Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses. I’m a lousy guitar player, and my wife says I dress like a 12-year-old from the 1990s. But I’m the only candidate with a proven 25-year track record of leading social justice campaigns and winning positive change.
Since first running for office two years ago, I have
- changed the conversation on city issues
- pushed our political establishment in a more progressive direction
- helped create the main local organizations promoting tenants’ rights and opposing racist policing
- successfully pushed Council to pass its most pro-tenant legislation in decades — first in 2019, and then again this year
- begun exposing and removing racist cops
- called out city officials for breaking all the promises of their own racial equity resolution
- helped bring about our most diverse and representative Council yet
Before ever running for office, I spent more than 20 years as a successful grassroots organizer for a wide range of social justice campaigns that encompassed feminism, LGBT rights, anti-racism, students rights, freedom of expression, environmentalism, anti-war activism, and economic justice . About 250 news articles have covered my work so far, and thankfully only one has mentioned my bad fashion sense. So I’m not the candidate who’s going to throw a bunch of empty buzzwords at you — I’m the candidate with a record you can verify.
My record makes clear my values and my commitment to putting those values into practice. If you’d like to take a closer look at my record, please read on.
2021 – I successfully pushed Athens to outlaw housing discrimination against tenants receiving public assistance.
In June Athens City Council outlawed source of income discrimination (SOID), putting a stop to the formerly widespread practice of local landlords refusing to rent to tenants receiving HUD housing choice vouchers. This was a big win for vulnerable low-income tenants — particular women (who comprise 80% of Ohio voucher recipients), disabled people (who comprise 82% of Athens Countians in households using vouchers), and people of color (who head more that two-thirds of voucher recipient households, nationally). Even before the pandemic, Athens County had Ohio’s highest percentage of “cost overburdened” tenants, with 55% of renter households spending more than 35% of their gross incomes on rent. Now, the pandemic is forcing countless more people to rely on public assistance to avoid homelessness.
Despite the historic urgency of the situation, my opponent Sarah Grace broke her October 2019 campaign promise to ban SOID “very quickly.” Grace completely dropped the issue after winning the 2019 election and never introduced a SOID ban to Council, despite Grace serving as Chair of Council’s Affordable Housing Commission. Indeed, while Grace had declared on the 2019 campaign trail, “Yes, absolutely, I support a ban on source of income discrimination,” she came out against a SOID ban this March before finally being pressured into voting for it in June. Thus despite Grace’s 2019 promise to ban SOID “very quickly,” it took 17 more months of community activism –which I helped lead– before another Council member, Arian Smedley, finally proposed Council outlaw SOID. And then it took two more months before Council finally passed the ban.
Grace’s broken promise, which led to a nearly two-year delay in implementing this policy, caused many local tenants to suffer unnecessary hardship. Among them were dozens of former Prokos tenants who lost their homes in the middle of last winter’s holiday season and the peak of a deadly global pandemic, after they could no longer use their vouchers at Prokos properties.
I know this well, because I work with United Athens County Tenants, which helped re-house former Prokos tenants. And while Grace was busy using her leadership of the Affordable Housing Commission to help a private developer build new quarter million dollar homes (see below), I spent two years at the forefront of the effort to outlaw SOID and increase local affordable housing.
As the Athens News reported shortly before Council finally banned SOID,
The issue has been brought to the forefront in Athens by activists like Damon Krane, an Independent running at-large for City Council who’s affiliated with advocacy group United Athens County Tenants, who say the city is long overdue in enacting these protections for renters.
The Athens Messenger agreed,
City activists like Damon Krane have long lobbied the city to include source of income [among tenant attributes protected from discrimination].
My work to outlaw discrimination against tenants receiving public rent assistance all began when Ellie Hamrick’s 2019 City Council campaign alerted me to the issue. I joined Hamrick and her fellow 2019 Council candidate Chris Monday in pushing for a SOID ban during my 2019 Mayoral campaign. I then continued campaigning for the ban throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, both as a member of UACT (which I helped found) and on my own.
