Citizens For A Better Norwood

Saturday, September 30, 2006

First up...Democrat Eric Kearney and Republican Tom Brown

Today, the candidates vying for Ohio’s 9th District Senate seat are our guest bloggers. This is the first in a series of November candidates answering questions we think will help inform us about their positions on various issues. Next Saturday, October 7, Representative Tyrone Yates and his Republican challenger Rob Thornton will be featured. Additional information about all candidates is available at

Both Senator Kearney and Mr. Brown thanked us for the opportunity to communicate with Norwood voters here, and we certainly expressed our appreciation for their participation.

This November, Ohio voters will decide Issue 3, an initiative to expand gambling via slot machines at seven racetracks. Please tell us why you are either for or against more venues for gambling in Ohio.

Eric Kearney: As your State Senator, I support Issue 3 that allows the expansion of gambling via slot machines at seven racetracks in Ohio. The revenue generated with this expansion will provide much needed economic development resources for the State of Ohio. Specifically, Hamilton County will receive substantial dollars that will provide a source of revenue that will support economic revitalization. In addition, college scholarship funding will be made available to students throughout Hamilton County and the State of Ohio.

Our community is surrounded by gambling venues in both Indiana and Kentucky that have received economic benefit driven by citizens of Ohio. As your state Senator, I believe it is time for Ohio to receive the same economic benefit as our neighboring States.

Tom Brown: Currently the only legalized gambling in Ohio are racetracks, charity events and the State’s Lottery system. Other states have had success in raising revenues and creating jobs by allowing additional gambling opportunities. Ohioans travel to Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania to gamble, why not expand gambling here to keep this revenue in Ohio.

Casino and racetrack gambling would produce needed jobs, especially here in the 9th District. A riverboat style casino on the Cincinnati waterfront would be a source of revenue, produce jobs and add to Cincinnati’s river town image.

The jobs created would pay significantly more than a job at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, my opponent has spent his time in Columbus working on how to stop Wal-Mart from expanding in Ohio instead of working on how to create better job opportunities for the district’s citizens.

Question II
In July, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the Norwood eminent domain case that economic development alone is not a public use. In August, the Ohio Task Force on Eminent Domain narrowly voted 12-11 in favor of a constitutional amendment that would, if enacted, 1.) establish a single standard for eminent domain statewide and 2.) prohibit the seizure of properties strictly for economic development. What are your positions on both a statewide single standard for eminent domain and the prohibition of property seizures strictly for economic development as recommended by the task force?

Eric Kearney: As your State Senator, I support both a statewide single standard for eminent domain and the prohibition of property seizures strictly for economic development. It is the State of Ohio’s responsibility to control government seizure of individual property. We must protect the constitutional rights of every individual property ownership right’s in Norwood and the State of Ohio.

Tom Brown: A single statewide definition of eminent domain is needed. There are too many variations in what exactly eminent domain is between the different cities and townships in the state. One of the tougher issues on the subject of eminent domain is reconciling the differences between the ruling of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Norwood decision and the Federal Supreme Court’s New London decision.

I am opposed to the “absolute” prohibition of property seizures strictly for economic development. While some cities in Ohio have the physical room to develop land for economic purposes, many older cities are landlocked. With the enactment of the township preservation law in Ohio, older Ohio cities can no longer annex townships to expand their economic base. There needs to be a provision that will allow these cities to exercise the ability to recreate. If not, the only provision left would be to drastically increase taxes on property owners. This in turn will drive more homeowners and businesses out of landlocked cities making the situation even worse.

A major deterrent to my support for the current proposed Ohio Constitutional amendment is the provision that calls for removal of Home Rule in Ohio. Home Rule is a provision in the Ohio Constitution that allows cities and townships to control their own revenue. Without Home Rule, a city has no say on how to generate or spend its own revenue. The State can direct the funds without the wishes of the city.

Many Norwood homeowners suffered sticker shock when they saw their property reassessments last year. Approximately 80% of our local property taxes go to the Norwood School District. The reassessment added another $950,000+ annually to the district’s revenues. Despite this, our board of education is talking about placing a new levy before voters next year. What are your solutions to fixing the problems with public education funding in Ohio, and do they include shifting any of the tax burden away from local property owners?

