City Politics 2018

. October 24, 2018.
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The wages of apathy
The power of the non-voter

They’re out there. They come cloaked as normal American citizens, going about their daily routines as if they give two shucky darns. They’ll even deny their true colors if asked. Unfortunately, there are more of them than there are of us.

They stifle progress through subterfuge, pretending to support such things as universal health care, compassionate immigration policy, sensible gun control, abortion access and choice, etc., etc., etc. Yet all the while, they undermine the very things they claim to stand for.

Locally, they claim to care about community relations, protecting the lake, and meaningful criminal justice reform. They often proclaim these things loudly and on street corners. But when it comes time to make a difference, they scuttle back into the shadows and refuse to take a stand.

They are the loud, proud majority. The non-voters. By their apathy, they speak by not speaking and instead allowing others to speak in disproportionate numbers. Policies are decided by their stepping aside. Are you one of them?

Excuses, excuses

The numbers are staggering. In the twenty sixteen general election, nearly one hundred thirty million eligible voters voted in the presidential race. Over one hundred million didn’t vote at all. The outcome was decided by a mere eighty thousand or so votes spread over three states. We are in the national pickle barrel because of the non-voter.

It’s a generational problem. Well over half of eligible voters under thirty-five don’t vote, and most of those who do, vote only occasionally, typically in presidential elections, not mid-terms like those this year. In contrast, a vast majority of senior citizens vote every single election, skewing policies their way. Any wonder affordable, or free, college education isn’t a priority? Or why the members of the US Congress are very old, very male, and very white, just like the average American voter?

We hear lots of excuses from non-voters. “No one represents my interest” is a big one. This logic strand has two basic flaws. First is the problem above. Until young people start voting in large numbers, their interests are less likely to be reflected in the policies of candidates. Start to vote and watch it turn around.

The second flaw is the problem of piety. Of course no single candidate is going to perfectly align with every single thing you believe. Change is incremental in a democracy, and you must choose the candidate who is most likely to support your basic principles while in office. Get over yourself, no one likes a pious political evangelist, and vote!

The other excuse that really chaps our arse is, “my vote won’t make a difference.” Locally there have been at least two races for Toledo City Council in the last few years that were decided by less than ten votes, so that excuse can go pound sand. But that’s not why it grinds our gears.

The more immediate retort is, if you don’t think your vote matters, your non-vote will darned well make a big difference. Care about the Lake? Elect others who will make the difficult decisions to protect it. Want a police force that reflects the community? Elect those who agree with you and have a concrete plan to make it happen. Or don’t vote, and let others choose candidates who reflect their interests. See how that works for ya.

Vote. Then hold those who are elected accountable for the policies they enact, and for those they fail to enact. But it all starts with action, not inaction. Vote!

Make a plan, Stan

All excuses aside, it’s time to turn the tables on the voter rolls. If young people would take the initiative and vote in numbers commensurate with their population, real progress could be made. But if you sit on your hands, whine and moan about the direction of the city, region, state and country, you’re nothing but a darned fool.

And worse, a hypocrite. You say you want a revolution? Get off your duff and get thee to the polls!

Make a pledge to participate in the democracy we all say we cherish. Then make a plan for voting. The Early Vote Center at Monroe and Thirteenth downtown is open daily 8 am ‘til 5 pm through October 26, then 8 to 7 October 29 through November 2. It’s also open 8 to 4 on Saturday October 27 and Saturday November 3, 1 to 5 pm on Sunday November 4, and 8 to 2 on November 5.

You can do the old fashioned thing and show up at your designated polling place between 6:30 am and 7:30 pm on Election Day. Any questions, call the Board of Elections. Or you can do the new fashioned thing and forget all about it, stay away and let the old folks make the decisions for you.

Naw, don’t do that, you silly bird. Make a mark on your community. By mail or in person, by early vote or on Election Day, be the change.

Judging the judges

The Toledo Bar Association, a local organization that assists legal professionals in serving the profession and the community. The TBA sends a survey to its members to assess local legal professionals’ opinions regarding judicial candidates. The poll concerning the upcoming election elicited responses from about 400 of the Association’s approximately 1400 members, an estimated 29% response rate.

Although there are 8 judicial races on the November 2018 ballot in Lucas County, only two are contested.

