RIP citizen comments- victim of COVID or just too damn inconvenient?

Ohio has “Sunshine Laws” that are supposed to help provide transparency in government. Yet, for those of us who try to collaborate or suggest ideas to elected leaders, the place to do it was during “citizen comments” during public meetings. While the sunshine laws are toothless in Ohio- and force citizens to expend copious effort in order to gain access to documents and enforce open meetings, the whole subject of public input is left up to individual governmental bodies to decide upon their process and procedures.

With meetings moving online, a lot of things changed. Audiences got bigger- or at least were individually trackable. Many governmental bodies made all kinds of accessibility mistakes- especially when using Facebook as their streaming platform instead of Youtube. The difference being that Facebook requires membership- and Youtube is open to all. And, of course, muting voices was as easy as hitting a button- cutting off anyone they didn’t like. Huber Heights, Centerville- both got chastised for bad behavior- not allowing citizen comments on some of their craziness.

But, as always, nothing tops Dayton Public Schools for arrogance or ignorance. And for this recap, I turn to former School Board member Mario who attends almost every meeting and shares her expert insight. If this doesn’t make you want to remove every single school board member (which you can’t do anyway in Ohio) I don’t know what will.

I went to the latest Policy Committee meeting. Members in attendance were Jocelyn Spencer Rhynard, chair, Superintendent Lolli, Treasurer Abraha, Bill Harris, Will Smith, Sheila Burton, Associate. Superintendent Student Services, David Romick, President of the Dayton Teachers Association and a gentleman I didn’t recognize but by inference I assume was with the Treasurer’s office or Operations. The Superintendent, Treasurer and David Romick are not voting members.
My particular interest was in the discussion on Public Participation policy change recommendations. Apparently there has been a push from Board President Mohammad al-Hamdani to restrict public opportunity for comment. It was clear Monday that an additional strong push has been coming from the Superintendent and has convinced at least two of the Board members on the committee. To my very pleasant surprise, Jocelyn was pretty vehement in her opposition to several of the new changes, but in the end the committee forced a vote to accept the policy as written. Jocelyn was a “no” vote, everyone else was a “yes”.
The argument seems to boil down to making it very clear to the community who is in charge. (Hint – it is not the community.)
A new clause restricts any DPS employee comments to employees who are residents within DPS district boundaries. The Superintendent was very clear that she thought employees who brought complaints to the board were biting the hand that feeds them. Her expression was “bad form.” Disgruntled or concerned employees should go through a chain of command including their union. It was pointed out that if union leadership did not see a problem or did not want to come down to a board meeting with membership concerns the only recourse may be to address the board, which will now be restricted.
The second new clause limits comments to residents within the school district boundaries, those non-residents who have students in the district (think Stivers), and those non-residents who own a business within the district boundaries. As near as I can figure, the experience that triggered this was one virtual meeting where 90 people (I have not verified this number) emailed the board about something going on at Stivers.
Will Smith was a disappointment. He consistently strikes me as someone who is interested in the people whom DPS affects. He is a strong advocate for special education students and has a laser focus on the issue of equity in the District. Early in the discussion he made a comparison to City Commission meetings where a large number of people not city residents came and spoke on the sale of prairie land. The land was part of Dayton via the airport, but not within the City limits and residents of surrounding communities had a vested interest in the decision. He offered as an equivalent example if theoretically something happened at Thurgood or Meadowdale that residents from neighboring jurisdictions may also have a vested interest because of their proximity to the schools.
By the end of the meeting he had done a complete 180, coming down on the side of limiting remarks to those people who can vote for the Board and who pay taxes to the school district. Period. Non-residents who came to speak were primarily from the suburbs anyway and never talked about the good things in DPS, only issues.
Bill Harris’s main objection to having non-taxpayers addressing the Board was that it took up too much time and he was “a time guy” not interested in prolonging a public meeting.
Dr. Burton’s contribution was a statement that if they don’t vote for you, they shouldn’t have a say in what you do.
It was mentioned several times that those outside the district, employees as well as others, do have recourse to share their concerns via emails to individual board members or to the Superintendent.
Interesting point. My cynical self feels that one-on-one emails have little impact. But I could be wrong. Does anyone have experience in reaching out like this and was it satisfactory? Comment here or message me. Messages will be kept confidential.
The policy did not make it to the Board agenda for first reading on Tuesday. Originally I was relieved because I thought it would buy some time – first reading in May for a vote in June. Then I remembered several occasions (crowdfunding comes to mind) when policies were put on for First and Second reading on the same day for approval. How ironic if that happened here. Why allow for public comment on a policy that limits public comment?
The whole experience left me frustrated and angry. I go back to my original question on major issues – What is the problem you are trying to solve? Well, the problem here is “How can we stop them from making us look bad.” Wow.
Committee to Elect Ann Marie “Mario”

