John Kasich in his “State of the State” explained what drives his actions. “Just about every day,” Kasich said, “I search for what the Lord wants me to do, because I know life is short, and I know that my purpose on this Earth, whether I’m the governor or whether I’m a has-been, is to bring about a healing.”
Yesterday, the Dispatch quoted Kasich as saying, “You know what? I think we ought to get up every day and figure out how to cut taxes.”
Putting these two Kasich declarations together, it must follow, then, that Kasich believes that God wants him to cut Ohio’s taxes, and to cut taxes in a manner that brings “healing.” Fair enough. Our governor deserves the courtesy of taking him at his word and granting that in his own thinking, Kasich wants to advance public policies that will help build a strong and healthy society. The problem is, there are many ways to cut taxes and Kasich is advocating a strategy — an “across the board” cut of Ohio’s income tax — that advantages the wealthy and penalizes the poor. We can grant that Kasich is sincere — that he wants to build a strong and healthy society — but the “trickle down” theory of economics that has been used to defend the kind of tax cuts Kasich is advocating is now thoroughly discredited.
Ohio’s tax system already, as a whole, is regressive — as incomes increase the percentage of income paid in Ohio taxes decreases. The chart below shows that at the lowest income level, almost 12% of the income is paid in Ohio taxes while at the highest level only 8% of income is paid in Ohio taxes. This fact, that in Ohio those least able to pay are taxed at a higher rate than those more able to pay, would seem to contradict an important principle of “fairness.” I’m thinking that those Ohioans who understand Ohio taxes, if asked, would not choose to make Ohio’s tax system even more unbalanced — more regressive — than it already is.
Since Kasich has framed his actions as Ohio’s governor as those of a sincere believer seeking to do God’s will, it seems fair that Kasich should be expected to explain why he’s concluded that, at this time in Ohio’s history, regardless of the apparent unfairness of such an action, God wants Kasich to advance a change in Ohio’s tax system that will make the system more regressive. Kasich needs to explain how changing Ohio’s income tax to further advantage the wealthy will promote the “healing” he seeks.
Although Ohio’s income tax is “progressive” — those taxpayer with more income pay income tax at a higher rate (dark blue) — Ohio’s total tax is regressive. In Ohio, taxpayers with smaller income pay a bigger share of their income in total Ohio taxes than those taxpayers with larger incomes.
An “across the board” cut in Ohio’s income tax system, such as Kasich is advocating, will decrease the progressiveness of the system by the same percentage as the percentage of the “across the board” cut. See this 2008 post that analyzes Ohio’s 2005 “across the board” income tax cut of 21%: Ohio’s 2005 Tax Reduction Law Diminished, By 21%, The Progressivity of Ohio’s Tax Code.
In response to my article, The Dayton Daily News Cut Fifty Words From The Heart Of My Article, where I suggest that MCDP needs to be transformed, Stan Hirtle asked a good question — Can I provide any model of a local political party that has accomplished such transformation? The answer is “No. Not yet — but here is a start on a two part strategy by which such a model might be developed”
Stan, the problem you cite — “imagining a political party being anything other than bosses and insiders raising money, handing out jobs and advancing and protecting themselves” — is exactly the problem that needs to be solved.
The problem of imagining what a transformed political party may look like is a systems’ problem, and, as readers of this blog know, I like to apply W. Edwards Deming’s insights concerning systems whenever possible. To imagine a transformed system, we need to remember that every effective system has two key aspects:
- a well defined mission and
- an organizational structure thoughtfully designed to best accomplish that mission.
Political parties are so focused on producing winning candidates that winning seems their entire mission. The “political bosses and insiders raising money, handing out jobs and advancing and protecting themselves” is defended as a structure that works to produce winning candidates. Boss centered, hierarchical organizations are defended as being effective in reducing internal conflict, and in conserving scarce resources making it more likely for the party’s candidates to win.