In the October 19, 2020 edition of the Athens Messenger, I called out Council members Grace and Beth Clodfelter for endorsing a SOID ban during their 2019 campaigns (Grace at the 1:47:17 mark of this video; Clodfelter at the 1:51:52 mark) but then dropping the issue as soon as they were elected. As the Messenger reported,
Damon Krane, also a member of United Athens County Tenants, ran for Athens City Mayor in 2019, using a platform of increasing the city’s housing code, to update the city’s housing infrastructure, and increasing the Code Office’s budget to help the office crack down on infractions. He says the issues have not changed, despite endorsements of better housing options for low-income residents of the area from two members of city council: Sarah Grace and Beth Clodfelter.
They specifically expressed support of a ban on income discrimination which would prevent landlords from choosing not to offer housing off that criteria.
“Since elected Grace and Clodfelter haven’t followed through with any proposed ordinance, and a few months back they both chose not to respond when tagged in questions about the issue on the SEO Mutual Aid Facebook page,” Krane told The Messenger on Thursday.
On January 8, when Solveig Spjeldnes publicly announced she would run to replace West Side Council Member Arian Smedley on the West Side Facebook page, I called on her to endorse a SOID ban. Within the comment thread of her campaign announcement, I discussed the issue with her and explained why her initial understanding that such a ban was not possible was mistaken.
As The Post later reported,
Krane refuted the argument that the city is unable to enforce a ban on source-of-income discrimination. The city would simply have to add source of income onto the pre-existing list of protected classes within Athens’ anti-discrimination ordinance, he said.
Similarly, when this May’s Democratic primary candidates for the 4th Ward Council seat, Alan Swank and Chris Fahl, squared off in a March 23 candidate forum, I submitted the question that asked where each of them stood on a SOID ban. My question is asked of the candidates at the 49:06 mark of the forum video.
As a result of my work to advance the issue, both Spjeldnes and Swank ended up coming out in favor of a SOID ban while Clodfelter remained silent. Sarah Grace, at a March 11 panel discussion on affordable housing hosted by UACT, then came out in opposition to the SOID ban she had previously endorsed while on the 2019 campaign trail. And finally, Swank’s opponent in the Democratic primary, 12-year incumbent council member Chris Fahl, spread the false rumor (which I had already publicly refuted) that Athens lacked the legal authority to pass a SOID ban. Elsewhere, Fahl gave different justifications for her opposition to a ban. According to The Post, Fahl “said providing more affordable housing is not as easy as telling landlords not to discriminate or that they must take vouchers. She described these issues as multi-faceted and difficult to address. There are already laws against discrimination, she said.”
On April 12, West Side Council member Arian Smedley finally proposed Council ban SOID, and City Law Director Lisa Eliason confirmed my assessment of how the SOID ban would be legally incorporated into Athens City Code. The Law Director’s assessment reiterated what I had explained to Spjeldnes on the West Side Facebook page 3 months earlier and refuted Fahl’s suggestion that a SOID ban was not legally possible.
After Fahl lost the May 4 primary to Swank by 30 points and Clodfelter resigned from Council on May 11, I made it clear I’d continue pushing for a SOID ban while making Grace’s hypocrisy on the issue a liability for her re-election campaign.
Council then brought the issue to a vote on June 7, at which point I personally presented to Council a letter urging passage of the SOID ban that was drafted by UACT and signed by the following organizations: My Sister’s Place, Southeast Ohio Habitat for Humanity, Ohio Poverty Law Center, Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, The Southeast Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, The Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, and the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network. I read the letter to Council starting at the 17:10 mark of this video.
At that point Council voted unanimously to outlaw SOID. That included Grace and Fahl, who both previously had opposed the measure.
The ban came too late to help local tenants who lost their homes during the first year and a half of the pandemic, but it will help tenants from now on and serve as a model for stopping SOID in neighboring communities. I am proud to have been at the forefront of this important local social justice victory.
2021 – I helped create the most diverse and representative Council yet.
Ever since I ran for mayor in 2019 –and throughout my work with United Athens County Tenants and Athens County Copwatch these past two years– I’ve been extremely vocal in criticizing the unrepresentative nature of Athens city government and connecting that to local government policies that harm tenants, students, low to moderate income residents, and people of color (particularly BIPOC).
At the beginning of this year, Council was an all-white group of homeowners and landlords with an average age of 54. It had been 13 years since a single renter or openly queer person was on Council. Quite possibly, there was never a Black person on Council — certainly not any time in the past 3 decades.
