Aftab Pureval for Congress

Aftav_Chabot

Aftab Pureval is challenging Steve Chabot, the incumbent Republican, to represent Ohio’s 1st District in the House of Representatives.  Opinion polls show this race is a toss up, so every vote will  matter.  My attempt to provide a rational assessment of the candidates is probably more than you want to wade through, so here is a quick summary:

  • If you support Donald Trump, vote for Chabot. 
  • If you oppose Trump, vote for Pureval.
  • If you just want the best person for the job, vote for Pureval.

I wish more of the us were in that third category, but the reality is that Trump continues to dominate the political landscape even though he is hardly mentioned by the candidates.

In 2016, I supported Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts, selecting him as the stand out candidate among those running for local office.  He won, unseating the Republican incumbent.   He then proceeded to deliver better service to the community:

He did all while saving money (rounded up to  $1 million in first year) and increasing the revenue .  You would think that ending political patronage, reducing the size of government, providing better service,  and saving money would please conservatives, since these are in keeping with their typical talking points. 

In politics, however, you undermine your opponent’s record, whatever it is. Chabot’s first political ad tries to turn these accomplishments on their head.  Eliminating unnecessary positions and getting rid of political appointees becomes, in Chabot’s ad, “firing long time employees.”  Chabot’s ad concludes “Aftab may mean sunshine but his record is pretty SHADY”.  As political ads often are, this ad is misleading, but at least you could argue that it is tethered to the truth. 

The same cannot be said for the ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund.  This paid ad, titled “Lies and Hypocrisy,” was the first thing to pop up in any Google searches involving the word “Pureval.”  The ad somehow ties Aftab Pureval to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and features a picture of Gaddafi, looking sinister as ever, a scary picture of some terrorists, and, for good measure, a picture of Aftab Pureval and Hillary Clinton smiling together into the camera.  The tortured logic connecting Pureval to Libya is completely refuted by the Washington Post, which concludes:

Even by modern mudslinging standards, these ads by the Congressional Leadership Fund stand out for their dark tone and their strained relationship with the facts.  These attack ads are grossly misleading. We give them a cumulative rating of Four Pinocchios.

Pureval’s first ad, in contrast, is largely positive.  His name is Aftab, which means “sunshine”.   He is the son of immigrants: his mother was a refugee from Tibet, and his parents met in India.  He was born and raised in Ohio and was educated at local colleges.  He has only a slight dig at his opponent, who has “simply been there in too long”. He concludes with the promise: “New leadership that fights for you.”

The release of new ads continue as the campaign enters the home stretch.  One features Pureval playing softball.  Others just throw mud, accusing each other of lying.

There is one of Chabot’s attacks that seems to have some substance.  Pureval, who is not accepting corporate donations, used money from the Clerk of Courts campaign funds.  The question is whether or not this was spent for the congressional campaign, which would be illegal.  Pureval’s campaign claims “All of these expenditures were appropriate and legal.”

One of the disputes is over Chabot’s record on health care.  Chabot opposes Obamacare, saying that the American people deserve better.  Of course, the Republicans have not been able to actually craft anything better, but that is not the point of contention.  The argument is over pre-existing conditions.  Chabot says that he has always supported protecting people with pre-existing conditions.  Pureval says that he “voted to strip away protections from people with pre-existing conditions.  It appears that both claims are true.  Chabot “supported legislation to replace Obamacare [that] guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.”  This sounds great, but nobody could come up with an workable plan that met this requirement.  The legislation he ended up voting for did not protect people with pre-existing conditions.  I think Pureval has the better argument here. 

However, the more substantive issue is how to address the heath care financing in this country.  The Republicans have been up in arms over Obamacare for years, but have been unable to craft a replacement.  Chabot has shown that he will loyally follow whatever the Republican leadership comes up with, which, most likely, will be more attempts to sabotage the system they inherited from Obama while they dither around, failing to come up with a viable alternative.  On the other hand, some Democrats want to offer a “single payer” system; Pureval seems to be interested in more modest strengthening of Obamacare.

