Color Us Connected: The views and statistics of gun violence

Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

This column appears every other week in Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News. This week, Guy Trammell, an African American man from Tuskegee, Ala., and Amy Miller, a white woman from South Berwick, Maine, talk about guns.

Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

By Guy Trammell Jr.

I am thankful to be alive today because my mother made sure I had the best health care as a child. However, I am also alive today because my father and the Black men of our community regularly stopped the local white supremacists (Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camellia, White Citizens Council) from destroying us, in the Village of Greenwood. The men stopped this destruction by using a strong show of force. They brought their guns and strategically placed themselves along all roads leading into the Village of Greenwood.

A leader in 10th century China transformed fireworks into a deadly projectile on a handheld stick, and the concept of a gun was born. My brother and I learned to use guns at Tuskegee Institute’s Firing Range. I was not a big fan, but my father, a hunter, wanted his sons to know how to use them.

As of Jan. 7, 2022, U.S. citizens own over 393 million guns, or about twice as many as any other nation (about 120 for every 100 people). Between January 2019 and April 2021, 7.5 million U.S. citizens became new gun owners; half were women and about 40% were Hispanic or Black. This rise has increased gun accidents involving children. A Birmingham toddler and infant were injured by a gun just days ago, with the infant fighting for her life.

About 53 people are killed daily by a firearm in the U.S. In 2020, handguns were used in 59% of the 13,620 gun murders, the highest gun death rate on record. Rifles were used 3% of the time and shotguns in 1%. The other 36% were killed by unspecified firearms.

We just had mass killings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Texas, but the deadliest was in 2017 at Las Vegas, where more than 50 were killed and 500 wounded. From 2000 to 2020, the FBI recorded 345 “active shooter incidents,” resulting in 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.

Most gun owners are in the South, with 161,641 guns in Alabama, or 33 guns per 1,000 people; the state has no restrictions on assault gun ownership. At about 1,001 gun deaths annually, Alabama has 23.6% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. Its rate is the third highest in the U.S., and Tuskegee’s Macon County has Alabama’s highest gun death rate. Black Alabamians are six times more likely to die by a gun than their white counterparts, and Black children are twice as likely to die by firearms than white children. Shootings are the second highest cause of childhood deaths in Alabama, an average of 78 killed annually.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution discusses “the right to carry,” but shouldn’t restrictions apply to those mentally unstable, our youth, and persons with records of criminal violence? And does this principle apply to a military assault weapon? The National Rifle Association has a history of advocacy for less gun control, with notable exceptions — in Lowndes County, Alabama, when Black citizens armed themselves to stop the killing of Black men, or in Louisiana, when Black men formed the Deacons of Defense and stopped drive-through shootings of Black neighborhoods by the Klan.

Also, venison and squirrel meat ripped and riddled by assault gun bullets are an unacceptable meal, so why do civilians need assault weapons?

By Amy Miller

On Tuesday morning, I began Googling gun laws and gun death statistics in Maine. Nineteen children from Uvalde, Texas, were still alive at the time.

Three hours later, 18 children in Uvalde, Texas, were dead. Three hours later, mothers and fathers were facing the fact that their daughters and sons would no longer be at dinner, or go to ballet, or throw a softball, or live to be adults.

Guy and I had already decided to write about guns before Tuesday, May 24. We had decided this because 10 people in Buffalo, all of them African American, had been shot and killed just 10 days earlier and because a gunman had opened fire at a Taiwanese church luncheon in Orange County, Calif., a day after that.

We also were writing about guns because people using guns kill about 40,000 Americans a year.

In my research, I learned that Maine had 10.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people and Alabama had 23.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020.

But an hour later, after hearing about the children in Texas and their teachers, the numbers became meaningless. The statistics were too dry, too unemotional, too useless.

I am searching for what to say about guns when families and a community and our nation is feeling so much profoundly sad loss.

I look for what is being said elsewhere, to find inspiration. There is lots of talk about background checks and automatic weapons and gun control laws, again.

The New York Times ran a column Nicholas Kristoff wrote in 2017 about gun violence and ways to curb it, again.

I watched our President struggle to find words, again. This time it was a father who for years has openly shared his own pain at losing a child.

I looked back to Jimmy Kimmel’s 2017 monologue following the shooting in Las Vegas. “It will happen again and again,” he predicted tearfully. “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” Yes, it does.

I have little to offer. What I know is that our country accounts for 4 percent of the world’s people and 14 percent of its gun deaths.

In Maine, nine out of every 10 gun deaths is a suicide. Nationally about six in 10 deaths by gun is a suicide. These people find living too painful to bear. Across the world about two of every 10 gun-related deaths is suicide.

I don’t know what any of this means. Statistics are slippery and don’t tell us why, or how it feels, or how to change the reality of leaders who will not lead.

I just know it is getting more dangerous to live in the United States and I know that those who sell guns would like to keep selling them.

Amy and Guy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com

Augusta University to start School of Public Health

Augusta University is forming a School of Public Health to better focus the school’s myriad efforts in healthful living throughout Georgia. 

That’s actually the focus of the field: improving health in communities and preventing or limiting disease outbreaks.

“When I interviewed at Augusta University in the fall of 2020, it struck me very odd that we are Georgia’s only public academic health center, and we don’t have a school of public health,” said Dr. Neil J. MacKinnon, AU’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This school will be a tremendous addition to Augusta University.”

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In this photo from 2020, Dr. Matt Lyon talks to medical staff in Washington, Ga., as he uses a computer to demonstrate his ability assess a mock patient remotely while he is at the Emergency Department at AU Medical Center in Augusta. Augusta University is starting a School of Public Health to better consolidate and magnify its public health efforts.

AU already houses several centers and degrees that fit under the umbrella of public health, which itself is wide. The Institute of Public and Preventive Health is developing an agenda to support improved community health. AU’s Center for Rural Health has developed programs and strategies to improve access to health care services in rural areas. The statewide Area Health Education Centers help provide research, education, services and outreach to Georgia’s rural communities with limited hospital or physician access. 

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AU’s College of Allied Health Sciences offers a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in applied health sciences. The Medical College of Georgia’s Department of Population Health Sciences contains several graduate programs, and the College of Education offers a health promotion undergraduate program.

“We’ve got those incredible foundation pieces,” MacKinnon said. “With this new school, we’re interested in research growth and, in public health in particular, and the community outreach part is so critical. We are truly excited about the future possibilities.”

Currently there are 68 U.S. universities with accredited schools of public health, according to the Council on Education for Public Health.

AU’s School of Public Health will be the third to be established in the University System of Georgia.

Georgia State University’s School of Public Health began in 2002. Georgia Southern University established the Jiann-Ping Hsu School of Public Health in 2004. University of Georgia’s College of Public Health was founded in 2005.

A school of public health had operated out of the Medical College of Georgia in the 1920s. According to Phinizy Spalding’s 1987 book The History of the Medical College of Georgia, only 27 men and women received degrees from the short-lived school, which he said lasted just 10 years.

“A program that had begun with such optimism and such widespread support had been the victim of improper administration, lack of initiative, involvement in politics and the economic woes brought on by the Great Depression,” Spalding wrote.

The new school will be housed on the university’s Summerville campus and is expected to launch the new school in July 2023.

‘A good start’: MN Legislature funds mental health, OKs St. Paul Bethesda Hospital plan

A compromise mental health funding bill approved by lawmakers with minutes remaining at the end of the legislative session will permit a new mental health hospital in St. Paul along with $93 million to address an ongoing crisis.

