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Democrats Vote For Central Committee Members May 8th

Lakewood Democrats may soon be getting a knock on the door or a phone call from a fellow Democrat and neighbor vying for their vote in the upcoming elections for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Central Committee. On May 8th, Democrats running for Lakewood Precinct Leader will be on the ballot, and this year, a record number of fresh faces are competing for these elected party positions.

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 9:38 PM, 04.21.2018

I Support Mike Skindell For State Representative

It is my honor and pleasure to support Mike Skindell’s campaign for State Representative. Throughout his political career, as a member of Lakewood City Council and a legislator in the Ohio House and Senate, he has consistently represented my values. Governing is about making choices, and Mike makes choices that benefit all of his constituents, not just the privileged few.

Over the years, Mike’s perspective has brought much needed balance to the Ohio State Legislature. He has clearly demonstrated that often the real cost of tax cuts is cuts to much needed services…monies to address the opioid crisis, monies to support adult and child protective services, funding to schools, local governments, parks, and the environment. He has fought to prevent or reduce cuts to these important programs.

Mike understands how government works and how to navigate the legislative process. His accomplishments, while serving in the minority, is a testament to his skills as a legislator. When I receive advocacy alerts to contact my state legislator, I never need to reach out to Mike because I can rest easy that he will do the right thing.

 

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 3:27 PM, 04.17.2018

Supporting Mike Skindell For State Representative

As Mike Skindell’s campaign for State Representative gains momentum, I wanted to take a minute and state my support and endorsement of his candidacy. I am endorsing Mike for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, he has clearly demonstrated his commitment and passion for our community.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Mike Skindell for a number of years. I first met Senator Skindell when he was representing the City of Lakewood as an At-Large Councilman back in the late 90s/early 2000s. As a Councilman, Mike worked hard to establish our dog park as well as to preserve the cultural and historical makeup of Lakewood. Following his tenure on Lakewood City Council, Mike continued his service to our district by representing Lakewood and other Westside communities in both the State House and State Senate. During his tenure, Mike was a strong voice and advocate for seniors and working families and has a proven track record of working hard on behalf of his constituents. Most recently, Senator Skindell introduced Senate Bill 260, which would establish an assault weapons ban throughout Ohio.

Mike is one of the most honest and trustworthy people that I have had the pleasure of working with and is dedicated to our community. He has tirelessly worked on behalf of hard working families throughout his elected career. I encourage the residents of Lakewood and surrounding communities to join me and the George family in voting for Michael J. Skindell for State Representative on May 8th.

Councilwoman – Meghan F. George

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 12:07 PM, 04.03.2018

Packed House For Cordray - Kucinich Q&A

A capacity crowd of well over 100 attended the Lakewood Democratic Club's March meeting, to hear from candidates for governor Richard Cordray and Dennis Kucinich. Both took questions from the audience after opening remarks, as did candidates for Ohio House and Senate. Topics ranged from gun safety to public schools to single-payer healthcare.

The club expects to host a third candidate for governor, Bill O'Neill, at its next meeting on April 26. State senator Joe Schiavoni, also running for governor, addressed the January meeting.

 

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Volume 14, Issue 7, Posted 12:07 PM, 04.03.2018

Say Yes To Issue 1 And Fair Congressional Districts On May 8

After a half-century of effort, Ohio has the chance to kick gerrymandering out of our state for good—and Lakewood has played an important part.

On May 8 we can pass Issue 1 to reform the system for drawing congressional districts, and stop partisan abuse of redistricting.

Drawing biased “gerrymandered” districts, named for the early Massachussetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, dates back to the United States’ earliest days. But the impact of gerrymandering has grown extreme in the 21st century, as mapping software and big data have allowed a party in power to pack more of the minority party’s voters into ever fewer districts.

Against this backdrop, reform efforts in Ohio have found a new urgency. Following decades of attempts by the League of Women Voters and other good-government advocates, Ohio approved a ballot measure to change statehouse-district rules in 2015.

The League took encouragement from voters’ overwhelming approval of that measure, and began calling for similar reform to congressional redistricting. Yet the statehouse’s Republican leadership, which had supported the 2015 reform, argued for delaying any further action.

When a Fair Districts petition drive collected more than 200,000 signatures entirely through volunteer effort, statehouse leadership had second thoughts. A combination of grassroots pressure and persistence within the legislature then produced a genuine, bipartisan agreement on Issue 1.

In both cases Lakewood has contributed. Early in the petition drive, one Fair Districts volunteer said unofficially that “Lakewood is basically carrying Cuyahoga County on this.”

In the General Assembly, Lakewood’s state Representative Nickie Antonio and state Senator Mike Skindell lent support to the grassroots campaign. Sen Skindell sharply criticized one proposed bill, which failed to meet most of activists’ criteria for meaningful reform. Unswerving support for the Fair Districts goals by Skindell, Antonio and other Democrats eventually earned major concessions from legislative leaders.

The bipartisan agreement which resulted will end the old, anything-goes potential for partisan gerrymandering. Starting after the 2020 census, new maps will require substantial support from minority-party legislators.

