Every person who has ever met Thomas Jackson or seen his urban landscape and gardening work in his inner city Toledo, Ohio, neighborhood admires him.
This includes many important people such as long-serving US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, University of Toledo professors and students, as well as representatives of the Ohio EPA. Cleaning up and removing trash and junk from weedy lots, Jackson plants organic vegetables, shrubbery, and trees in their place. He even gave a couple hundred neighbors free pumpkins he’d grown, for Halloween.
If anyone should receive an award for helping a struggling city become proud of itself once more, it should be someone like urban gardener/landscaper Thomas Jackson, right?
Instead, Thomas Jackson has found himself repeatedly in housing court, in violation of city ordinances. He has been ordered to move his mulch piles and destroy many of the improvements he has made on the unoccupied land. All his hard, unpaid work and kindness to his community has been for nothing. Why? Apparently it’s because of one person in city government with a chip on his shoulder: District Councilman Tyrone Riley. The mayor’s office is missing-in-action, allowing Councilman Riley’s vendetta against Jackson to ruin Toledo’s chance to beautify and improve some of its 14,000 vacant lots.
Cities such as Detroit and Kansas City have very successful urban agriculture programs. Thomas Jackson has studied urban landscaping and runs his own landscaping business, so he knows what he’s doing. Congresswoman Kaptur has stated urban farming is a realistic option for Toledo and it’s working well in Cleveland, another large city she represents. Before and after photographs of the ground Jackson has improved upon tell their own story. How can anyone honestly say they prefer neglected empty lots compared to lots covered in lush green gardens and trees?
So why isn’t Toledo pursuing urban agriculture when it has plenty of empty space and a willing community leader who wants to teach others how to do the same? Because the city of Toledo didn’t come up with the idea is the only answer that makes any sense. The thinking in city hall seems to be that you can’t have citizens come up with good ideas of their own and implement them if you, as an official in city government, haven’t received your “bribe/praise” for “your” good idea first.
A helpful, hard-working neighbor is forced into court and made to pay fines for the “crime” of trying to turnhis neighborhood into a healthier, safer, and all around more beautiful place. Petitions are circulating on Jackson’s behalf, but why should citizens be made to feel they’re in the wrong in the first place for trying to do the right thing? Why should all Toledoans be made to suffer for one individual’s preferences on city council?
This is but one example of the biggest political story of 2016–and it’s not a new story, by far. Our government–local, state, and federal– doesn’t listen to us, the people. We’re superfluous to their plans. We ordinary citizens only get in the way of their schemes. The saddest part about this story is that we the people often give in to detrimental government schemes or check out mentally altogether because we have grown tired of “fighting the system.”
Now is not the time to give up the fight. If ever in the history of the United States (and perhaps the world) 2017 is the year to check our minds back in and stay awake and be alert. It’s time for we the people to take action and speak up on our own behalf because, frankly, those in power couldn’t care less about us and our needs. We have to make ourselves heard and we have to hold irresponsible politicians responsible for their harmful actions.
No more metaphorically sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and hoping the bad things will go away. You’re an adult, and it’s time to start acting like one. Make this new year a year where you educate yourself to what’s happening, what your best options are, and how you (along with others) can implement change for the better.
Isn’t it time we actually practiced true democracy in the United States of America instead of wrapping ourselves in a flag and pretending it’s happening? Because for millions of ordinary citizens like Thomas Jackson, pretending we have a democracy simply doesn’t work.
Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of Our Revolution Continues blog: http://bernie2016.blogspot.com