Who should play RodeoHouston 2020?

Look what you’ve done, RodeoHouston.

This year’s lineup, the most diverse in years, has set RodeoHouston on a new path. And it’s about time.

One-third of the performers were outside the country genre, and a dozen made their debuts. Two noncountry shows, Cardi B and Los Tigres del Norte, broke the paid attendance record, proving that Houston wants more than just one genre in the lineup.

RANKED: The best and worst Rodeo shows of 2019

Jason Kane, managing director of entertainment and concert production, told CultureMap that the lineup “really reflected the city of Houston” and that RodeoHouston may have “found a groove.”

That said, and with an eye already to next year, here’s hoping RodeoHouston pumps the diversity even harder. And we have a few suggestions.

Browse through the slideshow above to see who should play RodeoHouston 2020.

PREVIEW: Get experts’ picks for concerts, kids’ stuff, fine arts, movies and more delivered to your inbox weekly.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Democrats are holding their convention in Milwaukee. The city’s socialist past is an asset.

The Democratic National Committee has selected Milwaukee to host its 2020 national convention. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/ AP)
March 20 at 6:00 AM

With the announcement of Milwaukee as the site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, political opponents wasted no time in raising the specter of the city’s socialist past. Even Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who should be thrilled that his state landed a big event, instead asserted that the city offers the public a “firsthand look” at “Democrats’ extreme policies that would reverse the economic progress made under the Trump administration.”

This attempt by Republicans to make political hay out of the convention announcement might have made little sense to a lot of Americans. After all, many Americans weren’t even alive when Milwaukee’s last socialist mayor, Frank Zeidler, left office in 1960. But this history is relevant — and not in the way conservatives think. Long ago though it was, Zeidler’s administrations offer a look at how his brand of socialism, which has been resurrected by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), offered real-life solutions to problems strikingly similar to those facing our country today.

In 1947, Zeidler, a quiet, bespectacled autodidact, bested a field of more than a dozen candidates running for Milwaukee mayor. He proudly embraced the moniker of “Sewer Socialist,” a term bestowed by other members of the Socialist Party of America on socialists who emphasized clean sanitation and other healthy living conditions over a revolutionary change of government.

As Zeidler put it during his first campaign, he did not seek to “socialize the corner grocery store.” Nor did his goals encompass municipal public ownership beyond that which transpired under Democratic leadership in Pittsburgh, Seattle and New Orleans. Socialism for Zeidler expanded upon Franklin Roosevelt’s style of liberalism but rejected revolutionary or extreme measures.

But Zeidler’s municipal governance set high standards for the time. Acclaimed by Fortune magazine (appreciate the irony) and cited approvingly by political scientist Edward Banfield, he accomplished much during his 12 years in office.

Zeidler inherited a city decaying from years of neglect by his caretaker predecessor, a city “sitting in a complacent shabbiness on the west shore of Lake Michigan like a wealthy old lady in black alpaca taking her ease on the beach,” in the words of a local reporter.

Coming into office after World War II, Zeidler also faced a massive housing crisis, as the needs of returning war vets and their growing families outpaced the city’s deteriorating housing stock.

Zeidler’s bread-and-butter achievements breathed new life into Milwaukee, expanding the city’s geographic base from 46 square miles to 98. He established the Milwaukee branch of the University of Wisconsin System, completed the construction of a civic center, paved hundreds of miles of streets and added dozens of miles of street lighting, gutters, curbs and sidewalks.

He faced stiff resistance, however, especially in addressing the housing crisis. Opponents decried government expansion and touted free-market solutions. Zeidler answered such alarms over government’s role in providing fundamental necessities such as housing by highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of these accusations:

“The real estate broker sees ‘creeping socialism’ in federally assisted housing, but he does not see it in federally assisted financing of his own operations. The industrialist sees creeping socialism in Social Security, but not in the new plant built for him with government assistance; the farmer sees creeping socialism in union security, but not at all in federal price supports for milk and farm produce.”

As he addressed crumbling infrastructure, Zeidler was also guided by a deeply considered philosophy of good governance. The mayor envisioned government not as an impersonal machine but as a living entity made up of individuals, each of whom ideally would be dedicated to carrying out the solemn duties of helping fellow citizens. Zeidler embodied his vision of government leadership, which especially at the local level he saw as having one purpose: public welfare.

“Let no one call us materialists,” Zeidler said at a 1956 Socialist Party convention. “We are more concerned with men, their rights, their privileges, their responsibilities to one another, and we believe that when these are solved in the framework of justice and equality, the material advantages will follow.”

At a time of white backlash against growing numbers of African American migrants from the South to Milwaukee, Zeidler’s broad-based vision of the common good set him apart from most local officials as he championed black families’ access to affordable housing and denounced redlining and other discriminatory tactics. He was so viciously attacked for his stance on race that he and his family required round-the-clock police protection during his final run for office in 1956.

Zeidler’s overwhelming reelection victories in the midst of the nation’s “red scare” offer a lesson for his political descendants today. His popularity spoke to voters’ thirst for more than the ability to check off a municipal repair list. In his speeches, detailed election platforms and one-on-one conversations with residents, he drew on the language of universal rights, individuals’ shared humanity and the impermanence of measures not rooted in a virtuous foundation. The ultimate test of a successful democracy, he knew, was far more lasting.

As Zeidler put it, “The many physical improvements we develop today will perish with time. The most magnificent building we can devise will decay. Lasting government therefore cannot be built with brick and stone. It must be built on faith in democracy, on justice, on vision, on honesty and respect for the dignity and rights of our fellow citizens.”

Today we confront similar problems to those that faced Zeidler. Deep racial inequality still plagues the United States. Our infrastructure is decaying with more than 50,000 crumbling bridges and more than 4 million miles of road in need of repair. Like the housing crisis Zeidler worked to combat, obtaining basic necessities such as health care and housing is a struggle for many Americans. And like Zeidler, a new breed of democratic socialist is pushing more of a visionary liberal agenda than a classically socialist one. They, too, have been decried and derided by those who argue that their objectives could not or should not be carried out.

But their vision and its echoes of Zeidler speak to an image of America that transcends the pandering to narrow, self-interest by mainstream politicians, whose pledges are often tightly circumscribed by the size of their corporate donations, an America in which government works for the public welfare. As it was in Milwaukee decades ago, that’s far from a bad choice.

Reparations for slavery in the United States are long overdue

The topic of slavery reparations is finally trending again, nearly five years after Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay in The Atlantic making the case. Even 2020 presidential candidates are talking about it — or displaying creative ways to avoid the issue. But before we talk about why reparations are necessary, let’s knock out some light housekeeping.

What are slavery reparations? Reparations can be defined as the act of repairing something, or the making of amends — financially or otherwise — for a wrong done to another. Slavery reparations would be the U.S. government paying money to the descendants of African slaves.

Slavery was a long time ago, some might say, so why pay now? Skin color has prohibited African Americans from being complete Americans since our ancestors entered Jamestown back in 1619. African Americans have and continue to suffer from the long-term effects of slavery, more than 150 years after the 13th Amendment became law. The hundreds of years of bondage our ancestors endured before 1865 directly contributed to our collective inability to establish generational wealth, while the unfair housing practices that followed continue to result in underfunded schools, which lead to our children not being educated properly, which leads to the lopsided incarcerated rate, higher infant mortality rates, food deserts, police targeting, and health care discrepancies.

I see politicians on the left and the right bouncing around in the lead-up to the 2020 election, clenching their flags, screaming how America is the greatest country in the world, ignoring the fact that we don’t rank number one in healthcare — that’s the United Kingdom — or education, (Canada) or that you might have a better chance at climbing the economic ladder in Denmark. But still America is branded the best, and despite its shortcomings is recognized as the super power, especially for the influence  it gained at such a young age.

How did America gain so much power in such a little amount of time? Tobacco was the cash crop in the 18th century, which created a strong demand for an enslaved workforce; however, picking the plant was labor intensive and eventually not worth the money; tobacco prices dropped and the monetary value of enslaved labor declined. Northerners and southern planters alike started imagining a country without slaves. Near the turn of the century, the textile industry started to boom but American planters couldn’t keep up with cotton orders; picking it and separating the seeds so that it could be made into fabric produced more work than running a tobacco farm. The average slave could only produce about a pound a day. This all changed in 1793 when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, a contraption that quickly removes the cotton from the seeds.

Remember how I mentioned failing schools above? Here is a perfect example: I learned in middle school and high school that Eli Whitney was a freed slave whose cotton gin invention helped end slavery because the machine could out-work field hands. In reality, Whitney was a white dude and his cotton gin extended slavery because it enabled plantations to scale up as workers could pick cotton more efficiently, taking an individual’s production from one to 50 pounds per day. Plantations in the south, with their perfect cotton-growing soil and climate, bought more slaves, started new farms, and made a ton of money from the northern states and Europe. And any silly ideas of emancipation flew out of the window.

This is why America rose to power so quickly: free labor. The United States has a responsibility to pay that long overdue bill.

“I’d take my check, PayPal, Ca$h App, or you can pay in the old-fashioned way,” is what I told my barber.

“Reparations is scary,” he replied. “Black people will just blow all of that money.”

He’s not alone; the assumption that black people would immediately spend all of their reparations money is a widespread and racist idea. Of course, all African Americans aren’t gung-ho to spend every dime they ever had, and other races and ethnic groups like to spend money as well. (And even if it was 100 percent true, wouldn’t that be a pleasant boom for our economy, allowing businesses to flourish, hire more people, and create more opportunity?)