Issue 1 includes additional positive reforms as well. It will add transparency to the process. It will sharply reduce the silly-string districts like our own, which extends all the way from Lakewood to Toledo. It will, ultimately, make government more accountable to voters.

Everyone in Lakewood who signed petitions or helped circulate them shares in the credit for getting this far. The long campaign for fair districts in Ohio can end in success—if Issue 1 passes.

Please help make sure it does! Vote Yes on Issue 1 in the primary election this May 8.

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Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 7:14 PM, 03.20.2018

Swim-a-Thon To Benefit Two Organizations

Special Spaces and scholarships for the new aquatic therapy program at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Center for Autism in Rocky River will be the beneficiaries of support from the eighth annual Swim-a-Thon on March 4 at the Rocky River Recreation Center indoor pools from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 9:40 PM, 03.06.2018

Senators Skindell And Tavares Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

This past week, Senator Michael Skindell (D–Lakewood) and Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) introduced Senate Bill 260, which would establish an assault weapons ban throughout Ohio.  

The legislation specifically makes it a felony of the fifth degree for possessing or acquiring an assault weapon. Under the bill, an “assault weapon” is an automatic firearm or semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazine with the capacity of accepting ten or more cartridges and a semi-automatic firearm with a fixed magazine with the capacity of accepting ten or more cartridges. The legislation models Senate Bill 18 introduced in 2013 and co-sponsored by Senators Skindell and Tavares.

“The recent, sorrowful events in Florida and Nevada and so many more places teach us why it is important to ban weapons that are meant for waging war,” said Senator Skindell. “While we cannot stop every act of suffering inflicted upon the public, it is our responsibility to limit access to these assault weapons. Until better national standards are enacted to regulate the sale of these dangerous assault weapons, Ohio should have its own regulations to protect the public.”

“Assault weapons were designed to be used by trained members of the military to kill people. These weapons, unfortunately, are killing innocent children and adults by people who want to murder, maim and terrorize large masses of people in public spaces,” stated Senator Tavares. 

Once banned under federal law between 1994 and 2004, assault weapons are now easy to obtain. Research has demonstrated that during the national ban period the number of attacks and deaths fell significantly compared to the previous ten years. (Rampage Nation, 2016, Klevares, Louis, University of Massachusetts at Boston.) After the assault weapon ban ended in 2004, the number of attacks and deaths shot up.

The legislation will also require the Office of the Ohio Attorney General to manage a registration database, through which it shall issue permits for the purchase of firearms and track the purchase of firearms and ammunition. In addition, it will require Ohio retailers to report all sales of firearms and ammunition to the Attorney General.

 

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 9:40 PM, 03.06.2018

Michael Rendon Campaigns For Cuyahoga County Court Of Common Pleas

My name is Michael Rendon and I am campaigning for the General Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in the May 8th primary. With less than 90 days until Election Day, I am writing to respectfully introduce myself to the Lakewood community, explain why I am the most experienced, committed and qualified candidate to represent you on the bench, and ask for your support. I have spent my life and career focused on family, service, justice, and our community. 

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 9:40 PM, 03.06.2018

Goodkind: A New Neighborhood Cafe On Madison

I stopped in at Goodkind Coffee for the first time the other day. Located in a storefront at 15526 Madison Avenue, the place impressed me enough to write the poem below. Kudos to friendly barista Kevin who answered my questions about the store and intuitively asked if I needed some cold water after I’d finished my cup of coffee.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 4:45 PM, 02.06.2018

Thank You, Lakewood

Now that the election is over, I wanted to express my heartfelt thank you to the residents of Lakewood for the great honor and responsibility of electing me to serve as a member of Lakewood City Council. This has been a very tedious election season and I am extremely grateful to family, friends and loyal supports who generously contributed their time and energy over the past year. Many thanks to everyone that came out to vote in November.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 9:51 PM, 01.23.2018

More Little Free Libraries

Lakewood now has at least 11 Little Free Libraries. Resident Matt Kuhns found these two in November, in addition to the nine located earlier this year and featured in the Observer in June.

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Volume 13, Issue 22, Posted 5:56 PM, 11.21.2017

Senator Skindell Introduces Legislation To Create The Prescription Drug Assistance Program For Seniors, Disabled Ohioans And Veterans

This past week Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 215 to create the Ohio Rx Plan to help many Ohioans obtain the medications they need. The Ohio Rx Plan would benefit seniors, the disabled, veterans and Bronze Plan enrollees under the Affordable Health Care Act.
 
“Many Ohioans are struggling to pay out-of-pocket costs for insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays to acquire needed medications,” Senator Skindell said. “Passage of this legislation will result in Ohio joining a number of states providing prescription drug assistance to seniors and others who need help obtaining their medications.”
 
According to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2016 more than a dozen states offered State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAPs) that "wrap-around" or add to the Part D benefits, including drugs bought by Medicare patients during the so-called "donut hole" spending category (http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/medicare-prescription-drug-tools.aspx).  
 
