatively, willow bushes can be converted into ethanol using almost 100 percent of the plant.  Willow would not have had the same increase on food prices.  Ethanol production yields more air pollution than it saves as a fuel additive.

Ethanol also increases maintenance costs as it leaves heavy carbon build-up in engines and deteriorates fuel lines when concentration exceeds 15%.  The additional costs means any fuel savings are offset by the additional wear and tear on vehicles.

Reducing American dependency on foreign oil is vital to homeland security but this needs to be achieved by something other than federal mandates for fuel efficiencies.  Our mass transit systems need to be drastically improved.  Having viable rail systems between major cities reduces both the need for private vehicles as well as air travel.  Air travel is often looked at separate from the passenger cars yet they are both related.  Both airlines are passenger cars are used as there are no other alternatives available to most travelers.  A major improvement to our mass transit system would help reduce energy dependency, air pollution, and even would lead to economic recovery.  None of these will be achieved through federal mandates for increased fuel efficiency.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Attracting New Employers

I was talking with a former colleague the other night. She had just accepted a position with a major firm in Dayton but plans on commuting from Columbus for the near future. Given the likelihood that gas prices will rise, I asked her if she was planning to eventually move to Dayton. She wasn’t in favor of moving as, according to her, Dayton has a much higher per capita crime rate than Columbus. I found this an interesting perspective as one who writes about the safety and security of communities.

Dayton has been beset by a number of corporations (NCR, Mead) leaving the area. No new corporations have located to Dayton to replace those that have departed. The main reason typically given is the high taxes and licenses required by the state but the other reason may be a perception that Dayton isn’t safe. According to crime statistics from the Dayton Police, there have been 355 arrests for violent crimes to date. This seems to be consistent for the last two years.

Cincinnati crime statistics are grouped differently making a comparison a little harder. Year to date, Cincinnati has had 1,760 total arrests to date compared to 1,971 last year.
Statistics are always an intriguing argument and you can often conclude completely opposite conclusions from the same data points. Dayton is smaller than Cincinnati so you would expect the total numbers to be correspondingly bigger. Cincinnati does seem to have reduced the overall number of arrest while Dayton has remained steady. One might conclude that a reduction in crime indicates an aggressive approach to maintaining a safe community. It might also reflect the larger number of police agencies in and around the Cincinnati area compared to Dayton.

My real point is though whatever the facts may be, the perception of a community being less safe than another has much impact on business than we may first realize. Cincinnati’s mayor is trying to associate himself with a positive brand image for the Cincinnati. Mayor Mallory has met with sharp criticism for this tactic but can understand his desire to promote a positive image for the city.

I don’t get the Dayton Daily News anymore so can’t really speak to how Mayor McLin is promoting Dayton’s image. Based on my purely anecdotal experience, it appears there may be some opportunity for improvement.

Communities looking to attract new businesses can begin by showcasing the safety and security of local area. Too often this gets overlooked when it comes time to pass fire and police levies. Taxpayers become less willing to support levies when they don’t understand the benefit to themselves or when there have been multiple requests to support levies.
Having first rate fire and police agencies should be part of the communities strategic plan to attract new businesses. In some cases, it may become more prudent to pursue regional approach with multiple small municipalities sharing the cost versus establishing separate departments in each town. The political sensitivity towards regional service can be touch and may not always be a viable option. Whenever possible though, looking at how best to make the community safer and thus more attractive to employers is one of the better approaches.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cincinnati Intermodal Port

The Enquirer editorial page ran a pro versus con piece on the proposed intermodal port in Cincinnati along the Ohio River.  Intermodal transportation is moving freight by using containers that prevents having to unload and load the freight each time the means of transportation changes.  Either 40 or 80 foot shipping containers are switched between various modes of transportation (trucking, ship, rail) without the cargo having to be handled.  It is a very efficient means of transporting goods either across the country or around the world.


The two articles appearing on the editorial page covered some of the basic issues but I think both missed two important points regarding an intermodal port.  The obvious benefit of creating an intermodal port are the potential jobs associated with operating and supporting the port.  New jobs would help lead the economic recovery of the region.  The port would operate 24/7 and in addition to the jobs at the port, numerous other jobs would be created to support port operations.  Technical support, logistics, maintenance and food services would all be required to support the port.


