Friday, April 29, 2011

My own 'libertarian moment'

I understand sometimes one can inject too much of him- or herself into a body of writings. Sometimes, however, finding a way to help some readers relate to one's principles trumps the natural human desire to not run afoul of those in one’s social or community sphere.

With that, I offer the following thought despite its mild redundancy to the opening paragraph.

It is one thing to observe the multifarious orders of business which constitute government – relying heavily on standard and online media for information as well as other opinion analysis – and then publish a semi-disconnected perspective on it all.

It is quite another to experience something in life which is tremendously analogous to a topic of particular ire to libertarians and other small-government proponents: handouts and public entitlements.

While it has taken me a couple of months to finally get around to this topic, and it goes hand-in-hand well with a previous blog entry, this is a personal experience which reinforces a core libertarian principle that freebies in life almost invariably bring with them a dehumanizing effect on their beneficiaries.

Two months ago I became a former employee of YMCA. I started off at the South Oakland Family YMCA in Royal Oak, Michigan, in 2003 and then was hired at the Lima Family YMCA in 2007. In the nearly 7 1/2 years I was a part of YMCA I have enjoyed the opportunity to see the good things the organization does for the communities its branches serve. Even after parting ways, I will continue to be a proponent of it.

As any YMCA employee can verify for you, one of the more popular benefits of working there is the free membership. Last June, when I was called back to work at Honda's engine plant in Anna, my supervisor – who oversees the Lima Y's fitness center – said he would be willing to keep me on payroll as a substitute so I could continue to enjoy a membership there at no cost.

In case you are one of the few readers who is not aware, I was the Libertarian Party's candidate in Ohio's 4th congressional district race for 2010. Also, my now-former Y supervisor is an ardent Progressive Liberal.

I'm also a weight-lifting junkie.

Well, as the months progressed after my return to (and then second layoff in September from) Honda and as the campaign entered the homestretch toward the November 2 election, he began pestering me more and more often about subbing at the fitness desk. He became especially persistent in October, roughly three week before the election.

On one occasion he called me on the road while I was out campaigning in Wapakoneta and left a voicemail message to call him back. Since I was on the campaign trail and preparing to participate in a meet-the-candidates event hosted by the Auglaize County Patriots, I made the executive decision to wait until the morning to return his call.

The next day, I awoke extra early and decided to head to the Y for a good hard workout. That evening was the first public debate with Representative Jim Jordan and I wanted to enjoy a healthy surge of endorphins before campaigning some more and preparing one last time for the debate.

When I arrived, there was the Fitness Supervisor covering for the early-morning staffer. Since I had not returned his call as promptly as he felt I should have he opted to confront and lecture me on the subject in front of several members. The fact I was out campaigning and was not in a position to call back until rather late in the evening mattered none in the conversation.

I ended-up leaving the gym even more stressed-out than I already was.

Adding to the bizarreness of the day, while I was at the auditorium on the OSU-Lima campus waiting for the debate to commence, I got a call. It was a local number but one I didn't recognize. Thinking it might be election related I decided to answer: and it was one of my coworkers asking me to sub for her the very next morning as our supervisor had suggested she call me first.

With the debate about to start in six minutes and out of the shear surprise of being hit with this at that particular moment, I quickly made another executive decision: I said, "No."

While I did come in and sub on one Saturday during that time span to keep the hounds at bay and there are even more details of this story with which to bore readers, cutting to the chase the nagging and pestering curiously came to an end on November 3.

In late October I had returned to work at Honda yet again and I did sub for a coworker a couple of times during the annual Christmas shutdown at the plant in order to maintain my employment status and enjoy the free gym access. But, in late February I received one more call from that supervisor. He simply phoned to say since I had not "subbed in a really long time" I was being taken off the payroll the next day.

If you've stuck with this treatise this far, I’m sure the obvious question would be, "Why didn’t you quit after the first time he gave you grief?"

You wouldn’t be the first person to ask me that. My answer consistently has been, "I wanted to keep the free membership."

During the stretches I was laid-off I could not afford a gym membership. Heck, there were stretches of time while I was working when I couldn't afford a gym membership.

But, after that last phone call, I made one more executive decision and checked-out Westwood Tennis & Fitness Center. I knew the first day into my one week trial access I was going to join there. After signing-up and making the first membership payment, it was during my second workout when my libertarian epiphany occurred to me.