In 2016, 1,030,738 Ohioans were enrolled in a Medicare Stand Alone Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) and 661,324 were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) with prescription drug coverage, according to Healthpocket, a consumer health information company. Using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, HealthPocket also found that:

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Volume 13, Issue 20, Posted 12:05 PM, 10.17.2017

Fourth Of July In Lakewood, Ohio

On the July 4, 2017, a dream came true. I experienced what a national holiday could be like. In Germany, my country, October 3 is not a day filled with celebration and events. It's not a day where everyone hangs up a large German flag. And it's not a day that makes us Germans feel like a proud community. To be honest, all of these things would see very strange to me, although that doesn’t mean that I would like to try some of them. However, I can't imagine having a day like this in my home country.

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Volume 13, Issue 19, Posted 9:25 PM, 09.19.2017

Senator Skindell Introduces Bill To Reinvigorate Wind Industry In Ohio

Senator Michael Skindell (D–Lakewood) recently introduced Senate Bill 184, which would return wind farm setback standards to what they previously were before the passage of House Bill 483 in 2014. 
 
The standard established in House Bill 483 was inserted in the bill at the last minute and had no public hearings.  The legislation more than doubled the distance wind turbines have to be from “the nearest, habitable, residential structure.”  The change significantly reduced the number of turbines that could be placed in a wind project.
 
“Current restrictive setback standards have created a barrier to wind development in Ohio,” said Senator Skindell. “Since 2014, our state has seen a sharp decline in the number of new wind farm applications. Because of such stringent standards, we have lagged behind neighboring states, losing out on local economic development and jobs for our communities. Ohio should be embracing the renewable energy industry and securing clean energy for our future.”
 
Senator Skindell’s bill would simply measure the setback distance from the nearest habitable residential structure rather than the property line.
 
Many of the biggest companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook have made renewable energy a priority when looking for places to expand. In 2016, a representative from Amazon, John Stephenson, testified to the House Public Utilities Committee that the current requirements “have significantly diminished the attractiveness to further investments in wind generation in Ohio.”

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Volume 13, Issue 17, Posted 12:35 PM, 09.06.2017

Candidate For City Council Meghan George Hosting Fundraiser In September

Meghan F. George, candidate for Lakewood City Council At-Large, will hold a fundraising event on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 at Merry Arts, 15607 Detroit Ave. The event is from 5 to 7 p.m., cost $30. Everyone is welcome to meet the candidate and renew old friendships and make new ones.

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Volume 13, Issue 17, Posted 12:35 PM, 09.06.2017

Local And National Endorsements Praise Tristan Rader For City Council

Local groups, national organizations and regular people alike are endorsing Tristan Rader’s candidacy for Lakewood City Council At-large.

AFSCME Council 8 became one of Rader’s first official endorsements, in July. AFSCME represents nonprofit and public employees, including correctional officers, school employees and health care workers.

Rader has emphasized the importance of high-quality public services, and says the endorsement by AFSCME is a welcome vote of confidence. “Instead of privatizing important services with poor accountability, we need to have proven, union professionals doing work we can count on,” he says. “AFSCME represents people who keep our communities running, and I’m honored by their support.”

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Volume 13, Issue 17, Posted 12:35 PM, 09.06.2017

Gerrymandering: A Threat To Representative Democracy

The 19th century brought us President Abraham Lincoln, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, philosopher Henry David Thoreau, abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and artist James Whistler - people who positively contributed to the world in which we live today.

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Volume 13, Issue 16, Posted 12:35 PM, 07.18.2017

Get Involved, With Action Together Lakewood Area

Volunteer, grassroots activism is on a rebound in 2017. In big and small communities, ordinary people are taking on the challenge to "think globally, act locally." Figuring out how to do so has required a lot of improvisation.

Action Together Lakewood Area is a good example. The group has sponsored educational programs, community events and political advocacy projects; it holds meetings and has social media accounts. Despite which the structure of the group remains a bit loose, says Lakewood resident Sara Ridley.

Ridley founded Action Together Lakewood Area, essentially. Along with Sarah Kepple, she's now leading ATLA. But she didn't really plan on either role. After last November's election, members of the "Pantsuit Nation" Facebook group began forming local networks which eventually adopted the "Action Together" theme. As Ridley notes, even regional groups would have been too large "because 2,000 people couldn't meet" for an effective discussion.

So she posted a simple question: Does anyone in Lakewood want to meet? "I was expecting maybe 20 people," she recalls.

Instead more than 150 replies followed. When the group first met in December, at Lakewood's library, they talked for more than two hours.

The library's no-beverages policy made it something of an ordeal, an example Ridley cites when explaining how everything has been a learning process. "I think there was an assumption that I knew what I was doing," she says. People began asking her permission to pursue this or that idea; usually "I said yes, go!"

The loose approach has worked out, so far. Other Action Together groups describe themselves as a network of people, more than an organization, and Action Together Lakewood Area has readily played a supporting role in events and campaigns. Its members are active in collecting signatures for a redistricting reform measure promoted by the League of Women Voters, for example.

But Action Together Lakewood Area has found its own rhythm, also, balancing education and activism. Meetings tend to focus on learning, with a well-attended April event on refugees and immigration being one of ATLA's highlights so far.