“And!” I laughed. “If it’s so scary, give your check to me.”

Another poor argument I’ve heard came from a black talking head pushing back at the idea of cash payments. “We don’t need reparations in the form of checks,” he said. “Give us a free education!”

First of all, I feel like we can have both. But beyond that: who is he to say what I need? Did someone elect this guy to be king of the black people? No one, especially not me, has a right to comment on what another person needs, as I don’t know what’s happening in their life. What if they’ve already received a free education, but are still struggling due to unfair wages, unfair hiring practices, or because they have to carry a number of family members who weren’t as fortunate? Are you telling me that their personal intellect and academic accomplishments mean that they achieved equality in racist America, thus making them exempt from receiving anything? Please.

And though I feel it may not happen in my lifetime, I still enjoy having these tough conversations — and making white people uncomfortable about paying slave reparation taxes so that I can buy more Nikes — and seeing politicians squirm at and around the question.

“I think reparations . . . yeah. I think that the word, the term reparations, it means different things to different people,” California Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris said on NPR recently. “But what I mean by it is that we need to study the effects of generations of discrimination and institutional racism and determine what can be done, in terms of intervention, to correct course.”

I disagree. I think enough studies have been done. We have been living with this systemic inequality for generations and have learned to survive in high-level crisis mode. Senator Cory Booker, who is also running, has been quiet on the topic except for his baby bonds program that help create savings accounts for poor children; both Harris and Booker know that a black candidate supporting reparations, or even talking about how America constantly lusts over its hardworking, innovation-based rise to power while ignoring the role of free labor, is political suicide.

Senator Bernie Sanders also doesn’t get it, as he said that he would not support a “cash payment or check” to African American families — as if reparations payments are the equivalent to doling out unearned money for nothing. It’s important to mention that Sanders did support reparations for Jewish victims when he signed off on the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which allowed $60 million to be paid to American Holocaust survivors and victims’ families.

Sanders cleared up his stance on reparations yesterday in an NPR interview with Rachel Martin, and it still doesn’t go far enough:

Martin: “Would you support a reparations plan designed specifically to narrow that gap?”

Sanders: “Yeah — but not if it means just a cash payment or a check to families. I would not support that. … I am sympathetic to an idea brought forth by Congressman Jim Clyburn. … And he has what he calls a 10-20-30 plan, which says that 10 percent of federal resources should go to communities that have had 20 percent levels of poverty for 30 years. In other words, the most distressed communities in America….”

Martin: “But is there something special unique and exceptional that needs to happen when we’re talking about the sin of slavery?”

Sanders: “Well, you’re right. The horrors of slavery all are horrors that are impacting African-Americans today. And it must be addressed. But I think if you’re looking at the most distressed communities in this country, which is what Rep. Clyburn is talking about, unfortunately, they are often African-American communities, often Latino communities, sometimes white communities….”

Martin: “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has kind of claimed credit for the current intellectual movement behind reparations, has called for a national reckoning — that it doesn’t matter if the policies in practice actually do what you’re talking about, there needs to be an emotional awakening.”

Sanders: “I think that’s a very good point. I think that many of us, obviously Caucasians, are not fully aware of the horrific impact not only impact, but it’s almost the unspeakable reality of what slavery did to this country.”

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, who said if elected he’d create a commission to determine the best ways to administer reparations, hit back at Sanders’ lackluster response, saying:

It’s interesting to me that, when it comes to ‘Medicare for All,’ health care, the response there has been, ‘We need to write a big check. When it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been, ‘We need to write a big check.”‘

“And so, if the issue is compensating the descendants of slaves, I don’t think the argument about writing a big check ought to be the argument that you make, if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff. So, if, under the Constitution, we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property?”

Like Castro, Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wants to start a commission.  “I love the idea of this congressional commission,” Warren said to a crowd at  Jackson State University. “I believe it’s time to start the national, full-blown conversation about reparations.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is also against putting money directly into the hands of black people, telling Meet the Press, “It doesn’t have to be a direct pay for each person.”

“But what we can do is, in those communities, acknowledge what happened,” Klobuchar continued. “And that means better education. That means looking at for our whole economy: community college, one-year degrees, minimum wage, childcare, making sure that we have that shared dream of opportunity for all Americans.”

I wonder if Klobuchar knows that whether it’s been acknowledged or not, we already know what happened?

Beto O’Rourke doesn’t support reparations but feels that “it is important to confront the truth about how black people have been treated in the U.S.” Again with confronting the obvious truths. To Beto, as well as to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney,  John Hickenlooper,  Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and every other presidential candidate with no plan or a B.S. apology,  I’d say sure, buddy: take that to the bank and try to deposit it. The work from our ancestors equaled currency. Your sorries do not.

It’s important to honor serious attempts on righting this wrong. Marianne Williamson, the spiritual adviser to Oprah who’s running for president, wants to allocate $100 billion to go to slavery descendants throughout a decade, which is cool, though I think we need more. Tulsi Gabbard, presidential candidate and Democratic Representative from Hawaii, co-sponsored Reparations Legislation, which is also a step in the right direction.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who has just met the qualifications to appear on stage at the first Democratic debate, wants to pay every American a universal basic income of $1,000 a month.

That’s a true way for Yang to engage everyone. However, it’s still not fair to the ancestors of the people who suffered under slavery. It’s funny how everyone acts like they want justice until it’s actually time to do what’s right. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m personally sick of fake apologies, double talk, and campaign rhetoric.

Keep all that, and send a check.

Alan Cumming can probably guess what you know him from

Alan Cumming poses next to artifacts he selected for the “Newsroom: Rise Up” suite at the Hamilton Hotel in Washington on March 18. (Sam Waxman/Sam Waxman Studios)
March 19 at 5:54 PM

Alan Cumming ordered a glass of white wine before plopping down on a sofa Monday afternoon at the Hamilton Hotel. “It’s my day off,” he explained.

He doesn’t get a lot of those. Originally from Scotland, the 54-year-old actor has enjoyed a prolific career in this country since he won a Tony for playing the emcee in the 1998 Broadway revival of “Cabaret.” He currently stars in the off-Broadway show “Daddy” as a white art collector involved with a much younger black artist, and in CBS’s “Instinct” as a former CIA operative who happens to be the first openly gay lead character in an American broadcast drama.

If not from those projects, you might recognize Cumming from the movies “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and “X2: X-Men United” or from the television show “The Good Wife,” which earned him three Emmy nominations. (Younger millennials, like this reporter, might remember him as Fegan Floop, the scheming children’s television host whom the Cortez family must defeat in 2001′s “Spy Kids.”)

Cumming has done it all, and then some — he’s also a decorated humanitarian and swung by Washington to unveil an artifact-filled hotel suite called “Newsroom: Rise Up” that he curated in partnership with the Newseum to honor an upcoming exhibit on the LGBTQ rights movement. Seated in front of framed newspaper clippings marking momentous occasions in LGBTQ history, he chatted with The Washington Post about his career, his fans and his reputation as a “frolicky pansexual sex symbol.”

In that case over there, there’s a script from Ellen DeGeneres’s show and an “Angels in America” playbill. How does art play into activism?

It’s not a new phenomenon that art discusses the ideas that need to be discussed in our society. That’s what art is for — theater in the past, and now film and television. Ellen’s coming out was such a massive thing. I wasn’t even living in this country, and I knew all about it. What’s interesting to me was the fallout from that. Now she’s this great family-friendly icon, but a season after she came out, [the show] got axed. . . . People did not want gay stories in America.

The show that I’m in right now, “Instinct,” has this thing of, “And also, he’s gay.” He’s all these things — and also, he’s gay. It’s so not a problem, it’s not the focus. I think “and also” is the way to go ahead, because it should be “and also.” I get really riled when they put the prefix of my sexuality before my name. You don’t see “straight actor blah blah,” and that’s starting to really piss me off. You can be much more progressive and transgressive by going into the mainstream and putting these messages out: Here we are, this is what happens in life.

“Instinct” airs on CBS, one of the most-watched broadcast networks in this country. What does it mean to you to be able to reach that many people?

I’ve made lots of films about LGBT issues that I’m very proud of — one about adoption, one about schisms between generations of gay men because of AIDS, things that are really important — but mostly were seen by LGBT people. And that’s great, but also I think this thing about the mainstream is so important.

Even this play I’m doing right now called “Daddy,” a lot of why I wanted to do it is that it discusses and provokes about race and queerness and things nobody wants to talk about in this country. So that’s why I’m doing it, but [only] 200 people a night see it.

Can you tell me more about “Daddy”?

It’s this play by a guy called Jeremy O. Harris. It’s super intense . . . There’s an intergenerational and interracial queer relationship. I’m the “daddy,” and I have a young African American boyfriend. It’s just, I’ve never seen that. There are quite explicit things there . . . I think it’s great to be able to challenge people, provoke. Sometimes you have to be sensationalist to do that.

All of the projects you mentioned are quite different. When people come up to you, what is it that they most often reference?

It’s always different. I used to play a game where I’d see them coming up and I’d do a quick scan to try and guess: Oh, here’s an “X-Men” person, or she’s going to be a “Romy and Michele,” or this is obviously a “Good Wife,” this is a “Cabaret.” It’s always really surprising. There’s not really one thing, which is great. Then it can be some really obscure thing, “Oh, you saw that? I thought two people and their dog saw that.” That’s nice as well.

I feel a great warmth from the public on the whole. But now, if you’re young and in entertainment, that has to be quantified by the number of people who follow you. It must be a real pressure. It’s not just a feeling you have, you’ve got get those people to click something to show that’s how loved you are. Isn’t it interesting?