But when two incumbents resigned this year, the local Democratic Central Committee broke with its past practices and appointed as replacements for the resigned Council members two renters in their 30s (Ben Ziff and Micah McCarey) — one of whom (McCarey) is a gay Black man and current director of the OU LGBT Center.
As the Athens News noted upon McCarey’s appointment,
McCarey, 35, a Black, gay man who rents a house on the East Side with his partner, in many ways embodies precisely what many of City Council’s critics, including former councilmember Peter Kotses and rival at-large Independent candidate Damon Krane, say the body lacks — diverse leadership along the lines of age, race, sexual orientation and living situation.
The Athens messenger added,
[Damon] Krane, who has often criticized Athens City Council for lacking in diversity, commended his opponents on Facebook for selecting McCarey, and said he was glad to see another renter on council. Ziff is also a renter.
“Micah is the first openly queer person on council in (I’m pretty sure) more than a decade, and the first Black person in who knows how many decades,” Krane said on Facebook. “I’m curious to see what he does on council these next few months of course, but regardless I’d call his appointment good news!”
And in addition to Ziff and McCarey representing identities that I heavily criticized Council for lacking, the two recent appointees also have echoed some of my fundamental criticisms of city policy. And what a change that was!
Just consider the following. When I raised the issues of unsafe rental housing conditions and inadequate code enforcement in my 2019 campaign against Democratic incumbent Mayor Steve Patterson that year’s independent council candidates Ellie Hamrick and Chris Monday agreed and endorsed my plan to address those problems. But Mayor Patterson simply denied everything. As The Post reported,
Patterson said that Krane and Hamrick are politicizing an issue that he doesn’t see as a huge problem in Athens. He said his administration and the Athens City Council hear more about e-scooters and potholes than tenant complaints.
Patterson also said that most landlords are not bad actors and generally comply with city code, fixing most existing violations before getting charged.
Yet when Ziff first announced his intention to obtain a seat on Council as a Democrat, the Athens News reported that Ziff shared my assessment.
As a renter and service industry worker, Ziff maintained that he could appeal to the city’s working class — many of whom are young and similarly situated — with a pro-tenant ethos that’s not represented within the current body. Most City Council members are middle-aged or older and are homeowners. Some are even landlords.
Ziff decried the state of housing in Athens, saying that city enforcement of code is woefully inadequate, a stance many unsuccessful Independent candidates in the 2019 election took.
And despite Mayor Patterson’s denial of that very assessment when it was expressed by Ellie Hamrick, Chris Monday, and I in 2019, the Athens News reported that Patterson and his close ally Beth Clodfelter (who then had not yet resigned from Council) were both providing support to Ziff’s campaign.
At-large Democrat Beth Clodfelter explained to [Ziff] how to utilize the Athens County Board of Elections. Mayor Steve Patterson, who Ziff has served coffee to in the past, helped him understand how to create a bank account for campaign donations and emphasized the need for a treasurer.
And when Pete Kotses resigned from Council shortly thereafter, the Athens County Democratic Party’s Central Committee (made up of officeholders and other party leaders) voted to appoint Ziff directly to Council!
Similarly, McCarey, immediately following the Central Committee appointing him to Council, echoed my position on racism and local policing — something else our Democratic establishment had been vigorously denying. In September and October of 2019 Mayor Patterson and all of his fellow Democratic candidates defended Athens police after video of APD’s violent arrest of a Black student went viral. And in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Council member Codfelter told the Athens News there was no need to change local policing.
Councilmember Beth Clodfelter said she recently met with Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle and was confident in what the department was doing to hold officers accountable in combating racism and police brutality.
“It doesn’t seem to me that it’s a police department that’s in crisis that we need to do something about immediately,” Clodfelter said in an interview.
And of course the Mayor and all members of Council then proceeded to break all the promises of their June 2020 racial equity resolution, which pledged to conduct a racial equity review of city operations and policing that 15 months later still has not been conducted, and which pledged to pay new attention to racial equity in city governance only to then pass new 3-year police union contracts virtually unchanged from previous years and not informed by any racial equity review.