Apr 25, 2021, 12:01 PM

Now, the fact that Jocelyn Rhynard was against this, doesn’t let her off the hook. She hired Libby Lolli- and gave her the contract raise and extension. You reap what you sow. She’s gone along with these other fools, rarely casting a dissenting vote- or challenging anyone. If you need proof that her IQ is just as low as Rev Harris- “The time guy” you need to watch the video where she voted to spend a half a million bucks with the University of Virginia based on a presentation containing placeholder text. At this point- she’s the only one of her class of dunces who will run again (Al-Hamdani, Harris and Wick-Gagnet are supposedly done). There will be four seats available this fall- and hopefully, some competent folks will run this time- since Will Smith and Dion Sampson have turned into huge disappointments and mystery member- Dr. Gabriella Picket has been nearly silent. Hopefully, four new board members will be smart enough to quickly hire a competent replacement for Lolli, who will quickly have Burton heading for retirement as well.
I wanted to write a post about Lolli hiring yet another consultant (after she cancelled the UVA one with the incompetent presentation 2/3rd’s of the way through the contract) on a pay-for-performance contract. What’s good enough for her contractors- should be good enough for Lolli. With her current performance, she’d owe the district money by all measurable standards, but to me, the turnover numbers are the most indicative of incompetence.

How public bodies SHOULD run public participation/comments

This is something I’ve been to court over- and even been arrested. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time- and if I was the Imperial Ruler of Public Meetings I would mandate these processes:
All agendas must be fully published at least a week before a public meeting. This includes access to supporting documents including contracts, bid scoring rubrics, competing bids, presentations etc.
Citizens must register to speak on these items, and be allowed to speak after the motion has been made and seconded, during discussion.
It is at this point, that if a citizen asks a question, and it can’t be responded to by the Superintendent/Manager/Contract administrator (elected boards vote on the response) the item must be held and an adequate response issued with the next agenda and the item may be voted on again.
For general public comment, you may register at any point during the meeting before the close of public comments. You don’t have to specify in advance what you want to say. A citizen is given 3 minutes, with extensions or cut-off only by a majority vote of the board. A response must be either made at that time, or, a promise by the Superintendent/Manager of when a response will be supplied to the citizen- and will be copied to the board. Before citizen comments of the next meeting, all questions that have responses will be read- along with the response, and any still pending- will also be read- and a new deadline for response will be set.
There can be no litmus test of residency, voter registration, citizenship or subject matter that restricts the speech of the citizens as long as their topic is relevant and contained within the three minutes.
One of the evaluations of a city manager or superintendent in their performance review should be of their skills at answering and resolving as many of these citizen comments as possible.
When it comes to zoom meetings, I’ve seen some of the most horrendous behavior of a public meeting ever- as practiced by the Montgomery County Democratic Party. Votes by affirmation without any acknowledgement of elected precinct captains objections, no list of attendees, no actual counts of votes that can be witnessed. As a voting platform, zoom offers tools- but the organizations actually have to use them to run legit meetings.
But, of course, legitimate public meetings are no longer the objective

The Un-Democratic democratic party really hates voting

Last night, the Montgomery County Democratic party held another zoom meeting. They blamed the ODP for giving them a different zoom account to use, which changed things up a bit. This time- you could see who was there. Not that many, when you realize there are about 360 precincts in Montgomery County- and they had maybe 40 people tops in attendance.

One of the first things they wanted to do was officially install Paul Bradley as Montgomery County Treasurer until Sept. 1, when the official start of the term begins. Voters clearly said they didn’t want Russ Joseph in office (for the 2nd time, he also couldn’t win as Montgomery County Clerk of Courts despite being the appointed incumbent) selecting John McManus as treasurer. Yes, the vote was close, but considering Joseph was the 2 year incumbent and had the advantage of sticking his name on tax bills and mailings for 2 years, he still couldn’t win.