One side effect of political parties being focused on winning is the growth of distrust, cynicism and apathy within the electorate. The resulting suppression of voter participation has benefited the Republicans. The response of political parties to growing voter cynicism has been to sharpen and expand their marketing efforts — further increasing voter cynicism — in an ever accelerating cycle.
The challenge for the Democratic Party is to break this cycle by consciously transforming its current system. Every successful system is guided by a mission that inspires and motivates. A local church, for example, does not define its mission as constructing buildings and raising a lot of money. The effort to construct buildings and raise an ever larger budget is inspired by a bigger purpose that motivates its members.
The purpose that should animate the MCDP must be one that transcends simply winning elections. The purpose of MCDP that will inspire and motivate the action that is needed must be one that is more than simply acting as an advocacy group focused on marketing certain issues. We need to focus on something more fundamental. I believe we can find a source of motivation and civic action by focusing on democracy itself. The MCDP should see its transcending mission as promoting and empowering democracy. If we could actually fulfill such a mission — by educating the public, by facilitating opportunities for political participation, by creating community — then, of course, Democrats would win elections in droves.
Here is one suggestion for how the purpose / mission for the MCDP should be stated: To empower democracy to work in all aspects of Montgomery County.
To accomplish such a mission, the MCDP would encourage the growth of grass roots democratic structures throughout the county. Brainstorming what such structures might look like is the next step. For one thing, the MCDP itself should be structured as a model of a democracy empowering organization. As I said in my DDN letter, “Democrats now are looking for a 21st century organization that is democratic and inclusive, and that welcomes them into a meaningful and connected community.” Not only Democrats would support such a transformed party, but such a party would have wide appeal to many who currently are disengaged from the whole political process.
Success for the MCDP ultimately would still be measured in terms of how many elections are won by Democrats. My premise is that an engaged, connected, empowered and informed electorate is much more likely to vote Democratic, rather than Republican and so winning elections would be a side-effect of pursuing the mission of empowering democracy to work. Here is the analogy: The mission of General Motors is to produce quality automobiles. Making a profit for its shareholders is by-product of accomplishing this mission. The MCDP needs to focus on making democracy work — winning elections will be a by-product of such effort.
This notion that MCDP should be seen as a system guided by a mission and empowered by an organizational structure that advances the mission should provide a platform for thoughtful discussion — a good structure for imagining what a transformed political party may look like. The devil, as usual, is in the details. To help inspire discussion, I intend on continuing this line of thought with further analysis and development.
The Dayton Daily News finally published my letter — on the editorial page (p. 9), under a large headline “On Your Mind”, and under an eye-catching cartoon by Mike Luckivich.
Fifty words, exactly, are cut from the article I sent to the DDN — 50 words from the center of the article and at the center of the message I wanted to deliver. Most of the third paragraph was cut — the very part that I worried most about, because it is the most accusatory and antagonistic sounding. The DDN kept the first sentence of this paragraph and merged it with the fourth paragraph. (The part omitted is in bold.)
If you are a loyal and active Democrat, you may be scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard about this important meeting. In fact, the lack of any effort of the MCDP to inform the grassroots is an indictment of the MCDP. The insiders want to maintain their right to make endorsements and to hand out patronage jobs, and the prospect of empowering grassroots Democrats to change the status quo is unacceptable.
Before I finally decided on the 332 words I sent to the DDN, I almost settled on a version that omitted this “indictment” — wondering if a less harsh sounding argument might, in fact, be more effective in interesting Democrats to become involved. It was a close decision and after I sent the letter in, I kept wondering if I should have omitted the very part that the DDN eventually cut. So, in one sense, maybe cutting these words improved the article, but, it bothers me that the DDN make the decision to omit those words, not me. And, now the third paragraph seems haphazardly written. The article as it appears in the paper is seen below:
How Grassroots Democrats Can Transform Their Local Party
Every four years, Democrats have a rare opportunity to change the constitution and leadership of the Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) at a “reorganization meeting.” This important meeting is scheduled for June 2014, and the deadline to start the process to become a delegate is February 5.