Yet as soon as the mayor, every member of Council, and the rest of their party’s Central Committee had appointed McCarey to Council, the Athens News reported
Reforming law enforcement with diversity in mind is also key for McCarey. He said the city still has a long way to go before policing arrives at a place deemed acceptable.
Were it not for my efforts to make Council more representative of a diverse city predominantly comprised of young tenants… and were it not for my work to bring the issues of housing and racial justice to the forefront of the city’s agenda through my 2019 mayoral campaign and subsequent work with United Athens County Tenants and Athens County Copwatch… I do not believe the local Democratic Central Committee would have ever appointed two young renters (one a gay Black man) to replace two middle-aged, affluent white home owners (one a landlord) who resigned from Council.
Were it not for my efforts to bring about this change, I am confident the demographics of Council would continue to be just as unrepresentative of our community as they were for all the decades before launched my effort to change Council’s composition. And I am confident that criticisms of our city’s status quo on matters of housing and racial justice would not be permitted on Council.
Of course, now that Ziff and McCarey have been handpicked by the same political establishment that resisted diversifying city government for many years — the same political establishment that has vigorously opposed housing and racial justice efforts — it remains to be seen whether Ziff and McCarey will be strong advocates for the communities they represent by advancing strong new housing and racial justice initiatives. They haven’t yet, but I hope they will.
But I never put all my eggs in that one basket anyway. Not only have I successfully pressured our local Democratic establishment to appoint more diverse and representative people with more progressive agendas to Council… and not only am I continuing to run for city office myself… but I also spent the first three months of this year encouraging nearly 100 people to run for city office — most of them working class, women, people of color, queer people, students and young people.
While most of the prospective candidates I reached out to faced obstacles to running they ultimately felt they couldn’t overcome (and part of my agenda, if elected, is to work to remove those obstacles), one of the people I encouraged did decide to run: Iris Virjee, another candidate in the at-large Council race.
Virjee is a former student organizer, recent OU graduate, working class city resident, renter, and a woman of color in her 20s. Among my support for Virjee, I personally collected about 1/4 of the total signatures she needed to get on the ballot.
Ironically, this all means is I have helped bring about most of my competition! But that’s OK. Because my efforts have ensured that even if I don’t win office myself, I still will have won some more positive change for our city. Because the people who do win will be better than they would have been otherwise.
2021 – I led local opposition to Sarah Grace’s deceptive gentrification scheme.
As part of United Athens County Tenants and on my own, I have opposed the University Estates Tax Increment Financing deal engineered by my opponent, council member Sarah Grace.
Grace and her allies originally touted the UE TIF as an “affordable housing initiative,” but nothing could be farther from the truth. The deal is a textbook gentrification scheme. Rather than making rents more affordable or home ownership more accessible, the deal helps a private developer build new homes more expensive than most homes already on the local market. Even worse is the deal’s goal. As Grace and other city officials have openly stated, the deal is intended to entice wealthier people to move to Athens by making it possible for them to purchase half-million dollar homes at half-price. In other words, the city’s answer to unaffordable housing is to build more expensive homes. And the city’s answer to poverty is to import richer people, as current residents continue to be priced out of city limits.
But the story gets even worse from there. Grace and her allies like Chris Fahl eventually faced backlash for calling quarter-million dollar homes an affordable housing initiative — even from other members of Council, all of whom had voted for the deal. So after promoting the deal as an “affordable housing initiative” for more than a year, Grace simply turned around and claimed she never called it that (even though the ordinance creating the deal literally calls it an “affordable housing development”) and invented a new cover story. Rather than an affordable housing initiative, she now says the deal’s purpose is to provide ecologically-friendly housing (despite the carbon costs of new construction) and housing more accessible to people with disabilities (despite the planned homes being two-story townhouses.)
And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, in February, Grace used the short-lived bubble in lumber prices to convince Council to substantially sweeten the developer’s deal. Along with fellow UE TIF deal supporter Mayor Patterson, Grace argued that Council had to allow the UE developer to raise the base sale price of each unit by another $20,000 in order to cover the increased cost of building materials. Council fell for it and voted unanimously in favor of Grace’s proposal. Then, less than 3 months later, the price bubble burst and lumber experienced a record drop, falling to below its level the previous year. Meanwhile, the University Estates developer still has not even begun construction, and according to the deal’s terms, the longer he waits the more he can charge for the new townhouses. We’re already up to $247,000 for homes sold next year.