Joseph got the seat when Carolyn Rice abandoned it when she ran for County Commission- and the party put him in charge. Joseph then quit a few weeks ago- to move on to supposedly greener pastures. His  Linkedin says “Finance and Procurement Manager at United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio” – but- he lists “Columbus Ohio” as his base of operations. Maybe we get lucky and he’s moving out of his Oregon District home- or maybe he’s telecommuting, or maybe, he’s carpooling with his neighbor, former Dayton Daily News editor Amelia Robinson who is now the community editor for the Columbus Dispatch. Either way- in an affront to voters, their choice of McManus is being ignored.

The Party had a vote to nominate Bradley, after their secret “Screening committee” chose him last night. I don’t recall seeing a call for people interested in the job either (and I’m on Central Committee- as an elected rep). Bradley said a few words, and then they had a first and second- and questions, where I asked why we couldn’t be a better party and hand it over to the rightfully elected candidate, McManus and show bi-partisanship and a respect for the voters will. I was told to take it up with state legislators. I suggested in comments after they shushed me off- that it’s too bad we don’t have very many Democratic state legislators in Columbus- and maybe this was part of the reason why.

They called a vote- announced they had more than 50% and started to move on. I asked to record my vote as no- and was told “that’s not how we’re doing it tonight.” Hmmm, I guess elections only matter when you choose them to. Very Trump like. Congratulations Your Majesty Mark Owens and friends and family of the Monarchy.

Elections still matter. So do the voices of the rightfully elected precinct captains of the party. You #FAIL democracy 101.

Dayton’s 147 million dollar question

Full disclosure- at one point or another, I’ve done work for Scott Sliver, Shenise Turner Sloss, Valerie Duncan, Darryl Fairchild, Jordan Wortham, and Gary Leitzell.

The coming primary/special election/thinning of the herd on Tuesday May 4th is really a test to see if Daytonian’s have learned anything after the last 4 years of an insane president, and the importance of leadership in times of crisis.

Mike DeWine would have never been my choice for Governor, but he showed amazing common sense when faced with the covid crisis. Unfortunately, the rest of his party, which has divvied up the state in a way that they control everything, still manages to mess everything else up- and get away with it (that Larry Householder is still in office is your first clue).

Who you vote for matters, even locally. For decades, the will of the Montgomery County Democratic Party has chosen candidates for us. There have only been two regular election upsets since I’ve been around: Mike Turner beating Clay Dixon in 1991 by 400 votes, Gary Leitzell beating Rhine McLin by 1000 votes in 2009. Basically, any other change on the commission has been in a special election- and that’s how Dean Lovelace and Darryl Fairchild both got their seats- and by narrow margins.

That we even have choices in May is a nice change. For the most part- primaries/special elections have been rare- and Nan even went unchallenged once, after she spent nearly half a million dollars to beat AJ Wagner- an affable, competent leader who actually had a soul.

This election will be decided purely on turnout. Last time there was a primary, only about 5000 people bothered to vote. That’s why the current commission has their crazy charter changes on the ballot- so they can almost guarantee passage if their party faithful show up and no one else does. That they even have them on the ballot during this election should tell you everything you need to know- but, if you want to know more see: Dayton City Charter Proposals: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly.

Regardless of your political persuasion, this election and the following one in November- the only question you should be thinking about is who do you trust most with $147M that’s coming from the feds as pandemic relief funds?

That should immediately rule our Jeff Mims, since he’s done absolutely nothing in his 8 years on the commission that would indicate original thinking.  The man is old, with tired thinking and is already proven to be willing to be an accomplice to almost any crime while in office- be it illegal secret meetings or helping his buddies Joey Williams and Roshawn Winburn take the fall for his criminal complicity. Mims is the last person you should trust with new money- because he’ll just continue to hand it over to whomever someone tells him to hand it over to.

Between Leitzell and Bowers is a no brainer for me. Bowers is a Trump Republican who believes that faith leaders will save us. Thank you, but I’ve already seen how the Black Ministerial Alliance did on the West Side- and while they may all drive Caddies and Benz’s the people sure didn’t benefit. Leitzell is the only clear choice- with his willingness to try unconventional things- and his frugal nature (He beat Rhine McLin who outspent him 10-1).

Among the commissioners- Scott Sliver and Stacy Benson Taylor can’t be elected, because either of them will give the remaining 2 commissioners- Matt Joseph and Chris Shaw their additional vote to continue to do Nan’s bidding as always – without a single question or idea.

So that leaves Darryl Fairchild, Jared Grandy, Shenise Turner Sloss, Valerie Duncan and Jordan Wortham to pick from. Pick any 2. And the question they need to answer is “What will you do with $147 Million extra dollars in Dayton?”