Fairview Health Services needs lawmakers’ OK to replace Bethesda Hospital, just blocks north of the Capitol, with a new 144-bed mental health facility. A provision allowing the project to move forward as well as money for other mental health programs was tacked onto a related bill when it became clear lawmakers would not finish their work on time.

Gov. Tim Walz has signaled he will sign the bill, but he hadn’t as of Thursday. Walz has two weeks to sign the legislation passed at the end of session; if he doesn’t, it won’t become law and is considered a pocket veto.

In response to questions about the bill, Fairview, in a written statement, praised lawmakers and advocates who helped to push the bill over the finish line.

“There is an urgent and persistent need to improve mental health care in our region,” Fairview’s statement said. “We are currently in the public interest review process and look forward to sharing continued updates on our progress and bringing this important care online for our patients and community.”

The legislative approval includes further oversight of the proposed facility to address concerns raised by mental health advocates that it would not be accessible to those in the community with the most needs — the homeless, the poor and those with other serious underlying health conditions.

Advocates have said they would prefer additional mental health beds at full-fledged hospitals that have emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Fairview leaders have said the facility would continue the organization’s mission of charity care and be open to everyone. They acknowledged that patients with critical health needs might need to be cared for at hospitals with critical care facilities.

Under the bill approved by lawmakers, the state health commissioner must monitor the hospital and assess its mix of patients. The hospital also must have an intake area and accept patients who walk up to the facility, are transferred from other hospitals or who are brought there by ambulances or police.

“I think they tried to address the concerns people had without saying no,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Minnesota. “There’s a lot of data that they have to keep.”

WHAT ELSE IS IN THE BILL?

The last-minute mental health funding bill lawmakers passed near midnight on May 22 was added on to legislation that updates how courts will determine whether a defendant is competent to stand trial and how competency can be restored.

The mental health funding piece includes about $93 million in new money for various programs. Much of it had been part of negotiations between the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-led House and Republican-controlled Senate for other funding bills that were not finished by the May 22 deadline.

The bill includes:

  • Emergency room beds for children and teens experiencing mental health crises.
  • Loan forgiveness for mental health professions and aid to help supervise those working toward licensure.
  • Grants for school- and shelter-linked mental health services.
  • An African American mental health center in North Minneapolis to increase access to culturally informed care.

Abderholden said mental health advocates worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to include as many “top priorities” as they could in the funding bill. Another health and human services policy bill, which included no new spending, also had some important policy provisions.

Still, a lot was left out of the last-minute compromise, and advocates hold out hope lawmakers will agree to a special session to finish their work.

“You can’t get everything that you want,” Abderholden said. “Does this solve everything? No. Does it fully address the crisis? No. But it is a good start.”

WHAT GOT LEFT OUT

One of the biggest pieces of the proposed supplemental budget that didn’t get finished was $1 billion in new education spending. It was part of $4 billion in new spending and $4 billion in tax cuts that lawmakers agreed upon in principal, but couldn’t come to terms on the finer points.

One sticking point was mental health funding for schools to help students and teachers address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Students and educators are reeling from mental health crises,” Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, said in a statement urging lawmakers to come back to the Capitol to finish their work.

Abderholden echoed the need for more aid for schools.

“This does not replace the education bill, at all,” she said of the last-minute compromise. “The education bill had a lot of really good things in it. There’s certainly a lot more that we would like to see.”

An interview with Joey Gilbert, GOP hopeful for Nevada governor

There are more than a dozen Republicans looking to challenge the Democratic incumbent Governor Steve Sisolak in November.

One of them is Joey Gilbert. The Reno-based attorney and former professional boxer has made a name for himself in recent years, filing several lawsuits challenging state and local COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

He’s also an outspoken critic of the results of the 2020 presidential election. We spoke to Gilbert as part of KNPR’s 2022 election coverage.

However, before we get into the interview, we wanted to highlight a handful of erroneous and potentially harmful comments he made during the conversation.

The first is that fraud affected the results of the 2020 presidential election. These allegations have time and again but proven false. In early 2021, Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske released a report that found that most of the complaints were “deemed to be inaccurate or suspicious for a variety of reasons.”

Gilbert also makes unsubstantiated claims about drugs used to treat COVID-19, like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which he says have the ability to effectively treat COVID-19, especially when given early.

Numerous studies published in both the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, which are both peer reviewed publications, have found no solid evidence that either drug is useful in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Instead, those journals note the drugs were not effective against COVID-19 and had a potential for serious side effects, or encourage patients to delay life saving treatment.

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With that in mind, this is our conversation with Joey Gilbert.

JOE SCHOENMANN: So this is your first official political campaign. Why are you running for governor?

JOEY GILBERT: Well, you know, it’s actually pretty simple. The state, you know, was under a pandemic, but it wasn’t a pandemic, from any health issues, not least the last year and a half, it was a pandemic of failed leadership. And I saw a void that needed to be filled, someone needed to step up and actually do something for the people, the state and for our children, and our workers. And that’s why I did what I did. And I’ve stood behind that. And my biggest mission, which is to fix our last in the nation public schools,

SCHOENMANN: I really want to talk about that some more. Let’s get to the party. The reason you got your name out there, as I said in the introduction, was that you challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election. Do you believe Joe Biden is the duly elected president of the United States? How come? What’s your proof?

GILBERT: My proof is that, you know, there’s six states that shut our counting down for the first time in our nation’s history for weeks, went to bed, President Trump was winning, I know people are gonna say, ‘Oh, it’s the mail in ballots.’ But you know, some just doesn’t make sense, statistical anomalies across the state, every precinct was the same. And not just in this state, but in many states, including the six swing states. And so for me, it’s common sense, the man didn’t get 80 million votes, it wasn’t the most popular president of our lifetime. And that’s what I’m sticking to.

SCHOENMANN: Numerous lawsuits were filed, they’re lost, or they were dismissed in court throughout this country. Even GOP appointed judges did that. So some people are gonna say you’re just holding on to that to get votes from your conservative base, how do you respond to that?

GILBERT: I respond that our elections are broken. And that, you know, that’s the most sacred thing we have in this country, is to have elections where we can remove people that we don’t think are doing the job that they were hired to do. And I just think at this point in time, right now, we need fair and actual secure elections. And again, this isn’t me pointing this out, go look at the Senate testimony from Democrats, three and four years ago, saying the machines weren’t, weren’t secure, that could be hacked by you know, anybody with a smartphone, then look at what they used to say about mailing ballots that they were be a complete disaster. And we’ve seen it and so I’m not trying to hold on to votes. I work for the people. You know, this is not an issue. That’s only when Republicans and huge majority of independents, nonpartisans, definitely Republicans are all behind this. And I just want to see fair and free elections. And I do not believe the 2020 election was the most fair and free and secure election of our lifetime. And I stand behind that.

SCHOENMANN: And because of that, you were, in fact, in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2020. 

GILBERT: No, there you go. You’re jumping ahead. I wasn’t there for Stop The Steal. I was there to speak on medical tyranny.

SCHOENMANN: But you were in that state, but you were there.

GILBERT: But you just misstated it. You said I was there because of the vote. I was there to speak on medical tyranny. And I was at the Capitol on a different stage speaking when everybody came up, and I did walk across there once everything had aired, people were already up on the steps. And I did walk over there, and I was there, and I did spend a few minutes there, but I was on another stage giving a speech when my live feed was caught on Facebook, you know, clearly at the same time as stuff went awry over there. And so I had nothing to do with whatever happened inside that Capitol.

