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Government Watch: The public sector needs fixing


Published: Sun, April 24, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

Tax-funded wages work their way into my house every week.

Specifically, my wife is a teacher by trade and currently has part-time work in Poland schools.

So I get government work. I get teacher jobs.

Last week, we launched Government Watch on Vindy.com in response to the immense scrutiny that government spending — from schools to counties to the state and beyond — faces in our tough economy.

The response had been what you would expect:

Joy from many readers whom I assume are private citizens:

“Hope I’m not going overboard in my praise for what you’re doing, but I’m so happy with the work you have done lately. It takes a lot of courage to upset the status quo.”

Anger from government workers:

“The more of you I read, the more I wonder if you are conducting in-depth reporting or a good ol’ fashioned witch hunt.”

And kind of in the middle:

“I’ve worked for state government for about 13 years. I’ve learned a lot on how government works. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of your opinions, I think what you’re doing is important and of value to the community.”

Our steps in Government Watch are unique for us. We have targeted as a base goal to publish the five-year spending and salary histories of key agencies.

We’re starting with the most pertinent towns and schools to our readership, and will slowly grow it.

While various websites around the state publish this very same data on these very same workers, it’s more local when your hometown newspaper does it. One teacher whose salary was posted said she felt violated.

It indeed is personal, but so too are the dollars that government agencies keep taking for operations.

I honestly believe that the bulk of government workers — 80 percent or more — are doing the right job and are properly paid or are underpaid.

But there is a dominant contingent of government workers, namely top managers and union leaders, who set the rules, negotiate the plans and watch the money — and they’re not doing it with enough respect to taxpayers.

When Coca-Cola wants to enrich itself, it creates a new product.

When government wants to enrich itself, it creates a new tax.

One works; one model is broken.

There are many examples to note, but quickly and locally (and in addition to the Mahoning County steps that have been reported in recent weeks):

Former Youngstown State University President David Sweet wanted public funds to buy his home as he retired, and he cashed in on 400 hours in unused sick time.

Former Youngstown schools boss Wendy Webb had a pleasant unused sick-time cash-out as well that pushed her going-away check to more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds.

And just two weeks ago, an already in-debt Liberty Township had to sign off on pay raises as high as 5 percent to police and fire staff. Top fire bosses there will get 11 percent pay boosts during the next three years.

How can that be rationalized? Sadly, they do rationalize it.

Just for a second, ponder being seated in the Liberty Township negotiations.

Liberty’s road workers just agreed to no raises for three years.

Amid such a climate, it would have taken a lot of gall and crassness to sign off on such a plan even if Liberty had $1 million in surpluses. I can’t find the words about such a deal for a township that can’t even make budget and where other workers accepted no raises.

And that’s where our role comes in — as uncomfortable as it is at work and at home.

I feel for the 80 percent or so.

But you’re in an industry that needs fixing.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


Comments

1Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

"Anger from government workers:" AKA THE SPECIAL ONES

For those who are in the private sector taking a beating with the economy there is little sympathy from the special ones . They view austerity as only fit for the little people . They want you to be taxed to the limit just one more time . . ..

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2janpentz(32 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Dear Todd

First: Saying you"get teacher jobs" because your wife is a part-time teacher in POLAND is like me saying I know all about Hispanic culture because I have a Puerto Rican friend. Second: I refuse to give your editorials any credit until you POST YOUR OWN SALARY!!! Along with your years of experience, benefit package and education level.

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3candystriper(575 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

post the part time work that comes with full time benefits...

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4borylie(791 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

janpentz, If you subscribe to The Vindicator,and that is completely voluntary,then your money would go to to help pay Mr. Todd's salary and benefits. That doesn't give you the right to know what private sector employees earn. However,since we have to pay the wages and benefits of public employees with our tax dollars,which is not volunteered,but commandeered,we have the right to know.

It's too bad he won't have your"credit".

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5cmrosko(15 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

What americans really need way more than a public eyeballing of the wages of a school teacher, janitor, police officer, etc. is a regular and ongoing public reporting of corporate management wages & benefits, political lobbying expenses and contributions, corporate influences on legislators and legislation and amounts of corporate tax breaks and tax avoidance that corporations are favored with. The collective wages and benefits of janitors, teachers etc. have never brought a nation to it's knees, instead, the corrupting influence of immense wealth and power on national government leaders and rulers have always had the greatest detrimental effect on the common people of any nation or society. Todd Franko is an obfuscating corporate Toad. Whatever his reward is for doing this it doesn't serve truth, history or the best interests of the community very well.

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6janpentz(32 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

What the Vindicator doesn't need at a time of decreasing readership, and declining newspapers in general, is an editor who seems bound and determined to piss-off those who still read this paper. If all union workers abandon this paper it will fold. This could happen.

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7badeepster(113 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Borylie--your statement is a load of crap. Maybe the price of the Vindy is too high because Frankfurter makes too much money and should take a pay cut like he wants public employees to. Janpentz is correct---post your salary Frankfurter. And sports hack Todor, too.

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8ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Today I read in article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding casinos and racetracks in Ohio. It was depressing to read that our state's only hope is people throwing money at slots and horses. Too bad we can't be like PA and try to attract some businesses (I know they have casinos and stuff).

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9ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

And by the way, before I click away from this page for a week, who actually pays for a newspaper? What is this, 1965?

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10borylie(791 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

janpentz,
Typical democrat/union response. If you don't agree with me I'll boycott and picket you. In the battle of wits and common sense you people can't win. No ideas,no solutions.

This is why you have posters like badeepster in your corner. Ever read his/her posts? This is the type of person that shares your world? Name calling,juvenile rants,their answer to serious discussion?

janpentz,
You belive that for the Vindy and for Mr. Franko to keep readership and receive your"credit" that they should only kiss ass of your ilk?

