The seventh annual Rootscamp in Columbus yesterday was a great experience as always, with a diversity of attendees from around the state who generated a wide variety of discussions/panels/presentations to attend.
And this year, instead of 9 a.m., it started at 1 p.m. so those of us driving in from around the state didn’t have to get up at dawn. Thanks, organizers.
The speaker at the opening session was Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald who is openly exploring running for governor. He made a strong case for why he would be a good choice, talking about how he convened county officials across northern Ohio to oppose Governor Kasich’s unpopular plan to privatize the turnpike, which would be devastating to the economy of northeast Ohio. He demonstrated that he has a couple of qualities Kasich lacks: the ability to collaborate and a focus on pragmatic solutions to problems rather than blind ideology.
There are always more interesting sessions than you can possibly attend, and I spent one of the sessions in the hall talking to someone from Hamilton County, getting caught up on what’s been going on down there. One of the best parts of Rootscamp is having conversations with people from outside your own area, gaining new perspectives. A woman from Clermont County related how excited she was to find seven or eight like-minded activists in her small town and being able to open their own Obama campaign office there (I have to stop saying “Oh, I’m so sorry” when someone tells me they’re from a blood-red county like Clermont or Warren.)
I attended a presentation on Move to Amend, hosted by Greg Coleridge of the American Friends Service Committee, who is a long-time activist on this issue. He explained what it was — a constitutional amendment that ends corporate personhood and states that money is not speech — and answered questions about the history of corporate personhood, as well as the long-term strategy Move to Amend is using.
I also attended a discussion on redistricting that was a little unfocused. But some of the people in the room had been involved in the failed Issue 2/Voters First Ohio campaign, and were able to offer some valuable insight into the history of redistricting efforts, what Republicans are planning, and what we need to do going forward.
Lauren Harmon and Brendan Kelley of the Ohio Democratic Part led a session on how to help women run for office. They brainstormed with the crowd about what would be different if there were more women in office (a lot!), what keeps women from running, and what women need to help them be effective candidates.
Here's Lauren putting some of the ideas onto a chart.
I closed the day by going to the forum on Marriage Equality, led by activist Gwen Andrix, who was standing at the front door gathering signatures to put marriage equality on the ballot when I arrived. She led a lively session on the issue, with great contributions from other activists in attendance.
While Ohio hasn’t been on the lists everyone’s been making national of the next states to enact marriage equality, the grassroots FreedomOhio group has been organizing and collecting signatures since last February. The ballot language has been approved, and the group is going full steam ahead. There was a lot of energy and passion in this room, as most of the attendees seemed to reject the “wait your turn” attitude of some of the big LGBT groups.
A Columbus area activist named Tom, pictured below, spoke passionately about why this needs to be done NOW instead of waiting 6-9 years like some established LGBT groups have suggested. He said, "I've been with my partner for nearly 15 years. I'm 54, I have high blood pressure and diabetes, and I am not going to wait 6-9 years!"