Getting informed helps with outreach, Ridley says, whether calling a Senator's office or sharing information with the public. In June, the group took up stations outside of Lakewood's and other local libraries, alerting people to proposed cuts to library funding. Along with related efforts nationwide, public pressure succeeded in preventing most of the cuts.

In July, the group held a picnic to recharge. (Even there, several members were busy circulating redistricting petitions, or talking with passersby about pending healthcare legislation.) After looking back over Action Together Lakewood Area's first several months, Ridley briefly discussed possible future activities. Overall, though, she said that the group will remain flexible in trying to accommodate anyone who wants to get more involved. She had recently heard from a woman, for example, who wanted to know if Ridley had ideas for how she might remain active while recovering from recent hip surgery.

The answer was definitely "Yes." Which likely sums up the core mission of Action Together Lakewood Area: there is no fixed format or program, but if you want to help make a difference, ATLA will help you find a way.

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 5:08 PM, 08.01.2017

LECPTA's Fall Baby & Big Kid Resale Event Is Quickly Approaching

The Lakewood Early Childhood PTA (LECPTA) is once again planning its popular children's resale of gently used children's clothing (sizes newborn to 10), furniture, toys and other items. The Baby Bargain Bonanza (BBB) is planned for Saturday, September 9th at Garfield Middle School, which is located at 13114 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood. The sale is open to the public and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Admission is $5 from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. and just $1 from 9:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 5:08 PM, 08.01.2017

Senator Michael Skindell Comments On State Budget Vote

Last week, State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) voted “No” on Amended Substitute House Bill 49, known as the state’s biennial operating budget. Among many concerns, Senator Skindell cited the disinvestment in people and communities and the continuation of tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy as areas where the bill fell short.
 
“The evidence is clear that there is no Ohio miracle but rather an Ohio calamity,” said Senator Skindell. “The LLC tax loophole created in 2013 and expanded in 2015 has created a massive fiscal hole. This year alone, the budget hole stands at $840 million dollars, and is apparently growing. Ohio's finances are shrinking. The current imbalance is comparable to the imbalance we faced earlier this decade, largely caused by the 2005 tax giveaway.”
 
During the budget debate, Senator Skindell advocated for greater state investment in need-based financial aid for college students, quality childcare programs, K-12 education, public transportation and senior programs like Meals-On-Wheels. Senator Skindell noted that past disinvestment in higher education has made Ohio one of the most costly places for students to go to college. He also expressed concern that many schools in the 23rd Senate District would experience a cut in state funding under the budget bill.
 
Continuing cuts and diversions from local government funding also prevented Senator Skindell from supporting House Bill 49.
 
“Recent state budgets have not provided the Local Government Fund with the stable and predictable funding source they need to be able to provide critical services to their communities,” said Senator Skindell. “State action has resulted in extraordinary cuts to the revenues collected by our counties, cities, and townships. Meanwhile, the ability of county and city officials to pay for services with locally raised taxes have been hampered.
 
“In the simplest of terms, the budget we are asked to vote on today offers short-sighted, short-term solutions for long-term problems, such as the lack of meaningful investment in working families, lack of meaningful investment in our communities, and lack of meaningful investment to increase the opportunities of all Ohioans. Once more, the wealthy and big business will fare far better than working families under this budget.”
 
The bill will now move to Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the House and the Senate.

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Volume 13, Issue 13, Posted 3:03 PM, 07.05.2017

Town Halls Come To Lakewood

All of Lakewood is invited to a series of Town Hall meetings, beginning June 10.

City Council At-large candidate Tristan Rader says the events will focus on learning what is important to Lakewood citizens. “I’m interested in an open discussion on the issues,” he explains, “I'm dedicated to not just listening to people but to getting more people involved.”

Each Town Hall will open with brief introductory remarks, with progressive activist and former state Senator Nina Turner planning to address the Ward 4 Town Hall on July 8. Rader says Turner is an inspiring advocate for the kind of citizen-led change he wants to encourage, and that he’s honored to welcome her to Lakewood.

As pleased as he is about Turner, Rader emphasizes that local community is the Town Halls’ true centerpiece. “Elected officials and candidates get many opportunities to share our ideas and concerns,” he says. “I want to give other people a platform.”

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 12:39 PM, 06.06.2017

Senator Skindell Casts Vote To Certify Congressional Redistricting Ballot Issue

On May 30, 2017 State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood), in his role as a member of the State Ballot Board, voted to certify a proposed constitutional amendment to change Ohio’s system of drawing congressional districts. The vote, which was unanimous, means the group backing the proposal can begin collecting signatures to place the issue on the ballot next year.
 
“The gerrymandering of our state’s congressional districts creates more partisanship that undermines our ability to find common ground on issues affecting Ohioans on a daily basis,” said Senator Skindell, who made the motion for the board to certify the ballot issue. “I am pleased Ohio voters are a step closer to having the opportunity to decide if it is the right time to make reforms.”
 
