, ,

Ohio: Between 44th and 46th in Education, A Schoolhouse Divided

When I first came to Ohio, the state’s higher education was ranked 37th among the 50 states, and that was under the Democratic administration of Dick Celeste. Under Voinovich, and now Taft, state aid to higher education has fallen – depending on who’s counting – between 44th and 46th. This makes Ohio the Mississippi of the Midwest. Even more dangerous in the new plan by J. Kenneth Blackwell to impose his “bumper sticker” solution to K-12 education in Ohio.

Instead of calling for the end of the war in Iraq or raising the taxes on the top 1% of the population in Ohio – don’t worry, this doesn’t include you – thus bringing more money into the Ohio school systems, Blackwell simply wants to reshuffle the deck with his so-called “65% solution.” This would end control by local school board who understand their districts, and instead require the boards to spend 65 cents on every dollar on classroom instruction.

This allows Blackwell to continue cutting taxes on Ohio’s wealthiest citizens while pretending to put more money into education. I have a book of writings on education in Ohio, particularly Columbus, entitled “A Schoolhouse Divided.” The problem with Ohio schools is that most of the central city schools are victims of race and class apartheid, where lily white suburban schools co-exist next to majority minority school districts like the Columbus Public Schools. In Columbus, with few exceptions, there’s been an agreement from both political parties to pretty much loot the system and steer contracts to political donors.

What’s needed more than ever is real school choice run by professional unionized teachers without crushing bureaucratic oversight. Every public school should be a school of choice. Every public school should have its own democratically and locally elected school board. A marketplace of economic techniques should flourish in the central cities. Large school buildings could easily be divided up by floor into two, three or four schools. Publish the results and let the parents choose.

Blackwell’s 65% solution is no solution. It’s a bumper sticker for children who can’t calculate 65%.

, ,

Renew, Re-energize And Revive

Representatives of the Blue-Green Alliance were in Columbus Wednesday preaching the gospel of good jobs, a clean environment and a safer world. The Alliance is a partnership between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club. As they say, “Historic times demand historic responses.” The Alliance offers “visionary solutions” understanding that the new jobs must come, not from the race to the bottom to be the filthiest society, but from embracing new clean technology that creates jobs for the 21st century.

The reality is that creating a green environment and curbing greenhouse gases will create a generation of new high-tech domestic manufacturing jobs. Synergetically, these jobs will make our planet more sustainable and healthy by reducing global warming and cleaning our air. There’s at least a generation of work for steelworkers and other laborers by rebuilding our public transportation system and creating new solar and wind powered energy systems. The Alliance estimates that a commitment to green technology would create more than 1.4 million new well-paying jobs.

Currently, Bush, Blackwell and the Republican Party aided by their junior partners the New Democrats, embrace reactionary free trade policy that promotes environmental destruction and worker degradation. The trade policy not only produces toxics, but is poison to the vast majority of people on this planet.

The debate in this year’s Ohio gubernatorial election should be how we can both create a greener Ohio and produce new high-tech jobs. The Blue-Green Alliance understands that and they understand the need to create renewable energies, re-energized “cool cities,” and revive the American Dream.

, ,

J. Kenneth Blackwell – The J. Is For Jim Crow

Unlike most western democracies, the United States only became a democracy some 40 years ago with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our country hired federal registrars, who were allowed to pack sidearms to break the tyranny of racist white Dixiecrats.

Now we have the new Jim Crow. You get a black man to do what Bull Connor and George Wallace did forty years ago. J. Kenneth is shrinking the electorate. He’s targeting minority and poor voters. He’s making it a crime to register people to vote. He’s doing the bidding of objectively racist white politicians like Republican Senator Jeff Jacobson of Vandalia, Ohio. The Secretary of State has come up with his interpretation of new registration rules. If you register new voters, you must deliver each voter’s new registration form in person within ten days to the Board of Elections in each person’s county of residence or face fifth degree felony charges.

