Tim Fulton 00:08
Welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week from context comes an understanding of everything. Today’s guest well known Central Ohio journalist, politician and author Michael Curtin seems to have understood that from his early days as a reporter, to his time as a legislator. In our interview, Mike discusses his career, the future of journalism, the importance of compromise, and how we view issues largely depends on the vantage point with which we view them. Our conversation provides an understanding that context is not just about seeing the bigger picture. It’s about appreciating the stories, decisions and efforts that create that picture. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Mike curtain, the former president and CEO and vice chairman of the dispatch printing company, also former State Rep. In former district 17 lifelong Columbus resident, Mike, how are you, sir?
Mike Curtin 01:30
Good, Tim. Thanks for having me.
Tim Fulton 01:32
Absolutely. Absolutely. Can you give us sort of the the the elevator pitch is isn’t even going to be sure for your background. But talk quickly through sort of your career and then we’ll, we’ll go back a couple of times. Well, I
Mike Curtin 01:48
grew up in Columbus, my parents sent their five kids through Catholic school. So I went through 12 years of Catholic schools at St. Christopher Elementary and Bishop waters in high school on to Ohio State. And majored in Journalism at Ohio State came out of Ohio State in 1973. But prior to that, I’d won an internship at the dispatch. So while I was finishing up my studies at Ohio State, I got my foot in the door, the classic foot in the door at the dispatch, in the summer of 73. So when I graduated in December of 73, there was a job waiting for me, because my internship went well. So for the next 38 years, I went through the steps at the dispatch, general assignment, City Hall, county government, state government became the paper’s chief political writer. And then I became an executive. I was editor and then associate publisher, President, Chief Operating Officer and Vice Chairman of the Board, but my wheelhouse, if you will, was politics, local and state government, local and state politics, public policy, electoral politics, that’s what I loved. Doing. I like to think I did it well, it it matters. You know, these these public policy issues at the local and state level matter, I realize how much they mattered when I was at Ohio State in the tumultuous late 60s and early 70s. Yeah, you know, the campus was, you know, a wonderful place to be a student journalist. At that time. I fell in love with what journalism is. And the dispatch gave me a wonderful 38 years to do it. When newspapers were still king.
Tim Fulton 03:23
Yeah. And you I mean, you were there when you could drive 15th all the way to the Oval.
Mike Curtin 03:29
Correct? Pretty much. Okay. The West Campus was just opening up. Okay. You know, there are two buildings on the West Campus. And the just the journalism school was relocated from Nealon 17th or Neyland? 15th I think it was okay. To West Campus. Or there was right Meyer Hall and Beavis Hall. And you look at West Campus now. And it’s a small city, as you know, yeah. But so my, my freshman year was on main campus, but then after that, it was on West Campus, but going back and forth, of course, and the lantern was a marvelous laboratory. So I was able to cover trials of people on trial, like Charles Ross, you know, who was was charged, you know, with fomenting unrest on campus, okay. And so I was able to cover his federal trial, for example, the courthouse was able to cover the emerging Black Studies department and a brand new department at at Ohio State and be on the cutting edge of, you know, cultural, racial, societal change, and the excitement of doing that and trying to do it well, you know, never left me
Tim Fulton 04:42
and after just to get fully encapsulated after your time at the dispatch, you decided to you jokingly refer to it as grad school before we started recording but you decided to run for to a state rep seat. Yeah, so
Mike Curtin 04:58
I left the dispatch Watch at the end of 2011. And 2011, just happened to be the year that new districts had to be drawn for the 2012. You know, legislative races as they are every 10 years following the federal census. And lo and behold, a new house district was drawn around, you know, where I live. And I thought, you know, and I was somewhat self conscious about never going back to grad school never getting a degree but beyond my bachelor’s in journalism, and I thought about law school, I thought about other things along the way, but the timing was never right. I was a very busy journalist, my wife and I were raising two kids. And so I truly did analogize a run for the legislature and serving if I want to sort of a grad school experience, because I knew I would learn a lot. Yeah, because the legislature deals with every issue under the sun from A to Z. And I was a policy wonk, you know, put somebody who seriously studied local estate, public policy. And so I thought, I might enjoy this. And I did I really enjoyed running twice and serving for four years, but four years was enough for me,
Tim Fulton 06:10
but decided not I mean, it was term limited at that time, right? You had the opportunity to run for
Mike Curtin 06:14
I could have run for two more terms for tomorrow for a total of eight years. Okay, but I cashed it in after after two and decided that I wanted a little more free time. And we were in the minority Democrats. Yes, I would Democrat Democrats were in the minority. So it’s not like you’re driving a train the policy train. And I had other things I wanted to do. A little more free time, as I mentioned to you before we went on the air. Yeah. I’m an umpire. I’ve been umpire in baseball and Fastpitch softball for 22 years at the high school in division three college level. And I just wanted a little more free time while I still had my health to, you know, do things that were were fun and, and sustain me.