It’s kind of scary.

It is. There was a girl at the opening [for “Daddy”], I knew her name but I don’t really — for someone who’s in this business, I don’t keep up with it very much. I get sent all the time all the Hollywood Reporters and Variety because I’m in the academy, but I just recycle it immediately. Or I give it to my husband to take to his after-school art class for the collages.

So there was this girl, and I said to Tommy [Dorfman], from my play, “Who is this girl? Is she a model, an actress?” It was Emily. Emily, some Polish name.

Oh, the model, [Emily Ratajkowski].

Yes, her. I went, “Oh, what is she known for?” And he said, “Oh, she has 4.5 million followers on Instagram.” [Note: Ratajkowski has 22.1 million Instagram followers.]

That’s what she’s known for, I guess.

She’s known, but that’s how you place someone. The world has changed in some way, for that age group, for millennials.

(Sam Waxman/Sam Waxman Studios)

Judging by my age, I’m sure this is expected, but I would love to hear about —

— “Spy Kids”?

Yes! When your name comes up, for me, it’s “Cabaret” and everything, and then it’s “Spy Kids.” What was that experience like?

The making of it was really fun. I had a great time, but it wasn’t “Spy Kids” when we did it, it was just this cute little film. It was a departure for Robert Rodriguez. He’d been much more of an edgy filmmaker, and now he was doing this family film. Everything was kind of, “Oh, I’ll see how this goes.”

None of us knew it was going to become this thing, and also still is. That’s the thing that’s interesting about it. Kids now still watch it. It’s sort of a classic in that way, because it’s magical in its language. It hasn’t aged. There’s no guns in it, it’s an old-fashioned fairy tale.

It has thumb people. [Note: They’re called Thumb Thumbs.]

Yeah. I don’t know how long ago, but in the last 10 years or so, the way young people of your age approach me completely changed because of “Spy Kids” and a few other kids films I did around that time. Instead of a young man being, like, “Oh hey, my girlfriend thinks you’re famous” or, “My girlfriend really likes you,” they came to me, like, “You were a part of my childhood, oh my gosh.” They kind of become little children for a moment. It was such a lovely thing.

A lot of people who grew up with “Spy Kids” now watch “Broad City,” which you were recently in. Ilana Glazer describes you in the episode as a “magical, pansexual, New York City party boy and nymph.” What’s your reaction to that?

It’s very nice. Over the years, you kind of get used to it. But it’s also hilarious. The other day, I was, like, “I’m so hating this beard. I don’t want to be ‘Daddy’ Alan, I want to go back to being pixie Alan. I want to be, like, ‘Oh, Alan looks much younger than he actually is’ Alan. The New York Observer years ago said that I was a “frolicky pansexual sex symbol for the new millennium.” [Laughs] That one stuck, for a while. I like the way it says, to me, that sexuality is playful and fun. It’s very sex positive, that description. I quite like it. But the older I get, I’m feeling less nymphlike. You’ve got to work for the nymphness.

You’ve mentioned a lot of your work being personal. Tell me about the inspiration for your one-man cabaret show, last year’s “Legal Immigrant.”

It was 10 years since I’d become an immigrant, and I thought that was a good anniversary. I could talk about my time in America, and getting older. But also, there was two things: One was that the U.S. Immigration Services website had, about a year ago, removed the phrase “nation of immigrants” from the text on its website, which is shocking and historical revisionism. And also, it doesn’t really matter what the prefix before the word “immigrant” is anymore. The actual notion of immigration itself has such a negative connotation.

I wanted to say to people, being anti-immigration is being anti-American. The show, I tried to make it a celebration of immigration.

With this sort of platform, do you feel a responsibility to speak up on such issues?

I do. But saying it’s a “responsibility” makes it sound honorous, and it’s not. This is fun for me . . . I really like discussing things like this, and I think it’s good to have a conversation with people and find out what’s going on. I think if I weren’t famous, I would still be trying to do the same things I’m doing, but obviously I wouldn’t have the platform or access to such a large megaphone.

I feel it’s because I’m Scottish. People in Scotland are much more politically involved and engaged. You just talk about things . . . It’s every man for himself here. America is very complicated to grasp . . . Things like the arts, it’s all done by patronage here, not by government funding. I think that I would never have been able to be an actor if I were not born in Scotland. My mum and my dad would not have been able to send me to drama school.

You did the “Cabaret” revival a few years ago. Are there any other works of yours that you’d revisit?

I’ve actually done “Cabaret” three times — in London the first time. I can’t imagine I’ll do “Cabaret” again. I’ve always joked that if I did, I’d want to play Fraulein Schneider.

“Macbeth,” I did it in Scotland first and then the following year on Broadway. I have no desire to do that again. It was just too difficult. Every now and again, I think it’s really important to completely challenge yourself to the point where you think, “I don’t know if I can do this.” I do that fairly often. But usually when I’ve done that, I don’t want to do it again. I’ve made my point.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Amy Klobuchar – Did African-American incarceration drop 65% under Amy Klobuchar?

Public sentiment about criminal justice policy has evolved in recent years, putting pressure on the former prosecutors who are running for president to answer for their records in the judicial system, particularly about any racial disparities in arrests and sentencing.

We previously reviewed the criminal justice record of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who served as both the district attorney for San Francisco and the state attorney general for California.

Here, we’ll look at the record of another presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who served as county attorney of Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, between 1999 and 2007.

CNN’s Jake Tapper brought up the issue during an interview with Klobuchar on March 17, 2019.

Tapper: “A study from around that time, from during your time heading that office, by one of your predecessors, then with the Council on Crime and Justice, found wide racial disparities in the justice system at the time you took office. It preceded you, but they issued this report during your time there. Minnesota Public Radio wrote, ‘The ratio of blacks sent to Minnesota prisons compared to whites is the highest in the country. People who are black account for 70 percent of Hennepin County’s drug cases. If convicted, they are sentenced to time behind bars at three times the rate of whites guilty of the same offense.’ Now, that was data from the start of your term. When you were the county attorney, did you do anything to try to improve these broad, stark racial disparities? And, if so, what did you do?”

Klobuchar: “Of course I did, Jake. In fact, if you look at the data, you will see there was a 65 percent decrease in incarceration of African-Americans when you go from the beginning of my term to the end.”

We found that Klobuchar’s statement is nearly right for jails but wrong for prisons; both are forms of incarceration. As we were looking into this question, Klobuchar’s campaign independently contacted CNN to clarify aspects of the claim.

Data on African-Americans in Hennepin County jails

To evaluate Klobuchar’s assertion, we looked at data from the Vera Institute of Justice, which collects data on criminal justice topics. Their database includes historical data on incarceration rates in a wide variety of jurisdictions around the country. Hennepin County is one of them. The data includes both jails and prisons. As we’ll see, the incarceration rate dropped significantly for jails but not nearly as much for prisons.

On air with Tapper, Klobuchar didn’t specify which metric she was using. After the interview aired, Klobuchar’s staff contacted CNN to clarify that she was referring to jails.

Here’s a chart comparing incarceration rates for African-Americans in Hennepin County (in shades of red) with incarceration rates for African-Americans in the United States as a whole (in shades of blue). The  “rate” used in the data is the number of African-Americans who are incarcerated per 100,000 residents between the ages of 15 and 64.

First, let’s look at the heavier shades of blue and red that are grouped toward the bottom of the chart.

The dark red line shows the African-American incarceration rate in Hennepin County jails. When Klobuchar became county attorney in 1999, the African-American incarceration rate was 946 per 100,000. In 2006, her last full year in the office, the rate had fallen to 287 per 100,000.

The pair of black lines show the scope of the decline over that period — a full 70 percent.

It’s worth adding that the decline in Hennepin County wasn’t simply part of a national decline. Over the same period, the national trend line — shown in dark blue in this chart — was essentially static. In other words, the decline in Hennepin County under Klobuchar was notable.

When we showed the data to Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, he said that “the decline in the jail rate (under Klobuchar) is quite substantial.”

What about the prison population?

Jails generally hold people awaiting trial or serving a sentence of less than one year, often a misdemeanor. Prisons, by contrast, generally hold felony offenders whose sentences are one year or longer.

The lighter blue line at the top is the national trend for African-American incarceration in prisons, while the lighter red line shows the trend for Hennepin County.

For prison populations, the decline in Hennepin County wasn’t as dramatic as it was for jails. The rate fell, but only by 14 percent.

That said, the drop in Hennepin County’s African-American incarceration rate was still almost twice as large as the decline for the nation as a whole.

Does Klobuchar deserve credit for the drop?

The county attorney can have an impact on incarceration trends by the policies they set, Mauer said, although he added that other factors can come into play, too.

The factors can include “changes in policing practices, such as making fewer arrests in cases of drug possession), as well as increased availability of treatment and diversion programs,” Mauer said. Some of these changes might stem from actions taken by state legislators, the governor, or other state or local officials, rather than the county attorney.

Still, county attorneys like Klobuchar have a degree of discretion over several important factors affecting the incarceration rate, including their stance on demanding money bail, their willingness to negotiate plea deals that do not include jail time, and their desire to utilize diversion programs or drug courts for first-time offenders.

“Overall, it’s much more likely that a combination of factors produced these outcomes, though certainly prosecutors have a role to play,” Mauer said.

What policies did Klobuchar advance?

So what policies does Klobuchar point to during her tenure that would have made a difference? She cited several during the interview with Tapper:

• “The first is to diversify the office and to add more people of color to the ranks of prosecutors. And I did that.”

