On November 15th, 2017 #WeThePeople interviewed Green Party candidate Constance Gadell-Newton - who is running for the position of Governor of Ohio. Constance has been with the Green Party since 2008 and is on the State Central Committee of the Green Party members. She was also a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2016.
We learn from Constance’s website that she is a defense attorney, who “works daily with the victims of abuse of power, and institutional bias or economic inequality”. In other words her focus is on defending civil rights. We read that she has a real-life understanding of the principle of policy over people and its impact on Ohio and its 16 districts.
Constance’s experience in criminal law goes back to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands - prosecuting war criminals. John is impressed. That was during law school - says Constance, and one of the key values and core pillars of the Green Party is non-violence, so I have been an activist and anti-war for a long time. It was part of the reason I wanted to do either international law or international criminal law. She studied the latter and got to go have that experience working on a team with a Prosecutor prosecuting the General of the Yugoslav army.
When she announced her run for Governor, the Green Party issued a press release and it was picked up by the Columbus Dispatch. In her bio she mentioned her hobbies. She’s very active – community gardening, cycling and also amateur trapeze performance (partly for the great upper-body workout, partly for the artistic expression). She also plays acoustic and electric guitar and is fluent in French. The newspaper however, wanted to make it look like a frivolous person was running - she says. And so the headline read: Columbus lawyer, trapeze performer will run for Governor as Green Party candidate. The fact that she was involved in prosecuting war criminals wasn’t mentioned in the article - Constance says, but she was happy to get any press at all in a way. Some of the comments that followed that article though were pretty interesting she tells us. Such as: Well, we already have a clown in the White House so why not? They all laugh. John has an idea. Here is your defense Constance - he says. Point out Trudeau. Comment on his having a strong core (in reference to Constance’s upper-body workout) and say it takes one to prosecute a war criminal! They talk briefly about double standards and what might be acceptable for men to say/do but not necessarily for women.
One of the things Constance has done is to write the complaint to get Cynthia McKinney (who served 6 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives - for Georgia, as a Democrat, and was also the first black woman elected to represent Georgia in the House) on the ballot for President. Thanks to this Cynthia McKinney ran in 2008 as Presidential candidate of the Green Party of the U.S. The party status of the Green Party of Ohio dates from then. At the time, she wasn’t an attorney yet, so Bob Fitrakis her law partner actually filed it, and she has continued to work with Bob and the Green Party ever since. John likes this story because it demonstrates how “these things” happen. When we hear people talking about Green Party access and we wonder how that happens … now we know that one way is via lawyers.
In Ohio Constance tells us, she thinks the rule is that one has to show a modicum of support to be an official political party. There used to be 5 minor parties in Ohio. The Green Party is the last one standing. In order to retain ballot access the Green Party needs 3% or greater in the Presidential race, or the Governor’s race – when they do that, it establishes their party status for the next 4 years, which is why they always run somebody in these 2 races. They will have a lot of other candidates running down-ticket as well. Fantastic, says John. So does this mean you are the torch bearer for the next 4 years? Yes, Constance says - laughing a little.
John thanks her for running - given how hard it is for a Progressive to run anyway, he says. Constance in return thanks him/Uphill Media for giving her “a little love in the media. I appreciate that a lot” - she says.
John wants to talk about Ohio now:
On The Crime Victim Rights Bill, the Ohio Green Party recommended a No vote on Issue One, but Ohio voted yes. This does change the Ohio Constitution and it also puts limitations on evidence that’s available to the defense, so we’re really facing a crisis here with criminalization and so many Ohioans being incarcerated - Constance tells us. We have a number of privatized prisons and for-profit prisons. The Correction Industry is a for-profit industry in Ohio. The bottom line is that it makes less evidence available to the defense which makes it more difficult to defend somebody who might be innocent - who is being prosecuted, or to defend somebody in general. Constance also worries that this almost invites abuse and use of the Court system in a vindictive way, such as if there is a domestic violence situation.
