Archive for November, 2006
Toledo City Council better keep the cutlery out well after Thanksgiving this year. Once they’re done carving turkey, they’ll need to wield sharp knives to trim more than $10 million worth of fat out of the mayor’s 2007 budget proposal.
This has become a tiresome exercise that repeats itself year after year. The “strong mayor” gets weak in the knees when it comes to making tough monetary decisions in guiding the city.
Even the mayor’s harshest critics on council quietly expected a $3 million to $4 million deficit — nothing of this magnitude. Councilman Frank Szollosi said, “it’s time to get out the scalpel.” Forget it — it’s going to take a meat cleaver to cut through a budget bungle that’s as thick as a side of beef.
I sure hope Toledo’s First Lady handles the checkbook at the Finkbeiner household, because the mayor has no clue about living within the city’s limited financial means.
Carty’s spokesman talked of using a combination of budget cuts and “revenue enhancements” to balance that budget. That’s just a fancy governmental term for tax or fee increase.
We’ve been here before, too. You need only turn the clock back two years.
The last time Toledo faced a budget hole this big, talk of police and fire layoffs surfaced, citizens went nuts, and city council found ways to avoid the unthinkable. Talk of increasing the garbage fee by $5 also surfaced, much to the chagrin of the public, and that idea ended up on the scrap heap, too.
Council President Rob Ludeman has mentioned the trash fee once again, quickly stating he’s not necessarily for it — just that he expects it to get discussed in budget talks. Why waste the time? I’m sure the general public still feels the same way about that fee — or any new fee, for that matter.
Let’s use the levy votes as an example. Citizens heartily supported 911, Children Services and the Toledo Zoo — continuing to provide tax dollars on the books.
But the public said no to a new tax levy for COSI. The message: we’ll give you what you currently have, but don’t ask for any more than that.
The same should hold true for Toledo’s 2007 spending plan. Don’t even think about coming to us for more. You already took more through the back door through huge increases in property tax assessments for basic city services. The mayor’s massive army of “deputized” inspectors, managers, commissioners, undersecretaries and bean counters can write anyone a ticket for just about any misdeed this side of forgetting to cover their mouth when they cough.
Enough is enough. Get a grip on reality and do what you must — and that is to do what each of us is forced to do at home when times get tight: cut back until you reach balance.
Carty has essentially thrown the burden back on council to be the bad guy. He wrote in a letter to the council president that everyone “must be involved jointly as partners in developing our future together.” If the mayor really meant that, he wouldn’t have put all the partners in this position in the first place.
We as citizen-partners need to make our own suggestions — and maybe we can add some fresh ideas to the tired old ones that come up each year.
I have one simple suggestion to start the knives trimming. I propose a moratorium on bike paths and fancy lighting. That’ll shave about a million bucks from that ol’ deficit.
If everyone else adds their two cents at city hall, pretty soon we may hit $10 million. If not, we may see our wallets and purses opened yet again.
Kevin Milliken is the host of “Eye on Toledo” on WSPD 1370 AM.
My life has intersected with O.J. Simpson twice. The recent announcement that Simpson is ringing in the holidays with a book and TV interview, “If I Did It,” in which he discusses how he would have committed the killings of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, resurrects those memories.
In 1995, the UT Student Union Board sponsored a domestic violence program that featured Denise Brown, sister of Simpson’s murdered wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. I drove Denise from the airport to some media appearances and her lecture. She was strong, eloquent and as passionate about her message as any person I have ever met. She spoke of Simpson with a penetrating coldness that emanated from her core and coated her words, not with frost, but with jagged icicles.
I admired her for taking a horrific event and parlaying her terror, hatred and grief into the positive work of helping other women who were victims of domestic violence. I spent about 12 hours with her, corresponded with her for about a year, and though there was no long-term communication, I never forgot her resolve, her passion, and the physical and spiritual toll I could see she was paying.
In March of 2001, while living in South Florida, I was sent to interview Simpson when he announced a new business venture.
He was late for the meeting, so a receptionist suggested I pass some time at an art gallery in the building. The gallery was showing an exhibit of Peter Beard’s photographs, “50 Years of Portraits,” images of naked women, torn bodies and bloody limbs, accented with snake skins, police tape and bloodstains.
As I waited to interview Simpson, Beard’s images of predators and death crawled through my brain.
Simpson, in his 50s, was fit and trim. He did not step out of the elevator; he exploded from it, his booming laughter preceding him from two floors below.
Dressed casually, and noticeably expensively, in a taut white undershirt and an unbuttoned purple shirt, Simpson was with several lawyers and 25-year-old Christine Prody, his on-and-off girlfriend.
