Democracy — more people voting — is freaking out Republicans

When I comes to voting, it seems like there’s a life-or-death tug of war going on in this country — and the stakes are nothing less than the life or death of American democracy.

Last week when President Obama spoke at the City Club of Cleveland, he put out an intriguing and controversial proposal. He suggested that voting be made mandatory, with a small fine for those who did not vote without a good reason. (It’s not some wild, untried idea; Australia already has mandatory voting).

This came on the heels of the news that the state of Oregon — which went to all mail-in voting 15 years ago and has one of the highest levels of voter participation as a result — had passed opt-out voter registration. It automatically registers a person to vote when they apply for a drivers license or a state I.D. The voter has 21 days to indicate they don’t want to be register. Oregon’s participation is going to go through the roof, making it a true fountain of democracy.

It’s a complete reversal of what we have been seeing since so many state governments were taken over by Republicans in the last five or six years. Their campaign has succeeded in making it harder to vote in at least half of all states. According to Ari Berman in The Nation, 395 new voting restrictions were introduced in 49 states between 2011-2015.

There is no rationale for these new restrictions — no flaw in any state’s election system that requires tightening up the rules or making the process of voting more confusing and more challenging. All claims of voter fraud — especially voter fraud that could be prevented by increasing use of voter I.D. at the polling place — have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked.

Jeb Bush for President? Is That Some Kind of Joke?

Jeb Bush — for real?

Seriously, isn’t it time the media and Beltway wise men gave up this idea that a familiar name is the most valuable thing you can have in an election? Sure, I get the name recognition thing. What I don’t get is the idea that you can only START the race — two years, three years, four years out — with a name people know. No matter WHAT they know.

I mean, ok, forget Hillary Clinton and Ted Strickland for a minute.

Someone tell me, why is Jeb Bush a thing? Why is he considered viable by anyone at all?

Look: the name is “Bush.” As in one of the worst presidents of all time who left us with a deep recession and two wars. As in an unpopular president who lost as the incumbent after his first term. That’s BUSH — B-U-S-H.

Want a personal email scandal? Jeb Bush has got one coming right up! It took him seven years to release his emails from her term as governor (it took Hillary four months). Like Hillary, he and his staff decided what to release. Unlike Hillary, they didn’t release a bunch of constituent phone numbers and social security numbers. Oops, as fellow presidential candidate Rick Perry might say.

A friend to education, as he’s been hyping himself? He’s got a lot in the scandal basket there!

For one thing, he is a massive enemy of public education, pushing charters and vouchers and everything he can to wreck traditional public schools. Yet the pride-and-joy public school he helped start and points to as an example of what a great model charters are has ended in ruin and closed, pointing out all the pitfalls involved in the heedless rush to replace public schools with charters.

President Obama Welcomed to the City Club by Democrats

I asked the other day what elected Democrats would show up to the City Club of Cleveland's event with President Obama today, in light of the fact that Republicans avoided George Bush like the plague when he appeared in 2006, during his second term.

Now we know. Here are Cuyahoga County's two Democratic congresswomen getting off Air Force One. They flew back to Cleveland from Washington with the President. I hope they spent the time mocking tools like Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and poor orange John Boehner.


Unlike Steve LaTourette in 2006, they didn't have staff meeting they just couldn't get out of.

Here's another photo:


In the background also getting off the plane is Senator Sherrod Brown, also not ashamed to be seen with the President. He was probably passing around pictures of Franklin on that plane.

Our state chair, David Pepper, was there too, and took this photo of Air Force One flying over Cleveland. Clearly he doesn't think the President is toxic to Democrats in Ohio.


The Pressure Is On: Strickland for Senate by Fiat

We've seen this game before. In order to avoid a "divisive primary," we need to "clear the field" and rally behind one candidate. And the powers that be have decided that for Senate in 2016, we're going to swallow Ted Strickland whether we like it or not. And many of us would like to explore some other choices, especially this early in the game.