SCHOENMANN: Now, you’re also part of America’s Frontline Doctors. What’s your part with that group?

GILBERT: I’m now chairman of the board of America’s Frontline Doctors. I was originally just a board member and director of strategy. I was leading the legal strategy on filing lawsuits against our government on behalf of our military, law enforcement, health care workers, city workers, students, and the lot, and very proud of that.

SCHOENMANN: There are stories again, all over the internet, not just in one area. I’m sure you’ve heard of this, that the groups have been accused of taking in almost $7 million from people for disseminating information about drugs that have been disproven to cure or to prevent COVID, like ivermectin. Do you get paid by that group?

GILBERT: I do receive compensation for my work with that group. But what you just said is an absolute misstatement of truth. Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine have the highest success rating in treating COVID. And wherever you’re getting information from, it’s just not true. It’s a 200% weighted average for those that take hydroxychloroquine early against hospitalization and death. And you know, if you look at Ryan Cole and other doctors who are pathologists, you’ll see that ivermectin is, you know, at worst, it’s a sugar pill, and at best, it could save your life. It’s virtually harmless in any other regard, but it absolutely works, and received the Nobel Peace Prize for use in humans in 2015.

That is half true. In reality, a pair of scientists won a Nobel Prize in science and medicine for their work using ivermectin to treat a disease called river blindness caused by parasites in Africa. The award had nothing to do with the treatment of COVID-19. In fact, a recent paper in the New England Journal of medicines found that the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 was at best, inconclusive. 

SCHOENMANN: So what are your feelings about the vaccine that people have been getting and have gotten for a couple of years now?

GILBERT: I think the vaccine is a completely unnecessary, unproven, ineffective treatment modality, it’s not a vaccine, it doesn’t prevent infection or transmission, it may possibly limit symptoms, or lessen symptoms. But as you’re now starting to see in countries like Israel and the UK, and now that people are getting three and four shots here, it has absolutely destroyed their immune system. And that’s because it destroys your broad spectrum antibodies, and actually makes you less healthy and destroys your immune system, your natural antibody, so I’m not supportive of it at all. And again, I’m not some far right wing, you know, radical. I was in the military. I’ve had every vaccine known to man, but I had COVID. And I can read, and you can see, even in John Hopkins or Harvard School of Public Health, they will say that you have 27 times more durable immunity from catching COVID and surviving through building your own antibodies up. So it was just a decision for me. And I think, again, I’m not against vaccines at all. I think if someone wants it, they should take it. Just like if you want to wear a mask, you should wear a mask. But nowhere in the Constitution where you find the word mandate, and it should have never been mandated at anybody, let alone our health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and military. 

SCHOENMANN: Now earlier this year, a video emerged of Governor Steve Sisolak with his wife at a restaurant in Clark County. In that video, a man is seen harassing the governor, making racist and lewd comments to the governor’s wife. And after it was posted, you wrote on Facebook he absolutely earned it. How come?

GILBERT: I just believe when you destroy a state, when you destroy the lives of children, when you destroy their youth, something they can never get back, when you just destroyed 35% of all small businesses that are never to return, tie doctor’s hands so that loved ones end up isolated, medicated, you know, sedated and then ventilated, and in hospitals and die, that you know what, you get what you deserve. And although I don’t think that, you know, at the time, you know, I didn’t get to see the video of the outside, I only saw what happened in the restaurant at first when I made those comments. And I thought the man deserved it. You know, look, we all choose to make decisions. And as a public official, if you make decisions, and you know, you’re going to face reprieve for it. And that’s what happened. And so, again, I didn’t hear any racist comments made to his wife, he did say stuff about China. And he said he was working with China. But then as soon as he saw his daughter walk in the picture, he quickly walked away. And so, again, I stand behind that comment. I do think that, you know, could you use a little less charged language? For sure. Could he have been, you know, handled in a different way for sure. But at the same time, you know, what Sisolak did to this state, and we’re going to be feeling these repercussions for the next decade, if not longer. The man deserved it.

SCHOENMANN: I just wonder if you think encouraging people to –

GILBERT: I encourage any dissertations respectful, verbally, or if it’s something that you think is going to help.

SCHOENMANN: I just say encourage, I didn’t say you did encourage it when you said he absolutely earned it. He doesn’t. No, no, it’s not that you do not encourage him. You’re encouraging other people to do the same.

GILBERT: I’m answering a question you asked me, what I thought of it. I just simply said that, you again, you just totally took it out of context. I said, Well, he could have used less, you know, charged language.

SCHOENMANN: Why don’t you say he shouldn’t have said that at all?

GILBERT: Now, I’m not gonna say it. And if you don’t like it, too bad.

SCHOENMANN: I’m saying, don’t you think that encourages other people to be disrespectful in public discourse? 

GILBERT: I think no, I think that listen, Sisolak made decisions that affected this state and affected our children and affected our businesses. Far more than that little, you know, episode of that restaurant, and I’ve already said he could have used less charged language. He could have handled it differently. He didn’t. But if I again, I’ll stand behind it, he deserved what he got.

SCHOENMANN: So what do you see as the top issues in this campaign?

GILBERT: Well, with COVID in the rearview mirror, you know, hopefully, but again, when you’ve got people like Bill Gates already talking about pandemic to when you’ve already got people like Anthony Fauci talking about bringing back the same restrictions that we know failed, we have to be mindful of to never let another governor do what’s what’s happened to this state. Again, you know, the governor’s power should be limited, and a true leader would give power back to the people immediately. I don’t think there should be ever a situation where a governor can go two and a half years with emergency powers, when the death rate in Northern Nevada dropped by 80, I think 83% By May 2020. 

So I think now, the most important issues facing the state number one, our broken schools, our 50th in the nation public schools, followed by our economy, which was destroyed by the mandates, and then the next would be crime. 

And crime has exploded in this state, especially in our major cities. It’s a 500% increase in Las Vegas, where we’re two times the national average of violent crime, two times the national average of property crime, a 30% increase in carjackings in places like Summerlin 110% increase in homicides. And so when you’re the number two and number five, respectively, per capita, child sex trafficking and human human sex trafficking hub in the United States, we have a major major problem. And that doesn’t even take into account the amount of fentanyl and drugs pouring into Las Vegas, that’s all being run by cartels, that’s coming across our open border. 

So again, it would be our schools that need to be addressed, followed by our economy, and then followed by crime. And then there’s other more important things to know, too, depending on where you live in the state, election, integrity, water, Second Amendment, and you know, you know, things like sanctuary cities, but again, I think those are all part and parcel to the economy and to crime.

SCHOENMANN: Would you want to use taxpayer funds for vouchers so that if people wanted to, they could put their children in a private schools?

GILBERT: 100%. We need to use vouchers, parents should be able to have vouchers, education vouchers, because when you’re 50th in the nation for a decade straight, and you’ve just kept throwing more money on it, we’ve put the same amount of money per pupil as Florida does. And according to NPR, it’s about $11,100 per student. And Florida spends the same amount of funds at the same rate, their schools are number three in the nation. This is not a funding problem. It’s an administrative problem. It’s a leadership problem. It’s an accountability problem. And that’s where I would step in as a proven business leader as a proven successful businessman. That’s when Nevada needs most as a non-politician, non-bureaucrat, that’s not going to let the teachers union and the you know, special interests, run the show, but get in there and do what’s best for the people in Nevada and for our children.

SCHOENMANN: If you do become governor, and as a Republican, and the legislature is democratically in the majority, how are you gonna get these things done?

