They’re not announced by sirens, dark skies or funnel clouds, but heat waves can be just as dangerous as more visible weather events, local health experts say.
“A heat wave can be a silent killer,” said Emilie Owens, emergency coordinator and vice president of nutrition and wellness at the Area Office on Aging (AOoA). “Heat is less dramatic and less apparent, especially at the beginning, so people don’t know they are in trouble. A lot of people don’t realize how dangerous the heat is.”
More people die in the United States each year from extreme heat and humidity than any other natural weather event, Owens said. Children and the elderly are the two most vulnerable groups.
Owens will co-present “Heat — It’s a Killer,” the next session in the Ready U series, along with Lindsay Wiemken, pediatric injury prevention specialist at Toledo Children’s Hospital. Owens will discuss heat dangers for seniors while Wiemken will discuss the dangers for children.
The free event is set for 7 p.m. June 27 at Secor Metro Park’s National Center for Nature Photography, 10001 W. Central Ave.
Ready U, a 10-session series presented by the Red Cross of Greater Toledo and the Lucas County EMA, is designed to educate the public and prepare individuals and families for potential emergencies in Northwest Ohio.
Children are at risk because their body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s, meaning the shift from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, or hyperthermia, can happen within minutes, Wiemken said.
Last year, 49 children in the U.S. died of hyperthermia inside a car, Wiemken said. Sometimes children are forgotten in the back seat, but others are left alone “just for a minute” while a parent runs in a store or they are playing around the car and accidently lock themselves inside.
“Within 20 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise as much as 29 degrees, so even on a cloudy 80 degree day, it can go from 80 to 109 in 20 minutes,” Wiemken said. “At 104 degrees, your organs begin shutting down.”
Seniors are at risk because of decreased lung capacity, medication that dehydrates them or a natural decrease in awareness of thirst, Owens said. They may not turn on air conditioning because of the cost or they may not want to bother family members to ask for help.
“They just want to manage and that’s where they get in trouble,” Owens said. “We just caution the public to look out for older adults who live alone.”
One of the worst incidents of heat-related deaths was during a 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed 750 people, many of them elderly people who lived alone.
“Most major cities now have heat emergency plans as a result of that,” Owens said. “It’s hard to believe that could happen here in the U.S.”
Local senior centers offer their buildings as “cooling centers” on hot days, Owens said. Seniors without air conditioning should go there or another cool place, such as a library or shopping center.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include blurred vision, clammy skin or feeling sick to the stomach, Owens said. The person should get to a cool area and drink water, put a wet cloth on his or her neck or take a tepid shower.
Symptoms of hyperthermia include elevated body temperature, rapid heartbeat and dry or red skin. The person may be agitated or confused and seizures are possible. Hyperthermia can be life-threatening and medical attention should be sought immediately, Owens said.
Owens said she hopes the session helps people learn to recognize danger signs and act quickly.
“Don’t ignore it,” Owens said. “Heat exhaustion is a very easy thing to reverse in the early stages, but if no one knows you’re in trouble it can easily and quickly slip into heat stroke and death. That doesn’t have to happen with all the help available.”
Attendees will receive reusable grocery bags. Raffle prizes will include a gift card from The Andersons and a 5-gallon bucket, said Sheri Meeker, community disaster education specialist for the Red Cross.
13abc’s Stan Stachak will host the session. Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor for the Ready U program.
For more information, visit the website ready-u.com.
Archive for June, 2011
They’re not announced by sirens, dark skies or funnel clouds, but heat waves can be just as dangerous as more visible weather events, local health experts say.
Editor’s Note: Reporter Brian Malkowski will spend shifts at various Toledo workplaces to offer insight into the people who work some of the area’s most interesting jobs.
In August 2010, more than 1,000 people took the civil service exam to join the Toledo Police Department. With that many people interested in one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs Toledo has to offer, it made me wonder if these individuals really know what they’re getting into. What is it like to be a police officer?
At 6 a.m., a mother is packing lunches, getting kids dressed and waiting for the school bus. At 8 a.m. she’s off to the gym for a spin class. She heads back home to do some work around the house and hit the shower because her day hasn’t even started yet. That’s because Officer Michelle Sterling, a 19-year veteran, is due in Downtown Toledo at The Safety Building.
