Community leaders react toBerger address

The Lima News

During his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Lima Mayor David Berger asked the community to join the city in eliminating systemic racism in light of the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Berger proposed a number of countywide policies to address the issue. They include working with other county organizations and nonprofits to increase board diversity, creating a metropolitan Human Relations Commission to facilitate cross community communications, the institution of body cameras for police forces throughout the county and encouraging changes in hiring practices by both public and private organizations to encourage a more diverse workforce.

Reaction from community leaders follows:

Economic group

supports efforts

From Doug Olsson, President/CEO Greater Lima Region Inc.

“Greater Lima Region supports Mayor Berger and the City of Lima’s efforts. We condemn racism in any form. GLR was looking forward to our partnership with the Walter Potts Entrepreneur Center in support of minority-owned businesses through the Pitchfest program, which was unfortunately postponed due to COVID-19. We’ll continue to work on programs in support of the minority community and welcome dialogue that improves lives in our region.”

Berger’s remarks

are frustrating

From — Matt Treglia, Allen County sheriff

“I read Mayor Dave Berger’s media release today, and I feel obligated to respond even though I have discussed this issue with the media and others many times in the past. I am not interested in engaging Dave Berger in a public debate; however, I am frustrated by the fact that he has never personally engaged myself or any of my staff regarding body cameras even though he supposedly believes that they are vitally important.

Instead, he chose to make his opinion of my office’s operations known in an open letter to the media. Over the past two years my office has spent over a quarter of a million dollars upgrading dilapidated in-car and in-house video as well as audio equipment that we were stuck with from previous administrations. Above and beyond the exorbitant costs of operating a body camera system is the fact that legislators still have not closed all the loopholes in the body camera public records law that jeopardizes citizen’s most basic right to privacy. For example, if an officer confronts a burglar in your home and any level of force is used, the video and your personal residence is no longer exempt from public release. This is just one basic example of the flaws contained within this law.

As most organizations, public service agencies and the media are aware, my office is always open to discussion and we remain committed to the highest levels of transparency that the public has ever seen from this office. Annually, my office receives very few complaints regarding excessive use of force by patrol deputies and in the rare occurrence that these complaints are received, we vigorously investigate those complaints.

I will not allow Dave Berger to bully this office into making a decision that we have determined to ultimately be a poor decision for all citizens of Allen County, as he attempts to exploit the horrendous death of George Floyd for his own agenda.

I would strongly recommend that Dave Berger place his attention primarily on the disgusting and disturbing violent crime plaguing this city, including the devastating homicide rate that is looking dangerously close to breaking an annual record. Families are being ripped apart by the violent crime in this community, and it has nothing to do with body cameras and everything to do with leadership.”

It is going to

take daily effort

From the board of directors, Lima African American Chamber of Commerce

“We have been here before. The environment surrounding the murder of George Floyd — and thousands of others over the years. Tarika Wilson. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Alton Sterling. Michael Brown. Philando Castile.

This is not a new environment for America.

Over and over we have blamed the victims and made excuses. Trayvon had no business being in the wrong neighborhood late at night. Walter shouldn’t have ran. John should have put down the BB gun. Twelve-year-old Tamir had no business playing with a toy gun in a park. And now, Breonna can’t sit at home. Ahmad can’t run. Both Eric and George can’t breathe.

Dating back to the 1960s, America failed to respond to protesters’ demands for socioeconomic inclusion, and watched policy makers make misguided decisions that have left communities of color impoverished and failed to keep them safe.

The police have been called on black people for swimming in a pool in an apartment complex where they live, for grilling in a park in their neighborhood, for delivering furniture as part of their job, and on their children for selling lemonade — all in the past five years.

White people have continued to operate as if the police are their guardians against blacks and law enforcement has complied by deploying militarized police forces into black neighborhoods and justifying this decision by describing where black people live as “hot spots” for crime, as opposed to pockets of poverty created by a deliberate policy decision to disinvest.

Black people are rightfully tired. Black people are rightfully angry.

“I Can’t Breathe” is a cry against the systems that have been working to choke the life out of us since we arrived in American in 1619. We cannot let history continue to repeat itself. Economic conditions in the U.S. have become increasingly polarized: despite steady job growth, economic insecurity has risen dramatically over the last several decades and a third of the nation now lives below 200 percent of the poverty line.

We have to use this moment to eradicate the systemic racism that is marked by mass unemployment and underemployment, failing public schools, dilapidated housing and the deterioration of basic public goods like clean water and healthy food choices.

Throughout the nation, poverty is disproportionately high for African-Americans compared to other racial groups, and Lima is no exception. Poverty can extend its negative effects into multiple generations within a family or household. We must close the poverty gap.

