On August 23, 2013, I sent an email to the Maple Heights council president, and in that email I made the following statement "Considering that I had to take out a loan to pay my current property taxes, I want to know where every penny is going, and how it's being used. This is more than a hint on how I'm going to vote on the levy in November.". [Full text] *see my other comments at the bottom of this post
Well I didn't get a response to that email or an email of concern and wanting to help in some way to ease my tax burdens. What did happen after the 2013 tax levy was defeated ... I received a letter (dated 12/3/2013) from my mortgage company stating "A recent review of tax records has revealed delinquent taxes on the property securing the above referenced loan." It referenced $221.05, and a threat was made that if "I don't pay the $221.05, my mortgage company may exercise the option to pay those taxes, and the amount of the payment will be deducted from my escrow account and if I don't have an escrow account, one will be set up for me." Well folks, months ago, I set up payment arrangements with "Cuyahoga County" and presently only owe $37 which will be deducted from my checking account per that agreement. I also have monies deducted from my checking account to pay for taxes due in January.
Note: Actually I may have been eligible for hardship assistance (due to excessive medical bills, etc); but chose a payment plan for the entire amount instead.
Additional Note: Around the same time, I also got a letter from the IRS saying I owed them $149.17. A simple misunderstanding and luckily that problem was solved quickly.
Now I'm not sure if my email caused someone in Maple Heights government to inquire about my tax affairs to cause problems for me, but the letters and their timing sure seemed damn suspicious. See, I'm a senior citizen who criticizes Maple Heights government and asks questions ... questions that from responses I've received or lack of response, indicate to me that the leadership in Maple Heights is not happy with my criticisms or questions or requests.
What I had uncovered previously was that the company mentioned in the letter I received, a company called Corelogic (2), I've seen in public records dealing with Maple Heights government, and whose tentacles in the mortgage (property) business, etc are spread throughout Ohio and across the United States.
In 2012, I asked for public records related to salaries, benefits, ethnic code, etc of Maple Heights public employees. I was completely ignored until I started posting my "public records request" emails on this blog.
***I must have rattled some cages with those requests and other questions and concerns because one day in July 2012 while I was in the drive-thru line at Wendy's, several cop cars pulled into the Wendy's parking lot. The officers parked their cars, got out and approached my car and hung around my car until I picked up my cell phone and called my mother (to tell her about those officers) .. the officers then got back into their patrol cars and drove out of that parking lot. I jotted down the tag on one of the police cars, and when I got home I called and emailed a number of people to let them know what had happened, and gave them the number on the tag.
At the end of June, Channel 3 did a story about a former Maple Heights officer accused of excessive force. I had a link to that story posted on this blog around July 3rd or 4th. On July 5th, within minutes of putting out my trash, my video relay camera on my home captured a white male in (what appeared to be) a bullet proof vest walking up my drive way, past my side door. In that person's hand looked like a gun. It was raised while he walked up my driveway, and then pointed in front of him (toward the ground) when he walked by my side door.
I sent the video and photo to a number of people to get their opinion because I didn't want to overreact. I even called the electric, gas, water companies to see if they were in the area reading meters (they said no). Most of the people I sent the video and photo to said the white male was holding a gun.
Days later I called my attorney and Channel 3 because I wanted to know what this person (who appeared to be law enforcement) was doing on my property. It was a deadly serious issue, because aside from questions related to my safety, I actually could have been shot because I was behind my home dealing with the trash for 10 minutes or so (before the incident), and if you saw how he moved past my side door into my back yard, it would have been very likely that I could have been killed/murdered.
I eventually obtained police service records (which, by the way, took a call from the NAACP to obtain) for the day in July (2012), and July 5, 2013. Both times the police were in the vicinity on a call, but it appeared to me that both times they decided to take a side trip (if you know what I mean) that had nothing to do with the business at hand, but may have been an attempt to intimidate or worse.
What you may not know is the leadership in Maple Heights is predominantly white and the police force (at that time) had only one African American officer (I believe we now have 2). The city of Maple Heights is suffering financially, and over 68% of the population is African American; and if you know the history of blacks in this country, especially the history surrounding white law enforcement and the criminal justice system (see below), you know that for many black folk, to have to deal with people who can and have murdered blacks with impunity is especially daunting and sickening; and the fact most of their (predominantly white [male] Maple Heights police) salary is paid by the predominantly African American community (and we only have 1 or 2 blacks on the force) is insulting and offensive.