• “The second was to look at how we were handling drug court and make sure that we were doing it in a way that wasn’t racist. And you can always do better. I can tell you, you learn in retrospect, when you look back, things you can do better.”

• “The third thing was to up our focus on white-collar crimes. Things that are committed in the boardrooms are just as bad as things that are committed with a crowbar if someone is trying to break in a house.”

• “I was one of the first prosecutors in the country to work with The Innocence Project to do a DNA review on our cases, to do something differently when it came to eyewitness identification.”

• “And then, finally, we had videotaped interrogations in Minnesota. We were one of the only states that did it at the time to make sure that suspects were treated fairly, Miranda rights were being read.”

But David Schultz, a political scientist at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., who also teaches law at Hamline and the University of Minnesota, cautioned against giving Klobuchar too much credit.

On Klobuchar’s watch, racial disparities in the Minneapolis-area justice system remained significant, he said. Incarceration rates, he added, don’t tell the whole story of racial disparities in the justice system; a fuller picture would also include probation rates.

“I was teaching undergraduate criminal justice classes at the time she was county attorney and there was no indication that she was cognizant of the racial implications of her policies,” Schultz said.

Klobuchar’s tough-on-crime approach was common among prosecutors everywhere at the time, even among Democrats. That has only changed in Democratic circles relatively recently.

Our ruling

Klobuchar said that during her tenure as county attorney in Minnesota, “there was a 65 percent decrease in incarceration of African-Americans.”

The African-American incarceration rate in Hennepin County declined substantially for jails but not nearly as much for prisons. Experts said that Klobuchar’s policies could have been a reason for the drop, though they added that other factors beyond her control could have made a difference as well.

We rate the statement Half True.

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2019-03-19 16:06:08 UTC





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During her tenure as county attorney in Minnesota, “there was a 65 percent decrease in incarceration of African-Americans.”

Amy Klobuchar

Democratic presidential candidate


an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union”

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Understanding Contemporary Antisemitism

A conversation with ISGAP director Dr. Charles Asher Small

By Judie Jacobson

Dr. Charles Asher Small

HARTFORD – The Connecticut Jewish Ledger will kick off a celebration of the weekly newspaper’s 90th anniversary with a lecture by the renowned scholar and author Dr. Charles A. Small, an expert on global antisemitism.

Dr. Small will discuss “Understanding Contemporary Antisemitism and Combating it Effectivelly,” as part of the N. Richard Greenfield Jewish Ledger Lecture Series, named in memory of the newspaper’s former publisher, “Ricky” Greenfield, z”l, who died in April 2014.

The talk will be held Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, 335 Bloomfield Avenue in West Hartford.

It is presented by the Ledger in cooperation with the Mandell JCC, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, WeHa Magazine, and several West Hartford synagogues, including Beth David Synagogue, The Emanuel Synagogue, Young Israel of West Hartford and Congregation Beth Israel. Small is founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). He currently is also a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University and the Goldman Fellow at the School of Political Science, Government and International Affairs at Tel Aviv University. He will also be a visiting academic and senior member of St. Antony’s College at Oxford University.

He previously served as founding director of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), the first interdisciplinary research center on antisemitism at a North American university. Small also served as the Koret distinguished fellow at Yale University, the Hoover Institution, and Stanford University. 

At ISGAP, Small has convened groundbreaking academic seminar series, conferences and programming in the emerging field of contemporary antisemitism studies at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, Stanford University, Fordham University, McGill University, University of Miami, La Sapienza University in Rome, the Sorbonne in Paris, the National University of Kyiv, the CNRS (the French National Center for Scientific Research or Centre national de la recherche scientifique), and other top-tier universities around the world. He also founded and directs an annual program at St. Johns’ College, Oxford University, which trains professors from around the world to develop new courses on contemporary antisemitism.

The author of numerous books and articles, Small recently published volume three of his work The ISGAP Papers: Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective.

Charles Small chats with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair 2017.

Small has been a guest scholar and lecturer on the topic of antisemitism at hundreds of universities throughout the world. He also addressed the European Parliament, United Nations, Israeli Knesset, the Australian, British, Canadian, Chilean and Italian Parliaments, the German Bundestag. He submitted evidence to the British and Canadian All-Party Parliamentary Inquiries into Antisemitism and continues to help inform public policy. He has also served as a consultant and policy advisor in North America, Europe, Southern Africa, and the Middle East.

Committed thought his life to safeguarding human rights and democratic principles, Small chaired the African National Solidarity Committee of Canada and worked with the ANC leadership and the international anti-apartheid movement. He was also active in the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, chairing the SSSJ in the early 1980s while an undergraduate at McGill University, as well as the struggle for Ethiopian Jewry. He has also been engaged in promoting rights of the First Nations in Canada.

Dr. Small’s talk is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. 

To RSVP, email rsvp@jewishledger.com. For information, call (860) 231-2424.

JEWISH LEDGER (JL): It would seem that the need for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, which you founded, is growing more and more pressing.  Can you tell us about its genesis? 

CHARLES SMALL (CS): The reason why I started ISGAP is a good question. I was very active in issues of human rights. I had been chairperson of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry at McGill University. I went to Russia as a kid to meet with the refuseniks. Our community was very active with Ethiopian Jewry – we brought Ethiopians to Montreal before they were able to come to the U.S. or go to Israel. I was very active in the anti-apartheid movement as chairman of the African National Solidarity Committee of Canada. So, I come from a background of human rights, fighting different forms of racism and promoting citizenship. 

I was in Israel as a young scholar, teaching at Tel Aviv University, when I came across the writings of the Muslim Brotherhood. I had never really heard of them. I never studied them and it was through actually meeting some Palestinian scholars that I became aware of the importance of the Muslim Brotherhood and their ideologies and teachings, which go back about a century. I was shocked to see how they fuse their version of Islam or political Islam with European antisemitism – the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Nazi antisemitism. I was shocked by it, and I was shocked by the ignorance and acquiescence in the western universities and the media of record to this very dangerous anti-democratic, reactionary, social movement, that was not only antisemitic but sexist and homophobic as well, and was out to destroy democracy. 

That was the impetus to really start to see that antisemitism was beginning to make a comeback. So, I thought to try to create some sort of research center to deal with it; to study it and make it have a higher profile in the academy.

So, I started reading about the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1990s and we started forming ISGAP around 2003 and 2004.

JL: How would you define ISGAP’s mission? 

CS: To study, and to sort of map and decode and gain a deep understanding of the process surrounding antisemitism at an interdisciplinary and a global level. We believe that a deep understanding [of antisemitism] is the only way you can create ways and develop strategies to combat it. Our tag line is: “Fighting antisemitism on the battlefield of ideas.” 

Dr. Small briefs the Australian Government, 2009.

JL: Is the antisemitism we see developing in America today the same ‘strain’ of antisemitism that seems to be overtaking Europe? Or are we experiencing something different?

CS: Each country, each contex,t has its unique forms and manifestations of antisemitism(s), but I think there is a global phenomenon of antisemitism which is sweeping the western world. I would argue that the United States is probably 10 or 15 years behind Europe, but it’s certainly here now, unfortunately. There are unique elements to antisemitism in the U.S. but it is a global phenomenon that we need to map and decode and combat.

JL: In recent days, there have been all these reports and studies indicating a steep rise in antisemitic acts in the U.S. This seems to have shocked American Jewry. Are you equally surprised – or was this something you saw coming?

CS: No, I’m not shocked. It’s to be expected. I think that when administration after administration after administration engages entities, parties and even states that promote and adhere to an annihilationist perspective of Israel and Jews; when the previous administration engaged the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian revolutionary regime, and they were not the first to do so; when these sort of reactionary political movements are using the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and genocidal antisemitism in their rhetoric and in their policies for generations and we engage them… When we do this, why are we surprised when a white supremicist pops up in the United States with the same ideology as somebody in Egypt, Cairo, Tehran or Gaza, or in the suburbs of Paris? Why do we think we’re so immune from this form of antisemitism?

The ideological roots of white nationalist antisemitism in this country and Islamist antisemitism in various parts of the world is the same. The root is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and classical forms of European antisemitism. If we tolerate it over there, why are we shocked that it pops up over here?

JL: A lot of what you’re talking about sounds like it is emanating from the right. But there also seems to be an antisemitic strain alive and well on the left – on college campuses, etc. Is that of equal concern?

CS: I think there are three forms of contemporary antisemitisms. You have the extreme right, the extreme left, and the extreme Islamists. 

Radical political Islam was speaking for decades about ridding the West and ridding the Americans and ridding the Jews and the Zionists from this sort of neo-imperialism and colonialism of the Middle East, and the so-called radical left in Europe, particularly intellectuals and journalists and the media of record, went along for the ride. They were equally critical of the United States and particularly of Israel and Zionsim. To be liberal means you believe in democratic processes and democratic societies and strong citizenship and equality under the law for every citizen regardless of background – but these liberals, in a sort of post modern moment, got in bed with radical Islamists. So there’s this kind of deeply hypocritical and contradictory red-green alliance that emerged that was against racism and colonialism and, in particular, against Israel and Zionism. When the extreme green and the extreme red have something in common and it’s Israel, we know that this is a warning sign of something that’s going on that’s not good for democracy and not good for human rights.

JL: In 2004, Elie Wiesel said the Jewish people were living in a time of great “urgency” – then he corrected himself to call it a time of great “emergency.” Was the rise and re-emergence of antisemitism apparent that far back?

