Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Libertarians Work to Stop Red Light Cameras in Cincinnati

On May 5, the We Demand a Vote.com Coalition announced that it was organizing a petition drive to prohibit the use of red light cameras from coming to Cincinnati. Every major city in Ohio has put up the cameras to ticket motorists from running red lights. The coalition hopes that Cincinnati will be the first major Ohio city to ban them. Long time Libertarian Party member and activist Josh Weitzman is co-chair of the petition drive.

In an attempt to balance the budget, not for safety reasons, Cincinnati city council budgeted $1,000,000 from revenue from these cameras. In fact, many other cities have used this as a hidden tax on motorists, rather than as a way to increase traffic safety. Despite studies that have linked red light cameras to significant increases in accidents, more and more cities use them to raise money.

To force the issue to the ballot, 8,500 signatures of registered Cincinnati voters must be collected.

If you can help out, you can contact LPO member Josh Weitzman at joshweitzman@yahoo.com. If you live in the city of Cincinnati, you can sign and circulate a petition. If you live in Ohio you may collect signatures. And anybody may help out with a donation so the coalition can hire paid petitioners. Since this is not on the ballot yet, it is not considered a political issue, yet. That means there is no limit to how much anybody can donate, and donations made before the issue is on the ballot are not reportable.

Donations can be made to:

WeDemandaVote. com
c/o Chris Finney
Finney-Stagnaro, Saba, Patterson., Co.
2623 Erie Avenue,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45208

This will also be the first time a major metropolitan city in the US has put Red Light cameras to a vote. In November 2006, the voters of Steubenville Ohio rejected Red Light cameras by a 72%-28% margin. If a major city has a similar result, then that will send a loud and clear message to not only neighboring cities, but across the state, people don't want these.

Visit http://www.WeDemandaVote.com

And to see how dangerous red light cameras are, visit

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Michael Earl Patton on the Jail Tax

If the vote on November 6 were just about a sales tax that would be wasted on another Taj Mahal project that isn't needed, that would be reason enough to oppose it. But it's about much more than that.

First, the backers of the jail tax have been trying to scare us by crying about how the jail is overflowing with dangerous criminals. Dangerous criminals, once convicted, are supposed to be spending their time in a state prison once they are convicted. There the state will pay for their housing, not Hamilton County. Just making the claim that the jail is overflowing with dangerous criminals, even if it were true, is an admission that the jail is not being managed properly. Move the cases along, if they are guilty send them to a state prison, and if they are innocent release them. Don't warehouse them.

The Vera Institute, when they examined the jail situation last year, found that 81% of the inmates could not afford bail and were just waiting for their court date. In 1999 the number was only 37%. This shows that there is a breakdown in the process. First, a reasonable bail is a constitutional requirement (8th Amendment). Bail is not the punishment. Its purpose is to make certain that the person shows up on the court date. Any punishment comes after a finding of guilty. Too often in Hamilton County some judges are setting bail so high that the inmate is serving the time before the actual finding of guilty.

There are so many things wrong with such a system it is hard to know where to begin. Th Vera
Institute also found that inmates who were found innocent or who had all charges dropped actually spent more time in jail, on average, than those who were found guilty. In the limited time and budget they were given they were not able to find out why, but surely we should find out before we commit hundreds of millions of dollars more to a broken system.
Additionally, one cannot sentence someone to treatment until they have actually been convicted. This problem was recognized during the jail task force meetings last Summer and there was talk then of having the inmates "volunteer" for treatment before they are convicted. Then, when they go before the judge, they can claim they have done the time and the treatment, and now, if they plead guilty, can they please go home? Of course, if the inmate actually claims to be innocent there is a problem, and maybe they won't be able to go home right away. Which is right in line with the Vera Institute's findings.

Most of us would probably say there should be a continuum of punishment, from home incarceration and work release, to community-based treatment, to a stay in a county jail, to long-term incarceration in a state prison for those who are truly dangerous. But that is not the direction the "Comprehensive Safety Plan" takes. It plans to shut down the Turing Point and Reading Road alcohol and substance abuse facilities and treat almost everyone as a maximum security inmate. The Justice Center is already a maximum security jail, and the new one will also be almost all maximum security. The jail backers claim that that is the kind of person they arrest. The Enquirer last year (July 30) said that petty criminals -- drunks, panhandlers, jaywalkers, and trespassers -- were responsible for the most trips to jail. And that was before Cincinnati made possession of small amounts of marijuana a reason to be sent to jail, and thousands have been sent to jail for that reason since then.

