Ohio & Michigan's Oldest and Largest Latino / Hispanic Newspaper

Since 1989




    media kit    ad specs    classified ad rates    about us    contact us


FLOC leader accuses Mayor of stalling on ‘Poverty Issues’

By La Prensa Staff


July 26, 2019: The leader of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) believes the poor are being forgotten on a couple of major issues affecting the safety of the African-American and Latino communities in poorer neighborhoods.


FLOC founder and president Baldemar Velásquez is accusing Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz of dragging his feet on some issues important to the Latino and African-American communities. In particular, one of those issues involves a promise by the mayor to extend LED lighting city-wide to improve the safety of neighborhoods by the end of 2020. Velásquez contends the mayor made that promise at a forum held last October by the Black and Brown Unity Coalition.


“Seems like his schedule keeps getting pushed back,” said the FLOC leader. “What I’m hearing now and not by him, by First Energy, is it will at least be the end of 2021. That’s a year beyond what the mayor had predicted. I’m afraid they keep pushing his calendar back. The inner city is still in flux. This city has a lot of problems that have been ignored for a long time.”


Velásquez and some FLOC Homies Union members have met with the mayor twice this year on the issue of LED lighting. The youth-oriented group successfully lobbied for a pilot project in the Old South End with the hope of reducing crime along the Broadway Corridor and its side streets.


“The police department told us that crime automatically dropped ten percent just with the lights,” said Velásquez. “I think, as the surrounding areas get lit, there’s going to be more vigilance in the neighborhoods. The kids are still at risk. One girl’s brother got jumped in the dark and a couple of girls indicated they were afraid to walk at night. Sometimes they have to, even though it gets dark in the winter early and they’re coming home from school events, afterschool stuff. It’s a worrisome problem because they can be subjected to crime.”


LED lights are brighter and more energy-efficient than traditional street lighting, but the changeover can be expensive. The Old South End pilot project, involving 200 LED lights, was considered a success, as were similar efforts in two other Toledo neighborhoods.  


Converting the entire city could get expensive. At $344 per light, upgrading the city’s 28,000 lights would come at an estimated total cost of nearly $10 million. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has offered to issue long-term financing, to be repaid in perhaps 10 to 15 years by Toledo leaders using the energy cost savings. City leaders say that estimated cost likely will decrease after this November, because such LED lighting will no longer be considered experimental technology.


Waiting for the cost to come down may be one possible explanation for the lack of progress in outfitting the city’s street lighting with LED bulbs. But Velásquez stated the mayor’s office has failed to communicate with his group on why the changeover is taking so long to implement.


“Nobody’s addressed it before, because nobody really cared about the neighborhoods in the inner city,” alleged Velásquez. “They just care about the central downtown and all the money that’s going there. They put these kind of matters on the back burner and we’ve got to get them to make it more of a priority.”




Velásquez raises a similar claim on the issue of lead poisoning in the city’s older housing stock. A judge declared a lead-safe ordinance unlawful last year, after a lengthy fight between activists and real-estate investors over the health department’s mandated role of enforcing lead paint testing, inspections and civil penalties. No solution has been found since the judge’s ruling.


“We’ve done some surveys among our membership in the Latino community. We’re finding out that yes, indeed, that it is an issue that does impact in the Latino community as well,” he said. “It impacts all poor people—black, brown, white, red, and yellow. I think that officials have known that since (19)86 and they’ve gone back and forth about it in very superficial ways for a long time and the current initiative being discussed, is, to me, incredibly lacking in urgency.”


Velásquez stated community leaders know that “lead paint poisoning is prevalent among poor people who live in these homes.”


“We know that these children’s brains are being damaged, permanently damaged,” he said. “I don’t know why it’s not a state of emergency. I’m very concerned that this is some degree of neglect because it’s poor people.”


Velásquez vowed to “strategize next steps” within the Black and Brown Unity Coalition. For FLOC’s part, the union intends to form a “Committee of 100” within the next 60 days, made up of 100 registered voters from among the membership of the union and its affiliates to “serve as a sounding board for political issues.”


