Opponents of “Vote No on Issue 2” stoop to new low

Gov. Kasich and his political arm, Building a Better Ohio, whose goal is to squash public employees, teachers, firefighters, and nurses’ rights have stooped to an all-time low. Their deceitful actions should be enough to convince all voters that their intentions are not honorable.

Recently the Vote No on Issue 2 organization ran an emotional ad featuring a great-grandmother praising the actions of her local fire department for saving the life of her grandson and great-granddaughter, Zoey. In the ad she expresses gratitude for their quick response and urges Ohio voters to vote against Issue 2 so firefighters could continue to negotiate for proper staffing levels.

To her surprise she found her image and words were then used by the opposing team. Building a Better Ohio used her words and phrases and spliced them together with a female narrator saying that failing to pass Issue 2 will force firefighter layoffs, which threatens safety because communities have to pay for excessive benefits of public workers. The ad ends with Grandma Marlene Quinn’s statement about life or death.

“That’s the kind of stuff you just don’t do,” Jack Reall, president of the Columbus firefighters union, said of the ad. “This is a group that wants us to believe our politicians are going to do the right thing when it comes to safety, staffing, training. Then you turn around and make a decision like this.”

Running this blog I try to stay current of political events and therefore I have my name on various PAC lists to receive email updates. The first I heard of this development was a couple of days ago when I received an email from Quinn with the heading, “They’re lying”. She goes on to say, “I’ve lived a long time and seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen a group of people sink so low. I think it’s dishonest and downright deceitful that they would use footage of me to try to play tricks and fool voters.”

Quinn adds, “’I’m outraged they are using my face and my words to push their harmful agenda. They certainly did not ask my permission. I feel violated.                                                                          

“These dishonest people support Senate Bill 5 and Issue 2. They want to take away collective bargaining rights from firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses and other public employees. And they know that Issue 2 will make it illegal for firefighters to collectively bargain for safe staffing levels and harder for them to negotiate for safety equipment—which will lead to slower response times for the very crews that came out to save my Zoey.

“And in case it’s not already clear, I want to stop Senate Bill 5. Everyone should vote No on Issue 2. Marlene Quinn, Cincinnati Resident and Great-Grandmother.”

Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, said in defense of changing the Grandma Quinn’s ad, “Opponents of Issue 2 chose to use a personal story to make a political argument, but the same story makes an even more-powerful case for supporting the reasonable reforms we’re asking of our government employees,” he said. “Without Issue 2, our communities will continue to lay off police officers and firefighters because they can’t afford to pay them.”

Shockingly, when Kasich was asked about the ad he said it is fine. After a speech to the Independent Insurance Agents of Ohio Kasich told reporters, “Controlling your costs allows you to get it right, so I think we’ve been pretty factual about it,” Kasich continued. “The problem with the campaign – they’ve been emotional and we’ve been factual. And in campaigns, emotion usually wins. That’s kind of where we are.”

What makes this incident so outrageous is that Building a Better Ohio takes a very personal and emotional story from a private citizen and twists and exploits it to reflect their personal interests. If they had done this with a candidate it would not be quite as objective because the candidate is a public figure. Once a person runs for public office it is understood that he or she loses a certain amount of privacy. A lot of what they say or do is fair game for the opposition. This practice is sometimes unpleasant but expected as part of dirty politics. But, to do this to an ordinary citizen is despicable.

It is a very emotional story.  Zoey and her family could have died in the fire if it weren’t for the quick response and professionalism of the firefighters. Kasich’s Building A Better Ohio group recognized the human pathos in the story and, knowing they could never find a similar story to support their desire to cut benefits for public servants, they decided to use the story for themselves and create confusion among the voters.

Petitions circulated among angry voters backing the Vote No on Issue 2 and pressure was put on broadcast stations to remove the ad. Currently thirty stations have removed the ad but stations in Cincinnati and Cleveland, two of Ohio’s largest markets, are still running it. All network stations in Columbus saw the light and have removed the ad.

Joe Rettof, Finance Director of We Are Ohio, said of the ad, “I’ve worked in politics for a long time, but I’ve never seen anything as deceitful and disgusting as what Building a Better Ohio did to Marlene yesterday. They stole video of her clearly speaking out against Issue 2, chopped it up, and then spat it back out in a pro-Issue 2 advertisement. Marlene’s family and her great-granddaughter Zoey were the victims of a horrible fire on Cincinnati’s North Side last year, and this experience informed her stance on Issue 2. She was thanking the firefighters who risked their lives to save her family, and our opponents changed her fundamental stance on Issue 2 and then blatantly lied about it. Even worse, they’re standing behind the manipulated advertisement and spending millions of dollars to keep it on the air.”

To be clear, Issue 2 is the same thing as Senate Bill 5 that Kasich and the Republicans pushed through the state house at the beginning of the year. I wrote about it in Teachers Get No Respect, March 26; I Stirred Up A Hornet’s Nest, March 31; and Breaking News: Governor, Legislators Agree to Teach in Public Schools, April 1. Senate Bill 5 was passed into law but a recall was quickly put on the November ballot and what was Senate Bill 5 became Issue 2.

The bill provided measures that severely hamper nurses, firefighters, police, teachers, and public servants under the guise that they receive excessive benefits, according to Kasich, that puts a strain on budgets. I am a former teacher and my husband retired from the state’s Attorney General’s Office and I can assure you we never received excessive benefits. No one goes into the field of public service to get rich. Most of the people you find in these fields are doing their jobs because they felt a calling to serve.

Proponents for Issue 2 say it is reasonable to ask public workers to pay 10% to 15% of their healthcare and pension premiums; however, all public employees are already required by law to pay 10% of their pension and all state and county workers already pay 15% or more for their health care. Ohio’s teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public employees have already made great sacrifices that saved the taxpayers $350 million dollars to help fix the budget crisis. In addition, proponents say public employees need to make a sacrifice to reduce the state’s projected $8 billion shortfall. The truth is that Ohio is 44th out of 50 states in per capita spending on government workers. State employees have taken a pay freeze five times in nine years and have voluntarily taken additional sacrifices that saved $250 million in the budget and an additional $100 million in health care costs.

One of the most ridiculous claims of the proponents is that public employees are overpaid and they need to be brought in line with the private sector. In fact, according to a recent Rutgers University study, Ohio’s public employees earn 6% less yearly than their peers in the private sector and they earn 3.5% less on an hourly basis. The average public school employee makes only $24,000 a year and retires with an average pension of $900 a month and they do not pay into or receive Social Security.

Finally, another absurd statement is that public employees have too much power and the public agrees and they are merely making reasonable reforms to bring public employee salaries and benefits in line with their private sector counterparts. However, according to a recent Gallup poll, 61% of the public oppose taking away some collective bargaining rights of most public employee unions. In addition, a recent Quinnipiac poll found that only 34% of the people in Ohio support this proposal.

What State Issue 2 actually does is it takes away the rights and voices of those who faithfully serve our communities and state. It unfairly shifts the balance and all the power to management and virtually leaves the workers without a voice. Let us call this bill what it really is—an attempt to break the backs of the unions and it is supported by big business and corporations here and elsewhere in this country. Recent laws have made it possible for large donations to be made to political action committees anonymously. We know Ohio is a political swing state and wields a lot of influence in the political arena. Many influential people are watching what Ohio does with this political football.

Now is the time for your voice to be heard. Let the 99% speak up so the 1% can hear us loud and clear—we will not allow them to stifle us. We will not roll over and play dead while they take advantage of us. We will not fall for their propaganda and allow big business to take our rights away from us.

Speak up Ohio for your rights and vote no on issue 2.





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