CS: Definitely. It was already happening. On campuses in the United States, one of the things which was astounding to me – and certainly this was happening in Europe perhaps even more intensely – was that scholars who were looking at the antisemitism or the anti-democratic nature of political Islam were perceived as right-wing, as defenders of Zionism and racism. It’s astounding. People were not looking at the issues. There was no analysis. 

Charles Small presents Pope Francis with policy papers on global antisemitism at the Great Synagogue of Rome, 2016.

JL: Do you think that at that point in time there was something that the organized Jewish community could have done to combat this that they didn’t do? Were they hiding their heads in the sand?

CM: It’s a good question. I think that there was an arrogance, pardon my language, among liberals in our community, in the intellectual community, and in the media of record, who thought that demonization of Israel and the Zionists was a problem for our brothers in the Middle East. I think many liberals thought that if only the Israelis would be a little more flexible and would negotiate a resolution to the conflict everything would be ok and it would keep antisemitism off the map. What we realized was that political Islam could not accept the self-determination of anybody to be equal to that of a Muslim, and the Jews are the only people with self-determination in that part of the world. It is untenable for Islam to accept that a Jew is equal to a Muslim in the democratic society of Israel. Even if Tel Aviv were a nation state then Tel Aviv would be a problem because there would be Jews and Muslims and gay people and everybody else would be equal under the law. It would go against the  teachings of political Islam. 

As Israel was becoming demonized, we see people going to synagogue on Shabbat in France, in Belgium, in the UK and in other parts of Europe suddenly being targeted. Because if Israel is a racist, fascist apartheid regime, as the extreme left and the intellectuals were arguing, then kids going to camp or going to synagogue had a deep affiliation to Israel and were part of the problem. This contemporary form of antisemitism is an attack on who Jews are as a people. 

So, there’s the old racist form of antisemitism which exists, and we see this on the extreme right in the US; and there’s the Christian antisemitism of the past, though religious forms of antisemitism are around but are not the dominant form. 

The dominant form of antisemitism is the attack on who Jews are as a people. I think that, yes, the Jewish American community as a whole thought that they were somehow immune from this. I think they underestimated the power of antisemitism which is a deadly form or strain of hatred that can change and metastasize quickly and affect societies in powerful ways. We are now catching up to understand what the problem is and how to confront it.

JL: Do you worry about a legitimization of antisemitism with the election of legislators such as Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib? 

CS: Yes. Americans have to realize that we’re part of the global economy and social media. Information and ideas travel at the speed of light. We’re not protected by an ocean the way we may have been 150 years ago. We’re part of a global world where information, ideas, people, and capital are flying around at breakneck speeds. Thus, the ideas that these two congresswomen are expressing are in keeping with the Nation of Islam and [its leader] Mr. Farrakhan. It’s in keeping with a strain of antisemitism that exists in the US and has existed in the US for a long time – from Henry Ford to Louis Farrakhan. These are the ideologies that are part of political Islam in Muslim countries and sort of post-modernity in so-called progressive secular ideologies. 

And so, the demonization of Israel is spreading. It’s part of a large discourse that is deeply rooted in the US and there is a long history of it. It’s now becoming more and more mainstream. Around the world – in the US and certainly in the US – the center is under attack by the extreme right and the extreme left and Islamists. It’s a serious issue and I don’t see this going away. I think Americans underestimate the power of ideology. This is not just two congresswomen articulating these views – these are very powerful ideas that are prevalent in international political and cultural discourse. 

JL:  At the risk of sounding alarmist, do you see similarities between the situation for Jews today and that of pre-Nazi Germany?

CS: I don’t think it’s like the rise of Nazism. I think the world has changed. Economies have changed. Societies have changed. And antisemitism has changed. I don’t think we should be looking so much for storm troopers with swastikas marching down the street, but we have political ideologies like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian revolutionary regime and Hezbollah articulating certain ideas, and these ideas are traveling in social media. We have the Nation of Islam in the US making inroads using antisemitism in the African American community and in the artist community – there are pop artists and journalists that the Nation of Israel has reached out to and they’re making inroads in the media and entertainment industries, among musicians, athletes, and among so-called intellectuals, where these ideas are resonating. They’re very dangerous and the Jewish community needs to understand that we have to fight the scourge at a multifaceted level. We have to understand the ideology and to fight the ideology. We have to support our political leaders and policy makers and intellectuals who are fighting it and we have to join the fight.

JL: When you talk about this to Jewish audiences, what is their reaction? Are they alarmed? Do you experience any push back?

CS: I used to quote a Chinese proverb that says, you can’t wake up a dog that’s pretending to sleep. 

Fortunately, there are those of us who are dealing with antisemitism in American universities. And there are those of us in the Jewish community who were critical of the previous administration for engaging the Muslim Brotherhood and working with the, and even working with the Iranian revolutionary regime in the name of peace or whatever. There were those of us scholars who were looking at the profound implications that engaging these entities and regimes and states that were literally calling for the extermination not just Israel but of Jews had; and how in this sort of political environment speaking out against it somehow made you right-wing or racist. It was an extraordinary moment of profound hypocrisy and misunderstanding in our community and in the intellectual community. And it was alarming, not to be able to have a serious discussion about what the implications were of doing that. 

I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement and I considered myself a social democrat on the left, having grown up in countries where education and health care were perceived and are still perceived as human rights. This is what social democracy is all about. 

I remember asking people: can you imagine – at the last moment when the apartheid regime was under pressure by the international anti-apartheid movement – western leaders engaged in a rapproachment with the regime and brought to them billions of dollars in trade and contracts? Can you imagine that this would be perceived as somehow progressive?  They would be rioting in the streets if we were to support the apartheid regime. Why? Because we believe in social democracy and equality under the law. We believe in democratic principles. 

So how was it that a large segment of our community was unable to take a strong stand against regimes that were calling for the annihilation not just of Israel but of the Jewish people around the world, using the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a foundational ideological part of what these regimes and these movements were arguing for? How can people who believe in democracy allow for that? It’s astounding. 

Now, after the tragic massacre in Pittsburgh, people are saying ‘Ok, there’s a problem. We may not agree on what the solutions are or the cause of the problem, but at least we do know there’s a problem.’ It’s a good step.

How ‘Middle Class Joe’ can make a splash

Former vice president Joe Biden speaks in Dover, Del., on Saturday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Opinion writer

March 19 at 9:00 AM

Between Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s array of complex policies and Beto O’Rourke’s minimalist policy approach, there is a happy middle ground for a clearly defined message that neither overwhelms audiences nor leaves them wondering what the candidate is all about. That’s the target, I would suggest, for former vice president Joe Biden, who is expected to enter the 2020 presidential race in early April.

He is fortunate to start with a well-defined public image associated with working- and middle-class opportunity. His strength with organized labor, African Americans, seniors, and both suburban and urban voters gives him perhaps the broadest swath of potential support in the party of any contender. In a race where no candidate has yet come up with a pithy theme aimed at all factions of the party, Biden will have the megaphone, the money and the name ID to provide coherence, a quality lacking in many other candidates’ appeals.

“Biden is hoping to seize command of the highly-fluid contest through major endorsements, a message of strength and an argument that the party’s most urgent task should be defeating President Donald Trump,” CNN reports. “Biden’s team has started gaming out scenarios for what a campaign launch could look like with Wilmington, Delaware, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, among several potential locations floated for an announcement rally, a source with knowledge of the discussions said. While the rest of the Democratic field settles into place, Biden’s allies say the former vice president is keenly aware of the attention any announcement will draw.”

What’s a potential theme that ties together Biden’s record, a critique of Trumpism and all factions of the Democratic Party? Fairness. Think of it as a positive version of Warren’s negative critique (that the system is “rigged”).

Ordinary Americans want a fair shot at getting a good K-12 and college education (which we’ve seen is heavily gamed by the rich) and earning a decent living for a 40-hour week, getting access to the same health care that the wealthy can afford. It’s not fair that the rich pay taxes on capital gains at a lower rate than the working class does on income. It’s not fair that the discretionary spending that benefits ordinary Americans (e.g., national parks, the latest medical research, safe roads and bridges) gets slashed to fund even more tax cuts for the rich. And it sure isn’t fair that the men and women in the military do without construction projects so Trump can build a useless wall to please his white-grievance base.

In sum, the issue is no longer less or more government but what government is to be used for. Biden thinks the working-class family in Scranton and the teacher in Michigan, not the Trump billionaire class, should be the beneficiaries of government, a well-run government at that. This is a message Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) could appreciate.

This traditional message of economic fairness (a “fair shot,” a “fair deal”) can rest on a few broad ideas: fairness for workers (e.g., wages, the right to unionize, training for the 21st century), fairness for families (access to health care and child care) and fairness for young people (a good education, access to college, a sustainable planet). Keep it short, or shorter than a laundry list, but make it meatier than a plea to “unite.” (Voters are entitled to ask, “Unite for what?”)

What the race has been missing is a trustworthy figure to reassure voters that they still have a fair shot at the American dream. If that’s not a tailor-made message for Biden, I’m not sure what would be.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: The benefits of Joe Biden

Jennifer Rubin: If this Joe Biden runs, he’ll win

Paul Waldman: The questions a Joe Biden presidential candidacy will answer

Jennifer Rubin: Democrats might need Biden more than they know

Cynthia Nixon: Mike Pence isn’t ‘decent.’ He’s insidious.