Issue Two had to do with Drug Price Standards. Here the Green Party recommended a yes vote - but only as an improvement because they really support Universal Healthcare, at least at State level if not at the National level. We want sufficient treatment for those addicted to opioids, basic general care for all Ohioans and for them to be able to see a doctor whenever they want to. Access to care is so difficult just now. Why then - John asks - did 79.28% of Ohioans vote no? Good question - Constance says. It’s not in their interests. There was a lot of speculation going on about legal fees and a backlash of the pharmaceutical companies which would or could make it more expensive …
John shows a slide with a passage from an article in the Scientific American. Ohio in 2014 had more overdose deaths than any other State. By 2016, there were 4050 deaths … “Fueled by prescription painkillers as well as heroin and fentanyl, the epidemic has overrun city morgues, forced thousands of children into foster care…” For John it is clear that those responsible for this epidemic are the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies and ultimately the government. Constance agrees. She saw the problem evolve. Often her clients’ addictions started with knee surgery or other medical care that they had received. By the end of their treatment they were addicted to the pills, and when they ran out of them, many were forced out onto the streets to look for more. At this point, they found that heroin was cheaper. It is Constance’s hope that Universal Healthcare could not only help with the treatment of the problem, but also the prevention of same. Once there is a profit motive - which is above the moral imperative and the Hippocratic Oath that Doctors take to protect their patients and to act in their best interests, doctors and pharmaceuticals start to take the role of the drug-pushers. Absolutely - says John, adding that it is disgusting and that if there were individuals with moral character in government they would not allow this to happen. That is why you are running - he says.
John asks about Constance’s views on cannabis in terms of the medical industry and health. In Ohio the consensus is that we do support medical and recreational cannabis – she tells us, including decriminalization and potentially legalization of marijuana. Industrial hemp is also a really useful and practical crop – here she gets the thumbs up from John - which farmers could really benefit from if it were legalized in Ohio as well. As a cash crop, hemp … industrial hemp is a very useful fiber, a sustainable renewable resource that is eco-friendly. So we definitely want to promote that.
Constance then speaks about the criminal justice side of things, and says that alcohol is involved in a lot of domestic violence cases, but that this is not the case with marijuana - as there aren’t the behavioral issues involved that you see with other drugs. It shouldn’t be kept illegal when it’s so widespread – she says. Traditionally the prosecution of marijuana has been directed against activists and people of color. There is unequal enforcement in this regard and private prisons are among the biggest lobbyists against its legalization. So what can be done? The State can modify sentencing for one. It could also decriminalize it for recreational use at the State level (so even if still a federal crime, the State would not necessarily enforce it).
This leads into the issue of Police violence and Constance tells us that there is a lot going on in Ohio and Columbus with regard to police shootings, particularly of young black men. There was a 13 year old shot 3 blocks from where Constance lives, so this issue really hits close to home for her. Activists in Columbus are protesting and trying for Police reform. The Police – she tells us, need to be trained in non-violent de-escalation tactics and hostage negotiations (involving minimal loss of life). Presently they shoot before they have fully evaluated the situation – she says. I live in a city and a lot of the police officers who police the city are from the outer suburbs, from out-of-county. If they’re on edge because they aren’t used to seeing African-Americans, then that could be triggering for them. I think a lot of police officers have PTSD and need treatment for that before they can safely be on the streets – she tells us. So, I think there’s a lot we can do. We have talked about civilian review boards in Columbus and body cameras are kind of new - could be positive, but also gives a cop’s eye view of the situation. Probably overall it’s still a positive thing though. It is a disturbing trend that police are being trained to see any neighborhood as a war zone and they are preparing for combat against me and my neighbors. It’s really terrifying.
In order to change the above, the Green Party’s strategy is to support activists and run candidates. People (those most affected by these issues) inform activists on the ground. In Columbus - Constance tells us, we had a program called the Summer Safety Initiative aka “The Jump-Out Boys” because of the undercover police officers who’d come into our black neighborhood and shoot people sometimes - I think they said their mission statement was to try to arrest criminals. They have really caused a lot of death in Columbus – Constance says. There have been several years of activism and protest around this and requests to city council. I believe our Mayor has finally decided to end the program, so that is a victory for us! As activists I think we really need to keep putting on the pressure and then it’s important to run candidates who bring that message into the political dialogue.
There are a variety of questions from YouTube chat - Laura tells us.