Tim Fulton 06:57
Absolutely. Talk through sort of your your time at the dispatch and your progression there. You started as a reporter became the chief politics reporter. And then that actually, I’m curious about I don’t necessarily want to get deep into the downfall of newspapers, right. We can. A lot has been said about it. And I don’t know that the dispatches story, you can correct me if I’m wrong is unique. advertising revenue goes down and you have to cut resources in order to continue making it a profitable business. But talk about your transition from journalism to basically running the paper.
Mike Curtin 07:38
Well, I started in 1973. And like all new reporters, you get thrown into general assignment beats you’re covering the tragedies of the day, the fires, the fatal crashes, the drownings, the police blotter stuff, you know, I did that for a year, year and a half and then the paper put me on what was called the development beat, okay. The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission, coda, rail, Downtown Development freeway building, the the route 315 expressway was being planned at that time, the I 670 freeway was being planned at that time. And I was covering these things. I was covering the effort to keep nationwide downtown covering the effort to keep Lazarus downtown. So downtown redevelopment, I think I did that job pretty well, by focusing on those sorts of urban redevelopment issues, I then got assigned in 1977, to the City Hall beat, okay, big beat, arguably the most important beat at a newspaper. And Mayor Tom Moody was in a second term. And the city was just busting I mean, this was the the early stages of the population explosion of Columbus, compared to Cleveland, Cincinnati, the other big urban areas of Ohio, and I covered City Hall from 77 through 79. Covering all these, you know, neighborhood development issues, and then they like to put reporters through the steps. So after City Hall coverage, I got sent to the county beat, okay, and I covered Franklin County Government on the non judicial side for a few years. And then they sent me to the state house in 1982. At the tail end of Jim Rogers governorship. I was the chief legislative correspondent covering the House and Senate every day they were in session, big policy issues, and I fell in love with it. My goal was to try to become Ohio’s David Broder. I mean, I wanted to be sort of a recognized top political reporter in the state. And there were lots of good ones I don’t claim I ever got there, but the competition was was great newspapers were king. You know, the Internet didn’t come along till 1995 For most of us, and so we made a big impact and on our joint coverage and we you could you could influence policymaking simply by coverage especially, you know, deep coverage, putting issues in historical context. And after I did that job at the Statehouse for a while that paper in, in the mid 80s, named me Chief politics writer, they called the Public Affairs desk. I was head of the Public Affairs editor, the chief of six reporters covering state government. Okay. And I did that from the mid 80s Until the early 90s. And I was encouraged to move up the chain. I was encouraged by the front office to to apply for promotions. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do that. Because I was in love with reporting. Yeah, I wasn’t sure I would love management. But long story short, in 1995, I was named editor. I was editor for four years through 1999. When they pulled me into the front office. They didn’t ask me, John F. John F. Wolf told me he was taking me into the front office. Why? Because he was a policy wonk himself, he loved politics, government, and I think he appreciated the way I covered it. And he trusted me, I mean, he clearly trusted me, which is why he pulled me into the front office, named me associate publisher, and then later named me, President, Chief Operating Officer in the late 90s, early 2000s. And then vice chairman of the company, this batch printing company, and all that entails. So that just wasn’t the dispatch, that was a chain of weekly newspapers. That was our broadcast operations, our TV and radio broadcast operations, and everything else. So he tried to make a businessman anatomy I’m not sure he was very successful at doing that. But I’ll end with in my filibuster with this, Tim,