The writer of the con article was against the port because eminent domain would take homes away from local residents.  I never agree with people losing their homes, however the greater con is the increased wheeled traffic associated with the port.  More containers being handled in Cincinnati would mean an increase amount of truck traffic on I-75.  The increase traffic would add even more wear and tear to the Brent Spence Bridge and roads.  Hazardous freight poses a risk to the Ohio River in the event containers are damaged.  Increased barge traffic means more pollution and increase potential for recreational boat traffic to collide with the commercial traffic.


The proposed intermodal port would help the economic recovery for Cincinnati and Southwestern Ohio.  However, the impact of such a project needs to be clearly thought through the implications need to be understood by all.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Two interesting things happened in the last few days while I was minding my own business.

First, my daughter decided to take French this year in high school.  I'm jaded and suggested Spanish instead but of course in keeping with a typical 14 year old, she decided against her father's wishes.  I studied French in grade school for 5 years, despised it and chose Latin first and later German as soon as options presented themselves.  Expecting a similar experience for my daughter, I was delighted when she asked me if I knew how to make a French martini.  Her French teacher had mentioned it during class and shared the correct proportions with my daughter.  For those who aren't familiar, martinis are believed to have been first invented by bartender Jerry Thomas in the 1860's while working in San Francisco.  Martinis combined a spirit (gin or vodka) with a wine (vermouth) or liqueur.  Legend has it that Mr. Thomas named after its main ingredient, Chambord, which is from France.  The following is the French Martini recipe:

1 1/2 oz vodka
1/4 oz 
Chambord® raspberry liqueur
1/4 oz fresh 
pineapple juice
1 twist 
lemon peel

The other discovery was sitting at a faculty function this evening and discovering a fellow blogger.  Carla and her husband have created Hoperatives to share both their love of artisan beers as well as the brewing history of Cincinnati.  Even better, they have already posted Losantiville on their blog roll.  The least I could do is return the favor!  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another Local Outlet Closes

Late last month, Clear Channel cut 590 jobs nationwide and effectively ended local sports talk radio.  I only recently started to listen to local sports talk not because of an interest in sports as much as it was the last bastion of local issues.  Local sports talk has been replaced with even more nationally syndicated programming.

We have had our views of world events shaped by fewer and fewer news outlets for years.  If you watch any of the morning news programs, you will see the same handful of stories being retold.  You will also see the same news stories on most of the Internet news sites.  Talk radio regurgitates these same headlines at decibels above reality.  The hosts will whip those topics into controversies that in turn drive up their ratings.  In the end, there is very little in the way of original programming or content.

I first realized the magnitude of this phenomenon while deployed.  One of the myriad satellite radio stations was broadcast in the gym.  The hosts were a saccharine male and female that went out of their way to be from nowhere.  Their accents were neutral and banter was kept to generic topics.  Perhaps it was the stress of being 6,000 miles away from home but after about two weeks I wanted to strangle these radio androids.  Their pretense at being from everywhere and nowhere at the same time became unnerving.

About three years ago I was listening to local smooth jazz station (okay so that was my first problem).  I recognized Norman Brown as the host.  What the hell was he doing hosting a local show?  He is a well-known jazz guitarist and as far as I knew wasn’t from the area.  He added just enough bits here and there to make it sound like it was originating from here but this was an illusion.  He was hosting the show from L.A. and was adding the local bits to make it appear as though the show was originating from here.

I know the reasons for the shift from all local to national programming lies in economies of scale and not some conspiracy.  Regardless, the effect is our tastes in music and knowledge of events is based on programming formulas and not representative of local interests and views.  Sports talk was one of the last markets that reflected the interests of local listeners.  Now that has fallen by the wayside as well.

In part I believe this why blogs and social networking media have take off.  People are growing tired of a homogenized view of music, news and sports.  They want to talk about things they are interested in with others.  Unfortunately most blogs, including this one, are the reflection of the author.  Those who don’t write blogs or use social networking media really are left without a means of reading about or expressing their interests.