I’ve got some ideas, but, I’ll save them for another post. Because I’d love to hear their answers.

By the way- we’ve been trying to collect all the videos of candidates nights for this race and post them on my youtube channel in one place: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE914mHsxMelk0OZHg_rys0kFTNY6uDfw
We’ll add more as they happen.

I’d love to hear what questions you want to hear answered as your voting litmus test. Please leave them in comments below.

 

It’s time for a National Police retraining and rebrand

Dudley Do-RightThere was once a cartoon police officer, his name was Dudley Do-Right, yes, he was a Royal Canadian Mounty, but the idea of a conscientious, well meaning police officer is something we seem to have lost. Need proof? American culture used to celebrate lawmen on TV, from Joe Friday in Dragnet, to Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke and even Inspector Gordon on Batman. Then things changed. “Dexter,” was about a police forensic technician/serial killer, was a “good guy”- and “The Shield” was about a posse of cops with questionable ethics. Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry” was “cool” with his “Go ahead, make my day” line as he’s considering being judge, jury and executioner.

The last bastions of professionalism of police went out the door when policing became reality TV- with the show “Cops” where people at their worst became entertainment for the masses.

Somewhere along the line, the very definition of being a police officer got fuzzy. And this isn’t a new discussion, it started as early as 1910 with police chiefs complaining about the way the “Keystone cops” made them look bad. For an excellent recap of the history of police in pop culture: Cops in Entertainment: From Bumbling to Hero. In fact, the Hays Code, a set of guidelines for self-censorship (later to evolve into our ratings system) run by the movie industry, launched in 1927, even had a rule about how to portray crime and criminals- “crimes can never be portrayed in a positive light and must be punished, and that authority figures (say, the police) have to be depicted with respect.” (Cops in Entertainment).

Now, with cell phones and body cameras and Youtube and Facebook offering not only video for review- but even livestreaming events as they happen, censorship and the revisionist history of police after action reports is out the window. Not only does it change the dynamic of policing, it changes the entire justice system that is now almost demanding video or it didn’t happen.

Yet, for most police in this country, their day in, day out routine is nothing like what we see, share and talk about. There was a time that a police officer could spend an entire career and never fire their weapon- or even un-holster it, even in a city like Dayton- not in Mayberry R.F.D. The idea of what a police officer is supposed to do is summed up with the phrase “To serve and protect” but, if you asked people today, especially in minority communities, it would be “to scare and persecute” and you’d have a hard time proving that wasn’t the case.

America today, with it’s “law and order” mandates is as far away from “land of the free and home of the brave.” We incarcerate more people, for longer, than any other industrialized country. And, as a percentage of population, minorities make up a higher percentage of their population. This is not just a police thing, it’s a government thing, a judicial thing, and a failure of our culture to do the right thing. At the root of all of it is systemic poverty and institutionalized racism- and sadly, money buys both politicians and freedom in this country. The rich do not go to prison anywhere near the same as the poor. So much for “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” when in fact, they truly aren’t.

There is some kind of misunderstanding in America that one political party claims to be on the side of “Law and Order” while the other supports a “welfare state” without using critical thinking skills to address a fundamental failure of logic- it costs a lot more to provide room, board and health care in a prison, than it costs to provide affordable housing, education and health care for all. We’ve literally made mass incarceration into a private business model.

While there are people who believe that “originalism” is a viable way of interpreting the laws, the founding fathers would surely be rebelling against a system that denies “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” to so many. Our police officers are only one cog in the machine, and for right now, they are under a microscope for the actions of a few bad apples.

Yet, the damage that Derek Chauvin has done to their profession with his 9 minute knee to the neck of George Floyd is far from the first or last incident that demeans their profession. This video, of two “peace officers” pulling their guns on a US Army 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario, in uniform, over a license plate, shows how far away the profession has fallen from “to serve and protect.”

If a sizeable percentage of the population fears the police, their profession is doomed. What was once an honorable profession, is now one that will only attract the people who should have their sanity questioned for choosing this line of work.

Politicians have already started to attempt to change the protections that have been in place for police for decades. Maryland legislators overrode their governors veto and made wholesale changes to protections of police officers in doing their job:

The wide-ranging changes were intended to address many of the concerns raised by demonstrators who have protested police violence after the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people killed by officers.

One section creates a new statewide use-of-force policy and says that officers who violate those standards, causing serious injury or death, can be convicted and sent to prison for up to 10 years. The standard says that force can be used only to prevent “an imminent threat of physical injury” to a person or to “effectuate a legitimate law enforcement objective.”

