Archive for August, 2010

Newark, Ohio Apartments

Newark, Ohio apartments are getting more difficult to find. The foreclosure rate and decreasing income of Licking County, Ohio residents hit by a bad economy are driving up the demand for less expensive housing. What used be a very simple task of finding an apartment with the amenities and price range for a renter’s needs keeps getting more

Newark, Ohio Apartments

Newark, Ohio Aparments Getting Harder To FindImage via Wikipedia

difficult. Renting is also appealing to the aging demographics in Newark, Ohio, which adds to the demand also.

Newark’s choices for apartments used to be easier. Decent apartments looked decent and bad ones were obviously bad. That line is getting more blurred now as complexes begin attempting to fill the government backed renters. I know, you’re a bad person if you say anything against those on assistance because they’re not bad people. The problem is that the law protects the bad people on assistance that have all day to do whatever they please around the neighborhood. They’re protected in ways that many of us are not because of the difficulties involved with evicting them or turning them down for government subsidized housing.  Ask anyone who has lived never government subsidized housing if they would like to move to an area without it.

It used to be unheard of to hear of any serious crime in Heath’s apartments, but now there are numerous incidents and a very small police force to respond. Crime is up and the number of people that are an obvious problem are seen everywhere in Heath, Ohio.

Since you can’t tell by usual observation, realtors, apartment managers, and other usual reliable sources, there is only one way to find out what the neighborhood is really like and that’s to visit frequently and network. If you visit a complex that you’re considering a few times, you’ll get the feel for it and nothing beats the word-of-mouth about the location from those that live there. Police are a great resource for finding out how much they frequent a complex.

A good idea for starters is to look for the smaller complexes on the outer edges of town. Many seeking peace and quiet live here. Quiet farm houses on the edge of town can be rented as farmers struggle to keep the farms. Larger well kept complexes are risky, but still a better bet than the common areas. It’s not unusual to even find land contract and “rent-to-own” deals that are results of desperate owners and eager investors in a slow market.

The last thing you want to do is to jump in with both feet into a complex that appears ok on the surface, but quickly turns into a hassle area when you move in. Keep in mind that some of these complexes with the most trouble try to enforce your right to even protect yourself with a gun in the apartment! Take the time to snoop on the prospective neighborhood.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many great rentals available. You’ll find them easily. It’s just that some unsuspected problems and being locked into a lease are becoming more and more of a problem at the current time. A little research before signing the lease can save you a year of regrets.

Here is a list of Newark, Ohio apartment complexes and real estate agents to assist in searching.

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Newark, Ohio School Uniforms. Scandal?

For those that have not followed the Newark City School’s use of tax funds to pay for uniforms from one exclusive company, the articles are

Is it a scandal? Nobody’s been officially accused of anything? Right?

I don’t look for Robert Renee Uniforms to get in any trouble. The home based company was just seizing an “opportunity”. I don’t suspect that anyone in the school district’s employ to get in trouble either. They were just fulfilling a legal obligation to supply uniforms to those that cannot afford them. If they did not institute the uniform policy at all, taxpayers that cannot afford to buy the underprivileged special clothing would not have had to buy them either. I do find their actions unethical and suspicious.