The race for the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which covers eight counties, pits sitting Judge Gene Zmuda of the Lucas County Common Pleas Court against Joel Kuhlman, a former County Commissioner and City Councilperson from Erie County. The poll results are as follows:

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More interesting is the almost equal polling in the survey of the two candidates for the Lucas County Common Pleas Court bench:

Joseph McNamara is a former Toledo City Councilman and the son of late Lucas County Auditor Dan McNamara. His opponent, Joshua Lanzinger is a sitting judge in Toledo Municipal Court, and the son of well known and long time public servant, previous Toledo Municipal Court, Lucas County Common Pleas Court, Sixth District Court of Appeals and Ohio Supreme Court jurist Judy Lanzinger. The TBA poll is a virtual dead heat, with responding lawyers recommending the two candidates with almost mirror-like exactness. The poll results are as follows:

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Hope that helps you decide who to vote for, folks. That’s what you get when seeking the recommendations of a group of lawyers.

Issue 1

Ohio Issue 1, Drug and Criminal Justice
Policies Initiative (2018)

“Issue 1 Proposed Constitutional Amendment Proposed by Initiative Petition To add a new Section 12 to Article XV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.”

Issue 1 on the ballot is a statewide issue that addresses how the State of Ohio should deal with drug possession charges. With the rampant use of drugs and the deadly effects of opioids a real and consistent societal concern, we think it is time to address how the justice system is equipped to handle this phenomenon. Incarceration for offenders who are addicts and who possess drugs has proven to be ineffective and short sighted. How can the cycle be broken, if it can be broken, is the dilemma we face as a community.

Issue 1 proposes a constitutional amendment that would change the treatment of those accused of drug possession. While opponents have railed against the possibility that even those defendants charged with large quantities, those alleged to be trafficking in drugs, could avoid harsh felony punishment with this amendment becoming law, the reality is that prosecutors will maintain discretion in how to charge defendants. Those with higher quantities will still be chargeable with felony crimes.

Other knocks against how Issue 1, if passed, would affect our communities is that it could create an unfunded mandate for treatment for addicts, thereby placing undue burden on, especially, smaller communities. The reality is that there is a major problem with drug addiction across our country, but particularly in the midwest, and the methods now being employed to deal with it are simply insufficient and ineffective. A different approach needs to be implemented and, while Issue 1 certainly has some drawbacks, it goes a long way to identify and address the problems.

Another complaint against the passage of Issue 1 is that it comes in the form of a constitutional amendment, a rigid and not easily modified way to effect change and to address issues which are present now but whose complexion and appearance will likely change in the future. Again, while Issue 1 has drawbacks, it is a citizens’ initiative which attempts to address a genuine and pressing problem. The legislature has failed to address it, and the time has passed for waiting.

As always, there are critics on both sides. The esteemed Ohio State Bar Association opposes the measure citing the funding concerns for treatment that passage would mandate as well as the inequitable effect on smaller communities in terms of dollars to provide that treatment. Members of the judiciary have taken to speaking out against the passage of Issue 1 publicly, a move rarely seen of an elected judicial official going on the record to discuss a substantive legal issue that could and will likely appear before them for decision making in the future.

Other opponents of the measure point to out of state monies used to support the collection of signatures to place Issue 1 on the ballot. Where ever the support came from, the signatures of Ohioans placed this Issue before the voters. It is time that this serious issue is addressed and that the law reflect the reality of the situation. While Issue 1 is far from perfect, it is a step in the right direction.

If adopted, the amendment would:

Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming.

Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.

Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months.

Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence.

Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state-administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds.

Require a graduated series of responses, such as community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations”

Support for Issue 1:

Richard Cordray (D), 2018 candidate for governor
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R)

Organizations, including: American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, ProgressOhio, Toledoans United For Social Action, Ohio Justice & Policy Center, Ohio Voice, The Peoples Justice Project, Faith in Public Life, Indivisible Project, among others.

Opposition for Issue 1:

Ohio Republican Party
Gov. John Kasich (R)
Attorney General Mike DeWine (R), 2018 candidate for governor
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor (R), Ohio Supreme Court
Auditor Dave Yost (R), 2018 candidate for attorney general
Former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach (D), 2018 candidate for attorney general

Organizations, including: Association of Municipal and County Court Judges of Ohio, Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association, County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, Ohio Association of Domestic Relations Judges, Ohio Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Ohio Association of Probate Judges, Ohio State Bar Association, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, among others.

How To Volunteer for Progressive Campaigns

This election season, give your angry (and probably racist) uncle another reason to hate you by volunteering to assist in getting out the vote.
By Sonny Forrest

Sick of hearing about toddlers locked in detention camps and rapey judges with drinking problems? As Election Day completes its shift from distant abstraction to an approaching reality, now just over three weeks away, this midterm election season’s final weeks are its most crucial.