Tim Fulton 11:42
not at all, you know,
Mike Curtin 11:45
by the early 2000s, certainly by 2001 2002, you didn’t have to be a Phi Beta Kappa to see what the future of print journalism was. The internet had destroyed the economic model for newspapers, advertising went off the cliff, if you’re a display advertiser with a huge inventory, why would you spend 10s of 1000s of dollars for full page newspaper ads, when you can put your entire inventory online, at your company, website, your store website, that’s what happened. People discovered they could get information for free subscription started tanking. So over a period of several years, I sort of negotiated a diplomatic exit from the dispatch. Because I didn’t see myself as being the pink slip guy laying off my friends, I knew what what had to happen. I knew that that the shrinkage of newsroom was going to be dramatic, I knew that the paper would be undergoing a very, very painful transformation to its next phase. And I simply didn’t want to be in charge of reduction, reducing the forces of all my friends that I grew up with. And I wasn’t, it wasn’t driven all by altruism. I knew I had some pension money there to claim when I retired. So I retired from the front office as an executive at the end of 2007. But I structured a deal with John F. Wolf, to for the next four years on contract as an independent contract. With only one client dispatch, being my client, run his editorial page, represent him in the community, sit on boards for him, be his eyes and ears in the community. And I did that for four years, from 2008 through 2011. In everybody who’s watching this understands what’s happening in newspapers in the in the interim, and we’re moving to a totally online environment, where news newsrooms will be much smaller. But hopefully we’ll still have them and nonprofit newsrooms are growing up, as you know, yeah. In this state in most states to try to fill the void of Community Public Service journalism.
Tim Fulton 13:47
Do you think that that’s the this is a an opinion? Question, do you think that that’s the way to go? Do you think that that is the sustainable model that will allow for newsrooms to keep existing I think
Mike Curtin 13:59
the future of community journalism is the nonprofit model, okay, supported through philanthropy and memberships. There’s no real economic basis of support for community journalism anymore. I would love to be wrong. I would love to be proven wrong. But as we sit here, newspapers in America are dying at the rate of two per week. And news deserts continued to expand. These big companies like Annette are over their head and debt. Yeah.
Tim Fulton 14:31
Well, they’re leverage for a reason. But like, that’s the whole of it. It’s not like, Oh, poor guy net. Well, that’s right.
Mike Curtin 14:36
But they continue to slice and slice and slice and slice. It’s clear that print print journal isn’t going away. It’s an all online future. And in that competition for attention, it seems to me that the winners are going to be the nonprofits supported by their communities and quiet frankly, a lot of volunteerism, a lot of people who are willing to be not just an ographers, but reporters at very low rates as a civic service. Yeah. You know, as essentially, like people work the polls.
Tim Fulton 15:14
I mean, well, I don’t know that I’ve ever really disclosed it. But welcome to the confluence cast where I don’t get paid. This is, you know, for me, I’m interested, right. And because it’s important, yeah, exactly. documenting things, right. And what has sort of become a theme recently is focusing on and realizing that there’s not a whole lot of knowledge about the history of the city, and sort of the where we came from. I’m wondering if you have an opinion there on like, why folks don’t necessarily pay a whole lot of attention to where did we come from?
