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One-on-One with Rep. Alicia Reece

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Rep. Alicia Reece, Ohio House of Representatives, representing District 33

Ike Mgbatogu – Let me start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers – your hometown, your background, the district you represent, and of course, whatever else you would like to say about yourself. 

State Representative Alicia Reece – My name is Alicia Reece.  I am a state Representative for the 33rd district from Cincinnati, Ohio.  I also have previously served as the Vice Mayor and City Council member for the city of Cincinnati from 1995 to 2005.  My other skill set is marketing and ad promotion.  I worked in my family’s business several years back and also served under the Strickland administration as the assistant director of Tourism for the state of Ohio, rebranding and marketing the state for Tourism. Mgbatogu – The governor recently signed the $55.8 billion bi-annual budget, cutting funding to education, local government, school districts, and others.  What’s your general take on the governor’s budget? Rep. Reece –The governor basically balances the budget on the backs of the middle class and other working poor.  They are the ones who are going to absorb all of these major cuts, cuts in Daycare services, cuts in health care services.  We also give a bad impression that Ohio is in trouble because everything is for sale, almost like a yard sale, we are privatizing prisons, selling it without given appraisals for what the prisons are actually worth.  We are talking about leasing out the turnpike, so all of our assets are at risk in this budget.  It is just a bad budget. 

Mgbatogu – Opponents of SB 5 will try to overturn the law in the November Ballot.  How would you assess the chances of SB 5 being struck down by Ohio voters? Rep. Reece – I think it has a strong chance of being repealed.  I am confident that we are going to have a strong showing.  It is a matter of turnout.  But also understand that it’s going to go up against big money.  So you are going to have what I call David Versus Goliath [fight].  And I certainly think that the will of the people will prevail. Mgbatogu – Gov. Strickland lost the last election to Republican John Kasich by 2 percentage points.  Strickland being the incumbent, that’s rare.  What happened?  What went wrong?  Why did the governor lose? Continue Reading

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One-on-One with Rep. W. Carlton Weddington

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Representative W. Carlton Weddington, Ohio House of Representatives, representing District 27. 

Ike Mgbatogu – Let me start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers – your hometown, your background, the district you represent, and of course, whatever else you would like to say about yourself. Rep. W. Carlton Weddington – Thank you Ike for the opportunity to speak with you. I am W. Carlton Weddington, state representative of the 27th House district, here on the near eastside of Columbus.  I am a lifelong resident born and raised here in Columbus Ohio, attended Westerville Public Schools, Westerville North High School, graduated in 1988, and went on to Hampton University where I was a political science major, graduated in 1992.  I first gained my interest in politics when I volunteered to work for Douglas Wilder who was a candidate for governor [of Virginia.]  He in fact won that year and became the first African-American governor of the state of Virginia.  That led me to come back home after graduating and helping on a number of campaigns, one being for mayor for the city of Columbus and that was Ben Espy.  Interned for William Bowen who was a senator from the city of Cincinnati and that just continued my interest in politics and grassroots initiatives.  I worked for Les Wright…and with Charleta Tavares and then later was given the opportunity to work with John O’Grady as a manager in the clerk of courts Franklin Co.  After working at the county, I then decided to run for school board in 2005, elected in 2006, served 3 years.  And then ran to replace Joyce Beatty who was the minority leader and became the state representative from the 27th district. Mgbatogu – The House recently approved the governor’s $55.6 billion bi-annual budget, keeping intact nearly all of the governor’s cuts, to education, local government, school districts, and others.  The senate approved it, and now it is in the conference committee.  What’s your general take on the governor’s budget? Weddington – Well, Gov. Kasich had his hands full coming into this administration and the 129th general assembly.  The state had a $6 to 8 billion budget deficit to attempt to balance.  But I am not quite sure that his ideas and perspective is what Ohio needs…you see drastic cuts to local government, you see cuts to education, you see an attack on the middle class through aspects of SB5 that have also been placed in the budget.  You see attack on labor as it relates to prevailing wage.  You see seniors, minorities and children taking hits as it relates to social services and those who are the neediest of our populations are taking the burden and brunt of this deficit, and so while the governor may say he has balanced the budget and in fact House Republicans passed his budget, I don’t think that it is the right budget for the state of Ohio as a whole. 

Mgbatogu – Senate Bill 5, which eliminated collective bargaining laws in Ohio, and recently signed into law by Gov. Kasich, is one of those instances where the governor offered clear hints about where he stood with organized labor when he talked about breaking the back of the unions during the campaign.  You are opposed to this bill.  Why? Continue Reading

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Blacks celebrate ‘Juneteenth’ as their ‘Independence Day’

ONUMBA.COM – The celebration of the nation’s Independence Day on the 4th of July is only a couple of weeks away. 