The proposal is modeled after a ballot issue voters approved in 2015 that changed the process of drawing Ohio’s state legislative districts. That plan created a seven-member bipartisan commission made up of legislators and statewide elected officials, and set new guidelines for drawing maps to limit gerrymandering.
 
The group pushing for the congressional redistricting ballot issue will need to collect 305,591 valid signatures of registered voters from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to qualify for the ballot.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 12:39 PM, 06.06.2017

Ohio House Pushes Unfinished, Unbalanced State Budget Off On Senate

Before new state economic indicators came out, the Ohio House today passed a version of the state’s two-year budget, House Bill (HB) 49, that remains hundreds of millions of dollars out of balance, if not more. The vote comes a little more than two weeks after Gov. Kasich and GOP legislative leaders announced they would need to cut close to $1 billion from the bill to maintain a stable, balanced budget. Still, the final version of House Bill 49 approved largely along party lines today fell over $400 million short of being a balanced budget bill by that standard.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 3:01 PM, 05.16.2017

Refugee Resettlement Challenges And How To Help Locally

The life of a refugee involves tremendous difficulties, which misunderstandings and ignorance only make worse. Lakewood resident Kerissa MacKay helps address these challenges, as a local program coordinator for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). On May 25, MacKay will speak about her work, refugees’ lives, and ways that all of us can help.

MacKay will explore resettlement in the U.S. during a presentation to the Lakewood Democratic Club. She will relate some of the struggles and personal experiences of refugees, before and after resettlement. Her presentation will provide insight into

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 3:01 PM, 05.16.2017

Rose Iron Works - Hidden Cleveland Gem

Overlook Park Neighborhood Association had the wonderful opportunity of taking a field trip of sorts to Rose Iron Works on E. 43rd St. in Cleveland. For over 100 years, Rose Iron Works, a family business, has been known for exceptional quality decorative metalwork. Together with industrial metalworking (started during the Depression to make ends meet), their products range from traditional to Art Deco and Contemporary styles. 

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Volume 13, Issue 9, Posted 4:19 PM, 05.02.2017

Senator Skindell Introduces The Retail And Restaurant Employee Rights Act

State Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) has introduced Senate Bill 101 to provide struggling employees with predictive scheduling and fair treatment in the workplace. Ohioans are known for their hard work ethic and dedication to their jobs. The Retail and Employee Rights Act is necessary to pay Ohio workers the same respect that they put into building a stronger and greater Ohio.
 
In today's post-recession economy, many large retailers are employing part-time workers at relatively low wages, forcing many employees to work multiple jobs. At the same time, retail employers are utilizing "just in-time" scheduling practices and changing schedules the "day of" an employee's work shift. These practices make it difficult for the employees to hold that crucial second job. Employees can only work for multiple employers if they have predictability in scheduling and are treated fairly. The bill also covers workers in fast-food restaurant franchises.
 
"Predictive scheduling protects our most vulnerable workers, those who need to rely on more than one job – either part-time or full-time – to make ends meet,” said Deb Kline, Director at Cleveland Jobs With Justice. “It is impossible for a low wage earner to seek more than one place of employment unless they know the hours their employers are going to require them to work. Erratic scheduling also negatively impacts workers in need of childcare or those who have become caretakers of aging or disabled family members. Cleveland Jobs with Justice hopes that the Ohio Legislature will take action now to protect our workers by passing predictive scheduling."
 

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Volume 13, Issue 7, Posted 5:10 PM, 04.04.2017

Senator Skindell Celebrates National Sunshine Week, Recognizes Need For Access To Public Information

This week, State Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) recognizes National Sunshine Week and the importance of access to public information. This year, Sunshine Week takes place from March 12th-18th. It brings together nonpartisan organizations to inform Americans about public records laws in government. The week’s events focus on accountability, transparency, and open dialogue to foster an environment where government works for the people.
 
“Transparency helps hold our public officials accountable. It provides valuable information for citizens to make informed decisions about their legislators,” said Senator Skindell. “Open government is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
 
Senator Skindell has taken the issue of government accountability and transparency very seriously throughout his career in public service. In 2014, he worked to pass Senate Bill 270, which requires the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to post inspection and compliance reports for service providers online. Allowing families to easily access these reports helps them make the best decisions for the care of their loved ones.
 
In 2015, Senator Skindell introduced a bill to clarify that public money paid from a charter school to an operator or management company still retains its status as public money. This bill was accepted as an amendment into another bill and signed into law. Previously, the Ohio Supreme Court had decided that Ohio law lacked language to keep these dollars public, and ruled that for-profit operators could sell property and keep the funds. With the passage of HB 2 and Senator Skindell’s provision, taxpayer dollars are safeguarded in the event of a school closure.
 
“Public trust can only be earned when the sun is allowed to shine upon government dealings. Our public officials must turn on the lights, open the shutters and raise the blinds,” Senator Skindell added. “Only sunshine will guard our public assets. Only transparent government will protect the people's interests. Only accountability will restore public trust. “

 

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Volume 13, Issue 6, Posted 8:14 PM, 03.21.2017

College Students Lose Exemption From City Income Tax

Lakewood students away at college must file city income tax returns, this year, as a result of new policies adopted in late 2015.

