I Found A Place In Michigan Where Garbage Is Art

The Heidelberg Project in Detroit is unlike anything I have ever seen before. And just so we are clear, this is not a compliment – at all.

Tyree Guyton, a self-described artist, grew up on this street in a house that is currently painted white with polka dots. Frustrated with the decline of the neighborhood, Tyree wanted to express himself by painting polka dots and dumping discarded items around the block in the name of art.

Dear Detroit, I have a question.  Is this really art?
Dear Detroit, I have a question. Is this really art?

While I completely understand that art is in the eye of the beholder and not every piece of art is something to be on display at a museum, it seems that art should include some effort. Instead in this neighborhood in Detroit you find garbage.

Tetanus shot not included.
Tetanus shot not included.

There are shoes everywhere. And while the artist said that the “soles” were really meant to be “souls,” all I could think about was how most of these shoes looked as though they had little wear. When trying to make a statement about poverty and the decline of Detroit, these shoes could have been repurposed by giving them to someone in need.

The Goodwill called and they want their shoes back.
The Goodwill called and they want their shoes back.

Mission Statement

“The Heidelberg Project (“HP”) is a Detroit-based community organization designed to improve the lives of people and neighborhoods through art. Our mission is to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community”

The point can be made that the artist is trying to bring awareness to the plight of Detroit. I didn’t see that at all. I saw an artist who made the project about himself. His answers were canned and juvenile. When asked what he saw in the future for the project, he responded, “It’ll be what it’s going to be.”

In other areas, liberals would say the remnants of this house should be cleared for safety reasons.  In Detroit, this is viewed as art by some in the arts community.
In other areas, liberals would say the remnants of this house should be cleared for safety reasons. In Detroit, this is viewed as art by some in the arts community.

Tyree doesn’t even live in the neighborhood that he uses as a dumping ground. How can he dump garbage under the claim of improving a neighborhood when he doesn’t even choose to live there? This left me with the impression that the focus of this project is Tyree, not the neighborhood.

Neighborhood children have to dodge the art on the playground.
Neighborhood children have to dodge the art on the playground.

I actually had to ask if the port-a-potty and garbage cans were part of the display. When I was done chewing my gum, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to throw it on the ground or in a garbage can. When art is indistinguishable from garbage or the toilet, then you have a creativity issue. After returning to the hotel, I felt as though I needed a tetanus shot and a shower.

Thomas LaDuke, a lifelong resident of the area, gives his assessment of the Heidelberg Project.
Thomas LaDuke, a lifelong resident of the area, gives his assessment of the Heidelberg Project.

Yes they come. But, how many are laughing? A family visting from Grand Rapids told me, “This is an embarrassment to Michigan.”

Students Get A Catholic School Education and Real Work Experience. Wait Until You See The Results.

“Men and Women for Others”

Educating students to be men and women for others is an important part of a Jesuit education. And it’s something the Jesuits take seriously.

The Cristo Rey Network is an example of that. In the past school year, this Jesuit program has educated 8,000 students throughout the country. Ninety six percent of those students were minorities living in families with an average income of $34,000. One hundred percent of the graduates of the Classes of 2014 were accepted to 2 or 4 year colleges, something rarely heard of in urban schools.

Each student participates in a Corporate Work Study Program in which each student works five days a month. This funds the majority of the tuition. Four students share one job, which is part of an employee leasing program. Classes are scheduled so that a student will not miss a lesson while at work.

Example of a Cristo Rey Network Work Study Program
Example of a Cristo Rey Network Work Study Program

“Our mission is clear – college success for Cristo Rey Network students.”

St. Martin de Porres High School is located in Cleveland. About one third of this Cristo Rey school’s budget is derived from school choice vouchers.   Unlike most Ohio schools that educate voucher students, the cost to educate each pupil far exceeds the amount the vouchers provide. A large portion of that difference is offset by the income the students earn at their jobs.

To employers, Saint Martin, which is on Cleveland’s East Side in a historically Slovenian neighborhood, sells itself as a temp agency. For $28,100, a business “purchases” one full-time-equivalent student employee for the school year. Four students share that entry-level job, with one individual at the work site each day.”

