Tough times in Wilmington May Pave the Way for a Green Future

In the wake of potentially devastating job loss in Wilmington, an initiative is beginning to take root that may reinvent the future of the town. It’s a welcome change to the barrage of grim news coming out of the southwest, Ohio town. Energize Clinton County began when Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert, two recent college graduates who call Wilmington home, decided to create a response to the DHL layoffs by creating a plan to make Wilmington the first “Green Enterprise Zone” . Their proposal addresses different strategies, from greening their own community, to building green business partnerships and promoting green enterprises.

Stuckert says the idea was founded upon Wilmington “not being the poster child of disaster, but the poster child of the future success.”

It’s a daunting task to undertake. The term “Green jobs” has been bandied around for quite some time from the nation’s top politicians, and creating a clear definition and pathway to success can prove challenging. Energize Clinton County is wrestling the terms of green industry, but they have some very important assets.

-Wilmington has drawn national interest due to it’s dire situation, positioning them to get aid.

-the Airpark remains valuable to the area and with the soon-to-be displaced workers, Wilmington has both the infrastructure and work force in place to transition to a green economy.

-Both the state and federal government branches are primed to make green industry a priority. President-Elect Obama made this a platform of his campaign. In Ohio, Governor Strickland passed a stimulus plan and set aside $150 million in advanced and renewable energy.

What remains to be seen is how committed the Wilmington community will become to rally behind this cause.

City Council member Rob Jaehnig is supportive of the movement.

“A lot of people, unfortunately, have written Wilmington off and I hear the terms ghost town and so forth already, yet we can’t just sit at home and ponder our poor situation. We have to pick ourselves up and put our boots back on and get ourselves out there and fight the good fight,” says Jaehnig.

For such a fundamental change to take shape in Wilmington, positive response from the community may be the most important asset they can have.

-Emily McCord

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In Wilmington, “shoe…hit the ground” with DHL announcement

By Mark Rembert 

“Well, we’ve been waiting for the shoe to drop since the May 28 announcement, and I think it hit the ground today.” – Randy Riley, Clinton County Commissioner

It was more than 5 months ago that DHL’s parent company, Deutsche Post, announced that it would end its US air shipping services and shut down its hub in Wilmington. Yesterday, the company announced even greater cuts, stating that it will cease all of its domestic ground delivery services by Janurary 30, 2009.

This announcement suggests that, regardless of the outcome of DHL’s proposed deal with UPS, the Air Park in Wilmington will face massive cutbacks. At most, the Wilmington hub can hope to carry DHL’s international shipments into the U.S. These new cuts will eliminate an unknown number of jobs in Wilmington on top of the 8,200 jobs already threatened by the cutbacks in DHL’s air freight services. As many as 2,000 jobs are estimated to be indirectly at risk in Wilmington. 

The biggest news in this new announcement is the Jan. 30 date. This is the first timeline DHL has released, and it will likely guide the local efforts to aid affected workers and develop an economic recovery strategy.

As events in Wilmington continue to unfold, WYSO will be bringing you coverage chronicling the news and stories behind Wilmington’s response to this economic catastrophe.

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2008 Election Call-In Show Live Blog

Welcome to WYSO’s live blog for our 2008 Election Call-In show featuring Sharon Harmer from the League of Women Voters and Dr. Rob Baker, political science professor at Wittenberg University. Tune in to the 1:00pm show at 91.3 or at WYSO.org. If you would like to ask a question to our panel send an e-mail to news@wyso.org or call 937-769-1998 or toll free at 1-800-776-1998.

12:55: This is Mark Rembert from WYSO. Sharon Harmer and Rob Barker are in the studio and we’re about to begin.

1:05: For more from the League of Women Voters on the candidates and issues check out their voter guide

1:o6: Check out the WYSO coverage of Issue 6. Here are some concerned views from Wilmington on Issue 6: here, here, and here

1:10: To check out your sample ballot, go here courtesy of League of Women Voters

1:12: The League of Women Voters have been active on the taking the politics out of our judicial elections. Check out their guide to picking judges here

1:16: We just did a post on Issue 5. It is confusing, so make sure you’re confident in what you’re voting for.