During the interview, which was supposed to be a business story, Simpson talked about being a single man who had quite the history with women, a man who can “have sex with whoever I want to.” He alluded to experiences past, present and future, with simultaneous multiple partners, in front of Prody, with a boastful cavalierness that suggested he did not have much concern for her feelings.
I remember thinking, if a man can think of women in such dehumanizing terms, and show such disregard for her status as an individual, it’s not a stretch to think that man could hurt her with little remorse.
Business questions were asked, but Simpson’s conversation drifted back to his personal and legal problems like the tide returns to the sands of South Beach — and just as fondly, with a caress of familiarity that might be termed loving, if that weren’t too hellish to contemplate.
The biggest shock about meeting Simpson was that he’s boring. He’s a lousy listener, and talks with unyielding self-fascination. It’s not surprising Simpson’s Dream Team kept him off the witness stand; he can’t shut up.
I expected echoes of evil; I expected Hannibal Lechter. Instead, I faced a villain from a Scooby-Doo cartoon.
At the end of the day I spent with Denise, she gave me the guardian angel pin from her lapel. It has been pinned to my reporter’s portfolio ever since. It was sitting there, three feet from Simpson, during that interview.
I have thought back to that day, and wondered how Simpson would have reacted if I had told him of the angel pin’s origin. Would it have fazed him? Would he have made a joke, blown it off? Would he have been angry enough to reveal a glimpse of his notorious, I believe murderous, temper?
There will be people who rush to buy Simpson’s book to see if they can determine his guilt or innocence. I have looked into O.J. Simpson’s eyes, and I already know.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. He may be contacted by phone at (419) 241-1700 or by e-mail at mmiller@ toledofreepress.com.
Editor’s Note: Kudos to FoxToledo, which has announced it will not broadcast the Simpson interview.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s 2007 budget proposal contains 10.6 million reasons to be unhappy.
The budget the mayor sent to city council comes up $10.6 million short, and while the mayor and city council are pledging to work together to balance the numbers, it is disappointing that our “strong mayor” chose to not make the more difficult choices himself.
The budget is almost $7 million larger than this year’s, due in part to the wage increase city workers negotiated. We support that increase, but it’s baffling the raises would not be compensated for in another area of the budget.
Council members are floating trial balloons about increased service fees, a notion that
already over-taxed and over-levied Toledoans are unlikely to cheer.
Councilman George Sarantou’s reported comment that the budget may not realistically account for overtime expenses adds to our unease.
Cutting is not as much fun as spending, and in the political arena, it’s definitely not as popular. Decreasing from youth commission and economic development programs when the mayor is pressing for decorative touches across the city seems to be a case of poor prioritizing.
Finkbeiner is not new to the budget process; there should be no learning curve. The onus is now on city council to balance the budget.
It’s below freezing outside of the Toys ‘R’ Us at 340 New Towne Square Drive. The weather hasn’t stopped two Toledo-area brothers from huddling next to the entrance for their chance to reserve Sony’s latest video game console, the PlayStation 3. The pre-orders started Oct. 29, yet Michael and Phillip Kaczorowski were already in line by 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We didn’t want to wait until March to get one,” said Phillip Kaczorowski after being asked why they chose to wait over 16 hours outside in the frigid Toledo air. That specific Toys ‘R’ Us location was only allocated three of the game consoles, and there’s only a small chance they will receive more before Christmas, according to employees.
The PlayStation 3 will be available in two different models, one with a price of $599, and another retailing for $499. The $599 model comes with three additional features. These include built-in Wi-Fi for online gaming, support for three types of memory sticks and a 60-gigabyte hard drive, which is 40 gigabytes larger than the one in the $499 system.
The models also come with a newly designed controller. While similar in look and feel to Sony’s Dual Shock 2 on the PlayStation 2, the Dual Shock 3 comes with more tilt sensors.
By moving the controller, it can sense motion and translate it into motion on the screen.
Both brothers were adamant when asked which model they would be reserving, and their reason was summed up in few words.
“The $600 one. It’s better,” they said. Mike Piddock, owner of Video Game Underground at 3230 Sylvania Ave., had a different opinion on the console.
“I think the system is worth $500, but it’s not worth $600,” he said.
However, Piddock also felt those going home with the $500 model will be disappointed.
“They’re missing the HDMI cable which will be an additional $90,” he said.
HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface, the standard cable when it comes to high definition television. While the PlayStation 3 is capable of displaying the highest resolution available, it requires the HDMI cable to do so.
Piddock agreed console shortages would be a problem.
“It will be worse than the PlayStation 2. There are rumored to be only 300,000 systems, if that. They shipped over 400,000 PlayStation 2s,” he said.