Unless you already have enough money to avoid paying attention to the news altogether, the party currently in power is having its way with you, sideways, economically speaking. The mostly white guys who are complaining about people unfairly receiving entitlements, it seems, don’t want the people they’re complaining about voting.

Want to volunteer to inspire people to vote in this year’s midterm elections, but aren’t sure where to start? Refer to this quasi-comprehensive guide, outlining exactly how you can volunteer and get out the vote for progressive candidates.

Phone Banks
Phone banks let you hit the lines of registered voters across Northwest Ohio, providing another crucial touch point (albeit auditory) for campaigns looking to make headway in advance of election day. Campaign for Ohio (ohiodems.org) lists phone banks reaching registered voters in Toledo, North Toledo, South Toledo, Sylvania and Maumee.

Volunteer with Campaigns Across the Country
Tech For Campaigns connects talented creative professionals, programmers, and marketers with progressive-leaning campaigns across the country in need of some volunteer tech muscle. Visit techforcampaigns.org for more info.

Attend Campaign Rallies
A great campaign rally feels like a compelling concert or sporting event. Empathize, in person, with fellow fans of the candidate the way you might over a team (conversation-enhancing substances optional). The best rallies lend attendees a sense of communicable optimism and urgency that usually plays well among loved ones. Find local events at ohiodems.org

Donate to Competitive Campaigns
Donating your dollars to campaigns may seem trivial, but think of it as pouring extra gas on an already-raging fire. It’s important that the fire continues to swell through election day so even small drops of fuel (i.e. dollar amounts like, even $10) help sustain and bolster the fire. Donating is also absurdly simple; just visit ActBlue (secure.actblue.com) and you’ll have access to all the competitive progressive-leaning campaigns in America.

Vote Early
Though most would-be voters’ minds have long been settled on particular parties and candidates, even for registered voters, not everyone can find the time to vote on actual election day, November 6. Luckily, the Lucas County Board of Elections has an Early Voting location in Toledo at 1301 Monroe St. Carve out around 20 minutes and cast your ballot, on your time, ahead of time.

If you’ve read this far, the day after the 2016 election probably tasted like shame; we could’ve done more to avoid our politcally maligned reality. Feel better knowing you can volunteer some good ’ole elbow grease this time around. In addition to actually voting, sign up to help elect progressive candidates at democrats.org. Don’t @ me.

COUNTY COMMISSIONER

This race will determine who will replace Carol Contrada and join Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak.

Toledo City Paper posed questions to the two remaining candidates— Sandy Spang, an Independent, and Gary Byers, the endorsed Democrat— in the race for Lucas County Commissioner. Earlier this month, Sandy Bashaw, the endorsed Republican candidate withdrew from the race. While Bashaw’s name will appear on the ballot, she is no longer a candidate for the Commissioner’s seat.

Gary Byers (D) Former Maumee Municipal Court Judge

Gary Byers (D) Former Maumee Municipal Court Judge

Sandy Spang (I), Toledo City Council member at-large and entrepreneur

Sandy Spang (I), Toledo City Council member at-large and entrepreneur

Where do you see Toledo/Lucas County in 10 years?

Byers: I see a vibrant central city with shops, restaurants, and entertainment served by a transit system of cost-effective driverless vehicles. I see parking structures converted to green space and further development of our riverfront that will enhance the quality of life for our entire county.

Spang: Greater regional cohesiveness between a strengthened core and the reaches of the county, with progress in population and job growth. Improvement in our educational attainment and community health, especially our infant mortality rate.

Do you think Toledo is developing too fast?

Byers: Toledo is catching up to other communities in our state. After investments in the Fifth Third Field and Huntington Center, Toledo development has finally reached a critical mass where businesses and the community understand that investment in the downtown area is both lucrative and fulfilling.

Spang: No, but in some instances we are paying the price for times in the past when we allowed poorly planned development. We need to move forward with the 2040 land use plan and commit to thoughtful, sustainable development.

How do you see medical marijuana impacting Toledo/ Lucas County?

Byers: If medical marijuana can be used to help curb opioid addiction, I see it as a positive for our community.

Spang: The state legislation appears to closely regulate each step of the process, so primarily the opportunity for access lies with individuals who have qualifying medical conditions that will be treated.

How do you inspire our community?

Byers: By being open and transparent in the decisions that affect our community.

Spang: In what is being called the age of the “New Localism”, much of the innovation and creativity in the world is happening at the local level. When we celebrate the individuals, businesses and non-profits that are contributing to our momentum we inspire others to ask how they can contribute to our community.