1:20: From Survey USA, a few poll numbers on Issue 5 and Issue 6.

Issue 5 – Lean Yes: 32%, Lean No: 43%, Don’t Lean: 25%

Issue 6 – Lean Yes: 40%, Lean No: 54%, Don’t Lean: 6%

1:24: A lot of answers about about voting can be found at the Secretary of State website. For questions about voting with disabilities, and for information about what you need for ID on Election Day.

1:27: Don’t wait, VOTE EARLY! Also, a tip on getting through long lines. If you find yourself in a long line on Election Day to use a voting booth, you can request a paper ballot. The poll workers should have a designated location for filling out a paper ballot. Don’t be afraid to ask for a paper ballot if you can’t wait in line to vote in the booth. If you ask for a paper ballot, make sure you DON’T get a PROVISIONAL BALLOT if you’re qualified to fill out an actual ballot.

1:31: If you have to fill out a provisional ballot, you have to follow up to confirm your eligibility to vote within 10 days (make sure you get a slip with your ballot #). If you don’t follow up, your vote won’t count even if you’re qualified to vote. Check out the SoS website for info on voting with a provisional ballot.

1:38: Early voting numbers in Ohio suggest a boost for the Democrats. LA Times poll shows Obama leading McCaing 57% to 35%.

1:41: Here is the state registration database. Fill in your name and street name and find out if you’re registered. You can then go here and put in your address and get a map and directions to your polling place.

1:47: For more on issues and candidates on the Montgomery County ballot.

1:55: Speaking of down ballot, check CQ Politics for analysis of the local congressional campaigns.

They currently have the races rated as:

7th Congressional Steve Austria (R) vs. Sharen Neuhardt (D) – Republican Favored

3rd Congressional Mike Turner (R) vs. Jane Mitakides (D) – Safe Republican

8th Congressional John Boehner (R) vs Nick Von Stein (D) – Safe Republican

And of course, the Ohio Presidential Polls from FiveThirtyEight.com

2:00: Thanks for joining us today and providing us with great questions to ask our experts. If you’re still looking for info on voting, be sure to check out MyVoteOhio.com. If you encounter any trouble voting, contact the Ohio Voting Rights Institute by email at vri@sos.state.oh.us or by calling toll-free at 1-877-VOTE-VRI (1-877-868-3874).

Thanks again for tuning in and we hope you’ll continue to make WYSO your source for election coverage.

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Election 2008 Halloween Edition: the scary questions behind Issue 5

by Mark Rembert

It’s almost Halloween, and if you’re looking for a fright I recommend sitting down and watching the ads for Issue 5. Believe me, these ads are scary: vote “YES” and you support taking a meat cleaver to 6,000 Ohio jobs in a slash-and-kill thriller, vote “NO” and you’re throwing your neighbor into the jaws of circling loan sharks charging 391% APR. But for those of you looking to avoid the suspense of making a decision, we offer a fear-free look at Issue 5 as part of our ongoing coverage of the 2008 Election.

What you’re voting for
The core of the issue behind Issue 5 is Ohio House Bill 545. The bill, which was passed in May, lowers the cap on the interest rate payday lenders can charge from 391% APR to 28% APR. Ohioans for Financial Freedom represents the payday loan industry and has been working to block the bill since May, first with a petition blocking enforcement of the bill, and now with Issue 5 which seeks to repeal the bill. Support for H.B. 545 if coming from the Vote Yes on Issue 5 Committee, and if the bill stands Ohio will join 15 others state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Government (which banned payday lending to members of the military) in limiting or banning payday lending.