GILBERT: Well, first and foremost, there’s a red wave coming, the likes of which no one’s ever seen before. And it’s not just a red wave. This is no longer a Democrat versus Republican thing. This is an American thing. This is about life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness is about freedom. This is about being playing on to America now. And people have seen what the other side is, the far left side, the steps towards not just socialism, but Marxism. Right. Communism, you know, control power, you know, parental rights being, you know, you know, you know, just absolutely decimated. And so this is going to be a very interesting election where it’s not necessarily the Republican Party is going to do so well, but America is going to do well, freedom is going to do well and there’s not going to be a veto proof majority out of the legislature. And so that’s going to mean that the governor that you have in Carson City is going to be a very important person because he’s going to have the ability to veto. You know, the nonsense and the other bills. Again, I’m not going to say I’m the no on everything guy. But I’m definitely the smart legislation for Nevadans that helps everyone that’s going to do the people’s work and represent the people. And so again, we’re going to work very hard. And again, you know, no one’s proven more than me the past two years, that I can work with both sides, because I didn’t get all this stuff done that I did, by simply just, you know, fighting one person I had to work with in groups. I had to work with parents, my phone rang around the clock for the last 26 months. And never one time when the phone rang, did I start by saying, ‘Oh, you know, who would you vote for? What party?’ and I just said, ‘How are you? What do you need? How can I help?’ And, you know, I learned a lot.

And these issues, I’m talking about are 80% issues what I named as the priorities, whether you’re in the Latino demographic, whether you’re Black Americans or Black Nevadans, it doesn’t matter. You’re talking 75, 80% want safe schools, want safe neighborhoods, want an economy that works for them, want less taxes. You know, these are things that we can all agree upon. And so when I get in and do what I’m going to do, it’s going to be under the, you know, the auspices of that I’m, I’m working for the people in Nevada, and I’m doing what’s best for our children. And right now, parents are terrified about dropping their kids off at public schools in Las Vegas. They’re worried about their kids up here. And let’s not even talk about the, you know, the students. Yeah, we’re worried about them. But teachers are leaving the profession, at rates we’ve never seen before because their lives are in danger. They’re being violently assaulted.

So when you’re dealing with, you know, 75 to 95% of Nevada’s fourth through eighth graders being functionally illiterate, when you’re dealing with 90% of high school seniors graduating that are reading an eighth grade reading level, and don’t qualify for the most basic community college level courses. And both UNR and UNLV are having to put in remedial programs. We’ve got a major crisis on our hands. This is what we have to put our most important, you know, time and focus on because it really does bleed into everything else. It bleeds into the economy, it bleeds into the crime rate. Why is that happening? You might ask? Well, it’s because we have programs called restorative justice or restorative discipline. There’s no accountability. And so until we start changing these very basic things, and working with the legislature and working with parents, and faith-based groups, and you know, everyone and teachers and the administration and get things under control, we’re not going to see a change here in Nevada, on crime. 

SCHOENMANN: Do you think one of your opponents, Sheriff Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has failed Clark County?

GILBERT: No Show Joe has been a disaster on crime. And again, this isn’t me saying this. This is, look at the ads that the Democrats are running on him now. You know, he made Las Vegas less safe when he removed ICE from Metro. Okay, when he sat down on Sisolak’s task force, he literally sat on the man’s transition team and advised him on sanctuary city policy. And now Nevada has the largest illegal immigrant population per capita in the United States. That’s a fact. That didn’t happen by accident. So I don’t know what No Show Joe was doing. But I do know that, you know, I call them sanctuary, high crime, Joe, because of what’s taking place in Las Vegas. And I come from a background where my father’s a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, you know, you don’t do your first job, you don’t do a great job in your first job and prove to the people that you’re, you know, the right guy for the job, then you don’t get promoted. And right now he’s asking for a promotion, and a raise. This is one of those guys saying, I didn’t do a good job. I did mandates, I follow through with what Sisolak wanted, but you’ll give me more power, hire me to be your governor, and then I’ll protect your rights, and then I’ll stick up for you. And I’m just not buying it.

He also mentioned about us having a high per capita rate of undocumented workers, implying that’s the reason for an increase in crime. First, there is no proof that undocumented immigrants are any more likely to commit violent crimes than current residents. In fact, a December 2020 report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that undocumented immigrants are half as likely to be arrested for violent crimes as U.S.-born citizens. Finally, Gilbert says Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is also a candidate for governor, advised Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak on “sanctuary city policy.” while Lombardo was a former supporter of Sisolak, and served on his transition. Nevada does not recognize immigration sanctuary in any legal capacity.

SCHOENMANN: So you’ve heard of the leaked decision, the draft decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. That decision won’t have an immediate impact in Nevada due to abortion protections here. But some conservatives say they’ll look for ways to repeal Nevada’s abortion protections. Do you want to change anything about abortion laws in Nevada?

GILBERT: You know what, I’m actually really glad you said that the way you said it, because you’re probably the most informed person I’ve talked to on it. So Nevada did a question ballot, Question 7, you know, almost 30 years ago, and it is ingrained in. I can’t say it statutorily, but then it does have some constitutional, you know, implications to it. And so that is not something that a governor can decide, and a while I would sign no, you know, pro-abortion legislation, or make things easier. I’d actually like to see it come back four weeks and set it at 20 weeks. I’d also like to make sure that we keep things in place like you know, parental consent, you know, because what I just said earlier, about Nevada being the number two and number five per capita for child sex trafficking and sex trafficking in general, you have girls as young as 13 that are you know, you know, being used in sex trafficking and then they get pregnant and they’re being taken to clinics and getting an abortion. No one knows anything about it because there’s not a parent there with him. So there are certain things I want to see, you know, as as governor that don’t get rolled back. But again, that’s not for me to say that’s something that would need to be put to the people, that’s something that would need to be put back on the ballot, you know, back on a ballot question or to our elected representatives. And again, I would not work personally to, you know, to take away something that the people of this state voted on and voted soundly on, I believe it’s polling at 78% who want the freedom of choice. 

And, and again, I want to, you know, supplement that conversation by saying, you know, yesterday toured the Women’s Resource Medical Center in Las Vegas, and I think more needs to be done for women, especially young women that are faced with a pregnancy and might want to not have it because right now, based on the cost, and based on you know, on absolutely the options, it would be much easier, much more cost effective, to have an abortion and I think that we need to do better as a society, to not only teach the value of human life at work with, you know, clergy, work with, you know, faith based leaders, parents, children to teach the value of human life, and make sure it’s not something that’s used as a quick solution to an unwanted pregnancy. I think that we’ve got to be able to provide with the money this country has, and the amount of money I see wasted every day on Democrat pet programs that are just absolutely garbage. I would love to see more done for women’s health and for single moms and dads that are scared and nervous and don’t know how they’re going to have this baby if they choose to have it. And I’d like to see the same amount of money and an effort and resources put forth for women that do want to have a child and for single dads that do want to have a child than than just you know, having an abortion is the one one size fits all, you know, answer for a pregnancy that people may or may or may not want to have. But because of the resources and because of the coercion I think exists. That’s the only solution they see is plausible.

Gwinnett will honor fallen heroes at Memorial Day ceremony

Gwinnett County officials will honor four fallen military and public service heroes during the 19th annual Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 30 at 1 p.m. at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial in Lawrenceville.

