Thursday, October 7, 2010

Visit this link for my recent TV interview (Beck was a No-Show, Of Course!)

Here is my recent TV interview with the Dayton League of Women Voters.  Click here to watch!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Won't My Opponent Agree to a Debate?

I am running for the seat of State Representative of the 67th District. I strongly believe that the voters have a right to hear the candidates debate in a public, nonpartisan forum. Unfortunately, my opponent, Pete Beck, does not agree and thus far has refused to debate with me and the Libertarian candidate on the ticket, Robert Waters. Mr. Beck is technically the incumbent. He was appointed to the seat by the moderate higher-ups in the Republican party one year ago. He has never been voted into the position by the people of Warren County, and many conservative Republicans and Tea Party members don’t support his candidacy. 
It appears that my opponent is afraid to debate me, for fear of losing ground in what he assumes will be an easy victory. Since serving as your state representative, my opponent has not introduced one bill to the Ohio House of Representatives, nor has he initiated any changes that would bring jobs to our local economy. He has simply rested on his Republican laurels, and now takes the seat for granted by virtue of his party label.
Is that what the people of Warren County want? Don’t you want to hear the candidates engage in a vigorous debate on the issues that affect your daily lives: jobs, taxes, and excessive government spending?
Only through a debate can I prove to the people of Warren County that I am the best candidate on the ticket. Yes, I am a Democrat, but you will be surprised that my fiscal views are actually more conservative than Mr. Beck’s views. I am also pro-life, and support gun owners freedoms under the Second Amendment. As an attorney who frequently argues issues in court, I am confident that I can convince the voters of my competence and integrity. As your state representative, I will aggressively work to bring jobs to this county and not raise taxes. However, I cannot convince you unless Mr. Beck stops running from me and agrees to debate in the name of true  Democracy.
It also appears that Mr. Beck is reluctant to debate with Mr. Waters, a charismatic Libertarian who attends local Tea Party meetings and appeals to the conservative Tea Party base. The electorate is understandably wary of partisan labels. Voters want to elect the best person for the job, regardless of label. That’s why the Tea Party has surged in popularity. I urge you to contact Mr. Beck and demand a debate. You are hiring the candidate to work for you, and you have a right to interview each one for the job.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Soylent Green All Over Again!

Remember the movie "Soylent Green"? Maybe you are not as old as I am, but it was a big hit in the 1970s when I was a kid. It told the story of a highly efficient, futuristic world where old people were required to undergo a peaceful euthanasia when they hit a certain age. At that point in time, they were considered wasteful in society; no longer capable of working 40 hour weeks and contributing to the tax base.
Sometimes I feel that the ultra-conservative movement in America reflects a "Soylent Green" mentality. Ironically, the Bible and Christianity is used to justify an ideology that is far from what Jesus preached. In recent weeks, I have encountered several Republican women in my community circulating petitions for signing which state that the Health Reform Act is "Unconstitutional." I usually politely decline signing these petitions and tell them that I support Health Reform. One woman at the county fair wanted to argue with me, however. And so I engaged (briefly).
I told her that I am a Social Security Disability attorney and every week I help people who have lost everything (and I mean everything) due to a devastating family illness. I have seen literally hundreds of hardworking local residents lose a lifetime of retirement savings, their homes with full equity, and their peace of mind (i.e. they cannot sleep at night due to mounting, unpaid medical bills), due to an illness. These same people cannot get the medical care they require, even in cases of terminal illness. I also reminded her that 32 million people are uninsured in America today. Someday she could be one of them.
In response, the thirty or forty-something year old woman said "That's too bad. I feel sorry for them, I really do. But it's not my problem."
Does she really "feel sorry for them"? I don't think so. The 32 million people that I reference are simply numbers in the heads of people who have not been truly affected by the plight of the uninsured. I deeply believe that this woman, and others holding those petitions, would change their minds if one of their loved ones: a mother, a sister, a sick child, was a part of that 32 million statistic.
Circulating petitions stating that Health Reform is "Unconstitutional" is the ultimate Republican spin. In my first year as a law student at UC Law School 13 years ago, I was instructed that the US Constitution included a Bankruptcy Clause because the drafters acknowledged that losing all of one's financial resources through job loss, or sickness, or failure to keep a business afloat, could quite literally lead a person to suicide. Bankruptcy was the merciful solution provided by the government to relieve a citizen in that time of stress.
But now, for some reason, a person's right to be slaughtered by medical bills (more than half of all bankruptcies are the result of unpaid medical bills) is Constitutionally PROTECTED? That's a farce. It's a lie.
The private insurance companies have made a killing on sick Americans through unjust policies regarding pre-existing conditions and countless other profiteering tactics. Politicians like John Boehner support these money making private companies and convince Americans that their corruption is somehow Constitutionally protected. The Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves.
The United States of America is the only industrialized Democracy that does not require the right of basic health care to its citizens. So if this mandate is so "Unconstitutional" and demands repeal, then why have no other industrialized nations required such repeal based on their respective (Democratic) Constitutions?
I have said it many times: a society and its government is only as strong as its treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. Case in point, the Nazi regime. Only the strong and the young were valued in that Godless system. There is something very dark about saying one "sympathizes" with a fellow citizen and then denying his or her access to basic medical care.
Finally, I say to the healthy woman who told me that "she feels sorry for the 32 million" but that "it's not (her) problem": someday it WILL be your problems. You will grow old and/or sick and not have proper coverage, or your loved ones will need medical care and not have coverage. It's not enough that you supposedly sympathize with people in these sad situations. As Americans, we must EMPATHIZE with their plight, recognizing that someday it will be us, or our loved ones in the same predicament.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Containing Costs the IT Way