At 2:30 p.m., officers are in roll call getting briefed and having their weapons inspected. After roll call, Officer Sterling and her partner Officer Greg Szymanski head to their cruiser to put in their “hard eight.” They call in for service and check the computer for calls in their area. The two officers work the North End and are part of Weed and Seed, a community-based, comprehensive, multi-agency approach to combating violent crime, drug use and gang activity in high-crime neighborhoods.
During my ridealong, I learned there’s never a dull moment in the North End. Petty theft, burglary, solicitation, disorderly conduct, domestic disputes and traffic violations are just some of the crimes that keep this crew busy. I saw how the use of information technology makes it faster and easier to perform police work. The computer they use has a few extra features that other cruisers don’t have, such as a GPS, an online mug shot database, and the ability to text message the dispatcher. This allows the dispatcher to talk with several crews at the same time and keeps information off police scanners.
They responded to a call about a 49-year-old male shoplifting at a grocery store. The store had him on camera stealing food two days in a row. The man was arrested for petty theft and told never to return to the store. On the ride to Lucas County Jail, the officers ran his ID and pulled his mug shot and history up on the computer. The crime he committed joined a long record.
Hell on wheels
The strangest call of the night was for a disorderly man at the Greyhound bus station. We walked in to see a man in a motorized wheelchair who appeared to be intoxicated. He had been denied entry to the bus for yelling obscenities to the others in the station and would have to wait two days for another bus.
Once the officers arrived, they tried to calm the man down as he continued with disorderly behavior. This was the first call of its kind for Officer Szymanski, who remained cool for 15 minutes as the man threatened him. The officers tried to find him a place to stay for the night, however, the man continued to be disorderly and was placed under arrest.
Four officers picked him up still in his scooter and placed him in the back of the police van.
At night, the old Polish neighborhood is better known as the Red Light District. We had just turned onto Lagrange Street and noticed a female leaning inside a car. Once she saw the cruiser she began to walk away. The officers pulled up and called her over to the car. They ran her ID and discovered she had priors for solicitation. Officer Sterling performed a pat down and a crack pipe was found. She was cuffed, arrested and taken to jail. On the way to the jail I was amazed that the female didn’t care that she was being arrested but was only concerned that her picture was going to be displayed in one of the local crime rags found in carryouts.
Speed and surprise
This ridealong was a great experience and I saw firsthand what it’s like and what it takes to be a police officer. One of the general duties listed in the civil service commission for a police officer is maintaining a balanced perspective in the face of constant exposure to the worst side of human nature. Dangerous situations in unknown environments are an everyday occurrence. If you have ever seen a cruiser in hot pursuit and wondered how fast they can get from point A to point B, trust me — it’s fast. When a unit hits the lights and sirens, city streets turn into an expressway.
The officers I rode with attend neighborhood meetings where residents’ concerns are heard. Because of these meetings, the officers know the residents and the area’s criminals by name. Later in the night during my ridealong, the officers were looking for a gentleman with numerous warrants. They questioned a resident if they had seen the gentleman and five minutes later they had him in custody. The officers were surprised how fast they found him.
I was very impressed with Officers Sterling and Szymanski and all the other officers I met. If you see police officers, shake their hands and thank them for their hard work.
Is the use of incentives the way to attract and keep businesses in Toledo? That was a topic of discussion at the June 21 Toledo City Council agenda review.
Opinions were mixed.
Councilman Joe McNamara said what they are trying to avoid is offering an incentive for action that would have happened anyway.
“Some years ago there was a development outside of the city of Toledo and they placed infrastructure in the ground and they offered an incentive exactly like the TEI,” Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said. “That place is called Arrowhead Park and when that opened ultimately it took 20,000 people out of Downtown Toledo. We are the ones on the front line speaking to these clients. They need incentive to stay in Toledo.”
In 2007, Toledo City Council passed an ordinance approving the creation of the Toledo Expansion Incentive (TEI) program. It designated zones within Toledo that were eligible for what basically amounts to a rebate on taxes if a company meets an agreed upon increase in payroll taxes from hiring new employees.
The percentage varies from 10 percent to 30 percent with an additional 10 percent awarded for companies that spend 15 percent of its net profits on research and development.
“If I were to take a dollar out of my pocket and say to you all, you may have this dollar but only if if I can get 30 cents back, the question is would you take that deal?” Crothers said. “Now if you don’t take the deal then I’m going to put the dollar back in my pocket and you get 100 percent of nothing. Or do you want 70 percent of something, see that’s the question.”
“Are we using a slingshot when we need a bazooka?” Councilman Adam Martinez said.
The specific legislation before them was to seek approval of a 30 percent TEI for Burkett & Sons Inc. based on a planned payroll expansion from $756,000 to about $1.5 million and the hiring of 20 new employees.
Councilman Rob Ludeman wanted to make sure that the fact that Burkett testified in the past about water rates was on the record.
“They asked us to ‘be kind to the business owners’ when it came to storm water rates,” he said.
Commissioner of Development Brad Peebles said they started negotiations with Burkett in August.
“This was why we originally came to Council requesting Council consider making the citywide 30 percent TEI policy versus having to come to council for specific approvals,” he said.
That legislation would have allowed the Economic Development Department to award TEIs without going to Council for approval as long as basic standards were met.
Discussion has taken place during the past year about the use of TEIs and how effective it is. At a hearing Sept. 30, experts testified and advised caution in the use of incentives.
“We need to continue these discussions — have a stable policy so we know what we are talking about each time one of these deals come along,” Ludeman said. “This is an important project, it stabilizes the part of Toledo it’s in.”
Councilman George Sarantou said the credit does not happen until additional people are put on the payroll.
“I appreciate the comments about Arrowhead, we need to be reminded of that. If you go around the entire county, if you go out Central Avenue — you’ll see a lot of businesses and services that were originally in Toledo — Sylvania Township doesn’t have an income tax,” Sarantou said.
He said if we don’t continue to offer incentives, jobs will continue to move out of Toledo.
“We’ve got to quit offering them our great Toledo water at a discounted rate without a JEDD or a JEDZ. We did that for Rossford and Northern Wood County,” Councilman Mike Craig said. “That’s a 20-year agreement, a lot of jobs can leave here in 20 years.”
The legislation for Burkett’s TEI was given emergency status, which means it will be before members of Council for a vote June 28.
Crothers said the proposed changes to the TEI program were almost ready to present and suggested a hearing so Council and the public would be informed. Are incentives the best way to create jobs? That will be debated another day.
Toledo Free Press Web Editor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.
David Levine made a lot of mistakes training for his first marathon. Now he helps others avoid his errors.
The Toledo-area native is a certified marathon coach who recently co-authored his first book, “The Complete Idiots Guide to Marathon Training.”
“There are so many things about endurance athletics that are completely contrary to what one might think,” said Levine, who now lives in Los Angeles. “I can honestly say I was an idiot about everything. Oh God, there were so many things. I know people who have done 20 marathons and they are still completely ignorant of how to train for a marathon.”
Levine got involved with the book project through his day job in the finance department at Sony Pictures Entertainment, when co-author Paula Petrella, a friend from Sony and fellow runner, needed a coach to address the technical aspects.
The lessons from his first marathon experience were the start of the training program Levine developed, which appears in the book.
The method, backed by the success of college and elite runners who follow it, emphasizes logging weeks of low heart rate, low-intensity miles before ramping up workouts.
“The biggest mistake is people think they need to beat themselves up to do a marathon. You need to build yourself up, not beat yourself up,” Levine said. “If you find yourself struggling mentally, something is physiologically wrong. It’s really just your mind telling you you started wrong.”
Starting slowly builds an important physiological foundation most runners never get, Levine said.
“First you have to become efficient, then start raising the bar,” Levine said. “Speedwork later in the season is essential and of crucial importance, but you’re never going to be as fast or as strong until you have the aerobic, low heart rate base first.”
Levine said most people have the ability to run a marathon.
“I could take almost anyone and get them to a finish line,” he said. “The only reason I say it’s not for everyone is people tend to beat themselves up over it or just get bored with it or say it’s just not for me. It’s more of a psychological thing rather than a physical or physiological thing.”
The 55-year-old Levine, who graduated from Sylvania High School and the University of Cincinnati, was in college before he started distance running and was 41 when he ran his first marathon, prompted by a former girlfriend.
“She ran one and stopped; I kept going. I could help her a lot now,” said Levine, who has now run 13 marathons with plans for No. 14 this fall. He has also completed three Iron Man races — a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride followed by a marathon.
He has come a long way from his early mistakes.
“I had brand new, very nice shoes,” Levine said of his first marathon. “I had worn them in, like I had heard, but then I get to starting line and everyone had the dirtiest, torn, worn, blood-stained, loathsome shoes and mine were beaming white.”
He also realized the shoes were tied too tightly just as the signal came to start the race. Not wanting to lose time, he started running anyway.
Crossing the finish line hours later, he had tears in his eyes — because he had accomplished his goal but also because his feet were throbbing.
“I love the simplicity of filling my lungs with air and breathing and feeling alive,” Levine said. “Crossing a finish line is not the easiest, but it’s the quickest victory you can have in life. And I love the camaraderie. There is such a community in running and it’s a fun community to be part of.”
His No. 1 rule is to have fun.
“When you find yourself saying ‘Oh my God, when is this going to end?’ you are going too far, too fast, or are doing the wrong workout,” Levine said. “Rule No. 2 is if you’re not having fun, fix it so you’re having fun.”
He never tires of witnessing lives transformed by crossing the marathon finish line.
“They get the idea in their head that if I could do this thing I never thought I could do before, what are the other things I thought I never could do? And suddenly they are doing them,” Levine said. “They get a new heightened sense of anything’s possible.”
Matt Mahalak was drafted June 25 by the Caroline Hurricanes with the 12 pick in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Draft.
The 18-year-old Monroe, Mich. native was one of only eight goalies invited to participate in the NHL draft combine from May 30 to June 5.
Mahalak played this season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. He went 8-8-4 with a .908 save percentage and 3.07 goals against average. He played the 2009-10 season with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.
See the June 29 issue of the Toledo Free Press Star for a feature on Mahalak.
Previous coverage: Mahalak ‘made it through’ NHL combine, ‘did well’
Lynne Long cannot wait to hear the Scott Thompson Band on June 26.
“I enjoy their music very much. I know people who heard them play at what’s now Maggies [at the Roadhouse], and they thought it was great,” Long said.
The band was recommended to, and will play as part of the Rhythm on the River Art Series at 4 p.m. at the Jerry Wright Pavilion in Grand Rapids.
The program is the second of seven events free to the public that will take place through the first Sunday in October this year. A complete list of events can be found at www.grand rapidsohio.com/Events.htm#Rhythm on the River.
The Grand Rapids Historical Society sponsors the series. Long, a board member for the Society, said she has organized the series every year since 1996.
The series, which started about 20 years ago, has taken place at the pavilion since it was built.
“It’s the most beautiful venue, between the canal and river, near sunset,” she said. “It’s only rained on us twice in all the years we’ve been there.”
In charge of entertainment, Long said she knew the keyboardist of the band personally and asked him if the band would like to play.
The keyboardist, Jakob Grimm, said yes.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “We really prefer doing smaller concerts, but something like this that brings us back in closer connects with the audience.”
The band has been together since fall 2010. It started when Grimm asked namesake Scott Thompson if he was interested in a project. The group —Thompson, vocals and guitar, Grimm, keyboard, vocals and guitar, Brad Babcock, drums and vocals, Mackenzie Lerchen, fiddle and vocals, and Ryan Babcock, bass — got together and clicked when they played country music.
“It’s a mix of contemporary and classic country songs with a few originals as well,” he said.
Grimm described the music as clean, contemporary country with a focus on emphasizing how the original artist wanted the song performed.
To listen to the band’s music, visit www.scottthompsonband.com.
He said he expects about 100 people to attend the concert but hopes for just fewer than 200.
Long said it is possible to reach that goal.
“We have quite a following now,” she said. “At our first program a couple weeks ago, there were more than 100 people. We’re getting a wider audience all the time.”
Whether it is the free entertainment or the beautiful setting, Long said she will be at concert enjoying the music. After all the band’s motto is: “Country the way it should be.”
Dr. Douglas Dennis rarely sees his father cry.
But the 89-year-old World War II veteran cried during his trip to Washington D.C., when Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio (HFNWO) took Ronald Dennis and his son on a trip to see the World War II memorial.
Douglas, his father’s guardian for the trip, said his father’s tears were how thankful he was for all the respect the veterans received.
“It probably was the most wonderful day my father and I have shared together in our entire life. My dad has already told me he feels that way,” Douglas said. “It’s an unbelievably patriotic experience, an emotional experience. I learned so much more about what my father experienced in World War II.”
HFNWO is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that sends U.S. veterans from Northwest Ohio to see the memorials in Washington, D.C. As of the most recent trip June 22, which the father and son attended, more than 700 veterans have made the daylong trip. The next scheduled flight is Aug. 31.
All expenses are paid for the veterans, who often have a yearlong wait after submitting an application before they get on a flight. Guardians, the designated caretakers for the veterans, pay a $400 fee.
Douglas said the memorials they visited — which included the World War II memorial, the Korean War memorial, the Vietnam memorial, the Air Force memorial, the Marines memorial and the Changing of the Guard for the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier —were beautiful.
“The amount of respect I have for what our World War II veterans went through is a whole magnitude more,” he said. “It is an outstanding tribute. The history that you are educated or reminded of is phenomenal.”
Jack Paquette, an 86-year-old veteran from the June 22 flight, said he was astonished by how realistic the Marine Corps statue looked, by how emotional the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb was and the amount of people who wanted to pay their respects.
“Every place we went, people would stop us. I had people from foreign countries stop us, wanting to talk about World War II,” he said. “There again, there were complete strangers who came up and thanked us for our service.”
The veteran spent about a year on the waiting list before being given the chance to go on the flight. He said it was worth it.
“I’m tremendously honored to have the opportunity,” he said. “I’m so pleased at this volunteer group who sacrificed a lot to make it possible. They cost a tremendous amount of money to sponsor these. I’m very, very grateful for what they have done and being honored by being eligible to go.”
A history buff, Paquette said he hopes Honor Flight continues until at least the Vietnam War veterans are able to attend, because they deserve to be honored after the public’s villainous homecoming. The men were spit on and publically humiliated, he said, when most of the men had been drafted and wanted nothing to do with the war.
He said in contrast, the send-off and welcoming home party the veterans received from the flight was heartwarming.
“I was astounded at the number of people who came out to the airport to see us off to Washington, and more astounded by the horde of people who met us at Washington.”
There was one man who stopped Paquette at the gate. The man thanked the veteran for his service and mentioned that if it had not been for him, he would be speaking German or Japanese. Paquette said he never thought about how Germany or Japan would have occupied the U.S. if it lost World War II.
Paquette, who has written six books, had spent three years in the U.S. Navy fighting against the Japanese. His guardian, Eric Swisher, spent three years in the Army, a bonding point for the two.
“I called [my guardian] my hero,” Paquette said. ‘He was a 46-year-old army veteran himself. He served in Germany. He served three years right out of high school. ”
Swisher, a first-time guardian, said he would be a guardian again in a heartbeat.
“It was like I was his friend. We had a great time. We’re both history buffs. We just hit it off real well,” he said. “Well, his experiences were a lot more greatly in depth than mine because I was in during a peace time.”
He said Paquette told him many stories about the Japanese kamikazes, but the story that stuck was about how he saw the atomic bomb clouds from a distance when the U.S. dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Mary Kemp, an 89-year old retired war secretary, did not watch the bombs drop but said she was ecstatic every time she wrote a discharge letter for a troop who had.
“Every time I typed a discharge letter, I felt so good because it meant one of our men was coming home alive,” she said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Kemp was enlisted for 22 months and discharged in 1945 at the end of war. She said it was breathtaking to see the memorials.
“Everything I saw, especially depicting all the men who had served to keep freedom for America, I get emotional over it because it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing they’ve done,” she said.
The statue of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima was especially emotional for her. She said the men who raised the flag were shot two days after the event, and the statue did a wonderful job in honoring those sacrifices, she said.
Kemp, who waited three years to attend the flight, said her memories of the war were so vivid, she wanted to see if the memorials would remember the events the way she did.
“It was just, to me, so beautiful. I wish everybody would go to see that,” she said. “I wish I could get on a loudspeaker and travel around the streets to [tell people to] go see it, please. The memories of what those people did for us… ”
She said her guardian, who she named as Kathy, would get the wheelchair whenever she was feeling tired. While she occasionally got feisty, Kathy would handle it with ease.
“I’m going to adopt her, I think. She was exceptional in caring for me,” she said. “I get so emotional because I think it’s a wonderful thing to give up yourself for something else.”
Kemp said whenever she got too feisty for Kathy, Jim Tichy would calm her down and get her reorganized.
Tichy, HFNWO emeritus board of directors presenter, said the organization sends 80 veterans and 80 guardians on each flight this year, up from last year’s 50 veterans and 50 guardians.
“Every [flight] is an emotional experience because of what these men and women have gone through. For most of them, World War II was a turning point in their lives,” he said.
He said both veterans and guardians have a tremendous emotional experience.
“We’ve had quite a few guardians tell us it was the best $400 they ever spent in their life,” Tichy said. “Many of our veterans told us that this has been the best day of their lives. It means so much to these veterans to be honored in this way.”
He said during the trip, people would recognize the veterans from the tangerine T-shirts the group wore. The people would come up to the veterans and thank them for their service.
When the veterans arrive back in Toledo about 9 p.m. the day of their trip, about 500 people welcome them back home. The party, which has family, friends and entertainment, gives closure to the veterans, Tichy said.
“What we try to do at the end is the welcome home party they didn’t get 60 to 80 years ago,” he said.
Tichy helped Douglas, who lives in Denver, Colo., plan the guardian training and trip so he could share the experience with his father.
“I just cannot imagine it being done any better to honor the World War II veterans,” Douglas said. “And the people who run it are so dedicated. With all the problems of our country, you really get to see what a true American is when you get on this flight.”
The United Way of Greater Toledo has announced it will invest $11.9 million in program initiatives in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa counties this year.
Of that investment, $7.6 million was allotted to causes chosen by United Way volunteers. The bulk of that ($4.2 million) went toward what the organization calls the three “building blocks for a quality life,” including education, income and health.
The remainder will be spent as the donors wished.
“It’s all tied together,” said Mary Foote, the co-chairwoman of United Way’s Community Impact Cabinet. “Income and health are crucial supports for educating our kids. A family’s financial stability and a student’s access to health services are absolutely factors in classroom success.”
Of the three building blocks, education is receiving the most attention. The United Way is investing more than $2 million into education including $365,000 into the Toledo Boys & Girls Clubs, $265,860 into Child Development at the Toledo Day Nursery and $190,000 into Schools as Community Hubs, which takes a school and makes it the center of an entire neighborhood.
“Education continues to be our community’s top priority, and we thank our loyal donors for their trust and generosity in helping advance this critical issue,” said United Way of Greater Toledo President and CEO Bill Kitson. “Education is the subject that arises throughout our community time and again, in conversations from economic sustainability to crime rates and everything in between.”
Health programs include a partnership with the YMCA’s Pioneering a Healthy Community project, which has received $100,000. The project is designed to bring city leaders, organizations and community members together to “improve the health and well-being” of the community through policies, systems and environmental change.
“We are thrilled to be immersed in our community and out listening to people’s aspirations,” Kitson said.
For more information on the United Way, visit the website www.UnitedWayToledo.org.
Nine days before his arrival in the United States, my sister, Michelle, read a mass email explaining that there was a desperate need to house a 15-year-old exchange student from Germany. Having housed two prior exchange students, one also unexpected, my sister and her family moved swiftly into action. My 5-year-old niece’s violet bedroom walls were soon painted over a dark blue, and her furniture was swapped out for some more fitting for a teenage boy. In just a few days time, my sister and her family were able to open up their minds, their hearts and their home to a stranger traveling from 4,000 miles away.
My “nephew” Konstantin became an official unofficial member of our family last September upon his arrival in the U.S. We spent the next nine months learning about him, and he about us. In addition to embracing a new culture and primary language, he was immersed in a new kind of family. After 15 years of being an only child, he was suddenly one of four with seemingly countless aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. We enjoyed many a holiday, birthday, crazy day and lazy day with our new Deutsch Freund.
My children quickly grew fond of their honorary cousin. It wasn’t long before drives to events involving my side of the family included the question, “Is Konstantin going to be there?”
As they so often do, the months flew by and we recently bid Konstantin auf Wiedersehen. At his farewell party, my sister played a video of him from his first American week, somewhat stumbling to extract the right English words necessary to convey his thoughts. As I realized the fluency alone that he had gained in such a relatively short period of time, it occurred to me just how much we are each capable of giving another person simply by opening ourselves up to them.
Not a year goes by that I don’t hear about at least one or two organizations struggling to place exchange students in American homes. Even short-term stays and non-live-in international matchups seem prone to not enough willing hands being raised. Having experienced firsthand what it’s sometimes like trying to persuade someone to give an hour or two of their time, I can’t say that I am completely surprised that it’s difficult to convince people to add another place at the dinner table every single night. Yet, it is still disheartening to know that Americans are falling short when it comes to non-obligatory social courtesy and growth.
Are we too good? Not good enough? Too busy? Too private? Too important? Too apathetic? Do we think we are already globalized enough? Is it just too hard?
I can’t help but wonder if our arms-wide-open, can-do, taking-care-of-business, let’s-roll American attitude of the past is, indeed, a thing of the past. Our love affair with red tape seems to have spilled over into the decision-making process we use in our personal, everyday lives. We force ourselves to plow through a ridiculously large mental pile of reasons something can’t be done instead of just taking an initial initiative to do it. Yet, how much might we be missing out on while attempting to justify the not doing?
When I informed Elaine, my 5-year-old, that it was time for Konstantin to return to his family in Germany, she immediately replied with the utmost sincerity, “But I’m not ready for him to go.” Neither was I.
Toledo Sister Cities International is still seeking families to host international students during its International Youth Academy July 20 – Aug. 6. If you are interested in hosting or would like further information regarding hosting opportunities, please contact Prof. William D. Hoover at (419) 531-8242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania.
Ohio HB159 will require voters to provide photo identification in order to vote on Election Day. Critics of the bill allege that it will disenfranchise senior citizens, minorities and the poor because they are less likely than others to have photo identification. But the law will not require photo identification for absentee ballots, so the argument is moot. The claim that photo ID often contains obsolete information is also moot, since other forms of identification that can be just as incorrect, if not openly dishonest, will be accepted for absentee voting.
Not to claim that Republicans are innocent, but these critics were likely silent if not supportive when Democrat activists disenfranchised Republican voters wholesale in Florida during the 2000 election. Military personnel tend to vote Republican, and, nationally, thirty percent of their absentee ballots were mailed to them late that year. In Florida, hundreds if not thousands of completed military absentee ballots were simply discarded if there was any doubt about their postmarks, while any potential Democrat ballots were approved by any means possible.
Moreover, ACORN registers voters, mostly lower income, for the benefit of Democrats – the party for whom those who will allegedly be disenfranchised by HB159 typically vote, and the party from which most of the criticism of voter ID reform comes. But from 2004 through mid-2006, ACORN staffers were accused of submitting fraudulent registration forms and forging ballot initiative signatures in twelve states, including Ohio. In February 2009, CBS News reported that “Cuyhaoga County’s ACORN has admitted that a large number of the 1.3 million new voter registration forms that it has collected nationwide (in the 2008 campaign) are indeed fraudulent.” One Cuyahoga County “voter,” Darnell Nash, registered repeatedly through ACORN using an address belonging to a legitimate voter; then, after being told to cease and desist, registered yet again with a false address and cast an early ballot the same day. The Washington Post reported the previous October, “ACORN says that any fraudulent voting registrations have more to do with canvassers making up fake applications to get better commissions than a concerted effort to influence the outcome of the election” – as if that somehow excuses election fraud!
HB159 opponents also use the same argument used by conservatives against more anti-gun laws: Simply enforce the laws now on the books. But the voter fraud pros at ACORN laughed at our puny laws as they tried to flood boards of election with so many fraudulent registrations that identification verification, indeed full enforcement of the law itself, became unworkable.
The opponents want every American to vote. What of the mentally incapacitated? Oh, of course – just have an activist fill out the ballot for them. As for everyone else? If you vote their agenda, ACORN would have you register and vote as many times as you want from as many addresses as you want, so long as it’s in sufficient numbers overall to swamp the system with fraudulent votes. What trust are we to have in elections when the law fails to stop such abuse?
The opponents focus solely on their fear that someone might be disenfranchised, while ignoring the fact that voter ID loopholes enable fraud to exist despite penalties against it. But do not the law-abiding citizens who cast legal votes have the right to see their votes not be nullified by opposing votes cast illegally? Legal voters are disenfranchised if the integrity of an election is compromised, which it demonstrably has been under current law.
If the Democrats want to get upset about voter identification, then let’s really give them something to howl about, such as: Banning same-day registration and voting; purging deceased voters from the rolls on issuance of death certificates; banning early voting, other than for legitimate absentee ballots; forbidding any voter from casting a ballot that affects property or raises taxes other than his or her own; and, requiring voters to pass a non-partisan exam on basic civics, the candidates’ platforms, and the pros and cons of the issues being decided before being given a ballot.
Progressives are into saying, “If it saves just one (whatever), it’s worth it.” What if reforming voter ID law saves the integrity of just one election?
Thomas Berry, for the Children of Liberty, www.meetup.com/The-children-of-liberty.