Mike Curtin 15:57
Well, that is a great question. I wish I had a reasonable answer for you. But civics education seems to be almost an all time low, certainly in my lifetime. I mean, and attention spans continue to shrink, because everybody’s addicted to, you know, their, their handheld computers. The studies that are done by Pew Research, and information scientists, you know, show that, you know, people are accessing more information than ever. Yeah. I saw one study within the past year where some information scientists were saying that the average American ingests over 100,000 words per day. High school and college teachers will tell you that it’s almost impossible to get students to read long form things like novels like Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain and all that, you know, because the, the information overload this staccato? Yeah, ingestion of news, rewires the brain, I guess changes the brain.
Tim Fulton 17:10
And I guess I have a perception and, frankly, a frustration that it almost seems like that is more acute here in Columbus, specifically, of not being aware of major news stories, not being aware of histories of places, as you’ve talked about regarding Franklinton. And I don’t know if you see that as much or if that hasn’t been your experience.
Mike Curtin 17:39
Well, it’s an interesting story, why I develop such an appreciation for history and historical context. When I joined the paper in 1973, it was the evening newspaper. The Columbus citizen journal was the morning newspaper, right? The Columbus evening dispatch had always been an evening newspaper. Okay, since its inception. And when I joined the paper in 1973, our absolute deadline was 1030 in the morning. Well, nothing in government happens before 1030 In the morning, okay, so if you’re the City Hall reporter for the dispatch, which I was for several years, and knowing that nothing breaks on your time, all news is breaking on the competitors time, right? Jerry Kondo at the Columbus citizen journal who was a marvelous city hall reporter for them, everything broke on his time. So I was never going to compete with Jerry Kondo and the citizen journal, on the basis of immediacy, on the basis of bringing you the first news very, very rarely Okay, but what I could do, and I’m not Phi Beta Kappa, I’m a tortoise. But it dawned on me that if I was going to have a competitive edge against Yuri Kondo, and the CJ, which was a small newspaper, with not nearly a news hole, the dispatch a big fat newspaper, what I could do is take a current issue and do my best to put it in historical context. He couldn’t do that he didn’t have a news hole to do that. So when it came to freeway building, when it came to municipal income taxation, when it came to an energy project, like the trash burning power plant that famously became the cash burning power plant under Tom moody, when it when it came time to these important civic issues that came out of City Hall. What I could do is talk about this freeway building project, in the context of freeway development in our community. That’s where a lot of that came from, in that Franklinton talk was, frankly, was impacted as much as any neighborhood by freeway building at the start. And so I tried as much as I could, during my time at the dispatch, whether had the City Hall beat, the county beat, the state government beat, to take these issues and to write them in a manner where I could try to explain to readers how this evolved where this came from. Give them some historical context and appreciation. And I like to think I did that successfully. And that’s what led me to do three editions of The Ohio politics Almanac, which is an attempt to take the story of Ohio, its general assembly, its constitution is judiciary, the development of its cities and counties put each one of those in a Chapter okay to to describe the political and societal evolution of of Ohio and its political subdivisions. So, I’m filibustering here, not an answer to your to your question. But you really one of the folks on how do we sort of rebuild a desire among our people, our voters, you know, for understanding the the context, you know, the here we are with facing state issues one and two in this November’s election, on abortion in on marijuana, whether it’s marvelous historical context for both those issues. You know, the the the sea change and public attitudes toward marijuana night gallop, which is pulled on every subject under the sun since the 1940s. Right. For the very first time pulled on the legalization of marijuana in 1969. Okay, in 1969, they asked a national sample, whether marijuana ought to be legal or not. 84% No. 12%? Yes. The remainder undecided 84%? No, in 1969, my senior year in high school, I would have thought would be a little bit lower than 84. But fast forward to today, November 7 of 2023. We’re voting on legalization of recreational marijuana in Ohio. And it’s almost the reverse now. Yeah, solid, solid majority of people believe that marijuana should be legalized for recreational purposes, which is why that issue is probably going to pass. Yeah, by the time this thing is we’ll probably know if I was right or wrong. But when you combine the decriminalization of marijuana under Governor Jim Rhodes, and then the legalization of medicinal marijuana a few years ago, and now voting on recreational marijuana, it’s clear what the trend lines are, in terms of acceptance of that. Yeah, but, but understanding that and teaching that is important, because you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where he came from. Yeah. And so I think describing these, these trends, whether it be on abortion, or marijuana, or any public policy issue is very important. And that’s what I tried to devote my career to