Sony’s previous home console created a high demand in the United States when it was released in late 2001.
Sellers on popular online auction site eBay.com took advantage of the situation, and the console’s $300 retail price rose to more than $1,000 before Christmas holiday.
Piddock believes this helps Sony in creating hype and demand. The Kaczorowski brothers agreed, and had no problem with sellers buying Playstation 3’s specifically for resale.
“If they camped out for it, they earned it,” they said.
Sony’s release date comes two days before Nintendo releases its latest console, the Wii. Nintendo’s hardware uses motion-sensing controllers for nearly all of its on-screen action, the system’s key selling point.
Microsoft released the Xbox 360 in 2005 and has used the time advantage to push as many consoles as possible into the hands of gamers. To date, 4 million have been sold. Piddock sees the PlayStation 3 shortage as an advantage for the competing companies.
“It’s definitely going to help Microsoft and Nintendo. People are going to go out and realize they can’t buy a PS3, but they can buy a Wii and a 360 for the same price as the PS3,” he said.
Even with potential for better sales numbers this year, Piddock still sees Sony coming out on top before the next round of consoles is released.
“Honestly, they might end up on top. It may not be within the first year or two years, but by the third or fourth year, it will happen from the name recognition alone since the PS2 beats out 360 on sales here and there,” he said.
Sony fans may be out of luck if they haven’t pre-ordered yet. All EB Games and Gamestop stores sold their pre-orders months in advance. Best Buy stores have not taken pre-orders, and will likely sell the console on its launch date on a first-come, first-served basis. For some, the 16-hour wait the Kaczorowskis made it through would be welcome as they line up outside Best Buy for a fleeting chance at what has already become a hot item for Christmas.
Today is the day your prospect makes the final decision. The research has been done, the bids have been submitted, and the comparisons have been made. This is the moment of truth.
Behind a large desk, your prospect sits with the final two bids spread out before him. As he combs through the proposals, he contemplates which company to choose.
Then it happens. His phone rings. On the other end of the phone is your biggest competitor. “I just wanted to see if there were any questions you had,” he casually announces.
“Well, not particularly. This is a harder decision than I thought it would be,” the prospect responds. “The prices are about the same, the products are really similar, and I think both companies would do a good job with service,” he continues.
“Let me do this,” your competitor chimes in. “I want to go talk to my manager; I think we may be able to sharpen our pencils here,” he says in a fake, contemplative tone.
Your prospect receives a revised bid from your competitor and calls you to inform you that his decision has just gotten a little easier. You sputter and reel, “Well, hold on. Let me make a few phone calls. Can I give you a call right back?”
And so the race to the bottom has begun. As the phone calls between your competitor and yourself continue, the prices keep dropping as the prospect sits in amazement at how fast things can change. The fax machine is humming and the emails are flying as each company continues to sweeten the deal.
However, the truth is bitter. The flurry of last minute price reductions has diminished everything you have worked so hard to establish. You have thrown your reputation, your ability to be trusted, and your integrity under the bus in the false sense that it will help you win the sale. You have left your prospect wondering why these prices weren’t possible weeks ago when you first starting talking with him about the details of the contract. Now, he sits at his desk questioning everything, and it is all your fault.
Your last minute changes are not creating a greater desire for your product; they are creating doubt and indecision. By bringing the validity of your original price into question, you are now bringing the validity of everything into question.
The minute you allowed the conversation to focus completely on price, you admitted to the prospect that, yes, you are exactly like your competition. You have told the prospect price is the only thing that separates you from your competitor.
In the moment of truth, you need to keep the focus solidly upon the things that you have worked so hard to establish: a strong relationship, reliability, and trust. When you keep the decision focused on these factors, you are giving your competition enough rope to hang themselves.
Take a moment and look back on the last time you participated in a race to the bottom. Chances are you misread the prospect’s cues and assumed he was talking only about price. Maybe he mentioned the price, but that does not mean that he was necessarily going to say no because of it. You were the one who took things in that direction; you were the one who threw away everything you worked so hard to establish.
The next time you find yourself standing in the moment of truth, remain confident in the work you’ve done to get to that point. You obviously did something right, or you wouldn’t have made it to the final day. Let your competitor be the one to wag his tail like a piddling puppy. Stand proudly by your price, your terms, and the solid value you intend on delivering for the customer. It will make you the obvious choice, regardless of price.
Tom Richard is a Toledo-based sales trainer, gives seminars, runs sales meetings and provides coaching for salespeople. For more information, visit www.TomRichard.com, call (419) 441-1005 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you hear anything about a government construction project, you usually hear terms such as, “cost over-runs,” “over-budget” and “behind schedule.”