The UE TIF deal epitomizes everything wrong with current city leadership. It is an example of city officials working to help rich people at everyone else’s expense, while they try to trick us into believing they’re doing the exact opposite. It’s also an example of a few members of Council raising objections only to ultimately fall in line and unanimously vote for bad policy. And when everyone gets caught in the act, they just lie about it, move the goalposts, and hope no one will notice.
I’ve been speaking out against the deal since its inception in 2019, including most recently at the March 1, 2021 Athens City Council meeting, and I have joined United Athens County Tenants in publicly condemning the deal, as well as applauding Council candidate Alan Swank’s opposition to the deal, and helping organize a UACT-hosted panel discussion on affordable housing where the deal also ended up being criticized by individual members of Goodworks, the Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Hocking Athens Perry Community Action.
2020 – I successfully pushed Athens Municipal Judge Todd Grace to stop jeopardizing public health by throwing people out of their homes during a deadly pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, municipalities all over Ohio and the U.S. began heeding the advice of public health experts and halted residential eviction hearings to slow the spread of COVID-19. Mayors, city councils, county officials and judges all stepped up to make this happen. But here in Athens County, elected officials either passed the buck or acted directly to carry out evictions for much longer.
I helped prmote UACT’s petition — signed by nearly 1,000 people — calling on Athens Municipal Judge Todd Grace to halt eviction hearings, and at the March 16 meeting of Athens City Council I pressed Grace and other local officials to take action to halt eviction hearings.
In response, Chris Knisely replied, “I’m not sure that the city actually governs evictions,” and Athens Mayor Steve Patterson stated, “It would be a Municipal Court decision, in terms of managing evictions or putting a moratorium on them.” The following day, Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason told the Athens Messenger, “We don’t have any authority when it comes to that.”
Yet that same day Cleveland City Council announced it would halt evictions if Cleveland Municipal Court didn’t act first. Oakland, California’s City Council already had done the same thing on March 12. The mayors of Seattle and San Francisco banned evictions on March 13, as did the mayors of Los Angeles on March 15 and San Diego on March 16, with the support of their city councils. In Mayor Patterson’s former hometown of Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury jointly issued an eviction ban on March 17. Beginning on March 13, municipal courts all over Ohio began halting evictions, including those in Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery, Bellefontaine, Shelby and Adams counties, as well as Dayton Municipal Court and Toledo Municipal Court.
On March 16, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services Director Lucy Schwallie sent a letter to Athens County Municipal Judge Todd Grace in which she argued, “Proceeding with the eviction hearings now forces our clients to make a dangerous choice in light of a public health crisis: come to court and risk being exposed to the virus, or stay home and risk a default judgment that will result in homelessness down the line.”
Yet on March 16 and 17, Judge Grace publicly stated he would continue holding eviction hearings, and that he opposed any moratorium.
As the Athens News reported, Grace shared the following comment on the newspaper’s Facebook page, “At times like this, it is important to recognize one of the primary strengths of our justice system is the ability of the court to review and rule on each case based on the facts of that case. A blanket moratorium would remove that individualized review.”
As the News also reported,
Damon Krane, a local activist who ran unsuccessfully against Athens Mayor Patterson last election cycle, called that response ‘absurd’ in a comment responding to Grace’s statement.
“Regardless of the outcome of any particular hearing, you personally, Judge Grace, are forcing people to make the choice between risking exposing themselves to the virus by leaving home to attend a hearing or increasing their chances of ending up homeless during a pandemic if they don’t attend,’ Krane said.”
By the time of my exchange with Grace, courts covering all of Ohio’s major cities and many outlying areas already had halted evictions, and two days later, on March 19, the Ohio Supreme Court urged all remaining courts to follow suit.
Finally Judge Grace relented and halted local eviction hearings on March 23, on the eve of Ohio’s state of emergency declaration. Four days later Congress passed the CARES Act national evictions moratorium, which was followed by the CDC’s two successive moratoriums.