And this is REALLY early — like, insanely early. The nastiness between Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett in the 2006 race did not occur until the FALL of 2005 (the equivalent of about six months from now) with neither candidate announcing until then. And Hackett stayed in the race until he was forced out — in February 2006. That would be the equivalent of almost a full year from now,

In February 2009, both Jennifer Brunner and Lee Fisher announced their intention to run in the Democratic primary for Senate in May 2010 — and both did so. There were certainly attempts to get Brunner out of the race but other than those coming from Strickland's people, there was not the similar piling on we're seeing now.

Apparently word has come from somewhere, probably the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), which is always mesmerized by names they know rather than recruiting the potentially best candidate, that we have to rally behind Strickland NOW.

And the pressure is on to get P.G. Sittenfield, the young Cincinnati city councilman who announced his candidacy well before Strickland did, out of the race before anyone even has a chance to get to know him or assess what he has to offer.

So far, I've received notices of Strickland endorsements from Senator Sherrod Brown, outgoing Columbus mayor Michael Coleman, Columbus city council member and mayoral candidate Andrew Ginther, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and three of the state's four Democratic congresspersons, Tm Ryan, Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty. (As far as I know, Marcy Kaptur hasn't announced support for anyone at this point).

President Obama to Speak at City Club of Cleveland

Yesterday the City Club of Cleveland announced that President Obama will be coming to that downtown Cleveland institution to speak this coming Wednesday.

He's expected to take unscreened questions from the audience following his presentation, which is supposed to be about the economy and what we need to do about the fact that ordinary working people are falling further and further behind.

What I'm interested to see is who shows up.

I recall when George W. Bush made a similar appearance during his second term in March 2006.

At that time, the tide had decisively turned on him, following his terrible month of August 2005 when his refusal to meet with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan led to a month-long protest outside his Crawford Ranch. That proved to be the flashpoint that ignited opposition to the Iraq War. Then came Katrina and his thoughtless, heartless handling of the hundreds of thousands of people impacted. Bush never recovered.

When Bush's City Club appearance was announced, all of a sudden the politicians who normally like to rub elbows with the high and mighty were nowhere to be found.

At the time I was working at the Free Times. Fax was already becoming an obsolete technology so I was the only one who ever leafed through the pile to find good stuff amid all the cruise offers. And I found some good stuff, like a fax from the office of then-Congressman Steve LaTourette (R), expressing his regrets that he could not make it to the City Club because he had a staff meeting.

Seriously? He couldn't reschedule a staff meeting for the President of the United States? Of his own party? Judging from most staff meetings I've been to, his staff would have been relieved and actually got some productive work done instead.

Strickland Announces His Run for Senate

Look, yes, of course, policy-wise he is better than Portman. But when will be given some good, forward-thinking choices?

When will we stop going backward wistfully into the past? 2006 was a long time ago. And while Strickland was a decent governor (certainly compared to present company), he blew it in 2010. No, he wasn't a victim of a Republican wave year. He made a bunch of mistakes, some of which still fester among the activist base.

I have nothing against Ted Strickland but he is a profoundly unexciting choice for Senate. He comes from a prior generation, and at age of 75, would be one of the oldest first-term Senators ever. That's unlikely to engage younger voters or progressive activists. (And progressives are the ones most likely to view him as a "Blue Dog" conservadem). Given the regularity with which I heard "Please, no Strickland people" during the hunt for a new state chair, I have to think this is going to be alienating to some.

Finally, it sends a message that our party isn't interesting is engaging younger people and helping them rise to the top slots; it's interested in blocking them. I'm not even talking about CIncinnati councilman P.G.Sittenfield who has announced his run and about whom I know almost nothing. I'm talking about the bench of great people we have who are a decade or two or three younger than Strickland. What do they do now? Wait for him to die?

