Ohio’s Primary Importance

Ohio’s Primary Importance

Ohio’s Primary Importance

Ohioans are used to hearing that we’re a “swing state,” and how pivotal a role we play in national elections. With eighteen electoral votes, we’re often in a make or break position – just ask Karl Rove. But Ohio plays a major role in the democratic primary as well. With 97 district delegates, we have a lot to say about who gains the democratic nomination.

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders square-off in the Ohio primary (March 2016) we’ll have front row seats in a contest between the party’s progressives and a democratic establishment that looks more and more republican as the days pass. It will be an interesting time to be an Ohioan.

In most ways the Ohio battleground can be summed up in two words: Wall Street. Two major issues rise to the top immediately: Jobs lost to destructive U.S. trade deals, and the banks.

Ohio is still a labor state. Losses from bad trade deals, income reductions and the loss of homes are big deals here. Even with 315,000 manufacturing jobs lost (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) and all the factory closings since NAFTA, Ohio remembers not just the dignity of work, but its prosperity. We remember supporting our families and paying our bills. In March 2011 Ohio ended Governor Kasich’s hope of crushing labor by defeating Senate Bill 5, the republican gambit to end collective bargaining in the state. We did what Wisconsin couldn’t. Candidates for President should probably remember that.

The Transpacific Partnership Agreement – a 12 nation Asian “Free Trade” agreement called NAFTA on steroids is a very big issue in Ohio. Seeing the losses of our bad trade deals in the past, every one of Ohio’s democratic federal representatives is set firmly against it.

Senator Sherrod Brown showed great leadership in opposing TPP and the President’s ultimately successful effort to gain “Fast Tracking” authority to speed passage. All of the state’s democratic representatives (Beatty, Kaptur, Fudge and Ryan) signed protest letters to the President in past years, voted against Fast Tracking and all oppose TPP. In his bid to unseat Rob Portman, former Governor Ted Strickland has come out firmly against TPP and any such trade deals. With the state’s whole federal delegation lined up against Wall Street and the trade deal, Hillary will have an Ohio problem.

The President is in a race. He’s got to get TPP passed before Hillary truly gets into primary season next February.  Hillary’s ties to Wall Street and the banks and their money, put her on the wrong side of the trade debate and if TPP is on the table when her campaign is in full swing – she’s toast in places like Ohio. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s pledge to withhold support from any candidate backing TPP will have a big impact Ohio primary.

Hillary Clinton has tried to protect her “inevitability,” with silence. She won’t take a position on TPP, just as she won’t take a position against the XL pipeline or the banks. That won’t work here.

The carefully managed Hillary holds kitchen table meetings with a dozen chosen voters and keeps reporters contained within rope corrals in order to avoid questions. Granted, she’s got a few issues to hide from. It’s not just what she did or didn’t do as Secretary of State and Benghazi, the email debacle and the subpoenas. Through it all, she wears a frozen smile mask no matter what challenge comes. The silence plants the seeds of doubt and waters them as her “trust numbers” crash.

She might run from reporters, but she can’t run from the trade and political policies she helped put in place. Obama’s “Asian pivot,” didn’t happen without his Secretary of State. Obama lost the support of Middle America when he failed to make an “American Pivot.” Hillary is telling the country she will do the same. That won’t work here either.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have an Ohio problem. If anything his growing ranks of supporters are taking root here and time and again, he’s proven to be a man who seeks questions because he’s there to give answers. He is leading the drive for an American investment in Americans, supports the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall to take apart the banks and will kill off TPP and other agreements. From jobs to taxes; race and education; climate change and infrastructure, Bernie Sanders lays out his plans – often in incredible detail. He’s not only saying what. He’s saying how and Americans are listening.

For the most part, the media has ignored Sanders. They are owned by the corporations that are pressing for global control via TPP and other so-called “Free Trade” agreements. When he does get coverage the media is amazed at the size of the crowds he draws, followed statements that he can’t win – as if it were fact. It isn’t. There was speculation that he might do well in Iowa (famously progressive on the democrat side) or New Hampshire since it’s next to Vermont; but the tens of thousands who came to hear him were in Colorado, Wisconsin and Arizona. We’re about to find out how many will come and then vote in Ohio.

Bernie Sanders is drawing interest and support from the left, the center and even some from the right (they don’t all have rabies). There is no radical agenda. Sanders is speaking directly to a huge range of key American issues while no one else is. Hillary has had to adopt some of his themes (along with Elizabeth Warren’s), and there are even republicans who’ve started to sound like him, but there is no substance. A few weeks ago, Senator Claire McCaskill got on TV to paint Sanders as a wild-eyed radical – a socialist! Of course, Bernie’s supporters have a label for McCaskill: republican…

It’s time to stop asking if Bernie Sanders can win in a state like Ohio. A better question might be: If she stays silent on TPP, Wall Street and the banks, can the Hillary campaign make it out of Ohio?

There is no “managed” Bernie Sanders, no mask and the smile is his. He’s running on a four-decade long record ideas, actions and successes against the odds. Bernie Sanders steps to the podium and invites us to join in his forty year long conversation with America.

Michael Calabrese

Michael Calabrese – has been writing throughout his professional life. As a business writer, Michael’s proposals for government contracts (RFP’s) have garnered over $46 million in federal awards from the Department of Defense, Justice, the EPA and the SEC.  As a grant writer for a non-profit, his proposals have won $2 million in awards to feed hungry school children in need and fund social services for the poor and disabled.

From 1999 through 2008, Michael was Manager for Information Services for contractor for Labat-Anderson, providing client services to 56 offices of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  He was the management lead for the Agency’s provision of 15 years of environmental science, regulations and methods to support the Iraq Ministry of Environment. Earlier in life, Michael was Director for Public Information for the National Space Society and ran their Philadelphia office writing congressional briefing books, white papers on space policy and articles on space colonies and in-space mining. He was a contributing panelist on the OMNI Magazine Symposium on US Space Policy. Michael is married, has a dog and a cat and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Not “Snitching” on Murderer More Important than Human Life

When not “snitching” has more value in a person’s morality set than the value of a human life and the integrity of the community, then we have a deep problem in the foundation of our society.

Being on the front lines of the heroin battle, I encounter the “no snitch” mentality every day. When I try to be reasonable with folks, they hold tightly to the “snitches get snitches” anthem.

I think it has very little to do with citizens trusting the police as the WCPO article says below, although that may be one factor.

This is a real value our neighbors have in their lives.  They hold that value regardless of how they feel about the police. It is a deep rooted belief. 

And they can’t see that it equals more murder. We are not asking people to give info on theft or tax evasion or even assaults and physical harm crimes. This is murder. And we are in trouble.

 

Click the image below to be taken to WCPO Channel 9 website for the story!

 

WCPO Channel 9 News

UPDATED: Has John Cranley’s Momentum on Immigration Fizzled?

UPDATED JUNE 3, 2015 SEE BELOW: Has John Cranley’s Momentum on Immigration Fizzled?

The short answer is, we will know in about a month.

A year ago this weekend, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced to a room full of Cincinnati Enquirer reporters and editors that he had major plans for an immigration initiative for our city.

Within a month, the Cincinnati Enquirer released an editorial endorsing the idea and calling for more immigrants for the Queen City.

Regardless of the controversy around current headlines about open borders and immigrants who are here illegally, the consensus – and studies – prove that immigration is good for our cities and economies.

The Cincinnati Enquirer noted in their plea for more immigrants to Cincinnati that:

“Once local officials are convinced of the benefits of attracting immigrants, here are some strategies to help woo them:

Declare intentions. Mayor Cranley is in the process of appointing a task force, led by consultant Bruce Healey, to develop a strategy for attracting more immigrants. There’s power in simply declaring a city or county’s intentions to be more welcoming. Adopting such a resolution signals an intention to current and potential residents that is surprisingly powerful.”