I know this is a long read, but I hope every taxpayer considers the elements of the Newark City School’s actions in purchasing uniforms for the dress code. Other wasteful spending by the school district is buried deep and it takes an auditor to decipher their spending habits. Don’t believe me? Try looking at their financial reports for any detailed information. The school uniform issue could not be done that way. It had to be out in the open and it’s very revealing of some practices that some may not want you to know about.
Here are the chain of events that I have witnessed in order.
  1. Newark City Schools announces that they can no longer enforce a broad dress code, so they will start a strict dress code that will solve the lack of discipline for those who cannot already follow the broad dress code.
  2. The school has a parent meeting to discuss the issue, even though they’ve already decided to attempt to implement a strict dress code.
  3. The school announces that those receiving free lunch will receive free uniforms and that it will be paid for through donations.
  4. As one would expect, some parents are happy and some are mad. Many discussions follow about highly debatable pros and cons of school uniforms. The school offered no reference to any data showing proof that it ever helped discipline in the past and the arguments. The arguments are heated enough that few ask where the donations will come from or why some students will receive free uniforms. Any questions concerning this were answered with, “Johnstown tried it and they are happy.”.
  5. School employees, equipment, expertise, and computer resources were used to promote Robert Renee Uniforms merchandise. Robert Renee’s website provided no means of ordering and only threw errors. Taxpayer dollars took care of this problem for him. I have never seen any publicly owned website performing retail catalog services and marketing efforts for a private company until this point. A vigorous automated telephone campaign using the school’s phone number was also used to promote Robert Renee Uniforms merchandise as well.
  6. Questions are raised on blogs and The Columbus Dispatch. It is after this that the school admits to using taxpayer money to purchase the uniforms before donations are made. It is then made known by a reporter that the schools are implementing the program to fulfill state law. These topics were never discussed by the school prior to the Columbus Dispatch article.
  7. The Newark Advocate finally runs an article in it’s print edition where school officials and Robert Totman of Robert Renee Uniforms state their case on the issue. Inconsistencies start to appear in their story.
The inconsistencies are clear and regardless of legal guilt, they are quite revealing about how the school chooses a supplier and shows that the school district is willing to conceal facts to push an agenda. Whether or not that agenda includes kickbacks, only an investigation would reveal. I do not feel that the public needs a legal investigation to understand the revealing nature of the school uniform program anyhow. It’s useful information to know when considering just how much money the school really needs.
The inconsistencies that I have found are as follows:
  • Newark City schools maintains that the uniforms will be paid for with donations, yet they are using taxpayer funds to guarantee the vouchers. Donations will only come after the orders are made and Robert Renee Uniforms is guaranteed payment through taxpayer funds. He is not guaranteed an order, but the schools informed The Columbus dispatch that they are using  taxpayer funds for payment and donations are expected to cover the cost.
  • Robert Renee Uniforms maintains that there is no contract and that he is not guaranteed one order. However, they are guaranteed any voucher orders that are made. There is no other competitor. Is it prudent to use taxpayer money to buy uniforms from a company that consists of 2 people working out of their home? Considering this order could potentially be $88,000 dollars, I find not having a contract to make the relationship even more suspicious.
  • By not having a contract, Robert Renee is under no obligation to the school to cover any problems with the purchases made with taxpayer funds. He’s not even under obligation for prices, fulfillment times, or even the delivery of the goods! In the latest Newark Advocate article Doug Ute covers this issue by sayint that if the families issues are not covered, they will not use Robert Renee uniforms the next year. What? Another inconsistency. Real companies that they claim to have checked out will work under a contract to fulfill the orders correctly, but they are stating that Robert Renee is the best deal.
  • Newark Treasurer, Jeff Anderson, states in the latest Newark Advocate article that “verbally” he has people that will cover the costs of the uniforms with donations. A potential of $88,000 is covered verbally? That is more than many citizens have in a home mortgage and Mr. Andersen is comfortable doing this on a verbal basis. I can’t believe I’m hearing this from an official charged as a good steward of our money.
  • The Newark Advocate also quotes Jeff Anderson as stating that they evaluated other companies. Where are the evaluations? Who seen them? They claim French Toast is one company evaluated. When I do a quick search for school uniform suppliers, yes, French Toast comes up quick. If I had to come up with an example quick, Google would be a real asset here. When I evaluate them, right off I see:
    • They have a working website, Robert Renee does not! Newark City Schools doesn’t have to do it for them. A big plus.
    • The website has many functions, including help with fitting and ensuring your clothes meet requirements
    • An affiliate program! Great! That means that the school could place an ad on their website and any purchases made through that link would pay the school a commission. Parents could buy from there knowing the school would receive some money.
    • An entire “Partnership With Education” program that can be ordered. I bet that the dirty little secret that you can make taxpayers pay for the uniforms is in there, but you must be a school interested in buying to order the information through an online download. There is also a wealth of information to help the schools properly implement the program. I would think a school system such as Newark, Ohio who could not enforce a broad dress code could benefit from this type of information.
    • Even more unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of school uniforms are on the website. Newark City Schools could have at least given more unsubstantiated ideas to help those argue in favor of the uniforms.
    • A cash back to the schools program if the affiliate program doesn’t work.
    • Online ordering system.
    • Tools such as online information and videos to help persuade parents and students to comply.
    • Clearance items for reduced cost.
    • Methods for parents to maintain an account.
    • Bulk ordering.
    • Embroidery services
    • Fundraising programs. That would be even better than the verbal donations that Newark expects.
    • Help forming a dress code. Newark’s dress code is already confusing. For example, cargo pants with pockets are ok this year, but maybe not next year.
    • Shipping and return policies that are real and can easily be covered through the parents credit card protections.

There’s much more I could evaluate, but I’ll stop at 15. It’s getting embarrassing. This is just one company that Jeff Anderson claims to have compared and I already have 15 items that are superior to a 2 person outfit working out of their home.  Sure, I did want to leave them an out. I’m not going to compare the pricing. I’ll leave that to the reader. I really suggest you compare that. There could be some other reason that is actually valid even. The point is that this is a standard company offering features that a normal person would expect from a uniform company.

