Heroin, Clowns and Twitter: An Announcement for Greater Cincinnati
Speak Up Cincinnati is a developing Greater Cincinnati blog created by Jason Lee Overbey. In 2014, Mr. Overbey held the position of Executive Director of New Foundations Transitional Living. NFTL is a group of sober living houses providing residence for people new in recovery from drug and/or alcohol abuse. Early in 2014, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, spearheaded legal efforts to shut down the transitional houses .
“In a matter of hours I was taken from operational duties serving men and women in recovery and thrust into a movie-like drama of politics and law,” Jason Lee Overbey, recounted. “And within a day or two, what I had always known intuitively, became empirical and painfully ever-present: that for the most part, the average citizen has little to no impact on how s/he is governed. For the marginalized of society, there seemed no hope and no voice for them at all.”
The legal fracas unfolded in the media and behind closed doors for more than 7 months. In October 2014 the parties settled. New Foundations would remain open with restrictions. “Many people asked me if I hated Mayor Cranley. Our struggle gave voice to whatever they already felt about the new Mayor. But I didn’t hate him. I still don’t. I was, however, living in a Twilight Zone where I could not comprehend how the Mayor of a city with a major heroin overdose problem could be so quick to shut down a group who was clearly a part of the solution and not the problem. Was there no way to come to the table and talk about this? No. John Cranley set the tone for how the story would play out. I stayed up many nights. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that this Twilight Zone was actually the normal and the sane in this political world. I was embarrassed by my own naiveté when I asked out loud how such a disconnect could occur in our Republic,” Jason admitted.
Mr. Overbey had to acclimate to this new world at breakneck speed. Many would say it came to him effortlessly. “Seemingly out of nowhere I knew I had to organize rallies, call the media, leverage social media, talk to elected and de facto leaders, raise money. I almost felt like a purpose rose up within me that had been waiting to emerge in that moment. I almost feel like I didn’t have a choice. I would never have admitted this at the time but I was startled at how effective our pushback was becoming.” Jason continued, “I also knew within the first days of the fight that I would soon martial my own resources and strengths to create some kind of platform for anyone and everyone to speak up – to get a taste of what it is like when the King does a double take because a commoner spoke up, however diminutive it may be.”
In the summer of 2014 Jason Lee Overbey launched Speak Up Cincinnati. His blog site for everyone. Clearly a do-it-yourself site, to put it kindly, and with no real outside support, Mr. Overbey added to the blog in between running NFTL, working with residents, and getting intensive daily lessons in Cincinnati and Ohio politics. “I am not going to say it is all ugly. Or dirty. Or all politicians are self-focused. I will say that it is a different world from what most of America lives in. That’s a problem for them and for everyone else. I take it personally,” Overbey explained.
After the settlement with the City, Mr. Overbey closed the chapter on his 4 year success at NFTL. Although pressed, he declined to go into details about what seems to be a strategic departure – planned to occur when the legal drama was over. “He doesn’t give up,” one of his previous direct reports offered.
He assumed the CEO role of non-profit providing programs to adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in Hamilton County. “Non-profits are a large part of our regional economy – our financial economy and our structural economy. I am fascinated with the best ways to organize and manage non-profits,” Overbey said. “I am a leader in Non-profit 2.0 Management and in championing non-profit causes in our area. At least I try to be. A civilized, modern urban core is defined and developed by its non-profit sector. Profitable businesses are a no-brainer, right? Automatic to urban areas. Not so much philanthropy. Just try asking for a dollar for a good cause. Even if you get the dollar, you are going to pay a price for it. In Business 101, you sell a widget, you make a dollar, your customer gets a function of some kind from the widget. In Non-profit 101, you labor for a cause, you offer services low cost or free, society as a whole benefits, the individual downplays the benefits until they need your service, they have to be reminded it isn’t free, you get acid reflux and plan car washes, people honk at you as they drive by but you can’t change the world with honking horns. Non-profits matter. They are driving your cities whether you can admit it or not.”
Now Jason is back in front of his fellow, everyday citizens nurturing an idea to get them involved in the Twilight Zone. “I don’t know who would go willingly into that illogical, upside world. It doesn’t matter though. If we don’t, aren’t we complicit, then, in creating the gap that results from our political dynamic? In other words, we have a part in the mess!” his voice rose. “Quit acting like you have a choice. Quit saying you don’t follow politics. What? Every time you pay a tax, follow a law, make a judgment in your mind about a crime story you heard, or send your child to school… you are following politics. Just go ahead and jump in it all the way.”
Jason Lee Overbey, through Speak Up Cincinnati, then announced the launch of a new regional Twitter Chat: #SpeakUpCincy Tweet Chat.
“Every Tuesday evening at 7PM EST, starting March 10, 2015, my hope is that people join me and our varying hosts to speak up,” he announced. “Get on Twitter and reply and compose Tweets with the hashtag #SpeakUpCincy. Every Tweet sent with the hashtag in the 7-8PM hour on Tuesdays will be included in free weekly transcripts. I will always be lingering in the background of the chats but I want leaders and citizens to host Tuesdays. Pick a topic. Prepare some questions or statements. And let it rip. Tweet chats are fast-paced and get heated. Participants have an opportunity to connect with big names and other like-minded citizens that they couldn’t network with on a radio or TV talk show. How can you not join us?”
Jason Lee Overbey has committed to making the #SpeakUpCincy Twitter Chat a success. “Oh, I’m putting some of my own money up. I’m not getting anything out of this. Well, a seat at the table! I am going to knock on our leaders doors – and by that I mean Tweet to them. I am hoping people like Councilmembers Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson snatch up a Tuesday night and make it their own. I harassed Cincinnati leader Mike Moroski until he agreed,” Jason laughed. “He is going to grab a Tuesday night. Who cares what the topic is? I promise you: watch and you will see people starting to join in and… speaking up. That’s what I want. Not necessarily answers to complex problems, although that would make a great story. I want people to talk… to Tweet.”
When asked about being forced into the local political dynamic and legal wrangling by the case, Mr. Overbey paused and smiled. He said, “It brought me to this level of passion for a side of Cincinnati that isn’t sports or chili. I’m fired up. If you don’t like it, talk to Mayor Cranley. He sort of grabbed me by what little hair I have left and tossed me into the circus. I’m not just going to lie around kissing the dirt. I’m gonna put my clown suit on and perform with the rest of them. I’m not taking off the rubber nose until the other clowns do.”
#SpeakUpCincy Twitter Chat Information: http://twubs.com/SpeakUpCincy