The policy also says that force must be “necessary and proportional.” Police reform groups said that was a tougher standard than the traditional “reasonableness” standard, which they said was not sufficient for holding officers accountable for blatant acts of violence. Mr. Consoli said the change would deter the police from intervening in volatile situations and open them to more “Monday morning quarterbacking.”

In another change, law enforcement agencies statewide must establish a system to identify police officers who are considered likely to use excessive force and to retrain, counsel or, if needed, reassign them.

Maryland lawmakers replaced those protections by requiring every county to have a police accountability board to receive complaints of misconduct from the public.

Source: Maryland Passes Sweeping Police Reform Legislation – The New York Times

While we spend trillions on “National Defense” and projecting power in Afghanistan, Iraq, and across the globe, we can’t seem to invest in protecting our citizens in a real and meaningful way. If the job of a police force is to “serve and protect” we wouldn’t have near as many deaths of people armed and unarmed in this country. We wouldn’t have so many people in prison for crimes of poverty, or for lack of suitable mental health treatment. And, police wouldn’t have a proportion of the population living in fear. The 2nd Lieutenant was being pulled over for not displaying a license plate- and was in uniform. By the way, a “police officer” who can’t tell the difference between an officer and an enlisted man in uniform, has no business being in a uniform.” We also need to reassess the practice of using military gear for policing. We have misguidedly turned our own streets in America into a war zone without even thinking twice about it.

In the military, when there is a need for a massive re-alignment of values, or retraining, they do a “stand down” where the entire force is refocused and retrained to address a particular value/process. It’s time for police in the United States to do the same. It’s time to create some national standards and rules of engagement that are universal- especially about use of force, rights of citizens to be appropriately informed when pulled over, and last but not least, to have body cams in place at every interaction. There also needs to be a new approach to training police officers and a much longer probationary period before they are allowed to have the power of life and death over citizens on the streets. When you realize that two of the four officers involved in the murder of George Floyd had police careers measured in days, it becomes clear that something is severely broken.

America needs to also re-evaluate what having police powers means. The proliferation of private police forces for the rich- be they hospitals, universities or parks districts, creates different standards of accountability to the public. It’s time for a massive re-alignment of departments with minimum size standards and all must report to elected officials- not CEO’s or College Presidents (See the murder of Samuel DeBose).

What would this newly trained and organized police force look like? What standards would they have? What protections would they be afforded? It’s something we, working alongside police departments, unions, police officers, judges, lawmakers need to decide and work toward, because if we don’t massively overhaul the system, the system will fail us all. It’s time to make sure Officer Do-Right makes a comeback.

epilogue.

I believe so strongly that America needs to change the way that it does policing that I produced two series of ads for use by the BLM movement, or people who agree that this isn’t working. They were entered in the Cincinnati chapter of the American Advertising Federation ADDY awards, where they won Gold at the local level and advanced to win Silver at the Regional level. Silver entitles you to advance the campaigns to national, which I’ve done. We won’t know the results for another month.

Surgeon Generals Warning:

Police Rebrand

The vaccination solution for America

Everyday, more Americans are still getting sick and dying from Covid, despite our massively fast vaccination roll-out. By June, we should have everyone vaccinated and stopped the spread- and the variants.

But, of course, we won’t, because there are “freedom loving anti-vax” people who are going to insist on not getting vaccinated. They will become the petri dish for new strains, that are increasingly dangerous, and will continue to spread and kill more Americans. They are proverbial menaces to society.

How do we solve this problem? Simple- if you aren’t vaccinated by July 1, if you get covid, you cannot be treated by any facility or physician that accepts government funded care. If you die of covid, your life insurance policy is null and void.

Now, don’t think that I would only use these conditions for care for Covid- I think it should also be applied to anyone who:

  • Is in a motorcycle accident and isn’t wearing a helmet.
  • Is in a car and not using a seatbelt.
  • Is operating a car with a blood alcohol level over .8
  • Riding a bike without a helmet.

The difference with almost all of the above 4 contingencies, is, you aren’t going to keep killing people after you win your Darwin awards, whereas vaccine avoiders can continue to cause problems by prolonging the spread and mutation of the virus.

There are a lot more American’s today than there were in 1918 with the Spanish Flu pandemic. We’re going to kill just as many American’s because of the stupidity of our leadership. Continue to wear masks, social distance and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Newer Posts
Older Posts