A reorganization meeting is structured much like a political convention. At this meeting, decisions are made according to the majority of delegates voting. Every precinct can send one delegate, but in 2010 out of 360 possible precincts, only about half elected a delegate.
If you are a loyal and active Democrat, you may be scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard about this important meeting. The big task for the reorganization meeting is rewriting the MCDP constitution. The current constitution harkens back to a time when political parties centered around “bosses.” Today, however, this boss system hinders the success of the party. Democrats now are looking for a 21st century organization that is democratic and inclusive, and that welcomes them into a meaningful and connected community.
The MCDP constitution will not be changed unless a majority of delegates vote for change. The reorganization meeting is a wonderful opportunity for grassroots Democrats to have real influence in setting the course of the local party for the next four years, and in creating a party structure that will encourage and inspire new commitment from Democrats.
Time is running out to meet the February 5 deadline. Any Democrat living in Montgomery County who is interested in being a delegate to this important meeting should contact me at email@example.com.
Democratic Party, Kettering Ward 4 Leader
At the Dayton rally announcing her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor of Ohio — as the running mate of Ed FitzGerald — Democrat Sharen Neuhardt said that the election will come down to who voters believe will protect the middle class, and that she and FitzGerald are ready to make that case.
Neuhardt said that she has complete confidence in FitzGerald and that she and FitzGerald are both staunch supporters of women. She said women’s issues are issues that impact the whole state — not just women. She said, “When women are making 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man for a comparable job, that is not just a woman’s issue. That is a family issue, that is an economic issue.”
She said, “When 100,000 women in need can/t get access to basic pap smears and mammogram and birth control they need simply because Republicans want to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, that is wrong.” She said, “Memo to Jonh Kasich: You are going to be really sorry that you messed with women, come November.”
Excerpts From Sharen Neuhardt’s Speech
I believe in Ed FitzGerald. You are going to love him, a former prosecutor and former FBI man. He came into Cuyohoga County after its largest scandal. He’s done an amazing job. He is going to do great things when elected. He is the reason I am here. So Thank you Ed.
Election will boil down to one question: Who do you trust to protest the middle class in Ohio? I think when we make our case to the voters, the votes will say that it is the Democrats. … In Ohio we are 46 out of 50 states in job growth. Thousands more Ohioans out of work today than were a year ago. Things are not good — not good for the middle class. …
Just this week, I was at the grocery store and heard complaints about the high cost of groceries. … My sister Cheryl lost her job last week — after being with a Dayton company for 26 years — regardless she is the best person in her department…. Too many Ohio jobs are going oversee. I have a vested interest in this fight — I’m going to do it for you, Cheryl.
John Kasich and other Republicans say Ed picked me, basically, because I have ovaries. You and I both know that is not the case. Ed FitzGerald picked me because I have a brain. Kasich and his Republic led legislature thinks we cannot have both. Ed and I are starch supporters of women’s rights. The Republicans want to say that Democrats want to make this all about abortion but the truth is women’s issues are much broader than that.
When women are making 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man for a comparable job, that is not just a woman’s issue. That is a family issue. It is an economic issue and it is holding Ohio back. And when 100,000 women in need can’t get access to basic pap smears and mammograms and the birth control they need — simply because Republicans want to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood — that is wrong. It’s not just a women’s issue, men care about women’s issues too. They care about their family budget, they care about their wives, daughters, family members and friends. Men know that relegating women to second class citizens is bad business for Ohio.
Here is what I say to Governor Kasich and the Republican legislature: I am happy to be a champion for women’s rights … Women have a memory and we vote. So memo to Joh Kasich: You are going to be really sorry that you messed with women, come November. …
I know I can count on you.… This is what I need you do: You can’t go home and sit on your hands. We are within seven points of Kasich. Right thinking people across the state are ready to stand up and tell the truth and elect somebody new to our state governorship. And that person is going to be Ed FitzGerald.
Saturday, Ed FitzGerald — the Democratic candidate seeking to replace Republican John Kasich as Governor of Ohio — spoke in Dayton and introduced his running make, Green County resident, Sharen Neuhardt. Over 200 people were in attendance and gave Fitzgerald and Neuhardt enthusiastic encouragement.