Prior to the revised policies, students living in Lakewood for less than 16 weeks of the year could simply file a Declaration of Exemption. Beginning with the 2016 tax year, however, this changed, and the city’s new Declaration of Exemption omits the line for students.

Lakewood’s government points to state legislation as the reason behind this change. The 2014 HB5 measure imposed a number of changes on municipal income tax. Finance Director Jennifer Pae says that Lakewood considered at length what local revisions this required.

“In response to the uniformity changes at the State level, the City of Lakewood reviewed its income tax ordinances during 2015, and using recommended language developed by the Ohio Municipal League, revised the city's ordinances… to be in compliance,” Pae said in an e-mail.

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Volume 13, Issue 6, Posted 8:14 PM, 03.21.2017

Senator Skindell Introduces Transportation Funding Bill

This past week State Senator Michael Skindell (D- Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 61 to increase state funding to public transportation. The bill would increase General Revenue Fund (GRF) dollars for the remainder of this current fiscal year by $5 million. In the upcoming biennium budget, it would increase the public transportation line item to $25 million in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. It would also increase the use of federal flex funds in the public transportation budget to $50 million in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. 
 
The use of General Revenue Fund (GRF) dollars has radically decreased from $44 million in 2000 to $7.3 in both Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 in the last biennium budget. Currently, the use of federal flex dollars for public transportation is only at $10 million per year.
 
“Public transportation in this state is quite underfunded, with Ohio ranking 47 out of the 50 states. The demands of younger Ohioans, coupled with the increased needs of our low-income and senior citizens, make such low funding unsustainable," said Senator Skindell. "Many low-income workers rely exclusively on public transit to keep a stable job. But these jobs are not exclusively located in urban areas, nor are the people who most use public transit. By providing a more robust system, the state can more adequately promote self-sustainability and independence. A better investment in affordable public transportation will best serve the needs of all citizens."
 
“The proposed bill to flex $50 million in highway funds to help replace bus vehicles is welcome news to RTA and all transit systems in Ohio,” said Joe Calabrese, CEO and General Manager of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA). “Across this state, more than $400 million is needed today to replace outdated vehicles. It’s critical that this bill obtains widespread support.”
 

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Volume 13, Issue 5, Posted 6:18 PM, 03.07.2017

Senator Skindell Introduces Income Tax Reform Bill to Assist Struggling Ohioans

COLUMBUS - Today, Senator Michael Skindell (D–Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 35, which reforms Ohio's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to assist struggling Ohioans.  When passed in 2013, after years of advocacy by Senator Skindell, Ohio's EITC contained a cap and was not refundable.  Senate Bill 35 makes the tax credit stronger by removing the income restrictions and making it refundable.
 
“The goal of this proposed legislation is to allow for a refundable tax-relief benefit to working families in Ohio, particularly lower-income households.  It is imperative that we provide these families who work so hard and still struggle to pay bills a fair shot in our economy,” said Senator Skindell.
 
The EITC currently exists as a credit for taxpayers whose Ohio adjusted gross income exceeds $20,000. The state credit equals 10% of the federal EITC. Ohio's EITC cannot currently exceed 50% of the tax due.  The credit is also nonrefundable, thus it can only result in a reduction or elimination of tax liability, not a refund.
 
The existing provisions make our state EITC one of the weakest in the nation. Removing the income restrictions and making the EITC refundable would boost family income and assist poor communities by stimulating local economies. When low-income families receive their refund checks with an EITC, they purchase groceries, childcare, school supplies and other goods and services. This not only helps the families, it also boosts the local economy. 
 

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 6:40 PM, 02.21.2017

St. Mark On Track To Raise $50K For Pediatric Cancer Research

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research, will host one of its signature head-shaving events for the fourth year at St. Mark School in Cleveland on March 10, 2017, where nearly 100 students, staff, parents, and other family members will shave their heads in solidarity with kids with cancer and raise money to conquer childhood cancers.

St. Mark last year raised $49,552 and this year organizers hope to hit $50,000. The school is nearly a halfway to meeting that goal. In the past three years, St. Mark has raised $145,000 for pediatric cancer research. Besides soliciting donations from the community and local businesses, participants are also holding bake sales and restaurant fundraisers in support of St. Baldrick’s and the Shave Your Mane event. Hair salons such as Sports Clips Illusions Unlimited, Dante Lucci are donating stylists to shave the manes.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 6:40 PM, 02.21.2017

Rep. Antonio Again To Serve As Top Democrat On House Health Committee

As your State Representative, it is an honor to serve house District 13, consider the many views and interests of our diverse and vibrant community and bring your voice to the Statehouse in Columbus. We know that the laws made in Columbus have a direct impact on our lives in Lakewood. To help make the lawmaking process more efficient and thorough, pieces of legislation, once introduced and then assigned to issue-specific committees, are vetted through committee hearings where testimony and expert opinion on each bill are presented. 

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 4:24 PM, 02.07.2017

Our Friend Dennis Petkac Has So Much To Live For!