Governments are in financial crisis, Ohio included. Simply put, we have run out of money. Tax revenues  have dropped as property values have tanked and household incomes dwindled. Falling prices for stocks and real estate have further injured previously underfunded public pension plans. Unemployed workers have increased the demand for welfare and Medicaid services. This year, Ohio faces a 300 million dollar shortfall in its budget and unlike the Feds, we don't have the luxury of printing dollar bills and living on credit. Our state leaders must find practical ways to aggressively cut waste and make the government that we have "lean and mean." One of the best ways to do this is through Internet Technology (IT). Below is an interview with my husband, Chris Howard, addressing this issue. We hear a lot of emotional rhetoric from partisan and nonpartisan groups. Now let's starting talking REAL solutions.

Tell me briefly about your job

I am a Chief of Research at Gartner, a technology research and advisory firm. I am responsible for setting and executing a high-value research agenda for technology professionals within the public and private sectors. In my job, I travel extensively worldwide and interact with clients at all levels of leadership. I have worked with various levels of government in North America and Europe.

What are the common differences you see between private companies and government agencies? Why do those differences exist? Are there differences in management and employee mindsets? Do you approach these groups differently?

Public and private sector organizations have different primary drivers and motivators. Whereas profit and competitiveness are primary for most companies, cost containment and accountability are crucial for government. In a sense, they both have similar stakeholder responsibilities: corporation to its shareholders (and others); government to the citizens. The essence of the difference is that corporations exist to generate wealth. Governments exist to govern.

Governments and corporations both consume information technology (IT). Over the past several decades, each have spent billions adding software, hardware, networks, data centers, and staff to create and support the IT environment. The result for each is a complex, expensive, poorly-understood collection of equipment and functionality where money can leak out in a torrent. The growth of the IT environment should be controlled by effective standards and vendor management policies. Unfortunately, and this is especially true in governments, standards often don’t exist or are not enforced. As a result, complexity compounds, fragmented contracts add cost, and change becomes more difficult to implement. Uncontrolled complexity creates additional cost and this, ironically, is an internal governance issue.

In IT, there are a handful of mindsets, common in both public and private sectors. Some people are constantly curious and always learning: searching for better ways to craft solutions. Others are what we call “lifers”: people who attach themselves to a particular technology or system and ride it out into retirement. Lifers are resistant to change because they perceive it as a threat. Those who remain open and curious are more likely to embrace change but are also more likely to take maverick steps that require management support and intervention.