Many view St. Martin’s as a school that should highlight the success of the school choice movement. It certainly shines as an example of success within the City of Cleveland that has a failing public school system.

St. Martin’s has high expectations for students. Students have to abide by the rules. If they do not, they are asked to leave. School President Rich Clark said,

 

“If you lose your culture, you lose your school. This school is for kids who want to be here.”

Not only do students get the experience of a Catholic education, they also get real world experience in their jobs. They gain confidence in their abilities by working alongside adults in professional settings. These students are experiencing a transformation that will prepare them for college and beyond by learning in both classroom and real world settings. But they have to want it. They have to want it enough to do the work.

These expectations have translated into success. The success of this network of schools is undeniable. A 100% college acceptance rate certainly displays the effectiveness of these schools. Each student is aware of what is expected. And in this case expectations drive results.

Cristo Rey leaders act as voices in the educational reform movement. These students have benefitted from school choice. They are shining examples of the success. And a hallmark of Jesuit education is instilling the need to improve the community. By the examples they lead and by advocating for school choice options for other students, Cristo Rey is inspiring graduates to become Men and Women for Others.

 

I Went to Detroit to See a Comeback City: Here is What I Found

Downtown Detroit
Downtown Detroit

I spent last week in Detroit with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. I had the opportunity to see some ways the private sector is investing in this community in a comeback attempt. As the city rebounds from bankruptcy, there are signs of life and a tremendous potential for renewal.

Even though there is plenty of urban rot throughout Detroit, the remnants of what once was a great city are plenty. This building struck me as a good example. The architecture and detail tell the story of the greatness that once was. The graffiti and the fact that a bail bondsman now is an occupant tell you the current state of not only the building but the city as well.

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Many residential areas, which once were rather dense, are now often sparse as a result of abandoned homes and arson. The City of Detroit had 1.8 million residents at its peak in 1950, but as of the 2012 census had only 701,475 residents. This has caused a massive devaluation in the housing market.

Michigan Central Train Station is a monument to Detroit. Once beautiful and bustling, it has been abandoned for years. A monstrosity of reminders are housed in that large building. It opened over a century ago yet now sits there rotting away, fully displaying the pride of what was a great city but has since buckled from the weight of its poor choices.

Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station

It’s not hard to understand why Detroit has crumbled. The financial implications of poor management of the auto companies and the high demands of unions caused significant destruction of the industry that built this once great city. Couple that with the very poor choices the residents of Detroit made by electing corrupt officials. The corruption and high income taxes were too much of a burden for the city to carry, eventually leading to its bankruptcy.

When the local economy seemed to bottom out, it attracted investors who smelled opportunity. Dan Gilbert, Chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been actively investing in Detroit beginning with relocating Quicken Loans Headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Detroit. There are signs of life here, particularly in the downtown area. There are investors who believe in a rebirth of this city.

The state of Michigan threw Detroit a $195 million lifeline. While this solves an immediate need, it may hurt in the long run as there are concerns that the City won’t learn its lesson and will repeat the financial irresponsibility.

Tom LaDuke, a lifelong resident of the area stated,

“The state should be assisting but in no way taking the lead in revitalizing any area let alone Detroit. Get out of the way and let private investment and initiative take charge. “

Ultimately the residents of Detroit must decide to make better decisions in the people they elect. Many residents complained of poor city services, high taxes and red tape. This sort of change starts at the ballot box.

If Detroit is to be reborn, the residents must make better choices.  

School Choice: Has Nina Turner Left “The Party Of The Right Thing”?

schoolchoice

It’s interesting how much can change in two years. In 2012, State Senator Nina Turner received the School Choice Ohio Courage Award. In her acceptance speech she emphasized the need for education to be a non partisan issue and that Republicans and Democrats should unite together and form a “Party of the Right Thing” when it comes to education. She also mentioned the importance of vouchers in the Cleveland Municipal School District

“Choice is something that God Almighty has given us as human beings…It is absolutely unconscionable to have over 55% of Cleveland’s children in schools that are either in academic watch or academic emergency. We have a moral crisis on our hands.”

Choice is an imperative opportunity to children who find themselves trapped in failing schools like those in Turner’s home turf of Cleveland where she was the Executive Director of Government Affairs for the district. It allows a way out and path upward to better educational and social opportunities.