Eric Kearney: As your State Senator, I believe it is imperative that Ohio revises its school funding system. We must demand a fair and equitable system that ensures that our Public Schools receive the funding needed to educate our Children. I am the father of two young children and have been active in organizations that strive to improve the quality of education of our community’s children. The solution I recommend is to expand Casino gambling in Ohio and utilize the additional tax revenue to support school funding. We must seek all options available to increase revenue sources that do not shift the burden to local property owners in the 9th District and the State of Ohio.

Tom Brown: The Ohio Supreme Court ruled our method of school funding unconstitutional years ago. The Senate has ignored the issue of school funding. My opponent has spent no effort addressing the school funding issue while in office

It is time to shift the total burden of funding the State’s public education system from the shoulders of property owners. Fair and adequate funding of all Ohio Schools is urgently needed, now.

The State needs to look at other options on how to fund the education of our children. A combination of property taxes, sales taxes and / or income taxes may be required to provide a world-class education to all Ohio’s children. We all need to make sure that our children are provided with modern school buildings, state of the art computers, access to art and music programs, and to hire the best teachers.

Each local school district should still have the ability to ask the voters for additional funds to provide other non-educational items, such as sports equipment and extra curricular activities. The method that these funds are raised should mirror the State’s system and not
place the total burden of the local school district additional funding on the shoulders of property owners exclusively.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

City depositing $3.5 million check today, but don't get excited just yet

At last night’s council meeting, during Administration Reports, Mayor Williams announced the city had just received a $3,566,000 check that will be deposited today in the reserve for contingency fund. Why that fund? The mayor said it needs to sit there until he can find out if the funds can be used at the city’s discretion or not.

According to Mayor Williams, this all came about because of something called an urban development action grant that was issued in 1988 for the former Ackmore Properties at Madison and Edwards Road and was then altered in 1993 to Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate. Apparently, the first Rookwood project qualified for this government grant. Mayor Williams stated that the developer has made payments at intervals over the years but decided recently to exercise the option to pay it off. Since this particular grant program no longer exists, city officials aren’t sure what, if any, restrictions there are on how the city can use the $3.5 million.

Mayor Williams apologized for not being able to discuss the check until last night, but he said as soon as he knows more, he will share the information and seek ideas from council on how to proceed. No one on council had any questions for the mayor.

9/29/06 Update: Let's not uncross our fingers yet, but according to today's Enquirer article, maybe we can get just a wee bit excited now:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Two announcements

1. Our September meeting is this Thursday, September 28, at 7:00 p.m. at the Community Center, 1810 Courtland Avenue. Our main topic is going to be crime in Cincinnati and its impact on Norwood. We hope you'll join us for a roundtable discussion about what we as a community can do about it.

2. Also, we're very pleased to announce that both Norwood Republican Tom Brown and Democrat incumbent Eric Kearney, candidates for Ohio's 9th District Senate seat, are going to be featured here next Saturday, September 30. They graciously agreed to give us their views and positions on the expansion of gambling in Ohio, public education funding, and eminent domain. We hope other candidates we're inviting will do this, too. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Monkey business or the people's business?

Unless it's added after the meeting starts, the ordinance “changing the deputy auditor position to a part-time hourly position without benefits” isn’t on next Tuesday’s council agenda for a 2nd reading. We blogged about this baby on Saturday, 8/26 (see archives) after watching council withdraw it from the 8/22 meeting agenda so Auditor Donnie Jones could address it at the next meeting on 9/12.
Our 8/26 headline asked, “Council may cut deputy auditor to part time, but would this be good for Norwood?” Auditor Jones provided an answer, unwittingly, of course, reported under the Enquirer’s 9/13 headline, “Plan to reduce deputy’s position has Norwood auditor steamed up.” Before he walked out of council chambers after the 1st reading, he told them, “There is too much going on day to day. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of Norwood.” We had a hunch that might be the case.
We had a hunch about something else, too - the term part-time. Oddly, we thought, the ordinance didn’t define part-time or put a ceiling on the hours. Even more oddly, we thought, four councilpersons wouldn’t answer questions about this. Then we found out the city doesn’t have a legal definition for part-time on the books, and without that, there‘s no limit on the hours the deputy auditor could work. Who knew?
The ordinance cut the benefits, not the hours - not that that helps staff the position. A city official in a position to know explained, “I’m not defending the ordinance. I think what they had in mind was flexibility on the hours, like working 40 hours per week, whatever’s necessary, almost identical to the way the tax commissioner ordinance was written.” Oh. Really? Who are “they,“ and how come one of “them” didn’t explain that to Mr. Jones and the public (for those who may have forgotten, all of this is the public’s business) before he walked out after the 1st reading all “steamed up,” as opposed to just “steamed?”
Where do they find time for this monkey business? We thought they were seriously underpaid and overworked.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Commissioner Portune not shy about blogging...our interview with him

