Rejecting Cynicism in Piqua, Ohio

My nephew, D.J. Byrnes, has left his job as an Ohio State football writer (ElevenWarriors.com) to run for the 80th District of the Ohio state legislature.

DJ is way more progressive than the district, so I suspect he’s a longshot, but I’m proud of him for giving it a go.

He’s a smart, sarcastic, humorous person who wants to make a difference in his neighbor’s lives. Win or lose, I trust he’ll find ways to do that.

Why I’m Running

Jul 15, 2018

I am running because people like me aren’t supposed to seek political office. No fancy degrees hang on my walls. No opulent suits hang in my closets. I have no connections with corporations, energy companies, or shadowy networks of deep-pocketed donors.

My friends say I must be crazy to run. The absurd toxicity has poisoned our political process and pushed capable, everyday people to the sidelines. But no longer.

This fight isn’t about Democrat vs. Republican, or Left vs. Right. It’s about regular people organizing to eradicate the plunderbund that seeks to strip us of our dignity, health care, and wages.

I plan to take my pro-worker message to every corner of the district—including ruby red Darke County. I am going to take it to churches, fast food restaurants, county fairs, and gun ranges. Only donations from individuals and labor unions will fuel this campaign.

As the last three decades have shown, new faces on old politics won’t solve our problems. It’s time for Ohio to operate for the many, not the few. I am the Swamp’s worst nightmare because I cannot be bought, sold, or traded. Lobbyists and corporate shills need not darken my doorstep if their business does not benefit the hard-working Ohioans that fuel the 80th district.

Together, we will end corporate tax giveaways and create new revenue streams to invest in our district and bring new industries and jobs.

In solidarity,
D.J. Byrnes

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Apparently, from his picture, in addition to healthcare for all and guaranteed living wages, it looks like he’s going to bring mountains and mountain lakes to the district. How kickass is that?! D.J., be careful at the gun ranges and good luck come November. I’m pulling for you.

Why School Funding Matters

In reference to the recent post, “Numbers to Ponder“, a loyal reader, okay my older brother, wrote:

This is an absolutely mind-boggling situation to me. Given my complete lack of experience / knowledge regarding school levies I must ask “What suggestions can one with your experience / knowledge make in a scenario such as this one?” It appears to me that asking for a school levy in the Bethel School District would be a totally futile pursuit.

At the end of our the district tour, I asked the superintendent what polling was showing and whether he thought voters would approve the bond. I was surprised by his honest assessment that it was going to be very difficult. Seemingly resigned to a negative outcome, he referenced a neighboring district that passed their bond on the tenth try. I followed up by asking if there was a Plan B. There is not, which may mean the gap in educational opportunity will continue to widen in Western Washington State.

In the US, the fact that we fund public schools largely through property taxes means communities with larger, more expensive homes generate more funds for schools than those with smaller, less expensive ones. Property tax based funding makes a mockery of one of the things we most like to believe about ourselves, that there’s equal opportunity. How can there be equal opportunity if there’s not equal educational opportunity?

More specifically, how can we expect Bethel students to achieve at the same level as others in Washington State when they lose class time walking from distant portables to the main buildings to use bathrooms or change classes, and when they lose class time to floods and unsafe plumbing and electrical problems, and when they don’t have as many books to choose among or computers to use, and when their teachers come and go? Not to mention rodents and unsafe athletic facilities.

During the tour I was reminded of a poignant documentary from about 20 years ago about your home state, O-H-I-O. That Public Broadcasting System film detailed the extreme differences between the most wealthy and poor districts/schools in the state. I read some follow up articles about the backlash it caused and several new schools were built in response.

In fact, activist groups in several states have succeeded in legally challenging the school funding status quo. Many of those states now pool the bulk of their property tax revenues and then distribute them in a more uniform manner. If we truly value equal opportunity, that’s a step in the right direction. But it’s an incomplete step because privileged families will always supplement what their children’s schools have available so that their children maintain a relative advantage.

Among other ways, our daughters schools, like a lot of 0thers, did this by holding fund-raising auctions for parents. They provided dinner, had local businesses—often owned by the students’ families—volunteer gifts, and then auctioned them off. I recall a plain looking chocolate cake going for $500. And an auctioneer that asked, “Who’d like to give $100 to the library so that we can order more books?!” A majority of people’s hands shot up.

Or maybe I didn’t hear him correctly, maybe he said, “Who wants their children to remain a leg up in the race of life?”

In Praise of Meghan Vogel

All the news isn’t bad. And maybe today’s youth aren’t a lost cause after all.

Sick and tired of big time college and professional sports? Knuckleheads running afoul of the law, the commercialism, the cheating, the excesses of competition. Then take a few minutes and read about how Ohio high school trackster Meghan Vogel (on the right below) recently stopped to help a fallen competitor across the finish line near the very end of the 3,200 meter final.

Maybe it’s an especially touching story because we mistakenly think competition is an elixir for all that ails us. Vogel’s decision highlights the power of cooperation. Her compassion and humble response to her fifteen minutes of fame inspire me. And the surprising decision by the meet officials not to apply the letter of the law and disqualify the two student-athletes warrants praise.

[But of course, all the news isn’t good on the adolescent front.]

Vogel, “I just did what I knew was right.” Credit: AP Photo/The Daily Call, Mike Ullery