Today, one year after John Cranley’s announcement, and proclamation that he wants to make, “Cincinnati the most immigrant friendly city in the United States,”  we ask where are we now?

Did the Mayor declare his intentions, form the task force, and then momentum fizzle?

Was the Mayor just piggybacking off of the inflammatory headlines about U.S. borders and child refugees from the open border crisis?

To be fair, the announcement came, March 28, 2014, and the task force was not unveiled until midsummer of last year. But should we expect some updates from the task force and Cranley’s overall initiative ideas in that 8 months time?

A quick visit to the official website the Mayor established didn’t have any new information available for the public about progress on immigration as it relates to Cincinnati. Neither did a deep Internet search for news stories. Has the media just forgotten the story?

John Cranley’s Task Force on Immigration has a Twitter account but to all appearances their have only been ReTweets on the account and nothing in the way of real news or updates.

The Task Force is made up of five committees. They cover economic, resources/integration, education/talent retention, international attractiveness, rights and safety questions they can research and then make recommendations to the Mayor.

So far, it appears, that no tax dollars are being used in the Mayor’s initiative and the committees are made up of all volunteers.

While we wait, can anything be done now?

To date, the only concrete work we can point to is the work already being done by local organizations independent of the Mayor’s plans. Citybeat, in their July 2014 coverage of the plans, highlighted Catholic Charities Southwest Ohio’s work with the children refugees.

Agenda 360 runs the “Diverse by Design” plan which has experience attracting immigration talent to our region. And their is a lot of non-profit and chamber of commerce work in our region. The Mayor, it seems, stepped in last year to fill the gap where our local government plays a role in immigration.

The EB-5 Visa is already available which allows immigrants to enjoy permanent U.S. residency if they invest at least $1 million in economic development. That investment in very low income areas can be reduced to half a million dollars and John Cranley has stated plans to pursue that where applicable for Cincinnati. It should be noted, however, that in February of this year, ABC News did a story on the “dark side” of the EB-5 Visa. And, as far as Cincinnati becoming the most immigrant friendly city in the United States, where does this leave immigrants who want to enter legally but don’t have that kind of money to invest?

Then there is the EB-2 Visa which made headlines in early 2014 when Michigan Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a proposal to request 50,000 special visas to attract highly skilled immigrants to his struggling state.

There has been no word on updates to Cranley’s progress with the EB-5 Visa or if he has any plans at all to get creative with the EB-2.

Cincinnati Immigration

With no information available on the progress of the initiative, I reached out to Daniel Rajaiah, Director of External Affairs for Mayor John Cranley, who told me:

“The goal is to bring some of the smartest minds to the City. There are 96 people involved with the Task Force. I finally have the recommendations of the Task Force. There needs to be some editing and then they will be released to City Council, the media, etc.”

When I asked if the Mayor has seen the recommendations of the Task Force yet, Mr. Rajaiah said, no.

Mr. Rajaiah said he will complete the edits over the next couple of weeks and we can expect to see the recommendations publicly within about 1 month.

Mr. Rajaiah also specifically mentioned to me that the efforts to bring the smartest minds to the City is, “through legal immigration”. It seems the Mayor and his administration has had time since July 2014 to codify for themselves, and now the public, that they are clear on the focus of legality when it comes to immigration initiatives when it comes to Cincinnati  – where last year Citybeat reported that the Mayor, “hedged some”, on the topic of undocumented immigrants.

John Cranley, who has a Masters in Theology from Harvard, said in an interview with Urbanophile last year that being a man of faith is a part of his views on immigration, too. Morality, combined, with his cooperation with Dayton’s Mayor on immigration initiatives and Cranley’s other commitments to the development of Cincinnati overall, makes it evident that, while becoming the most immigrant friendly city in the United States will take a long time to be realized, the momentum for starting the work has not fizzled – it seems, however, the media interest in the story has. Maybe we should have started with becoming the region’s most immigrant friendly city first.

NOTE: I attempted to search Daniel Rajaiah’s tweets for updates on the matter but Mr. Rajaiah has me blocked from following his account on Twitter after a battle over sober living houses with the Mayor last year.  He was very receptive to speaking with me by phone.

CLICK: YOU can submit ideas to the Mayor and his team about immigration in Cincinnati.

UPDATE JUNE 03, 2015:

A colleague of mine and I called the Mayor’s Immigration Task Force staff Friday to get an update on the recommendations and if the Mayor is going to make any announcements soon. The Mayor’s staff advised to consult the website through the City of Cincinnati website for more information.

 

SEE ALSO: Cincinnati & the Heroin Story.

Jason Lee Overbey

Jason Lee Overbey

 

Jason Lee Overbey is a leader in non-profit 2.0 executive management and follower of Cincinnati and Ohio government. He also works on the front lines of the battle over the current heroin epidemic in our nation.

 

It’s the Local Economy Stupid!

It’s the Local Economy Stupid!

“The 19th century was a century of empires, the 20th century was a century of nation states. The 21st century will be a century of cities.” – Wellington E. Web, former Denver mayor.

Urbanization, with a measure of devolution by federal government and the increasing global impact of local municipalities, are putting cities in the high position of preserving democracy, holding increasing political power, and for our discussion today, powering the economy.

In the mid-nineties, more than 80% of economic advances were driven by cities and metro economies – including holding more than 80% of employment. It became clear that cities were, after all, going to be the bailiwicks of cash, progress and power for the 21st century.

Even with the Great Recession, growth – where it is happening – is only happening where the policies of cities are daring, sound and backed by inspiring leadership. The leaders of our cities are, quite measurably, on track to leading the world.

There is dissent, to be sure. Debate makes for a solid democracy which also grows the economy. But there’s a lot of petty rivalry and platitude whirling in Cincinnati again.

A spate of recent op-eds, full of attacks and rhetoric, proves this. And the string of authors runs the gamut in party affiliations. We are all guilty.

Our leaders – elected, appointed and de facto – speaking in buzz words like “vision”, “progress”, “more jobs”, “change”,  must start offering solutions in their pieces, energy in their remarks and relationship building in their outreach. The divisiveness creates a stall. Don’t blindly believe me. Measure it. Compare with cities on the move. If you want something new, you have to do something new.

Wailing about poverty, pleading for help with the heroin plague and complaining about housing fails our city. I know. In my work fighting addiction, I realized early on, really, that nobody cares. Until I made it about them. Poverty? Eyes glaze over – unless they are the one in a food line. Calling out the Mayor and other leaders – it can be indulging, and I’ve imbibed, too – but doesn’t it leave us walking away with the ick of dissatisfaction and hopelessness because we haven’t taken any real action? Nothing changed. We only threw an adult, political temper tantrum.

Fine. If we have to kvetch about the Hand Up Initiative, we are also responsible to list real solutions. Seelbach took some action here. We must energize the reader by showing them how poverty and addiction does impact their wallet and quality of life. We must labor for a unity, putting aside how it will affect someone’s upcoming campaign or PR blitz.