Strickland got beaten by a petulant, unappealing bully, John Kasich. I keep hearing "Oh, that was an off year; more Democrats will turn out in 2016." That's true. But Portman's got a good facade. He's no Kasich. He's friendly and likable and doesn't say crazy things like some of his GOP colleagues. He'll be tough for any Democrat to beat. I'd love to be proved wrong, but with Ted Strickland, I think we have almost no chance.

Look Where Kasich Is Spending the Money He Robbed From Your Local Public Schools

I'm sure you can guess. I don't even have a comment on these facts which come courtesy of Innovation Ohio because I have steam coming out my ears.

5 Take-Aways on Kasich's Charter Funding Plan

1. Over half of Ohio's school districts face cuts in this budget proposal, but not one charter school loses funding.

2. Three times as much of the increase goes to charters with a D grade or lower than goes to those with above-average scores.

3. Nearly half of the increase to charter schools goes to for-profit charters.

4. On a per pupil basis, charters will receive a 33% larger increase than the average traditional school district.

5. Every local school district in Ohio will lose more money to charters.

More here if you think you can stand it and not head over to Kasich's house with torches and pitchforks. One second thought —

Look What Has Resurfaced Yet Again: The Heartbeat Bill

The Republicans in our state legislature just never give up on the idea that poor and working women are brainless sluts whose private lives need to be controlled by the most massively big and invasive government you can imagine and pushed into poverty and desperation for being so foolish as to have sex. I mean, isn't that why you elected your state representatives — to decide who can have sex without consequences? (Men and affluent women).

Yes, the Heartbeat Bill is back. Because they haven't introduced enough repressive, misogynist legislation rife with medieval thinking, they've brought back this offensive thing. See for yourself:

Now called HB 69, it's full of the usual gooey, inaccurate, lying language such bills have to rely on because there's little validity to them other than to shame women and rob them of their options.

At the same time, this legislature has done nothing to provide quality education for these economically challenged children they want to force to be born — because, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said on MSNBC Friday, "“We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country." In fact, it's introducing a maze of new rules and regulations that will make it worse. They're addressing infant mortality in a haphazard way: a bandaid here, a knife wound there. And oh yes — guns! More guns!

Tax & Spend Republican on the Rampage

It cannot be emphasized enough — since our state "news" papers letter our governor Taxin' John Kasich get away with his myth of fiscal responsibility — that Kasich is spending Ohio into ruin. The man who absurdly boasted of somehow "fixing" a $6 billion deficit that never existed had now grown Ohio's spending more than 40 percent since he took off.

If you really want to get steamed, especially over the fact that our "news" papers just act like this isn't really significant, read this:

Opportunity Ohio's dissection of Ksich's reckless spending points out that Kasich is relying on some very unlikely scenarios of revenue growth to allow him to keep spending like it's going out of style. Even with all the tax increases he wants to slam ordinary working people with, it probably won't be enough to pat for this binge. And it's possible the far-right legislature won't grant him many of the tax increases he wants. What then, Taxin' John?

As opportunity Ohio points out, if Kasich keeps increasing state spending at the rate he's going we could see a 60 percent increase by the time he leaves office. And here's the most galling thing — what are WE getting for it? He's suggesting schools tap their rainy-day funds to make up for his damaging cuts, a really reckless thing to do.

It's amazing to me that ANYONE thinks of Kasich as a budgetary whiz. He violates basic, common-sense rules that grade schoolers would know better than to do. His attitude has always been to grab what he wants for himself and his buddies and let the rest of us foot the bill.

Tim Ryan Officially NOT Running for Senate

It seems like Youngstown Congressman Tim "The Good" Ryan's name getting mentioned any time there's a race for Senate or governor being discussed. Some people were bandying his name around again to face Rob Portman, who comes up for reelection in 2016.

Ryan has put the kibosh on that, sending out an email that says,

I appreciate your continued support and I wanted to reach out to let you know that today, after much thought and deliberation, I am announcing my decision not to run for the United States Senate in 2016. With my new and growing family, I feel now is the time to be close to home. It is an honor and privilege to serve the people of Ohio in the House of Representative and I look forward to continuing to use my position on the Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee to increase investments in manufacturing, promote wellness in our health and food policies, and protect American jobs by fighting against unfair trade practices. Thank you again for your support while I made this important decision.

