Archive for February, 2008
Ironically, the one county official that should NOT have a primary does. I cannot imagine that Cuyahoga County voters will turn their backs on the man who has had their backs through these tough times. But just in case you need to be reminded who he is, what he stands for and how he works for us each and every day. Go here to Jim’s website and to Meet.The.Bloggers for Jim’s conversation with us to refresh your memory. Please VOTE on TUESDAY, MARCH 4th!
There is a lot of talk lately about historic moments occurring during the Democratic Primaries in 2008 and the eventual nominee chosen at the Democratic Convention later this year. The two moments talked about more than any others is the nomination of a black man or the first woman for the president of the United States. I think the most historic moment to me is the fact that the last one standing will most likely be voted for by a woman. Women are a huge factor in this presidential primary race. Whether we are white or black is not as important as the question of who will receive our vote.
Needing the ‘woman vote’ has become a necessity for the eventual winner, not only in the primary but also in the general election. I believe that this shift in focus is causing a change in leadership in our country. Women are all about the need for collaboration and cooperation. If they are mothers of more than one child, they know by necessity. If they have suffered exclusion at some point in their lives, they understand the need for inclusion.
Women are masters at the “win-win” scenario. With women, it is seldom “winner take all”. Compromise and collaboration are stalwart words in any woman’s vocabulary. Women know that there is strength in numbers, and keeping your friends close and your enemies closer is essential for moving forward. The conversations I have with women are encouraging. Women know that the best path out of poverty is education. Women know that the way things are is not “good enough”. Women understand that money is a tool and that health and relationships are more important to the prosperity of our country than the pursuit of ever bigger “numbers”. Social justice looms large in the future of our country.
So, the women of Ohio have an opportunity to transform our country when they walk into that voting booth and cast their ballot on March 4th. So much for the pundits that said the nominees for President would be picked long before the primaries of Texas and Ohio. All that says to me is that “change is truly in the air” and we don’t know which way the wind will blow. So, I am asking the women of Ohio to make history March 4th and decide who will run for election in November 2008. VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
This month’s Brews explored a topic that is fast approaching D-Day- the new AMP Ohio “clean coal” contract that Cleveland City Council will sign or reject on March 1. There will be a public hearing held this Friday, February 22 which will provide the last discussion before a vote is taken.
I grew up in rural Ohio and I am puzzled by the expression “clean coal”. In my book, there is no such thing, but that is the tag line, so I went wanting to know the answer to that question. I also wanted to know how it could economically benefit our city to sign a FIFTY year contract with a private company.
The format of this conversation was different than the usual Midtown Brews Thanks to Stefani Spear of Earthwatch Ohio we had a well-versed panel on the subject. Go here to see the panelists. We also had approximately 100 people in the room who were extremely interested in the subject. A lot of things were different about this Brews-we were in a new place, there was live streaming video, Andy Halko, founder of Insivia, our host monitered an ongoing chat so that people watching could enter in the conversation. Despite all those changes, one thing remained the same. I departed with a different perspective than when I arrived.
My first question in regards to “clean Coal” is coal isn’t clean, but what is different about this coal plant will be the requirement for stringent scrubbing and something called CO2 Carbon Recapture Technology . Those of us who live in Cleveland are well aware of the hows and why and if scrubbing is done. But then, we found out that the reality of Meigs County is this. Meigs County is the ONLY county in Ohio that does not NOW have EPA monitors in place. The Ohio EPA is working feverishly to change this, but the legislation and the paperwork is still not in place. Meigs County presently has more coal plants than any other county in Ohio. I also believe it is very high on the scale nationally. Why does this situation exist?
Councilman Zone then stated that IF Cleveland signs the contract that it will give us a 10% stake (I am paraphrasing here and I may not be stating this exactly, but this would give Cleveland a place at the table where we could then monitor the company and make sure that EPA standards are followed and enhanced) Go to Meet The Bloggers for the whole story. I believe that the three young men at that table believe that it is better to be involved than to simply say NO, and I agree with that philosophy. I also believe that we have three very capable advocates for “green” issues. However, I know firsthand, promises made, and not kept by coal companies.
I grew up on the border of Wayne and Holmes Counties where strip mining in the late sixties and early seventies was “big business” . Promises that said land would be reclaimed, damage from blasting would be reimbursed, “when we leave you won’t know we were here”. Thirty years later, the forest on the hills has been replaced by what my father always called scrub brush, structures that were once homes remain abandoned and vacant because of blasting damage to foundations or because wells dried up because of a shift in the water table. An area never wealthy in money, but an area rich in tradition, rural pride and beautiful scenery is much poorer today than it was when I was growing up. Promises were made and not kept, and therefore, I believe that these young men who believe that they can make a difference need to proceed with eyes wide open.