Tim Fulton 22:43
well, and I had the opportunity to hear you talk about the constitutional amendment around the 60% threshold for changing the state constitution. And your ability to you You did reference, this is why they’re doing it. But your core issue was not, hey, we need to make sure abortion gets passed. Your core issue was this is wrong. This is the reason why there’s a 50% threshold is from back when that threshold was put in place. People were corrupt. And there was a problem
Mike Curtin 23:18
in 1912, when Ohio adopted the statutory Initiative and the constitutional initiative. We had one of the most corrupt state houses in the nation, the constitutional amendment process by giving the people the power to circulate petitions, gather signatures, and put an issue on the ballot that changed our amendment was a was a cleansing. A great cleansing moment in Ohio political history, it helped clean up a corrupt state house and what I was so appalled by and the reason I threw myself into that campaign, is because they were selling it on a false premise. Yeah, Ohioans had not abused that, right. If you look at the history from 1913, the first year they could exercise it to the present day, they had only approved about 1/4 of all the initiated amendments to come before them. And what I asked my opponents in debate was okay, you can take casinos, I can give you casinos, perhaps, yeah. But choose any one of those other 18 of those 19 amendments approved through the citizen initiative process. That’s 1913. Which one of the other 18 Would you take out of the Constitution? Which one did the voters get wrong? could name one because the voters had been judicious. They’ve been wise. They’ve used that power. Very discriminately. And that’s, you know, that history teaching that history in the course of that campaign was very important.
Tim Fulton 24:39
Do you have observations about how you think the State House is running now? Like you obviously don’t think that that was a good idea to put that forward? There were motivations there and that’s why it was done. But do you do you have broader observations for the state of things at the Statehouse?
Mike Curtin 24:57
Well, political super majorities are not a good thing. Whether it’s a democratic supermajority or republican supermajority, when you have that kind of power, bad things tend to happen. When you have split control of government, you have an imperative to seek moderation to seek compromise to find the middle ground, which usually leads to better public policy than ideologically driven policy of the left or the right. So if I had a magic wand, I would create a couple of Republican members of Columbus City Council, because I don’t think an all democratic city hall serves any city well, any more than all Republican Council does. Right now at the Statehouse. We have super majorities in both chambers for the first time in the modern era. We’ve never had before since we went to single member districts in 1967. Because what I’m sorry, what does that mean? Well, in the 1960s, the federal courts, including the US Supreme Court issued a series of rulings saying that you must apportion your legislature on a basis of population only. Okay. And before that, before that we had, every county in Ohio was guaranteed at least one state representative. Okay, so all 88 counties were guaranteed at least one state rep. That was the old Hana amendment of 1903. Okay, what’s that give you gave us what was called a Cornstalk brigade, you know, where the rules are gonna go to run everything. And in urban areas were underrepresented, because of you know, their populations, you know, weren’t being reflected in the way districts were drawn. So in the 60s, and it’s culminated in 1967, all state legislatures in the country under Federal Supreme Court order, were required to draw districts on the basis of one person, one vote. And that’s what you mean by single member. So you’ll ever districts got it one person, one vote districts. Well, so that was ushered in, in Ohio in 1967. Since 1967, never in our state history until today, has one party had a supermajority control of both chambers. What do I mean by supermajority? a two thirds majority, right. Okay. They can get anything they can do anything they want. Okay. In fact, Senate President Huffman has said that, yeah, publicly, he said, we can pretty much do anything we want. That’s not a good thing. And I’d be saying the same thing if it were the other party. Yeah. And I’d say this, the mayor get there who I respect, I think Mayor get there, you know, has done a lot of good. But we shouldn’t have any of our core public entities, in my view, run by one party, especially with a supermajority because then they don’t have to be cognizant of dissenting viewpoints. And, you know, the loyal opposition has always been important in our country at every level. And so I hope to live long enough. This week, as I turned 72, I hope to live long enough and only see my grandkids grow up, but to see some moderation. And as you know, our politics today, at almost every level is is marked by polarization, Uber partisanship, ideologically driven agendas, regardless of what the science says, regardless of what the evidence says that this country didn’t become what it is, by rejecting science and rejecting evidence, whatever the issue is, and now and this, of course, was the poster child for this, of course, was Donald Trump, in his four years of his presidency where evidence didn’t matter. Truth didn’t matter. We have to break this fever in our country at some point, and hopefully, and we all have to contribute to breaking that fever.
