The Lakewood that I believe in wants our city to be a tolerant city. I believe that our community wants to be a place where people can feel welcomed, and find support, especially those who most need it.
Offering support and understanding to victims of domestic violence, under the circumstances, seems like exactly the kind of thing Lakewood stands for. Unfortunately, our city’s laws send a very different message.
Both rights activists and media have given increasing scrutiny, in recent years, to so-called nuisance abatement laws. These laws impose fines on properties, after multiple reports of “nuisance” ordinance violations on, or even near the property. In practice, landlords frequently respond by evicting tenants from these properties—even when the tenant’s only involvement in a crime is as the victim. In some cases, victims of abuse become afraid to call for help, lest the next call bring nuisance status and eviction.
Lakewood has a nuisance abatement ordinance, and unfortunately, it appears to take precisely this approach. Whatever its drafter’s intentions, our kind and caring community has a law that burdens those in danger more than it helps them.
One of our challenges in achieving people-driven reform is reaching people more often than every four years. Recently, someone asked me what I have been doing since the 2016 election. I’m happy to say that I have been part of a local, grassroots reawakening that is already changing communities for the better.
As a leader in the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, I have helped organize people around regional, state and national issues which directly impact life in Lakewood.
Sunshine Week is a yearly opportunity to promote open government. Our Bill of Rights recognizes an informed public as crucial for democratic government, mentioning freedom of the press within the first 26 words. But good government actively supports an engaged public, as well as respecting an independent press. Transparent processes, open meetings, and accessible public records protect society’s basic right to know what their government is up to.
Sunshine Week provides a reminder to check up on government at all levels, consider what’s working and what can be better.
Being a densely populated city benefits Lakewood, in this regard: it’s a short trip to attend meetings and look in on elected officials personally. Councilman Dan O’Malley’s recent legislation to publish minutes of every public meeting online is commendable, as well, and I heartily applaud it. But our city can improve in many areas. Lakewood’s Democratic Club includes a permanent, standing Sunshine Committee, and our publicly paid officials could benefit by this example. As a city councilman, I will be an ongoing advocate for the ideals of Sunshine Week.
Since I started my campaign for Lakewood City Council this year, I have had the chance to speak with many current and former Lakewood residents. One of the major themes that keeps rising to the surface is Breed Specific Legislation [BSL]. This is the ordinance passed here in 2008 placing harsh limits on pit bull ownership within city limits. Some measures were taken to lower fines and waive registration fees, but this really isn’t enough.
I am 100% on the side of those who want this ordinance repealed entirely. Last week a friend of mine told me about how she ended up in Cleveland. She had lived in Lakewood for a few years, got a pit bull puppy, then became aware that Lakewood restricts pit bull ownership. She told her landlord, thinking that she would simply have to register her dog, pay a fee and that was it. Unfortunately, the next week she was served an eviction notice, citing the BSL ordinance.
From Medicare to our local recycling and refuse services, the signs are abundant, what has historically been owned by the public, is slipping into the for-profit sector. The justifications are simple enough. Our leaders tell us, "either we raise your taxes, or we outsource this service or department." This message isn't crafted by local politicians looking for ways to make their communities better. When you hear, "this partnership with Private Company X is a win, win." take a deep breath, and think about this...
After spending six months in a rural part of Northern Uganda then traveling down across the equator and around Lake Victoria, I learned a bit about life. Namely the similarities of our human experience and the differences in our lived realities. This helped me understand the nuance in concepts like poverty, peace, justice and forgiveness. Something like forgiveness in one part of the world may seem black and white, but elsewhere it can take on a million hues.
The Acholi people of Norther Uganda, a tribe of about 15,000, had been the victims of a 30-year war. This war ended just a few month before my first trip to the area, in 2009. Assimilation of both those who had waged war and war victims and had just begun. Former fighters from both sides of the gruesome and drawn-out war had to come together and live as neighbors to survive.
One thousand miles south and 15 years earlier, a similar story unfolded in Kigali, Rwanda. In 2012 I spent some time in there. I walked the impeccably well managed and clean city streets, seeking out English speakers and listening to stories of people who survived the genocide.