I've disagreed with the Vindy many times over many years and never threatened to cancel my subscription. I've hung in their and argued with common sense and solutions. I'm finally seeing someone with courage at the Vindy. We need people like Mr. Todd Franko.

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11apollo(1227 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Janpentz is typical of the union mentality. Agree with us or face our wrath. I'm fairly certain the Vindy should continue to expose these people for what they are, and should take it up a notch.

Good to see the Vindy also not endorse the UAW goon for Warren Mayor.

Stan above is also correct, they feel entitled to have more than the people who pay their salaries.

The best post is from thethinker. He has the numbers.

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12HonestAbe(274 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

janpentz, i've pretty much stopped buying the vindicator, because i can read it online for free. last time i checked, it was a free country, and i can choose to spend my money any way i want. the editors can continue to call public employees "lazy" and "spoiled" all they want...but I don't have to support them with my dollars.

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13borylie(791 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

HonestAbe,
Be honest. Where did you read in the Vindy by the editors or by the reporters that public employees were "lazy" and "spoiled"?

You're a typical democrat,no facts so I'll make something up and my fellow lemmings will believe me.

Why did you pretty much stop buying the Vindicator and not totally stop? Some days you can't read free online?

Don't even answer me,you're not capable of rational discussion.

Last time you checked it was free country and you can spend your money any way you want. Wow,did you think that up all by yourself? Sheeeesh.

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14HonestAbe(274 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Seriously? Have you not read Bert's editorials for the past couple of months? I must have hit a nerve for all that unwarranted hostility to be unleashed in such an unpleasant manner. You don't happen to work for the Vindy...afraid of losing your job if your bosses tick off too many subscribers? On second thought, I see you as more of a McDonald's or BK employee! Yes, I will have fries with my order, boyrily! LOL!

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15borylie(791 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

HonestAbe,
I'm actually a Vindicator paperboy. I'll soon be 10 years old. Why the need to make fun of McDonald's and Burger King employees? They're at least working and not at home on the couch collecting money from the tax payers.

Is it perhaps that the fast food employees are not unionized and then not worthy of your business? Why don't you and the other union supporters threaten not to eat there? You know intimidate and bully till you can get it "your way".

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16walter_sobchak(1922 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Franko,
The Vindicator is to be commended for the "Government Watch" spot on the website. The factual and objective listing of salaries and wages allows the public to see the partial cost of government. However, to be totally truthful, the benefits the workers receive is of critical importance since SB5 supposedly prohibits the govt. unions from bargaining health care and retirement benefits. The premium payments and percentages would be quite enlightening. I remember the Vindy publishing these for the Engineer's Dept. of few months back and it was quite astonishing what laborers made in benefits.

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17commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

fd6636,
What a bunch of crap!! Because you buy a newspapaer you are a "shareholder"??If you buy a GM car are you a "shareholder"?? I didn't want the people at GM getting a bonus when they still owe the government (us) a major portion of the loan that was given to them, and we didn't have a "vote" on this, as a "shareholder".

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18AntiFascist(61 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

toddy only rights these articles bashing public workers because he gets off on pleasing the trolls that crap their cages on the vindy message boards.

Fueling the jealousy that these reich-wingers have for public employees doesn't qualify as journalism.

Good luck keeping this paper alive. Once these trolls vote to privatize social security and Medicare they won't have any money left over to subscribe to this awful publication.

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19VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

As I commented before...When the wages of public servants become greater than the wages of those they serve and those public servants begin to talk down to citizens and taxpayers as if they are actually the servants, then it is time to reconsider the program.

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20ytown1(392 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Vindyak, that was a mouthful, bet needs repeated.

When the wages of public servants become greater than the wages of those they serve and those public servants begin to talk down to citizens and taxpayers as if they are actually the servants, then it is time to reconsider the program.

How did you become so wise?

Don;t you appreciate it when firefighters want to know who you are so when a call comes in they want to decide whether they show up or not, or the police officer that wants to harass you with tickets just because you disagree with them? Kind of sad now isn't it?

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212muchtax(345 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

SB5 has been needed for a long time. The pensions are going to kill the whole Ohio Budget if they are not reeled in. Ohio state Patrol retires after 20yrs, it is crazy and unsustainable.

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22Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

The median household income in 2009 for Mahoning County was $39,339, which was 86.5% of the state median income. Unemployment for Mahoning County was 12.4%. Mahoning County is the tenth largest county in the State.

What do you think is going to happen to Mahoning's tax base when all State and Local paychecks are cut or people are laid off. SB5 will cost 51,000 jobs to be lost. Do you think they will skip over the Tri-County area?

I am glad I am not married to Todd...way to support your wife.

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23VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Social Security will not be around much longer because of all the liberal leaches who have bled the system dry of all the funds we invested into it. And now they classify those of retirement age as those who seek "entitlements" and place them in the same category as those who are on welfare.

The other great wonder to ponder is how many folks we have working for the government today. No wonder we are going broke as a nation. We have become so big and so massive, it seems as if every other person works for the government or is on welfare now. No wonder we are borrowing 40 cents on top of every dollar paid in by taxpayers.

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24HowlandCitizen(34 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Flacon... My wife pays 25 percent of her healthcare. The teachers are the only ones paying only 5 to 10 percent. I think it would be fair to ask all public employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health care... But that can be negotiated in collective bargaining.

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25ThewayIseeit(31 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

News Flash!! Government workers are tax payers as well Franko!

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26commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

fd6636,
What the ???? kind of response was that?? Make sense if your going to respond.

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