So far, the "clearly interested" list includes two names: former governor Ted Strickland, who has only expressed interest, and Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who has said he is running. I know nothing about Sittenfeld. Hopefully he gets his butt up to Cleveland soon. But as good a governor as I think Strickland was (and he certainly wasn't addicting to throwing around our tax dollars recklessly like Taxin' John Kasich), I just don't think we should go backward.

As for Portman, I have heard people say he will be difficult to beat because he's pleasant and doesn't say crazy stuff so he has been spun as a "moderate." Maybe by the standards of today's batshit crazy GOP but in terms of supporting what most people want to see happen and what would benefit the average person, he's far right.

Ohio Republicans' Deep Antipathy Toward Women's Freedom Is Massively Increasing

No, this isn't about "unborn children" or "killing babies." I know it, you know it and all the right-wing anti-lifers know it. It all about punishing the sluts i.e. any woman they perceive as not being obedient to their extremely rigid view of how women should behave.

Almost two years ago, the legislature and our governor, Taxin' John Kasich, stuffed some anti-choice stuff into the budget bill — a probably illegal and definitely inappropriate move — that instantly plummeted Ohio to the basement as far as women's reproductive rights go.

But they're not happy, no. Ohio's neanderthal misogynists are proposing still more mean-spirited intrusive, super-big government measures to limit women's life choices and assure that more Ohio women and children fall into poverty.

What do they want to see happen?

First they want to ban ALL abortions at 20 weeks — the ones overwhelming sought due to tragic medical complications by women who really really wanted a baby. This would cause a massive amount of suffering and probable deaths. In addition, due to the obstacles already put in the way of abortion for poor and working women, more and more women are pushed into later abortions.

Then they want to make sure that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Ohio can be first out of the box to return to the "good old days" of coathangers and back-alley abortions by banning all abortions. They want to put in place a law that will automatically ban ALL abortions if Roe is overturned. Watch young people flee the state in even greater numbers.

Why Cops Can't Get Respect

Guest Column by Michael Uth
Member, ACLU of Ohio Board of Directors

Memo to the police nationwide: You say you want respect, but you don't seem to have even a hint of a clue on how to earn it. Here are some suggestions:

Show Respect and It Will Be Reciprocated. This starts with the mayor of your city. Don't ever turn your back on him in anger when you're in uniform. It's insolent and uncomfortably close to mutiny. When you disrespect our elected representative, you also disrespect us. We elected him, not you. Arrogant, contemptuous behavior toward our chosen leader will not make us respect you.

Embrace Accountability. You spend your days helping to hold other people accountable, but remember, accountability, like respect, is a two-way street. You know when you have bad behavior by officers on your force. Stop protecting them. Admit when they make mistakes. Report all police shootings to the FBI. Start keeping accurate records of all those SWAT team raids—especially the botched ones. Stop opposing meaningful oversight by independent civilian review boards. We can't respect you if you continue to scorn accountability.

Honor the Bill of Rights. Among other things, this means laying off the peaceful protesters, dialing down the stop-and-frisks and putting the brakes on no-knock search raids. Smashing through people's front doors in the middle of the night without warning to execute routine search warrants for non-violent crimes does not make us respect you, especially when you get the wrong address, which happens more often than most people know. (See accountability above.) Our founding fathers started a revolution over less egregious law enforcement abuses than this; King George's men at least had the decency to knock and announce themselves before entering colonists' homes to search for contraband. And they didn't use flash-bang grenades.

Oh.My.God. $72.3 BILLION???????

I was sitting in a meeting tonight scrolling through my Facebook feed when a post popped up from someone I knew with a fact so incredible, so stunning and so outrageous, I assumed it must be either a joke or a mistake.