We never really talked much about the economic feasibilty of a fifty year contract or why it is in the best interest of our city except to bring in the CPP (Cleveland Public Power) piece which I understand is quite fragile at this point in time because it cannot expand unless there is a place to buy coal reasonably. CPP is often brought up as the reason that our rates here in Cleveland are what they are, but I don’t see the advantage. CPP and CEI rates are comparable. We have some of the highest rates if not the highest rates in Ohio. Bill Callahan often posts on this issue. Here, here, and here are examples of the questions Bill posits. And then there is this post about the issue that includes the independent study paid for by Ohio Citizens For Action that made me really sit up and take notice.
From what I can glean from this study, the place at the table for those municipalities that sign the contract is on a participartory committee with no real authority. The authority remains with the company’s board of directors but what I really found troubling was the ability of the company based on “market rates” to set price. Why would we enter into a deal that does not set some limits to price? Also, there appears to be no back door. What if our need for coal dwindles because of new technologies, new ways of conservation, and who knows why else our need for coal may decrease? If more stringent Federal EPA guidelines are introduced and passed, where will we be holding a contract that ties us to a dying industry for how many more years? How come I keep thinking of the story about Daniel Webster and the Devil?
I am still finding it hard to see the economic benefit for us to sign this fifty year contract. As many of the people said at the meeting, with or without Cleveland the deal goes forward. But then, the really, really hard thing for me to get my head around is how do we in Cleveland justify being part of adding one more coal plant to an area inundated with coal plants?
The accompanying air and water pollution, the health issues of breathing dirty air, the fouling of the Ohio River which is one of the largest sources of fresh water which eventually flows into the Mississippi and the possibility of mountaintop mining changing the skyline in are beautiful state are probably the more troubling issues. How can we here in Northeast Ohio move forward economically knowing that by so doing, we have sentenced our neighbors in Meigs County to a continuation of a quality of life that consists of dirty air and fouled water?
If any group of people should understand the moral issue that is staring us in the face, it should be those of us who have lived in sight of the steel mills for generations. Our economy here took a huge hit when the steel mills began to shrink, but the water quality of the Cuyahoga River bounced back. Although our air quality is still not anything to put in the plus column it certainly is better than when I moved here in the 70’s. And no one, in the discussion that night, mentioned the coal miners who depend on these mining jobs. There will be two coal plants that will close. Will those miners go to the new plant? Will there be as many jobs as now?
Councilman Brian Cummins in one simple statement said it all. “I worked in the Peace Corps for three years during those years, I had no TV, I could do that I am not sure that everyone else would.” So how do we balance the need for electricty with the health of our planet?
Conversations enhance knowledge, provoke analysis and strenghten beliefs as well as cause discomfort when met with a challenge to tried and true axioms that don’t appear to fit any more. The conversations that I have had lately have underscored many of the things I have read, heard, and believe but many of these conversations have provided a chance to revisit many topics as well as make me see that sometimes my vision has been not quite where it should be.
On Saturday, Tim and I had two friends from North Broadway for dinner. Two tidbits of conversation stuck with me and later, were enhanced by what I read. The first conversation covered the internet and online communities. Our friend says that one of the greatest things about the internet is the ability to communicate with people all over the globe about subjects that intrigue us. The flip side, he says, is very troubling to him because more and more we are becoming isolated from the people next door, down the street, and the day to day community is suffering because we do not see a responsibility to our fellow man. The next day, I picked up this book Time For Truth by Os Guinness.
This quote took me right back to the conversation of the night before;
“The discipline of living in truth is urgent today because modern life reduces community and accountability to its thinnest, thereby tempting us to live in a shadow world of anonymity and nonresponsibility where all cats are gray. In such a world, becoming people of truth is the deepest secret of integrity and the highest form of taking responsibililty for ourselves and our own lives.”
I can’t help but think that community is going to be more important rather than less important in our combined futures. I wonder will we be prepared?