Six district Toledo City Council seats will be up for grabs this November, including the one that represents East Toledo and the Old South End, which will see a new face after the announcement by incumbent Peter Ujvagi that he won’t seek re-election.


“I think if that committee is active, at a given time we can pull 60 or 70 of them together, to question and exchange views with any candidates, I think that would be the way to go,” he said.


That would mean one more large-scale candidate forum to add to a busy schedule of traditional neighborhood forums that dot the fall campaign schedule.


Those two issues, along with others, dominated the discussion agenda at a FLOC Homies Union meeting on July 25. Another was the loss of hundreds of migrant farmworker jobs this year, due to poor weather faced by farmers. But Velásquez also laid blame at the feet of President Donald Trump.


“The trade deals the administration has pushed has really hurt the farming community,” he said.



“China really did a smart move. Instead of putting tariffs on tobacco grown in the U.S., and we’re talking millions of pounds of tobacco, they simply didn’t buy any. That was a retaliation to Trump’s tariffs. We’ve lost several hundred jobs because the acreage was cut and some farmers decided to not even plant tobacco. It’s not worth it to plant a small amount of acreage and try to make it cost-effective.”


While most of that tobacco is grown in the Deep South, Velásquez also called it an “Ohio issue,” because some of the crop is grown in southern counties.


FLOC also protests monthly outside local 7-Eleven stories, targeting RJ Reynolds and its e-cigarette business, particularly its VUSE line of products. Velásquez stated a breakthrough is possible in its efforts to establish supply chain pricing with farmers to ensure good-paying jobs for migrant farmworkers who pick the tobacco crop.


The protests have gained the attention of the franchisee coalition of 7-Eleven stores. The FLOC founder and president believes the protests are now causing a public image problem for the tobacco giant, as well as the national convenience store chain.


“If they cooperate with us in letting Reynolds America know that their e-cigarette sales is creating problems with them with their consumers, we might turn our attention to Circle K then,” he said. “We’ll keep it up until Reynolds signs an agreement responding to the things we need to make the agricultural system sustainable.”


VUSE is being targeted because it is the tobacco giant’s most profitable product line these days. Velásquez stated the company considers e-cigarettes to be the “tobacco product of the future” and Reynolds is “investing an enormous amount of money” marketing VUSE, especially to younger consumers. He stated the boycotts will continue until satisfactory progress is made.


“We’re raising doubts in the consumer’s mind about the product and that neutralizes a lot of their marketing dollars,” he said. “Reynolds is talking to us as a result. They’re just not just talking the right things. They want to throw money all around. But we want them to throw money into the supply chain so that farmers and farmworkers can have a sustainable living.”


Editor’s Note:

Below is the Mayor’s response


On LED lights:

“I’m committed to having LED lights on every light post in the city by December 31, 2021. Along with continuing to add police officers to our streets, this plan will drastically improve safety in all Toledo neighborhoods, and I’m proud this administration had the courage to make such a bold promise. Even though the city will need the cooperation of Toledo Edison to make this happen — since Edison owns the 28,000 poles in our city — this initiative is right on schedule. I’m sure Baldemar will continue to pressure Toledo Edison to make sure it is completed on time.”


On lead:

“I’ve never been interested in symbolic measures that don’t solve real problems. The passage of the lead ordinance a few years ago may have made everyone feel good about themselves, but it didn’t prevent one child from being poisoned because it couldn’t hold up in court. That is unacceptable. While my administration is defending the law and waiting for a resolution, we have worked every day to make sure the lead safe ordinance is effective once it can be enforced again. For the sake of our kids, we have to take the time to get this right — and that is exactly what we are doing.”



Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/30/19 22:12:39 -0700.




Web laprensa





«Tinta con sabor»     Ink with flavor!



Spanglish Weekly/Semanal

Your reliable source for current Latino news and Hispanic events with English and Spanish articles.
Contact us at laprensa1@yahoo.com or call (419) 870-6565



Culturas Publication, Inc. d.b.a. La Prensa Newspaper

© Copyrighted by  Culturas Publication, Inc. 2012