Taxin' John Kasich just submitted his proposed 2016-2017 budget for Ohio, which has to be passed by June 30. As people who know me or follow this blog may know (but people who get their news from the Cleveland Plain Dealer or the Columbus Dispatch would have no way of guessing), Kasich's endless self-congratulation about his budgetary genius is simply a lie.

His boasts about have done amazing feat of balancing the state budget is, of course, ridiculous. It's required by law and every governor has done it.

But in his last two budgets, this self-proclaimed thrifty money manager increased state spending radically, making his claims laughable. Ted Strickland left him with a budget for 2010-2011 of $50.5 billion, cut from an earlier $56 billion due to the Bush recession which hit Ohio so hard. Kasich's first budget called for restoring spending to $56 billion. But his 2014-2015 asked for a huge increase — to $62 billion.

Think that was extreme? You ain't seen nothing yet. Kasich is now proposing a monstrous, bloated elephant (how appropriate!) of a budget, racking in at $72.3 billion. Ohio has never seen spending on this reckless, bankruptcy-courting level. We should take up a collection to send Kasich to rehab for his spending addiction.

How's he going to pay for it, you ask? Ha! What do you think Taxin' John is going to do? While he's making a big public deal of his proposed 23 % income tax cut and some additional proposed deductions, you're not going to see much in your bank account, unless you are among Ohio's 1 percent.

Strickland Thinking of Challenging Portman?

That's the buzz going around today. While some people are jumping up and down in excitement because it's a Name They Know, all I can say is "Please — no."

Look: I am not among those (primarily more left-leaning Democrats) who think he was way too conservative a governor. He had a very Republican Senate for his entire term and a Republican run House for half of it. And yet he got a lot done, much of it by consensus. Compared to our current governor, he was a governing genius. Any idea how his last budget compared to Kasich's current one? Since the big self-important mainstream media won't tell you I will. Strickland's last budget was $50.5 billion. Tax-and-spend Kasich's is $62 billion.

But Strickland's time has come and gone. He didn't lose (by a mere 2 %) in 2010 because it was a Republican wave year or even because the economy was still staggering from the Bush recession, although he needed to be more aggressive and frame it better. He lost because he ran a defensive campaign and made some moves that alienated some of the Democratic base. Not all of those people have forgotten. After the election, the ODP campaign strategists admitted that they were short volunteers to get the job done and that was why: Strickland alienated them.

I don't want to rehash bygones in detail but a lot of it boiled down to his support for former state representative Jennifer Garrison for a slot on the statewide ticket, despite the fact that she was anti-choice and anti-gay (read more here if you must: and his (or his staff's) crossing some ethical lines in support of Lee Fisher's primary candidacy for the U.S. Senate against Portman — a seat either he or his primary opponent Jennifer Brunner should have won.

Jill Miller Zimon and Beth Sebian launch OpenNEO - ...

Well known blogger and activist Jill Miller Zimon along with Beth Sebian an activist in progressive issues and politics have launched a new initiative. The initiative is OpenNEO. OpenNEO is an effort to bring the open data movement to northeast Ohio. What is open data? This video will explain...

This is a great and important initiative Ms. Zimon and Ms. Sebian are bringing to northeast Ohio. I've become aware that there is too much information hidden behind paywalls or is unaggregated making it too difficult to find in its fractured state. Some research databases have annual fees of up to $30,000 to access timely quality information and studies. I believe that as individuals we are all suffering from some kind of digital divide. Even high net worth people would have a difficult time keeping up with access fees if they had to do it all on their own. I think all professional people rely on the institutions they work for to pay for access and membership fees.

But if the internet is to really fulfill its promise of being a great equalizer where anyone can logon and educate themselves in a variety of subjects, then this issue has to be addressed. Perhaps the Opendata movement is an initial step in doing that.

The OpenNEO web site can be found here:

You can follow them on Twitter here:

P.G. Sittenfeld Throws His Hat in the Ring to Challenge Portman

We have our first official candidate stepping up to offer himself as the Democratic Senate candidate for 2016 to challenge Rob Portman.