“He’s the longest-serving commissioner. He has received more votes from the electorate than the other two commissioners. But Democrat Todd Portune is almost powerless to shape Hamilton County government because the other commissioners - both Republicans - rarely support his initiatives.”
Those opening sentences above from a 9/4/06 Cincinnati Enquirer article entitled “Portune battles party lines” struck a nerve with us right away. Haven’t we all seen variations of this play out among our own past and current hometown elected over the years? In order to best serve the public‘s interests, shouldn’t the elected minority on commissions and legislative bodies have influence on the issues before them? We decided we wanted to “speak” directly to Commissioner Portune about this and several other points made in the article, so we asked him to blog with us. He agreed and even included supporting documents for which we have provided links.
Part I of the 3-part interview:
SUSAN: Commissioner Portune, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview with us. In a September 4, 2006 Cincinnati Enquirer article, you talked about the lack of compromise and communication among the three Hamilton County Commissioners: you, the only Democrat, and the two Republicans Pat DeWine and Phil Heimlich. Since elections represent the will of the people, and in this case that means a Republican majority elected to the Commission, why should the public care whether or not the majority keeps you informed and/or considers your ideas? In today's extreme partisan political climate at every level of government, hasn't the electorate come to accept and even expect the minority to be marginalized? Should Democrat David Pepper, whom you've endorsed, join you on the commission by defeating Phil Heimlich in November, what would be the new majority's motivation to change this model?
TODD PORTUNE: I don't think the public has come to believe the minority should be marginalized at all. In fact, I hear just the opposite. But beyond that is the question of how the government is, by law, supposed to function. When you have a majority that is willing to disregard the rule of law, which in the case of Hamilton County Government they are, then you have anarchy which leads to tyranny.
When David Pepper is elected we intend to restore the rule of law to county government. We will abide by the requirements of open meetings and will insist that county administration perform its duty in favor of all three commissioners. We are a better body of government and Hamilton County functions better if all ideas are given an opportunity to be heard and if we look to make decisions by consensus as opposed to by the majority simply dictating and cramming down its decision on the minority. The government should represent the interests of all the people and, if possible, look for ways to make all of the people feel represented. Commissioners Heimlich and DeWine have utterly failed in that regard.

Part II of the interview: Are Heimlich and DeWine ""
SUSAN: Commissioner DeWine made a comparison to you in the article that echoes what Republicans routinely say about Democrats when he stated, "We tend to take a more conservative stance than Todd on taxes and spending." What's your response?

TODD PORTUNE: First of all, they have ignored the fact that I was elected to initiate reform in the county's spending and tax practices by defeating the irresponsible and wasteful Bob Bedinghaus in the stadium fiasco. Both Heimlich and DeWine supported Bedinghaus and supported the stadium mess without reservation. They both originally opposed my efforts to go after the Bengals. I had to do that on my own over their opposition. I had initiated a series of tax and spending reforms on my own that reduced county-sought property taxes by over $50 million and reduced county spending to 1999 levels before Heimlich ever arrived. I then teamed with Heimlich in adopting a pledge to keep county taxes below inflation and in auditing all county departments. It was Heimlich, not me, who voted for double digit rate increases at MSD and Heimlich who supported all sorts of wasteful spending practices of the sewer district, refusing to scrutinize their budget as I had urged doing.

Their stance is not conservative at all. It is irresponsible partisan government attempting to hide behind a conservative label, protected by organizations like COAST that provide cover. I'll give you an example. The recent jail decision resulted in DeWine and Heimlich refusing to modify their plan to provide more tax relief to more people. They refused to look at alternatives that would have shortened the length of any new tax; reduced the total amount of taxes collected; or extended the benefit of tax reductions to more people. A copy of my proposed alternative compared to Heimlich's plan is attached at

On the day of the vote I made a motion to change the property tax rollback [which benefits a minority of county taxpayers] to a reduction in the unvoted portion of the county sales tax [which would benefit over one million county sales tax payers]. Heimlich and DeWine denied that move. Yet despite those facts COAST supported Heimlich's plan and opposed mine. Why? Because they are a partisan operation masquerading as an interest group.