So why did I tell you my story? Because I want to (with a new year approaching) still let people know what's going on in Maple Heights; and because it is a story told by thousands of African American and Hispanic individuals, and nothing is done. The police force remains predominantly white in predominantly African American communities, and they continue to intimidate, harass and murder African Americans and Hispanics with impunity. If you want to change these things, you have to change the leadership in your community, and you must file a federal complaint (and/or call the NAACP) if you think you're the target of a "color of law abuse" or a government employee is trying to intimidate/frighten you. Make sure you back up everything you do and keep good records and keep copies of everything related to the incident. Also tell friends and family about suspicious incidents, etc., give them copies of things related to the incident, and watch out for each other. Finally, be very careful and obey the law, because the "color of law" abuser will probably try to deflect (and/or cover up) his/her/their behavior and try to embarrass or discredit or create problems for the complainant or whistle blower (that's why, if you're an African American, you need to get the NAACP involved and if necessary the "ColorofChange"). If you're a senior citizen, there are additional laws to protect you against various kinds of abuse and you may want to include filing a complaint on that level too.
I also think the African American community needs to see if there is a pattern of abuse and intimidation against African Americans who run for public office or serve in a public office, and a pattern of abuse and intimidation against African Americans who speak out and ask questions, complain, or request information that they are entitled to receive.
We also need (more money going to) community/neighborhood (paid) policing by people who actually live in our communities, and there should be regular public meetings with those who "protect and serve" and residents.
Do try to remember:
It's your community ... you can design whatever kind of police/security presence you want (public or private), with advisory boards (under federal purview), and policies that protect you from abuse and protect your constitutional rights.
[To be further edited]
Color of Law Abuses
Color of Law Abuses
Deprivation of Rights
Retired Police Officer Gets Choked Up Reflecting On The Injustices
The Year the Prison System Changed?
[BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLER] Jonathan Ferrell: Supposed to Die?
Black Holocaust in America
Black Skin, White Justice: Race Matters in the Criminal Justice System by Gary Highsmith
Police addicted to drug money: Column
Save the Dream Ohio Programs
*After you read the full text of the email I sent the council president ...... I want you to guess who swore the council president in at the "swearing in ceremony" in January. Yes, ... the law director (who answers to the mayor, who also serves as safety director - see Maple Heights City Charter,
The Department of Safety shall be under the direct charge of the Mayor, who shall be the Director of Safety.
The Department of Safety shall consist of a Division of Police and a Division of Fire. The Safety Director shall make all necessary rules and regulations for the government of these Divisions and shall be charged with the duty of enforcing within the limits of the City all police, sanitary and safety regulations that are prescribed by ordinance or by the general laws of the State. Each division shall be composed of such officers and employees as may be provided by ordinance or resolution of the Council, unless otherwise provided for in this Charter. The Safety Director shall keep a detailed and complete record of all activities of these Divisions, and shall cause each employee of the Department to make report of his or her activities.
The Director of Safety shall have the authority to suspend any employee of this Department for incompetency, gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, failure to obey orders given by the proper authorities, or for any just and reasonable cause. Any employee may appeal from such decision to the Civil Service Commission. In such event the Mayor shall forthwith transmit a copy of the charges and proceedings and the Commission shall hear such appeal and may affirm, disaffirm or modify the judgment, and its judgment in the matter shall be final.)."
Now go over to the public records request page on this blog, and you'll understand my growing concern.
Additional background information:
Maple Heights population has been in steady decline since at least 2007 (remember the mortgage crisis). A number of us questioned the salary of the mayor given that decline and looking at other cities and mayors who were facing financial crisis. Anyway, Maple Heights council in 2012 did a brave thing and reduced the mayor's salary (to take effect in 2016 (?) ).
The mayor vetoed the resolution. ***On the day of the police incident at Wendy's restaurant (mentioned above), I emailed the council president and asked if council could override the mayor's veto. The council president answered my email and said "yes". That night at council meeting, they voted and override the mayor's veto. [awesome]