In 2012 Senator Turner came under fire from the Ohio Federation of Teachers for her support of School Choice Vouchers.

“They are pretending in public like they want to play fair, but behind the scenes they are getting their members all stirred up,” said Turner, of Cleveland. “I’ve received several calls into my office, threats into my office, saying ‘we’re not going to fund your campaigns, we’re going to run people against you.”

Senator Turner received a $2000 campaign donation from the OFT in July of 2010. She didn’t receive another contribution from them until April of 2013. The OFT contributed $5,000 to Senator Turner’s campaign in December of 2013 and March and June of 2014. That is a significant change in course after having tension in 2012. In less than eight months, Nina Turner’s campaign coffers added over $30,000 from teachers unions.  The Ohio Federation of Teachers also endorsed Senator Turner’s campaign for Secretary of State.

nina

Recently Ohio General Assembly passed two bills dealing with the expansion of school choice.   HB 483 will significantly increase the funding of the Cleveland Scholarship Program. And HB 487 will allow students enrolled in a school serving any of the grades 9-12 with a poor graduation rate to become eligible for an EdChoice Scholarship. Previous language specified only buildings serving grades 10-12. This bill will allow more than 30 poor performing high schools to dodge eligibility.

Senator Turner voted no on both of these bills. Why has she abandoned those children she fought for just two years earlier? While these bills are large in scope, there is no record of her speaking out in favor of the school choice portions of the bills.  While she was previously a champion on this topic, her current silence is recognized.  Has Senator Turner left the “Party of the Right Thing.”

“You guys fought for me before you even knew me.”

It’s a powerful statement and one made by Walter Woodard at a School Choice Ohio event.  It’s also a reminder that there are a lot of other children who we don’t know but need us to fight for them as well.

Many children struggle in schools that are ill equipped to serve their needs. Their “School Choice” options are only based upon the zip code in which they live. For children stuck in failing schools, this can have a negative effect on not only the quality of their education but their social and emotional well being as well.

In his testimony to the Ohio Senate Education Finance Subcommittee, Walter described his educational experience in an academically failing school as “complicated and unbearable.”

“I felt like no one truly understood what I was dealing with, and I had no one to go to with my problems. There were many times when I would come home from school with torn clothes, missing buttons and shoelaces and multiple bruises.”

His life changed in sixth grade when he qualified for the EdChoice Scholarship because he was in a failing school district. He then started school at Tree of Life Christian School. Walter credits this opportunity with changing his life and allowing him to succeed academically.

“There is no true way to describe how the EdChoice Scholarship has changed my life for the better, but what I can say is that without it I wouldn’t even be close to the young man that I have turned into.

I am not only testifying, but I’m also encouraging everyone to go into the schools and see exactly what it is we are fighting for and how this scholarship truly helps people. By doing this, it may encourage everyone to fight even harder for education for everyone.”

Ohio’s General Assembly recently passed legislation to fight for more kids like Walter. HB 483 will increase the funding of the Cleveland Scholarship Program (Vouchers) by 40%. And HB 487 allows students enrolled in a school serving any of the grades 9-12 with a poor graduation rate to become eligible for an EdChoice Scholarship. Previous language specified only buildings serving grades 10-12. This bill will allow more than 30 poor performing high schools to dodge eligibility.

While after hearing stories like Walter’s, it is sometimes hard to grasp how anyone can be opposed to allowing children to have educational opportunities. Sadly, special interest groups would like to see children be denied educational freedom. Teachers Unions were among those who filed suit in federal court in attempt to halt students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District from using vouchers to attend parochial schools.

11 of 12 studies on children who utilize vouchers found that all or some of those students achieve better educational outcomes. None of these studies found that students were worse off than those who remained in the public school.22 of 23 empirical studies on the impact school choice has on public education show the competition that choice provides actually improved public school performance. 

“Despite decades of carping by skeptics, vouchers and school choice in any form are a win-win for children—whether they attend private school or remain in a public school affected by school choice,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “Competition works in all segments of our society, and it certainly helps children when they’re permitted to attend a school that fits their needs.”

While we are far from having complete educational freedom in Ohio, the movement in Ohio continues to make progress. And these victories add up. Each piece of new law that expands school choice is a victory for those children. Because there are a lot of children we haven’t met yet who need us to fight for them.

 

Bill Clinton endorses Fitz. No word on new internships.

Ed Fitzgerald smiles like a groupie when he's with Bill Clinton.  Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Wiley have not issued endorsements yet.
Ed Fitzgerald smiles like a groupie when he’s with Bill Clinton.  Has Fitz read Clinton’s personal resume with women?                                           

Ed Fitzgerald is recycling the 2012 “War on Women” theme for his Gubernatorial campaign. He scored a big endorsement on Friday from the General in the War on Women, former President Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton doesn’t have a spotless record when it comes to properly respecting women. Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey have publicly mentioned the wounds they sustained in a very personal War on Women.

Fitzgerald is embracing this endorsement from President Clinton. For this evidence, look no further than Ed’s smile, which resembles that of a crazed groupie. President Clinton continues to be put on a pedestal from politicians like Fitzgerald who completely overlook his history. How much does Fitzgerald trust the former President? Given Clinton’s very blemished personal record with women, would Fitzgerald be okay with his daughter interning for the former President?

Fitzgerald touts program which will spend over 25% of budget in administrative costs

Photo taken by Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer
Photo taken by Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald’s $100 college saving program launched this week.  Parents of kindergartners enrolled in public schools in the county will soon receive letters informing them an account has been opened for their children.

Not only will the county make the financial investment, but it will be saddled with $522,000 in annual administrative costs.  This is a substantial amount of the $2 million budget.  This bloat is not something that would be sustainable in a non profit charity.  A charity would be accountable to donors as County Councilman Dave Greenspan pointed out.

“Would you as a taxpayer give to a charity that had at least a [25 percent] administrative burden on the giving?” Greenspan said. “The answer is no. I believe it’s no. I wouldn’t do it.”

The intention was to get more children to go to college by encouraging families to invest, but let’s be honest.  Who is going to college because the county gave them $100 when they were in kindergarten?  The cost of college is astronomical these days.   A hundred dollars isn’t a motivating factor to go to college or to invest.  When I was in college over 20 years ago, my books were over $300 a semester.  The county would be better serving taxpayers by saving this money.

If Fitzgerald absolutely insisted on spending $100 on each kindergartener, perhaps the county could have offered $100 school choice vouchers to those children to go towards the school of their choice.  Elementary education is significantly cheaper than college, serves an immediate purpose, and like Ed Fitzgerald’s children, these children could experience the opportunity of a private school education if their parents made that decision.  That amount wouldn’t cover the cost of kindergarten tuition , but it would be more in line than college tuition.

Financial competency doesn’t appear to dictate the reason for this program.  Perhaps Fitzgerald was pandering for votes from the parents of kindergarteners for his failing gubernatorial campaign .

Landrieu & Hagan reject Michelle Obama’s hashtag?

Seems as if Senator Landrieu is hiding from these ladies.
Does Senator Mikulski even know what a hashtag is?

Midterms are approaching.   With polling tightening in several Senate races, the Democrats have chosen to attempt to distract the public with some hashtag activism.  Michelle Obama thinks tweeting #SaveOurGirls will save over 300 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

The State Department has acknowledged that the terrorist designation could have come sooner for Boko Haram.   Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing criticism for failing to label the group accordingly in 2012.   Democrats are scrambling to distract from this issue as well the Benghazi, IRS and VA Scandals.   And hashtags are an attempt to fill that needed distraction.

The Senate Democrats wanted to get in on this distraction action by holding a sign for #SaveOurGirls.  This Twitter game might bring some attention to this plight, but it is not likely to get the terrorists to return the girls.  But, Senators Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu are missing.   They both are up for reelection this year and face tough challenges to retain their seats.  They need to distance themselves from the liberal ideology of their colleagues in this picture.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu is in a tough reelection campaign.  FiveThirtyEight is predicting Landrieu only has a 28% chance of successfully being reelected.  Landrieu says she is, “proud” of her vote for Obamacare.  Now that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is no longer accepting premium payments from non profits, Landrieu will likely be running for cover from that same vote.   One of the intents of the law was to assist people with pre-existing conditions in getting insurance coverage.  But ,a new federal rule governing the Affordable Care Act permits insurance companies  to reject premium payments from charities that help people with chronic diseases obtain health care.

According to a recent poll, only 35 percent of registered North Carolina voters approve of Kay Hagan’s job performance.  Obamacare was the reason most respondents gave for their dissatisfaction.   In order to boost her chances of retaining her seat, Hagan needs to distance herself from the cheerleaders on the left.

May 21, 2013,  the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent the IRS a Freedom of Information Act requesting “any and all documents or records, including but not limited to electronic documents, e-mails, paper documents, photographs (electronic or hard copy), or audio files,” between IRS officials and 13 Democratic members of Congress.  Hagan and Landrieu are among those.  Even though FOIA requests are to be completed in 20 days, this request has been delayed six times and is approaching a year since the request was made.

With several different scandals and liabilities coming out of Washington that might affect midterm elections, expect more distractions in an attempt to keep attention elsewhere.  Hashtags aren’t proper foreign policy but they are a distraction for the moment and with a press that aids in the Obama Administration’s distractions, expect more hashtags and more press about them.  But, don’t expect Hagan and Landrieu to be having many photo ops with their colleagues on the left.

O’Brien takes plump no-bid contract while campaigning against plump no-bid contracts

Juvenile/Probate Judge Tim Grendell is the only person who makes the appointments to the Geauga County Park District Board of Commissions. Grendell refused to reappoint prominent businessman, Jim Patterson to the Park Board.  Then Grendell asked the two remaining members of the board to resign.  On January 31, 2014, Grendell appointed two new members to the Board.

Two weeks later, the newly appointed Park Board Commissioners approved a $16,000 non-competitive contract to O’Brien Leadership Systems for Leadership Team evaluations. President of the Board, Mary Ruth Shumway, attends the same church as Linda J. O’Brien.

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The contract stipulated for individual two hour interviews for ten Park District Directors.  This amounts to being paid $800 an hour.   Rather than having payment dispersed to her business, the check was paid directly, to Linda J. O’Brien.

Linda O’Brien filed as write in candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives 76th District on February 7th. The contract was approved February 11th, but made retroactive to February 3rd, which preceded the filing of her candidacy. This was done in Executive Session without any public input or competitive bidding.

The first bullet point on O’Brien’s platform states,

Linda O’Brien will fight to reduce the size of government and government spending.

O’Brien seems to be conflicted on this portion of her platform. She took a plump no-bid contract from her county government at the same time is campaigning against plump no-bid contracts.

 

Lynch McCaskilled in OH 14: Wager (D) desperate for a weaker opponent

akinlynch

Michael Wager is a Democrat running for Ohio’s 14th Congressional District. He is without a primary opponent, but has decided that he would like to run against Matt Lynch in the general election. In a throwback to the 2012 election cycle when Senator Claire McCaskill did her bidding for her reelection by wading into the GOP Primary to promote Akin’s conservative credentials, Michael Wager is playing the role of McCaskill and Lynch is Akin.

McCaskill faced a tough reelection and picked the candidate she felt was the weakest and ran ads about him in the GOP primary cycle. She highlighted things about Akin which would typically rate high for the traditional Republican primary voter.  Wager is doing the same thing today by running an ad highlighting some things he feels would appeal to Republican primary voters. 

David B. Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron said,

“Wager would have a much better shot against Lynch in the 14th district,” said Cohen. “Many independent voters and moderate Republicans in the 14th would be uncomfortable voting for a candidate as far right as Lynch in the general election and Wager’s campaign knows that. Those voters would either vote for Wager or stay home – either way a bonus for Wager.”

According to Lynch’s facebook page, he seems to think Wager is afraid of him. But, it’s the opposite of this. Wager recognizes that in a general election, Lynch as a vulnerable target in this more moderate district, which is has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of +4. Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 3.10.49 PM

Akin blundered his way to defeat in the general election, sending McCaskill back to the Senate. By involving himself in the Republican Primary, Wager is attempting to do the same in the 14th Congressional District.