Three fallen heroes will be inducted into the Fallen Heroes Memorial:

  • Logan James Wade, who grew up in Gwinnett County and was employed as an EMT with American Medical Response. Wade was killed in September 2021 while rendering aid at the scene of a car crash on I-85 while en route to deliver supplies to first responders assisting in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana
  • Ronald Jean Donat, a Gwinnett Police recruit who experienced a medical emergency during physical training at the Gwinnett Police Training Center and passed away in October 2021
  • Lance Cpl. Jonathan Edward Gierke, a Marine from Lawrenceville who was killed in a military vehicle crash near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in January 2022

The County will also recognize Constantin “Gigi” Bolof, an employee with the Gwinnett Department of Water Resources who was struck and killed by a vehicle while directing traffic around a construction site in September 2021. Bolof was inducted into the memorial in fall 2021 during a private ceremony.

The public is invited to attend the ceremony to remember Wade, Donat, Gierke, Bolof and other fallen heroes who have sacrificed their lives to serve and protect our nation and our communities.

The keynote address will be given by District 3 Commissioner Jasper Watkins III, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. He served 25 years as an Army pharmacist and completed an Army Fellowship in Medication – Use Safety and is the first African American in the armed forces and the state of Florida to achieve board certification with the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacist Nuclear Pharmacy Residency Program.

While in the service, he assisted in the placement of wounded personnel from the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and helped lead pharmaceutical support for civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and resupply operations immediately after Hurricane Andrew. Among other military decorations and honors, Watkins received the Legion of Merit — the highest peacetime military award — along with the Award of Excellence in Allied Health Care and the Order of Military Medical Merit.

Other officials scheduled to speak include District 1 Commissioner Kirkland Carden and District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque. A combined law enforcement honor guard will also participatein the ceremony.

The Memorial Day ceremony will also stream live on the County’s Facebook page @GwinnettGov. It will be televised beginning at 8 p.m. on May 30 on TV Gwinnett, the County’s local government access cable channel. TV Gwinnett programming is also available streaming and on demand at TVGwinnett.com.

The Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial, located on the grounds of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville, honors all Gwinnett residents who died in the line of duty in military or public service. 

The memorial opened in 2003 and was built with funds from private donations and Gwinnett County Government. For additional information about the memorial, visit GwinnettFallenHeroes.com.

Today’s Headlines

Roundup on 2022 Catholic high school graduations in archdiocese

(The following information was submitted by Catholic high schools in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.)

Washington, D.C Catholic high schools

Archbishop Carroll High School

(Sponsored by The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington)

Number of graduates in class of 2022: 80 young women and men

Graduation ceremony: May 26 at at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 

Graduation speaker: Richard Dyer, a member of Archbishop Carroll’s class of 1978 who serves as the general manager of WUSA-TV Channel 9.

Baccalaureate Mass: May 25 at the National Shrine’s Crypt Church, celebrated by Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory

Valedictorian: Ester Ventura

Salutatorian: Victoria Ruiz

Accomplishments of class of 2022: Graduates received 481 college acceptances (100 percent college acceptance rate) and more than $9 million in scholarships. Archbishop Carroll celebrated its first graduating class from its Jim Vance Media Program, and 77 percent of Carroll’s engineering program seniors are pursuing STEM majors

 Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School

(Sponsored by the Visitation Sisters)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 130 young women

Graduation ceremony: June 7 at Georgetown Visitation 

Graduation speaker: Sister Mary Bader, a 1978 graduate of Georgetown Visitation and a Daughter of Charity who serves as the CEO of St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families in Hyattsville, Maryland

Baccalaureate Mass: June 6 at Visitation, celebrated by Father Patrick Kifolo, OSFS

Valedictorian and salutatorian of class of 2022: Visitation does not name a valedictorian and salutatorian. The class chooses a speaker for graduation. This year, the speaker will be Class President Joella Kiondo. In addition, one student will receive the General Medal of Excellence for having the highest G.P.A. in the class. 

Gonzaga College High School

(Sponsored by the Society of Jesus)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 229 young men

Date of graduation: June 5 at St. Aloysius Church, Washington, D.C. (Ticketed event, not open to the public)

Graduation speaker: Jesuit Father James Conn, professor emeritus of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and superior of the Casa Santa Maria, the residence for post graduate student-priests of Rome’s Pontifical North American College. Father Conn began is teaching career in 1971 at Gonzaga and is in his 51st year as a Latin teacher.

Baccalaureate Mass: June 4 at St. Aloysius Church, The celebrant will be Jesuit Father Joseph E. Lingan, a 1975 Gonzaga graduate who now serves as the school’s president. 

Valedictorian of class of 2022: Tyler E. Kaczmarek

Salutatorian of class of 2022: Antonio G. Dolojan

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: Five National Merit Hispanic Recognition Scholars, five National Merit African American Recognition Scholars, and 15 National Merit Commended Scholars. This school year, Gonzaga College High School celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1821.

St. Anselm’s Abbey School

(Sponsored by the Order of St. Benedict)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 47 young men

Date of graduation: June 4 at St. Anselm’s Abbey Theater and gymnasium

Graduation speaker: Dr. Aaron Dominguez, Provost and ordinary professor of physics at The Catholic University of America

Baccalaureate Mass: May 29 at St. Anselm’s Abbey Chapel. The celebrant will be Abbot James Wiseman, OSB. 

St. John’s College High School

(Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 283 young women and men

Date of graduation: June 3 at the Basilica of the National Shrine. 

Graduation speaker: Msgr. John Enzler, a member of St. John’s class of 1965 who serves as the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, will speak at the graduation as the celebrant and homilist of the Baccalaureate Mass  

Valedictorian of class of 2022: Olivia Baptiste

Salutatorian of class of 2022: Nagomi Myers

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: More than $35 million in scholarships

Maryland Catholic high schools in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington

The Academy of the Holy Cross

(Sponsored by Holy Cross Sisters in Kensington)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 104 young women

Date of graduation: June 6 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Graduation speaker: Francesca Pellegrino, president and founder of the Catholic Coalition for Special Education 

Baccalaureate Mass: June 5 at Holy Redeemer Church, Kensington

Valedictorian of class of 2022: Adrianna Melina Monzon-Osorio

Salutatorian of class of 2022: Anna Marie Avila

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: The Academy of the Holy Cross’s class of 2022 has taken a very active role in numerous social justice activities including cultural heritage education, supporting refugees in Ukraine, service to numerous local organizations, and efforts supporting women in crisis.

Bishop McNamara High School

(Sponsored by the Brothers of the Holy Cross in Forestville)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 213 students, including 111 young women and 102 young men 

Date of graduation: May 27 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Baccalaureate Mass: May 26 at Mount Calvary Catholic Church, celebrated by the pastor there, Father Robert Boxie III

Valedictorian of class of 2022: Justin Malloy
 Salutatorian of class of 2022: Tiffany Obina 

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: The students in Bishop McNamara High School’s class of 2022 contributed more than 18,000 hours of Christian service and earned more than $21 million in merit-based scholarships. In that class, 77 percent of all seniors are graduating with a GPA of 3.0 or above, and 47 percent of all seniors are enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement courses.

Connelly School of the Holy Child

(Sponsored by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in Potomac)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 69 young women

Date of graduation: June 3 at Connelly School of the Holy Child

Student graduation speaker: Speech will be given by class president Cameryn Lea.