This is an important race and no Democrat should be throwing up their hands at this point and announcing that nice-guy Portman is not beatable.

Oh yes he is.

Portman is another of those guys who fronts as a moderate. At another time in history, he might actually BE a moderate. He doesn't go around saying blatantly crazy things like Joni "Welfare Queen" Ernst or proposing nasty, heartless, soulless ideas like Ted "The One-Man Death Panel" Cruz. He's pleasant and smiles a lot.

The problem is he VOTES just like Ernst and Cruz for the same sort of extremist legislation designed to benefit only the ultra-wealthy and keep down everyone else.

With a good, focused campaign, he's beatable, especially in a presidential year when more Democrats turn out.

We've heard rumors of other names who might step up, including perennially rumored-for-something, Congressman Tim "The Good" Ryan, and former Governor Ted Strickland, whose time frankly has passed and who alienated many core Democrats during his 2010 for reasons we have documented in detail (see: Jennifers, Garrison and Brunner)

We don't know anything about Sittenfeld yet, so we can't parse his press release. We're looking forward to learning more.

P.G. Sittenfeld Announces Campaign for United States Senate

Calls for new leadership that works for the middle class

CINCINNATI – P.G. Sittenfeld, Cincinnati City Councilman and Assistant Director of the Community Learning Center Institute, today launched his campaign to represent Ohio in the United States Senate. The Cincinnati native – who won his last election by the highest percentage and widest margin of victory in the city’s modern history – has been nationally recognized for his work to transform neighborhood schools into after-hours community centers.

Connie Schultz - Language Matters - ...

Not long after The Ohio State University won a national championship, Connie Schultz, wrote a pretty thought provoking article. Her article focused on the language journalists used to describe the actions and people who took to the streets after the win. She contrasted it with other recent situations where people took to the streets and simply asked why there was a disparity in describing OSU crowds and other crowds. Her article was aimed at journalists, but her question is an important one for all of us. As consumers we should be questioning our media, their motives, their fairness and objectivity, because the better job they do, the better our society will be. Anyway, Connie Schultz's article starts...

"Various members of my family have roots at Ohio State University, from college degrees to employment, so my husband and I were plenty happy to watch the Buckeyes defeat the Oregon Ducks for the national championship.



Yes, we're those people.

I state this upfront because I don't want anyone misunderstanding my motives here. This column is driven by my disgust with out-of-control students and fellow journalists who cherry-pick vocabulary depending on what kind of people they see flooding into streets and setting fires.

Within an hour after Ohio State's victory in Dallas on Monday, more than 5,000 people — most of them young white students, many wearing OSU garb — flooded into the street in Columbus. It is safe to say the majority of them started out in a partying mood.

Unfortunately, things turned ugly fairly quickly. Columbus police said Tuesday that emergency responders had to put out 89 fires. Many of the fires were in dumpsters; at least three couches were dragged outside and set on fire, too. One of these couch fires was caught on video, with someone yelling "Dude!" in the background. But of course.


Matt Borges, Ohio GOP Chairman - ...

This tweet from Matt Borges... Mmmm, feel the compassion. Beyond that, how did Matt Borges get his job again?...

ODP Chairman David Pepper in Cleveland Tuesday night

This may not be the best evening for a meeting of Democrat since President Obama is delivering his State of the Union address tomorrow night (and I can hardly wait to see which Republican makes some audible rude remark that would have been branded as unpatriotic and beyond the pale if a Democrat had done it to President Bush‚ oh wait, yes I can)

But this Tuesday January 20 at 7pm the Westside (Cleveland) Democratic Club will be hosting new Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper to talk about the way forward for the party and the Main Street initiative he and his political director Nina Turner announced last week.

It takes place at the Western Cuyahoga Lodge, FOP Hall 25 (26145 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake. Parking and entrance at rear of building. There is additional parking at adjacent lot. The meeting is free and open to ALL Democrats. In fact, if you are a Democrat concerned about the party's future, this is a great chance for you to hear and talk to the man responsible for guiding its direction instead of sitting on Facebook and whining to your friends about how much the party sucks.

