Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Canton Repository Guest Editorial June 2019

Recurring themes in stories about Canton and Stark County concern the loss of population, flat incomes, and the advancing age of our residents. Stark County’s population is the same today as it was in 1970.  We are losing our young people. Common to many cities of the “rust belt”, the population is getting older and less prosperous. Young people leave for bigger cities and better jobs. What is mentioned less is that this process has been going on for forty years. I know this because I was one of those who left.

I grew up in Canton and graduated from GlenOak. I had a great childhood but couldn’t wait to leave. In 1975 I moved to Columbus for school and found a vibrant, exciting, growing city.  I had always felt somehow stifled in Canton.  I wanted more choices, more diversity, and more excitement.    
It isn’t rocket science to figure out why young folks leave the area, and why other young families don’t come here.  All you need do is ask them.  Social scientists, urban planners, and researchers have conducted innumerable studies and focus groups over the years, and they’ve learned that millennials and those younger, want to live in cities that have diversity, character, cultural and entertainment choices, and public transit.  They want walkability, downtown living, and cultural variety. Those under 40 are less interested in monochromatic neighborhoods, car ownership, and suburbia.  They want to feel connected; they want transportation options, green spaces, and public gathering places.
Most of all they want diversity. These new generations are the most diverse in American history, and the cities in America that are successful, like Seattle, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC, are bustling with Americans of Asian, Latin, and Middle eastern backgrounds.  Americans under 40 have largely rejected the old racial divisions of black vs. white, and now prefer to live and work with a kaleidoscope of people of different ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. 

Certainly jobs are critically important, but it isn’t only that people follow jobs. Businesses and employers also follow people and look at demographics.  The fast growing and high paying tech and information companies are choosing to locate in areas with strong education programs and younger, diverse populations.  They locate where their potential employees and customers live.  It is why smart cities invest in education, downtown development, and public transit. It’s why cities like Denver, Portland and Salt Lake City thrive.

There isn’t a single successful city in America that does not have a visible vibrant LGBT community. Look no further than Columbus to see how a town that recognized and embraced its gay community became the most successful and fastest growing city in Ohio.  Whole neighborhoods were rejuvenated and reborn, and its glittering downtown is full of life.  Festivals bring people to the city core all summer long. The annual Gay Pride Parade and festival, which began in 1982, now brings hundreds of thousands of people to its downtown each June, along with millions of dollars in economic activity. 

 I later lived in Detroit, an area that epitomized urban decay and the hollowing out of our cities.  Friends suggested I was “rowing back to the Titanic”.  In 1990 I settled in a small blue-collar city on the border of Detroit.  Ferndale was getting older, less prosperous, and losing population. The downtown was an empty beige canyon.  But we began to promote the city as a place that welcomed everyone, including artists, musicians, gay people, and others in the “creative class”.  We started music festivals and pride marches. We empowered our Downtown Development Authority to bring in new restaurants and nightclubs and placed greenery and baskets of flowers downtown. We changed ordinances to allow patio dining, and soon the city began to revive.  We made the city walkable with new streetlights and sidewalks. Above all we made sure that the welcome mat was out for everyone.  There was initial resistance to the growing LGBT community, but when neighborhoods blossomed and property values skyrocketed, that resistance melted away. Today there is a building boom going on, the downtown is full of color and life, and the largest demographic is people aged 25 to 34.  Even Detroit is coming back. It is rebuilding its downtown and building public transportation options even while embracing its past.  It has become cool and young urban pioneers of every stripe are moving to the city.

Canton is making strides in the right direction, with a budding arts district and a growing music scene.  Farsighted developers are trying to build apartments and living spaces downtown. We have amazing restaurants and taverns. Events like the annual Blues Festival, Saturday concerts and First Fridays are bringing people into the city.  Groups like ArtsinStark do amazing work but we must redouble our efforts.

