All female City Council in Toledo takes the reins

All female city council in Toledo assumes command!

All female city council in Toledo assumes command!

January 9

Toledo’s new Mayor, Billie Jo Smith

Toledo’s new Mayor, Billie Jo Smith

Former educator and current community booster Billie Jo Smith and her all-female city council was gavelled to order this week – taking note of the fact that all-lady city councils are a rarity in this country – Smith taking note of how exciting it is to have such talented women working with her to improve the quality of life for all Toledo residents. Although thanking former Mayor Ralph Grutzmacher and Councilor Jack Dunaway for performing well as civic leaders on behalf of the town, Smith waxed nearly poetically about her admiration for a former mayor…a former lady mayor, Sharon Branstitter. Reflecting on her own rise to the top elected office in the city, Smith said she was powerfully motivated, through the encouragement of friends and fellow citizens of Toledo to consider running for mayor, but at the same time her fond remembrance of Sharon Branstitter provided the final push for her to actually file for the office. Smith cited Branstitter’s tireless spirit in launching many improvements around Toledo, improvements that created a shared sense of pride among city residents that continues to this day. She said she’s gratified at the women who are now serving with her on the council – women armed with scientific knowledge, education, management skills, business savvy, technical competence and with a dedication to community service as well as being parents and grandparents. She lauded city staff from City Manager Jay Baughman on down for their service to the community, calling Baughman a positive and thoughtful leader who will help the council improve Toledo’s sustainability as a community and enhance its quality of life.

(L-R) Incumbents Michelle Johnson, Terri Strom and Julie Rockwell being sworn in

(L-R) Incumbents Michelle Johnson, Terri Strom and Julie Rockwell being sworn in

Smith said that everyone in Toledo is welcomed to attend city council meetings, give their opinions or just call her up and talk to her directly. For those who prefer face-to-face conversations she invites everyone to join her during her weekly “Coffee with the Mayor” sessions at various venues around the city. Check the city’s website for times and places.

And with that, Mayor Smith launched everyone into the year’s first meeting as the new city council.

Toledo Police Chief David Enyert

They reviewed Police Chief David Enyert’s departmental commitment to bringing its values and policies in line with what law enforcement accreditation experts require. The idea, that as well run his department is, it needs to be brought into very detailed alignment with accepted policing standards around the country. Chief Enyert and his officers and support workers are doing it, he says. Chief Enyert said he expects his department to achieve “official accreditation” much the same way that the Newport Police Department recently achieved their’s.

The council then got a report that the city’s sewer plant is in great shape, but that the pipes between homes and businesses and the sewer plant are in bad shape – 50 to 75 years in the ground, some of them. And they need replacing – some sections sooner than others. Also storm water is seeping into the waste stream making the sewer plant treat much more effluent than it was designed to process.

A consultant recommended a strategy to keep using what is still working while fixing what needs fixing now. He said Toledo needs new pipes in the ground, more new pumps and lift stations, all scattered over a number of years while fixing emergency failures when they happen. Total financial outlay: $6.6 million. And because Toledo doesn’t have that kind of money it will have to go shopping for low interest loans or the occasional grant. The consultant said grants used to fund a big chunk of sewer and water upgrades, but those sources of funds have all but dried up. Grants are not making it down to the local level like they used to. So if it’s loans the city must use to finance improvements, sewer and water rates will continue to rise to pay off those loans. What kind of rate increases? Unknown at this point.

Republicans Introduce Five Anti-Abortion Bills In First Days Of New Congress

    Posted: 01/08/2015 4:45 pm EST 

Sen. David Vitter (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. David Vitter
(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


WASHINGTON– Emboldened by a new Senate majority, Republicans in Congress introduced five abortion restrictions in the first three days of the new legislative session that would severely limit women’s access to the procedure.

Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Monday reintroduced a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which the GOP-controlled House already passed once in 2013. And Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced four bills on Wednesday that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning funds, require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, ban abortions performed on the basis of gender, and allow hospitals, doctors and nurses to refuse to provide or participate in abortion care for women, even in cases of emergency.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards condemned the onslaught of anti-abortion bills on Thursday and the attack on her own organization.

“The public wants Congress to protect women’s health, not interfere in women’s personal medical decisions,” she said in a statement, “which means making sure all forms of birth control are affordable, women can get preventive care at Planned Parenthood and other trusted providers, and abortion remains safe and legal.”

While the 20-week abortion ban never received a vote in the Senate after passing the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised anti-abortion activists that he will bring the bill to the floor. It would ban abortions two to four weeks earlier than the fetus would be viable outside the womb, violating the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. (In that case, the court ruled that women have a constitutional right to legal abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb.)

Vitter’s bills could also spur legal battles if they were to pass. Several states have tried to defund Planned Parenthood and enact admitting privileges laws, but those laws have been blocked in most cases by federal judges. The admitting privileges requirement in particular has blocked women’s access to legal abortion by shutting down clinics in states where it is enacted, because hospitals often refuse to grant admitting privileges to doctors for administrative or political reasons.

Abortion rights advocates expressed frustration that Republicans are launching new attacks on abortion at a federal level after running as moderates on the issue in the 2014 midterm elections.

“The Republican Congress is like Groundhog’s Day,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Just as they did in 2010, anti-choice Republicans hid their agenda on the campaign trail by promising to work to address the economy or the numerous other issues. But the Republican leadership can only hide their true colors and real priorities for a nanosecond once Congress convenes.”

Vitter’s spokeswoman, Lindsay Bembenek, said that fighting legal abortion has “always been a priority for Senator Vitter.”