The President speaks at 9 so there may be time to rush home and catch his address, depending on where you live.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy - ...

From NPR...

"What Does Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy Look Like To A 5-Year-Old?

It's morning meeting time. "When Dr. King was little, he learned a golden rule," sings a class of 4- and 5-year-olds with their teacher, Carolyn Barnhardt.

John Eaton Elementary School, a public school in Washington, D.C., is unusual. It sits in one of the District's wealthiest neighborhoods, but the majority of students hail from different parts of the city, making it one of the most racially and economically diverse elementary schools in the nation's capital.

Barnhardt, who has been a prekindergarten teacher for 25 years, remembers a time when schools were not so diverse.

"I am part of the Dr. Martin Luther King era," she says, explaining how she grew up in the segregated South. "I experienced the white-only water fountains, the colored section in the bus station. The lunch counters — I remember not being able to sit there to eat lunch. And I went to the colored-only schools, it was all — everything was segregated.

"I was 6 years old when the Rosa Parks episode happened, so I kinda sorta remember the beginning of the civil rights movement as a little girl," she says.

Today, Barnhardt teaches in a classroom she could have only dreamed about at that age, one where black, white, Asian and Arab children sit shoulder to shoulder."

Complete article can be found here:

Ohio Democratic Party already highlights two races for Main Street Initiative - ...

A couple of days ago we wrote about a new program the Ohio Democratic Party launched. The program called the Main Street Initiative is an idea for the party to get involved in local races during off-year election cycles. The purpose is to provide money and resources to local candidates, which would help build a base of elected officials and bring the kind of better/fairer government Democrats feel they can provide.

Not to waste anytime, the party has already highlighted two races that should benefit from the initiative. The two candidates for the races seem to have very good credentials and both races would flip executive leadership of two cities from Republican to Democrat if the candidates win.

Taking a look at the two candidates, the first is Luke Feeney. Mr. Feeney is running to be mayor of Chillicothe. According to the Chillicothe Gazette (, he's 34 years old and was appointed city auditor in 2013. The paper also reports...

"He thinks his leadership qualities — including helping to create the United Way's Earned Income Tax Coalition, which assists people with filing income tax returns, and serving as board president for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Ohio — would serve the city well if he is elected.

However, even more important, he said is his experience in city government and in dealing with the city's budget on a daily basis.

"I'm in a unique position because of my experience in this office and my understanding of city finances, in addition to my leadership abilities and my abilities to bring people together to accomplish goals," Feeney said."

Entire article can be found here:

Let's #leadonleave

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without any paid family leave law. Let's end that.

Ohio Democratic Party launches Main Street Initiative

Wow - I'm a little stunned as the Ohio Democratic Party seems to have launched a program with real promise.

The program named the Main Street Initiative is a plan for the party to help local candidates compete in races in 2015. I had wanted to see the party do something like this, but figured they wouldn't, because, well, they're the Ohio Democratic Party. They generally don't do anything.

But this initiative seems to be well thought out with some funds already committed to it. In the press release announcing it new party chairman David Pepper states...

""Everything in politics starts at the local level—good candidates, good ideas, critical services,” Pepper said. “This strategy and fund represent our commitment to build this party from the local level, where it all begins. I’m proud to personally make the first contribution today to a program I believe will produce great results this year and beyond.""

In addition, Nina Turner who is heading up political engagement and John Patrick Carney former statewide candidate had this to say...

""As Democrats, it’s our responsibility to care about the welfare of ALL Ohioans, and our Main Street Initiative is an opportunity to put our values into action,” Turner said. “It’s great to have Democrats in the U.S. Senate and the White House, but if we don’t support and cultivate our leaders at the local level, those of us living on Main Street from Cuyahoga County to Butler County are in real trouble.”"