Baccalaureate Mass: June 2 at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Potomac, celebrated by Msgr. Charles Antonicelli, the pastor there

 DeMatha Catholic High School

(Sponsored by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity in Hyattsville)

Number of graduates: 165 young men

Date of graduation: June 3 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Student speakers at graduation: Welcome by Therman Hawkins III and farewell by Luke Kelly

Baccalaureate Mass: June 1 at DeMatha Catholic High School, celebrated by Trinitarian Father James Day, the school’s president

Special accomplishments of the class of 2022: The senior year of DeMatha’s class of 2022 coincided with the school’s 75th anniversary year

https://cathstan.org/news/local/dematha-s-75th-anniversary-and-pandemic-marked-eventful-school-experience-for-two-seniors

 Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School

(Sponsored in Takoma Park by The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022106 graduates, including 55 young women and 51 young men

Date of graduation: June 2 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception 

Graduation speaker: Ada Gonzalez, a member of Don Bosco Cristo Rey’s class of 2018

Baccalaureate Mass: June 1 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Takoma Park, celebrated by Cardinal Gregory

Valedictorian of class of 2022 – Jacqueline Alvarez

Salutatorian of class of 2022 – Diana Andrade

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: Don Bosco Cristo Rey’s class of 2022 had a 100 percent college acceptance rate, and 52 percent of the seniors are graduating with honors.

 Elizabeth Seton High School

(Sponsored in Bladensburg by the Daughters of Charity)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 166 young women

Date of graduation: May 31 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Baccalaureate Mass: May 31 at the Mahler Center for the Performing Arts at Elizabeth Seton High School, celebrated by Msgr. Ray East, the pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington and a nationally known Catholic evangelist and speaker

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: The class of 2022 at Elizabeth Seton High School earned nearly $19 million dollars in scholarships. Members of that class will be attending Johns Hopkins University, Howard University, Spelman College, and Stanford University. One of the seniors earned a spot in Florida A&M University’s famous marching band. Other members of Seton’s class of 2022 interested in the arts are enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Cooper Union, and some of Seton’s graduating seniors interested in the engineering, computer science and health care fields are enrolled at Purdue, Virginia Tech and George Washington University.

 Georgetown Preparatory School

 (Sponsored by the Society of Jesus in North Bethesda)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 120 young men

Date of graduation: May 21 at Georgetown Preparatory School

Graduation speaker: Alejandro Rojas, class of 2022, spoke at commencement, nominated by his class peers and selected by a faculty and student panel. 

Baccalaureate Mass: May 20 at Georgetown Prep’s Boland Arena in the Hanley Center, celebrated by Jesuit Father James R. Van Dyke, president of Georgetown Prep

Georgetown Prep names a recipient of the Williams Medal. Richard Francis Williams ranked first in the Graduating Class of 1962 at Georgetown Preparatory School, and after his premature death in 1966 a medal was established in his memory to be awarded annually to the student with the highest academic average in his senior year. This year, the Williams Medal goes to Weicheng (Wilson) Kan.

Our Lady of Good Counsel High School

(Sponsored in Olney by the Xaverian Brothers)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 317 young women and men

Date of graduation: Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation on May 26 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The presider at the Mass was Father Thomas Lavin, OFM Conv.

Graduation speaker: The top 10 graduating seniors are invited to prepare and present a five-minute commencement address to a panel of faculty and staff. Aaron Siegel was selected to be the class speaker.  

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: Our Lady of Good Counsel’s class of 2022 received nearly $40 million in scholarships, the most a graduating class from the school has ever been offered.

St. Mary’s Ryken High School

(Sponsored in Leonardtown by the Xaverian Brothers)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 134 students, including 65 young women and 69 young men.

Date of graduation: May 31 on St. Mary’s Ryken campus at the Donnie Williams Center

Baccalaureate Mass: Celebrated on May 22 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church  in La Plata, Maryland by Father Jack Berard

Valedictorian and salutatorian of class of 2022: St. Mary’s Ryken does not have a valedictorian or salutatorian. Instead, the school has an Xaverian Orator and Class Speaker.

Elise Cecil of the class of 2022 at St. Mary’s Ryken is the Xaverian Orator and will speak during the school’s Baccalaureate Mass. The Xaverian Orator is presented to the student with the top cumulative GPA over their four years at SMR.

Nina Ferrero, chosen by faculty and staff, will speak on behalf of St. Mary’s Ryken’s class of 2022 at the school’s 41st commencement ceremony. Ferrero is a St. Mary’s Ryken Biomedical Science Pathway member. In addition, she is a Presidential and Leadership Scholarship Recipient. She became the president of her sophomore class; served as vice president of Student Council during her junior and senior years, as president of Knights for Life, and she was the president of the National Honor Society. Ferrero is a member of the Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School Stewards, has earned over 200 hours in service to the community and led several student retreats. In addition, Ferrero was the cross country captain and ran track. She also participated in the St. Mary’s Ryken spring musicals and was recognized as a Distinguished Young Woman of Charles County.

Special accomplishments of class of 2022: The class of 2022 at St. Mary’s Ryken High School earned scholarships offers totaling over $21 million and completed 18,620 service hours, 54 percent over the requirement. The class also included four National Merit Commended Scholars and 15 AP Scholars, and 26 student-athletes signed to continue to play their sport at the college level.

St. Vincent Pallotti High School

(Sponsored in Laurel by the Pallottine Missionary Sisters)

Number of graduates in the class of 2022: 86 young women and men

Date of graduation: May 25 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The graduation ceremonies began that day with a Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Father Larry Young, the pastor of St. Mary of the Mills Parish in Laurel.

Valedictorian of the class of 2022: Ademide Adeyemo

Salutatorian of the class of 2022: Alexandria Horne

St. Vincent Pallotti High School marked the 100th anniversary of its 1921 founding during the 2021-22 school year.

https://cathstan.org/news/local/after-st-vincent-pallotti-high-school-marks-100th-anniversary-two-seniors-look-to-the-future

Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

(Sponsored in Bethesda by the Religious of the Sacred Heart)

Date of graduation: June 9 at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart on the Hamilton House lawn
 

Graduation speaker: José Andrés, the father of Stone Ridge alumnae Carlota of the class of 2017, Ines of the class of 2019 and graduate Lucia of the class of 2022. Andrés is a Spanish chef, and founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that is first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises. He is often credited with bringing the small plates dining concept to America. He owns restaurants in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, South Beach, Florida, Orlando, Chicago, and New York City.

Baccalaureate Mass: Stone Ridge will have a Fourth Academic Mother Daughter Liturgy on June 6 in the school’s Athletic Center

Letters: Legislature acts foolishly on convention center; Greed motivates those who sell firearms; Homeless presence overwhelms residents

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Didn’t our Legislature learn anything from Aloha Stadium? The stadium of steel was supposed to form a protective “patina.” Instead it rusted and corroded. The state pumped tens of millions of dollars in repairs over many years. Now the stadium sits as an unusable unsafe monolith of legislative incompetence.

Will that be the fate of the Hawai‘i Convention Center (“Legislature denies Hawai‘i Convention Center $64 million needed for rooftop repairs,” Star-Advertiser, May 23)? Instead of giving the Hawaii Tourism Authority $54 million now and getting the job done right, lawmakers gave HTA a $15 million Band-Aid — penny wise and pound foolish.

You know the HTA is going to come back in years to come asking for more money. Materials and labor costs will have gone up. It will cost more in the long run. Didn’t Hawaii see a surge in tax revenue? Use some of it for the convention center.

A wise man learns from his mistakes. Our Legislature is not very smart.

Robert K. Soberano

Moiliili

Greed motivates those who sell firearms

On so many levels and for so many reasons, what happened in Texas should not have happened (“Gunman kills 19 children in Texas school rampage,” Star-Advertiser, Top News, May 24).

It did happen for only one reason — Greed.

Greed for money by selling guns.