Our friend Dennis is a longtime Lakewood resident and owner of Elements Hair Studio on Madison Ave. He’s also dad, a husband, and a pretty damn good musician. Most of all Dennis is a kind, sweet, jovial, creative and generous dear friend to many who are lucky to know him and call him friend. He’s also THE best damn story-teller you'd ever want holding court at your party.

2016 was somewhat of an unpleasant year for many and it hit Dennis, his wife Karen and son Olliver especially hard. Beginning some years ago, Dennis and his family have had to overcome several misfortunes which in recent years included some serious family health issues, an abrupt lease termination to his business Elements Hair Studio and a fire to a building under renovation which was to be the new Lakewood home to Elements Hair Studio. Through all these and other hardships, I and many who know Dennis have watched him take it all on and get right back up with few complaints. More striking than each episode of adversity has been seeing Dennis face it all down with few complaints and a casual, confident attitude of just knowing that somehow things are going to be even better. We could all learn something from this.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 2:16 PM, 01.24.2017

Renewable Energy Power-Up For Northeast Ohio

You’re purchasing a lot more renewable energy this year, most likely, thanks to the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC).

Beginning this month, NOPEC member cities including Lakewood are changing their default electricity supplier, from FirstEnergy Solutions to NextEra. It’s a nearly invisible transition for the individual household; bills still arrive from The Illuminating Company, rates aren’t increasing, and there is no action to complete. Unless you opt out of it, your electric bill payments automatically go toward 50% renewable power, now.

This places NOPEC and its membership well ahead of Ohio’s current goal—which recently went back into force after a two-year “freeze”—of 12.5% electricity from renewable sources by 2027. The partnership with NextEra effectively leapfrogs that goal in replacing FirstEnergy Solutions, which supplied renewable content of only a few percent.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 2:16 PM, 01.24.2017

Twilight's Last Gleaming

As I write this, we are less than 21 hours until the Trump Regime takes over in Washington. As I posted on November 9, I fear that there will be dark and troubled times.

In recent weeks it has occurred to me that Lakewood is a preview of Trump's Administration. There are many parallels between Team Trump and Team Summers. So perhaps we shouldn't be too alarmed by Trump...We have already seen many of his tactics locally. As the Bible says, "There is nothing new under the Sun."

Here are some of the parallels I've noticed.

*Both Summers and Trump are members of the "Lucky Sperm Club," comprised of heirs that inherited the family business from their parents.

*Despite acquiring their wealth via family, both have convinced voters that they are "smart businessmen."
*Both ran campaigns touting themselves as "successful businessmen" running against "career politicians."

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 1:46 PM, 01.24.2017

Our First Stand To Save Health Care

Sunday, more than 400 people came to the SEIU 1199 headquarters on E. 30th St. to rally and protest together- to stand up and demand that healthcare should be a right! The first round of applause went to the first speaker Steve Holecko of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus (CCPC), “We will not be satisfied when healthcare is merely protected; we want universal care!” Dave Pavlick of the Single Payer Action Network (SPAN) and Representative, D-District 13, Nickie Antonio also delivered remarks about moving towards a Medicare for all or single payer model and fighting back against Medicare voucher programs. 

The Northshore AFL-CIO teamed up with CCPC to sponsor the event which was called for by three of the top democrats in the country: Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Columbus and Akron also had similar events and many more were happening all over the country. At the meeting, we collected over 100 hand-written narratives regarding the importance of our healthcare that will be sent to Rob Portman this week.

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 1:46 PM, 01.24.2017

Antonio: Complex Bridge Rehab Project Moves Forward

Last month State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) announced the release of $345,287 in state funding to complete construction contract plans for the rehabilitation of the State Route 176 southbound bridge over Interstate Route 71 southbound in Cuyahoga County. The Controlling Board, a panel tasked with oversight of state spending, approved the funding at today’s meeting.

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Volume 13, Issue 1, Posted 8:12 PM, 01.10.2017

“#Change2017” Investment And Retirement

Happy 2017! This past year may be one the most memorable in recent generations. “Change” might be the key word heading into 2017. “Change” will apply to: The Presidency, one party controls both the Executive/Legislative branches of government, Interest Rates, countless regulations across the board, and the Affordable Care Act, to name but a few. 

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Volume 13, Issue 1, Posted 8:12 PM, 01.10.2017

Antonio: Vetoes Of Two Bills Necessary

The phrase “lame-duck” describes the period of time after an election but before the end of the General Assembly – November and December of an election year. During this time, there is a rush to pass pending legislation before the end of the year

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Volume 13, Issue 1, Posted 8:12 PM, 01.10.2017

Senator Skindell Honored To Cast Vote To Give John Glenn Rare Statehouse Tribute

Today, I joined my colleagues on the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board in voting to allow former astronaut and U. S. Senator John Glenn to lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse. Glenn died Thursday at the age of 95. The honor is normally reserved for current and former governors, statewide office holders and members of the legislature. So, it was necessary for the Board to meet this morning to grant an exemption. 
 
The Glenn family made the request and I was honored to make a motion at the board meeting to fulfill their wishes for a Statehouse tribute to a remarkable man and a true American hero.
 
