Toledo And Lucas County Need To Step Up To Save Public Transportation

It was reported in the news this week that the Board of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) voted to cut Sunday and Holiday service due to continuing financial problems. SHoWLE sent an email to the city and county elected officials to step up and save the only public transportation option in Lucas county.

Some background:

The service cut, which, with one exception, will take effect Jan. 6, is expected to cover most of a $3-million-plus budget gap that TARTA leaders had hoped to fill by switching the agency’s local subsidy from property taxes to a sales tax.

But the sales tax failed — for a third time in eight years — to clear a statutory process for getting on last month’s general-election ballot in Lucas County, and the transit authority had no alternative revenue proposal ready to go.

That process required all of TARTA’s current member communities’ legislative bodies to endorse the admission of Lucas County as a new member. Sylvania Township’s trustees, as they had done twice before, voted that resolution down in July, and several TARTA trustees and Mr. Gee on Thursday blamed them for the transit authority’s current situation.

Among board members opposing the service cut was Daniel Woodcock, who said imposing it before seeing how a fare increase might improve the authority’s finances would do a “major disservice” to the community.

But agency administrators said that with each 25 cents of increase generating no more than $250,000 in revenue, and with TARTA already having exhausted its monetary reserves, there was no way to put off the service cut any further.

TARTA board approves service cuts

Here is the email SHoWLE President Douglas Berger sent on behalf of the group:

My name is Douglas Berger and I am President of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE), a chapter of the American Humanist Association. I am contacting you today with our concern about the current struggles of the TARTA system and the announced end to Sunday and Holiday service.

I don’t think I need to say that a strong and vibrant city and county that is able to be inclusive of all socioeconomic strata needs to have a strong public transportation system. Toledo and Lucas county does not have one and the one we do have seems to be getting worse.

Cutting service impacts the people less able to have or afford alternatives. They may have to work on Sunday or they want to attend church services. Cuts in service also impacts local businesses by reducing the ability of some customers to visit their stores.

I watched again as one stakeholder community was able to block a viable plan for TARTA to survive and be the public transportation option we can all be proud of. I’m afraid that the block was due to a lack of compassion and empathy for the workers and others who depend on the service.

We here at SHoWLE would like to know what are you doing or plan to do to fix TARTA for long term success? I know public transportation isn’t as flashy as a new employer or a renovated hotel downtown, but many people who make up the backbone of the city ride the bus and they vote.

One idea I had is to see if TARTA could be dissolved and a new authority agency created to take over the assets and this new authority would start off funded by a sales tax as most modern public transportation systems are in this country.

The county might see if a small percentage of the hotel motel tax could be used to supplement TARTA funding until a better funding source could be used.

The other stakeholders in the TARTA system need to pressure the lone hold out to allow a sales tax measure to take place. A sales tax would be better than a property tax.

SHoWLE really hopes that all members of the TARTA authority can work to solve this issue so Toledo won’t lose out future businesses who see a broken public transportation system as a negative when considering where to locate.

 

Pastor Protection Act Not Needed And Wrong For Ohio

Testimony given to Ohio Senate committee

TOLEDO, November 28, 2018 – Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) submitted written testimony opposing Ohio House Bill 36, also known as the “Pastor Protection Act”. The bill would repeat 1st amendment protection given to faith practitioners but would also allow religious groups to avoid public accommodation laws even if a property is used for commercial purposes.

This is a very dangerous change in our civil rights,” SHoWLE President Douglas Berger stated in written testimony submitted to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee today. “This bill would allow religious groups to discriminate against ANYONE that they feel doesn’t conform to their religious beliefs. Do we want to see a church food pantry turning away a needy family because they are Mormon, since this particular church doesn’t believe Mormons are Christians?

Churches and property owned by religious groups aren’t normally required to follow state or federal public accommodation laws when used explicitly for religious purposes. House Bill 36 doesn’t make such a distinction. The bill as written also wouldn’t just affect same-sex couples. A pastor performing weddings at the court house for a fee could decide not to solemnize a marriage because the couple in question are members of the military or a church fellowship hall might require renters to only allow straight people to attend the event.

Religious freedom should be a shield to protect people from persecution and not a sword to give special rights to a favored group that ends up persecuting people not in that favored group, ” Berger wrote.

This bill is a waste of time and taxpayer money for a problem that doesn’t and will never exist. Instead we would like to see the legislature work to make performing marriages more accessible by considering and passing Senate Bill 52 that also amends 3101.08 to allow anyone who registers with the state to solemnize a marriage.

A pastor or priest will never be forced to perform a ceremony that doesn’t conform to their deeply held religious beliefs but HB 36 is being used to discriminate against those who don’t conform to the favored religion – namely LGBTQ people but the vagueness of the law will allow all kinds of discrimination – with the force of the state.

The Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting this week and the hearing for opponents of the bill is Thursday with a possible committee vote following.

It’s saying something when the majority party is rushing to protect pastors and priests from something that will never happen while they continue to ignore helping the victims of clergy abuse,” Berger said.

While SHoWLE doesn’t believe a pastor or priest should be forced to do something that violates the 1st amendment, religious groups shouldn’t be allowed to arbitrarily discriminate in the use of property it owns not being used for strictly religious purposes.

Link to the  full written testimony

About SHoWLE

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

SHoWLE meets on the 2nd Saturday of each month and all general meetings are free and open to the public. The website is humanistswle.org

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
567-302-0209

Shawn Meagley – co-Founder
419-266-7945

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We Are Disappointed Ohio House Passed ‘Heartbeat’ Anti-Abortion Bill

Toledo, Ohio, November 15, 2018 – The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie are extremely disappointed that the Ohio House passed the so-called “Heartbeat” anti-abortion law, HB 258, on Thursday.

The Republican party claims to be about protecting our rights but it seems they want to deny basic bodily autonomy to the women of Ohio, a right that seems to be the default for male citizens of Ohio. There are no laws restricting men’s accessibility to health care.

This same Republican dominated state house, in the name of rights, stripped away regulations on the 2nd amendment, ended Ohio cities ability to use Red Light cameras for traffic enforcement, and supported the Reagan Tokes Act and “Sierah’s Law.”

Yet instead of working to better the lives of all Ohioans equally, the Republican leadership decided to waste taxpayer money to pass a law that lacks any rational scientific basis and most likely violates previous federal court rulings. It is a law that would restrict the rights of at least half the population.

Humanists believe that public laws and policies should not be based on religious ideology but should be based on sound objective reasons.

SHoWLE has trouble reconciling a political party that claims it wants to “make America great again” with the constant effort to inject themselves into the medical decisions of women and their Doctors.

This needs to stop.

SHoWLE will continue to support women in Ohio who want to make their own medical decisions without religious intercession.

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
419-356-8568

Shawn Meagley – Vice President
419-266-7945

About SHoWLE:

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

We envision a Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan where secular people are respected and integrated in broader society, live values of reason and compassion, and enjoy a friendly humanist community.

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You Can Be A Lobbyist

At our November general meeting, our guest Monette Richards, president of  CFI Northeast Ohio, gave us some tips and ideas on how to become citizen lobbyists after the recent election.

Richards explained that you really only need to call the local office of your elected officials and make an appointment to speak to them. Some represenatives hold office hours where they meet people without a formal appointment. When you go to the appointment have some talking points to give to the official or their staff.

The thing she stressed is to do it. Big donor money gets a lot of attention and our only way to get through that noise is to personally speak to the elected people or their staffs and let them know what you think.

Richards also said it is good to find established groups that are working on a issue you feel strongly about and join them so you aren’t reinventing the wheel.

She also suggested a book, The Citizen Lobbyist by Amanda Knief and Rev. Barry W. Lynn, as a good primer. And if you need to invent the wheel because there isn’t an established group, the Skeptical Activism Campaign Manual will help start the ball rolling.

SHoWLE member Peggy C. also suggested a website called  5 Calls.

Our next general meeting is December 8th.

We Strongly Condemn The Tree Of Life Synagogue Terrorist Attack

The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie strongly condemns the terrorist attack that happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue this past Saturday.

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of the victims and wish a speedy recovery of those injured.

No one should be singled out, harassed, discriminated against, or subjected to any violence because of their religious beliefs, lack of religious beliefs, or political views.

The murders on Saturday are a prime example why our current political leaders must stop trying to scapegoat a group of people to score cheap political points for their base.

When someone like our President of the United States singles out people he doesn’t like with baseless accusations, it gives cover for others to actually act against members of that same group.

The murders on Saturday, the shooting in Kentucky, and serial mail bombings in recent days shows the terrible side of some in this country. Humanists will continue to work on reducing toxic tribalism and angry nationalism. All of us need to work together to let those who want to do harm know that they will not be welcome and will be resisted.

SHoWLE Board of Directors Elect Officers for 2018-2019

The Board of Directors held their first meeting on October 16th and the first thing on the agenda was electing officers for the year.

President: Doug Berger
Vice President: Shawn Meagley
Secretary: Margarette Webster
Treasurer: Larry Brach

Minutes of the meeting and other news will be shared soon.

Humanists Ask Lucas County To Get Something In Return For Rec Center

Earlier this week it was reported in the news that the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and the City of Maumee were talking about the county giving the Lucas County Recreation Center to Maumee. If a sale or transfer takes place, the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie thinks the county should get something in returnlike affordable housing.

President Douglas Berger sent a note to the Commissioners and copy to the Mayor of Maumee urge the county to add some conditions to any sale or transfer.

Here is the full text of the note:

I am writing to you on behalf of the members of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) concerning the plan to give the city of Maumee the Lucas County Recreation Center property at 2901 Key Street.

We are concerned that the county is considering giving away this valuable piece of property so that the city of Maumee can sell it to the highest bidder for high end homes and condos.

We believe this is unfair to the citizens of Lucas county. Large sums of county tax dollars were spent and have been spent on the structures and other amenities on the property.

We do agree that if the county doesn’t have the funds to continue the upkeep then the Commissioners should consider disposing of the property, but we feel that Lucas county citizens should get something in return.

SHoWLE has some suggestions on any disposal of the property:

1. Any sale or transfer should include a requirement that there be some affordable housing in the development mix. The county needs affordable housing and the Commissioners should do what they can to create more affordable housing.

2. Any disposal should be done at the market rate. Why should the city of Maumee make a profit off the county giving the land away? If they build houses on the land the city will gain tax dollars.

3. It would be better for the citizens of Lucas county that the county sells the land directly to a developer(s) at market rates, so the people of the county get back some of the money invested in the property over the years.

4. The county could consider putting the new jail on the Rec Center property.

SHoWLE hopes the county will take our ideas and concerns into consideration especially about including affordable housing in any sale or transfer.

 

We Achieved GuideStar Bronze Level

Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) was recently recognized for our transparency with a 2018 Bronze Seal on our GuideStar Nonprofit Profile!

GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. More than 8 million visitors per year and a network of 200+ partners use GuideStar data to grow support for nonprofits.

In order to get the 2018 Bronze Seal, SHoWLE shared important information with the public using our profile on www.guidestar.org. Now our community members and potential donors can find out more about our mission and programs.

Check out our GuideStar Nonprofit Profile and tell us what you think:

Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie GuideStar Profile

Our Pride Booth Introduced The Group To Many New People

Our booth at Toledo Pride festival

SHoWLE had our first informational booth at the Toledo Pride Festival on August 18th. Doug, Shawn, Margarette, and Larry had over 50 people show interest in the group.

It was a beautiful day with a large crowd visiting all the booths in Promenade Park in Downtown Toledo.

“Having a booth takes a lot of time and effort to pull off,” SHoWLE President Doug Berger explained. “For our first time, we did a great job. I have a lot ideas on how to improve our booth for the future.”

If you be interested in helping staff our booth at other events let Doug or Shawn know.