FitzGerald said that Kasich has created an inside group that has gained a lot of money and advantages from his policies — and that the poor and middle class Ohioans have been left with the bill. He said that Kasich represents a very small group of people — “And that is not what a democratic form of government should be doing.”
Excerpts From Ed FitzGerald’s Speech
I’ve visited all 88 counties in last year. Ive learned a lot. I’ve heard the same concerns in every county. There’s a lot of people, in a state of more than 11 million people, there’s a lot of people that are really struggling to make it and this is what Sharen and I both understand. We have a governor that does not represent them. He represents a very small group of people.
If you look at all the big issues, what they all have in common, and if you try to diagnose why the governor takes positions on issues that he does, it becomes apparent: the governor is representing a very small group of people. And that is not what a democratic form of government should be doing.
State government has been hijacked for a narrow agenda on all kinds of issues. There is an inside group and an outside group looking in. If you don’t know what group you are in, you’re in the outside group. The people on the inside know it. They love it. You can go through all of the major issues:
- Jobs Ohio — some people benefit, but if you are a small business, an average person, you’re not going to get any help from Jobs Ohio.
- If you are a looking at your tax bill, if you are a wealthy person, congratulations, you got a tax cut. But if you are a working person, or one of the poor, your taxes probably went up. For a small group of persons tax cuts were a great deal but all the other people in this state got stuck with the bill.
- If you care about local government services — police, fire, garbage pick-up or social services —your services got cut. They took those proceeds and used them to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the state.
- If you believe in public education you saw the number of teachers cut dramatically and once again local schools were stuck with the bill.
Over and over in all these issues, you see state government on the side of a very small group of people. And yes it also applies to women’s rights. Republicans get tired of our talking about women’s rights but here is my deal with Kasich: I will stop talking about women’s rights when he stops limiting women’s rights.…
Let’s talk about something real practical. (Republicans) have a big advantage. When you take government and you put it on the side of a very small group of people and when you do some very big favors for a small group of powerful people, they re-pay those favors. They have an enormous about of money. But we have advantages also. We are right on all the issues. We have the people behind us. …
Kasich is representing someone — it’s just not you. It’s not the people that are working and struggling in this state.
The most powerful thing in politics is a conversation between two people about what is really going on. We need millions of conversation. We only lost the last election by 77,000 votes. We have the issues on our side. For all of those people who have not been represented in the last three years, we need to have conversations. Can you help us to that?
Every four years, according to state law, the Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) is required to “reorganize.” This is the year: a “Reorganization Meeting” is scheduled to be held in June. The deadline to register to become a delegate is February 5.
At a “Reorganization Meeting,” changes to the MCDP constitution and changes to its leadership are determined by the majority of delegates voting. Historically, a majority of delegates simply reaffirms the MCDP constitution and the MCDP leadership.
If delegates at the Reorganization Meeting fairly represented county Democrats, certainly there would consensus at the meeting that the MCDP needs major changes. The MCDP constitution, for example, empowers a small “selection committee” to make endorsements — invariably rubber stamped by the “Central Committee.” Last year, in the contest for Mayor of Dayton, the “selection committee” endorsed one popular Democrat, Nan Whaley, over another popular Democrat, A.J. Wagner. Whaley had more friends on the “selection committee.” This endorsement was a display of illogical favoritism — needlessly dividing and weakening the party — and is only one example of many that could be cited.
The Whaley endorsement aptly illustrated that the MCDP is operating under a “political boss” organization structure — written into the constitution — that gives insiders a lot of authority. These insiders like this authority and can be counted on to resist any change to the constitution that would diminish their power. The problems is, “political boss” structure has failed to create a vitalized grass-roots party. To be effective, the MCDP needs to create an organization structure that will empower all county Democrats to fully participate in an active small-d democratic community.
