Sunday evening I attended an accountability session at St. Michael’s school, organized by a local chapter of Faith in Indiana. Faith in Indiana is a statewide faith-based organization that works with clergy and leaders from various faith traditions to address and resolve social justice issues facing rural, urban, and suburban communities; it is a catalyst for marginalized people and people of faith to act collectively for racial and economic justice.
I normally focus here on the various ecological concerns of our world, but of course there are many interconnected & multifaceted societal issues we are facing (which is kind of the point of integral ecology). I’ve taken interest in a few of these other issues as a member of our Justice Seekers group & as a citizen raising my family here.
At the session, heard testimony from local families, teachers, non-profit leaders, business people, and the school superintendent around two main issues: the need to address the opioid crisis with treatment, not jails; and exploring a City ID program for city residents who are unable to access State ID’s.
The quotes here I have excerpted from the Pilot News coverage of the evening (look there for complete coverage of the evening).
Both candidates were asked the same question, ‘Will you work with us in developing a strategy which includes prevention, treatment over incarceration, and finding alternative treatments to opioid addiction?’
Mr. Walker responded, “Absolutely. Yes. 100% percent… When we look at our county jail, we know that it is overcrowded. There is an issue with that because we cannot keep cramming people into a jail over low level drug and alcohol offenses. We need to do more to prevent those and to educate them… I believe that treatment and recovery are more effective than incarceration…”
Mr. Senter responded: “Absolutely… I would be more than happy to talk about prevention and treatment. As we know, the Marshall County Commissioners right now are talking about adding on to our jail. We do not need that. We really have to come up with a different plan.”
Both candidates were also asked, “Will you meet with us within 30 days of the election to work on these issues?” to which they both agreed.
The conversation then moved to the emerging need for a Plymouth City ID. There are many reasons for a municipality to initiate such a program, such as obtaining medications at a pharmacy, visiting your children at the public school, and identifying oneself when talking with the police.
Among the speakers was Sam Centellas, Executive Director of La Casa de Amistad, which administers City ID programs for South Bend and Goshen. He expressed his willingness to administer the program were it approved for the city.
Both candidates were asked the same question, ‘Will you support us to develop a city ID for the residents of Plymouth, Indiana?’
Mr. Walker responded, “Yes, absolutely…as I’ve been campaigning and meeting with people and families, Hispanic and Latinx families… this is the number one that continues to come to the forefront of the conversation… So yes, that will be one of my top priorities if I am elected mayor.”
Mr. Senter responded: “Absolutely… yes, my administration… we looked maybe a year and a half ago here at St. [Thomas] Episcopal, we had a meeting about that then… That is one of the subjects that came up that night. Yes, I would absolutely put a committee together.”
Both candidates were also asked, “Will you convene a meeting of yourself, the Plymouth School Superintendent, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chief of Police, and our leaaders within 30 days of taking office in order to work on a solution which is helpful to our families and to the Plymouth community?”
Mr. Walker responded, “Yes, absolutely.”
Mr. Senter responded: “Yes, I would.”
Election day is Nov. 5th. The 30 day deadline is Thursday, Dec. 5th.
Thanks, Adam for putting this info out there. I had read the articles in the newspaper. These two issues along with affordable housing needs in Plymouth are so important for individuals and families in our local community.
Congratulations to Fr. John and ALL who organized this meeting with the mayoral candidates. May the interest shown push whoever is elected to fulfill his promises!
You are so right in saying these issues are part and parcel of integral ecology on the local level. I was happy to see Father John among the group. What do you think are the other main issues in Plymouth and surrounding area?
Thanks for your comment.
As someone who came from a stable household that had access to healthcare, education, etc. (and was spared the many travails that can set folks back, like disabilities, lay-offs, discrimination, etc) it can be tempting & self-justifying to see my stability as the result of my family’s moral uprightness, and poverty as the consequence of sloth, poor choices, etc. “If *we* could only teach *them* to garden & cook & budget, then they too will ascend to the ranks of the middle class.”
Social networks may be complex, but sometimes we over-complicate things. In our system, people need money. Money is the means by which folks procure reliable transportation, training, food, electricity, healthcare, etc.
While the broader “economy” has recovered since the Great Recession of 2018-2019, the worst income inequality in generations remains. We have >200 jobs open in Plymouth. My understanding is that most are low-wage; employers have trouble finding folks who can pass a employment drug screening.
According to Bread for the World, Indiana is the 11th most hungry state in the country. 1 in every 5 children live in poverty. Marshall County ranks slightly better, but not much (18% of children). (http://files.bread.org/state-fact-sheets/2018/indiana.pdf?_ga=2.262234636.1689685710.1572879220-706064719.1572879220).
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, an individual must earn $15.05 per hour in Indiana to provide for a family. Most advertised service jobs in the county pay less than this (https://livingwage.mit.edu/).
According to the United Way’s ALICE rubric (families who are Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed), the survival budget in Marshall County for a family of four is $47,352 ($22.77/hr for one wage, $11.39 for two) (https://beta-spaa.newark.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/2018-06/ALICE-Marshall%20County%20IN.pdf).
“Food stamps” (SNAP) is available to some. But for a family of 4, you would need to make less than $33,475 total (https://www.in.gov/fssa/dfr/3099.htm). If both adults are working, that implies that if they averaged more than $8.05/hr full-time they would not qualify. Likewise if anyone has more than $5,000 in assets (like two old vehicles each worth $2,000, plus $1,000 in cash and belongings), they are ineligible. Average benefit is $117/mo/person (https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/avg-monthly-snap-benefits/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedRows=%7B%22states%22:%7B%22indiana%22:%7B%7D%7D%7D&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D).
Here I am stretching beyond what the data say, but could it be that the combination of low-wages & life-sapping type of work (undemocratic labor arrangements that don’t seem to contribute to local community well-being, sense of place & purpose, etc), is part of the cause of the drug addiction & crisis of purpose/meaning we are seeing?
A lot of folks have also talked about affordable housing. I don’t have much data on that question. I believe there are a high number of rentals vs. owner-occupied units in Plymouth now, though that’s not the same things as affordability. Marshall County ranks 39th of 92 counties for median household income of $53,387 (http://www.stats.indiana.edu/profiles/profiles.asp?scope_choice=a&county_changer=18099). This is $25.66/hr for one earner, or $12.83/hr for two earners. Median rent in the county is $537, ranking 38th of 92 counties. So if we are ranked the same for rent & income, it seems like that would imply our affordability rates are roughly the same as other Indiana counties.
I don’t see the lack of housing availability for middle/upper income households… it seems to me when we were looking there several options, and we found just the right house at an affordable price (not updated, but not in disrepair). On the beginning rung of home ownership, there are fixer-uppers, if folks can do some repairs/renovations themselves (I’m pretty limited in those skills!).
Sorry, this turned into a blog post!