In Columbus, it is called ‘Red, White and Boom.’ 

It is often attended by a mammoth crowd.  The downtown festivities are usually bunting with colorful parades, fireworks, patriotic songs and other jingoistic expressions of pride for the nation and gratitude for the ‘founding fathers’ who established it. 

But as the city eagerly awaits the celebration of the birth of the nation, one big Independence Day had already played out last week in the city at Franklin Park on Broad Street.  It is called ‘Juneteenth,’ in celebration of ‘June 19th’, which is the day African-Americans say they were actually freed from bondage. 

“It’s our emancipation,” Rhoda Abdul-Mateen told the Call & Post.  “It wasn’t the 4th of July.  It was Juneteenth, when they found out that supposedly slavery was over, and it came two years later.”

“So, this is our Independence Day,” she said. 

Abdul-Mateen was expressing the feelings of thousands of people, almost entirely African-Americans, who packed Franklin Park to be a part of a gathering that is widely considered the “Independence Day” for Black people. The historical underpinnings for this event, which is celebrated in more than “200 cities” across the country, is noteworthy. 

Even though President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862, news of the declaration was suppressed in parts of the South, and because of that many slaves were not aware of it.  The consequence was that slaves in parts of Texas remained in their status of servitude two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them. On the Juneteenth Ohio website, it stated that “June 19th, 1865 is considered the date when the last slaves in America were freed.”  That was the day those slaves became aware of their freedom. 

And that’s why Dorothy Greer, a native of Texas, is a true believer in the Juneteenth celebration. “This day means freedom,” she told the Call & Post.  “It also means that we can have a reflection, a reflection as to how far we have come.”

Greer spoke of being close to the genesis of all of this. “I am from Texas.  My father is a 100 years ago.  So, he has seen a lot.  So I have first hand history on how it used to be.  So, it’s very important.”

Jermain Scott also reflected on the importance of the day. 

“It means life, evolution, celebration,” said Scott, noting, “We have come a long way.” 

Black people, said Scott, “Went from chains to freedom, liberty, opportunity, and right now, here at the Juneteenth, we are just maximizing the opportunity, maximizing the moment,” he said. 

“It all comes together in one park to celebrate each other,” he said. Continue Reading

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One-on-One with Rep. Sandra Williams

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Representative Sandra Williams, Ohio House of Representatives, representing House District 11, and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC)

Mgbatogu – Let me start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers – your hometown, your background, the district you represent, and of course, whatever else you would like to say about yourself. 

Williams – My name is Sandra Williams.  I represent the 11th House district of Cleveland, Ohio.  I was born in Cleveland, graduated Cleveland Public Schools, John Hay High School, Master’s degree from Tiffin University and Bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University. Mgbatogu – The House recently approved the governor’s $55.6 billion bi-annual budget, keeping intact nearly all of the governor’s cuts, to education, local government, school districts, and others.  The senate approved it, and now it is in the conference committee.  What’s your general take on the governor’s budget? Williams – The governor’s budget, I believe, is an insult to the neediest people in the state of Ohio.  We cut the budget for transportation by 39 percent when it left the House…over 11 percent of Cleveland population use RTA for all their needs, as far as going to work, going to the grocery store, and things like that.  I believe local government cuts and the cuts to the libraries will be harmful to those people who use the services.  The cuts to senior services are horrible. Mgbatogu – It’s been quite an interesting 100 days for Gov. Kasich.  During the campaign, he did say he would pursue some of these policies, and yet folks voted for him, including some who are now angry about his policies.  Certainly, the governor did not get a huge mandate, but he won.  What’s your reaction to that, and what message do you have for the people of Ohio in the next election? Williams – Governor Kasich got elected by approximately 77,000 votes.  Clearly that was not a mandate.  I think some of the policies that Gov. Kasich is pushing right now; he made clear during his campaign.  I believe, if nothing else, the Ohio voters should start focusing and paying attention to what the candidates say as opposed to their internal feelings about the persons who are in the office at that time.  And many people were unhappy with the way Democratic leadership was running the state, also at the national level, the way our president is running the country.  But he [Kasich] made it clear that he was going to do these things.  And he is running it, as he said, like a business…turning everything into a business.  We are privatizing most of the assets of the state of Ohio.  I think it’s unfortunate.  I think that the Ohio public will be losing out if we keep him in the office.  He is running the state like a business for business. 

Mgbatogu –Ohio law requires the state to set aside 15% of its contracts for minority businesses.  Recently, Kasich hinted he is thing about raising that number.  One thing is very clear.  The goal of 15% is not currently being met.  What should the administration do to meet that goal, which by the way wasn’t met in the Strickland administration, either? Continue Reading