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On the Issues...

The Gazebo


            I have long maintained that this structure which once sat in Downtown Newark before Mayor Jeff Hall ordered it to be removed is a symbol. Yes, it was a literal gathering point and it had been utilized for a variety of purposes, but it represents so much more than that. Since it was OUR gazebo and since it was a favorite centerpiece of public events on OUR Square, it is a symbol of the community…of togetherness. Even in its shady dismantling and questionable fate – after it sat in a pile of rubble in the East End for months – it continues to serve as a symbol. The symbolism of the process by which the gazebo was removed – largely devoid of public input and with no accountability as to the origin of the funds used for this underhanded project – depicts a portrait of a government which has long ceased to represent the will or interests of the people. Now, in its present location – on East Main Street, near the BMV -, one could argue that the gazebo has been plucked out of the center of our county and moved far out of view, much like the community it represents.


            The power of the people has been forced to confront the interests of the few and the politically empowered since the beginning of time, it seems. In the decision to remove OUR gazebo from OUR Square, the Hall Administration circumvented public opinion from the outset. Granted, a number of citizens were and presently remain more concerned with issues which directly and clearly impact them, but it would be a mistake to ignore what happened with the Gazebo. Also, it could be instructive to take note of the fact that all the picnic tables surrounding OUR Courthouse on OUR Square were likewise removed, and with very flimsy justification and little to no public input at that. For some reason, the Square has being taken from US and is being converted into little more than a business center. This is a transition which can be seen mirrored in certain parts of the county as well.


            The lack of transparency in this whole process has made it nearly impossible for us to hold our officials accountable. Depending on how long you have been following my involvement in local politics, you should be well aware by now that I am a persistent advocate for accountability, and you can’t have that without transparency. Accountability itself is essential for us to have a government which represents us. Otherwise, what’s the point of popular sovereignty? In my opinion, the Hall Administration – in addition to our County Commissioners - still owes us a clear explanation for what happened and this should be complete with a paper trail.


            Alongside about a dozen or two other demonstrators about a month after the gazebo’s removal in 2017, I called for the Administration to “Bring It Back!” To be realistic, this is not likely to succeed, but I will remain a proponent for rebuilding OUR gazebo in its rightful position on OUR Square. If you elect me, I will fight tirelessly to see this happen, but I can’t do it alone. If you believe – with me – that it needs to come back, then I need your support in this campaign and I will need your devoted activism to apply the needed pressure to make this happen. Together, we can do this.



Public Safety


            It is one thing to say that we support our safety forces, but that becomes empty rhetoric when we don’t work wholeheartedly to ensure that they are staffed to capacity. The opinions of our safety forces must be taken into account, as should the input of the public. Moreover, one can not attend to the safety concerns of this community without likewise pondering the impact felt by our citizens from the growing drug epidemic. Throughout our county – including where I live in the South End of Newark – you see more and more what this crisis is doing to our neighborhoods.


This is one reason why staffing is imperative, and why our officers must be equipped with the best tools that we can access to keep us safe. On the other hand, this drug epidemic provides an opportunity for us to explore new approaches as we contemplate what hasn’t worked. I am a strong advocate for bringing together our community and our law enforcement. Though, a number of us have taken great strides to mend the deep wounds which divide us, we have so much work to do.


Through the Freedom School of Licking County I have learned a great deal about the value of community work and in discussing tough issues. One such difficult – yet essential – discussion we had was in 2014 when the Freedom School hosted a series of discussions on race. These talks involved a diverse group of people and enabled those of us participating to be candid with one another about our hopes, fears, and anything else which we know keeps us divided. Until my dying day I will see those talks as a shining model for what communities such as our beautiful county ought to use so as to improve the work we do collectively in keeping our neighborhoods safe and prosperous.


            No household, business, or organization should get special treatment. Their problems are our problems and this should be handled accordingly. We need more officers available to respond to calls for help. We need more concrete action relative to the drug crisis and other like issues. We need better paying jobs and a reliable transit system (both of which I will address later). We need a government which works for all of us. There is another way.





            Licking County is going to be faced with some major challenges in the coming years, especially with the arrival of Intel. Poverty is on the rise and so are all the symptoms of an increase in desperation. We don’t have to accept this reality, though, as we can grow responsibly and with an eye towards maintaining the mindset that a “rising tide lifts all boats”. Any development in this County over the coming years needs to bear in mind the needs of all who live here.


Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Not all neighborhoods in our county are treated equally when it comes to determining which areas or other services get attention first. If you live in a poor section, you’re more likely to be ignored. The process of determining which neighborhoods are prioritized or serviced before others needs to be open to scrutiny by the whole community.