Tim Fulton 28:40
Well, and it’s a bit of a testament to you, and you can please correct me if I’m wrong here. John Rolfe is a Republican, like was a Republican, and you and he, and he entrusted you to lead the basically the voice of his newspaper, as a Democrat.
Mike Curtin 28:59
He didn’t know I was a Democrat, though, okay. Because when I joined the dispatch, and I realized I was gonna be covering political issues. You know, I was gonna be covering politics, keep your head over that I? Well, I had been born into an Irish Catholic democratic family, John F. Kennedy was the guy. Yeah, in our family when I was in grade school. Well, I knew when I joined the dispatch, if I was going to be covering politics, I couldn’t be identified with one party or another. So I didn’t vote in primaries. And by not voting in primaries, I wasn’t, can’t get looked up. Right. You can’t you well, you don’t have a party label assigned to you, right? Because the way that you choose your party affiliation, as you know, in Ohio is to vote in a primary, right? You’re gonna vote the Democratic primary and the Republican primary or the green primary or whatever. And so I park that, I park that and I did not vote in a partisan primary for my career at the dispatch and so John never looked it up. And had he looked up my career he would have seen that middle back my senior year in high school. in freshman year in college, I was voting D. By the time I was a reporter, I was not voting DRR anymore, I was just voting in general elections. So this will sound self serving, so forgive me, but John F off. And the whole family, of course, was very, very good to me. And John paid me some compliments, probably more than I deserved. But one compliment I will always hold on to, is when I called him up, to let him know, I was gonna run for the legislature. You know, I made that phone call to him in December of 2011. And I said, John, I’m gonna I’m gonna run for the legislature in 2012. Because house scene is opened up. He is Well, Mike, I have one question for you. So he was out and he was as a Democrat or a Republican. And that’s what John thank you very much. I, I treasure that comment because I that’s how I tried to conduct myself as a journalist, and as a newsroom leader. No one should know what your politics are, you know, if you’re doing the job well, both people of all parties should feel they were given a fair break. And now, of course, the editorial page was was clearly Republican for all those years. Yes. And a lot of people when I did come out and come out and run as a Democrat for the legislature were rather surprised. Yeah, figured how this guy, how does Democrat become the number two guy that this match? Right? Well, it’s because during my career, I did my best not to conduct myself as a D or an orange, anything else. But as Sergeant Joe Friday, just the facts, ma’am. And not write ideological pieces, or editorials or columns with a point of view, but historical pieces. So when I wrote income tax, that when the city of Columbus put a measure on the ballot to increase the city income tax from 1.5 to 2%. I put that in the context of where did municipal income tax come from? Because most cities and most states don’t allow municipal income taxation. You know, Columbus, Ohio is one of the few states that does allow municipal income taxation. But that’s interesting. Where’d that come from? Well, Philadelphia was the first state, um, the first city in 1947, to enact a municipal income tax, because the Pennsylvania legislature allowed that. Well, Ohio in 1912, pass an amendment allowing this boy income taxation, because we were growing up as a very urbanized industrial state at that time, you know, Toledo and Cleveland, and Youngstown and Ken, and Akron and Cincinnati, and they were all developing these big industries. And the thought was that, at that time, the property tax was the bulwark of, of taxation in the state. And these farmers in these rural areas, they thought, well, as we grow up with more and more population, and more more demands for civic services, you know, we don’t want that property tax continuing to go up, right. And so there was a consensus to allow municipal income taxation in this state. And after Toledo became the first city in the state to adopt a municipal income tax in 1947. And then Ohio, or Columbus followed suit the following