Members of the public were able to pay their respects to Senator Glenn when he lied in state on Friday, December 16 in the Statehouse rotunda. The New Concord, Ohio native and Marine Corps combat pilot became the first American to orbit the earth before he served 24 years in the United States Senate.
 

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Volume 12, Issue 26, Posted 8:36 PM, 12.20.2016

Dead Flowers: A Small Consideration On The Heroin Pandemic

“Well when you're sitting back
in your rose-pink Cadillac
Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day
I'll be in my basement room
with a needle and a spoon
And another girl to take my pain away.”

- Mick Jagger/Keith Richards – Dead Flowers

[In the following personal stories, names have been changed for the sake of discretion.]

STEVEN WAS IN THE BACK SEAT when he noticed Amir, riding shotgun, opening his backpack and beginning to assemble his gear. Andy was driving. The three, all around 22, were heading out toward Nelson’s Ledges, getting high on sour diesel, with no destination in mind. “Pull up over here,” Amir told Andy.

“Dude,” said Andy. “You’re not doing that right now.”

“Duuuuude,” mimicked Amir. “Pull up over here.”

Andy finally did so as Amir proceeded with an air of ritual, one which Steven had never seen in person. Amir did his thing—the alcohol swab, the cook, the vein reconnaissance, the tie-off, the spike, the injection—Steven and Andy watching from their respective spots, mesmerized by the flow of motion, the concentration of purpose.

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Volume 12, Issue 25, Posted 7:29 PM, 12.06.2016

Analysis Shows Ohio Workers Will Suffer From GOP Unemployment Compensation Plan

State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) recently spoke out against proposed changes to Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund because the legislation unfairly punishes workers. A fiscal analysis of SB 374, conducted by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission (LSC), found that the financial burden for getting the unemployment fund to solvency would fall 83% on workers and only 17% on business owners.

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Volume 12, Issue 25, Posted 7:29 PM, 12.06.2016

“Christmas Secret”

I know a Christmas Secret,

I think all of you should know,

And being the nice guy that I am,

This secret, I’m going to show;

It’s all about “Light Up Lakewood”,

And why it shows up every year,

Plus all the work that makes it great,

That brings this Christmas cheer;

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 4:35 PM, 11.22.2016

Year-End Tips for Financial Housekeeping

As we enter the end of the year, there are many things on people’s minds. Sure, there are the upcoming holidays, but there are many financial decisions that must be addressed. I’ve put together just a few for you to consider:

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Volume 12, Issue 23, Posted 3:38 PM, 11.09.2016

Love Trumps Fear

What’s next? Are you wandering well beyond your spiritual upbringing? Might the realities of our current violent culture and war orientation be bringing you pain, suffering, and questioning? Are you energized by efforts of healing, peacemaking and art? There are myriad ways to move into a future for yourself (and because of yourself) in cooperation, peacemaking, art, imagination, and wonder. Have faith, avoid certainty. The world has already been saved. These are days to be heroic in waging creativity and healing with the same intensity as those who seek to divide us and keep us afraid of each other.

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Volume 12, Issue 23, Posted 3:38 PM, 11.09.2016

Rep. Antonio Recognized As Legislator Of The Year

State Representative Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) received recognition as the Legislator of the Year by the Buckeye Art Therapy Association at the organization's 35th Annual Symposium earlier this month. The Lakewood lawmaker was recognized for her significant contributions to the improvement and advancement of art therapy in Ohio.

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Volume 12, Issue 22, Posted 5:52 PM, 10.25.2016

State Can, Should Do More To Combat Statewide Opioid Emergency

Democratic lawmakers from the Ohio House and Senate held a press conference earlier this month pushing for legislative action to combat the worsening statewide opioid emergency. Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and state Reps. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood), Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) and Greta Johnson (D-Akron) pushed for the legislature and the governor to finish work on Senate Bill (SB) 319, opioid and heroin omnibus legislation that the Senate passed before the summer recess but has since stalled in the House.

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Volume 12, Issue 21, Posted 4:56 PM, 10.11.2016

Lakewood Community Loses Beloved Pediatrician At Age 95

Some of my earliest memories place me naively waiting in a Lakewood doctor’s office waiting area, playing with cardboard bricks that we begged our parents to get for us. I was blissfully unaware of the next shot (1, 2, 3 this will hurt!) nor really aware of how good our family had it going to Dr. McEvoy for our pediatrician visits. In hindsight the good was obvious, because “Bowtie Bob” would also take calls at his home, stop by your house, ask mom to put a sick kid on the phone so he could listen to them, call in prescriptions and in many ways, help parents to learn how to be parents by teaching them to trust their instincts.

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Volume 12, Issue 21, Posted 4:56 PM, 10.11.2016

Democratic Lawmakers Recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month

State Reps. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Janine R. Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) today introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Ohio. Advocates with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network today gathered to present an annual report of Ohio Domestic Fatality Data at a press conference in the state capitol.

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Volume 12, Issue 21, Posted 4:56 PM, 10.11.2016