Why did Grace and other Athens officials resist such policies for so long? As I wrote in my April 2, 2020 Athens News Column entitled “Local response to COVID-19 reveals health hazards of landlord rule” —
Every single partisan office in Athens County is held by a Democrat. The Democratic Party is supposed to be on the side of low-income renters and on the side of science. It was Democrats who passed Oregon and California’s rent-control laws, which former Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris praised, and which Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders seeks to expand into a national policy.
Likewise, most officeholders across the U.S. who heeded medical experts’ advice and quickly halted evictions are Democrats. Yet here in Athens – the bluest county in Ohio – it took pressure from the Republican-controlled Ohio Supreme Court to help get Democratic officeholders to stop hurting low-income renters and exacerbating a public health crisis by ignoring medical science. And there’s no mystery as to why.
Judge Grace is a landlord. His wife, Athens City Council member Sarah Grace, is a landlord. Grace’s fellow council member, Pete Kotses, is a landlord. And while Mayor Patterson is not a landlord, the majority of top donors to his last two mayoral campaigns are four landlords who together own more than 1,000 bedrooms in the city of Athens alone and collect an estimated $6 million annually from residential city renters.
NOTE: Woo! It’s hard to find the time to recount all of these past accomplishments when I’m busy with new community organizing efforts right now and also running for city council! I’ll do my best to keep adding information to the headings below as time permits. But in the meantime you can also read news coverage of all of the following at this link.
2020 – I co-founded United Athens County Tenants, the main local tenant advocacy group.
2020 – I co-founded Athens County Copwatch, the main local group opposing racist policing.
2019 – I ran for mayor with a focus on housing justice issues, which put housing justice on the city agenda and pushed Council to increase penalties for repeat offender landlords. (See “Athens election challengers: City enables ‘slumlords’ over tenants; City Council proposes law to stiffen fines on landlords who don’t fix violations of city code after first notice” Athens News, 8/28/19)
2019 — I opposed the sale of the Confederate Flag at the Athens County Fair. (See “When the Confederate flag wasn’t racist for me” Athens News, 8/21/19)
2019 – I defended local union jobs by opposing Mayor Patterson’s attempt to take the city’s garbage and recycling hauling contract away from Athens Hocking Recycling Center and instead award it to a non-union, for-profit, company from out of town without a proven track record. (See, “Hit by heavy pushback, Athens officials seek to extend hauling contract” Athens News, 5/29/19)
2019 – I joined the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America
2018 – I organized local mobile food vendors to strengthen our local independent food and beverage scene and was elected president of the Athens Mobile Vending Association.
2017 – I opposed the wrongful arrests of anti-racist OU student activists, the Baker 70, by pro-Trump police forces backed by OU administrators and the Athens City Law Director, and I opposed the unconstitutional campus speech restrictions that followed.
2017 – I co-founded the Athens Tenant Union (replaced in 2020 by United Athens County Tenants, which I also co-founded.
2015 — I supported campus free speech and student activism at OU in opposition to ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
2009 — I left Athens to work as Communications Director of the Oregon Student Association, the largest member-based advocacy group in Oregon.
2007 – I covered the region’s worst air polluter, Eramet Marrietta, for The InterActivist and the Athens News. My 3,000-word, front page article with original photography for The Athens News was the most in-depth investigation of Eramet and played a role in the eventual success of Marietta Neighbors for Clean Air and Ohio Citizen Action in getting the plant to reduce its harmful emissions.
2005 – 2009 — As executive director of the local nonprofit and InterAct off-shoot People Might, I transformed InterAct’s sporadically published newsletter, The InterActivist, into a monthly magazine up to 48 pages in length, with a print circulation of 3,000 copies per issue, published by a coalition of 5 different community and campus organizations, and produced and democratically managed by an all-volunteer staff of up to 30 people, mostly OU undergraduate students. As Project Coordinator and Editor-In-Chief of The InterActivist, I used the magazine as a vehicle for publicizing the work of dozens of local progressive organizations while also providing hands-on experience in journalism and media activism to a total of 100 young people, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in journalism. The InterActivist, which had begun in 2003 as a project of InterAct, the activist group I co-founded, went on to be published for 14 years, until 2017.