“"Having a strong bench of local elected officials is key to ensuring Democratic values are enacted in communities all over our state,” said John Patrick Carney, who also committed to support the Fund. “I’m excited to be a part of this important investment in those communities.""

Thanks for the response Sandy Theis - ...

Thanks for the response Sandy Theis, concerning the post I did about ProgressOhio. It was a pretty weak one in which you yourself omitted facts by picking and choosing what you'd respond to. Sad. But here's my response to you...

First, I'm a member of ProgressOhio. Why would I, as you suggest, have to do a Google search to find out about leadership changes at the organization? Why wasn't that communicated to members?

Next, I never meant to say ProgressOhio wasn't currently funded, but are you really going to try to say that there wasn't a change in funding for ProgressOhio? Because I do remember a distinct email from the organization that said just that. And I remember getting a bunch of fund raising emails after that.

Continuing, my comment about ProgressOhio's staff wasn't if they were talented or not. My comment was about the organization's size and that it was shrinking not growing. Does the organization still have this many people...

Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director

Dave Harding, Director, Online Communications

Grace Cherrington, Fiscal Manager

Joyce Patton, Fundraising and Development Manager

Bret Thompson, Policy Director

Coby Williams, Ohio Outreach Coordinator

Denise Gastesi, Outreach Coordinator - Health Care, Data Targeting

Sam Briggs, Progressive Legislative Caucus Coordinator

Kyle Earley, Outreach Coordinator, Cleveland Office

Are any of these people still employed with ProgressOhio? Does it still have two offices?

I didn't mention anything about the redistricting reform because I think it stinks. I don't see it as any big change. There's a lot of other people I know who aren't impressed with it either. Beyond that, Democrats need to learn how to compete. There's no reason why people living in rural parts of Ohio should feel the Democratic Party doesn't represent them. Because it does. But the Democratic Party has abandoned those areas and this was expressed during a recent listening tour.

Response From ProgressOhio Interim Director Sandy Theis

We received the following response to Derek's earlier post speculating about what is going on the ProgressOhio. Although the group has been going through a transition period, Sandy tells us that it is indeed still very active, and that founding executive director Brian Rothenberg left to pursue a new opportunity.

By Sandy Theis
Executive Director

I am writing in response to the Jan. 14 blog post by Derek K, “ProgressOhio still exists, I guess.”

Derek’s post shows a remarkable and reckless disregard for reality. He opens by confessing that he has not “directly” confirmed any of the information he is about share but goes on to say that Brian Rothenberg, ProgressOhio’s long-time executive director “quit. Or something” amid financial problems for the organization he founded.

A simple Google search would have turned up news stories showing that Brian left to become senior adviser for communications for the United Auto Workers. He landed a big job and the chance to help one of the globe’s premier labor unions and work in an industry vital to Ohio’s economic success.

Despite difficult times for Ohio progressives, Brian left the organization with a talented staff, sound finances and game plan for continued success, not the mess Derek suggests.
Among the few accurate facts contained in his post is that I am the interim executive director and formerly served as “a state house bureau chief for the Plain Dealer.’’ (Statehouse is one word, my friend.)

Other simple searches would show that despite Brian’s exit, ProgressOhio has continued its mission of success on important issues such as redistricting reform. ProgressOhio partnered with Opportunity Ohio, a leading free-market think tank, to issue a joint statement urging adoption of a bipartisan redistricting reform plan. We were so overwhelmed by the response that we launched a formal coalition that helped win legislative passage of a plan now headed for the November ballot. Congressional redistricting reform is on tap next.

ProgressOhio pushed back on Gov. Kasich’s clearly unqualified director of the Ohio Department of Health. Our ground-breaking, 2014 work on the need for charter school reform will continue. Stay tuned.

As a former journalist, I have some advice for Derek: Whoever peddled this incorrect information is either uninformed or has some sinister motive in peddling lies. Either way, I suggest you refrain from using this unreliable source in the future. It not only hurts your reputation, it also hurts the well-regarded, established bloggers who post on this site.

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