This is the same Blackwell who threw out 356 votes in Franklin County because voters were in the right precinct, but pollworkers gave them a provisional ballot. This is the same hater of poor and minorities and ass-kisser to the rich, who returned voters’ registration forms because they weren’t on 80-lb. unwaxed white paper. This is J. Kenneth Blackwell, a black face on a red neck.

, ,

Ted Strickland In Gay Pride Parade?

I didn’t get a chance to blog over the weekend. I was busy volunteering at the Community Festival in Columbus, Ohio at Goodale Park. I also did a little campaigning. On Saturday, Tim Kettler, Green Party candidate for Secretary of State, and I, marched in the gay pride parade between the Peace Pride contingent and the Stolen Election float. Our banner read: Fitrakis-Rios-Kettler for Clean Elections – fraudbusterbob.com.

The Gay Pride Parade is clearly the largest march in Columbus each year. It looked like 100,000 or so marchers and spectators. It’s hard to call them spectators because they are so active in their participation as they line the route.

Back when the Franklin County Democratic Party had a progressive wing, I managed the campaign of then-very young Tom Erney for Congress in the 22nd district. He, by the way, got 41% of the vote and only spent $17,000. I later wrote a paper for the American Political Science Association entitled “Waging Guerrilla War in the Heartland.”

One of the things that Erney did was become the first politician to accept the endorsement of Stonewall Union – the gay activist organization. I remember some labor voters thinking we got the endorsement of the bricklayers union. In 1991, I was working high up in the campaigns of two Democratic women, and they became the first candidates to march in the gay pride parade. They were Ann Taylor for Municipal Judge and Mary Jo Kilroy for School Board. We were warned that it was the kiss of death to march in the gay pride parade. When both of them won in upsets over incumbents, suddenly many of the local Dems wanted to march in the gay pride parade.

In fact, one of my fondest memories is from 1992 was watching sheriff candidate Big Jim Karnes schmooze in the gay bars with other Democratic candidates. What I noticed this year, sadly, in the aftermath of the Issue One debacle (making gay marriage illegal in Ohio) and the emboldened Ken Hackwell homophobes, few political candidates marched in the parade this year. When I was marching, I didn’t see ANY. While Lee Fisher addressed the march before it began, I didn’t see him on the route. Hopefully, I’m wrong here. I was hoping Ted Strickland was there, but I didn’t see him either. There’s nothing I’d rather do than debate Strickland and Hackwell at Stonewall Union.

As for me, I believe that the state should sanction gay marriage under equal protection, just as I believe that it’s up to each individual church to decide who marries in their church, under the First Amendment.

, ,

Hacking The Vote In Miami County

Well, we finally got to Miami County in Ohio this week to check those strange numbers, as Richard Hayes Phillips wrote, there’s no way there was “a 98.55% turnout in Concord South West precinct or anywhere else in Ohio.  Nor was there a 94.27% turnout in Concord South precinct.”

Hacking The Vote In Miami County

Once again, Phillips and the Free Press are correct. I testified before U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ hearing and brought up Miami County, saying that the voter turnout was implausible. Really, it wasn’t overly hard to figure out.

At the Miami County Board of Elections, while Phillips began to count ballots and audit pollbooks in a moldly warehouse, I was given “revised” internal numbers from Steve Quillen, the Director of the BOE, that now has voter turnout in Concord Southwest at 79%.

Hence, the 98.55% that Christopher Hitchens called “Saddam Hussein-type turnout” in Vanity Fair’s “Ohio’s Odd Numbers,” proved to be an equally fraudulent number in Ohio. It makes you wonder why we’re occupying Iraq to bring democracy when we could have those troops in Miami, Warren, Clermont and Butler counties brining democracy to southwest Ohio.  

, ,

Where Do You Hide With A Stolen Election, Stolen Planet

Having just watched the premier of Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the global warming issue and the 2004 stolen presidential election. Gore related his attempts over the years to get Congress, the media and the public to believe that global warming is a crisis, only to be derided and discredited. Those of us who expose stolen elections often receive the same reaction – mostly from the media.

