Ward: Increasingly, Toledoans don’t own ToledoWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Edna Brown and Rep. Michael Ashford were the hosts of a May 14 town hall sponsored by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus at the Warren A.M.E. Church in Toledo.
The main reason for the town hall was to generate support for the repeal of Senate Bill 5 and to increase awareness of the voter identification bill that is before the General Assembly. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur attended to show her support for the area Democratic assembly members.
“The power of ordinary people is being tested,” Kaptur said. “When you look at what has happened, big money is in our face all the time.”
Restoring power to ordinary people has been Kaptur’s focus for decades. It’s not been just directed at huge corporations, banks or Wall Street; Kaptur advocates for grassroots movements, continuing to challenge members of her own party to avoid the lure of “big money.”
She still raises money through bake sales, something that John Nichols reported on for “In These Times” in 2002: “Behind the scenes and off the record, House Democrats and their aides were quick to confide the generally held view that Kaptur was crazy to suggest that the Democratic Party might want to hold a few less $5,000-a-head fundraisers and a few more bake sales and fish fries. ‘Bake sales!’ exclaimed an exasperated committee chair. ‘What the hell planet is Marcy Kaptur living on?’”
The question could have been and could still be in response — what the hell planet do committee chairs live on? — but that’s a question for another day. While it’s common for elected officials to forget where they came from, Kaptur has not done that. Her memories of her father’s store and the changes in access to locally grown food motivate her to this day.
“Ninety-eight percent of what we eat is not from Ohio,” Kaptur said. It’s a topic she’s discussed many times, with her goal being to increase local residents access to locally grown food, especially for seniors and those who rely on food assistance programs.
In March, Kaptur told the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition that this was the first year America imported more food than it exported.
She said as a young child, “I began to understand how small business people were not on the same turf, on the same playing field, as very big companies. “The food that we buy in the retail stores, we don’t know where it comes from. Where we live our community has been disconnected, the country from the town, the country is the lifeblood of the adjoining villages and city, it’s there where the food comes from.”
For Kaptur, it is about recapturing local markets — which grows more difficult each year as less acreage in Lucas County is farmland. In 2002, a little more than 77,800 acres of Lucas County was devoted to farmland, in 2007 it decreased to 62,906 acres. About 60 percent of the farmland in Lucas County is owned by those who farm less than 50 acres.
It’s not just about the nutritional aspect or knowing where food is grown. It’s about recapturing local dollars. What’s grown here, sold here and bought here, keeps more money local. Instead of profits going to corporations not located in the Toledo area, the money stays here.
“Think about who makes the money,” Kaptur said May 14. “Six banks control two-thirds of banking capital in our country. Find a way to talk to a credit union, a locally owned bank. Bring your money home.
“We in Toledo have the ability to have a public utility. Imagine if we could produce power at a local level,” Kaptur said. “Imagine if the solar fields at Scott Park could power up the campus, businesses and adjoining neighborhood.”
Not having control over the financial aspect of food, housing and energy makes us weaker said Kaptur.
Keeping local dollars local is a topic that should transcend politics.
It makes sense.
If encouraging people to make politics about dreams, ideals and to make it accessible rather than about money is crazy? I wish there were more crazy people.
Toledo Free Press Web Editor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.