Another similarity between corporations and governments is the often fractured nature of business lines/agencies. In large organizations, silos develop that are aligned with lines of business, product, services, or some other function. As a result, you may have multiple groups that are doing very similar things, but collaboration is limited and difficult. The more fractured the environment, the harder it will be to effectively serve the needs of the customer/citizen.

Provide examples of ways that you were able to help a government body save money.

In my work as an advisor, I help executives spot the opportunities for consolidation in their environment and counsel them on dealing with political issues that will arise. At the end of the day, the discussion is not about technology solutions: those are pretty straightforward. Most inertia in organizations is caused by culture, habits, and broken relationships.

Most governments worldwide, at all levels, are working on shared-services solutions that consolidate common functions across agencies. This involves reaching consensus on what can be made common and reusable. It is complex work, and requires analysis of existing workflows to determine where redundancies can be collapsed. It is a balancing act: not everything should be centralized, and agencies need some level of autonomy to be effective.

Computing infrastructures are also candidates for consolidation. Using new virtualization technologies and emerging cloud computing capabilities, governments can reduce their spending on data centers. Some of my government clients are making decisions about whether to build new data centers or retrofit their existing ones. In many cases, older government facilities are not appropriate for new data center architectures and they should build a modern facility that incorporates new approaches to power, heating, and cooling. In the long run, such a facility will save them money. In the near term, governments should start by reducing the number of physical servers and replacing them with virtual machines running in their existing data centers.

Consolidation and computing infrastructures come together in effective ways. The Canadian Federal Government, for example, built a completely virtualized infrastructure for shared services that supports most agencies. Virtualization allows for quick provisioning of computing power at lower cost than traditional methods. In this scenario, everyone wins: standards and policies mandate use of the shared infrastructure, turn-around time for new functionality is accelerated, and cost (and technology sprawl) is contained.

Why is the move to e-government just a surface solution?

E-government is an important strategy. It places more control in the hands of the citizen as they interact with their information and services. It also potentially reduces “customer service” costs and personnel. The challenge with e-government is that it may not go deep enough. Truly effective e-government requires refactoring of the underlying systems to create integration and consolidation. Most of these legacy systems were put in place before the concept of citizen self-service (or the internet for that matter) existed. Human workflow will also need to be refactored to support a more integrated environment.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why I Will Vote Pro-Life

  If elected as your state representative, I will vote “pro-life” on all issues involving abortion. I have held pro-life views for the majority of my lifetime. As a child growing up in the Catholic Church, I was taught that a human being becomes viable at the moment of conception. This stance was reinforced when I became pregnant with our two children in my twenties. I recall the “flutter” of movement that I felt when carrying each of our children in my first trimester. There was no doubt in my mind that such movement indicated God-given life. 

My pro-life stance loosened in my thirties, however, as my work in local juvenile courts tested my convictions. As an attorney and guardian ad litem, I was exposed to many real-life tragedies in which young women found themselves facing unwanted pregnancies. Some of these cases involved rape, incest, or drug addicted mothers who continued to abuse substances while pregnant. For a few years, I embraced a broader approach to abortion because I saw, firsthand, the painful nature of these sad and complicated situations. Did this belief sit well with me? Never.

In recent years, my husband and I have returned to the church and the abortion issue has continued to trouble me. I now believe that as Christians, we must err on the side of caution and protect unborn life in the womb at all costs, even if the infant will be born with serious disabilities, or into situations involving drugs, poverty, abuse and neglect; even if it is a hardship for the mother to carry that child to full-term (unless the mother's life is at risk.) My renewed conviction regarding the sacredness of life at all levels is strengthened by my work on Ohio’s Board of Nursing Home Examiners (BENHA), and Warren County’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Both organizations seek to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals regardless of age or physical/mental status.   

As a Christian and a Pro-Life Democrat, I will put my energies into honoring and enhancing the private and public systems that support women and children. I would like for the voter to understand that I have internally struggled with this issue in the past. Nevertheless, my return to the pro-life position that I held for the majority of my lifetime is permanent.

I welcome your response to this blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Save our Public Schools!