Poverty, addiction, housing, disability, the Streetcar, our icons – it is about the economy stupid. The local economy. The budget, ordinances and the Initiative are great. But with Cincinnati ranking high in poverty and the working poor, we need broad, lasting and serious policy changes. That’s me whining. Here are some solutions:

  1. Those in poverty – and the working poor – are not just poor in cash. There is a spirit of hopelessness taking root. “Something’s gotta give. Is it ever gonna get better?” Is the daily refrain among the poor? Leaders must lead. Here, our leaders can be more present and hopeful. They can reach out and a share a real light for the end of the tunnel.
  2. The answer to lack of democracy is always more democracy. Income inequality on the scale that Cincinnati has is just that – a struggle in democracy. The answer is to get those in poverty to be a part of the democratic process. Leaders have to reach out and pull this community in. They are disconnected and dejected. Let the leaders lead people into engagement.
  3. Access to and skills training for jobs is indispensable. But without education on finance, banking and cash management, the poor will remain stuck. I never received any financial training in Cincinnati Public Schools. We need an immediate, mandatory education policy that trains every Cincinnati student on how to manage money, work with banks and understand what credit really is. It needs to be serious and implemented quickly.
  4. Why is the Poverty Task Force under the umbrella of the Human Services Committee? No one wants to admit, but it’s because we look at those in poverty as a liability. Progressive, changing cities look at this segment as an untapped asset. A resource. Wal-Mart did it. They built their entire business model around a low income market. They are the largest retailer on the planet. What would happen if we behaved that way in policy and outreach? Put poverty treatment under the auspices of the Economic Growth committee please. Or at least begin to split it.
  5. Local banks across the country were almost entirely unaffected by the banking crisis. They are stable! Our local government must labor openly with Cincinnati banks. We can work with them to offer financial products – with wisdom – to the poor and working poor that national predatory check cashing and title loan shops offer instead. This further strengthens our hometown banks by growing their market and our city by creating tangible relationships in neighborhoods.

And there is so much more. Yes, bolster the human services. Yes, drug addiction is a large part of homelessness and poverty. So we need a holistic approach.

We need initiatives and leadership that are willing to be bold and work long-term as well as short-term. Policies should still be working hard as a long after this body leaves office.

In a world of increasing distrust of government and scrutiny of non-profits, the emerging global currency is not in the form of paper money at all. It comes based on the foundations laid in cities. And that currency is in authentic relationships and coalition building. As a local leader – in any capacity – you aren’t going to get that accomplished and build wealth in this currency by complaining, attacking and whining.

For the sake of Cincinnati and our metro economy, get out of your own way and offer real solutions… and a hand. Even when it makes you sick.

AMID RISING HEROIN OVERDOSES CINCINNATI MAYOR SAYS “TOO MANY SOBER HOUSES HERE”

AMID RISING HEROIN OVERDOSES CINCINNATI MAYOR SAYS “TOO MANY SOBER HOUSES HERE”

BREAKING

AFTER 7 MONTH FRACAS WITH CITY OF CINCINNATI, THE FIGHT IS OVER! 

NEW FOUNDATIONS IS LEGAL. NEW FOUNDATIONS IS ALIVE & OPEN! WE WON!
From the beginning, we knew we were right in our hard work for the recovering community in Cincinnati! We knew we were protected by the Federal Fair House Act!
Many railed against. Many ignored outright our invites to start a dialogue and work together for a common solution. WE DID INDEED REACH OUT TO MANY in efforts to see how we could work together!!!!
Some are still against us! Some still just do not know what we do – that over 46% of our residents COME IN WITH JOBS & COLLEGE EDUCATION and start giving back to Price Hill and Cincinnati right away – we require it!!
BUT! We want to thank ALL of you who supported us since March. WOW! What a ride!
From our rally at City Hall (see video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2tDcxqomvA), to all the stories in the press, and our petition online… MOST of you stood with us.
We could not have done this without you!
Our work is only beginning, however. The Enquirer has already picked up on our settlement with the city and the Cincinnati Mayor commented by saying: “There are too many [sober living houses] in the city.”
With thousands dying from overdose, I just don’t get a comment like that!
SO WE CARRY ON!
(ALSO, he is off in his numbers, we do NOT have to reduce by 50%.)
Cincinnati Mayor Cranley

John Cranley – Cincinnati Mayor

PRESS RELEASE BELOW! 
Call or email me anytime to get more info, schedule a tour, refer a resident — or donate time and money!
THANK YOU!!!!!
NOTE: As part of the agreement, we will NOT use the Rutledge property for transitional living and we will close our federal housing claim with HUD

<BREAKING>

PRESS RELEASE / STATEMENT TO PROVIDERS

7 MONTH FRACAS WITH CITY OF CINCINNATI IS OVER – NEW FOUNDATIONS REMAINS OPEN & CONTINUING TO WORK WITH THE RECOVERING COMMUNITY TO FIGHT HEROIN OVERDOSE

SETTLEMENT REACHED

October 14, 2014

7PM EST

Since March 2014 New Foundations Transitional Living has been involved in a dispute brought by City of Cincinnati over the operation of its sober living houses.

As a result, the Greater Cincinnati Recovery Board Resource Collaborative (GCRRC), concerned citizens and other organizations had some confusion as to the exact nature of New Foundations day-to-day operations.

A multitude of accusations were thrown upon NFTL by 3rd parties who simply did not know exactly what work is done at the largest transitional housing provider in the area.

We are thrilled to announce that New Foundations has stood the test!

After 7 months of working closely with the City and our Mayor, as well as prominent recovery organizations in our area, NFTL is excited and honored to announce that we have reached an agreement with the City of Cincinnati that will end the dispute.

New Foundations has always had one mission: to provide quality, modern living for men and women in recovery from drug and/or alcohol abuse in a structured environment. We have always put our residents first.

With the help from the City, our attorney and our supporters we have further cemented that deep commitment by beginning work with the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) to be a part of national and regional best practices which also put residents first nationwide.

New Foundations

New Foundations www.nftl.org

New Foundations has been a leader in the recovering community and we are honored and ready to continue that role. We want to thank the City, our supporters, providers of recovery services in the region – and especially our residents – for remembering that our area is under siege from a heroin epidemic and that we all have to answer the call to fight it. It is encouraging to know that everyone involved worked hard to reach a conclusion that was agreeable to all parties so that we can continue our work.

It is a good day for New Foundations, for the City of Cincinnati – and for all of those who champion the work of recovery.

NFTL is alive and open for business! Our work is just beginning!

To work with us, schedule a tour, donate or refer a potential resident – please contact our Director, Jason Lee Overbey at 513.693.3798 or jason@nftl.org

Jason Lee Overbey

Jason Lee Overbey

UPDATED: Man “Nods Out” at Wheel from Heroin at Busy Cincinnati Intersection

Cincinnati Heroin Epidemic – Man “Nods Out” at Wheel from Heroin at Busy Cincinnati Intersection – Updated 09/21/2014

Social Media, to be sure, is changing the way our world receives information.

YouTube is impacting news in a major way with many would-be video journalists uploading their short smart phone films to the social media platform daily. Many of these videos have been the source of major local news stories.

First it was the group of 3 Price Hill thugs openly carrying firearms through the streets of our West Side neighborhood inducing panic.

Now, we have an author, who yesterday uploaded a man “nodding out” at the wheel of his SUV. Clearly, the man is nodding out from an overdose on heroin. In the middle of the day. At a busy Cincinnati intersection in Northside.

The Cincinnati heroin epidemic has not abated. As Director of New Foundations Transitional Living (sober living houses), I see the toll of this plague on our City every day of my life!

This is a #1 public policy issue in our City and region.

What are your gut reactions to first seeing this clip?

YouTube Preview Image

UPDATE 8-29-2014:

The above video was just from two days ago in Cincinnati. These pictures below are from last night… in another part of town… in public again at a Kroger (picture source anonymous).

Just this month, as Director of New Foundations Transitional Living, I had to hold a memorial for one of our residents who had overdosed and passed away from heroin.

Rallies are good and necessary. Editorials and stories in the Enquirer are needed and they do good reporting. BUT OUR FIGHT NEEDS MONEY.

EVEN IF YOU FEEL that the addict can “just stop” and that they are degenerates of society – this plague still impacts YOU in a profound way financially (taxpayer costs) and emotionally. And this is not to mention the toll it has on the image of our cities.

The Ohio Governor has CUT funding. Cincinnati City Council addresses it from time-to-time, seemingly in lip service only.

