Posts Tagged ‘Ohio Issue 1’

Ohio’s Issue 1

October 13, 2018

The New York Times is practically synonymous with in-depth reporting, maybe one of the few journalism institutions still able to afford it. Recently they made news by reporting on how the uber wealthy move money around and avoid paying taxes, etc. (something impossible for 99% of regular citizens). The subject of that reporting was the Trumps (and now the Kushners). “Political” is what the supporters of the wealthy scream (or are paid to say) in order to delegitimize the investigative findings. Probably the same will result when Bob Mueller presents his findings. Sigh. On the surface it is hard to find the “politics” in a recent New York Times Magazine in-depth report, Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’ A Philadelphia neighborhood is the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast. Addicts come from all over, and many never leave. (Jennifer Percy, 10-10-18). Then again, it is a plethora of actual “politics” though the reporting is not political. Analysis found the safari through the piece to be analogous to the early in-depth reporting of Michael Jackson’s Neverland after his demise. Although Jackson’s Neverland was the (un)limits of the uber wealthy, Percy’s coverage of the ‘Walmart of Heroin’ is the (without bottom) depths of destitution. A quickie synopsis of an intense and very lengthy article is that, for various reasons, a recreational drug tourist who “Googled “really bad drug areas.” A neighborhood in Philadelphia came up: Kensington.” Users who otherwise held done day jobs would shop there. The history of this site, where any and every drug is available and openly used, the trash and homeless encampments that accompany this metastasizing beast, its history and economics as well as the state’s (city’s) efforts to rid itself of this scourge are the stuff of the investigative reporting. The state is not very proficient at dealing with a health crisis (and has a record to show for it). Philly was no different, first trying to “arrest their way out of it,” followed by repeated attempts at treating it as a health concern – disease. The repeated attempts NOT to “arrest their way out of it” resulted in failures that the city in turn used to learn and try a different, more nuanced approach, which likewise failed. Etc. Ad nauseam. Analysis was reminded of the century old (and ongoing) efforts to abate another addiction – nicotine. Its popularity, and availability, were so prevalent and over reaching that designating it as a disease, let alone a health concern of the state, was, well, completely “political.” Like Coke, tobacco products were sold in vending machines for the longest time. The state’s track record of dealing with it is abysmal. States used “tobacco settlement money” as a contribution to their general fund with some going to window dressing like “Just say no.” Along with our president they found a way to capitalize on the negative, taxing tobacco in order to raise even more for their general fund. Instead of “arresting their way out” they opted to tax their way out while saying it was all in the names of more jobs, better economy and something about boats rising and the tide. The “politics” involved with the designation and interpretation of some social phenomenon as in reality a scientific occurrence, like a health crisis, is the stuff of Bruno Latour’s book, The Pasteurization Of France (1988). LaTour writes of the “politics” involved over a lengthy span of time to establish Louis Pasteur’s claim of bacteria as a source of disease. It wasn’t accepted as being so overnight. Indeed, it was actively resisted (power, wealth, influence, etc.). Fast forward to the contemporary reception of climate science (the Anthropocene) or Bayer’s use of glyphosate (Round Up, Bayer now owns Monsanto). No, the state has an abysmal record of addressing and dealing with any health crisis. It is always “political.” If it wasn’t “political,” what would it possibly look like? Carl Hart on why it’s time to legalize drugs: “What is wrong with people making that choice?” Psychologist and author on the myths of the opioid “epidemic,” and why it’s time to ask Americans to be adults, Chauncy DeVega (9-26-18) peels back a corner of what it might be. A quickie synopsis of DeVega’s interview with Carl Hart includes, but is not limited to, myth busting – not all use is addiction (Is Bill Clinton addicted to cigars?), functioning addiction (able to hold a job, pay bills, raise a family, etc.) and malignant addiction (a disease addressed by therapies of recovery, etc.). Scary stuff until one realizes that just such approaches are already used by various countries (Netherlands, Switzerland come to mind). The alternatives of “arresting our way out of it”, “Just Say No” pedagogies, along with abstinence only sex education and forced slavery as immigrant labor opportunity, have a track record of promoting the myth while eliding any solution. Yes, what Hart speaks of, and Philly tries (and tries again), is messy, precarious,  discomforting, and very “political”. The future solution of a health crisis, the disease and scourge of illegal drug possession and use, the stigma, the tragic consequences of incarceration and its avoidance are uncertain, unpredictable. They are found only in the “doing” of solution, not in the myth of certain outcome. Ohio’s Issue 1 may be inaccurate, tentative, imperfect, and fraught with “politics” but it is a “doing” of solution rather than a continuation of theoretical proposals while continuing to “arrest our way out of “ a very real (and “political”) health crisis.

 

Reruns

October 9, 2018

We’ve all seen this movie before, at least once. Casino gambling is legal in Ohio because of an initiative that finally succeeded, after many variations were defeated. It is ensconced in the Ohio Constitution. OMG, say it ain’t so. With the run up to every election (prior to each attempt’s defeat, as well as ultimate success), the line up of usual suspects was paraded out saying how unnecessary the initiative is, and that it is more appropriate for the legislature to handle this, and not enshrine it in the state’s constitution. Ditto for gerrymandering state legislative districts and medical marijuana. Remember the great lines from that much anticipated block buster – how the legislature would take care of it? And they did, back in September of 2016. Who could forget the scene from the thriller, House Bill 523 (the medical marijuana “fix”), and the unforgettable line from the script – “Requires the system to be fully operational by September 2018.” Such a tear jerker (September 2018 has come and gone and still no system, let alone operation). And who doesn’t remember that year’s classic comedy hit – “Newark voters approved decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday, but Newark officials said they will not follow the new city law.” And Newark law Director Doug Sassen’s side splitting one liner — “The passage of this initiative really isn’t going to change anything in the manner in which we prosecute possession of marijuana,” (Newark to ignore newly passed pot decriminalization Maria DeVito, The Newark Advocate, 11-11-16)  Ah, citizen initiatives, ya gotta luv ‘em. Then there was the dark knight suspense drama from that same season. At a Newark Think Tank “meet the candidates” citizen “job” interview (10-8-16) “Mr. Hayes is not keen on the Newark PD program in that, as prosecutor, he stresses following the letter of the law. He would like to see any drug protocol changes across the board so that one municipality is not arresting a suspect that another municipality would be referring for treatment.” (Licking County Prosecutor Race, This blog, 10-11-16). The trailer for that hit came out at the end of August at the FED UP rally where the Newark Police Department enthusiastically touted their NARI initiative. Initiatives are sooo cool if promoted by the proper authorities. Sigh. The current batch of remakes headlines County officials united in strong opposition to Issue I (Craig McDonald , The Newark Advocate, 10-8-18). The previously experienced line up of usual suspects appeared with stirring scenes like “As earlier reported, in part, State Issue 1 would eliminate prison sentences for possessing or using smaller amounts of drugs, making the offenses misdemeanors rather than fourth- or fifth-degree felonies. It would also allow people previously convicted of these crimes to petition to have their charges reclassified as misdemeanors. It calls for the state to use the money saved by sending fewer people to prison on increasing drug treatment.” “Hayes said while the Issue is being pitched as one of concern and support for those struggling with substance addiction and local agencies struggling with overcrowded jails, as written, Issue 1 would instead unleash a flurry of perhaps unintended consequences which would hobble law enforcement and upend local court dockets and procedures.” Definitely a contender for best actor in this years rerun would go to Prosecutor Hayes for his heart wrenching ““If this becomes law, it is in stone unless there is a new constitutional amendment,” Prosecutor Hayes said. “The unintended consequences of Issue 1 are pretty incredible,” Hayes continued. “If this passes, all possession felonies would become misdemeanors. The result of that shift in scale would flood municipal courts,” he said. Issue 1 would also effectively nullify the ability for courts to enforce probation unless a person committed some new crime [Gasp!], Hayes said. “If Issue 1 passes, we will have about 10,000 felons released from prison,” Hayes said, because those currently incarcerated would be able to petition for 25 percent reductions in their current prison terms.” Best supporting actor must go to Lt. Paul Cortright of Licking County Sheriff’s Department’s Code Task Force and Enforcement for his original “Cortright said that the state legislature is already taking its own steps and new laws are coming in the near term aimed at easing criminal consequences for low level offenders to ease prison population concerns and further help with offender substance use recovery.” Don’t mess with our authority seems to be one of this country’s most successful genres. Analysis finds citizens never tire of the remakes. Or perhaps they lack the initiative to try something different.