Some wishes for the new year

Some wishes for the new year

I have a New Year’s wish list. Other readers may have ones of their own.

A living wage job for anyone willing to work.

The rebirth of supportive, respectful families, which are the basis of responsible behavior and a law-abiding society.

An end to slavish obedience to political, union, religious and corporate institutions that demonstrate greater allegiance to money and power brokering than to the high standard of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Measurable, mandatory job performance requirements for every elected official that include clear reporting to voters of official activity and legislative record.

A Congress that lives in the real world of its electors, which would include budgetary restraint, paying for pensions and health care, trading only on public information and an absence of K-Street influence peddling.

A no vote for any politician who treats taxes as anything other than our money or who portrays Social Security benefits, which we paid to have, as an entitlement handout from an indulgent government.

Cautious development of our natural resources (the state of the Mahoning River tells us why caution is necessary).

No spending on corrupt foreign governments, but responsible spending, instead, to feed, shelter and care for those needing a helping hand in our own land.

An end to undeclared, open-ended wars that destroy life, waste treasure and accomplish nothing.

More random acts of kindness anonymously made and gratefully received, with a resolve to pay them forward.

Jim Cartwright, Canfield

Disputes pension doom and gloom

Public pensions are strong, not in a “free fall” as Bertram de Souza’s Dec. 18 column stated. Mr. De Souza’s first mistake was using studies by the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. That organization is so far right they are radical. They want to end the state income tax. Their hatred of the teachers union is so strong that they are willing to destroy public schools to break them. They want to privatize the turnpike, prisons and lottery. By no reasonable definition can they be called unbiased.

Here are some facts. I’m a member of the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund. The OP&F was started in 1967 when the 454 local police and fire pensions were absorbed. This was needed because the local pensions were underfunded by $480 million. These pensions were underfunded because local leaders seemed to have a “let the next administration take care of the problem” attitude. The state Legislature saw fit to allow payments on this debt for 67 years, so as to have only a minimal effect on their budgets.

OP&F members contribute 10 percent of their pay toward their pension and we also pay the 3 percent Medicare tax. Bertram de Souza’s column suggests that public employees be treated like Social Security recipients, who only contribute 4.2 percent of their pay.

Ohio law requires that the pension plans have assets on hand to cover pensions for 23 years. Highly respected outside auditors are used every year to make sure this is done. Ohio public pensions survived the 2008 stock market disaster despite having $480 million invested in Lehman Bros., managed by John Kasich. Lehman Bros. went from $60 per share down to .03 per share in 2008. Mr. Kasich earned a salary of $587,000 from Lehman Bros. that year.

OP&F pays 75 percent of my health care and 25 percent of the additional cost for my family plan, leaving me with a monthly health care premium of $680, which does not include prescription, eye care or dental, which would cost an additional $176 monthly. The Lehman Bros. investment cost me about $200 extra per month for health care because by state law OP&F can only spend 6.5 percent of its income on health-care benefits. Kasich wants to lower this to 1.5 percent, which would greatly increase my monthly cost.

After health care, taxes (yes public employees also pay taxes) and the dependent-benefit deduction so my wife can collect half of my pension if I should pass first, I get $2,100 deposited into my bank account. Not bad, but hardly “gold plated” after 33 years of service.

Robert Hart, Columbiana

Public workers got it too good

Reading Bertram de Souzas’ column, “Public pensions in free fall,” reminded me again why Senate Bill 5 was needed and should have remained the law. Following up his Dec. 4 column, “Kill 3-high formula for pensions,” de Souza illustrates a major reason why government is broke: public employees receive excessive compensation.

I worked 23 years at Copperweld Steel, where the pension formula used the average of the employees’ last 10 years of service. Using the average of the three highest-earning years is obviously another way for government employees to enrich themselves at the expense of businesses and their employees in the private sector.

The budgetary crises in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United States all have one thing in common: governments not controlling cost, including the spoiling of government employees, which is simply not sustainable for much longer.

SB5 was a good bill and would have been a step in the right direction. Local public employees talked about how they have recently started paying 15 percent of their health-care premium and 10 percent of their pension contribution. They’re still getting off easy.

James Dunlap, Mineral Ridge

Slow down in race to drill

Much of the local news coverage on fracking for natural gas has focused on scientific, legal and economic issues. There is an urgent need to address the impact of fracking on the health of the planet and all its life communities. The current drilling boom in our area raises many justice concerns, from the safety of drinking water and clean air for breathing to the disposal of toxic waste and exploration of new forms of energy that will not create more damaging greenhouse gases.

Villa Maria, located on the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line, has been home to the Humility of Mary Sisters since 1864. With our members living in both states, we realize the impact that fracking can have on all of us because all life is connected.

As Americans, we tend to see ourselves as rightful owners and consumers of the land and its resources. Are we “owners” of creation? Is not all life a gift from the Creator, a gift for which we have the privilege and duty of caring?

All of us — local residents, legislators, the gas industry, and government — have an ethical responsibility to seriously consider the long-term consequences of drilling before making decisions that affect the common good. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a national study on whether or not fracking has polluted groundwater and poisoned drinking water. The EPA also plans to draw up national standards for regulating industry’s disposal of waste products from the fracking process. Prudence calls for a moratorium on fracking until the EPA study is completed so that the findings may offer guidance for our choices.

Why is Ohio accepting toxic drilling waste from Pennsylvania for disposal? Because Pennsylvania no longer allows its own drilling leftovers to be dumped into its soil and air. Ohio’s profit on this deal may be costly to citizens’ health.

Why not take the time to learn from the documented drilling errors in other states? Why not base our choices about gas drilling on care for God’s creation, our health and safety, and authentic human needs? They are all connected.

Sisters Mary Pat Cook, HM; Carolyn Marshall, HM, and Toby Lardie, HM, all of Rocky River

Sisters Jane Marie Kudlacz, HM, and Susan Schorsten, HM, both Villa Maria. Pa.

The writers comprise the Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Villa Maria, Pa.