All those months I was willing to tolerate unprofessional behavior, mild yet tempered hostility, condescension, an occasional hateful look, and the general indignity of the situation… And for what?

Simply put, I had gotten used to enjoying what amounted to a handout.

By that point, during that second paid-for workout at Westwood, I realized what it was beyond being in a superior facility that made working-out there so enjoyable. I could be there without having to wonder if I was going to be questioned about the frequency of my visits. I could go there without anyone really caring who I was or why I was there. And, I could go there because I had paid for my access to it just like everyone else in there.

And you know what: that last one just felt so good.

So, if you're a Libertarian like me and you're dealing with someone who rolls their eyes at you when you discuss how government assistance leaves recipients trapped in their situation and forced to accept the inevitable indignity of it, tell them to talk to someone who – in a roundabout sense – knows what you’re trying to convey.

In my own strange and peculiar way, I've been there.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Government, my driver's license, and the wonderful world of unintended consequences

Below is a letter I e-mailed recently to Ohio General Assembly Senator Keith Faber (12th Senate District) and later modified slightly and sent to Representative John Adams (78th House District). Let's see if either legislator acknowledges it.

Dear Sen. Faber,

I called your Celina office a few days ago and relayed the points below to your staffer there (I believe his name was Joe[?]), and he advised me to send you an e-mail detailing my concerns.

Two Fridays ago, my wife and I went to the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office here in Lima to get new licenses. We had just moved earlier in the week and wanted to get that done promptly.

Much to our surprise, we were turned away because we lacked proof we reside at our new address. The employee at the BMV was very cordial and let us know this was a relatively new development in Ohio within the last year and the new stipulations require we furnish a piece of official mail with our names and new address such as a bank statement or utility bill.

This is the part that puzzles us: historically, one’s driver’s license or state ID serves as proof of residency for the above functions in society. Equally perplexing is the fact our recently inked lease for the duplex we’re renting is not on the list of acceptable proof of residency.

Now begins our catch-22: our bank will not change the address for our checking account until we are able to furnish new IDs with that update. To reiterate the irony, we need an item such as a mailed bank statement with our new address on it to prove we have moved into our new home and get our new licenses but our bank requires new licenses before it will enter our new address into our account information.

So far, this merely is the inconvenience side of the issue. Even more important to consider are the unintended consequences of the new BMV policy.

Before going any further, I would like to state I get why this was implemented. First, I know Ohio has a growing illegal alien problem that is taxing the state’s resources and I can see how this would be a potentially effective means of combating it. Also, it is easy to recognize the policy is meant to be a tool for thwarting voter fraud.

But, do those two efforts outweigh the predicament in which Ohio residents – who are disabled or caught-up in the severely adverse effects of the recession – are being placed?

My wife is disabled. Simply getting to the BMV and waiting in line for a new license is very physically taxing on her. Still, her situation does not present the obstacles to personal mobility faced by many disabled and elderly Ohioans – especially those dependent upon transportation assistance.

On another personal note, I am reminded of our experience when I was laid-off from my job in February 2009 at the peak of the current recession. Without employment, we could no longer afford the rent at our residence at the time and had to move-in with my wife’s family. Since all the bills there were in their names we had no means of proving we lived at that address. Had the new BMV policy been in place then, we would have spent months waiting for the ability to update our address with the state of Ohio.

When you couple those two situations (economically displaced residents and the transportation limitations of the elderly and disabled) with the fact state law requires residents to update our addresses within 30 days of moving before incurring a penalty it becomes clear many of us will invariably be caught between a rock and a hard place with little or no means to resolve this dilemma.

I do not know if the BMV policy was enacted via legislation or was set through the internal bureaucracy of the BMV or Ohio Department of Public Safety. If it was passed as a new law, my request would be to please consider my concerns above and quickly pursue a repeal of it out of consideration of the unintended consequences it is creating for so many Ohioans. If this policy was established internally, it is my hope you and other lawmakers in the General Assembly would lobby Governor Kasich’s office to issue a directive to ODPS Director Kyle Dupler and BMV Registrar Mike Rankin to reverse this harmful policy.

Thank you for your time and consideration and Happy Easter.


Don Kissick