Clarification: I am referring to this group as "Afro-Africans" since this is the way Mr. Harris, the gentleman I interviewed, referenced himself and the people he represents. Also, according to their website they also reference themselves as "Afro-Americans."
Ohio Republican and Democratic leadership: are you listening???
This writer has run across an interesting website in Ohio, "BlackOut 2010." From their homepage:
BlackOut2010.org are concerned citizens, business owners and community activists throughout the State of Ohio, whom are no longer willing to innocently and without value offer our votes up to the Democratic Party on all levels without a meaningful response. We are not prepared to register as Republicans, however, we will give the opposition an opportunity to hear our concerns and act on them.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Fred Harris, former Warren, Ohio safety services director at length about the movement. It boils down to one single focus: neither the Republican or Democratic leadership in the state of Ohio are listening to the needs and pleas of the Afro-American citizens in the state. Both Mahoning and Trumbull counties in northeast Ohio in particular have been plagued with massive unemployment which is imposing untold burdens on the communities and citizens. Mr. Harris stated to me Trumbull county had the highest job loss in one month of the whole nation. These areas have a large population of Afro-Americans who are desperate for work since the steel industry left the area years ago and people are struggling during these tough economic times to put food on their tables and make ends meet.
Afro-Americans are typically 85% Democrats and in this election year Mr. Harris states there is a "lethargy" about going to the polls for fears their votes will go unnoticed and their pleas for assistance will be unheard. A true constitutionalist, Mr. Harris believes the citizens' most powerful tool is their "vote." So for this election cycle he and his organization are traveling the state of Ohio advocating a "protest" not only by Afro-Americans, but by any dissatisfied citizens of the state, by withholding their gubernatorial vote only. Since the governor is the highest ranking elected official in any state the logic is this will send a clear message to state leadership in Ohio the status quo is untenable and needs to be changed quickly. Mr. Harris made it abundantly clear his movement is in no way advocating staying home and not going to the polls. On the contrary, he stated, every person in the state should be voting but it is only the gubernatorial vote which is being asked to be withheld.
I questioned Mr. Harris if he had been in contact with any Democratic or Republican leadership or candidates with regards to this "protest." I was told both Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and Governor Ted Strickland are aware of the organization's stance and both declared to him this would harm President Obama in the election. However, Mr. Harris was adamant, speaking directly to me:
At this time this is not about President Obama or any other candidate at the federal level. In 2012 we will address the issue at the federal level. However, my people are hurting and right now we need to focus on the needs of the Afro-Americans in the state of Ohio. And the only way that can be done is to get the attention of those in the state of Ohio who can help us whether it be the Democrats or the Republicans. The Tea Party movement has helped to make us not necessarily either Republicans, Democrats or Independents, but Americans. Therefore, whomever is elected as governor this election cycle, whether it be John Kasich or Governor Strickland, we will invite them to come to our communities to hold Town Halls where we will voice our concerns and needs. However, at this point we believe our only way to get the attention we deserve is by withholding our gubernatorial votes.
Mr. Harris told me he has also talked with Rob Portman, Ohio candidate for US Senate face to face and has addressed his concerns to Mr. Portman telling Mr. Portman "if you can help us, then we'll talk to you."
Mr. Harris and I also discussed House Bill 584 (Minority Set-Aside Legislation)
The purpose of the Bill was to ensure minority business participation in the bidding process relating to the contracts awarded by the State of Ohio. Specifically, the bill mandated the following:
- Establish a minority development loan program;
- Provide construction contract bonds for minority businesses unable to obtain them from private sources;
- Set aside 5% of state construction contracts and 15% [emphasis mine] of procurement contracts for minority businesses;
- Require 7 to 10 percent of every state construction contract be awarded to minority subcontractors and material-men; and
- Require all state and local procurement contracts to contain anti-discrimination clauses, and to make an appropriation.
Mr. Harris tells me scorecards for this legislation have fallen well below the mandated 15% and overseers of this legislation need to make sure the percentages climb. Here is the MBE/EDGE Scorecard from the Ohio Dept. of Administrative Services, Equal Opportunity Division which does indicate most state agencies have fallen short of what is required under #584. As one can see the majority of agencies are in the "yellow" caution area with only several in the "green" area" and many in the "red" area.
Also discussed was the Stimulus (ARRA) Law. Mr. Harris believes the $12 billion in funds sent to Ohio should not have gone directly to the governor's office, where he/she can control where the money flows. Instead he believes the dollars should have gone to county commissions which could have better ascertained where the dollars were best spent.
Here's an article about the organization from WFMJ.online in Warren Ohio.
Governor Strickland. John Kasich. Chris Redfern. Kevin Dewine (OH RNC) are you listening??
BlackOut 2010 hopes that you are.
Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks