Advocacy update February 7, 2023

Advocacy update February 7, 2023 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection
Episcopal resources for police reform

Following the brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols, the Episcopal Public Policy Network has posted updates to its call to action on police reform, starting with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s pastoral message. Scroll down to the links to watch “Reimagining Police: A 3-Part Series” by the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing. In addition to providing a letter you can customize to your Senator and Representative, EPPN encourages you to learn about your local law enforcement and its oversight policy, connect with local organizations working on police reform, and take part in anti-racism training.

U.S. Representative Emilia Sykes has invited Pamela Walker, mother of Jayland Walker, who was shot and killed by Akron police on June 27 last year, to be her guest at President Biden’s State of the Union Address this evening. Read more.

Hope for moving Cincinnati Police firing range

The diocese’s 2021 Absalom Jones Symposium put the spotlight on the traumatic impact on generations of Lincoln Heights residents from the constant sounds of gunfire and police loudspeakers from the Cincinnati Police Firing Range in Evendale, just a few yards from family housing and playgrounds. On Jan. 31, the Hamilton County Commissioners announced they were tripling their financial commitment to move the firing range to a remote area of Colerain Township which will become the Southwest Ohio regional police training center. Commission President Alicia Reece called the impact of the current firing range “the number one environmental injustice in our county.” All the affected jurisdictions agree to the combined facility: Cincinnati, Lincoln Heights, Colerain Township, Evendale, and Woodlawn.

Episcopalians including Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney (Christ Church Cathedral) and Lincoln Heights Councilmember LaVerne Mitchell (St. Simon of Cyrene, Lincoln Heights) have been working with great patience and determination on the negotiations that produced this breakthrough. The county is committing $15 million, Senator Sherrod Brown has won a $4 million appropriation under the Infrastructure Act, and Cincinnati Council has committed $2 million.  The project will cost from $27-$42 million and will be used by Hamilton County, Cincinnati, and federal law enforcement teams. Nothing has been committed by the State of Ohio yet. Ohio has over $400 million unspent from its federal Covid (ARPA) grants. Please write Governor Mike DeWine and your Ohio Senator to encourage them to allocate at least $6 million but ideally $10 million for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create state-of-the-art public safety training facility. Find your Ohio Senator and Representative from the Who Represents Me box here. Email Gov. DeWine here.

The fear and fight-or-flight hormones generated by the constant gunfire imperils the mental and cardiovascular health of Lincoln Heights children, and the ACTS Episcopal coalition of the Mill Creek Valley have worked hard to equip students with the skills to calm their distress and solve conflicts non-violently. The ACTS team succeeded Jan. 24 in convincing Princeton Middle School to build peer mediation in the school’s daily activities starting next fall. This builds on the foundation ACTS laid with Cincinnati’s Center for Social-Emotional Learning (CSEL) by offering Peace Leaders Camp for Lincoln Heights middle school students last summer at Christ Church, Glendale. ACTS members are the Sisters of the Transfiguration’s St. Monica’s Recreation Center, St. Simon of Cyrene, Linconh Heights, Christ Church, Glendale, and Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming. ACTS is a community partner in CSEL’s grant proposal to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to fund the training and support needed for peer mediation to take root at the Middle School.

Dark money corrupting energy policy

As the federal racketeering trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder continues, investigative journalists are publishing news of how pervasive dark money is in undermining local, state, and federal efforts to wean the nation from its dependence on fossil fuels. Fossil-fuel funded nonprofits are recruiting prominent Democrats, including Ohio’s recent Senate candidate Tim Ryan, to tout natural gas. Kristoffer Tigue’s Feb. 3 story for Inside Climate News links you to the details in reporting by the Washington Post and NPR. “The investigations suggest that, at least to some degree, money collected from ratepayers is being used to influence public debate surrounding elections and policies that fossil fuel companies view as a threat to their bottom line, such as recent speculation over a nationwide natural gas ban in new construction,” Tigue writes.

Please contact me at if you’d like to be part of a task force following the money in Ohio and working to hold our state legislature accountable. Convicting Householder is not enough to clean up the problem. Ohio’s fracking industry has profound influence on Ohio legislators, and the Governor just signed HB 507, designating natural gas as “green energy” while giving oil and gas companies a fast track to leases on state land. This is model legislation being promoted in other states.

The Washington Post published a report last week that a nonprofit powered by utility companies has recruited Louisiana’s Democratic  Senator Mary Landrieu and Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan, to tout natural gas as green energy.  Landrieu and Ryan are now spokespeople for the nonprofit “Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future, which was created by several natural gas companies to convince Democratic voters who make up the majority in large cities where natural gas heating and appliances make them customers extremely valuable to gas companies’ profits.

“Dark money refers to spending meant to influence elections or policy where the source of the money isn’t disclosed. In many cases, the money is hidden from the public by being channeled through politically active nonprofits such as 501(c)(4)s, which generally aren’t required to disclose donors, or through the use of shell companies, writes Kristoffer Tigue in Inside Climate News.” This is the heart of the case against Householder, including buying support through political contributions and funding the campaign to misinform voters and turn them against the petition drive to repeal HB6.

Citizen groups weighing timing of constitutional amendment campaigns

Due to infighting in the Republican leadership, the Ohio Legislature has missed the Feb. 1 deadline to put a proposal on the May primary ballot to require approval by 60% of voters to amend the state constitution. It’s still possible for a simple majority to pass a constitutional amendment proposed by citizens, but the legislature could change that later this year.

Several citizen coalitions are in a race against time to get measures to prevent gerrymandering, protect reproductive rights, or address other issues like the minimum wage on the ballot before the Legislature succeeds in making it harder. In a Feb. 6 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Andrew Tobias and Laura Hancock explain the already challenging logistics of researching voter views, drafting the amendment, getting the language approved, and collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures.

College Board explains AP African American History curriculum

On Feb. 1, the College Board released the finalized curriculum for its new Advanced Placement African-American History course, and immediately faced charges it had dropped key authors because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently threatened to ban the course.

The College Board’s CEO David Coleman and Senior Director of African American Studies Brandi Waters gave an interview to NPR on Feb. 3 to explain that the course was finalized in December after a pilot test, and was always scheduled to be released on  Feb. 1, the first day of African-American History Month. The course framework focuses on primary sources, as do the curricula for other AP history and literature courses, they explained. Secondary sources which had been offered to teachers during the pilot testing of the new course “as a support,” said Coleman, are accessible in a resource called AP Classroom. He added that the College Board has bought permission for texts by Kimberle Crenshaw and Audre Lorde that will be “freely available to students and teachers throughout the course…sources that people were worried are gone are actually going to be magnified and made more available than ever in the classroom and teaching resources, which is where secondary sources in AP courses always are.”

Waters added, “I would tell students this is the most coherent narrative of African American history, culture, politics and legal studies that I’ve seen for high school students; that this is an exciting opportunity for them to look at over 100 resources, whether it be artworks or datasets, that showcase the diversity of Black life and the contributions made not only in the United States, but also broadly, that these students have an opportunity to learn even more than what’s been circulated as the very first version of the pilot. So if they have questions about how we are all connected, about how this field was formed and about where the field is going, this is an exciting course to take to have really great discussions about the larger trajectory of our society today.”

I recommend a guest column in The Cleveland Plain Dealer by the Rev. Mary Robin Craig, a retired Presbyterian pastor, about the opportunity she had to take African-American history in high school 50 years ago. “What happens to students exposed to a history not known to them? I don’t think that question has been asked about high school AP courses in European History, or in Chinese, French, German, or Italian Language and Culture,” she writes. “As an adult, I like to think that the course I took 50 years ago scattered some seeds that made it possible for me to take on racial equity issues as a pastor, to continue to educate myself and others, and to vocalize my opposition where injustice rears its ugly head.

“I hope that parents who question the suitability of African American history for their children will study the material along with their high schoolers, will open their minds and hearts to the words and values of the educators and scholars who have organized that material into a coherent course, and will turn their backs on political efforts to slam closed the doors to increased knowledge, understanding, and action.”

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a longtime community advocate and member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming. Connect with her at 

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