I had the privilege of seeing Vice President Gore’s presentation live at the Ohio State University on April 16, 2004. So it was no surprise when I heard theatergoers gasp as Gore presented the scientific evidence for global warming. The charts, the graphs, the pictures – all make a clear and convincing case.

My forthcoming book, with co-editors Harvey Wasserman and Steve Rosenfeld entitled What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election (New Press), attempts to put the issue of Ohio’s 2004 election in a similar light.

Mark Crispin Miller recently wrote in his open letter entitled “Some Might Call it Treason,” to Farhad Manjoo, an election theft “denialist” on salon.com, that when “extremely bright” people refuse to consider the possibility of a stolen election, it is often the result of “a subtler kind of incapacity: a refusal and/or inability to face a deeply terrifying truth.” Read more

, , ,

Inconvenient Truths

Ohio lags behind the states of the northeast in our commitment to clean energy. By November 15, 2004, nine Northeastern US states – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania – committed to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) RGGI. These states established emission capping and trading programs to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

As governor, I will make sure that Ohio joins these states, as well as California and Oregon, in embracing the Kyoto Protocol in reducing greenhouse gases. Already, four cities in Ohio support the Kyoto Protocol: Brooklyn, Dayton, Garfield Heights, and Toledo. It’s a shame that none of Ohio’s three major cities, Columbus-Cincinnati-Cleveland, have adopted this position. 

Democrat Ted Strickland has made apolitical decision to support what he calls “clean coal technologies.” This makes political sense given that he currently represents coal-mining regions of Ohio as a U.S. representative. Environmentally, his plan is unsound. First, the gasification of coal, of course, involves coal mining which is and remains an environmental nightmare – rubblizing hills, destroying forests, and polluting watersheds, rivers and streams. Also, coal gasification is a largely untested and unproven technology and the cost will be astronomical. It’s actually more expensive than dirty coal and far more expensive than wind and solar energy. Coal gasification will be a major pork-barrel project by the government. Sure, contractors and contributors to Strickland will get rich off these contracts, but it will do nothing to improve the environment of Ohio in the long run. Capturing huge amounts of CO2 gas and pumping it back into the earth on a long-term basis is what makes “clean coal” clean. The capturing of CO2 gas, which is both technically feasible and plausible, still raises the question of the viability of underground storage systems.

So, what Strickland is offering is an incredibly expensive, political solution that will cost more than solar and wind energy and one that will destroy our hills and valleys. Instead, every public building that is built in the state of Ohio should be a green building. We should be integrating green landscaping into every construction project as well as solar panels and fuel efficient power systems that can sell energy to surrounding communities. As a Green, I seek real environmental solutions, not politically expedient solutions that are designed to please special interests.

, ,

Hackwell Admits Crimes

So, Ken Hackwell is taking credit for the high voter turnout in the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. Today’s Columbus Dispatch reported that the Hackwell campaign states “The facts of the record show that Secretary Blackwell’s leadership resulted in record-setting voter turnout and voter registration drives in which one million more Ohioans gained the opportunity to vote.” It’s about time that he fessed up and took credit for his crimes. I have no doubt that Hackwell was responsible for the 131% voter turnout in Clyde, Ohio, initially reported. Also, I think he was behind the 124% and 120% turnout in two precinct in Perry County. And surely, a man of Hackwell’s religious faith was responsible for the glorious miracle of the loaves and fishes precinct in Gahanna Ward 1B, where 638 people voted, and 4258 votes were delivered unto the prodigal son, George W. Bush. And he’s no doubt responsible for that 98.55% turnout in that one precinct in Miami County. Indeed, wherever far-right white evangelicals surge to the polls, unseen to naked eye, at the last second, Hackwell should rightfully claim that cybervote.

Likewise, he should admit to massively repressing the votes of the least of our brethren, in Cleveland and other urban centers. Hackwell did everything he could, as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney Re-election Committee to make sure that black and poor voters were disenfranchised. Hackwell likes to compare himself to Gandhi and King – what he forgets is that these two giants Enfranchised people, they did not disenfranchise people.