Where is our Mayor? Where is the Heroin Task Force like the Immigration Task force!

Where are the Ice Bucket Challenges for this?

Untreated alcoholism and addiction – depending on your source – is the number 2 or 3 killer in the United States. Just behind heart disease!

I fight this every day of my life in the line of work I do – even amid the City of Cincinnati making attempts to hinder our work through legal action. I will not stop.

This is THE #1 PUBLIC POLICY ISSUE FACING CINCINNATI RIGHT NOW – ALONG WITH OUR ECONOMY & JOBS.

heroin heroin2

 

UPDATED: 09.01.2014

The above pictures went viral on facebook this week. The man on the right somehow found me and contacted me at New Foundations. He let me know he wanted help. We met and talked at length. He is serious about recovery and as of today has 5 days cleans! What a miracle. 

SINCE THEN – THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER ASKED ME TO WRITE AN OP-ED ON THE STORY, HERE IS MY ORIGINAL, LONG FORM VERSION OF THE PIECE:

The Stop Watching Cincinnati Die Challenge

Fighting the disease of addiction on the frontlines, I encounter heroin overdoses and death by the week.

Recently, one was through pictures I received of a man and woman who shot heroin in a local grocery store and had “fallen out” by the time they made it out of the restrooms.

Both were in their twenties – typical of the heroin scourge. The woman was slumped over, about to die. The man was purple and already gone. Thankfully, there was a call for help. They made it. This time.

It is time Cincinnati has a talk. The way we’re handling the drug problem is not working.

Look on social media. You’ll find all makes and models of citizens pouring buckets of ice water on their heads for ALS. And rightly so. ALS is heartbreaking and underfunded.  From City Council to average Joe’s who never heard of ALS until this summer, $100 million has been raised from the challenge. I am glad for them and honored to have participated, too.

But where is the fervor for funding for the treatment of addiction that is far more destructive?

Alcoholism and addiction is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Please let that sink in. That number is just fatalities. The toll on the City at large is almost incalculable.

We hear stories of streetcars and icons. I’m excited about it, please don’t misunderstand. But apart from after-the-fact reporting and stories on heroin-the-drug, absent are the articles on financing treatment. We already know what the problem is. I ask you: where are stories on the solution?

What say your elected leaders? Dangerously close to nothing. Their tweets, facebook posts and op-eds are replete with commentary and plans on every other topic important to us. I applaud what (most) of them are doing. Cincinnati is undergoing positive change. But where are their hearts and planning at on addiction? Where is the Mayor’s Heroin Task Force like the one for immigration? Bike paths? Yes, please. But where is funding for paths to recovery? Can we have your attention? This is an emergency – a number one public policy issue.

This train barreling down on Cincinnati will be answered one way or another. We better not dare ignore it. And we do not have the luxury of debating the disease concept of addiction – whether it’s an illness or a choice. It’s too late. It’s here.

Some cry, “Not my tax dollars!” but you already pay dearly for untreated addiction through first responders, property crime costs, thefts, medical care, loss of productivity through unemployment, food stamps – and more. Let’s use the tax dollars to treat the emergency upfront and not on the side.

More police are a part of it. The Mayor and Chief are doing great here. Clearly, it is not enough. Our people are still dying. We have to affect supply AND demand.

Cincinnati policy is failing on the demand side. Laborers in recovery struggle to provide beds. They turn people away daily. Rallies, events and news coverage of overdoses may get attention and raise awareness – but this is about cash money. Recovery workers need dollars!

Not without controversy, I posted those pictures of the couple who overdosed on facebook with a plea for our Council and Mayor to wake up, speak up and put up – money – to fight this.

The post went viral. The family of the young man in the photo saw it and reached out to me. I could feel their pain and fear. Later that night, the man himself found me. I had no clue at the time that, “I am the guy in the picture” is how a miracle would start. He wanted help. He had been calling to get into the CCAT House for detox. “Keep calling. We are full.” they had to tell him. The next day, we met. He is clean 6 days now and actually excited about beginning a program of recovery.

This is about access.

I have a challenge that will impact Cincinnati in powerful and measurable ways. It is a challenge to create and support solutions-oriented policy. More critically, it’s to increase funding for organizations saving the lives of the addicted which, as a result, saves the City. The illusion that it’s not everyone’s problem, or that the addict doesn’t want help, is one to throw a bucket of cold water on. Fund recovery. Now! Support more access to treatment and witness the alcoholic and addict recover. What use is a streetcar if it just rides by the overdosing? Why attempt to raise our population if they are only going to want to move back out again? This is a challenge that, if accepted,  will you let you watch your City heal and stop watching it die.

 

YOU CAN READ THE EDITED VERSION ON CINCINNATI.COM HERE: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/09/04/opinion-stop-watching-cincinnati-die-challenge/15061855/

 

WE CAN ALL START BY PURCHASING A “THERE IS A SOLUTION” HOODIE TO WEAR THIS FALL & HELP SAVE LIVES (CLICK ON THE PICTURE!)

There Is A Solution Hoodie

There Is A Solution Hoodie

 https://www.booster.com/support-recovery

EIN #45-2211778

IRS TAX-EXEMPT DLN# 17053029349004

Public Charity Status 170(b) (1) (A) (vi)

 

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John Kasich Tax Cuts

John Kasich Tax Cuts

John Kasich Tax Cuts 

by guest author, Michael Calabrese

Over his years in the governor’s mansion, John Kasich has become something of an enigma who leaves democrats and even republicans wondering who he is. He won the governor’s office riding on the republican surge of 2010 and quickly fell into line as a conservative hardliner along with Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). The race to the right didn’t work out so well. Walker had to fight off a re-call for his attempt to end collective bargaining and Kansas is broke and may face bankruptcy after Brownback’s tax cut for the rich. Kasich’s passage of Senate Bill 5 – another attempt to end collective bargaining state, turned into a resounding defeat at the polls. Kasich responded by saying that the people had spoken and he’d heard them. Some say the Governor took the lesson to heart; others say he just shifted gears in his drive to the right.

In November 2013 Kasich broke with Republican Party hardliners by accepting $14 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid in spite of language inserted into the 2012 budget forbidding it. Getting the money into Ohio was too big a prize to resist. Kasich did an end-run around republicans in the state house by instructing the little-known Ohio Controlling Board to appropriate the funds. Ohio didn’t join the Obamacare. No state exchange was opened and things will stay that way as long as he’s governor; but Kasich got the money to fund treatment for Ohio’s poor, the addicted and those suffering from mental illness. The move left republicans fuming and democrats scratching their heads and the Kasich mystery grew.

Kasich’s tax cuts and their impacts on Ohio are no mystery. The Governor claims success for reducing taxes, but that success came from breaking the backs of every municipality and school district in Ohio.

Kasich’s plan is all about transferring the costs of government and basic services from the state to local government. This is about the end of governance; divestment and handing the costs to those least able to pay while lining pockets that are already fat. Those basic services include police and fire protection and education for our children.

Everyone agrees that education is the key to better employment and a better life. While government talks about improving education, Kasich has cut more than $500 million in state funding for schools. Hamilton County alone lost $48 million. Our schools offer the minimum instead of excellence. They are ending the future in order to get by today.

With growing costs and falling revenues, Ohio schools are consolidating. Class size grows while qualified teachers are being replaced by lower quality non-certified aids. Those aids are being left to teach swollen classes, learning is reduced and so are our prospects for the future. We’re not talking about funding for the arts here or a new field for the football team. Fundamental skills in English, math and the sciences are hanging in the balance. It’s not that our students are failing – we are failing them.

All day kindergarten/school-based daycare is going away across Ohio. Those programs let parents work, so they can pay taxes to provide a decent education for their children. With 48% of Ohioans in poverty or employed in low wage jobs there is no money for child care.

