From Michal M of TEA in Lorain County.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur held a town hall on August 31 at the Vermillion library discussing a wide range of topics with an extra emphasis on the algal blooms that greatly impact the western coast of Lake Erie. She took questions that addressed the refugee resettlement program, the VA appeals backlog, the story of a German teen who was denied entry by customs agents (story here and follow-up here), bipartisan mental health legislation she is working on with Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), and how to enforce laws against defacing mailboxes. This particular gentleman from Vermillion has a cluster mailbox which consistently gets littered with signs for garage sales, car sales, and other paraphernalia. This gentleman was furious that there were laws against defacing mailboxes, yet nobody from the city or the postal office were willing to enforce those laws. So there are laws on the books, but the executives in charge decline to enforce them! If he was talking about immigration laws then he may not have gotten such a sympathetic ear, but laws against defacing mailboxes are sacrosanct! The irony, for some of us, was rich.

One of the most interesting topics that Rep. Kaptur brought up was a federalization of the Lake Erie coastline. Those, of course, are my words and not hers. She discussed the success of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (stretching in parts from Zoar, through Akron, and to Cleveland following the original Ohio Canal towpath), and hoped that the National Parks could create a bike path from Ashtabula to Toledo celebrating Ohio’s role in the early 19th century expansion into the northwest as well as in underground railroad. This ties into controlling the algal bloom problem as the federal government could create and manage coastal wetlands which would help filter pollutants before they enter Lake Erie.

Nobody questions Ohio’s importance with the northwest expansion as well as our key role in the underground railroad. Because of our location, Ohioans would smuggle escaped slaves from Kentucky and Virginia across the Ohio River all the way to Lake Erie where many of them sailed on to Canada. But the federal government needs to REDUCE its property ownership, not expand it! Rep. Kaptur almost sounded jealous when she mentioned that the great majority of federal parks were west of the Mississippi River and not to the east. To her credit, she was not advocating the actual taking of property along the coast which should be a comfort to the few. However Kaptur is working with the National Park Service on this idea, and I’m sure they would like feedback from all those who are likely to be effected by this plan.

Another piece of information that Kaptur shared dealt with a very interesting business arrangement between Kroger, Nature Fresh, and North Star Steel. (Toledo Blade story here.) Nature Fresh Farms will build a greenhouse in Delta, OH with the partnership of Kroger stores, and this greenhouse will be heated by using the waste products of North Star Steel. So we can presume that this deal, like most private sector deals, is a win-win-win for all parties involved. A question that was unclear was “Whose idea was it?”

It’s doubtful that the details of this arrangement came from a government agency like the EPA, FDA, or wherever. Now there are certainly federal tax credits or tax breaks that may be available for steel plants putting their refuse energy to good use, and maybe to grocery stores for using their own product. Unfortunately the news stories don’t cover those aspects of the agreement and we look forward to any further information on its origins.

Around 30 people attended this town hall, and we certainly encourage every member of Congress to hold these town halls and also advertise them so that active and interested citizens can attend. And all citizens should keep an ear out for these Town Halls and make sure that your voice is heard. Many people sense that those in Washington are disconnected from everyday people, so it is up to each of us to continue speaking our minds.