Freedom is not free unless…..
OCGJ just finished a 7-part series on Congressman Dave Hobson’s ubiquitous excursions into the private real estate market, some of them bypassing the law and campaign finance rules mandating public disclosure. Dave Hobson also has his name (literally) on many public projects targeted by his earmarks, including Hobson Hall at the Clark State Greene County extension and Hobson Way in Area B at Wright Patterson AFB. It’s amazing to us here at OCGJ that Clark State and Air Force leadership would honor a politician for giving away tax dollars earned by the citizens. Actually there’s a compelling argument that Air Force leaders broke the law by naming Hobson Way while Hobson was still in Congress. It’s always been illegal for active duty military to advocate for or against politicians except as private citizens. In effect, leaders at the base spent taxpayer dollars to print, publish and post what amounts to a partisan campaign sign that advanced name recognition for Congressman Hobson while he was still running for office. Even after he left office the street sign remains an advertisement for Dave Hobson’s lobbying firm, CBD Advisors.
Hobson Freedom Park in Fairborn is another tragic example of public officials sucking up to elected officials who transfer public assets that redistribute wealth to the political class. On the surface, Hobson Freedom Park looks like a good deal for the citizens, however OCGJ discovered the devil in the details when we reviewed the investigation by the Dayton Daily News I-Team. The park property used to belong to the Air Force which no longer needed it, so it made good sense to convert the property to a public use park in 2010. The problem is the “public use park” was for nearly four years locked out to the public unless you were affiliated with the Beavercreek Soccer Association, a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
To add insult to injury, Greene County tax dollars were used to maintain the grounds, so in essence the citizens were taxed to maintain a facility they were prohibited from using. When interviewed by Dayton Daily News Staff Writer Jim Otte in July 2013 Dave Hobson commented, “The intent was that it would be a general use park and soccer would enhance the park site.” The former lawmaker-turned-lobbyist told the I-Team he would like to see the undeveloped portion of the park opened to neighborhood use. Well four years after Freedom Park opened Greene County threw the citizens a bone bought and paid for by the citizens. We paid $75,000 for a fence and added an irrigation system to protect and enhance nearly four fifths of the park that is off limits to the citizens. We pay for twice-a-week mowings during soccer season when the normal interval is 7-10 days. We pay a fee if we want to use the pavilion purchased with our tax dollars while the visiting soccer moms pay nothing. The citizens pay overtime for police, but noise, traffic and safety remain a concern for those who live near the park.
As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the Beavercreek Soccer Association is required to file an annual tax return with the IRS. Their 2012 return reveals the Association has net assets of $1.7 million and pays annual salaries amounting to $127,000, including $76,667 to Executive Director John Ankeney. No doubt the Beavercreek Soccer Association and their hundreds of volunteers provide a valuable service to the community, but you may agree that their community service is tainted when Mr. Ankeney receives over $6000 a month year around and Treasurer Tom Wenz receives $18,000 a year for working ten hours a week, not to mention that the taxpayers subsidize maintenance and security while the Association’s net worth climbs toward $2 million.
Hobson Freedom Park…..the name itself is a sick joke on the citizen class…..but it does teach us a valuable lesson…..freedom is never free unless you are a member of the political class.