At the Reorganization Meeting, the MCDP could transform its “political boss” organization structure, but shamefully, by deliberate strategy, the June Reorganization Meeting has been kept a big secret from rank and file county Democrats. Every precinct in the county can be represented by a delegate. In 2010, almost half of the county precincts had zero candidates. Anyone interested in being a delegate can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and address and I will send you the forms and information that you need.
Deadline for becoming a delegate to the forthcoming Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) Reorganization Meeting is February 5. Every precinct can elect one delegate to this meeting in order to vote on new leadership and to vote on a new constitution. The last meeting was in 2010, and, as usual, the insiders stayed in power, and the old boss centered constitution stayed the same
The insiders always stay in power because news of this important meeting is always kept a big secret from any county Democrat who is not a party insider. This deliberate disenfranchisement of county Democrats of their right to meaningfully participate in their party is reason enough to conclude that MCDP needs major change. There are plenty of other reasons.
If you are a Democrat living in Montgomery County who wants to be a delegate to this important Reorganization Meeting, send an e-mail to me at email@example.com with your name and address and I will send you the needed information.
Our South of Dayton Democratic Club meeting last night revealed a big disagreement — not only within our club but within the Democratic Party as a whole. The disagreement boils down to this: Should our club and should our party operate according to a democratic organizational structure or according to a hierarchical / boss centered structure?
During the meeting last night, I was reiterating the thoughts in my e-mail to members from the previous day (copied below) urging that as a club we find delegates to the June, 2014, Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) Reorganization Meeting who will vote for new MCDP leadership. Before I knew it, our president, John Murphy, was interrupting me saying, “In your opinion. In your opinion.” For a chair to interrupt someone who has the floor in a club meeting is bad form, but in a small and friendly club easily forgiven. What makes this club incident worth writing about is the fact that this conflict illuminates the basic conflict going on for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Murphy, it appears, wants to be the boss of our club, even as those above him in the MCDP hierarchy are bosses of the MCDP.
John has a patronage job that David Esrati writes about here. I am happy for John that he has employment and I’m sure he is fulfilling his job requirements very competently. But, the old adage — “Where I stand is a function of where I sit” — seems to apply. The boss centered hierarchy of the MCDP has given John employment and so John stands with and defends the MCDP leadership. That makes sense, but, the problem is, too many active members of MCDP are either patronage workers or elected officials — all protecting their turf and banding together to protect the status quo. See: Special Interests Controlling Montgomery County Democratic Party Suppress Expansion Of Participation
The bosses of the MCDP don’t want to share any of their privileges — such as their right to make endorsements, or their right to give out patronage jobs. It would be a nightmare to these leaders if suddenly a large group of Democrats would become qualified to vote in the coming Reorganization Meeting. The opportunity for county Democrats to become meaningfully involved in their party, via this Reorganization Meeting, has been suppressed — just as it was at the last Reorganization Meeting in 2010. Even if you try, you will not unearth any notice concerning this coming important meeting. In order to vote at this meeting, a Democrat must be elected as a delegate. Every precinct can elect a delegate and the deadline to get on the ballot is less than three weeks away — February 5 — and there is nowhere a whisper about this deadline, even on the MCDP website.
For our club, and for the MCDP and the Democratic Party, here is the key question: What is the organizational structure that will make us most effective in defining and achieving a worthwhile mission— a boss centered /hierarchical organizational structure or democratic one? The boss centered approach of the MCDP results in actively suppressing meaningful participation by Democrats and this suppression has a terrible impact on the strength of the party.
The evidence is right before us that the boss centered, hierarchical structure of the MCDP is a big failure:
- The “boss” endorsement of Nan Whaley for mayor of Dayton over stalwart Democrat, A. J. Wagner, was a disaster. It antagonized many Democrats. It needlessly divided the party and diminished its opportunity to be effective. It was a dumb decision made by the clique running things.
- The failure to provide the structure and support that would inspire good candidates to come forward means that as of now there are zero Democratic candidates for the Ohio House for OHD-40, OHD-41, and OHD-42. What kind of a party are we when we cannot give voters an alternative and an opportunity to express their displeasure with those in office? What kind of a party are we if we are too lazy to use elections to build understanding and to highlight differences between the two parties?