Deniz would like to know whether Constance would consider bringing back Governor Strickland’s high-speed rail proposal between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. We’re a very big proponent of sustainable, energy-efficient transportation (also like public resources) and I’d love to have a train that connected the Three-Cs – Constance replies. It would make so many people’s lives easier as regards commuting, would be good for the economy, would create jobs to build and to run it and allow people to get where they need to go and to be more self-sufficient. John thinks that sounds awesome.
There are questions in YouTube chat about how to help cops do the right thing and about Restorative Justice – which Constance says she definitely supports. It’s important she says to have better training for cops and an Independent Civilian Review board – so that it isn’t the police policing themselves. For those who witness misconduct from their co-workers – they have to have a way to report that safely. Restorative Justice may include mediation, apologies or somehow bringing the victim and the perpetrator together to talk about the crime and make amends. When we’re dealing with juvenile situations especially, not everything needs to be treated as a crime. Does fighting at school necessarily have to be considered assault? We could have better community solutions and decriminalize school altogether. There was a 6 year old arrested by a school resource officer for having a temper tantrum in school. “We need to deal with kids in an age-appropriate way and one that supports their education. Once they’ve had contact with the juvenile system, they’re more likely to just be put back into the system as an adult.” John agrees and talks about Colorado – where in 2014 it became law to implement Restorative Justice based on what Longmont Colorado has been doing for the last 20 years. Their recidivism rate for crime - it started with juveniles and went into adults, has fallen below 10%. Constance smiles and John continues … and it has been that way for more than 10 years, which is proof positive that it works, but it seems to be difficult to implement on a statewide scale. Constance says that there are a lot of Law and Order people out there.
Cindy Matthews – who introduced you to us and us to you, would like to ask what you would do to help clean up Ohio’s waters, Lake Erie, algae blooms and the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) runoff into the (State’s) rivers. I think that’s a super important question and a big issue in Ohio – Constance replies. We need to make sure that everybody has clean drinking water “Water is necessary for life”. The first thing that I would do - she says, is impose a moratorium on fracking and accepting toxic waste into injection wells in Ohio. Then I think we really want to keep an eye on the pesticides and fertilizers. Brett Joseph is an attorney and a professor who teaches environmental sustainability. He is my running mate and a very knowledgeable environmentalist who studied permaculture. I’d be looking to him for the correct environmental policies to protect the water as far as the algae blooms are concerned, and a way that we can have those policies that would also support farmers, as in something that is going to work for people working in that field and also be environmentally sustainable.
Do you have anything to say about the Nexus and Rover Pipelines specifically, and how about solar and wind power in Ohio – Laura, who is keeping up with the questions in YouTube chat, asks? We oppose the pipelines - says Constance. We really think that we can focus on more sustainable solutions to our energy crisis and one of those is wind and solar. Wind farms are a potential business opportunity for farmers. I’d love to see worker-owned energy cooperatives popping up, helping to keep our economy local, to privilege local businesses and these coops so that the workers are treated fairly and have a stake in what they are creating. I think there are possibilities for manufacturing jobs in this field and that this can be a green industry to make us self-sufficient in Ohio - Constance tells us.
This is where we see a slide explaining the Green Party’s Green New Deal, complete with the 4 Pillars and 10 Key Values. Constance tells us that it is to help those coming from all different political backgrounds to better understand what the Green Party stands for.
The 4 Pillars are Peace; Ecology; Social Justice and Democracy.
The 10 Key Values are:
1 Grassroots Democracy
2 Social Justice
3 Ecological Wisdom
6 Community-based Economics
7 Feminism and Gender Equity
8 Respect for Diversity
9 Personal and Global Responsibility
10 Future Focus and Sustainability
Grassroots Democracy means that the party leadership doesn’t choose who will be an uncontested candidate - Constance says. We want to offer a third party alternative for people with good progressive principles. We don’t accept corporate donations – so we’re not bought out from the very beginning. We really want to encourage people to participate and to run as candidates – she explains. They are simple and very “Bernie’esque” in core - says John. Yes - and social justice is super important to the Green Party – Constance continues. We support activists (BLM activists, those protesting injection wells, those protesting toxic waste that Frackers are dumping in our waters …) John thanks Constance and adds that to his mind if anybody is going to get a real grassroots view of what is going on, it would be a lawyer who is defending people who are taking on the issues that we face as human beings – that’s quite a unique perspective that you have there – he says.