Since this is a repeal vote, “YES” vs. “NO” can be a little confusing, so this is basically what your vote will mean:

  • YES to H.B. 545: you approve H.B. 545 which limits interest rates for short term loans to 28% APR and extends the repayment period to 30 days. You also approve of the new transparency requirements for payday loan establishments to provide information to the state government about customers that will help to enforce a limit of four payday loans per person per year.
  • NO to H.B. 545: you want the restrictions and changes to payday lending established by H.B. 545 repealed.

The Arguments
The debate surrounding Issue 5 largely focuses on the economic impact of payday lenders. Opponents of H.B. 545 (people voting NO) argue that payday lenders play an important role in providing funds to people in financial need who can not get cash from other sources. They also point out that the payday loan industry—which has more branches in Ohio than Starbucks and McDonalds combined—is a major employer in the state. They therefore claim that limiting interest rates on payday loans will make it difficult for payday loans firms to continue business, which they estimate will lead to a loss of 6000 jobs and result in fewer financial options for people in need of emergency cash and fewer jobs for Ohioans. They also emphasize the fact that the maximum 391% APR is often used to be misleading, an issue that forced the removal of the number from the ballot language. Lenders argue that 391% APR is reasonable on a 15 day loan, which comes out to $15 for a $100 loan.

Supporters of H.B. 545 (people voting YES) argue for greater consumer protection by pointing to the economic costs to low-income Ohioans who fall pray to a predatory loan cycles when they are unable to pay back their payday loans on time and are forced to take out subsequent loans. To specifically address the potentially vicious cycle of payday loans, H.B. 545 also forces payday lenders to provide information about customers to enforce a limit of four payday loans a year per person. Supporters also point to the fact that many payday lenders have already applied for a new state license to operate under the new system established by H.B. 545, suggesting that many plan on staying in business even if H.B. 545 isn’t repealed.

The Research
For those you interested in the nitty-gritty research on payday lending, there are a couple of great sources.

I highly recommend this Brookings Institute study. Not only does it provide comprehensive analysis of the payday loan industry, it takes a nuanced approach to analyzing policy options that maximize the well-being of consumers. In the end it suggests that payday lending should be limited by policy like H.B. 545, but only in concert with policies and subsidies encouraging formal financial institutions to increase their accessibility to low-income customers, including offering products similar to payday loans which will meet the demand of people in need of emergency cash.

For information on payday lending in Ohio, check out this study published by Policy Matters Ohio (used as support by Yes on Issue 5), which provides a lot of useful information about the payday loan industry in Ohio. And for an out-of-state perspective, check out this study conducted by the University of Texas.

For more information about the issues and races, continue tuning in to WYSO’s daily coverage of the election, including our live Election Call-In Show this Thurs. at 1:00pm featuring Sharon Harmer from the League of Women Voters and Dr. Rob Baker, political science professor at Wittenberg University. From state and local issues to your questions about the polling places and voter concerns, we want to hear from you!

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Who’s in the Pocket of Your Clark County Candidate?

Campaign finances are tricky to understand. They’re not particularly straight forward, they never give you the whole picture, and usually when you want them, only a few of the records are available. But what you do get, can tell you a lot if you look close enough. The key word is “trends;” patterns that can expose the political and financial interests supporting a candidate, and what groups, individuals or demographic the candidate is most likely to represent based on this information.  Although, proving an observed trend may take more digging, it can certainly give you a good starting point for getting to know your candidates.

In Clark County you’ll see a lot of trends. Republicans have more money. The Republican and Democratic parties appear to have very different strategies behind how they support their candidates financially. The Two parties also appear to have very different demographic that supports them.  What does all this mean? And, will money determine election outcomes in Clark County?

You Decide!

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Is Ohio rolling the dice on casino or does Issue 6 promise a big payoff?

By Mark Rembert

There are two things Issue 6 has provided members of the press: lots to explain, and lots of great headlines. So as Ohioans prepare to “bet” (or have already bet) on whether or not gambling will be good for the state, we’re going to look at the debate over Issue 6.