- The failure to productively engage loyal Democrats within the county as part of a meaningful democratic community means we have lost the opportunity to develop new leadership, new ideas. There are many Democrats who would respond to leadership — but, there is no leadership.
Montgomery County is mostly Democratic. The party harvests the low lying fruit where there are easy Democratic wins — and rewards party loyalists to the boss system with elected offices and patronage jobs. We have a lot of Democrats elected to county wide offices whose election hardly required any effective organization at all. But the MCDP is failing miserably to create the organizational structure that could have a chance to make a real impact.
I was disappointed that the discussion that should have occurred at our club meeting last night simply didn’t happen. The foundation for success as a party is via the effective exercise of democracy — opening the party up for wide participation. Our hope for success as a club has the same foundation. I think a majority of those present last night would have welcomed a discussion of the points in my e-mail. I regret that I failed to use Roberts Rules last night to see if there was support in the group for discussion and, instead, I simply let Murphy run the meeting as he chose. Attempting to exercise democracy, even in a small club, is not easy.
E-Mail To Club Members — The MCDP Needs New Leadership
Every four years The Montgomery County Democratic Party is required by state law to undergo a re-organization procedure. This Re-Organization Meeting will be held in June, 2014. (The last such meeting was June, 2010.)
At this ReOrganization Meeting, officers will be selected and a constitution will be approved. I, for one, would like to see new leadership. (I like Mark Owens personally, but feel it is a big conflict if the party chair is also an elected official in the county. Mark has not worked hard enough at his job as chair and has used a political boss style of leadership that is out of date and very ineffective in bringing new people into responsible positions of leadership.) I also would like to see the adoption of new by-laws that would change our local party’s practices of endorsements. The current endorsement practice I feel is a disaster and projects the worst of the old political “Boss” structure that undermines our chances to bring new blood into the party needed to revitalize our party.
In addition, I would like to see new procedures adopted that would allow monthly meeting participation to occur on-line, rather than insisting that every participating central committee member travel downtown for every monthly meeting.
A time of ReOrganization should be a time for revitalizing and reimagining our local party, and for re-envisioning our party — but it usually is simply an affirmation of the old guard. Key to the whole process is who gets to vote at this important meeting. I feel we need a progressive Democratic movement that focuses on making each local party organization more effective through the exercise of grass roots democracy.
Every precinct can send one voting delegate to the ReOrganization Meeting and these delegates will be chosen during the Democratic Primary held in May. Since Montgomery County has 360 precincts, there is a maximum of 360 possible at such a meeting, but at the 2010 meeting only about 100 showed up. Most precincts fail to elect a delegate.
The deadline for getting on the ballot to represent your precinct is due to the Board of Elections by 4:00 PM on February 5 — only three weeks from now. I’ve attached the form. The petition calls for five signatures from Democrats living in your precinct. If you send me a request, I will send you a list of all the Dems in your precinct. After the ReOrganization Meeting, each delegate serves a four year term on the Central Committee, but most delegates choose to not participate in the Central Committee monthly meetings.
Some things to talk about. See you at the meeting tomorrow. Mike Bock
Previous Articles On This Topic:
Representative Jim Butler (OHD-41)— picture taken at Panera’s at Town and Country
Last Friday, January 10, I met for coffee with Republican Jim Butler, my Ohio House District 41 representative. And, after what was a generous amount of time for discussion, I was surprised that we kept going. We had an extended talk and a lot of agreement.
My goal in meeting Mr. Butler was not to get all the details of his votes in the Ohio House that I disagree with, but, to attempt to develop an understanding with Mr. Butler that might be a basis for working together to accomplish goals that we both agree with.
In his last campaign (2012) Butler raised about $240,000, and his Democratic challenger, Carolyn Gentry, raised about $60,000. Regardless of his unpopular vote on SB-5 — eventually repudiated by the voters as Issue 2 — and regardless that Ms Gentry was an exceptionally strong challenger, Butler still won with almost 60% of the vote.