The second tidbit had its roots in education. It is strange that no matter who I have a conversation with here in Cleveland Ohio eventually there is a thread that talks about education-early childhood, the special challenges for middle school learning, high school drop out rates, and/or higher education. The story our friends’ related is hard to imagine but nonetheless I am sure is quite accurate. A few days before, they had attended bible study in their neighborhood. A young man had struggled to read the verses of scripture he had been assigned. He stuck to it, and got through it, but our friend said he was almost certain that this young man’s reading level was probably at third grade. He was a young man in his 20’s and my friend said that the young man had determination and desire but where was he going to find a good paying job with such a dismal ability to read? And then, Ed Morrison posted this, at Brewed Fresh Daily. How do we indeed go forward as a community if we do not see that the education level of our community as a whole defines who we are and what we hold dear.
If we do not strive to educate every child in our community regardless of where or how he or she was born, what does that say about us as a community. And this question came to mind, as we look for ways to attain “brain gain” instead of “brain drain” are we forgetting that gaining brains is directly related to the overall brainpower of the existing community? How comfortable and safe will highly educated people be in a community with a 61% dropout rate? Should we be fostering an educated community rather than looking outside ourselves for new blood? In the seventies, when I taught in the Cleveland Public Schools the beginning of the migration out of Fortune 500 companies began. One of the top reasons for leaving was a sustainable workforce. Almost forty years later, we are still talking about the gap between workforce development and skills training and the needs of the business community. How when we were told so many years before are we still debating whether education is important?
Should we ask the college students in our midst how we should improve education at the elementary and secondary level? How would they have changed their early years so that they would be better prepared for college? When I was a junior at BGSU, one of my classes-reading development, I believe, required that we spend x number of hours tutoring students in reading. Since I was a student in the college of education, I had a lot of interaction with school children from the BG City School System. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the library at 9 a.m. on a Saturday and the student I was tutoring was a college freshman. This young man struggled mightily trying to read his textbook, and I tried to show him how to try to read for content rather than words, but he just wasn’t there.
As I walked back to my dorm very slowly, I wondered where we were going when we were teaching remedial courses at the University level. Now, forty years later, we still have remedial classes, tutoring, and additional help at the University level. Should we be doing things differently? Should we accept that not everyone needs a fullblown four year college education? Should we be stressing workforce and skills training? Should there be different tracks in high schools? Are traditional schools not what is needed in the 21st century? Educational change has moved ever so slowly at the grade school and high school level. Is it time for change? There are glimmers of hope in spots throughout Northeast Ohio, but how could we work together to make it work better and faster so that our children become part of the new knowledge economy and prosper. How do we make it so being born in Ohio is an advantage?
Recently, I have had the opportunity to participate in some extraordinary conversations with some very talented individuals. I am learning new ways to say things, new ways to think about issues and realities, and gaining new insights by comparing book reviews, listening to questions and answers at Meet The Bloggers interviews, and really enjoying every moment of interaction with others that I encounter. These encounters happened at bus stops, on street corners, in coffeeshops, in the homes of friends, and at area libraries. Here are just a few examples of some things that I wish to share with others.
Cleveland Heights Public Library Conversation-It is always good to think positively. People have a tendency to use negative qualifiers when praising people. For instance, that was a great speech, BUT- but becomes the negative, the word that puts just a little bit of twist to the compliment. Why not stop with the positive . Chances are the person will ask you for input on what and how to improve their skill set. And however, however is just but in a tuxedo.
Gypsy Beans and Baking Company- A Cleveland teacher-What do I see for my students? I see a life of poverty, jail, death, drug addiction for many of them how do I change that? Despair overcame those engaged in the conversation, and then, the life coach spoke. She said I see it as a need for an intervention, a chance not to change but to transform. And hope entered the room.
Brooklyn Centre Garden Club Meeting–I wanted to talk about disconnecting downspouts from the storm sewer system and redirect the water to water lawns, gardens, and flower beds, but decided that I would just talk about joining the National Wildlife Association and how easy it is for us to become wildlife habitats. And then as I sat there, one after another after another began talking about water filtration, the importance of our watershed–our lakes and streams and how some of them already are watering lawns, ponds, and filtering water through their properties. Are we at a tipping point?
And finally, last night’s Meet The Bloggers interview with Councilman Joe Cimperman where 15+ listened to Joe answer questions and then, someone else would ask a followup on the same issue for clarification, and whether we were a supporter of Joe’s campaign became less and less important and the issues facing our country and cities moved to the forefront and the exchange of ideas became the reason to be there instead of a political campaign.
And today, who knows where today’s conversation will lead us when the second Midtown Brews of 2008 kicks off at Insivia, with added dimensions-live chats, video broadcasts, and a hookup with Smaller Indiana in the mix. Go to Midtown Brews, for the details.