Similarly, they have voted against numerous efforts of mine to beef up county public safety; to enhance the county's emergency warning system; to support local law enforcement agencies throughout the county; and to assist veterans and veterans' families. And they are unabashed supporters of corporate welfare, voting for giveaways to big business and offering unquestioning support for all manner of tax abatements.

They aren't conservatives at all. They pick and choose the issues they want to say they are conservative on and ignore all other aspects of their record. They really are partisans who are willing to advance rhetoric over substance.

Part III of the interview: How the county could save Norwood $300,000

SUSAN: Having just recently started our own blog, we took particular notice of the article's statement that you read and post to local blogs as one means to inform the public about your plans for county government. We'd like for you to outline a few of your plans and tell our readers how they will impact/benefit Norwood residents.

TODD PORTUNE: I have been frustrated as a Commissioner that the majority has failed to outline any policy or agenda at all that moves our county forward. Instead, we seem to lurch from one crisis to another without a strategy, playbook or vision.

We created the County Report Card to lead to a prioritization of our effort. I supported it because I thought we would then target the areas that were showing stagnation or negative trends. But when it came time to adopt a strategic plan for the county the majority might as well have thrown the Report Card out the window. They even opposed my effort to make Quality of Life in our Neighborhoods a priority issue to target.

We have no policy about public safety. No policy about the quality of life in our neighborhoods. No policy about public health, or about transportation or the environment. Instead their policy seems to be to only cut, cut and cut without any regard to impact or need. No successful business is run that way. You cannot waste - we agree on that - but to be successful in business, or in life, or in government, you also have to be willing to make strategic investments. They have forgotten that.

One big area where they continue to ignore an obvious benefit is in the running of the county's communications center. I have tried since my second week of office in January 2001 to get the commissioners to pay for the operation of this critical county function. The county used to do that. But by "running the county like a business" the commissioners began a terrible practice of charging local communities like Norwood the cost of the operations. The practice produced fragmentation in the system and worse yet denied jurisdictions like Norwood of needed public safety dollars. I want the county to pay for the operations of the center. Doing so will result in Norwood having almost $300,000.00 more to pay for more police officers or firefighters, or to enhance their ability to respond. It will improve the day to day issues of fighting crime, preventing fires, and responding to medical emergencies.

Attached at are a couple of my broad plans on how to get the county moving again in the areas of economic development and in the area of improving public health without raising taxes.

SUSAN: Thank you so much for blogging with us today, Commissioner, and we invite you to post here any time you'd like. Is there anything you care to add before we conclude?

TODD PORTUNE: I think we have covered it for now. Thanks for this wonderful opportunity, and I hope we can do this again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cincinnati Reds giving free game tickets to volunteer fans. What?

On Saturday, September 30, the Cincinnati Reds are hosting a mock disaster exercise conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and SOSINK at the Great American Ballpark. According to the Reds’ 9/7/06 press release, “the exercise will focus on the evacuation of fans from the ball park on key local emergency responder coordination, critical decision making, and integration of Federal and State assets to save lives and protect the public following a terrorist attack.”

Each volunteer participant will get a voucher for two tickets for a game next season. There’s no pre-registration, families are invited, and the parking is free. Arrival time is between 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. and the exercise will be over by 10:00 a.m. Could it be any easier?

For all the details, here’s the link to the press release:

9/16 UPDATE: Health Commissioner Donna Laake and one of our health department nurses will be spending Friday, the 29th, setting up the Alternative Care Center near the ballpark. Donna describes it as a series of tents that provides hospital beds for 210 people equipped with lighting, HVAC, etc. This is where the “wounded” volunteer fans will be “treated” during the mock disaster exercise the following day at the ballpark. The exercise is of such importance that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff is supposed to be there to evaluate it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Will we be the next disaster?

Five years after 9/11 and a little over 1 year after Katrina, are we as a community any more prepared? A 2004 study by the American Red Cross found that while 80% of Americans say that they are very or somewhat prepared for a disaster, only 42% had an adequate disaster kit and 32% had a disaster plan.Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine how prepared you are.

1. Do you have a basic emergency supply kit which includes: water (1 gallon of water per day, per person,) for 3 days, food for 3 days, battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, whistle, dust mask, moist towelettes, wrench or pliers, can opener, plastic sheeting and duct tape, garbage bags and plastic ties, extra batteries?
2. Do you have a Family Evacuation Plan from the home in the event of a fire and from the area, in the event of a large scale evacuation?
3. Do you have a Family Communication Plan?
4. Do you have a Family Disaster Plan?
5. Do you have shelter in place for severe weather or major chemical spill?

