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One-on-One with Sen. Charleta Tavares

 ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Senator Charleta Tavares, Ohio Senate, representing District 15

Ike Mgbatogu – Good evening Sen. Tavares.  My name is Ike Mgbatogu, and I am a reporter for the Ohio Call & Post Newspaper, the largest Black newspaper in the state. Sen. Charleta Tavares – Good to be with you, 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. Tavares – Tavares: I am a native of Columbus, Ohio.  I am Charleta Tavares.  I am the state Senator for the 15th Senate district.  I previously served as a member of the Columbus City Council from 1999 until 2010.  I assumed the office in January 2011.  Before that, I served as a state Representative for the Ohio House 22nd district, and served for 5 and ½ years.  Before that, I served as a member of the Attorney General staff as a Chief of the Children’s Protection Section.  And then before that, I served as the Associate Director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, charged with protecting the health safety and welfare of Ohio’s children.  My other background is that I am currently the executive director of the MACC.  It’s a statewide membership organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of care in Ohio’s behavioral health system and to incorporate cultural competence into systems and organizations that serve vulnerable and at risk populations.  I am very active in the community and I served as the immediate past chair of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Board, as well as a founding board member of that organization.  I served as a founding board member of the Community Research Partners and formerly served as the president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials. Mgbatogu – As a public servant, and more specifically, as a legislator who is involved in making decisions that impact the lives of many Ohioans, how would you characterize or frame your political philosophy in terms of what drives your thinking about how you vote on issues? Continue Reading

Rep. Heard and Ike

One-on-One with Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, Minority Whip, Ohio House of Representatives, representing District 26

Ike Mgbatogu – Good evening Rep. Heard.  My name is Ike Mgbatogu, and I am a reporter for the Ohio Call & Post Newspaper, the largest Black newspaper in the state. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Rep. Heard – Good to be with you. 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. Heard – I am a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Raised in Akron, Ohio.  Got my degree in Communications, and moved to television news.  I was a TV anchor with an ABC [news] affiliate in Northeast Ohio.  From that point got into politics working for the Clinton-Gore [campaign] in 1996.  That brought me down to Columbus where I was an aide to my state senator.  And from there, started working on various other campaigns.  I started the Millennium Solutions and was consulting, doing public relations work, and that’s how I really got into that community.  Ad this spawned, for a while, into non-profit, and that’s when I learned the best lessons and the reasons I have interest in running for office myself versus working behind the scene getting other people elected, because that’s where I really learned what the needs of the community that I lived in were, and made the connections about how to be impactful and bring solutions to the community for the challenges that we face. Continue Reading

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Onumba reporter interviews White House aide on Obama’s accomplishments for Blacks

ONUMBA.COM – On the White House website, Whitehouse.gov, there’s a special page created just for the African American community. 

And White House Director of African American and Minority Business Outreach Michael Blake, in an interview with the Call & Post last week organized by State Representative Tracy Heard’s office, wanted to let African Americans know about it. 

It is www.whitehouse.gov/africanamericans.  The front page reads, ‘Winning the future:  President Obama and the African-American community.’

“We encourage everyone to go to it now, so that they can find out at all times what’s happening,” said Blake, who was in Columbus to speak at the 2011 Ohio Business Opportunity Fair, hosted by the South Central Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council and the Northern Ohio Minority Supplier Development.  “We can say, whether it be direct language or indirect, there are ways that we are helping the African-American community that people should be proud of, and more concretely, these are opportunities that help you the individual.”

What are some of those ways, you ask. 

Blake elaborated further, starting with jobs, because he noted, “There’s probably nothing more important than jobs right now.”

He explained that since Obama took office, the administration has focused a great deal on developing minority businesses through financing and grants in the amount of $7 billion funneled through the Minority Business Development Agency. Of that total, $3.6 billion went to African-American businesses across the country, expanding growth opportunities for Black businesses by providing access to more capital, said Blake. 

But at the same time, and more importantly, he urged African-Americans to go all-out and start taking advantage of these opportunities, noting, “The main thing we want people to realize is, policies are meant to help people, and these pieces [Obama administration policies] that have been passed, if you are not using them, someone else will.”

“So, let’s not miss out on these opportunities that are being provided.”

Still on jobs, Blake also said that about 3 million jobs have been created or saved “that would not have been here right now” if it wasn’t for the Recovery Act signed into law by President Obama.  “That’s saving of teacher’s jobs, that’s creating infrastructure jobs that were not here before, that specifically impacted people in their respective communities,” he said. 

A shoal of those jobs benefited African-Americans, Blake said, adding that while “some of these policies may not directly say African-American, it’s still benefiting our communities.”

He also said that 95 percent of families received tax cuts made possible by the Recovery Act, which pumped extra dollars in the pockets of struggling families, including African-American families. 

“That practically matters,” said Blake.  “That’s another gallon of gas, another loaf of bread, and a gallon of milk, something that’s tangible in their lives right now.”

On education, Blake said that $10 billion went out to Black colleges over “a ten-year span,” out of which $850 million went specifically to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Central State University and Wilberforce University here in Ohio. 

These are financial opportunities they didn’t have before, said Blake, “There’s some practical things that are happening for the Black community. 