They move on to education. Here in Ohio – Constance says, decades after the civil rights movement we still have de facto segregated schools. A lot of that has to do with school funding being based on property taxes and white flight from the cities to the suburbs. There is a greater trend towards privatizing the schools and unfortunately the regulation in Ohio has been very loose. There is lots of fraud and waste in the Charter schools, and that has taken money away from the public schools. I’m a big supporter of public schools – I think every child deserves a good quality education. I’m not super big on teaching towards a test because if that’s your line, then you’re not teaching them something additional. I think that it’s really important to teach beyond the testing (i.e. they should surpass the level). I’d like to see a focus on gifted and talented programs especially for inner city youth. John likes the sound of that! I know we have a lot of special education and the needs of those students still have to be met, but since the 1990s I’ve seen the medicalization of ADHD and all these behavioral issues - there’s like “oppositional defiance disorder” (i.e. you’re kind of ornery, you don’t like to follow the rules). I often have to advocate for kids having less medication - as in, they should have what they need, not more. I feel like we’re treating a lot of kids that may not even have special needs and may even be gifted. “I would really like to see kids’ educational needs tended with care” and kids given the opportunity so that when they graduate high school they can actually read. John nods and says - that would be nice. Constance continues – I know that sounds like a low standard, but unfortunately there are a lot of people that may graduate without having the skills that they need. We have a lot to do there – There is so much waste, fraud and abuse of those funds. We can return that back to the public schools.
I’m independent - Constance tells us, and don’t have conflicts of interests. I want to advocate for the people and represent the people and do what’s best for Ohioans. I don’t have any corporate buddies that I’m trying to hook up. No – you’re trying to hook up the people with some services, that they pay for - says John, and that’s a great idea! I think a lot of these kids, myself included, we’re not ornery we’re bored. We need an educational system that is actually challenging. That is the difference.
They’ve really cut a lot of the good programs that lead towards having a holistic education, music and arts programs among them - Constance comments. These were programs that helped the students get rid of some of their anxiety by giving expression to it. She encourages them to express themselves in these ways. John adds that they had P.E. and recess - where the kids got to exercise, in public school back in the day. Constance would love to go back to the older system. She tells us that there is tons of fraud in online education as well and she has represented a lot of kids in truancy cases because they were unable to log on to their online school website! I really think they need a school building where they can go, a community of teachers who actually care about them as people, counselors, other kids and a real social experience – she says. Bullying has been a big issue recently, with the result that a lot of kids are leaving the school building for online school. I think there are better ways to deal with that. School uniforms for one – she tells us. John pleads that they not be made of corduroy though - if you want the kids to be happy! They all smile.
Constance tells us that the Green Party in Ohio are working hard to recruit candidates and help them get involved and she invites anybody who would like to do so to get in touch. She is also happy to answer any questions (by way of her website).
She sums up by saying that she supports universal healthcare; sensible immigration policies - which mean keeping families together, because that has been a major issue in Ohio where they have seen a lot of ICE actions; free college education; a living wage and wage equality for women and minorities. She will support steps to protect the water and the environment for everyone and focus on conservation of Ohio’s natural resources. She would like to end the Police State as it exists in Ohio and make sure that everyone has the basic freedoms that they should have. The Green Party - she says, is actively trying to protect democracy and activists. They don’t accept corporate donations, only those from the people they are representing. They are therefore not beholden to corporate interests. They wish to protect the civil liberties and civil rights of Ohioans. They want to promote small, local and green businesses and focus on opening up the market for those worker-owned cooperatives so that they can take back the economy in Ohio. They want to privilege Ohio businesses over out-of-State corporations that often get a lot of tax abatements that take money away from schools in Ohio. The Green Party has and wants to come up with practical solutions that will work for the 99%.
That was a very enjoyable interview! Constance Gadell-Newton has a lovely manner, and I am most impressed. The links are in the video description. Good luck on November 6th, 2018 Constance!