Another thing lacking is good data. The studies made give arrest charges but do not show the resulting convictions. Michael Jacobson, the Commissioner of Corrections under Mayor Giuliani, found that only 1/4 of the those arrested for felonies in New York City were actually ever indicted, let alone convicted of that felony. What's Cincinnati's number? No one is saying.
There is also much talk about the recidivism rate, which is claimed to be 70%. But in truth, it is defined so broadly so that ANY subsequent arrest, even for jaywalking, is considered to be a failure. I don't really care if a bank robber is arrested for jaywalking two years after he gets out. What's the real number, the percentage of those convicted who are convicted a subsequent time (not just arrested) for a crime of a similar magnitude? No one knows.

One does not even know what treatment programs that we currently offer are working. The proponents of the jail tax say to give them hundreds of millions of dollars and then they will tell us how well they have been spending our tax money. I say baloney. Tell us now.

I want to know exactly what the "Comprehensive Safety Plan" is. Right now it is nothing more than an outline of a plan to plan. There are very few details. There is the mention of "enhanced" treatment programs, but what is that? I know what "enhanced" marijuana penalties means -- that means more jail time. And are existing programs going to be cut? How much is being spent now on programs and how much, TOTAL, will be spent in the future? That is yet to be determined.

One of the few details given is also one of the most troubling. There will be only video visitation of all those inmates locked up. Family and friends will be able to "visit," if one can call it that, only by video monitor. And if the Butler County experience is to be a guide, even clergy will not be able to make contact visits as they are now able to. Scripture cannot be shared in person, hands cannot be laid on for a blessing, priests cannot give Communion to their flock.

Given the fact that the population of both Cincinnati and Hamilton County are declining, then why are we planning for such an increase in jail beds? It is as if we are planning for failure and only failure. In fact, the county will have a vested interest in failure. Once the jail is built there will be pressure to fill it rather than let it be mostly empty like the Bengal's Stadium is most of the year. If one plans only for failure, then one will get only failure.

All of the above are sufficient reasons to vote against the jail tax, even without the tax increase it brings. If all the oxygen is sucked up for wasteful programs, then there will not be any left for the true needs of the county. The Kosmont-Rose Cost of Doing Business Survey found that Cincinnati is the fourth most expensive place in the country due to its high taxes, permits, and fees. Let's not make number one on the list next year.

Michael Earl Patton is a long time Cincinnati resident and activist. He is currently running for Cincinnati city council and is endorsed by the Hamilton County Libertarian Party. You can visit his website at http://www.michaelearlpatton.com/

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just How Wasteful is the new Hamilton County Jail Tax?

Just how wasteful is the new Hamilton County Jail tax? Consider this:

Under New Tax the County is estimating

  • Operating costs to be $48.75 per day.
  • Capital costs of $190 million. Over 30 years, 365 days per year, 1816 new beds, that number goes up by $9.64.
  • If you include the 10% project contingency they are budgeting for the cost goes up $10.55
  • Grand Total of $59.30 per bed per day.

Also consider an alternative.

  • Hamilton County currently pays Butler County $55.00 per bed per day.
  • Campbell County is offering jail space at a price of $43.48 per bed per day!
  • Boone County is offering jail space at $44.65.

So instead of building a brand new jail and raising the taxes, it would make a lot more economic sence to lease out jail space in a neighboring county (something we are already doing).

We Demand a Better Solution!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Farm Subsidies and You Health

Libertarians love pointing out unintended consequences. Earlier this month, I found an unintended solution. Ending a government program would not only solve a root problem, but it would actually solve a problem that seems to be unrelated. The government program I am talking about is farm subsidies.

In an attempt to save the family farmer, the federal government gives $25 billions a year to farmers to grow their crop, water and feed their crop, or to not grow anything. Yes, you can get money to do something, or to not do something. The farm lobbies have long argued that the nation’s food supply is just so important that without subsidies, the entire nation’s food supply would be in jeopardy and the family farm would be out of business.

Most of the food in our food supply is not subsidized, yet you never see of a shortage of apples, eggs, or chicken. New Zealand got rid of farm subsidies in the 1980’s, and they actually have seen an increase in food production

Most of the beneficiaries of farm subsidies are not family farmers, but rather large agribusinesses like ADM and Cargill. Other rich people to have received government handout include ABC news correspondent Sam Donaldson, media mogul and multi-billionaire Ted Turner, and disgraced Enron CEO Ken Lay. Subsidies are paid per acre, so the big and most profitable players in farming get the biggest handouts.

But as far as the unintended solution to ending government farm subsidies, the prices of many fruits, vegetables, and poultry would be even with that of fattening meats like beef.

One day when I was in a McDonald’s, I noticed that the price of a double cheese burger was $1 (440 calories, 23 grams of fat as per McDonalds’ website). Then I saw the price of a fruit and walnut salad, $2.99 (210 calories, 1.5 grams of fat). The fruit requires no cooking, no animals to raise, no slaughtering, less risk of food borne illness, yet 3 double cheeseburgers costs as much as one fruit salad. This pricing makes no sense, except beef is so heavily subsidized that its price is much lower than healthier alternatives. This encourages people (especially those with low or fixed incomes, and students) to eat fattier foods, which makes for an even more obese nation.