I will be sure to proactively look around the county to make sure every County road and bridge is up to par. You can count on me to fight for greater equality in how we handle the needs of every citizen in Licking County.


            The world is changing dramatically, and with those changes our needs are evolving as well. 30 years ago, getting on and using the internet was correctly seen as a privilege for those who could afford to pay for the service. Now, the ability to access the internet can actually have an impact on your ability to survive in every day life. How is that? Well, consider that many employers now require applicants to apply online at their respective websites. Even certain services require you to log on and apply. While you can still go to college on campus, higher education is more attainable now with online courses; which is beneficial especially for single-parents. Not to mention, the internet provides a citizen with near-limitless options for staying informed, shopping, and preparing for recreational activities.


            Of course, anyone lacking internet access can just go get a library card and do what they need the internet to do at the Licking County Library. Then again, you have to do this within the hours of operation for the library and you must also secure transportation to and from the same. It isn’t impossible to imagine how the lack of affordable and reliable internet access can place a burden on one’s life. There is a better way, though.


            Do we have internet service providers in the area? Yes we do, but are they reliable or affordable? That’s part of the problem. Unless you bundle services, you are more likely than not going to get an expensive internet bill in the long-term and that bill typically comes with a plethora of confusing fees which are not fully explained (and, let’s be honest, may not necessarily be justified). Either the service is too slow or it is out of your price range.


            So, what’s the solution? My proposal is that either Licking County or our municipalities seriously consider following the lead of over 750 others across the nation and provide our own community-owned broadband service. We can aspire to make all of the costs transparent and as cheap as possible. Better yet, we won’t even have to raise taxes to get started! In fact, many of those other municipalities have successfully borrowed the money and paid it back entirely from the income created by the service fees. In other words, if you don’t want to pay for community-owned broadband and if you prefer your private options, then you absolutely don’t have to!


            There’s something else which makes this so appealing for the greater good. On the one hand, more jobs would be created by offering a new service. On the other hand, a number of other municipalities offering this service have used the excess revenue from it to help pay for other - more essential – services. Yes, we could help raise the money we need to better take care of our roads, bridges, and safety forces!


            Our politicians have a habit of celebrating any and all job creation statistics. It makes them look good in the public eye to say the words “we are creating new jobs”, this is especially the case if a policy they oversee influenced such. The problem is that the jobs created are increasingly not worth the paper that these glowing political speeches are printed on. They are not signs of progress. Instead, too many of them are pathways to continued poverty.


            One such group of problematic jobs is that which primarily features part-time or temporary work. Newark’s Mayor Hall actually conveyed once – when discussing the potential for job creation with the Thornwood Crossing bridge – that his administration was not concerned with whether or not the jobs being created were full-time or part-time. What mattered is that they were “jobs”. This mindset has to end. We must show a preference for the creation of full-time jobs that will be reasonably accessible to the people of Licking County. Otherwise, we are ensuring that too many of us will remain trapped in poverty.


            On that note, our County must take an equally aggressive stance in promoting jobs which pay their employees a living wage. It isn’t enough for a worker to be full-time, because someone can work 40 hours or more and still lose their homes or be forced to choose between eating and paying bills. A job which pays its employees a wage worthy of their time is liberating. These jobs are also beneficial in terms of tax revenue, as better paid employees use fewer assistance programs and contribute more to the cause of providing for our public services.





            On a point made in the previous section, too many of our fellow citizens lack adequate and reliable transportation. Our public transportation is currently – and finally - being equipped with a fixed-route busing system in its infancy. Still, for too many, if you need a ride to work, your best bet is to find a loved one or a coworker with whom to hitch a ride. What we effectively still have is an odd hybrid of disorganized public transportation and a “fend for yourself” model.


            If everyone who needed a car had one this model would be ok, but poverty is a serious problem for far too many of us and that often aligns with the lack of an automobile. People, of course, need transportation for more than just traveling to and from work, but if we care about enabling our citizens to escape the clutches of poverty we must take seriously their inability to get to a decent job to begin with. What’s clear is that a system which hinders – instead of expands - the mobility of its people is not one worth maintaining. Progressing together requires a solution which removes the obstacles to said progress.


            Let’s face facts here; there is no better solution to the lack of adequate transportation than finishing the job in delivering to the people of this County a complete fixed route busing system. No one in dire straits – again, that is a growing segment of our community – can afford the current Uber or Cab fares to and then from their required destination, multiple times a day for numerous days a week. We must ensure that the fixed route busing system is expanded and completed.