 We cannot hang our hats solely on football and trying to bring back 1950’s era jobs. The dominant colors as one travels downtown are too often the dusty grays of concrete and tans faded brick. Regional leaders must temper sclerotic policies that push suburban sprawl.  The fate of the region is inextricably tied to the success of our cities.
Business, religious, and political leaders must begin to aggressively welcome young people, ethnic and racial minorities, and LGBT people to the community.  Such diversity is not just to be tolerated or even recognized, but should be promoted, embraced and celebrated. Such actions will help bring tech, information, and environmental companies that now fuel the new economy of the 21st century.
It’s ironic that as Stark County gets older and less populated, there are thousands of young families and children from Central America stuck in holding pens on our southern border seeking to legally immigrate to our country.  Immigrants built Canton in the last two centuries, and they can be the customers, workers and residents for the next one. 
I moved back to Canton last year because I have family here, and because it has great parks, a low cost of living, and the friendliest people in the Midwest.  Folks are working hard to make it better, and the potential is limitless if we think smart and work together.    

Craig Covey was a human rights activist in Columbus, Ohio and a health educator for the Michigan Department of Public Health.  He was a City Councilman and Mayor of Ferndale, Michigan, and an Oakland County Commissioner.          

Monday, January 07, 2019

Retire Coal to the Dustbin of History

It was confounding to read in the Canton Repository that the Ohio Coal Association has joined other lobbyists to oppose the American Electric Power plan to build large new solar power generating facilities in southern Ohio.  The proposed new project would bring high paying jobs to our state, reduce costs for electricity, and bring clean energy at a time when people are desperately seeking ways to stop massive carbon pollution worldwide.  That "Big Coal" would oppose solar power may not be surprising, it is nevertheless cynical and selfish.

Coal was an important energy source in the previous two centuries, but its use now is the most dangerous type of fuel used in power plants. Its black smoke releases millions of tons of carbon and other poisons into the air and its coal tar residue in lakes and streams kills fish and other life. Natural gas, solar, and wind power is cheaper and much cleaner.    

In measuring costs to create electricity, you have to include coal's contribution to rising costs for insurance, food, and infrastructure as a result of climate change.  If we want a decent future for our kids and grand-kids, we must support cleaner forms of energy and retire the use of coal to the dustbin of history. In Ohio and worldwide, time is running out to make smarter decisions and invest in 21st century technology to save the planet.

Craig Covey
Jackson Township

Monday, August 27, 2018

August 15, 2018

It’s hard to believe that nearly thirty years have passed since scientists first began warning people about global warming and climate change.  That news was controversial at the time and skeptics dismissed it as fake news from environmental “tree huggers”.  The danger, if real, seemed far off.

While President Trump and some conservatives are still in denial, climatologists and experts the world over universally understand that the issue is real, dangerous and it is affecting us now.   The polar ice sheets are shrinking, glaciers are melting, oceans are rising, and droughts and fires are spreading. Animals and insects are moving northward, and even farmers are changing their crops to deal with hotter or drier weather patterns.

In Northeast Ohio, we can expect hotter summers, more violent storms, and higher utility and insurance bills.  It’s probably not a good time to buy property on the Florida, Virginia, or Louisiana coasts.

We live in a free country, and folks still have the right to believe what they wish.  They can still buy big trucks and SUV’s, and crank up the air conditioning. They can still vote to “bring back coal”.  But we also will have to explain to our children and grandchildren why we let this happen. 

It might not be too late, and many people are trying to create a sustainable planet by switching to cleaner energy, reducing waste, and planting trees.  But unless we pay attention to the science and get smarter in our planning, then this beautiful Earth, already groaning under the weight of nearly eight billion people, will soon become a much less pleasant place to call home.