John Kasich Tax Cuts

In July 2013 Kasich’s administration poured gas on the education fire when the republican state house slipped a last-measure into the budget that eliminated the “roll-back” increasing all new taxes and levies by 12.5%. The 12.5% used to be picked up by the states. At a time when the costs of everything is going up and employment is down the full weight of all new local taxes are falling on property owners. It means that school levies that were once covered by House Bill 920 (school districts could approve levy increases up to 10 Mills per thousand dollars in home value without a vote), aren’t anymore. They are being pushed over the limit and while tax rates are increasing in every Ohio county. More levies will have to be voted on making it harder for schools to gain funds that used to be automatic.

Kasich cuts to public education look all the worse since he is providing state financing to for-profit charter schools that operate virtually without oversight to the detriment of students. The recent charges of abuse put the spotlight on both the schools and the lack of controls. In May 2014 the Akron Beacon Journal ran an expose on the misuse of public fund with for-profit schools spending as much as $400 per student to lure them away from public schools using fears of violence and bullying to scare parents. At the same time, drop out rates are soaring at the schools. Nationally – they are falling.

The governor’s 2014 tax income plan is simply upside down with deep tax cuts for the top 1%. An average tax cut for them would be $10,269, and a smaller cut for the next 4% at about $1,500. The lowest 20% in income gets a $63 tax increase. Ohio’s tax system is already out of balance with our lowest 20% paying over 11% in taxes while the top 1% pays an effective rate of 8%. Kasich’s overall tax strategy is to eliminate the income tax altogether and replace it with a higher statewide sales tax. That burden will fall with greater weight on the poor and middle classes who spend their income on basic life needs – food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare.

Kasich’s budget success in Columbus is being paid for by parents and home owners and our children. The governor scoffs at the protests over lost state funding by pointing to the 3-5% and saying that counties and municipal government can absorb those losses with simple consolidations that won’t hurt and are actually good for government.

The 3-5% isn’t the problem. Ohio’s towns and schools are primarily funded by real estate and sales taxes. Homes have lost up to 30% of their values since 2008 and so have the tax revenues they generate. We’re no where near recovery. Police and fire protection, education and roads still have to be paid for, so real estate tax rates are increasing everywhere. Kasich’s funding cuts forces the situation from bad to worse and the governor is blowing smoke while he sends tax dollars to the wealthy. Maybe he’s trying to make up for finding the money for healthcare.

Less than a hundred days from the 2014 election, John Kasich looks like he’ll cruise back into office. Maybe Ohioans should ask: Why?

Of course “Why?” might be a more disturbing question than it was a week ago. The man who should save Ohio’s children from crippling budget cuts, Ed Fitzgerald has had a bad week. According to press reports and state records show that Cuyahoga County’s executive drove around without a valid driver’s license and used learner’s permits intermittently, meaning he didn’t have any license at all for over three years. He didn’t bother getting a valid license for about a decade. I guess he figured no cop would give him a ticket…

Things went from bad to worse with the disclosure that in October 2012 police answered a citizen’s call to investigate activity in a car parked in an empty lot at 4:30am. When they arrived, Ed Fitzgerald got out reportedly from the back seat and a woman (Irish business representative, Joanne Grehan), was in the back seat too. Now police confirm Fitzgerald’s claim that they were in the front seat.  The Fitzgerald campaign hopes that’s somewhat better… I guess… How knows? Maybe Ohio’s children will get an education if “Front-Seat” Fitz can win the election.

 

Michael CalabreseMichael Calabrese – has been writing throughout his professional life. As a business writer, Michael’s proposals for government contracts (RFP’s) have garnered over $46 million in federal awards from the Department of Defense, Justice, the EPA and the SEC.  As a grant writer for a non-profit, his proposals have won $2 million in awards to feed hungry school children in need and fund social services for the poor and disabled.

From 1999 through 2008, Michael was Manager for Information Services for contractor for Labat-Anderson, providing client services to 56 offices of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  He was the management lead for the Agency’s provision of 15 years of environmental science, regulations and methods to support the Iraq Ministry of Environment. Earlier in life, Michael was Director for Public Information for the National Space Society and ran their Philadelphia office writing congressional briefing books, white papers on space policy and articles on space colonies and in-space mining. He was a contributing panelist on the OMNI Magazine Symposium on US Space Policy. Michael is married, has a dog and a cat and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

 

Take the Teeth Out of Cincinnati Water Costs

Take the Teeth Out of Cincinnati Water Costs

Take the Teeth Out of Cincinnati Water Costs to Strengthen, Audit and Grow our Local Economy!

Opinion by Speak Up Cincinnati Founder, Jason Lee Overbey

Some of you won’t like this opinion. Grab some coffee and get ready!

You probably know by now that Cincinnati City Council, after rejecting a 7.5% water rate increase, did approve a 4% rate increase to take effect January 01, 2015.

Just today news came out that Cincinnati’s recovery from the recession rates 100 out of the 150 largest U.S. cities.  And, Cincinnati ranked 121 out of 150 for “overall” economic environment.

To the Mayor’s credit, we do have a balanced budget – not without controversy and imperfections. Still, it would behoove our leaders to take a look at every possible economy our City can take. Will the elected and the appointed adhere to their self-imposed goal of making Cincinnati’s (and thus, the region’s) economy the strongest in the Midwest? Perhaps they can take a look at this – an honest look – as part of a more comprehensive and far-reaching strategy.

FLUORIDATION  

Before you throw your laptop out the window, I assure you this piece is not about a conspiracy. It isn’t about government population control theories or Nazis… or even health benefits, per se. I am well aware that conspiracy theories surrounding the use of fluoride in water abound. This is not one of those.

This is purely an economic (and potentially discriminatory) consideration. So please stay with me a bit.

Our leaders would do well to take an honest and thorough look at the cost Cincinnati Water Works has in relation to the fluoridation of our water supply. It’s evident that John Cranley has no qualms about commissioning task forces to address issues in our City. A balanced and fair fluoridation committee could save us a lot of dollars. (Balanced means not overstocked with dentists and health workers)

How many dollars? According to the City of Cincinnati’s searchable expenditure database, in 2011 CWW spent $407, 096 just for the chemical fluorine alone. In 2012, the cost was $387, 176. That’s almost $800,000 for a two year period.

Clearly, the above costs do not include operations, labor and maintenance of water fluoridation equipment. Some cities pay up to $600,000 a year or more for those combined costs. (Speak Up Cincinnati was not readily able to obtain CWW costs for maintenance and upkeep)

Ending fluoride treatment for CWW could save the City approximately $1mil a year. Please… take that in for a moment. 

IT IS NOT A LONELY PLACE TO BE

Since 2007, more than 200 municipalities throughout the U.S. have taken a look at the fluoridation costs of their water systems and chosen to end the practice. Just last year Portland, Oregon was set afire with the debate over adding fluoride to their water supply. The citizens shot the measure down voting 60.5% against fluoridating their water. The two main arguments against it were the costs and educated skepticism based on recent findings about the true efficacy – and necessity – of America fluoridating water supplies.

Other local lawmakers, in addition to the cost savings and concerns over real benefits of fluoridation, have raised ethical and legal concerns over the practice. They cite it is forcing medical treatment upon populations without their consent. The type of fluoride cities use is not organic. Without a vote from the populous, they ask, is it Constitutional? Cincinnati hasn’t voted on the issue since the 70s, when Article XI was added to the City Charter making it illegal for CWW to add fluoride to the water supply without a vote. Obviously it passed in the 70s. Since then, however, many new peer reviewed findings have been released raising reasonable doubts about its efficacy. We have a much larger collection of information about fluoridation now. It is time to revisit the issue. And it is my understanding that no vote is required in an election to cease the activity.

The time has come for our region to look at the issue again.