Issue 6 is an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would authorize the establishment of one casino in Ohio. We find Issue 6 on the ballot largely due to the efforts of Lakes Entertainment, Inc., a national casino developer. The proposed casino will be built in Clinton County at the intersection of Ohio State Route 73 and I 71 outside of Wilmington. Yesonissue6.com–the official Vote Yes website–lays out the argument for the casino based on an independent economic impact analysis conducted by Michigan Consultants, a private consulting firm in Lansing, MI (It should be noted that Michigan Consultants has promoted casinos and gambling establishments in Michigan in the past). You’ve probably seen the ads, but I’ll quickly sum up their case:

  • Ohio is losing out to its neighbors – Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia all have legalized casinos which generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for those states. Some of that money is coming from Ohio residents.
  • Investment in Ohio – the casino development is expected to cost at least $600 million
  • J-O-B-S – the casino is projected to create–directly and indirectly–8,732 jobs
  • Share the Wealth – the gaming tax levied against the casino is projected to generate $255 million in tax dollars which will be shared among Ohio’s 88 counties

Given Ohio’s economic woes, its hard not to take notice to these numbers, especially given that southwest Ohio may soon lose over 10,000 jobs as a result of the DHL closure. But critics have argued that the wording of the constitutional amendment would leave a loophole allowing the casino to operate tax free in the future. Their argument rests on a provision that adjusts the tax rate for the casino in Wilmington if another casino opens in Ohio. In such a case, the tax rate on the Wilmington casino will fall to 25% or a rate lower then the other casino (whichever is lower). Critics identify a worst-case scenario in which a casino would be opened on an Indian reservation in Ohio. Since the Indian casino would be exempt from taxes, critics argue that the tax rate on the Wilmington casino would also have to be lowered to zero. The loophole case sounds like a bad deal for Ohio, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer provides an excellent analysis of the “loophole problem” showing that the hole is unlikely to be big enough for anybody to squeeze through and threaten the taxes generated by the Wilmington casino.

So although we might not have the loophole to be afraid of, many groups have identified other issues with the amendment that raise concerns. The Buckeye Institute published its on analysis of the potential economic impact, and concludes that Ohio will lose $1 billion by not auctioning the rights to control the casino monopoly in Ohio (as opposed to basically giving away the right to Lakes Entertainment, Inc. as Issue 6 does). The Buckeye Institute has also argued that the casino will draw from the tax revenues generated by the Ohio Lottery and it will hurt leisure and entertainment business already established in Ohio. Issue 6 has been publically opposed by many groups, including the League of Women’s Voters on the ground that the amendment is inappropriate for the Ohio constitution, and by Fraternal Order of Police for its lack provisions regarding law enforcement.

 

Now that you know the facts, its time to weigh the odds and consider where to lay in chips regarding Issue 6. Please feel free to share your opinions on Issue 6 in our comments section, and remember to keep checking the WYSO News Blog for more analysis and coverage of the issues and candidates.

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When Poetry Takes to the Streets: A Story of How One Man Uses Poetry to Minister from the Trenches

After 15 years of hard knocks, Lorenzo Jones has stopped running. For many years he says “Pastors have been telling him the ugly truth about himself,” a phrase he uses to describe the path God had laid out for him but he was unwilling to take. This path, he says, is to write, and by doing so, minister to others. Last month he returned to Springfield and has taken up this challenge. What’s more, he’s doing this regardless of the personal challenges he faces being homeless. Two weeks ago he read to the congregation of his church; next he’s taking his poetry to the streets.

As part of a new series, WYSO will highlight Clark County residents that are reaching out to their community in unique ways. Mr. Jones is the first in this series of special people. Click this link to hear the author read some of his works in a personal interview with WYSO staff.

Poems featured: “It’s Already Turned Around,” “A War is at Hand,” my personal favorite “Take Away an ‘O'” and “I Preach.”  Short commentary also included.

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