Why Toledo/ Lucas County?

Byers: Our quality of life, our low cost of living, Lake Erie, diverse neighborhoods, Metroparks, the Toledo Symphony, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Zoo

Spang: Because over half the U.S. population lives in a 500 mile radius of us. Because we have an Arts and Culture infrastructure that is both a legacy from our prosperous past and a testimony to the creativity of today’s residents. Because despite what divides us, we can unite in our commitment to our community’s future.

Where do you stand on Ohio Issue 1, and why?

Byers: I am against State Issue 1. Although the goal is laudable, using a constitutional amendment to do that is too inflexible. If we need to make changes that will affect implementation of the law. State Issue 1 will have the unintended consequence of limiting the ability of Judges to help people suffering from opioid addiction.

Spang: I will vote no. I support the goal of reducing incarceration in favor of treatment, but do not believe this legislation achieves the right balance.

What is Downtown Toledo, in particular, and Lucas County in general, missing most?

Byers: A countywide public transportation system that people across our county want to utilize.

Spang: The next steps in Downtown development need to include retail growth, attention to detail in streetscaping and an easy-on, easy-off, circulator, similar to the 16th street bus in Denver. In Lucas County, public transportation should expand to encompass the entire County and connect to other modes of transportation.

How should we diversify the Northwest Ohio economy to better attract high-paying jobs?

Byers: There is a direct correlation between the number of people with college degrees in a community and the success of that community. My idea is to create a scholarship system that will help pay for student loan debt to incentivize college graduates to move back to our county.

Spang: Businesses are attracted to our region’s logistical advantages, but pass us by because our workforce isn’t ready. We need to coordinate efforts to address the issues of training, transportation and community health, so we can grow jobs. By focusing on attracting mid-sized companies as well as innovative entrepreneurs and makers we will create a more resilient economy.

Coke or Pepsi? Or La Croix?

Byers: Diet Coke.

Spang: La Croix.

Water, and specifically the health of Lake Erie, is a major concern. What can you do as a County Commissioner to address the runoff issue and working with other counties?

Byers: Lucas County needs to work with federal and state authorities to ensure that best practices are being utilized by local farmers to minimize the amount of nutrient runoff into our lake. We also need to continue with our nutrient source inventory tracking nonpoint source runoff as well as modifying dredging practices in our shipping channels.

Spang: As an elected official I can join with other representatives of communities in the watershed to advocate at the state and federal level for the health of Lake Erie. I support the Total Maximum Daily Load process of the Clean Water Act, and a moratorium on the issuance of permits for additional Confined Animal Feeding Operations in the Western Lake Erie Watershed.

Please provide your thoughts on the new jail and specifically your opinion on it being located in downtown Toledo. This will have an impact on jobs and income taxes when the facility is operational and income taxes for construction trades when the building is being constructed. How do you feel about a campus-like setting for a continuum of treatment and alternatives to incarceration to be built in a more open area, not in downtown?

Byers: The current jail is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year because of the inefficiency of its design. Combining a detention facility with a facility to provide mental health services as well as drug and alcohol treatment is an approach that can divert people that need help (and not incarceration) from our criminal justice system. Whether a detention facility is in north Toledo or downtown, we will be faced with complex problems relating to the transportation of people in custody. My proposal is that wherever the facility is located, we place a courtroom from the Toledo Municipal Court at the facility so fewer persons will need to be transported. The experience I gained from my years serving as an assistant Lucas County prosecutor and as a judge will help ensure that any new facility is both effective and efficient.

Spang: I have learned as a member of Toledo City Council that land use issues are often the most difficult that a community can face. A process that is open, transparent and involves citizens, especially those most directly impacted, will result in a better outcome. I do not believe that we have yet had such a process regarding construction of a new jail. A project of this scope and importance to our community should have a more robust public conversation.
I understand the advantages of a single story facility. I also respect citizen concerns regarding proposed sites. We know that our current jail costs us far more to staff than a better designed facility will.
So, how do we go forward? First, because it is estimated that half of those jailed are mentally ill, we should build the proposed Solutions Center, an alternative to criminal charges and a gateway to treatment. The effect of the Center will be measurable, and can help us determine the correct number of beds needed in the new jail.
The question of location will be influenced by the results of the upcoming special election for the proposed Keep The Jail Downtown Charter Amendment, and the results of the levy to fund construction. I pledge to work for a transparent, open process to build a facility that serves our community well.