Welcome to 2011, which appears to be a year of reckoning for state and local governments everywhere. Incoming Gov. John Kasich's first task will be figuring out how to balance a budget that is projected to be $8 billion in the red.
Think about that for a minute. That is a boatload of money. And Kasich promises to balance the state budget without raising taxes. That means a massive downscaling of expenses.
With that in mind, the Columbus Dispatch last weekend offered an interactive feature for readers to allow them to participate in the budget process. The feature produces fantasy headlines based on one's choices, to wit: "Police unions oppose Farrell's prison cutbacks."
It's a fun exercise, but underscorses the difficulty of cutting $8 billion. Know this: Many people will be hurt in the process and all of us will feel it in one way or another. I suspect local governments will lose a lot of state funding in the process, which will, in turn, create budget crises in towns, cities and townships throughout Ohio.
Ohio, of course, is not alone. There are plenty of other states that find themselves in the same or worse condition. And a number of states point to the bloated public pension fund payments and payouts as well as collective bargaining agreements as contributing causes.
The economy may be improving, but for government this is still the fall of 2008. I think it's rather naive to believe $8 billion can be cut from Ohio's budget without scores, even hundreds, of people losing jobs.
Kind of like "Groundhog Day," this is the recession that doesn't seem to have an end for those of us in middle America.
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Media analyst Alan Mutter has an interesting lookback at the publishing industry's Wall Street performance in 2010, and I provide a link to his blog as a public service. I think you'll find it interesting.
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Congratulations to longtime Dover Police Capt. Joe Ball, who has been named the department's next chief. Ball, who will take over in April, succeeds Ron Johnson.
I've known Joe since he served as a sheriff deputy back in the '70s and always found him to be one of the good guys who understands the value of public relations.
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I'm going to make a sweeping generalization: Traffic lights in both Dover and New Philadelphia impede the flow of traffic rather than help it.
If there's a last straw, it's the darn lights at the new interchange in Dover. They are unnecessary and, coupled with the lights at Ohio Ave. and N. Wooster, make the area a frustrating one for motorists.
Some years ago, traffic engineers (consultants?) suggested New Philadelphia spend a lot of money for traffic signals at 4th and 3rd Sts. NW. Ultimately they were removed after it became apparent to everyone except the traffic engineers that they were unnecessary. I think we have a similar case at the interchange. At the very least, the traffic experts should speed up the cycles.
I will give props to Dover for the Hospital Dr. traffic light system. I think that one helps the flow of traffic. That's the key, isn't it?
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