I've been knocking on a lot of voters' doors in recent weeks. There is always that awkward moment when the homeowner is thinking, "Is she a Jehova's Witness?" The potential voter is relieved when I hand them my card and say that I am running for State Representative in November. "So what are the issues that you are most concerned about?" I ask. Often, the answer involves public school education. Families and teachers want more funding for our local schools. Older folks on fixed incomes are fearful that property taxes will be raised in pursuit of that goal.

In 1996, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the current method of funding by relying heavily on local property taxes was inequitable (see DeRolph v. State of Ohio). Simply put, the schools in Mason prospered and the schools in downtown Cincinnati suffered when relying on property taxes. Although the Court ordered that Ohio's government "enact a constitutional school-funding system", it did not provide any concrete guidance on how the legislature was to enact such tax reform. Our elected leaders were then faced with a quagmire similar to the oil spill in the Gulf. To correct the problem required a total overhaul of the system. Politicians run from that kind of task. Obvious solutions involve raising income taxes and tangible property taxes on the local electorate, thereby committing political suicide.

Consequently, the legislature took the easy way out and authorized more state funds to schools; a band-aid solution that could not last in the face of a subsequent "Great Recession" and present-day cutbacks in state and federal funding. So now we are faced with a harsh reality. How do we run our schools with diminishing revenues, especially when local levies like the one in Little Miami fail? At this point, my fingers take a long pause on the keyboard.

As your elected State Representative, I will encourage the passage of local levies; better schools increase our property values and make for stronger communities. However, I will not vote for increases in property, income, or tangible taxes without majority consent. People are strapped and struggling to pay their monthly bills and the unemployment rate remains high. We all need to find ways to reduce school spending without raising taxes. First, I will fight to eliminate the requirement of full-day Kindergarten as set forth in House Bill 1. Most local voters agree that this is an indulgent mandate given the limited finances of our public schools. Moreover, there is no strong data to show that all-day Kindergarten is worth the astronomical expense involved in increasing operating costs, staffing, and support staff. Presently, Mason and Lebanon have been granted a one-year waiver of this requirement. However, the full-day Kindergarten mandate should be done away with altogether. It's great in theory, but we just can't afford it.

Our local schools also need to get creative with cutting back on staff through attrition. In Mason, the attrition rate averages 25-35 staff members yearly. By not adding new teachers to replace the ones that leave, it is estimated that over 69 million dollars will be saved in Mason City schools alone in the next 10 years.  
This will obviously put a burden on the teachers that remain, especially in light of the 19-1 student-teacher classroom ratio required in House Bill 1. Nevertheless, we are living in tough financial times and these types of cutbacks are inevitable unless the public wants to pay more in taxes.

Schools can also continue to make cuts in nonessentials like paper costs. By using electronic worksheets and  report cards, large amounts of money can be saved. Similarly, reduced energy consumption in our schools will lead to significant savings, as will a freeze in all funding for extracurricular activities. Other initiatives include a workers' compensation discount program, and cooperative purchasing agreements.    

I am opposed to excessive legislation being placed on top of our local school systems at the whim of the government. An example is Senate Bill 210, intended to fight childhood obesity by requiring 30 minutes of physical activity per day for students in K-12. It's great in theory, don't get me wrong. But our schools don't have the monies to employ the require certified teachers to oversee the programs.

Unfortunately, the proposals referenced above don't come close to solving the dilemma of decreasing revenues and increasing student population faced by the communities in the 67th District.  When all is said and done, we need to increase tax revenues by attracting more lucrative industry to our area. Governor Strickland and the Ohio legislature endeavor to make Ohio the bell weather state for renewable energy in years to come. Communities in the 67th district need to attract money-making, green industry with more tax incentives. The paradox is that offering tax incentives to such industries will result in adding more money to the tax base than what currently exists. We also need more jobs in Internet Technology and Health Care.

By increasing tax revenues through additional businesses and industry, and aggressively decreasing costs, the communities of the 67th District can improve their public schools. I welcome any ideas from the readers on how to solve the school funding crisis in our district. There is a lot of criticism and attack out there on this issue. Let's talk about SOLUTIONS.