The state of local media is not really my area of expertise.  I am reflecting on this subject mainly as someone who grew up in the local area and remember how different radio, newspapers and TV were.  The music I was exposed to on local radio was selected by people and played by disc jockeys who lived here as well.  Local reporters and commentators covered news and sports.  Good, bad or indifferent the views expressed were by those who lived here.  I’m not sure this nationalized view, to the exclusion of a more regional view, is going to take us anywhere good.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Murky Waters for the Air National Guard

Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, said  May 5 during a House Armed Services airland panel hearing that "to date, there are no firm plans" to mitigate ANG's looming fighter gap. The Air Guard, which handles the bulk of the homeland air sovereignty alert mission, will lose 80 percent of its F-16 fleet to age in less than eight years. Wyatt told the lawmakers that, currently, "the bulk of the Air National Guard recapitalization in the F-35 occurs in the out years, approaching 2022 and thereafter; most of our units age out in the 2017 to 2018 timeframe." And, Wyatt, pointed out that barring an accelerated replacement program, "You can expect more safety issues, failed inspections, less combat capability, and mission gaps." Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), panel chairman, asked Wyatt to provide the new plan anticipated with DOD's release of its 2010 budget, which happened on May 7. However, the publicly released documents and briefings offered no new information addressing the Air Guard's dilemma. On May 5, Wyatt said he believes USAF "has the capability" to rework its F-35 beddown plan to include earlier fielding to the Air Guard. He acknowledged, though, that "the numbers are extremely critical, and the rate of production is extremely critical." Wyatt still has not ruled out buying modernized legacy fighters. 
The above paragraph comes from Air Force Association's Daily Update.  The Air National Guard (ANG) in the beginning flew older airframes that had already been phased out of the active inventory.  The ANG was able to slowly change the state of the inventory from antiques to same aircraft as those flown by active duty.  The shift in airframes allowed the ANG to transition from a training reserve to a strategic reserve.  The last Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) harvested many of these newer airframes from the ANG to increase the numbers on active duty.  For example, the active duty Air Force had a larger number of older C-130E models compared to the newer C-130H and C-130J aircraft at ANG units.  The ANG bases or units with these newer airframes were closed.  

F-16s didn't present as critical a need for the USAF so more of these units remained in the ANG.  It appears now these units will be left with a huge gap.  Long before 9/11, the ANG had the responsibility of maintaining the air sovereignty of the United States.  The long delay in going from F-16 to F-35 will compromise the air sovereignty and security of the homeland.

I fear this trends means the ANG will one day cease to exist as we know it.  The ANG has demonstrated its ability to perform combat missions going back to the Vietnam War.  To lose this cost effective means of supplementing our air superiority is risky at best.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Complaining officer's powers removed

Complaining officer's powers removed | Cincinnati Enquirer | Cincinnati.Com

When I first started out in the USAF, if a senior officer disciplined a junior officer or NCO it went pretty much unchallenged unless it was a gross abuse of power.  Disciplinary actions were carried out and weren't subject to the level of second guessing that is now common place.

By no means were all of these disciplinary actions well founded or even carried out equitably.  Hence more and more appeals and review actions were implemented.  If all disciplinary actions were carried out fairly, appeals and reviews would be the exception and not the norm.

Creating multiple opportunities to have a disciplinary action reviewed had the unintended consequence of having almost every action subjected to review.  In other words, the power of commanders was drastically curtailed.  Maintaining good order and discipline has become very challenging for military officers.  

I can't imagine the level of scrutiny Chief Streicher and Chief Wright face.  Each disciplinary action taken against a police officer or firefighter is immediately questioned and scrutinized by the media.  The union immediately weighs in as well often protecting the weakest link rather than insuring fair work practices.  The Chiefs also face the scrutiny of city hall and various citizen action groups.  I'm not saying all of their decisions are correct, merely pointing out the challenges of their jobs.

I have no idea what Lt Col Janke did other than what was reported in the newspaper.  Anyone who has worn a uniform can tell you if the commander kicks you that hard and that far, it wasn't because you merely raised your voice.  The whole episode getting played out in the paper is all about the individual and not about justice.  There are both legal and contractual means of filing grievances and requesting appeals.  It doesn't need to be drug out in the media where only part of the story gets told.

Reliance on the media to bring pressure on the boss is becoming so common place across industry and the country.  An employee facing disciplinary action or job termination seems to automatically contact the media.  It makes for sensational headlines but in the end, what do they hope to achieve?  If the employee is exonerated, they will forever carrying the stain of having gone outside the organization to tell their story.  Whistle-blower protections only protect against retaliation/adverse personnel actions, it does not guarantee upward mobility for the individual.  An employee who has gone to the media may be protected in some cases but their career will most likely stagnant if they stay with the same agency or company.

If the individual is proven to be deserving of the disciplinary action, then it is all over the media for the world to see.  It will make it even harder for the individual to start anew.

I hope over time there can be a balance struck between the needs of managers and supervisors to maintain discipline and oversight of those actions.

Posted using ShareThis