For example, the Boston Big Dig road and tunnel project was bid, contracted and funded for a little under $3 billion in 1991. As of February 2006, the Big Dig had cost taxpayers over $14.6 billion. How’s that for government efficiency?
The story gets worse. The project was supposed to be usable for traffic by sometime in 2004. The public was assured the Big Dig would be totally finished right after being opened for traffic.
On Jan. 14, Matthew J. Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, told the public the Big Dig has reached “substantial completion,” though it won’t actually be completed until approximately the spring of 2007.
As reported in the Boston Globe, when Amorello was asked by a reporter if the project could be considered a success, he replied, “The project is a success.”
When the reporter followed up by asking if all the delays and massive cost over-runs were “worth it,” Amorello said, “Absolutely.”
Let’s look at another project in Massachusetts. A while back, Newton, Mass., taxpayers approved a $39 million school Bond to fund the construction of a new public high school.
There were a few “minor problems” with the construction of the school. How minor, you may wonder? How about being over 4 times budget? How about being at $160 million and counting on this straightforward building?
I could go on and on with literally thousands of examples of government projects that fall victim to the hideous mismanagement by government officials.
I could cite hundreds of pages of stories that would anger you, make your blood boil — stories about highways, roads, buildings, power stations, water systems, public schools, military installations, airports, etc.
Here’s my opinion why these buildings, and other projects end up being so massively expensive and miserably behind schedule: There’s no incentive to finish on budget or on time and little or no penalty for being late.
Think about how different this is in the private sector. If your company, or you, were building a new office or home, you would set up the plans, set the cost and completion date. Then make damn sure the thing got done on budget and on time.
Why? Because you care about the results! Federal, state, and local government employees do not have any stake in the outcome, do not care if things get finished or stay within budget. Lousy or missing incentives create lousy results.
There is a little known secret that can quickly, simply and effectively reduce or even eliminate government waste from construction — performance bonds.
A performance bond is an insurance policy on the construction price and performance. So, if the project goes over the agreed upon cost, the insurance company, not the taxpayers, will pay the additional costs.
Most of us buy insurance for our cars, our homes, and our lives. Many businesses buy key person‚ insurance, liability insurance and even contract insurance. They bond employees in financially sensitive positions.
Performance bonds are insurance policies for construction. They’re regularly required by financial institutions for business and private construction projects. Don’t you think this idea is so ridiculously simple that we should all demand it be implemented by all of our government agencies from Washington right down to the local level right away?
When each prospective contractor bids the building project, the cost of the performance bond will be included in the job bid. Government officials and taxpayers will know exactly what the construction project will cost.
Performance bonds protect taxpayers. Requiring them for all government construction is an idea whose time has come.
Troy Neff is managing director of Advanced Retirement Solutions. He also hosts “The Troy Neff Show” each weekday 6 to 9 a.m. on WCWA 1230 AM. He may be contacted at Troy@TroyNeff.com.
With Thanksgiving upon us, Holiday Stories and Poems seems like the perfect one to share. A “First Hand Account of the First Thanksgiving” is also included. I hope you enjoy some of the additional stories and poems that are included there.
One of the most asked question that I’ve received by those starting to blog is how to build traffic. The first and easiest step is to visit other blogs and to comment on their blogs, most blog owners will stop by and check out your site. Some posts people will comment on, some they won’t so don’t let a lack of comments discourage you, if you blog it? They will come…
Another way to meet people on the blogosphere and to build traffic is to join one of the numerous link groups out there called “blogrolls”. Most of these are based on a theme or a topic. Take TNChick as one example, each Saturday she has what is called the Photo Hunt where a theme is given for those who participate and you post a photo on your blog that meets that theme.
The Thursday 13 is probably one of the best known “meme groups” where thousands of people on Thursday write thirteen things about their week, Thirteen secrets they’ve never shared before, Thirteen random things about themselves or their lives that they want to share. Once you’ve done this a few times you can apply to join the Thursday 13 Blogroll.
One of the places I joined with my non-local blog was The Truth Laid Bear that has an “ecosystem” design to link building. You start out as an “Insignificant Microbe” and work your way up the food chain. I made it to “Large Mammal” status on my other blog which is currently ranked at 1023 out of 58,552. Another nice advantage of this site is there are Communities listed which you can join that will help you not only meet other bloggers but will get more readers to your blog.
There are many other groups and blogrolls out there, like Toledo Bloggers. You can also use the advanced search feature on the Toledo Free Press and by selecting my name be able to find previous local as well as other blogs that have been featured during the 43 weeks of Blog it! Toledo. Or visit here for a complete list of every blog that is still active that has been featured.