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Standing Up, Getting Involved

By Joe Wessels · May 6th, 2009 · Wessels


It seems young people are finally taking an interest in politics again.

Ceair Baggett is 21 and a manager at Cincinnati Bell, overseeing some of their retail operations. He’s a graduate of Taft High School and Xavier University, lives in Mount Airy and owns a home in the West End he’s re-modeling. And he’s running for the Cincinnati Board of Education.

Times have certainly changed since 1993, when, as a recent graduate of Colerain High School, I ran for the Northwest Local School board. I got only half the votes I needed to win, causing me to finish ninth in a field of 10. I spent a couple thousand dollars, most raised through a bank loan and paid off with contributions from family, friends and a few strangers happy to see a young guy trying to make a difference.

So Baggett is sort of special to me. He’s an energetic, savvy young man who had better answers to all the questions I was asked 16 years ago.

Too young? “I look around and see that the current school board doesn’t have a students’ perspective,” he says.

Perfect answer. So many times adults would tell me to wait a little longer, yet I’d just graduated from their school system and could add a view they’d long outgrown.

Baggett, who cut his teeth in politics volunteering for Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper’s election campaign, wants to affect change. He says he wants to make Cincinnati Public Schools the best urban school system in Ohio by tackling an out-of-control discipline problem in many of our schools, bringing in child behavior experts and standardizing disciplinary procedures across all schools.

How is he going to raise campaign money? It won’t be easy — he says he hopes to get between $5,000 and $10,000 for yard signs and radio ads — but his ideas resonate with city dwellers like me. He already has a decent Web site up at www.BaggettforBoard.com.

I might have lost my election, but I have high hopes for Baggett. If there’s ever a political atmosphere that would elect a young man like him, it’s now.

Everyone is hungry for change. This would be just one more positive example.

* * * * *

I don’t know the last time there were that many Republicans at Findlay Market at one time. Might be the first time ever.

Why? Brad Wenstrup announced May 4 that he’s running to be the next mayor of Cincinnati. And, well, he’s a Republican and a lot of his Republican friends, not looking the least bit out of place, showed up deep in the heart of Over-the-Rhine to make the announcement.

As I arrived on my borrowed Segway, I rode up to a friend and only jokingly asked, “Didn’t you guys vote to cut funding to this place?” He laughed.

Kidding aside, Wenstrup is a clean-cut podiatrist and surgeon who served in that role as a member of the military in Iraq. Will he beat uber-popular incumbent Mayor Mark Mallory? Not a chance. But — and this is the great news — he’ll provide city voters with a real choice.

I expect debates this fall to be intense as Wenstrup bones up on the issues and takes shots at the mayor, who’s good in his role but not perfect.

* * * * *

Thanks to Shawn Jenkins, I was back on a Segway this week.

The owner of the Segway store at Central Parkway and Vine Street let me take one out for the day. I zipped around downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Mount Adams. Lots of stares and quite a few people asking questions about the device, which is legal on Ohio public streets, much like an electric wheelchair.

One woman shouted at me as I zipped by, “I need me one of those!” Sad, though, was getting kicked out of Atrium Two on Fourth Street downtown, thanks to a building manager who thought the Segway was dangerous. Here’s to hoping that everyone keeps working to make Cincinnati a little cooler and more understanding.

We need it.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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