Below is a piece I wrote right after the election that reflected his attack on black voters in Ohio’s inner cities. Hackwell’s “let every white Republican to vote twice campaign” should be placed alongside of Hackwell’s Jim Crow thuggery. Fewer people voted in the city of Cleveland in 2004 than in 2000, despite the “record turnout.” Read more

, , ,

Grassroots Green Activism

In “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore tells us that we only have a decade to turn around the destruction by global warming to our planet. What we would be entering into has been called “the birth of death” if we continue in our non-sustainable ways. The only way to clean up Ohio, one of the most polluted states in the country – with Columbus recently voted the least sustainable major city – is to elect a governor who is a real Green. Not one who has his photo taken in a canoe or who claims to be Green. I’ve been deeply involved in the environmental movement since the 1970s when I was an undergraduate. Let me briefly recap my actual grassroots Green activist experience.

As an undergraduate, I followed nuclear waste trucks from a plant in Traverse City, Michigan as part of a report on safety and security for PIRG and I also collected signatures to put a bottle bill on the ballot. In the last 20 years, I’ve engaged in a lot of grassroots campaigns and investigative reporting that directly challenged the corporate polluters:

  • I exposed Battelle’s hidden radioactive and toxic waste site at the King Avenue location and fought it from being located on the Olentangy River with the help of local activist Tim Wagner
  • I investigated and worked against the so-called “Mobile Chernobyl” with environmentalist Joanne Phillips when Governor Voinovich attempted to make Ohio the Midwest radioactive waste site
  • I investigated and exposed criminal activity in Hilliard, where elementary school children were having their lungs scarred by illegal toxic fumes
  • With Harvey Wasserman, I investigated Columbus’ notorious trash burning power plant and worked with area citizens such as Theresa Mills, Stan and Sherri Loscko and Ohio Environmental Council Directory Rick Sahli. We fought against it for a year until we prevailed and it was shut down
  • I exposed radioactive material from old nuclear missiles in a junkyard in Mansfield, Ohio
  • I also reported on the coal company’s plans to mine under Dysart Woods and destroy Ohio’s last strand of old growth trees, working with tireless activist Chad Kister
  • I investigated and exposed the radioactivity in Marion, Ohio that was being covered up by government officials. As a result of that reporting for Columbus Alive, in 2001, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists voted me the best environmental writer in the state. The article is included in “The Fitrakis Files: Spooks, Nukes and Nazis” that exposes the underbelly of corruption in the state

, , ,

The Ohio Left, Out Of The Gubenatorial Debate

So Hackwell and Strickland plan a series of five debates. As always, they don’t invite the other parties, in this case the Libertarians and the Green candidate for governor (me). I suspect that the debates will span the political spectrum from A to B. Strickland will increasingly head to the center right as news articles indicate that he’s now picking up Republican money from lobbyists and corporate interests who see him ahead in the polls and want to invest in the next governor. As Strickland takes this Republican-tainted corporate money, he’s essentially to preserve the “pay-to-play” culture of corruption in Ohio, where donations to the governor are made in expectation of state government contracts being steered back to the firms that donate or to the interests represented by the lobbyists.

Ohio should become a clean money state – with matching funds to candidates who qualify on the ballot. Political candidates should be beholden to the people, not to the wealthiest 1% who give 90% of the money to the politicians. In the long run, this will save the state billions of dollars. Hopefully, I can talk the Libertarian candidate into joining me in crashing the planned Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dumb debates. You know my bias, Hackwell has to be Tweedle-dumb.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t count Hackwell out. As long as he plans to count the votes, I’m sure he already has November’s election results pre-programmed. So the Democrats were right recently in calling on Hackwell to step aside. Hackwell plans to do everything in his power to shrink the Ohio electorate. That’s his only way to win. So, we might expect Hackwell to throw red meat to his far-right-wing Christo-fascist and theocratic debate, during the debate, and drag Strickland to the right. Real issues should be discussed in Ohio, from renewable energy to improving Ohio’s educational system and guaranteeing universal health care for all citizens. Strickland and Hackwell won’t do that. Only by including all candidates will a real democratic debate ensue.