Sean Kirst: Youth hockey player’s parents dream of opening minds amid ugliness

Darren Brown-Hall has built a career in education. In Buffalo, he grew up deeply influenced by a schoolteacher mother, Linda Brown, and his own youthful passion for math and physics eventually led him to the classroom.

He is now an administrator, the chief of staff for the Buffalo Public Schools. As a parent and an educator, Brown-Hall, 45, tries to see opportunities for both learning and teaching in the unpredictable and sometimes harsh push-and-shove that goes with everyday life.

The past few weeks were as painful a challenge to that philosophy as he ever faced, after his own son was the target of blatant racist taunts, clearly recorded on video (Warning: explicit language), during a youth hockey game.

The incident exploded last week into a national story, when shock waves from the video led officials to cancel the league playoffs. The footage depicts action toward the end of a Jan. 20 game at the Northtown Center in Amherst for the Multiple Organization House League, which is part of the Western New York Amateur Hockey League.

In a video captured by another parent, players from the Cheektowaga Warriors 18-and-under team can be heard making loud ape noises and shouting “(expletive) monkey” toward Roshaun Brown-Hall, 17, who plays on an Amherst Youth Hockey Association team.

Darren Brown-Hall was at a birthday party that day for his mother. His husband, Chris Brown-Hall, was at the rink to watch their son, but he did not hear the taunting because he was seated too far away from the ice.

Roshaun, after the game, told Chris the name-calling had gotten out of control. Still, the couple did not realize the magnitude of what happened until Amherst’s upset coach sent them an email that week, indicating he was officially alerting the league.

Roshaun Brown-Hall with his younger brother, Connor. (Family photo)

At that point, Roshaun’s parents again reassured their son, and began expecting some definitive public response. It did not happen until a few days ago, almost two months after the incident, when the New York State Amateur Hockey Association – abruptly under a national spotlight – suspended two players and the coach of the Cheektowaga team.

[RELATED: Video shows black teen hockey player attacked with racist taunts]

Brown-Hall and his husband were left to wonder why it took so long, and if there will be any additional steps to try and identify how something so ugly could happen in the first place.

Sunday, the couple received an email from David M. Braunstein, longtime regional president of the New York State Amateur Hockey Association. He told them he was resigning, more than a month after he sent Roshaun’s parents an email, promising the association would investigate the matter.

“It was a very thoughtful, apologetic email, apologizing for the way it was handled, and we do appreciate it,” Brown-Hall said.

He said that he and Braunstein had a followup telephone conversation on Monday, involving the same tone. It left Brown-Hall looking ahead to what he sees as the obvious response.

As a father, he said he is most concerned about how the association – in the form of every administrator and coach involved in its operation – will take steps to help its players become stronger, more insightful human beings, which Brown-Hall sees as the entire point of youth sports.

“If we ignore this, if we don’t address it, we’ll never get real change,” he said.

While he is frustrated that an adult bureaucracy seemed to hedge or move slowly to respond, he remains hopeful that the teens involved might come to reflect at a young age on their own cruelty and misconceptions, to realize “there’s no place anywhere for anything like that.”

[RELATED: Ex-state hockey official: ‘My resignation doesn’t make what happened go away’]

Brown-Hall described his entire life as a series of lessons in aspiration and the need for tolerance. His grandfather, George Brown, was part of the “great migration” of African-Americans who left behind the suffocating Jim Crow laws of legal segregation in the South to seek better opportunities in the North.

Raised in St. Louis, Brown moved to Buffalo in his 20s and found a job at the General Motors plant. He had a pivotal impact on his grandson, who listened as Brown recalled the world of his youth, a place where blacks could not swim on a hot day in white-only public pools, or shop casually in stores open to whites, or work in most skilled, good-paying professions.

“He was a huge father figure,” Brown-Hall said of his grandfather. As a child, Brown-Hall was repeatedly told by his parents, grandparents and others in his family that education was the great equalizer, the true engine of change. After college, Brown-Hall taught for a while, then briefly took his affinity for math into business.

Once there, he missed the classroom. He knew it was his real calling. Brown-Hall returned to education, earning his doctorate and serving as a building principal and finally as a district administrator. At every step, he said, he tried to teach children that differences are strengths, “that you can’t fully appreciate someone as a person until you appreciate what makes them distinct.”

He described his own trajectory as an ongoing statement of that belief. Darren and Chris Brown-Hall have been in a relationship for 19 years, marrying in 2014, after New York state made same-sex marriage legal. They adopted Roshaun from foster care when he was 5, and later adopted another son, Connor.

In a world where not everyone accepts their marriage, the core notions of love and tolerance, Chris said, have been central to their household since the day their sons came home.

Chris and Darren Brown-Hall with their oldest son, Roshaun, (center), before last year’s Amherst High School junior prom. (Family photo)

Chris had grown up playing hockey, and he soon brought Roshaun to a rink, where the child showed a deep and lasting love for the sport.

“Hockey,” Chris said, “is the thing he’s most passionate about.”

His parents say Roshaun is a good student, and he intends to study business – probably at SUNY Brockport – once he graduates from high school in Amherst this spring.

To Chris and Darren Brown-Hall, all of it makes the idea that other kids would taunt their son with monkey noises, with racist insults about his appearance or intelligence, almost unimaginable.

It is the antithesis of what they try to live out in their own home. Roshaun and his younger brother grew up in a household with parents who have dedicated their adult lives to quietly making a point about compassion and achievement.

“All of this makes us strong,” said Chris, who runs a private home health care agency.

The couple said Roshaun did not really talk in detail about what happened until they heard from the coach. Roshaun is a teenager, and they know teenagers – especially within a  fiercely competitive sport – worry about looking to adults to solve their problems.

Brown-Hall said the couple explained to their son that they could not afford to skip past the incident. Looking away from acts of anger and ugliness, they told him, is often the one sure way to guarantee that they continue.

Instead, they said that by openly addressing it – by speaking of their lives, of who they are – that maybe, just maybe, anyone who writes off other teenagers in such a way will step beyond that fear and cruelty to see full human beings.

That is both their message and their hope, in a family whose existence is built upon the notion of acceptance. Darren and Chris Brown-Hall said that quiet talk was enough. There was no particularly dramatic moment after the game when they felt they had to sit down with their children to speak to them about the world, about the larger reality of intolerance.

“We’ve been having that conversation,” Brown-Hall said, “for their whole lives.”

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo News. Email him at skirst@buffnews.com or read more of his work in this archive.

Elite colleges admit more low-income students, but scandal reinforces stereotypes

Friends of Claremont McKenna student Kendall Hollimon surround him for a campus video shoot on March 14. Hollimon is a nationally ranked diver.


Far from the California Center of the college cheating scandal, Matt McGann has followed the news with more than casual concern.

McGann is dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst College, which has a $2 billion endowment and a 13 percent admission rate.

The western Massachusetts campus, founded nearly 200 years ago, is the kind of rich, elite private college that the wealthy parents ensnared in the scandal sought for their children — and allegedly tried to get them into using huge payments, bribes and lies.

Amherst takes pride in its founding mission to serve “indigent young men,” which has long since been widened to include all genders and has only grown stronger. Now nearly a third of its students are low-income, a percentage that nearly doubled in the past decade. Such news gets buried in the scandal story that top-tier colleges remain the province of the rich.

“It’s disheartening,” McGann said. “No one in admissions likes to see this kind of gaming. It erodes the public trust in the work we do.”

Officials at many leading private colleges and universities say they are working harder than they ever have before to seek, recruit, enroll and support high-achieving, low-income students. They are increasingly tapping their vast resources to try to lift those on the bottom.

‘Too good to be true’

Julian Hernandez, the son of Mexican immigrants with limited education and modest means, could have attended UCLA. But he chose Claremont McKenna, a small private liberal arts institution in California’s Pomona Valley that offered to cover most of the $74,000 annual cost of attendance with financial aid.

He will graduate in May with about $14,000 in student loan debt — well below the $20,000 average for University of California students, whose college costs are half as much.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” Hernandez said of Claremont McKenna’s offer.

At Claremont McKenna, he said, he has thrived, with opportunities for undergraduate research and internships. Support from the close-knit community helped him overcome initial academic struggles and social awkwardness around affluent students.

Under Claremont McKenna’s president, Hiram Chodosh, the college has stepped up its commitment to students like Hernandez. About 20 percent of this year’s freshmen are low-income and the first in their families to attend college — a proportion that has doubled in four years.

The college already has an $835 million endowment but in the past five years has raised nearly $300 million more for financial aid. A $25 million gift last year from the Kravis Opportunity Fund covers non-tuition expenses, such as health care fees, clothing for job interviews, computers and a stipend that averages $4,500 for summer internships.

Access, affordability

To help middle-class families, Claremont McKenna now takes home equity out of financial aid calculations.

Access and affordability, Chodosh said, are rooted in the founding vision of the college, whose first students in 1946 were World War II veterans. He hates the idea of a new wave of skepticism about selective colleges like his.

“I’m concerned about a growing frustration with elite institutions generally, including higher education institutions, that becomes very corrosive and can serve to undermine the tremendous investment and success of our leading colleges and universities,” he said.

Many top universities began confronting economic diversity as the next frontier for access in the early 2000s, said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior associate at The Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.

Their efforts were propelled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision upholding race-based affirmative action. At the same time, he said, scholars began focusing on the lack of such diversity in elite higher education, leading to some “guilt.”

In 2001, Princeton University broke new ground in its financial aid packages by replacing loans with grants. Today, the school’s average aid package fully covers tuition for students with family incomes up to $160,000, according to Princeton data, and four-fifths of recent seniors graduated debt-free.