Several other Ohio cities have decided against it as well, including: Springfield – 2005, Yellow Springs – 2011, Wooster – 2000, Xenia – 2009 and Lancaster – 2004.

ARGUMENTS FOR FLUORIDATION OF WATER

You can scour the web for information about fluoride and the supply is bountiful. As I did with my research for this article, you have to check and recheck and consider every source with care. After filtering out the forums, the conspiracy theories and the unscientific data, I found myself on the other end of four solid days of investigation about the topic. The main takeaway I had personally was that the dental industry and its lobbyists are the most hardcore advocates for the fluoridation of water. Outside that realm their seems to be no real consensus. However, and interestingly, over the past 3 to 5 years, more reports are being published that shed real concern over the necessity of the practice.

Without going into great detail, the main argument for fluoride as an additive is for the prevention of tooth decay and the promotion of oral health. Apart from this, advocates for fluoride addition don’t seem to have other validations. The rest of their research is spent on countering claims against its use.

Here are some other contentions made by the camps for fluoridation:

1. It is accessible by everyone through water.

2. It is safe.

3. Saves money in dental care and corrective costs.

4. Removal of fluoride will disproportionately affect poorer children who have limited access to other fluoride sources.

5. Claims against water fluoridation are junk science.

6. In Ohio, the Law mandates fluoridation.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST FLUORIDATION OF WATER

The research available against using fluoride in the water supply is mounting – as well as the cogency of their arguments. We don’t have time to go into them. I encourage you to research on your own before you decide. It would be expected that any task force commissioned by the Mayor would go to great lengths to compile peer reviewed evidence from both camps. And, the research process does not take that long.

1. Since the 1970s fluoride has become almost omnipresent in toothpastes, gels and mouthwashes.

2. Therefore, there is access for everyone.

3. So far the consensus is that fluoride added in water is safe. With more studies coming out, however, concerns are being raised about overexposure. Fluoride occurs naturally and organically in some foods and other sources, it is in dental care products, it is added to the water supply, and now organizations are adding it to salt and milk worldwide. The federal Department of Health and Human Services recommended reducing fluoride put into the water supply. The government has also told parents with infant children to use caution when reconstituting baby formula with fluoridated water due to concerns of overexposure. There are also concerns about fluoride being passed in a mother’s breast milk.

4. Although safe, as far as we can tell, the chemical fluoride we use in water supplies is mostly a byproduct of the manufacture of fertilizer and not the same as in toothpastes.

5. Too much exposure to fluoride (now that its presence has increased) causes fluorosis – a mostly cosmetic problem that causes white or yellow spots on teeth. However, many doctors, dentists and chemistry professionals are coming out with concerns. They cite that spotted teeth can indicate other bones in the body are absorbing too much fluoride which can lead to fracture. The CDC released a report in 2010 linking fluoride to an increase in fluorsis among children 12 to 15 years old.

6. In Cincinnati, potential for overexposure disproportionately impacts the African American community. 44.8% of the City population is black with a large portion living at or below poverty level (estimates at 40-50%) with little or no access to education of, testing and diagnosis of fluorosis conditions. However, the elimination of fluoride from the water supply will not disproportionately affect African American communities since fluoride is almost ubiquitous in over-the-counter dental care products and is only applied topically. The CDC reports, along with other studies, that cases of fluorosis are on the rise in the United States.

7. The CDC released a report in 2005 showing that black children in the United States suffer significantly higher rates and more severe forms of fluorosis than any other segment of the population. Thus, if left unchecked as a public policy, fluoridation is tantamount to racial discrimination – albeit unintentional. Regardless of intention, it is the duty of elected officials to see if racial disparity exists – even if committed unwittingly. To my knowledge, no cases have been tried in court to argue this point – yet.

8. Fluoride as an additive is used to treat people, not the water itself. So why do treatment plants govern its administration? Is there adequate medical strictures and supervision as such?

9. Fluoride is most effective when used topically, as in toothpastes and other dental care products. Its efficacy when ingested, as with water, has been highly scrutinized over the past 10 years.

10. With fluoride so widely available from natural and over-the-counter sources – as well as water itself (in low amounts) without additives – adding it to the water supply is no longer a justifiable government expense. Putting it into tap water is an imprecise way of distribution. This is because how much fluoride a person absorbs depends on their weight and the amount of water they consume. Also, with some portions of the population consuming more fluoridated water (patients with diabetes who drink more, athletes, tea drinkers [tea plants absorb high levels of fluoride from soil]), how can efficacy be measured?

Therefore, no one really knows what dosage of fluoride a person gets from water and makes the benefits of water fluoridation hard to quantify in scientific studies – let alone in auditing a local municipality budget. What is the baseline? What is the control? This inequality in dosing is a factor, also, in the widely varying conclusions of different studies – for and against – fluoride. One may very well step away from an honest investigation into the topic feeling as if no one knows what is going on with fluoridation.

11. Fluoridated cities are still facing dental crises – including Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Look up the numbers. They are published. How can we justify the cost of adding it to water if the #1 argument for it isn’t bearing fruit? Increasing access to prevention and care is the only real solution for the problem.

12. Dr. Heyroth, from Cincinnati’s own Kettering Institute, although a fierce advocate for fluoride treatment, testified under Congressional oath that the advice for people with kidney trouble is to drink fluoride-free spring water – 50% of fluoride is removed by the kidneys.  1 in 10 Americans have some form of chronic kidney disease (CKD) with numbers rising every year since 2000. Who represents this demographic?

13. Fluoride is not meant to be ingested or swallowed. It is meant to be applied, and is most effective, topically as with over-the-counter dental care products. Thus, part of the reason for warnings against swallowing toothpaste.

14. As mentioned previously, public water fluoridation ignores completely the principle of medical consent by the masses of those who drink it. (The FDA does not have say over water fluoridation. This was left to the EPA)

15. The Fluoride Action Network claims the pro-fluoridation community is purely a political game with powerful interests having high financial stakes in fluoridation.

16. Fluoridation is not, and never will be, a water quality issue. It is a medical issue. So why do water treatment plants oversee it?

17. With access to more fluoride sources, the point of saving money for preventative dental care by way of fluoridation of water is moot.

18. Newer studies questioning water fluoridation are not junk science with more peer reviewed reports being published.

19. Ohio law allows for cities to stop fluoridation of their water supply. However, they do only allow 240 days for referendum.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Since jurisdictions outside of Cincinnati City limits contract with CWW for their supply, the Mayor’s task force would also have to look at whether or not Cincinnati residents solely pay for fluoridation (Speak Up Cincinnati could not obtain numbers in time for this publication). We do know that rates are higher in those contractual jurisdictions – but this is due to capital costs included by CWW.

Cincinnati already shares a disproportionate cost of regional social services and holds key assets that benefit the entire region while being obligated to absorb the entire costs of those assets. This city-suburb-regional divide has recently raised its head in the battle over funding the salvation of Cincinnati icons. We need to keep this in mind with our water costs, too.

MY BIAS AND FINAL REMARKS

If you have paid attention, I am in favor of putting an end to the fluoridation of Cincinnati’s water supply and lowering – however small – Cincinnati water costs. If not already clear, I wanted to make it so. This is an opinion piece. But I want to encourage you – and the City – to seriously explore both sides. I am convinced any thinking person will come to the same conclusion.

And again, this is not about health or government conspiracies or pollution for me – not mainly. This is about money. This is about questioning a policy from the 1960s in the light of new, actionable intelligence. Those other arguments may warrant investigation but with so many conflicting studies, leaving even the experts shaking their heads, they will only serve to support the cost-saving considerations of cessation.

Other than money, my only other major concerns are 1) racial discrimination in the application of the water policy and 2) the other Jurisdictions’  share of the costs of the  fluoridation process – if we don’t end it.