The two candidates fall along traditional party lines on the other substantive issues as well.  Concerning the economy, Chabot emphasizes lower taxes and less regulation, especially for small businesses.  Pureval talks of “equal pay for equal work”, protecting unions, and raising the minimum wage.  On taxes, Pureval emphasizes fairness in taxation.  He wants permanent relief for the middle class, and to “ensure that hedge fund managers don’t pay less than working families”.  Chabot touts the Trump tax cuts.  Thus, one represents the interests of the those he labels the job creators, the other the workers.  Both claim to support the middle class.

Chabot supports a constitutional amendment that would impose a balanced budget.  This is in line with traditional (pre-Trump) Republican thinking.  It is a bad idea that would be disastrous if implemented.  First of all, no business operates without using debt, and many of our most successful businesses go through periods where they loose money.  Secondly, if we suffered a financial recession like 1929 (or 2008), having such an amendment would force the government to take the same actions that were taken in the Hoover administration, exacerbating the problem.  Finally, while Chabot touts this proposal claiming to be concerned with prudent financial management,  he votes profligately for tax cuts, increased defense spending, and consequently, ever larger budget deficits.

An issue not talked about directly by either candidate concerns race.  When Chabot talks about immigration, he focuses attention on gangs, while Pureval, the son of immigrants, speaks of the American dream.   Generally Cbabot plays the card subtly, labeling Pureval as an outsider by focusing on whether he was raised in the district (Beavercreek is in a neighboring district), or whether he lived in the district.  Before deciding to run, Pureval lived on the other side of the carefully gerrymandered line splitting apart the voters in Cincinnati.  For his part, Pureval “celebrates diversity and inclusion.  People who don’t agree with him on this will vote for Chabot. 

If you care at all about protecting the environment, Pureval, though hardly a zealot, is the clear choice.  He wants to properly fund the Environmental Protection Agency.  Chabot does not even mention the environment on his web site.  As late as 2014, he was saying “Despite claims to the contrary, the evidence concerning man-made climate change is far from conclusive.  Chabot is focused on energy independence, and wants to “increase domestic oil production.”  Perhaps this is why the Koch brother’s PAC Americans for Prosperity has put its weight behind Chabot.

For Chabot, a central issue is abortion, which, he says, “has been described as the moral issue of our time.”  (It irritates me that he expresses his central moral position in the passive voice and attributes it to others.)  Chabot will do what he can to undermine access to abortions.  Pureval thinks “we must support a woman’s constitutional right to choose safe, legal abortions established in Roe v. Wade.  Pureval does not think the election is about abortion, but for those driven by this one issue, the choice is clear.

I disagree with Chabot not only about abortion, but about what truly is the moral issue of our time.  The Republican party has descended into deceit and bigotry.  Trump is the result.  There are a few brave souls in the party, such as John Kasich, who are standing up for traditional Republican values, but most, like Chabot, are just riding the wave wherever it takes them.  Historians are sounding warning bells: we could loose our democracy.  Steve Chabot, over two decades in Congress, has shown no sign of having the courage and independence that our time in history demands.

Though Chabot wants to paint Pureval as a lefty,  he is not.  He is a follower not of the anti-establishment social democrats, but of Obama.  For example, he has not come out for reform of our marijuana laws, an issue that I think would bring out the voters.  Whether Pureval will emerge as the kind of leader that I hope for is yet to be seen.  I want to give him that chance. 

Aftab PurevalMy impression of the two candidates is that both seem to be genuinely nice people who want the best for this nation.  Given my view of the current state of the Republican party, I would vote Democrat.  However,  in this case, I can enthusiastically support the person, not just the party.

 

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Continuous Improvement in Policing

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In society, nothing remains stagnant: either you work to get better or things deteriorate.  And so it is with the Collaborative Agreement among the police and various civic organizations in Cincinnati that emerged in response to the riots in 2001.  It had been voluntarily extended for over a decade, and people were beginning to suspect decay.  Consequently, the city has embarked on a refresh.  As a part of this effort, they held three Community Forums, “designed to solicit invaluable feedback from Cincinnati residents, Cincinnati police officers, and various community stakeholders on the state of local community-police relations.”  The last of these forums took place on Thursday, 1/11.

3rd Forum CrowdUnlike the first such forum last September, this one was lightly attended: I think police and other officials attending outnumbered the civilians, and there were many empty tables.

3rd Forum QuestionerDuring the question period, one person attacked the panel for not getting the word out, in essence blaming the organizers for the poor attendance, especially from the population that is most impacted by the consequences of biased policing.  City Manager Black defended the organizers, citing a number of steps that they had taken, ending with “We can’t make them come.”

Though I had noticed the size of the crowd as soon as I entered the room, after a moment’s reflection, I was not surprised. It is much more exciting to rise up in anger over the shooting of Sam Debose than to sit and talk about procedures, accountability, data, problem solving, and recommendations to “develop metrics to evaluate mutual accountability…”.  It is all too abstract. Kim Neal, director of the Citizen Complaint Authority, told me that they even have trouble getting people who have registered complaints to return their calls.  If people are reluctant to engage in issues where their stake is personal, it is not surprising that they won’t bother with some city wide forum like this.

1st forum crowd 2To me, the first forum seemed to feature lots of like-minded people of various backgrounds getting together for Kumbaya, but there was no grit.  I had trouble imagining this forum having significant impact, no matter how “invaluable” they called the feedback they received.  Regardless, it is important to give ordinary citizens the opportunity to participate.

Saul Green

Saul Green

Saul Green, who was appointed by the court to monitor the collaborative agreement when it was put in place back in 2002, is overseeing the refresh.  He is critically examining current procedures, and my impression is that he is not going to put up with pointless activities that have no real impact.  The team is making recommendations for change. City Manager Black is accepting them all, and forming concrete plans to implement them.

The specifics of these recommendations and the implementation plans would have been too numerous for presentation in this meeting, and are in any case not finalized.  Some in attendance were clearly dissatisfied, but what they were asking for was a level of detail that I, for one, had neither the time nor the expertise to evaluate.   I left this part of the presentation with confidence in the qualifications and engagement of the leadership, and I am willing to trust them to bring about constructive changes.

Dan Hils

Dan Hils, FOP President

In my opinion, there is one major obstacle to a successful refresh: the reluctance of a certain segment of the police community to participate.  Initially, there were reports that the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) voted “to stop taking part in the process of reviewing and renewing the Collaborative Agreement”.   Apparently, the FOP later backed off of this stance, but Hils, the FOP president, still points out “a big difference between looking at things and signing off on things.”  The rank and file police officers can undermine the agreement, no matter how carefully crafted the procedures are.   Perhaps a citizen forum is not the place for these police to air their point of view, and, to be honest, I might not be very receptive to what they have to say.  However, somewhere in this process, their concerns need to be heard and acknowledged.

At the end of the forum, they talked about PIVOT, “Place based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories”.  This is an awful acronym, but an effective program.  It won the 2017 Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing.  For me, this presentation had the kind of detail that meant something.  Instead of just talking about problem solving in the abstract, they presented the actual data, described the problems that it identified, and articulated specific steps taken to address the problems.  PIVOT E WestwoodThe highlight of the evening was the video documenting the problem and the community response in East Westwood and Westwood. These adjoining neighborhoods had narrowly defined locations where many crimes were being committed.  The response to the problem involved not only significant policing, but also collaboration, though the Neighborhood Enhancement Program, with other city departments and various community groups.  Unlike in some “broken windows policing” scenarios where citizens feel harassed and disrespected, here then citizens felt involved and empowered.  The result was that crime in the area was significantly reduced and life in the community improved.

In many parts of our country, policing mixes comfortably with the legacy of racial discrimination, harking back to a time keeping order meant, in part, keeping the coloreds in their place.  Far too often, the police will deny that racial bias is a problem in their department.  In the aftermath of the riots in 2001, Cincinnati confronted reality head on and found a constructive path forward, embodied in  the Collaborative Agreement. At the forum, I talked with a lieutenant with 25 years of experience who spoke with pride in the transformation that had occurred in the department since she first joined it.  However, pride in past accomplishments is never sufficient.  In Cincinnati, civic and religious organizations are working together with the police department and the city government to continue to improve.  The refresh of the Collaborative Agreement, with its focus on metrics and procedures, is only part of what is going on.  People are also developing innovative strategies like PIVOT and the Neighborhood Enhancement Program to confront the problems of a city in the 21st Century.  These strategies recognize that policing, no matter how innovative and well meaning, cannot provide the whole solution.  It is the whole community, working together, that can solve the problems we face.

Russ Hurley for Congress in 2018 (Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District)

Ohio's_2nd

The voters of Cincinnati have been carefully divided up into two congressional districts, both of which are reliably Republican.  The gerrymandering is particularly obvious in the 2nd district, which reaches to Pike County, roughly 100 miles away from the carefully carved appendage slicing through Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Currently, this district is represented by Brad Wenstrup, a tea partier who beat the incumbent Republican in the 2012 primary.  Unlike many tea party types, Wenstrup is no lightweight.  A former pediatrician, he is intelligent and articulate.  He runs a very professional congressional office.  His campaign already has a half a million dollars on hand. Given all of the advantages of incumbency and the demographics of the district, whoever runs as his opponent is sure to be a long shot.

In order to win in this district, the Democrats need to step outside their usual box and give the voters something to be excited about in an off-year election.   In my opinion, there is one issue that can generate that excitement: the legalization of marijuana.

Teapot RussMany Years ago, when I was smoking pot regularly, I assumed that when my generation came to power, marijuana would become legal.  Belatedly, this is starting to happen.  It has been legalized in a few states, and many more, including Ohio, have approved if for medical use.  However, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule I drug, putting it along side heroine and other highly addictive drugs.  It is time end this prohibition at its source, through national legislation.  A Quinnipiac poll says that most Americans (60% to 34%) agree “that the use of marijuana should be made legal in the U.S.”  This is a winning issue.

In the 2016 Democratic primary, there was one candidate for congress who put the marijuana issue front and center: Russ Hurley.  This is why I endorsed him then. Now, he has started an on-ine campaign for the 2018 primary and asked me to endorse him again.

King Court 2Since that primary, I have had the opportunity to meet Russ at his place of business: the King’s Court Master Barber & Shoe Shine Service.  I have not seen him address a crowd, but he strikes me as a down to earth guy who might appeal to the stereotypical Trump voter in a way that Wenstrup, with all his polished professionalism, might not.

I like candidates who let you know where they stand.  Hurley has done this, publishing his “top 10” issues.  Since this blog is about my point of view,  here is what I think of each or Hurley’s points:

  1.  Legalize industrial hemp and marijuana adding trillions of industrial $$$ into our economy. Saving 100s of billions on law enforcement. Eliminating the need for many prison cells across the nation. Close private for profit prisons and re-purpose them for indoor agricultural use making them more profitable for owners and providing even better jobs to the communities in which they reside.

One might question the wisdom of putting the marijuana issue first: we clearly have other important issues facing our nation.  However, the legalization of marijuana is what distinguished Hurley from the rest of the field in the previous primary, and it makes good sense to put this first.

Closing private, for profit prisons is a separate issue.  Even if we succeed in legalizing marijuana, the current Attorney General seems bent on incarcerating our way through the current opioid crisis, which will generate plenty of new prisoners.  America already jails a larger percentage of its population than any other developed nation.  This is horribly misguided.  Furthermore, we have a history of using prisoners for profit, and it is ugly.  We need to stop this now.

However, once we close the private prisons, we do not need to be directing the owners in how those facilities will be used.  Free market entrepreneurs excel at producing wealth from existing assets; they should not need our guidance.

2. Create a living wage increase commensurate  with CEO to minimum wage pay scale from the 1960s and double military base pay.

The increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth in our nation threatens the very foundation of our society.

I support increasing the minimum wage as one step in addressing this problem.  Seattle has set it at $15.00 an hour, which seems reasonable target to me.

As for military base pay, I do not know what is reasonable.  Currently, a Private (E1) with less than 2 years of experience earns $19,198.80, which is what someone earning $9.60 an hour would make working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year.  Clearly, the base pay should be increased if we are increasing the minimum wage.  Doubling it seems over the top.

The growth in CEO wages in the last few decades has been obscene; we cannot simply replicate this obscenity throughout our society.  “Commensurate with CEO to minimum wage pay scale from the 1960s” might sound fair, but as near as I can tell, this would put the minimum wage somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 an hour.  This is ridiculous.  Hurley, using different sources, thinks it would be about $28 an hour.  Still ridiculous.

3.  Equal rights at work (equal pay) or home (marriage) and at the doctors  for all people (ALL MEANS ALL) in the USA.

In the bathroom too, although I think it’s fine that he didn’t mention that.

4. Create high speed rail and help update and improve inner city public transportation.  

We need major improvements in our transportation infrastructure.  However, it seems strange to emphasize high speed rail and inner city problems given the district that Hurley seeks to represent.

5. Return retirement age back to 65.

I oppose this.  We are living longer, healthier lives.  I think it reasonable to move the “official” retirement age up, as is happening now.   However, since I myself retired early, you may call me a hypocrite.

A more important improvement to Social Security concerns the earnings cap on the tax used to support it: this should be raised.

6.  Fix immigration with a true path to citizenship. provide better border security by creating more military bases across our border to keep terrorists out.

I support a quick path to legal status for people who are here.  This is much more urgent than the long term path to full citizenship.

Border security is problematic.  While it is plausible that some minuscule fraction of the people entering this country illegally are terrorists, this threat is magnified beyond all reasonable sense of proportion by our politicians.  Trump’s giant wall will not help much; nor will Hurley’s army bases.  This should not be on the high priority list.  We already waste more than enough money on security theater.

7. Strengthen and expand the A.C.A. until single pay comes for a vote.

Here, I think Hurley has exactly the right approach.

8. Eliminate corn subsidies for ethanol replacing corn with hemp, leading towards 100% renewable, cleaner, cheaper and closer to home energy sources.

I know Russ thinks hemp is more efficient than corn as a source for ethanol.  This might be true.  However, there are lots of ways to produce ethanol, and corn is clearly not the most efficient choice.  Thus, I agree that we should move away from corn subsidies.

I think the government has a role to play in subsidizing the production of ethanol from renewable sources.  I would prefer to support multiple options, rather than have the politicians choose their favorite.

9. Fund adult and child education building new schools.

We need to spend more on education.   However, I don’t think providing buildings is the best way to involve the federal government in this.  So here, I agree with the goal, but perhaps not the specifics of the proposal.

10. Expand wind and solar power, updating our power grid to eliminate the 30% lost energy every day.

Improving our electric grid is a major priority.  Efficiency and flexibility are needed to make use of these newer, less predictable, power sources.

We also need to protect it from cyber attack.  I think there are vulnerabilities here that the government could help address.

Thus, my judgment on Russ’s top 10 issues is mixed: I am enthusiastic about some of them, other I find  are too strident.   In my opinion, there are also a few things missing from this list:

  • Paying for it all.  Politicians talk only of benefits, never of costs.  Several of the objectives that Russ lays out cannot be reached without allocating the necessary financial resources.  This money has to come from some place.  There are several options available: borrowing the money, reducing the amount spent on defense, or taxing people who have money.  If Hurley is going to be specific on these priorities, he needs to be prepared to talk about how they are going to be funded.
  • Simplifying the tax system.  As long as our system is so complex and littered with so many loopholes, arriving at a fair method of taxation is impossible.
  • Providing good government, compromising when necessary to move us closer to our long term goals.  In normal times, this would not even be worth mentioning.  However, today there are politicians who take pride in their obstinance. As a result, our politics has become toxic and dysfunctional.  Our constitution was founded on compromise.  We need representatives in congress committed to making our democracy work.