Greed for power by selling guns.

Greed for control by selling guns.

“Guns don’t kill people.” They just make it easier — and profitable.

Thomas Luna

McCully

Celebrate the diversity of the lives we share

I wrote this shout-out for diversity as I monitored the daily news.

The shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., require a response and, here in Hawaii, we are (maybe) well-positioned to call out (“‘How dare you!’: Grief, anger from Buffalo victims’ kin,” Star-Advertiser, May 19).

My husband’s grandfather was converted to Christianity by a New England missionary in Japan and came with an early boatload of laborers to Hawaii (probably because he could read and write, and there were obvious opportunities for conversion).

My husband’s oldest sister, a dietician who first worked at Tripler Army Medical Center, married an African- American man from Mobile, Ala., whom she met working at a hospital in California.

The first marriage my husband officiated was of our brother-in-law’s sister (who had just left a Catholic nunnery) to a former priest (a Caucasian from Michigan). They met doing missionary work in South America.

My history reflects that of many on this island. And it is one I celebrate. We have so much to learn from one other. Let’s promote that education — without guns — and with aloha.

May Mamiya

Moiliili

Use election to set term limits for politicians

The only way to get elected in this state is if the incumbent gets sick; if the incumbent is found guilty of a crime; if the incumbent retires; or if the incumbent runs for a higher political office.

Due to lack of term limits of many of our elected officials, and being tired of the same old faces and of political shenanigans, I have decided to vote for nonincumbents this year as a way to try to generate new opinions and viewpoints in our Legislature.

Enough of the same names, faces and power-hungry individuals who haven’t held a nonpolitical job for decades. I will do my research and vote for new candidates this year as my way of term-limiting.

Kimberly Case

Manoa

Homeless presence overwhelms residents

I agree with Robert Ramsey’s letter regarding rousting the homeless (“Rousting the homeless an exercise in futility,” Star-Advertiser, May 23).

I have lived in Waikiki for 22 years. I am also aware of what is happening with the homeless.

I cannot drive more than a block without seeing homeless groups and their camps. The city will remove them and their belongings and within a day, they are back at their same location. It is an exercise in futility. The increasing numbers of homeless show this to be a fact.

People cannot sit on bus benches; they cannot walk down a sidewalk without having to endure this.

If this is not curbed, and quickly, Honolulu will be just like Los Angeles and other ruined cities.

Make the homeless accountable for their actions. Most important, take away all their privileges. Yes, privileges. A free phone, free health care, free laundry services, free shower facilities, free food, it goes on and on.

I am asking our elected officials to step up, now.

Diane Tippett

Waikiki

True indigenous people forced aside by others

Apparently, many white American immigrants now consider themselves to be indigenous, while authentic indigenous people, including Native Hawaiians, have been pawns on a political chessboard.

“They will not replace us” must have been the cry from all indigenous peoples who have now been replaced by those who now call themselves “we.”

“They” have won. They (we) have forcefully replaced indigenous people worldwide, if not numerically, then by political and military force. And we call our country a democracy? Who are “we”?

Jeff Bigler

Wailuku

Ala Moana bridge unnecessary for area

Regarding the pedestrian overpass that is going to be built across Ala Moana Boulevard (“Ala Moana Boulevard pedestrian bridge construction to begin,” Star-Advertiser, May 2): I agree with the other letter writers. I don’t think it is necessary. I live in the area and I don’t see many people crossing to and from the beach park. The stop lights are adequate. The funds could be better used to fix the roads around Kakaako.

Nieva Elizaga

Ala Moana


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Episcopal Church awards reparations for ‘restoring Black communities’

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Nearly two years after it established a fund to make reparations for systemic racism and slavery, the Maryland Episcopal Church awarded $180,000 in grant money Thursday to its inaugural class of organizations doing the work of “restoring African American and Black communities.”

The six organizations, awarded $30,000 each, include nonprofits, church-affiliated initiatives and youth centers committed to providing economic, education, housing, and environmental and health-care resources to Black children and families.

The grant winners included the Samaritan Community, St. Luke’s Youth Center (SLYC) and Next One Up, based in Baltimore City; Calvert Concept Charitable Corp., a start-up in Calvert County; I Believe In Me in Frederick; and Anne Arundel Connecting Together in Anne Arundel County.

Maryland Episcopal Church commits $1 million to reparations seed fund

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, the first Black bishop in the Maryland diocese, said the Episcopal Church’s racial justice and reparative work in the state started more than 15 years ago, when leaders began documenting how the institution benefited from slavery.

The leaders also studied how the church continued to benefit from systems that oppressed or marginalized Black people even after slavery was abolished.

“That did not sit well with us,” Sutton said during his introductory remarks at Thursday’s awards ceremony. Rather than the church “falling behind,” the bishop said there was a collective sentiment to “take the lead.”

“Let’s put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland voted at its general convention in 2019 to study the subject of reparations, which included a finding that most, if not all, of its churches built before 1860 included labor or materials crafted by enslaved people.

A year later, the reparations fund was established at its annual convention with $1 million in seed money, which was to be invested back in Maryland communities hindered by slavery’s legacy and ongoing systemic racism. The fund now exceeds $1 million because of additional contributions in the two years since its founding.

“Many people in the United States wonder, why reparations? I did not own slaves, and maybe my family didn’t own slaves, and I love everyone,” Sutton said at the award ceremony. “Today is part of that answer.”

“The legacy of 350-plus years of discrimination against persons of African descent have taken a toll on this nation. And it has affected all of us,” the bishop continued. “None of us may have been guilty, but all of us have a responsibility. Today is an indication of the responsibility we are taking.”

The Diocese of Maryland created a Reparations Task Force to build out the grant program and choose the first class of awardees. The process was open to any organization operating within the geographical region of the Diocese of Maryland — which includes the central, western and southern parts of the state. The Maryland suburbs of D.C. were not eligible because they are part of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Representatives from Calvert Concept said the investment from the diocese felt like an “expression of confidence” in their start-up idea to help build generational wealth for Black families through home and business ownership.

Shel Simon, deputy CEO of Next One Up in Baltimore, echoed that sentiment, thanking the church for backing the work his group is doing with young men in the city.

“When I think of the painful history of our country and how often it’s ignored or swept under the rug, it has to be recognized for us to move forward as a community,” he said.

St. Luke’s Youth Center, a collaborative of West Baltimore families, plans to use its grant money to hire an arts and public education coordinator.

Racial justice coalition demands that Biden order study of reparations

“We will be using the funds to help continue to give voice to the people who have been silenced and not given voice,” said Amanda Talbot, SLYC executive director. “That’s really important to us. Our families and parents have a lot to say.”

Aje Hill, the founder and executive director of I Believe in Me, accepted his organization’s grant money with a speech about the importance of believing. He served eight years in prison for crimes he committed as a “menace to society,” he said, before getting out and realizing he had the power to give back and make amends in Frederick, where he grew up.

“I know what it’s like to be hurting. I know what it’s like to be sad. I know what it’s like to be broken,” Hill said. “We aim to prevent kids from going into that darkness.”

The grant money, he said, will go toward building out after-school programming that provides mentorship, academic tutoring and life skill development.

He said he made the trip to the ceremony from Frederick because he wanted to see the faces of the people who chose his organization for the reparative grant.

“It’s the people that believe in us,” Hill said. “Thank you so much for believing in us.”

Read more:

Greenbelt residents approve commission to study reparations

Haiti paid reparations to enslavers. So did Washington, D.C.