            If elected, you can count on me to tirelessly advocate for this until the end of my service, and beyond if I have to.





            I’m a renter and have been for as long as I can remember, so I understand the struggles of the countless families whose circumstances are similar to my own. Though my present landlord is someone who I love and respect tremendously, I am still a strong believer that renters need more checks and balances to protect their rights. Many of our landlords are good people, but the need for protections aren’t about them as much as it is for those who abuse the system and take advantage of their tenants not being completely aware of their rights.


            Part of my lifelong experience in a family which has rented almost every home we’ve inhabited was a brief period wherein we were unfortunate enough to rent from a so-called slumlord. I will never forget what it was like when that sorry excuse for a landlord showed up at my mother’s house in the middle of the night one time. My mother and my stepfather were gone at work cleaning a restaurant, so it was us kids at home (we were trustworthy to stay home alone, I was 11 at the time), and the landlord showed up drunk demanding rent and forced us to let him come in. He stayed for about 10-15 minutes wandering angrily around the house telling us to let our parents know that he had been there.


            Yes, this was back in the 1990s, but too many families don’t know that this type of behavior is illegal. Too many families feel powerless to stand up to the abuses of people who have no business collecting rent from anyone. For that reason, I am a strong advocate for rental registration to ascertain that our landlords are top-notch and safe. If elected, you can guarantee that I will fight wholeheartedly to see this become a reality.


            When I ran for City Council I had declared my support for an approach to community development intent on bringing an end to our societal segregation; and this is a pledge I am renewing now as a candidate for County Commissioner. Presently, you are statistically more likely to die in poverty if you are born into it. A major factor in guaranteeing the trap of poverty is that the poorest citizens more likely than not spend almost all of their lives living in poor neighborhoods. Poor neighborhoods are more likely to be deprived of vital services – such as adequate safety and educational funding – and are typically removed from the center of attention of those molding public policy. It’s time for that to change and I intend on helping to usher in that change.


            Responsible development and housing properties can go a long way in protecting citizens from being abused or left behind. Community development must not take a backseat to economic development, and protecting the rights of tenants should never be forgotten to appease landlords. If elected, I will do everything in my power to serve your best interests at all times and to ensure that your needs will not be forgotten.





            By mandate of the State’s Constitution, all local income taxes are imposed as a flat tax. If we want to improve the conditions of our infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.) and ensure that our safety forces have all the personnel and resources they need, then there is no escaping this discussion.


            We must contemplate the contributions of incoming businesses – and even some current large businesses -, and I’m specifically referring to the practice of offering a tax abatement as an incentive to build here. In general, tax abatements can be a good thing, but there are cases wherein it can cost a community more than necessary to deprive itself of the possible revenue. We have an obligation to be prudent in how we negotiate these terms. If elected, you can guarantee that I will fight tirelessly to make sure that the only businesses offered an abatement are the ones which sincerely need one to get off the ground.


           When presented with any tax proposals, I will carefully, thoroughly, and openly review and compare them to others of the like, and proceed with extreme caution and always with an eye towards what benefits everyone. If it can not be demonstrated that the people of Licking County will reap the rewards in the long-term I will not be supportive of such proposals.



Nonpartisan Elections


            In 2017 I proudly served on the Newark Charter Review Commission. After having campaigned – in part – on the goal of realizing nonpartisan elections in Newark during my 2015 bid for Council, I threw my name in the metaphorical hat for consideration to be on the Commission when then-Newark City Council President Ellington asked for citizens to do so. After I was voted on by Newark City Council I got right to work on preparing my case to place the question of nonpartisan elections on the ballot for the people of Newark to consider. After meeting for about a month, my efforts were unsuccessful. I was the only one out of five members to vote in the affirmative. However, this end result came about when at least two other members noted that we just didn’t have enough time to research the issue.


            When my proposal failed to get passed on to the ballot the one thing that we were unanimous on with respect to this was that the City of Newark should create a Charter Review Study Group – in accordance with the City’s Charter – to delve into the matter further and prepare adequate information for the next Commission to review when they convened for the 2022 vote. Unfortunately, the City of Newark ignored us. Yet, I will always fight for a system which works for all of us.


            If elected as your next County Commissioner, you can guarantee that I will remain a stalwart advocate for unbinding our partisan chains throughout Licking County and throughout the state of Ohio. I’m no puppet of either party – you can ask me to elaborate on this, if you’d like, as I have much to tell - and it is my lifelong goal to see every single election (local, state, and federal) converted to a nonpartisan system just as our Founding Fathers designed. We are better than what our political labels may suggest. It’s time that we look beyond all labels and work together.

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