If you answer no to any of these questions or don’t know what they are, then you may not be prepared for the next disaster. While that puts you in the majority of the population, it can also cost you your life or the life of a loved one. While we as a nation were stunned by the lack of preparationin New Orleans, we in Norwood may be no better prepared. You can visit the Department of Homeland Security's website for more information.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Auditor of State - the gift that keeps on giving

Despite Mayor Williams’ and Finance Committee member Keith Moore’s publicly stated misgivings about the free services provided by the Auditor of State under fiscal watch, city officials have made another request for their assistance. A letter dated 8/17/06 from the AOS to council is essentially a contract for the Local Government Services Section to provide the city with $18,000 worth of services. It carefully outlines the terms and conditions of an agreement that was hammered out in in a recent Finance Committee meeting Dave Thompson from the LGS Section attended.

Excerpts from the 8/17/06 letter:

We will examine…the forecasted cash basis statement of the revenues, expenditures, and changes in fund balance of the general fund and the summaries of significant forecast assumptions and accounting policies of the City of Norwood for the years ending December 31, 2006 and 2007. We will examine the financial forecast for the purpose of issuing a report stating whether, in our opinion, (a) management’s financial forecast is presented in conformity with the applicable guidelines established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and (b) management’s assumptions provide a reasonable basis for its forecast.

…At the conclusion of the engagement, management agrees to supply us with a representation letter, which…will confirm management’s responsibility for the underlying assumptions and the appropriateness of the financials forecast and its presentation.

If management intends to reproduce and publish the forecast and our report thereon, they must be reproduced in their entirety.

…The cost of this engagement is not anticipated to exceed $18,000 and will be paid from an appropriation made by the Ohio General Assembly. Our estimate is based on anticipated cooperation from City personnel and the assumption that City's management will provide suitable support for the assumptions and amounts presented in the forecast.

According to an LGS official, this letter is standard fare whenever a municipality requests examination of its forecasts. A resolution formalizing the arrangement is on the 9/12/06 council agenda. When the examination of Norwood’s 2006 and 2007 forecasts is complete, which is expected to take about 2 months, the AOS Public Affairs office will notify the media. At that time, the report will be available to the public.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bessie's COW Report for September

Financial recovery plan...
Finally, there's a financial recovery plan for Norwood, and it was the only topic on Tuesday night’s Committee of the Whole agenda. Betty Montgomery will be so pleased they’ve finally done their homework (see 8/06/06 archives for her 7/18/06 letter to Mayor Williams.). Sounds like there’s some more work to be done on it before it goes to the state for a thorough examination.

Positive feedback, but what about the $2.8 million deficit?

There was positive talk about this recovery plan. Mr. Schneider asked if the goal is to get out of fiscal watch, and does this plan do it? Mr. Sanker said that's the goal but wondered if it will be in one year or two. Then he said the numbers in the plan show we’ll be out of fiscal watch in two years. Of course, this is just a plan that's subject to change, it still has to be reviewed by the state, plus they made it clear no one knows what the 3 contracts still in negotiations will do to the budget. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't hear anyone say how the plan addresses this year's $2.8 million deficit. It seems like that's a big amount to deal with in a plan that, according to Mr. Sanker, has numbers showing fiscal watch will be over in two years.

Important November ballot issue...
They talked about this, too - there’s supposed to be a November statewide ballot issue that will make it harder to pass levies. Mr. Sanker said if Ohio voters pass it, local governments will need 51% of all local registered voters to pass levies, not just a simple majority of those who vote. That's major stuff! Mr. Moore was probably right when he said school districts all over Ohio will have fits if it passes. Sounds like this might be from the proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution to severely limit state and local government spending. I'll see if I can find out more and report back.

9/8/06 UPDATE: The ballot issue council was talking about is not going to be on the November ballot, according to what Citizens for Tax Reform, the group that was pushing it, told me when I called. The issue was called Tax Expenditure Limitation, or TEL. There are five statewide issues that may still make it on the ballot, and they’re described here:

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Performance Audit exhorts, "Thou shalt not negotiate with family members."

A couple of years ago, some Norwood residents stood in wonder at Mayor Williams’ former position that, despite his having immediate family members in two of the bargaining units, he would do the negotiating, as Norwood mayors are called upon to do. During his campaign, he stressed his prior negotiating experience was an asset for this particular job requirement. Under ordinary circumstances, he would have been right; but his were no ordinary circumstances.