Craig Covey
Perry Township

Monday, October 24, 2016

The LGBT and Allies Vote in Oakland County

A longtime community member asked me a few weeks ago why I was running for sheriff in Oakland County.  There are several reasons, the most important of which is that voters ought to be able to have a choice in such an important office.  Conservative establishment Republicans have had a near stranglehold on this county for the past forty years, and while LGBT supportive Democrats have begun to win offices and were able to field strong candidates this year, they did not have anyone willing to stand up to Michael Bouchard. 
It was Sheriff Bouchard who ordered his Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) to raid Oakland County’s first Gay nightclub which opened back in the 1990’s, known as Cobalt.  Located in Ferndale, the club was very popular.  This was before Ferndale was able to cement its role as a stronghold for diversity and the LGBT community, and the Republican leadership of Brooks Patterson and Michael Bouchard did not like a big popular gay nightclub operating in their county.  I was in the club that night, and thirty officers and deputies in plainclothes and swat gear gear poured into Cobalt and forced everyone up against the wall with their hands up.  While nothing of note was found, the police later claimed the club was a hotbed of drugs and strippers.   They forced Cobalt to close permanently, and the club sits empty to this day on Woodward Avenue.  It was a huge embarrassment for the LGBT community and for Ferndale.
It was also Sheriff Bouchard who led his NET team to raid the first legal medical marijuana compassion clinic to open in Oakland County in 2009.  Ferndale residents had voted four times to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize all marijuana.  After the entire state voted to do the same eight years ago, the City of Ferndale spent a year researching the legal issues, developing zoning policies for clinics, going through the planning process, and developing  ordinances to open a  dispensary called Clinical Relief.  Within a few weeks of cutting the ribbon, the Sheriff came in with his swat team, snarling dogs and automatic weapons, throwing the business’ employees to the ground and handcuffing them all.  They shuttered Clinical Relief and the court cases are still languishing to this day.  This sheriff has spent huge resources fighting against patients with cancer, AIDS, and other disorders from accessing helpful medicine that he still regards as a schedule one narcotic.
When Bouchard spoke at a candlelight vigil for Orlando held in downtown Ferndale this year, he exhorted the largely gay crowd to “go out tomorrow and give blood,” being completely unaware that Gay men have been largely prohibited from donating blood for thirty years.      
LGBT voters and their allies should also vote in Oakland County to re-elect Clerk Lisa Brown.  Remember that her Republican predecessor Bill Bullard, along with Brooks Patterson and the Republican led County Commission, had led the fight against same sex marriage.  Brooks famously said during that struggle that if Gay people could get married, then he should be allowed to marry his dog.  But it was Lisa Brown who opened the Clerk’s office in Pontiac on a Saturday during that window period a few years back that allowed dozens of couples to marry before the Supreme Court finally ruled for marriage equality.

Another Republican power broker is running for Oakland County Treasurer against our longtime ally Andy Meisner.  Meisner has supported LGBT issues for two decades.
Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash is also being challenged by a Republican opponent who is a religious conservative with no interest in our lives.  Beyond Jim’s lifelong fight for the environment and his efforts to protect the regions lakes, rivers and streams, he has also attended Gay Pride Festivals every year.

Finally, LGBT voters should remember that it was the Republican establishment, under the leadership of Brooks and Bouchard, that redistricted and gerrymandered the Oakland County Commission in 2012 that led to the elimination of four Democratic seats. For a decade, the Commission had among its 25 members an openly Gay representative, first Dave Coulter, now Ferndale mayor, and then later by me.  Gay residents of Royal Oak, Hazel Park, Oak Park and all across the county lost their only representative member because of that underhanded move.
LGBT voters and their friends and allies ought to remember these actions taken over the past two decades and vote accordingly.  I hope they will remember their allies and vote for people like Vicki Barnett for County Executive, Andy Meisner for County Treasurer, Lisa Brown for Clerk, Jim Nash for Water Resources Commissioner, and Craig Covey for sheriff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Craig Covey D-Ferndale Files for Oakland County Sheriff Primary

For Immediate Release Tuesday April 19, 2016    More info:  Craig Covey 248.721.6434 cscovey@aol.com

Craig Covey to Run for Oakland County Sheriff

Popular Former Mayor and Commissioner will run as Democrat

“We Need a New Sheriff in Town!”

(Pontiac) Former Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey, D-Ferndale, is announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Oakland County Sheriff.  He filed today at the Clerk’s office in Pontiac.  Covey was a Ferndale City Councilman for eight years, was elected mayor of Ferndale twice, and was elected to the Oakland County Commission in 2010 serving Hazel Park, Ferndale and parts of Royal Oak.  He lost that seat in 2012 after county and state Republicans redistricted the county, reduced the number of seats and gerrymandered districts in order to force out three Democrats.

He currently works for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner as his Community Liaison. He worked for two decades with the Michigan Department of Community Health as an educator, and is currently the Board Chair of Ferndale Youth Assistance.

Said Covey today: “Oakland County needs a new sheriff.  We need someone who understands the changing realities on the ground in Oakland County, and the current desires and needs of the people who live, work and play here.  Republicans have held a stranglehold on this county for decades, and it is time for our evolving and diverse communities to disentangle themselves from the party of Snyder, Trump, Patterson and Cruz.  I may be David to his Goliath, but I’m going to give the people of Oakland County a choice in the race for sheriff.”

“We have an epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction along with rising deaths from heroin overdoses in our region.  Yet our county law enforcement community is locked in last century’s drug strategy.  Sheriff Bouchard continues to operate under a Nixonian “war on drugs” mentality developed in the 1970’s.  Instead of a strong focus on education and treatment around abuse of prescription drugs, our criminal justice system continues to prosecute and jail thousands for simple possession of marijuana costing taxpayers millions. The number one drug problem in Oakland County is the abuse of prescription pain killers which cause addiction and can lead to overdose and death.   There needs to be a call to arms for a major education campaign and a vast increase of programs for treatment and recovery,” said Covey.

“Our Sheriff could show leadership in the state by changing the focus of his huge resources to support a more robust fight against serious criminal activities that impact negatively the lives of residents such as auto theft and home invasions.  Instead he wastes resources on persecuting medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and similar generally law abiding residents,” Covey added. 

“Sheriff Bouchard spends vast sums fighting the losing war on marijuana prohibition.  He sends agents to hunt down and jail medical patients and their caregivers who use a plant that Michigan has deemed legal for such persons. In spite of numerous landslide elections where Oakland County residents overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize marijuana, our sheriff continues to use heavily armed narcotics agents, court officials, undercover agents, swat teams, dogs and helicopters to arrest grandmothers and caregivers who try to follow the law and are rewarded with arrest, anguish and prison”, said Covey.

Covey, 59, lives in Ferndale Michigan and has resided there for thirty years.  He was the first openly gay person elected by Michigan voters to a position of Mayor in 2007.  He has championed equal rights, diversity, and inclusion his entire career.  The past four years he has helped lead environmental efforts with the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner helping protect our streams, rivers, and lakes. 

An expert in community organizing, he has created and hosted events and fundraisers in the county that have raised more than $2 million for a host of local charities during the past two decades.

His positions on dozens of issues available at www.coveys-corner.blogspot.com


Monday, April 18, 2016

We Need a New Sheriff in Town !

Reefer Madness
(Originally written and posted in November, 2010.  Six years later, Sheriff Bouchard is still fighting the nixonian war on marijuana, despite the wishes of the residents of Oakland County.  We need a new sheriff in town, still !)

After raids and mass arrests last month by Oakland County against medical marijuana facilities and homes, Sheriff Bouchard at his press conference reportedly quipped, “This is not a Cheech and Chong movie.” He was so right in that his actions were not representative of a light-hearted and fun comedy, although the raids were reminiscent of past decades. A better comparison might be the 1936 propaganda film “Reefer Madness”, with hysterical officials warning about the deadly menace of marijuana. As the dozens of court cases from these raids now wind through our county’s court systems, it is time for more rational, calm, and enlightened discussion about the issues related to marijuana in 2010.

Voters in Michigan overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize the use of marijuana for persons dealing with medical issues and who obtained recommendations from physicians. The same has happened in fourteen states across the nation. But opponents of the measure are unhappy with this turn of events, and now claim that the voters were somehow duped, which seems an arrogant stance. In a democracy, the voters get to be “the deciders.” It is not elected officials’ prerogative to decide what voters “meant” to do, but rather it’s their duty to follow their instructions. Elected officials can be disappointed with election results, but woe be to those who thwart the will of the people. It is from the voters that we get the authority that we have.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, more than 55,000 Michigan residents have applied for doctor-recommended medical marijuana permits. Each one has seen a physician, and sent into the state a check for $100 to process their request. And while the state cashes that check right away, there is a reported seven month wait to actually get the permit back from MDCH. Meanwhile the state has received more than five and one half million dollars under this program.

Ferndale residents voted three separate times to legalize medical marijuana. Our city council then determined areas that could be zoned for facilities where physicians and others could counsel, prescribe, and or dispense the product. For two months the sole facility in Ferndale functioned well, with no problems, no complaints, and according to our own police officials and records, there was no rise in criminal activity in the area.

Two days after the City of Ferndale voted in new zoning areas for medical marijuana, dozens of sheriff’s deputies and narcotics enforcement team officers swooped down on homes and businesses across the county, including our own little storefront in Ferndale. The raids featured masked officers in full swat team uniforms, snarling dogs, and drawn weapons. Elderly patients, nurses, and business owners alike were thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested. I suspect helicopters were buzzing overhead in case someone with severe arthritis or muscular dystrophy tried to make a run for it.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the raids was the confiscation of patient’s private medical records. Evidently ignoring the national rules on HIPPA which protects patient’s privacy, our own Sheriff in Oakland County has stated that he didn’t think marijuana was a proper medication for someone with back or shoulder pain. With all due respect, I would suggest that he leave the medical diagnoses and medication prescriptions to the doctors.

Certainly the state law now governing medical pot was not written well. It is unclear and causing consternation among local and county governments. But had state leaders done their job, we would not have had the citizen-led effort to force their hands. Now some law enforcement officials are using their assets to send their own political message that they don’t approve of the new law, and they are dealing with marijuana in the only ways they know how, which is to treat it as a dangerous narcotic no different than meth or heroin.

We have serious drug problems in our region, not the least of which are the growing number of addictions to legal pain-killers such as vicodin and oxycotin. But it is doubtful that fighting this epidemic will lead to sheriff’s raids on the local CVS.

In a time of dwindling government resources, law enforcement should focus on the serious criminal activities that put residents and visitors in true danger. They should focus on crimes such as burglary, auto theft, robberies, and other violent crimes as well as fighting serious drug problems associated with heroin, meth, cocaine, and other addictive narcotics. They can then send all the political messages they like, using the same tools that we all use such as lobbying, petitions, letter-writing and protests. But spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of precious tax-payer’s resources raiding legally organized medical marijuana facilities does not seem wise or prudent. Such over-the-top raids are reefer madness.

Craig Covey

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

How to Green your own Lawn and Garden and Save Money at the Same Time.

  1)       Plant Spruce trees, Pines, and other evergreens ten to fifteen feet north and northwest of your home to slow cold winds and preserve warmth in the winter.

2)      Plant larger deciduous trees to the south and southwest of your home in order to provide shade and cooler temperatures in the summer months.

3)      Planting fruit and nut trees can provide apples, cherries, pears, and other food for you and your family as well as for wildlife.  Many trees provide flowers and seeds that benefit bees and birds as well.

4)      Having less standard type lawn coverage can mean less mowing, less watering, less fertilizer and less weeding.  Ivies and other ground cover are more attractive and need far less maintenance.  

5)      Plant native species, which grow naturally in Michigan.  They will require less care, less water, and less fertilizer that exotic or foreign plants. 

6)      Be sure your downspouts and driveways drain into your yard and garden.  This rain is free water and not only nourishes your plantings, but lowers cost for your sewers and drainage.

7)      Resist using weed killers and lawn fertilizers.  Longer grass can help keep weeds in check and you can leave some weeds as naturally occurring or dig them by hand.  Leaving grass clippings and some leaves on the lawn will also nourish the grass.  Fertilizer can end up polluting our rivers and lakes, causing algae blooms and damaged water habitat.     

8)      Resist using pesticides, which can poison animals, pets, and beneficial insects.  Try using natural methods to control undesirable insects.  Not allowing open standing water or swampy areas can reduce mosquitoes.  Covering trash cans and picking up pet droppings will reduce flies and some bees.

9)        Keep leaves, grass clippings, and other organic waste on your property, using them as mulch or in a compost pile.  You can also add eggshells, coffee grounds, peelings,  and other  organic kitchen  waste in your garden or compost.  Do not include meat, fat, or animal waste in your composting.

10)  Do not automate watering or over water.  Let nature water your yard with rain and snow.  Let the natural drying out in August and  September occur and only water your garden sparingly in the mid-morning or early evening.

Plant some blackberry and raspberry bushes along with sides or back of your yard.  Then enjoy picking your own breakfast during berry season.

 Easy to grow annual and perennial plants in Michigan to provide food and fun around the seasons:

 Kale                             Asparagus

Cherries                      Apples

Pears                           Blackberries

Raspberries                 Mulberries

Spearmint                   Catnip

Hazelnuts                    Chives

Onions                         herbs

Tomatoes                    Potatoes