Supporters say they have the votes in the House to pass a reparations bill after years of lobbying

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Nice Time: Let’s Keep New Moms Healthy And Alive, OK?

Bet you guys could use some good news about now, huh? In a reminder that government can do good things that make people’s lives measurably better, the US Department of Health and Human Services has announced that four new states will be extending postpartum Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits from the usual 60 days after someone gives birth to a full 12 months.

Oregon, California, Kentucky, and Florida will join seven other states in offering the longer benefits, which are expected to help out about 126,000 low-income families in the four new states. Another nine states and the District of Columbia are also in talks with HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about extending the benefit, too.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement,

The first year after giving birth is a critical period — and families deserve the peace of mind knowing they will be able to access the health care coverage they need, without interruption.

We like this thing where Joe Biden’s HHS is working with states to help people stay healthy and live better. It’s a lot nicer than when HHS emphasized kicking people off healthcare to convince them to stop being poor. Could we please not go back to that please?


The extended benefits are almost certain to save lives, too. As The 19th explains, that’s just math:

According to an HHS report, one in three pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after a person gives birth. About half of all births in the United States are covered by Medicaid. Without this kind of expansion, those same parents lose their health insurance coverage roughly two months after delivery of a child.

Once the additional jurisdictions get extended postpartum benefits in place, that means a full year of health benefits for a lot of Americans whose coverage would otherwise end 60 days after the mother gave birth. Again, this has real potential to save lives, since roughly a third of maternal deaths occur in people who were on Medicaid when they gave birth.

As we’ve discussed before, the US has an ongoing maternal mortality crisis because unlike civilized nations, healthcare isn’t considered a right here. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US has twice the rate of maternal mortality of other wealthy nations. That crisis is, like damn near everything else in the US, far worse for Black women, who are three times more likely than white women to die within a year of giving birth. Those racial disparities persist independent of education and income level, though Crom knows being poor certainly exacerbates them.

During Black Maternal Health Week, back in April, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement that her agency is committed to working with states to improve outcomes for parents who’ve had new babies, saying, “For too long, ingrained racism in our health care system has created devastating disparities in the care people receive and the health outcomes they can achieve. These disparities can be a matter of life and death.”

As of yet, southern states have not forbidden Ms. Brooks-LaSure from public schools.

In a world where all 50 states took the plunge and extended postpartum Medicaid and CHIP to a full 12 months, we’d be looking at 720,000 Americans who would benefit. The biggest gains would be for people who currently fall in the income gap between eligibility for Medicaid and qualifying for subsidized health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. (Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act would have ended that gap for everyone in that hole, but … well, this is a Nice Time post.)

Also, a bit more good news, which would be even better if more states expanded postpartum benefits: A study of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion found that states that put the expansion into place saw reduced racial disparities in health outcomes for Black Americans.

Gosh, more people having good health and staying alive to raise their children? It sounds like some kind of socialist utopia, doesn’t it?

[The 19th / Photo: Fairuz Othman, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Hudspeth sworn in for second term alongside former mayor Watts and newcomer McGee

Incumbent and former District 1 representative Gerard Hudspeth was sworn into city council as mayor on May 17 alongside newcomer and truck driver Brandon Chase McGee and former mayor and council member Chris Watts, who took at large Places 5 and 6, respectively.

Hudspeth won against opponent and former Place 6 holder Paul Meltzer with 52 percent of the vote. A total of 15,928 votes were cast in the mayoral election.

This will be Hudspeth’s second term as mayor and his fourth term as a city council member. He ran for District 1 representative in 2017 and won before being reelected for the seat in 2019.

After former mayor Watts hit the term limit in 2020, Hudspeth campaigned and won, making him the first African American mayor of Denton. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the election was pushed from May to November and then resulted in a runoff — meaning Hudspeth served one year and four months as opposed to a traditional two-year term. Hudspeth attributes this to part of the reason why he chose to re-run in 2022.

“I really wanted a full term to try to achieve some of the goals I want to achieve and affect some of the changes I want to affect,” Hudspeth said. “For example, if we were to build a park, it would take one year. If I would have taken office, and we started building the park that day –we’d be done four months before I was back on the ballot, to put into perspective how long it takes to get things done.”

Issues Hudspeth hopes to address in his upcoming term include lowering tax rates, increasing the efficiency of road construction and public safety.

“If we focus on those core things, [the council doesn’t] disagree on a lot,” Hudspeth said. “Those are all things we can universally agree on.”

Hudspeth’s election opponent, Meltzer, gave up his Place 6 seat to challenge Hudspeth in the mayoral election this term rather than re-running for his seat. Watts ran against Amber Briggle for the at-large seat and won with 51 percent of the vote. A total of 15,485 votes were cast.

Watts previously served as the District 4 representative for three terms from 2007 to 2011 and mayor for four consecutive terms. He concluded his final term in December of 2020.

Watts attributes his reasoning for running for Place 6 to his “[concern] that important decisions are being made without strong foundations of data and facts,” according to his campaign website. He also pledged to “[initiate] new partnerships with regional and state agencies in seeking funding for roads and other infrastructure,” “offer new, cost-effective initiatives” and “establish a sustainable source of revenue for an Economic Development Fund.”

Watts did not respond to the Daily’s requests for comments.

Place 5 was taken by McGee, who won against member of the Police Chief Advisory Board Daniel Clanton with 54 percent of the vote. A total of 14,881 votes were cast.

“I was really happy he won,” Deb Armintor, former Place 5 council member and UNT professor, said. “The person he was running against I think would have just been a big step backward.”

Armintor has served as a council member for the past two terms but decided against running this term due to mental health reasons. She has been an advocate for increasing minimum wage, implementing a citywide nondiscrimination policy and the decriminalization of marijuana. During the swearing-in ceremony, Armintor and Meltzer were each awarded a proclamation for the two terms they served on the city council.

As of now, Armintor has no plans to return to city council in the future. She plans to continue her work as an activist.

“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished even though there’s so much farther to go,” Armintor said. “It felt really good to be stepping out of city hall knowing that I’ll be coming back, but as a member of the public and activist again.”

After hearing Armintor’s former seat was open, McGee chose to run in the election.

“I looked around and I had some questions about why some decisions were being made,” McGee said. “I wasn’t happy with some of those decisions and there was an open seat, so I decided to run.”

McGee additionally chose to run for council because of his status as a blue-collar worker. He has worked for AAA Cooper as a truck driver for 10 years and currently serves on both the Denton’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and the board of New Leaders of Council nonprofit.

“There aren’t too many people like me, as in regular blue-collar workers, involved in the decision-making process,” McGee said. “Yet, I contend we are the ones that are most affected by the things that are done. At some point, some of us actually have to run for office and get elected so we can represent us in the best way.”

During his term, McGee plans to address issues including public safety and health, infrastructure and environmental protection. Specifically, he plans to push for mental health care, increasing air quality via planting more trees and investing money into streets and sidewalks.

“I’ve found there’s lots of areas of overlap between myself and my colleagues,” McGee said. “I really want to hone in on those, and I contend that if we spend all of our time focusing on those areas of agreement, there won’t be a lot of time for contention.”

After Meltzer’s leave, an election was held to nominate a mayor pro tempore. Brian Beck, District 2 council member and university educator, was nominated as mayor pro tempore by District 4 council member and public school teacher Allison Maguire. The nomination was passed with votes from Maguire, McGee, Vicki Byrd, District 1 council member and former law enforcement officer, and Beck.

Featured Image: The Denton City Council chamber sits empty before a meeting on March 22, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane