Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sexually Based Offenders Pretending to Be Homeless

Media Still Misses Boat on Sexual Predators

In a bizarre video by Eric Mansfield and the usually trustworthy WKYC, they attack a "loophole to hide the whereabouts" of sexually based offenders in Megan's law. According to the report, "Police are powerless to stop [sexually based offenders] who claim to be homeless." Mansfield noticed on the Summit County website that many are claiming to be homeless, and therefore have an ability to move without the reporting requirments. I do not understand why the media always throws objectivity out the window when reporting on America's last boogie men: sexual predators.

Ramona Robinson declared it, "quite disturbing," and the anonymous woman on the street said that "we should be able to chose who lives on our street." Mansfield did not correct her to say that U.S. law does not allow neighbors to decide who lives on a street ever since the KKK was thrown out of running the government in the South. Mansfield identified this as a "growing statewide problem," but he did not identify what problem he was talking about. Since the shelters in Akron will not allow sexually based offenders to live there maybe the men Mansfield identified where in fact homeless. Where was the objectivity in his report? Why did he not ask "experts" about this "claim" of homelessness? How did this get by the editor? Then WKYC throws in the towel on fairness by allowing the reporter to end the story with a comment about how disturbing this whole situation is in our community.

Why is it surprising that if every community in the state puts your picture on a website when you are released from prison with a sexually based offense that no landlord will rent to you in any neighborhood? Why is it a surprise that many then become homeless? Why would anyone pretend to be homeless to get around the reporting requirement? When is someone going to start critically analyzing these laws? When are the reporters going to report that most sexually based crimes are committed by men who know their victims not by strangers waiting near a park or schoolyard? The entire story is so charged that reporters get out of control, which has led to very bad laws being passed for the past 10 years.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Panhandling Back in the News

Cleveland City Council Debates Extending Limits on Speech

The 2005 panhandling ordinance expired in October 2006 because of sunset provision. NEOCH has not raised the issue with anyone because the law is so troubling and why disturb sleeping dogs? After the Emmy award winning fake news channel reported that the ordinance had expired, Councilman Cimperman got to work. That's right, the major banks have illegally ignored Cleveland for years and we are bleeding jobs forcing people to beg for money and food, but when word comes down the panhandling ordinance expired we saddle up for an immediate posse to correct the problem. Only three days after the story aired they had a hearing on extending the panhandling policy. The new proposal is a law that expires in three years, and still curtails speech in Cleveland.

The hearing was the day before Thanksgiving and the Council called at 10:30 a.m. that day to ask about my thoughts. I could not get over for the hearing having already scheduled a bunch of meetings and not being told ahead of time. I told the Councilman that called the same thing that I said last year, "NEOCH has no issue with an aggressive solicitation ordinance, but limiting where people can ask for money is wrong." I explained that the 20 feet from an ATM, telephone, a pedestrian standing in a line or at an outdoor restaurant was a preemption on speech. If the courts say that asking for money is a constitutionally protected form of speech then there should not be restriction on where that freedom can be exercised.

I have only heard from a Plain Dealer reporter who reported that there will be one more hearing, but the proposal is the same and extended for three years. This is a bad law, and allows Police to threaten panhandlers. After there is a realization that this law will do little to help the panhandling problem, the backers will have only two choices. The popular approach in other cities is to make the panhandling laws more severe (see Akron, Cincinnati, or Dayton) . The smart approach is to find alternatives for those who turn to begging for money.

If any panhandlers need help in challenging this feel good law, NEOCH would be happy to help find legal assistance.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Food Insecurity??

Homeless Now Will Be Condominium Deprived

The major media covered this issue well in ridiculing the Department of Agriculture for changing the name of hungry people to the "Food Insecure." I really have no problems with the use of the term, but the report on this story was spotty across the country. Just because government decides to use a euphemism does not mean that the media cannot use the word "hunger." I noticed the Oregon paper used "Hunger" in their headline, but most used Food Insecurity. WCPN did a nice job on Wednesday (they have a podcast on their front page right now) with a discussion about "food insecurity." Representatives of the Food Bank, West Side Catholic, and the Center for Community Solutions discussed the state of hunger in Cleveland.

The other problem with the reporting was that this new wording caused confusion among the reporters nationally. The Department of Agriculture divided the hungry population into two new categories--"very low food security" and "low food security." This made it difficult to compare previous year's reports, since these were new categories. The number of people who were actually hungry in America increased by 100,000 people since 2004. Most of the headlines said that there was a drop in food insecurity. This drop was only for those who do not have enough food on a regular basis, but were not hungry.

This is why people are skeptical of government. They change the statistics to suit their own political needs. This is similar to the Department of Labor redefining unemployment during the Reagan administration so that the numbers went down. Some commentators reflected on the holding of the report until after the election. I am sure that this report will be forgotten before the close off retail business on this first holiday shopping weekend. Politicians and media don't get excited about food insecurity, which is unfortunate. The 10.8 million people in America who are in fact hungry need some discussion about this issue. They need to discuss why it is so hard to get food stamps (thanks WCPN for raising this issue). They need to relate this to local policy and how many hungry people there are in American cities. How does hunger differ in rural and the urban settings? We all understand at the base level the concept of hunger, but food insecurity sounds like a high school science project.

Next year, in an effort to appeal to Cranky Editor Feagler we are searching for a more high brow, scientific word or series of words to replace "homelessness." Here are my entries, but you are welcome to submit your own:

1. Condominium Deprived
2. Efficiency Insecure Individuals
3. Nomadic Expeditionists
4. Transmigratory Self Contained Pioneers

The last one maybe too high brow for America. It might be better for Europe. What is your choice for the "food insecure of the homeless world?"


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Why does the Plain Dealer Insist it was a Smooth Election?

Homeless People Do Not Consider this a Smooth Election

I do not understand why the Plain Dealer keeps insisting that this was a pretty good election or at least better than the last election. Is it just because they got results faster then in May and so they are happy? The two precincts NEOCH staff monitored had serious problems. There were three other precincts on the near West Side that had similar disputes between the observers and the poll workers. There were 14 polling locations that had to stay open late. I can't believe that we picked out the two bad precincts to monitor and the rest were great. I think that there were widespread problems with security, provisional ballots, equipment, identification, and training of workers.

The problem was that media representatives should have been inside--not just to take pictures but to act as observers. They needed to be at selected polling places to watch the set up and throughout the day. They needed to watch instructions given to voters, and they needed to make sure that the electronic voting system was secure. Right now, only representatives of a political party are allowed to watch the process and that was less than successful in some places. Where is the Plain Dealer getting this information that everything was smooth? I view these statements in much the same way as the words of the embedded reporters in Iraq. The Elections Board picked which places media could go, and they were there for only a short period of time.

I hope that the Plain Dealer will go back and do some independent reporting on this issue. I hope that the Democratic Party will issue a report of all the problems. I hope that the Greater Cleveland Voting Coalition and Cleveland State will do some independent research on the process and if it worked. Whatever happens, the state legislature has a lot of work to do to put a real election reform law in place. Maybe the new Secretary of State can help with some of these issues and propose guidelines for the legislative branch of government. Certainly, my faith in the voting process was shaken by watching the voting process from 6 am to 8:30 p.m. on November 7.

Brian Davis