He said that 32 million Americans now have access to health care coverage, including 7 million African-Americans. Blake weighed in briefly on Ohio’s controversial Senate Bill 5, saying, “We support the rights of workers,” while pledging the Obama administration’s commitment to helping Ohioans keep their jobs and enhance their economic opportunities. Asked when the president will embark on another trip to Africa, Blake replied, it is “not finalized.”  But he added:  “We have shown a very sincere and continued engagement with Africa,” particularly in the area of economic aid and support for elections to shore up Democratic governments there.  He did not elaborate further. Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. Continue Reading

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Rep. Heard urges private sector workers to help annul SB 5

ONUMBA.COM – When it comes to repealing Senate Bill 5, State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard doesn’t need anyone to tell her that what’s at stake in this is monumental, both for Democrats in Ohio and even the prospects of reelecting President Barack Obama. 

“If we fail to repeal SB 5, then that sends the message that we do not have unity, or the will to take back the House [Ohio House of Representatives] in 2012 or secure President Obama in the White House,” said Heard, in a wide-ranging interview with the Call & Post last week. 

SB 5, which was recently signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich, but which is yet to go into effect, dismantled Ohio’s collective bargaining laws that protect more than 350,000 public sector workers in the state, stripping them of their collective bargaining rights, including the right to strike against government, and requiring workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance cost. 

Under the new law, a wide panoply of issues previously negotiated between unions and government through collective bargaining and binding arbitration would no longer be decided that way, including deciding issues such as wages, grievance process, step increases, seniority, time-off, and others. Heard, one of the harshest foes of the anti-union bill, identified two big challenges in the raging battle to defeat SB 5.  One is to “maintain the momentum,” and the other, to convince Ohioans that the battle to bring down SB 5 should enlist all workers as soldiers, not just those in the public sector or just from the ranks of Democrats and labor unions. 

Facing those challenges, Heard expressed cautious optimism about the victory she is intensely hoping for, even as she conceded that it is “quite an undertaking to keep focus, momentum and passion” about a ballot that’s still about six months away. 

But the dollop of worry embedded in her sense of optimism is not so much about not being able to argue the merits of annulling SB5.  Instead, it is about being able to convince those who may not know that they would gain from the rout of SB 5, and that this is for them, too.  The challenge, she said, is getting them to support the effort by, first, signing the petition as part of the ongoing drive to collect 231,000 signatures. 

And then, of course, troop out in November to vote to deliver the final blow against a bill she bemoans as draconian. “The first step is to get the signatures,” said Heard, warning that “if we don’t get that far, it is already over.”  She warned of the dire consequences, saying, “We are trying to repeal a law that has passed.”

“The destruction of this law will affect all workers,” she said, not just the 350,000 public employees that have come to symbolize the potential victims of SB assault.

She noted the current “attack on comp time” as a small example of the kind of havoc that SB 5 will wreak on worker’s rights and benefits, including workers in the private sector. “So it’s not just public employees.  This is already trickling out to impact all workers,” said Heard. Heard’s concern about sustaining the current upbeat momentum seems kind of prophetic after a recent poll by Quinnipiac suggested that SB 5 would be repealed if the votes were held now, by 18 points, with 54 percent voting against the bill, and 36 percent supporting it. Continue Reading

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A conversation series: One-on-One with Ohio Black legislators debuts in the Call & Post, Onumba.com

ONUMBA.COM – The protracted paucity of fresh postings on onumba.com is obvious, to say the very least.  We certainly regret it.  Over the last couple of weeks, it may have appeared as though we dropped everything and embarked on a fun-filled vacation.  But that wasn’t it.  Actually, the explanation for our rare taciturn is quite contrary to such perfectly understandable speculation. 

The thing is, because we pride ourselves in pursuing topical news to offer our readers quality product, not just chucking stuff out there just to fill up the space, we have been busy working to bring you a healthy mix of news reporting, political analysis and most recently, the best of interviews with newsmakers in Ohio, including our plan to offer a rare penetrating peep into the life, career and thinking of the men and women who represent the Ohio African-American community in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate. We have been putting all of this together and the result is something that has never been done before, certainly not to our knowledge.  And that is, Ike Mgbatogu, the Call & Post and Onumba.com columnist will be sitting down with each member of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC), in a wide-raging, meaty conversation over a gallimaufry of subjects including their background, politics, faith, future plans, their dreams and aspirations growing up.  The lawmakers will also discuss a miscellany of other issues including diversity and inclusion, their heroes, their views on Malcolm X, what they think about Africa; whether they have been there or even care to go. The parley on politics and government will navigate the shoals of party partisanship as it interfaces with the anfractuosity of governance, where each member will tell us what they make of Gov. Kasich, his first 100 days in office, his policies, and his support for controversial Senate Bill 5, House Bill 1, and the $55.6 billion biannual budget.  They will tell us whether they have met the governor one-on-one and how that played out, obviously, mindful of the frosty and tumultuous nature of the relationship between Kasich and members of the caucus. So, the next time you see Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, who recently had her one-on-one with Ike, fighting and defending programs for the poor, the middle-class and the minority communities, think of her as an intensely progressive politician who, believe it or not, never planned to be in politics, but rather, was earlier in her life on a confident trajectory to become a ballet dancer, an actress and a singer, the “next Lena Horne,” if you will. 

Also, think of her as a profoundly devoted public servant who was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., (not in Akron where she grew up) with a Godfather from Nigeria, friends in Ghana and a ferocious desire to travel the African continent she holds exceedingly dear as her beloved ancestral home. The full interview of each member will appear each week in the Call & Post Newspaper, with intriguing excerpts posted here in Onumba.com that week, and then the full interview the week after. Continue Reading