2005 — I helped form a partnership between InterAct and a coalition of regional building trades unions in order to push Ohio University to adopt a responsible bidding criteria that would allow union contractors to compete with the non-union contractors with awful labor and environmental records that OU was using to carry out building and renovation projects. OU ultimately refused to adopt the criteria, but it served as the model for Athens City Council member Elahu Gosney’s successful effort to get Athens to adopt such criteria in 2008.
2005 — I supported my fellow InterAct member Elahu Gosney’s campaign for Athens City Council when he first ran as a progressive independent. (Gosney was later elected to Council as a Democrat in 2007 and served 2-and-a-half terms, from 2008 until resigning in 2013 and moving to Europe.)
2004 — Through InterAct I organized against Ohio’s Issue #1 anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendment, which sought to deprive tens of thousands of LGBT people access to healthcare in order to turn out bigots to re-elect George W. Bush that year. Athens County voted against the amendment, but sadly it was the only one of Ohio’s 88 counties to do so, and Bush was elected to a second term.
2003 – 2006 — I co-founded and worked from within the multi-issue, campus-community activist group InterAct, voted “Best Student Organization” in the 2006 Athens News “Best of Athens Awards.”
2002 – 2008 — I organized against the Iraq War; joined OU Students Against the War; co-founded the anti-war organization InterAct; coordinated bus trips to national demonstrations in Washington DC and New York; supported the Counter-Recruitment Movement’s efforts to disrupt military recruitment; wrote dozens of anti-war columns and letters to the editor; reported on the anti-war movement for The InterActivist; attended countless protests in Athens, Kent, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and New York; was a cameraperson for an anti-war documentary; and was arrested twice in the course of my anti-war activism.
2002 — I wrote a weekly column for The Post focused about grassroots activism and progressive politics.
2002 — I exposed OU administrators for violating federal law for years in order to hide from students and employees campus sexual assault statistics, reporting procedures, and survivor support resources at a time when more rapes were being reported in OU’s dorms than at those of any other college or university in Ohio. I helped organize the 300-person student walkout that forced OU into compliance with the Clery Act, and which successfully pressured administrators to commit later that year to create the OU Campus Women’s Center that finally opened in 2007, and which was an integral part of the successful struggles to create a full-time director’s position for the OU LGBT Center, to abolish unconstitutional restrictions on campus speech and assembly which were finally lifted in 2007, to make Women’s Studies (now Gender and Sexuality Studies) a full-fledged major at OU, and to provide the domestic partners of unmarried OU employees with spousal benefits before Marriage Equality was finally enacted in 2014.
2001 — I opposed the US Invasion of Afghanistan through the Athens-based anti-war group Break the Cycle.
2001 — I participated in the Zaleski Forest Tree-Sit, a direct action that temporarily blocked logging in a nearby state forest.
2000 – 2006 — I organized and participated in sideline support for the annual all-women’s Take Back the Night Marches on OU’s campus.
2000 – 2002 — I joined the predominantly anarchist student activist group Positive Action, which, among other things was the driving force behind the 2002 student walkout described above.
1999 – 2000 — I participated in mass mobilizations against corporate globalization that gave birth to a new leftist mass movement in the US not seen since the 1970s. These included the 1999 “Battle in Seattle” protests that disrupted the World Trade Organization’s ministerial meetings, and protests the following spring at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
1999 — I organized other OU students and Athens residents to join me in traveling to Fort Benning, Georgia to protest the US Army School of the Americas’ training of the death squads of multiple right-wing regimes in Latin America from the end of WWII to the present.
1999 – 2000 — I helped Nelsonville York High School students defeat their school’s illegal censorship of the student publication Lockdown and bring about the resignation of their school’s principal.
1999 – I co-founded the students rights group Free Student Press, partnered with the Athens-based Institute for Democracy in Education, and moved to Athens to teach high school students about their First Amendment rights and to support them in launching their own newspapers.
1998 — I wrote my first ever letter to the editor in opposition to the sale of the Confederate Flag at my local County Fair and other local festivals.
1997 — I marched with the NAACP in my rural Southwestern Pennsylvania hometown after local Nazis and Klansmen burned a cross in front of the home of a local woman engaged in an interracial relationship.
1996 – 1997 — I began my careers in community organizing and independent journalism simultaneously at the age of 17 by organizing an independent, public access, democratically-managed, student-run magazine at my high school in defiance of the illegal censorship of my school’s administrators.
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