Many people talk about how farm subsidies are not needed and actually harmful to farming, nobody ever seems to see how it will effect our nations health. If we ended farm subsidies, the government would encourage people to eat better. And this can be done without spending a single dime.

Monday, August 13, 2007

36 Bills in One Day?!?

Monday, July 30 was a busy day. The House of Representatives passed 36 bills. Assuming a 9-hour day, a bill would have been read, debated, and voted on every fifteen minutes. But that couldn't have happened, because the House also managed to pass 17 resolutions.

How could the House accomplish so much in one day? By not reading or even considering the bills and resolutions they passed.

All in all, the House passed 48 bills in the last week before the August recess, and the Senate passed 32. We normally tell you the total number of pages of legislation Congress passed, but this week, we just don't have the time to add it all up. And we don't think that is needed to prove the point: members of Congress can't possibly have time to read and understand the bills they pass.

Perhaps Congress needs to pass all these bills to keep Big Government running. But that's just the problem. If we want Big Government, we can't have truly representative government. Representation means more than just getting elected. If Congress truly represented the people, they would be reluctant to infringe on our freedoms and spend our money. They wouldn't pass 36 bills in one day. But the more responsibility we place on the federal government, the less time and attention Congress can give to any particular issue. So instead of reading and debating the bills before them, they rush to a vote. That's not accountability. That's not representation. If we want a truly representative government, we must Downsize DC. And we must pass the Read the Bills Act.

You can tell Congress that you don't want them to pass 36 bills in one day ever again. You can tell Congress to slow down. You can tell Congress to stop rubber-stamping bills. You can tell Congress you want to be represented. You can tell Congress to pass the Read the Bills Act.

Do you want to spread the word about the Read the Bills Act and promote your website at the same time? Then consider joining the Read the Bills Act Coalition. It's quick, easy, and free. Click here for details.

We welcome three new members to the Coalition this week:

The Awareness Network
The Original Drug Manual for Kids

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

D o w n s i z e r - D i s p a t c h is the official email list of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. & Downsize DC Foundation

CONTRIBUTE to the Electronic Lobbyist project
http://www.downsizedc.org/ is sponsored by DownsizeDC.org, Inc. -- a non-profit educational organization promoting the ideas of individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets, and small government.

You are encouraged to forward this message to friends and business associates, and permission is hereby granted to reproduce any items herein as long as attribution is provided for articles and the subscription instructions above are included.

Friday, July 06, 2007

WeDemandAVote.com Announces 34,014 Signatures!

WeDemandAVote.Com, a coalition of 7 Hamilton County Based Groups opposed to the 1/2 cent Sales Tax Increase imposed by Hamilton County Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper has announced that their signature total is now 34,014. Approximately 28,750 signatures are required to place the referendum petition on the Sales Tax Increase on the ballot in November.

Campaign Coordinator Daniel Regenold announced that over 8,700 people signed the petitions on July 4, 2007 alone. “Our main goal has been to explain to voters that this is not about the jail, it’s all about Democracy and making your vote count. The voters deserve a chance to take a good look at this $900 million tax increase before it goes into effect.”

Regenold stressed the importance of the group continuing to get many more petition signatures to provide a cushion against signatures that might be thrown out during the checking process. To sign a petition go to www.WeDemandAVote.com and click “Locations” or call us at 513-544-9014. The campaign for signatures ends July 13, 2007.

For media opportunities call Dan Regenold at 513-544-9014.

Monday, July 02, 2007


This past weekend showed just how desperate, and dirty, the county commissions and sheriffs office is in keeping the people from voting on whether their sales tax will go up.

On Saturday, people from WeDemandAVote.com were on hand at the Hyde Park Blast collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot. For the first time, we had encountered people passing out literature encouraging people not to sign our petitions. Instead of just passing out their literature, they selected a petitioner to follow. Following so closely that they were rarely ever more than 4 feet away from a petitioner! Their intention was to hand literature to each and every person that we asked for a signature from, however, when a stranger is following you like that for over an hour (they stayed near me when I was on my cell phone talking to my wife), it is no longer free speech, but it becomes harassment and political bullying!

I certainly respect their right to protest, however tactics like this borderlines on stalking.

How safe would a female petitioner feel if she were being followed by a strange man?

It is sad to see that they don’t think the people should vote on a significant tax and spending package like this, but it is sickening to see our elected officials harassing their political opponents like this.

Josh Weitzman
Libertarian Party of Ohio Southwest Region Chair