I stated in the beginning, with CWW rate increases and slow recovery from the recession, Cincinnati needs to look at EVERY area it can. Councilmember Wendell Young, when faced with the CWW rate increases, even proposed bottling and selling Cincinnati water since we have some of the best water in the nation. Pepsi and Coke already do this with their Aquafina and Dasani brands – they are both merely filtered tap water. The City of Hamilton tried it with discouraging results. Cincinnati has more resources and could come up – we pray – with better branding of the bottle itself for widespread distribution.

If we genuinely desire to become the leader of cities in the Midwest we have to do more. We have to dig more. We have to hold ourselves and our leaders to higher standards. From what I have ascertained from data from polls, speeches from City Council and the Mayor, and local business vision statements and from activist groups – progress and leadership is what everyone wants for Cincinnati. Hard work and open discussion, even if it is “only” to save $1mil a year, is what it will take.

If this topic gets out for Cincinnati citizens to… speak up about, the debate will get furious. Trust me. You’ll glean that from looking at other city debates on the issue. But at least we will have the dialogue.

So let’s start a conversation about it. Let’s get some numbers to clear up what I may have missed or misrepresented (yeah, it’s possible). I want to know more. I want to learn. Let’s do some studying with our local leaders – we have some of the smartest people around. And, if nothing else, it is a long overdue visitation on the matter. We are tardy to the party!

Please… email me or comment below.

jason@speakupcincinnati.com

 

Let Them Drink Pop: Detroit’s Water Crisis & A Lesson for Cincinnati in Local Governing

Let Them Drink Pop: Detroit’s Water Crisis & A Lesson for Cincinnati in Local Governing

This post originally appeared on virallysuppressed.com as, “Let Them Drink Pop: Detroit’s Water Crisis & The Fight for Basic Human Rights in the Motor City,” and is republished here with permission from author, Drew Gibson, for Speak Up Cincinnati.

Cincinnati, thankfully and warily, is in no financial crisis of Its own. Nor do we have a water crisis. Nor do we have an “Emergency Manager” (Detroit’s Kevyn Orr). So how does this story relate to us here? Aside from the fact that they are our brothers and sisters, the appointment of an Emergency Manager in Detroit’s financial crisis is a lesson for all local governments to study. With the citizens and City Council of Cincinnati, this very moment, reviewing the local City Charter (our local constitution), also considering what powers our Mayor has during emergencies HERE, this article from Drew Gibson is more apropos for us than appears at first glance.

Speak Up Cincinnati is honored to reproduce the article here with our note. Please read it. Take it in. What can a manager of this type, without a vote, do in a city like Cincinnati. It behooves us to take heed. It behooves us to participate in the public meetings concerning the review of the Cincinnati Charter! Let’s hope we take a lesson from our friends in Michigan.

During the Super Bowl earlier this year, Chrysler unveiled the latest iteration of the “Imported From Detroit” advertising campaign that has been such a key part of their rebranding efforts in the wake of their filing for bankruptcy in 2009. The commercial starts off with a montage of your usual idealized American imagery—cowboys riding horses, cheerleaders leading cheers, sweet middle-aged waitresses bringing bacon and eggs to grizzled farmers at a Route 66 diner—accompanied by the sound of Bob Dylan’s raspy Minnesotan drawl asking us rhetorically if, “there’s anything more American than America?” a question which pretty well sets the tone for the rest of the ad considering the implied answer is a 283 horsepower “hell no!” From there the ad touches on the Motor City’s automotive pedigree and its role in making America the country it is today, with Bob telling us that,“making the best…making the finest, takes conviction.” and letting us know that, “you can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line.” All of these laudable, yet trite, sentiments are designed to stir up our pride in our country and in the city of Detroit—to make us associate the glory of our collective past and the hard-scrabble can do aspects of our national character with the Chrysler brand—and in this respect the ads are pretty effective. The only problem is that these passionate evocations of Chrysler’s commitment to the working men and women of America and Motown bears little resemblance to reality.

You see, when Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 5 years ago, the laborers that are lionized in their “Imported From Detroit” ads took the overwhelming brunt of the punitive measures that were handed out. In the wake of Chrysler’s restructuring and ultimate sale to Italian automaker Fiat, 4 factories were shut down789 dealerships—and an estimated 37,000 jobs—were lost, cost-of-living wage adjustments were eliminated and a two-tier wage scale was created that allows Chrysler to pay new hires half of what they pay their more experienced workers. Meanwhile, on the backs of these massive cuts and with the aid of $12.5 billion dollars in taxpayer aide—$1.3 billion of which will never be recovered—the now 100% Italian owned Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is making out like a bandit, posting a net profit of $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 alone. As was the case with the $700 billion bank bailout in 2008 and the recent corporate thievery involved in the Patriot Coal bankruptcy case which I have covered before in great detail, the auto industry and government officials have used our nation’s legal system to burden ordinary citizens with the collateral damage from financial crises that they had nothing to do with.

One of the most instrumental players in the Chrysler bankruptcy case was Kevyn Orr, a partner at the massive law firm Jones Day who was charged with the task of bringing Chrysler back to life as expeditiously and ruthlessly as possible. Orr carved up Chrysler with surgical precision, completing the reorganization of the company within 42 days and raking in more than $1 million in legal fees during the process. As a reward for his work in the bankruptcy case, Orr was named by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as the “Emergency Manager” of the City of Detroit in 2013, a title that is about as ominous and Orwellian as anything this side of the Department of Homeland Security. As Emergency Manager, Orr has essentially been given free reign to do with the City of Detroit as he sees fit, without any interference from pesky, democratically elected city council members and officials, who are essentially impotent during the time the city is judged to be in a Financial Emergency.

Detroit Water Rally

Didn’t vote for him? Doesn’t matter. Governor Snyder’s vote is the only one that counts.

According to the Michigan legislature’s ironically titled Local Financial Stability and Choice Act—an act that was passed during a lame duck session of Michigan’s legislature and is little more than a repackaged version of another act that was repealed by Michigan voters in the 2012 elections—an Emergency Manager is essentially a de jure dictator of a local government and/or school district during a fiscal crisis. The Emergency Manager can usurp the power of all government officials, modify union contracts, alter pensions for city workers, sell off public assets and exercise complete authority over local school districts. Oh yeah, and he can also work with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department Board of Water Commissioners to shut off the water supply for residents who are behind on their payments by as little as 60 days or $150, because—according to the Emergency Manager’s stated logic—the best way to stimulate a struggling local economy is by shutting off the water supply to more 17,000 of said economy’s poorest and most vulnerable members.

The City of Detroit’s water policy, which the United Nations has termed, “a violation of the human right to water.”, is just the most recent instance of a disturbing trend in American politics to reframe problems related to globalization, corporate greed and rising income inequality on a growing class of unemployed, underpaid and overworked citizens. Emergency Manager Orr and his stable of bankruptcy lawyers have tried mightily to cast these water shutoffs as a matter of economic necessity and personal responsibility, painting themselves as honest businessmen and the citizens who can’t pay their water bills as “scofflaws” and “people gaming the system.” The only problem is that this neither of these assertions are based in truth.

As a cost saving measure, shutting off the water supply for the city’s poorest residents makes no sense. Due to recent sweeping layoffs within the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, the city was forced to mete out a $5 million contract to a private demolition company to shut off the water to about 17,000 homes which have an average outstanding water bill of only $540. If the city truly wanted to get their money back, they would’ve started hounding Joe Louis Arena, Ford Field, Palmer Park Golf Club and half of the commercial and industrial buildings in the city who owe roughly $30 million in overdue water fees. Likewise, the idea that the failure of Detroit residents to pay their water bills is simply a “choice” that they are making in an effort to avoid payment for basic services collapses under the weight of inquiry. When your city has lost 63% of its population since 1950, sports a poverty rate of 42%, has a per capita income that is less than half the national average, and has had its water rates increased by nearly 120% over the past decade with no accompanying rise in wages, any choice that is left to you is between the Scylla of unpaid utilities and the Charybdis of overdue rent and empty cupboards.