As of last Friday, no Democrat had taken out a petition to challenge Butler — the deadline for completing the petitions is February 5 — so, it is possible Butler will remain unopposed. Butler thought it unlikely. As an active Democrat and a Kettering ward leader, I indicated to Butler that I would support a Democratic challenger.
In our discussion, I sought to find agreement with Butler on the big picture idea that key to a successful future for this district and this nation is a successful democracy. I quoted David Matthews, President of the Kettering Foundation, from his book, Reclaiming Public Education By Reclaiming Our Democracy that, to improve education, there must be a more engaged, more informed, more active public — that, in short, to improve education we must improve our democracy. I stressed that, in general, to meet the challenges of the future, we need to develop a level of citizen awareness and participation that simply is missing now. Mr. Butler agreed.
A search for articles pertaining to “democracy” on DaytonOS, reveals democracy and public education to be the focus of many of my posts. My POV is that in order to meet the challenges of the future, public education must be transformed and that the transformation that is needed is of such a magnitude that it will be possible only when a community of energized and active citizens work together to advance a shared vision. See here and here.
I told Mr. Butler that he — and everyone in public life — could gain public support by taking actions that advance a non-partisan approach to building democracy. Below is an excerpt of a letter (revised) that I gave to him at the start of our meeting:
At a Kiwanis Club meeting a few years ago, I asked the group to contemplate Lincoln’s words, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” that, “government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth.” I asked each person to write down a number from zero to 100 indicating, in his or her opinion the degree to which our government meets Lincoln’s standard. The average was 40%.
40% is a failing grade. There’s a lot of evidence that citizens feel that government is operating a level much lower than what they find acceptable. I am suggesting here four areas for you to develop that would positively engage citizens. Four areas that I would like to offer my help. These areas are non-partisan; they transcend the usual right / left, and conservative / liberal divides:
- Transparency — providing the information that would make it easy for voters to understand your work as representative, your votes, your analysis.
- Dialogue — welcoming questions about your work as representative and responding in detail.
- Planning for the future — providing opportunities for education and in-depth discussions about the big challenges of the future.
- Community Building — helping to develop and to support networks of citizens who can work, communicate, plan and problem solve together.
I have some specific projects in mind that speak to these areas that I hope you will support, and that I will soon describe in detail.
Sincerely, Mike Bock
Mr. Butler shared a lot of good ideas and enthusiasm in all this. He is an influential person in our community and I’m encouraged to believe that he will positively respond to any good idea that will advance these four areas. I left the meeting challenged to put together a proposal that we can both support.
Previous Articles of Interest:
Jim Butler, Representative for OHD41 — including Riverside, Oakwood, Kettering, and Centerville.
In a recent DDN article, “Lawmaker’s Military Claims Questioned,”reporter Laura Bischoff quotes several military officers who charge that the biography of representative for Ohio House District 41, Jim Butler, exaggerates and misrepresents his military service.
The disputed sentence in the House biography of Butler is this: “Representative Butler served in the United States Navy as fighter pilot, flying the F-14 Tomcat.” But according to Bischoff, “Butler said that after nine months of training flights on the F-14, a medical condition became apparent and he was grounded from flying in 1999 and then medically discharged the following year.”
The F-14 pushes the physical capacity of every pilot to the maximum and the fact that Butler was grounded from the program for medical reasons, I’m sure, was a big disappointment to this outstanding individual who had graduated in the top 10% of his class at the Naval Academy. Butler has every right to be proud of his military service, proud that he “received his wings,” proud that he trained on the F-14. It must hurt to read in the DDN that some military people think his bio claims too much. Bischoff quotes four people connected to the military:
- Retired Navy Capt. Jack Kennedy of Columbus, speaking of Butler — “Calling himself a fighter pilot – it’s a little bit of an exaggeration.”
- C. Douglas Sterner, curator of the Military Times “Hall of Valor” database and author of an upcoming book titled “Restoring Valor” — said Butler’s claim to be a “fighter pilot” title may mislead the public.