The general claim in the Newark Advocate’s print article is that the schools could not implement a program where they gave a card worth $55 for Wal-Mart and told parents to go buy the uniforms. It’s pathetic that they think the public is so dumb that they would expect this. Here’s an idea they could have used for Wal-Mart. I know that in the past, they’ve made purchase orders with Wal-Mart to pay for teachers’ free donuts for their “in-service” days. If they can set up a program to pay for donuts through purchase orders, certainly they can do the same with clothing. I’m not saying that this would have been a great method, but it still evaluates to a better option than what Robert Renee Uniforms offered. Arguing that they cannot just give gift cards is just a method to throw people off track and an attempt to make an accuser seem ignorant. Nobody ever suggested gift cards or thought that this is how a voucher program should work.

There are 18 retailers in the area that offer the Dickies Brand uniforms identical to what Robert Renee orders direct. They either have them on the shelf or they can make a direct order just like Robert Renee has. Even small retailers like Sherwin-Williams have more capacity to handle a large order of uniforms. No mention of utilizing the other retailers for the main uniform is made. There is mention of a Hebron store supplying some shirts to Robert Renee Uniforms.
Robert Renee explains his business model as ordering some shirts through Heritage Sportswear in Hebron, Ohio and the rest of the orders are direct from Dickies. For any returns, there is no address to make an exchange. There is only his phone number and an e-mail address.

I do not care whether uniforms are worn or not. I will not argue this point. I do feel that there is sufficient evidence that profit for one exclusive company was the motive to make the uniform policy. There are no substantiated reports to prove school uniforms improve learning and there is certainly no evidence to show that uniforms are the most cost effective method to improve discipline overall.

Also, I’ve made it’s a clear point that parents are not required to order from Robert Renee. It is only heavily promoted through the school’s website and highly recommended by the schools that parents order from Rober Renee. It is however a forced purchase for parents utilizing the vouchers system that is funded by taxpayer dollars and only backed by verbal promises of donations.

My question now is, “What should be done going forward to ensure that no policy is created that could be done only to support a favored individual company?” Regardless of whether you think foul play is involved, this process has created a precedent where optional government requirements can be implemented for the sole purpose of using taxpayer dollars for no other gain than favorable support of a favored and exclusive company.

Many of us are tired of being fleeced like this. Every levy that comes up, we’re told that if we do not support this type of spending that we do not support our own children. I look at this ludicrous assumption by people using the funds to make these types of decisions and it’s more than a little irritating.

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Newark, Ohio Downtown Restaurants. Are They Safe?

I recently noticed a post on the local Newark Advocate website that simply listed the downtown restaurants with some descriptions. Immediately afterwards, the blog trolls there started making comments about how dirty and unsafe the Newark downtown restaurants are. I was surprised as I’ve been to many and I never seen anything alarming.

I’ve worked in a bakery and a pizza restaurant before and I’ve been through a few inspections from the Health Department. I wouldn’t fully trust their inspections, but for the most part, they keep us safe enough. My problem with them is that they nitpick things that do not matter, but pass over some big problems. The main problem that they pass over is the trash.

How a restaurant disposes of trash is the most tell-tale sign of how clean the restaurant is kept. No employee likes to take care of trash, massive amounts of it are created in food the food prep process, and the problem can be hidden out back. If they choose the least expensive trash service, missed pickups are frequent and create a health hazard. Trash problems do not expose everything, but I won’t visit a restaurant with nasty trash area.

I was pleasantly surprised when I went to check on the the trash areas of the downtown restaurants. They were all much cleaner than I expected. Even the grease barrels, the nastiest part of any restaurant trash, were sealed and not bad enough to warrant alarm. I’m not posting all of the photos because just a few give look like every place I visited. I urge you to visit yourself if you disagree.

The Internet is the worst venue to discuss the restaurant business. All that the competition needs to do is post that their competitor has an unclean restaurant. The Newark Advocate’s health inspection database sends of false alarms too. They post every detail of the inspections and so minor, they’re not worth mentioning. The Licking County Health Department gives these minor violations to follow the law and keep the restaurant on their toes for overall big problems. When put into the perspective of “news”, it’s tough to sort through what is truly a hazard and what is not. To make matters worse, The Advocate’s “database” is created by hand input from reports that the Health Department sends them. There is room for error.

If you think that a restaurant has a health hazard, ask the management about it. Any good restaurant is going to thank you as a violation is a serious matter for them. A bad restaurant cannot stay in business long with reported violations either. Making baseless and unproven comments on the Internet doesn’t do a thing for the exception of harming the reputation of a business working hard in a very competitive climate.

As for me, I would eat in almost any of Newark’s restaurants. I’m not going to bash some of the ones that I wouldn’t eat at. For all I know, they’ve cleaned up their act and a revisit may change my mind anyhow.

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