Hurley

So often, campaigns are based on platitudes so broad and bland that it is impossible to have anything constructive to say about them.  Russ Hurley has stated positions that are clear and specific enough that I can have an opinion.  I appreciate this.  That my opinion differs from his in several points does not upset me; since I think for myself, it is inevitable.  I can endorse a candidate who is ready to lead us in what I perceive as the right direction, and is able to analyze problems, and evaluate proposed solutions. What I am concerned with is that he is pointing in the right direction and is able to think things through.

This brings me back to issue number 2, concerning the minimum wage.  What Hurley proposes might sound fair, but I don’t think he has thought this through at all.  Hurley’s position is so far over the top, so impractical, that I question whether  he can be taken seriously as a candidate.  I cannot endorse such lame thinking.

In 2016, I moved from one part of Cincinnati to another, crossing that carefully gerrymandered line.  So I longer vote in the 2nd congressional district.  However, if I had the opportunity, I would seriously consider voting for Hurley, despite my misgivings.

Did I mention that he supports the legalization of marijuana?

 

 

Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts

I started evaluating the candidates for local office, but in most cases, I found my result so heavily influenced by party affiliation that it was not worth posting on the web.  I think the Republican Party, despite Governor Kasich’s attempt to steer it past the current catastrophe, is morally and intellectually bankrupt.  At the national level, Trump is the proof.

ruehlmanAt the local level, we have Judge Ruehlman, formally reprimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court, reversed on appeal for a “brazen” ruling, and described as pretty much a nightmare in his handling of a case involving alleged rape.   Even the Cincinnati Enquirer, which usually supports Republicans and seldom involves itself at all in judicial races, says that it is time to “retire Judge Ruehlman”.  A robust party committed to good government would have found a candidate to replace him, but this party is more interested in using the political advantage of incumbency to win the election.

In my opinion, the Republican Party needs to be thoroughly gutted so that we can replace it with a party that embraces truth and good government.  In light of this, it hardly matters what I think of an individual candidate.

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Aftab Pureval (CHRISTIN BERRY/BLUE MARTINI PHOTOGRAPHY)

However, there is one, Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts, whom I can endorse based on his qualifications and ideas, not just because his opponent is another no-good Republican (though she is at best mediocre).  I met him at a block party for my new neighborhood, where he introduced himself as “Aftab”, saying that people had trouble with his last name.  With him was a friend, a volunteer, wearing an “Aftab” t-shirt. I have seen that t-shirt pop up at other events: a political rally and a community counsel meeting.  I am impressed that he has such volunteers supporting his campaign.

Meanwhile, the Republican incumbent has been getting into trouble for pressuring the people she supervises to volunteer for her campaign.  Apparently, this is not illegal, but we voters can judge whether or not it is ethical.  Aftab promises to end such practices if elected.

Aftab Pureval, though relatively young, already has an impressive resume.  He graduated of Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati Law School.   As a lawyer, he has worked for a firm in Washington DC, has represented battered women, has worked as a federal prosecutor, and currently is working in house for Proctor and Gamble.  He is also a co-owner of a small business.

Tracy Winkler was appointed to be the Clerk Of Courts in 2011.   She seems to have gotten the job because of her family connections: she is married to Judge Ralph Winkler.  In 2012, she won the election as the incumbent Republican.

Pureval has ideas as to how the Clerk of Courts could be run better.  Winkler brags her office is running a surplus, but the fees that we pay here are higher than in Cleveland and Columbus.  In some other counties in Ohio, court records are available on-line; Pureval thinks he can make that happen in Hamilton County as well.

The reality is that Clerk of Courts is probably the pinnacle of Tracy Winkler’s career, while for Aftab Pureval, it is a stop on the way.  Once he has successfully accomplished his goals for this office, he will probably move on.  However, Hamilton County will be well served.  He is qualified, articulate, and hard working.  He will improve the services provided by the office.  He deserves your vote.