Recruiting efforts

Three years ago, Princeton joined a collaborative effort at the nation’s top 270 colleges and universities to enroll and graduate an additional 50,000 high-achieving, low-income students.

Since 2004, Princeton has nearly tripled its percentage of low-income students — who qualify for federal Pell grants — to one-fifth of its student body.

Yale University has made similar strides. In the past five years, under President Peter Salovey, the school has used mail campaigns and a simplified online cost calculator to reach talented low-income students.

It has become far more active in recruiting, and about 100 Yale student ambassadors make hundreds of school visits annually to spread the word that the Ivy League campus is more affordable and diverse than many think.

In a February speech, Salovey said Yale had hit its recruiting goals two years early. About one-fifth of the current first-year class is low income and first-generation college students. The average annual scholarship is about $53,000.

“For many years, Yale has been seen as an expensive East Coast school — but the reality is most of our students are on financial aid,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid. “It’s a much more different, diverse place than it has been. Yale is truly a lever of socioeconomic mobility.”

‘Experiential equity’

It would be a stretch, however, to say that elite colleges are no longer elite, said Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation.

A 2017 study led by Harvard University economics professor Raj Chetty, he said, found that Harvard enrolled 23 times as many rich students as poor ones. And increasing racial diversity may not change the economic picture, he said, citing 1998 findings by two former Harvard and Princeton presidents that 86 percent of African-Americans at selective colleges were middle- or upper-class. (It’s dated, he said, but still the most comprehensive review of that issue.)

University of Southern California USC Provost Michael Quick said an emerging focus at his campus and other leading universities is what he called “experiential equity,” which means making sure that students get an equal shot at transformative college experiences.

Graduation rates

One-fifth of USC students now are low-income, with rising numbers who are first-generation, military veterans and community college transfers. Financial aid is up 79 percent in a decade. Academic support has helped boost six-year graduation rates to more than 90 percent.

USC has also joined other private campuses, including Amherst, Claremont McKenna and Yale, in moving to pay for some students’ extra experiences, including summer internships and study abroad.

“Where I feel all universities need to be focusing on now … is this notion that it’s not just enough to be admitted to school or even graduate from school,” Quick said. “You want the experience of these students to be equitable as well.”

He said he is frustrated by scandal-driven headlines that dredge up old digs about the University of Spoiled Children.

“Here you are so proud of all that work and then here comes this narrative again that feeds this very old stereotype,” he said.

New ramp traffic pattern

I-670 at I-270 and US 62 (East Side)

Construction is RAMPING UP on the I-670 SmartLane project Monday night (March 18), quite literally. Crews begin work on the ramp from I-670 east to I-270 north and US 62 east, which means ramp traffic will be reduced to two lanes on the bridge over I-270 for six months.

I-270 north traffic can use either lane, but drivers headed to US 62 east MUST be in the right lane (see graphic below). Instead of two lanes each for I-270 north and US 62 east, the exit to US 62 east will be one lane only beginning Monday.

New traffic pattern shown on ramp from 670 east to 270 and 62

To shift traffic into this new pattern, lanes and ramps will be closed MONDAY NIGHT:

7 PM: I-670 EB will be reduced to two lanes between Cassady Ave. and I-270 and the ramp from I-670 EB to I-270 NB will be reduced to one lane.

8 PM: The ramp from US 62 WB to I-270 NB will close.

Detour: US 62 WB to I-270 SB to Hamilton Rd. to I-270 NB.

10 PM: The ramp from International Gateway/Stelzer Rd. to I-670 EB will close.

Detour: International Gateway/Stelzer Rd. to I-670 WB to 5th Ave. to I-670 EB.

11 PM: I-670 EB will be reduced to one lane between Cassady Ave. and I-270.

12 AM: The ramps from I-670 EB to I-270 NB and US 62 EB will close.

Detour: I-670 EB to I-270 SB to Hamilton Rd. to I-270 NB (to US 62 EB).

5 AM TUESDAY: All lanes and ramps open.

Learn more about the project and see the final interchange configuration HERE.

All work is weather dependent; it may be postponed or cancelled without prior notice.

Ohio budget plan targets funding for kids, workforce, water


Associated Press

Friday, March 15

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Efforts to support Ohio’s vulnerable children and adults, prepare more skilled workers, and address water-quality concerns would get targeted funding increases under Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s first state operating budget proposal , unveiled Friday.

Officials said the plan for spending $69 billion in state revenue over two years wouldn’t raise taxes or affect the state’s rainy day fund, instead relying on anticipated slow, steady economic growth from existing revenue sources.

DeWine said Ohio for too long has “tinkered at the margins” rather than investing in “transformational changes” and must take a longer view to benefit future generations.

“Now is the time to tackle our unfinished business,” he said.

He proposed nearly doubling state funding for family and children services to $151 million a year and giving schools $550 million over the biennium to support and encourage students through mental health counseling, mentoring, after-school programs and other efforts.

He wants to require public universities to guarantee students the same tuition rate from their freshman through senior years. He’s also seeking to provide $30 million to help 20,000 Ohioans attain low-cost industry credentials, or “micro-degrees,” in growing fields.

The budget would triple state funding for defending criminal suspects who can’t afford lawyers and allot $900 million now for water-quality projects over the next decade, including addressing toxic algae in Lake Erie.

It also calls for raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes, other tobacco products and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21.

The proposal would preserve Medicaid expansion in Ohio but eliminate the Office of Health Transformation, which was created by DeWine’s predecessor, GOP Gov. John Kasich, to overhaul the Medicaid program and recommend reorganization of state health and human-service agencies.

That office has completed its work, said Kim Murnieks, DeWine’s budget director.

The budget covers the two-year period starting July 1. The GOP-led Legislature must debate changes and send it back for DeWine to approve before then.

Democratic lawmakers said they were encouraged by the governor’s support for investing in children and families, cleaning up Lake Erie and maintaining access to affordable health care, but questioned how the proposed spending increase of more than $1 billion annually would be funded.

“We can’t build a budget on broken economic assumptions or wishful thinking,” House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, of Akron, said in a statement.

Murnieks insisted the proposal was realistic and not based on padded estimates about revenue or expenditures.

DeWine noted that his plan doesn’t count on any money from sports wagering, though a U.S. Supreme Court ruling opened that option for states, and lawmakers are considering a bill to legalize it in Ohio.

The operating budget is separate from the transportation budget, in which DeWine sought an 18-cent gas-tax increase to fund needed road repairs and construction. The Ohio House approved a lesser increase of 10.7 cents per gallon . The Senate will consider it next.


SR 257

SR 257 between US 36 and US 42

UPDATE: ODOT was able to open SR 257 today before beginning the next set of culvert replacements.

This was done so that SR 257 can be used as a detour when US 42 closes in Union County this afternoon for investigation of yesterday’s plane crash.

SR 257 will remain open today, but tomorrow morning it will close again between US 36 and US 42 to replace three culverts near Fry Road. The detour will be US 36 to Sectionline Rd. to US 42 or reverse.

The culvert work is expected to be complete Friday, March 22.



270 N Franklin

I-270 between Morse Rd. and SR 161

9 AM: I-270 north will be reduced to two lanes to the right of the barrier wall for guardrail installation

3 PM: All lanes open



US 23

US 23 between SR 4 and SR 231

Monday, March 18 at 7 AM: US 23 will be reduced to one lane in each direction for 10 weeks to replace the bridge over Rocky Fork

Friday, May 24 at 5 PM: All lanes open

All work is weather dependent; it may be postponed or cancelled without prior notice.

Ohio board: Give teens more ways to prove skills for diploma

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state school board is recommending that Ohio lawmakers give high school students more flexibility to earn a diploma through options not relying on standardized tests.

The latest recommendation would give students more ways to prove their skills in five categories, including math, English, and leadership and social development.

The state previously provided flexibility for the classes of 2019 and 2020 after educators warned that too many students were at risk of not meeting increased test score requirements to graduate on time.

Critics say the point of raising those requirements was ensuring graduates are prepared for college or the workforce and that creating alternative paths to graduation is a disservice to students.

The conversation about graduation requirements is expected to continue as state lawmakers consider what to do.

Ohio School Boards Association Central Region hosts spring conference

COLUMBUS —Nearly 275 school board members, administrators, staff, students and guests from across central Ohio gathered in Columbus on March 13for the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Central Region Spring Conference. The region hosts two conferences a year, one in the spring and one in the fall.

The conference featured updates from OSBA officers and staff and a number of awards. The region recognized outstanding schools and school programs; veteran school board members; outstanding board members; and board members achieving service milestones of 10, 15 and 20 years.

The keynote speaker was Debra Smith, an assistant professor of health technology at Ohio University Lancaster. Her presentation was titled, “And one more thing —You have to translate the culture too.”

Fourteen counties comprise the OSBA Central Region: Crawford, Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Knox, Licking, Madison,Marion, Morrow, Pickaway, Richland, Ross and Union. The other OSBA regions are Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest.In its 64thyear, the Ohio School Boards Association leads the way to educational excellence by serving Ohio’s public school board members and the diverse districts they represent through superior service, unwavering advocacyand creative solutions.

March 18, 2019

Major Marla K. Gaskill promoted to Lieutenant Colonel

COLUMBUS – Major Marla K. Gaskill was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel today by Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Thomas J. Stickrath during a ceremony at the Patrol’s Training Academy. Lieutenant Colonel Gaskill will transfer from her current assignment in the Office of Planning and Finance to serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Office of the Superintendent. Lieutenant Colonel Gaskill is the first woman to hold this position in Patrol history.

Lieutenant Colonel Gaskill began her Patrol career in May 1989 as a cadet dispatcher assigned to the New Philadelphia Post. She began her training as a member of the 119th Academy Class in January 1990. She earned her commission in June of that year and was assigned to the Wooster Post. As a trooper, she also served as a pilot in the Aviation Unit. In 1997, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to the Norwalk Post to serve as an assistant post commander. As a sergeant, she also served at the Delaware Post and in the Administrative Investigations Unit. In 2001, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and transferred to the Marysville Post to serve as post commander. In 2006, she was promoted to the rank of staff lieutenant and transferred to the Office of Human Resources. As a staff lieutenant, she also served in the Office of Personnel, Office of Field Operations and Capital Operations. In 2011, she was promoted to the rank of captain and transferred to the Fiscal Services Section. In 2016, she was promoted to major and transferred to the Office of Planning and Finance.

Lieutenant Colonel Gaskill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Capital University in 2001. In 2005, she completed a leadership executive training course at the Southern Police Institute. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree in applied leadership from Franklin University in 2008.

Colonel Richard S. Fambro promoted to Superintendent

COLUMBUS – Lieutenant Colonel Richard S. Fambro was ceremonially promoted to the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s highest rank today by Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Thomas J. Stickrath. Colonel Fambro will serve as the 19th Superintendent of the Patrol, making history as he becomes the first African American to hold this position. He succeeds former Superintendent, Colonel Paul A. Pride, who led the Patrol since August 2013.

Colonel Richard S. Fambro, a 29-year veteran, joined the Patrol in August 1989 as a cadet dispatcher assigned to the Lancaster Post. He became a member of the 119th Academy Class in January 1990. He received his commission in June of that year and was assigned to the Dayton Post. In 1994, he was selected as Post Trooper of the Year. In 1997, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to the Springfield Post to serve as an assistant post commander. In 2000, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and transferred to the Lancaster Post to serve as post commander. In 2003, he was selected to serve as the Patrol’s spokesperson in the Public Affairs Unit.

In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of staff lieutenant and transferred to the Office of Logistics and Security Services. As a staff lieutenant, he also served at the Columbus District Headquarters as an assistant district commander. In 2010, he was promoted to the rank of captain and transferred to the Office of Investigative Services. As a captain, he also served in the Office of Special Operations and in the Office of Criminal Investigations. In 2014, he was promoted to the rank of major and transferred to the Office of Planning and Finance. As a major, he also served in the Office of Personnel. In 2018, he was promoted to the second-highest rank of lieutenant colonel and served as an assistant superintendent.

Colonel Fambro completed advance leadership training at Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command and attended the U.S. Army War College. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Ohio Dominican University in 2004, and he will complete his studies to obtain a Master of Science in Management degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in May of 2019.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is an internationally accredited agency whose mission is to protect life and property, promote traffic safety and provide professional public safety services with respect, compassion, and unbiased professionalism.

Woman charged in massacre probe wants charges dismissed

PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Attorneys for a woman facing charges in connection with an Ohio family massacre have filed a motion to have obstruction of justice and perjury charges against her dismissed.

Fredericka Wagner’s son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons are jailed in southern Ohio awaiting trial in the slayings of eight people in Pike County in April 2016. They have pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder charges and other counts that could lead to the death penalty if they are convicted.

Wagner, 76, also has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her and is under house arrest.

The victims included seven adults and a teenager of the Rhoden family. One of Wagner’s grandsons shared a daughter with one of the victims, and authorities say a custody dispute was a possible motive. That child was not with the Rhodens the night of the slayings.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that Wagner’s attorneys filed a motion Friday in Pike County Pleas Court to dismiss the charges against her. Authorities have accused Wagner of covering up the homicides by lying about two bulletproof vests she bought online. Court documents and interviews show authorities suspected Wagner’s family members wore the vests during the slayings, the newspaper reported.

Angela Canepa, an attorney for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said Friday she couldn’t comment on the attorneys’ filing, but would file a response in the coming days. A message seeking comment was left Sunday at the Pike County Prosecutor’s Office.

Wagner told a grand jury last year that she bought two bulletproof vests after the shootings through Amazon, but investigators found no record of those purchases, according to the newspaper.

Wagner’s attorneys say she was charged with obstruction and lying to the grand jury because of the vests they say she bought from eBay through her PayPal account.

“I made a mistake; I’m nearly 77-years-old,” she said of citing Amazon.

“We were terrified; everybody was,” Wagner told The Plain Dealer in a recent interview. She said when she heard about the slayings, she first thought they were the result of a “terrorist attack.”

Her Columbus attorneys say the error should not have led to charges.

“It’s like telling people that you paid for your wife’s Christmas present with a MasterCard,” Wagner’s attorney, James Owen, told the newspaper. “But you made a mistake and really used a Visa. It’s a distinction without a difference.”

Authorities have said Wagner’s son, George “Billy” Wagner III; her daughter-in-law, Angela Wagner; and grandsons George Wagner and Edward “Jake” Wagner planned the attacks for months.

Fredericka Wagner stressed to the newspaper her belief in her family’s innocence.

“I believe with all my heart and soul that they didn’t do it,” she said.

Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

Federal judge to mediate lawsuits about Ohio State doctor


Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A senior federal judge from Cincinnati will handle the mediation of two lawsuits filed against Ohio State by scores of men alleging the university ignored or failed to stop decades of sexual misconduct by a now-deceased team doctor.

After lawyers for OSU and the men couldn’t agree on a mediator, the suits were referred Friday to U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett by Judge Michael Watson in Columbus, who has overseen the cases.

Lawyers on both sides mostly shared little reaction Friday, saying simply that they look forward to working through mediation with Barrett.

One attorney for some of the plaintiffs, Jack Landskroner, said the decision provides “a strong and credible mediator” for the matter.

Barrett has been federal judge in the Southern District of Ohio since 2006. He previously worked as a litigator, an assistant county prosecutor and an administrative hearing officer for the state, and he has served on the University of Cincinnati board of trustees.

Watson’s order described Barrett as “exceptionally well-suited to resolve these cases” but didn’t elaborate further.

The plaintiffs’ suggested mediators had included people used in cases involving Michigan State and Penn State, but Ohio State said it wouldn’t agree to those because the handling of those cases led to controversy.

OSU had recommended a former federal judge or a federal appeals court mediator.

No one has publicly defended the doctor , Richard Strauss, who killed himself in 2005. His family has said only that they were shocked at the allegations, which span 1979 to 1997 and include athletes from at least 16 sports, as well as his work at the student health center and his off-campus clinic .

More than 150 former students have provided firsthand accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Strauss. Many of those speaking publicly say they were unnecessarily groped during exams.

A law firm is investigating the allegations for Ohio State. Some Strauss accusers have questioned the independence of that investigation, but the school has insisted it’s committed to uncovering the truth.

Employment records released by the university reflect no major concerns about Strauss. But alumni say they complained about him as far back as the late 1970s, and Ohio State has at least one documented complaint from 1995.

The claims have spurred an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

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Miller announces bipartisan bill to aid victims of human trafficking

Says increasing penalties for solicitation will help break the opioid – prostitution cycle

COLUMBUS—State Reps. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) and Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) today (March 13) announced bipartisan legislation that would strengthen penalties for soliciting prostitution and increase funding for Ohio’s Victims of Human Trafficking Fund.

“The link between the opioid crisis and prostitution is clear—and one we cannot ignore,” said Rep. Miller. “Cracking down on those exploiting addicts is one step, but providing essential resources and connecting those struggling with addiction with treatment options will help Ohioans reclaim their lives and end this vicious cycle.”

Ohio’s ongoing opioid crisis has led to an increase in prostitution across the state. Over the past two years, the number of prostitution-related arrests have increased by more than 30 percent, according to police statistics.

More than two-thirds of women involved in human trafficking who were addicted to opioids became prostitutes after their opioid use began, according to the Polaris Project.

In Franklin County, a first-time offense of soliciting is a third-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. However, most offenders plea down to a small fine, typically around $150.

The proposed legislation would take solicitation offenses from a third to a first-degree misdemeanor, increasing fines for solicitation to up to $1,500, nearly half of which could go to court-sanctioned prostitution prevention or victim relief programs.

In addition, the bill would make solicitation within 1,500 feet of a school or place of worship a fifth-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $1,500, with up to $750 going to prevention and relief programs.

Ohio’s Utica Shale Fourth Quarter Production Totals Released

COLUMBUS, OH – During the fourth quarter of 2018, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 5,810,484 barrels of oil and 663,534,323 Mcf (663 billion cubic feet) of natural gas, according to figures released today by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Natural gas production from the fourth quarter of 2018 showed a 31.89 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2017, while oil production increased 38.56 percent for the same period.

2017 Quarter 4 (Shale)

2018 Quarter 4 (Shale)

Percentage Change

Barrels of oil

4,193,562 bbl

5,810,484 bbl


Mcf of natural gas

503,066,907 Mcf

663,534,323 Mcf


The ODNR quarterly report lists 2,575 horizontal shale wells, 2,241 of which reported oil and natural gas production during the quarter. Of the wells reporting oil and natural gas results:

The average amount of oil produced was 2,593 barrels.

The average amount of natural gas produced was 296,088 Mcf.

The average number of fourth quarter days in production was 86.

All horizontal production reports can be accessed at oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/production.

Ohio law does not require the separate reporting of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) or condensate. Oil and gas reporting totals list on the report include NGLs and condensate.

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