- State Rep. Connie Pillich, D-Cincinnati, who spent eight years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and reached the rank of captain, said the military trains its members to be precise in describing duties and titles — speaking of Butler said, “He could have said ‘naval aviator,’ which we all understand is a prestigious position with rigorous training standards.”
- Jay Sumner, who served in the U.S Navy for eight years on active duty and 18 years in the reserves said about the Butler biography — “I just think it’s disingenuous to portray yourself beyond what you really did. Generally speaking, in these days and times when people are getting killed in the military, the tolerance for over-exaggeration or over-boasting isn’t what it used to be.”
David Esrati on his web-site expresses outrage — “Dayton Daily News Writer Laura Bischoff – Pretends To Be A Journalist” — and unleashes such an intemperate personal attack on Bischoff and the DDN that he comes across sounding a bit unhinged. He writes:
Unfortunately- they’ll let any fool sit down in front of a computer at the Dayton Daily news and write crap. No lives are at stake, and if you make a mistake, no one dies and you don’t crash $38 million worth of avionics and propulsion systems. … The only thing that needs questioning is why did she (Bischoff) write this bullshit article and why did it appear in the newspaper?
Frankly, if you want to talk about dishonor- questioning this naval officer’s résumé in public, when there is no legitimate basis- is the true dishonor.
The editors of the Dayton Daily News owe Mr. Butler a public apology.”
The focus of Esrati’s wrath is on Bischoff’s first paragraph where she says: “Butler trained on the F-14 but received a medical discharge from the Navy before he ever landed one on an aircraft carrier or received an assignment to a fleet. So does that still make him a ‘fighter pilot?’ ”
Esrati says, that since Butler piloted fighter jets, then, of course, he was a “fighter pilot.”
About referring to himself as a “fighter pilot,” Bischoff quotes Butler as explaining, “I never would want to brag or anything like that, but it’s an easy way to communicate that when I flew in the Navy I flew a fighter jet.”
This claim of being a “fighter pilot” seems an exaggeration to the four military people quoted in the Bischoff article. But, to me, I think Butler has a point and the term “fighter pilot” is simply an easy way to communicate that Butler had the wonderful opportunity and the great experience of flying a military fighter jet.
But, it seems to me that the disputed statement in the bio — “Representative Butler served in the United States Navy as fighter pilot, flying the F-14 Tomcat” — does not align with the facts. For Butler to refer to himself as a “fighter pilot,” I believe is fair. But the question raised by the DDN article is whether Butler’s biography — posted on the Ohio House web-site — misrepresents his military service. If the facts are that Mr. Butler withdrew from the F-14 training program, never completed his training, never was certified to pilot the F-14, then this bio is misleading.
I’m thinking that Butler is sensitive to implying a level or type of service that is incorrect and, now that this matter has been brought to his attention, that he would want to revise his web-site so that there would be no chance for misunderstanding.
I’m wondering, however, with Esrati, why this matter of Butler’s biography is now emerging. I’m thinking that someone who had something to gain alerted Bischoff to this story, and that the person with something to gain is probably a fellow Republican in the Ohio House. Butler, according to a Columbus Dispatch article from mid-summer, is a possible candidate for Speaker of the House. This position may be hotly contested, and maybe someone is trying to knock Butler out of consideration. Here is an excerpt from the Dispatch story:
Rep. Cliff Rosenberger was still four months shy of being born when Rep. Ron Amstutz joined the state legislature in 1981.
Thirty-two years later, the upstart and the veteran are squaring off to become the next speaker of the House.
Rosenberger, 32, and Amstutz, 62, have emerged — at least at the moment — as the top candidates to replace Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, when he must depart the House because of term limits at the end of 2014.
A formal leadership vote is more than 15 months away, and things could change. GOP Reps. Jim Butler of Oakwood, Louis Terhar of Cincinnati and Kristina Roegner of Hudson, for example, are among those mentioned as showing interest in the top job.