Since then, Mayor Williams has changed his mind - we think of it as a "righteous flip-flop" - and took some serious advice from the performance audit. Months ago, after fiscal watch was declared by the Auditor of State, he got council to approve hiring a professional negotiator for the 3 contracts that were up 12/31/05. We can see why. Here is one of the most strongly-worded, leave-no-doubt-about-it passages we’ve come across in the audit:

In no case should any party participate in informal or formal discussions or collective bargaining negotiations with any group in which an immediate relative is a member and could benefit from the outcome of those activities. (p. 3-23)

It’s a bad thing former Mayor Vic Schneider’s same request for a negotiator was refused, but let’s get at that by taking a short stroll down memory lane to a time when Norwood’s elected were just a little ethically challenged on this issue.

Back in pre-fiscal watch 2003, when Mr. Schneider was Mayor of Norwood and facing collective bargaining with the firepersons’ union, his sibling served on the very union committee he would be negotiating with. Ouch! Sibling Schneider was not just a rank and file union member awaiting the outcome of the bargaining - he was there to do battle with brother Mayor Schneider for the best possible deal for the union . Double ouch!!

And so, then Mayor Schneider asked council members for a professional negotiator to relieve him of this obvious conflict of interest. As this bit of Norwood lore goes, then Councilperson Williams, apparently not seeing the conflict, was one of the biggest opponents to Mayor Schneider’s appeal. Then, too, that pre-fiscal-watch council said there wasn’t money to pay a negotiator. What a shame Brigid Kelly wasn’t serving then to lecture them, as she did Mr. Schneider recently for his opposition to funding the new budget director position, that sometimes the city "has to spend money in order to make money." (Ah, now there’s some rich irony for Mr. Schneider as well as the rest of us.) And that may be just what’s about to happen: word on the street is the new negotiator is a pretty tough cookie, and there just might be some money saved on the city side of the ledger when the new public works, AFSCME, and police contracts are finally rolled out.

Of course, that was then, and this is now. The good news is the lights seem to be going on at City Hall regarding conflicts of interest and the appearances thereof. Even the Era of Nepotism may be coming to a close when the new employee policy and procedures manual makes it to
council floor for a vote (see 9/2/06 blog below). We can hardly wait, can you?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Performance Audit suggests city prohibit nepotism

According to pages 3-22 and 3-23 of the performance audit, city officials are in the process of drafting a personnel policies and procedures manual. The Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation recommended the city create such a manual in order to decrease its annual Worker’s Compensation premiums, certainly a worthy goal. Another positive outcome of a policies and procedures manual would be the avoidance of “potential litigation or issues that could arise out of ambiguity and/or inconsistency in the administration of personnel policies….the City should address areas that have been, or could potentially be, a problem such as travel, nepotism, and cell phone usage.”

During the audit “several examples of immediate family member relationships among employees were noted. In municipalities such as Norwood, which have related employees working in various classified and unclassified positions, the potential for conflict of interest, or the appearance of such is increased.”

The policy of peer city Trotwood, Ohio is cited as an example of how Norwood might address this practice in the manual:

“Members of immediate family of City employees are prohibited from employment in unclassified positions. This provision does not apply to present employees and those positioned on a pending eligibility list. Immediate family is defined as: child, step-child, sons or daughters-in-law, grandchildren, spouse, or parent.”

We hope the final draft of the manual will be ready soon so the savings on worker's compensation premiums can start to be realized. Council will have to approve it. At that time, the public will know whether or not the city ordained a policy prohibiting nepotism.

Friday, September 01, 2006

NCS stays in Continuous Improvement: A comparison with similar school districts

In August, the Ohio Department of Education released the district local report cards for the 2005-06 school year. 20 Southwest Ohio school districts are now rated excellent.

In order for parents to evaluate the report card data, the Ohio Department of Education has compiled a list of 20 similar districts with comparable socio-economic circumstances.
We took 12 of Norwood’s most similar districts and compared them. None of the similar districts rated Excellent or below Continuous Improvement. Seven were rated Effective and five others rated the same as Norwood in Continuous Improvement. Of the similar districts in Hamilton County, all rated Effective except Norwood.

Norwood students continue to exceed the state requirement on attendance with a score of 94.4%. Unfortunately, the graduation rate continues to be a problem with Norwood scoring only a 75.6%, the second lowest in the list of 13 districts.