Detroit Water Rally

Water is a human right. Greed is not.

No, as is so often the case in this age of corporate hegemony, the Detroit water shutoffs are principally about privatization and the potential to turn a profit on a publicly held utility. For the past few weeks, Emergency Manager Orr and his staff have been considering at least 13 separate bids from private parties who are interested in bidding for the rights to city’s water department and the recent spate of cutoffs is seen by many as an attempt from the Emergency Manager to paint the department as a profitable enterprise, which it may very well be for whatever company it is that ends up controlling it. However, case studies from all across the country and the globe have shown that the benefits of water privatization begin and end with companies doing the privatizing, with private operators proving to be no more efficient or technically sound than their public counterparts while contributing to massive rate hikes for citizens, as is the case in the UK where the price of privately controlled water has increased by 50 percent over the past two decades despite a lack of change in operating costs. Despite what Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Orr might tell you, privatizing Detroit’s water system is not a magic bullet that will fix the city’s financial woes. In reality, it’s just your average lead and copper bullet being fired at the working class residents of Detroit so they’ll scatter and make way for the city’s gentrification.

As you may have heard, more than 1,000 protestors converged on Detroit’s Cobo Hall this past Friday to let Emergency Manager Orr and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department know what they thought of a policy that denied tens of thousands of Detroiters of their access to clean water. The rally, which was put on by National Nurses United, Robin Hood Tax USA, Moratorium-MI.Org and a host of other great progressive organizations, was a true testament to the resolve of the citizens of Detroit and their allies across the country, and presented the world with a unified face that made it clear that it would not accept a world in which water is a luxury and not a natural human right. Through the actions of these passionate activists, community leaders and citizens, along with brief remarks from actor Mark Ruffalo and Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), the rally gained international media attention and shined a none-too-flattering light on the inhumane behavior of Emergency Manager Orr and his staff. In fact, the portrayal of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department’s behavior was so damaging that, just today, the department has come out to say that they are suspending all water shut offs for the next 15 days. It is a minor victory for water rights advocates and the people of Detroit, but it is a victory nonetheless, and one which they have desperately needed after months and years of having their voices roundly ignored by the city’s corporate and political elite.

However, to appropriate an expression from the realm of drug and alcohol treatment, striving for social justice is like trying to walk up a down escalator. It’s possible to climb your way to the top, but the process is long, it is exhausting and if you stop moving for too long you end up right back at the bottom where you started. This moratorium on shut offs will mean nothing if things go back to business as usual when the 15 days are up. The enthusiasm and awareness that has been drummed up by the rally on Friday will not help the people of Detroit preserve their rights to clean water if in a month all of the major media outlets are ignoring them once again and many of the people who attended the rally—out-of-staters like myself in particular—are putting the struggle on the back burner and focusing their energies solely on other issues. This is a long an arduous process, something that many of world-weary veterans who cut their teeth during the civil rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights movements of the 60s and 70s are well aware of and that young twenty-somethings are just beginning to understand. In order to protect the water rights of Detroiters, as well as their rural brethren in the hills of Appalachia and people struggling all across this nation of ours, we have to care more about each other than the Kevyn Orr’s of the world care about money. It’s a tall order, but given the fire and willpower I saw assembled in Hart Plaza on Friday, I have no doubt that it can—and will—be done, because while Governor Snyder can import as many green-eyed lawyers as he wants to run Detroit, he can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman marching in the picket line.

Drew Gibson

Drew Gibson is the writer and social media director for “Virally Suppressed”, a blog that covers a multitude of issues related to social justice and inequities in American life, with a particular focus on Appalachia, the Midwest and the Deep South. Drew returned to his hometown of Cincinnati last year after getting his Masters in Social Work from The University of Maryland-Baltimore and working for the Office of Nation Drug Control Policy, where the federal government paid him with 2 M&M’s boxes from the White House Easter Egg Roll. Drew is not at all bitter about this.

“If they overdose and kill themselves, it just removes them from the gene pool.”

– Missouri State Senator, Robb Schaff, quoted in The New York Times.

Missouri State Senator Robb Schaff

We are so excited – and honored – to see the overwhelming response by YOU to our new site!

 

The messages & feedback on facebook, sharing, and comments have been piling up. Suggestions have been coming in. Criticism and praise.

 

This is EXACTLY what we wanted by choosing… “SPEAK UP CINCINNATI” as our title.

 

Don’t forget you can also post comments, complaints and praise – about anything regarding Ohio or Cincinnati – in our forum! Click below…

 

SPEAK UP CINCINNATI FORUM

CINCINNATI GOOGLE TRENDS

CINCINNATI GOOGLE TRENDS

Cincinnati Google Trends – Level of search for, “CINCINNATI”.

Search for “CINCINNATI” on Google is going down. Projections for 2015 by Google predict a slight increase.

Tell us in the comments:

  • Why do you think this is?
  • What can we as citizens do about it?
  • What can the government do?
  • What can business do?
  • Media?
  • Does it matter?

I think it DOES matter.

We all know that everything is going social media and going digitalized. Is the trend on Google an indicator of something larger?

Can this website change it?

 

We Are Live!

We Are Live!

Oh, Baby! We are live!

After several days and a few naysayers, Jason Lee Overbey announced on facebook that Speak Up Cincinnati is officially live.

Sure, we’ve got a few tweaks to work out. It wouldn’t be as exciting if it was all smooth. But it’s time. 

SO much is happening in Cincinnati, in Hamilton County, and in the State – we had to announce right now. I mean, isn’t there a new administration? Former City Council candidates to catch up with? A Governor’s race? OH, BOY!

SO why the website at all? Good question, friends. Check out: ABOUT SPEAK UP CINCINNATI.

SO what’s next, you ask! Good question, fellow citizens! We want to hear what you have to complain about. What you have to praise about. What ideas you have. Check out: SPEAK UP CINCINNATI FORUM and get to chatting. We may even approach you and ask you to write a piece for the blog or features section. Actually, if you are making sense, just count on it. 

AND don’t forget… on the homepage we have pics and links to all of your area and state representatives (bottom). They aren’t all up yet. Oops. (Remember, we HAD to launch anyway… just too excited not to) But they will all be up and available by July 25th. Hey, that gives you an incentive to come back! 

We are putting a lot of money into the launch and upkeep. We are putting a lot of time and money into the updating of the site.

WHY? Other than your major area and state news sources (and not even some of them), there is absolutely NO site out there that has:

1. A powerful and open online forum for YOU to… SPEAK UP.

2. Aggregated news for Cincinnati, for Ohio and for US & Global.

3. A main blog with NOT just Jason Lee Overbey as the author. Nope! We are recruiting and seeking out QUALITY content from writers even as you read this. HOLY VARIETY!

4. Links, resources and facts. We are STILL combing the Internet, physical libraries and working the phone to pull all the goodies into ONE SITE.

5. Stunning visual appeal.

6. Openness! Believe it or not… we want you to write us. Complain, argue, spit virtually, praise – just don’t threaten – and we will respond to all. We will eventually even meet up somewhere in person, to be sure. 

ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?! And…

7. And… a commitment for more to come. Substance, I tell you! We swear by all things Interwebby that we will not let up until you are addicted to the site and need recovery. There are even some contests and surprises coming soon. Giddy, giddy, giddy!

SO PLEASE EXPLORE – POKE AROUND – STAY AWHILE – AND FOR THE LOVE OF THE CITY AND OUR FOREFATHERS… SPEAK UP!

SPEAK UP CINCINNATI – WE ARE LIVE!

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