In fact, 46% of Lima’s Black residents live at or below the poverty level. That is unacceptable. While all agree that communities need reinvestment and jobs to thrive, the question is how to achieve that goal. Healing the racial divide that has so polarized parts of our city and our nation will take commitment, perseverance and a whole lot of compassion.

Lima and Allen County are places of compassion. Going forward we must develop a willingness to ensure that every person, in every neighborhood has the opportunity to reach their full human potential. Achieving that goal requires a commitment to racial equity. It requires everyone’s effort to promote fairness in in our government, through policies, programs, initiatives and budget decisions and across our community. And it requires facing the hard conversations of our past so we can move into a greater future.

We urge local leaders to recognize the economic inequities that split our community by race. This sustained inequity holds our entire city back from greater economic and civic success. It is a sticking point and one that must not wait for another generation to resolve.

We believe that economic development and growth is best achieved when government, the church, labor and private industry partner together. Together, we can develop sustainable, actionable policies to reduce structural racism, with the goal of creating a city where all of us have the chance to live a long, healthy life regardless of race or the neighborhood where we live.

We will never heal what separates us until we view ourselves as one community, both culturally and economically. Not north or south, but one vibrant, safe, healthy, flourishing, Lima. A person’s race or ZIP code should not determine their quality of life. As a community, we must work together to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full human potential.

It is going to take daily effort to understand and support each other and to create economic prosperity in parts of our city that haven’t seen it in decades. The first step is to get over the discomfort of addressing tough truths and entrenched stereotypes by listening and learning from each other.

We need public, private and non-profit partnerships to assess our challenges as a city and collaborate on solutions. Private, exclusive groups like the Greater Lima Region Inc. are not the best course forward for our city. Healing and equity will require the work of all of us — business and government, nonprofit and faith organizations, all coming together to advance an equity agenda so that more Limans have the opportunity to live healthy lives. Our efforts are not just about increasing diversity numbers, but advancing economic inclusion strategies, including small business supports, equitable procurement and contracting, collecting data, and building new partnerships.

We must put into action new strategies and policies to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of achieving the highest quality of life – that everyone has, as the mayor says, the opportunity to reach their full human potential. Lima is well-positioned to be a national leader in this important work as we transform our city and advance equity, but we need broad, inclusive participation — young and old, left and right, private and public.

Together, we can develop the best plan forward for our entire community. Today we need the courage to act. Now! The challenge must be met immediately. Or else we risk becoming even more fractured, with the fires in our streets continuing to burn.”

Body cameras

worn at UNOH

From Dr. Jeffrey A. Jarvis, UNOH President

“The University of Northwestern Ohio’s Safety Service Officers have been using body cameras for a little over three years. When officers are dispatched to a call on campus, cameras are required to be turned on and recording at all times. Videos are kept on file with any report that may results from the call.”

OSU-Lima strives

to be inclusive

From Tim Rehner, dean and director of The Ohio State University at Lima

“As I reflect on the horrific violence recently perpetrated against George Floyd and other African Americans, I am grieved and outraged over this tragic loss of life, his and too many others.

The Ohio State University at Lima is committed to creating an inclusive and just future for all our children and grandchildren. We can make a difference by learning and working together in sincerity to create a better community that is ever more inclusive and open to all. We can and must model this on campus and carry it into our homes and communities. We must assert our commitment to the university’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance. We must be champions for all!

I believe that we can change our culture by doing inclusion, doing kindness, and doing respect. We will be initiating opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to be engaged in the process of creating an ever more inclusive Ohio State Lima community.”

Mayor ignores

local NAACP

Statement from Lima’s NAACP chapter:

“The local chapter of the NAACP has reached out to a mayor who refuses work on race relations with our organization. Therefore, his plea to address racism at this time or in the future is meaningless until the mayor acknowledges a working relationship with the organization whose membership is unquestionable.

NAACP was the first organization to address body cameras in this community which is on record in media coverage, but at that time the mayor refused to embrace obtaining body cameras. The mayor has repeatedly refused to hold his officers or the chief accountable when there has been overwhelming evidence that supported excessive force against blacks in the community. All organizations should be included in his efforts and not ones that he selects or feel that he can control.

The Black Ministerial Alliance is an organization that only represents Baptist churches, therefore blacks in other denominations are not represented. So, it is imperative that all black churches are included in the process. So, if the mayor doesn’t embrace all organizations and black people who are actively participating in working to improve racial issues in the community, then he is not willing to address those racial issues at this time, which would indicate that his plea is only lip service.

Finally, the mayor refused to work with community leaders who were committed to a just outcome in the Tarika Wilson murder and the shooting of her child. Unlike other communities, where officers have been so reckless in the use of excessive force because he protected local law enforcement. Therefore, no one was held accountable with the death of this mother and the shooting of her child. So, as long as he wants to pick and choose organizations or people he can control, this is more of the same.”

The Lima News

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