year. And so what I tried to do when I was writing this income tax stories, here’s where income tax municipal income taxation came from, and to be balanced with property taxes and sales taxes. So you have a number of sources to support all the services out there, and you’re not overly reliant on property or sales, or excise or any other type of taxation and teaching those lessons. First of all, you teach them to yourself, right? Because I didn’t know the those answers. So as you know, as a journalist, you teach yourself first. And then you write a piece that hopefully teaches others provides that content provides that context so that they can judge Oh, that’s the reason that, that Ohio is structured the way it is. And that’s where that idea of municipal income taxation came from. And so when I wrote whether it was about urban redevelopment issues, whether we should tear down the old ballpark on Mount St that I love this jet stadium grown up previously redboard Byrd stadium, then Cooper Stadium, the city fathers wanted to bring baseball downtown, as you know, as part of the arena development, District Development. And I had mixed emotions about that having my heart at old jet stadium on Mount St. So I did a big long piece of the dispatch on the evolution of baseball in Columbus, you know, and the different venues for over the decades going back to old Neal park on the Hill Avenue, you know, which was a predecessor to Redbird stadium. And I found back in the day when newspapers were King, I found that people appreciate that kind of cultural, societal and historical context.
Tim Fulton 34:56
Can you talk about your other work? So I know you do a lot of work in board service. A lot of even on your old archived campaign site, one of the top navigation items is contribute to nonprofits. What are you currently working on?
Mike Curtin 35:16
Well, I’m on five boards, several of which are very time consuming boards. I’m on the Ohio expo center board, for example, Governor dewine, upon appointing me to the Expo Center, the expo Commission Board, we are undergoing a master plan for reinventing the entire fairgrounds. Okay, those the highest state fair has been on that location since the 1880s. A lot of those buildings reflect that. And that’s a 360 acre tract up there. And Governor dewine is one of his signature accomplishments that he wants to leave office with is a reinvigorated fairgrounds Expo grounds. So I’m on the board of the expo Commissioner, he also named me to be co chair of what’s called the Ohio Expo 2050 Task Force 2050 for a reason. And so I’m working with a lot of people on reinventing the state fairgrounds, and over the next several years, people will see, I think, a pretty impressive reinvention of those grounds to bring it into the modern era, and make it more than what it is now. It’s already pretty good Expo Center grounds. And I’m doing that I’m on. I’m on the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority Board, which does what you’d expect it to do We help business and industry meet federal clean air standards and not be given given them grants but helping them use the state’s borrowing authority to get low cost. Financing for clean air projects. Along the Mount Carmel Foundation Board Mount Carmel speaks for itself. Having grown up Catholic I’ve had an affinity for Catholic health care, mission driven health care. The other two boards I’m honored to Columbus international visitors Council. The IVC is officially designated organization by the US State Department to host visiting delegations from countries all over the world who come to Columbus for a reason to study what we do and how we do it. And then I’m also on the board of the Washington gladden social justice park at the corner of Cleveland and Broad Street. In honor of Washington gladden, one of Columbus’s most notable visionaries and a leader in the progressive movement of the late 1800s. Early 1900s brought a lot of reforms to to Columbus. So I’m on those boards, but then every year bring something some challenge some issue, like the 60% issue in August, that you just have to become a warrior on so you never know what it what a different year is going to bring. But every year is gonna bring something that’s gonna involve me as long as I’m upright and give me reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Tim Fulton 38:06
That’s fair. And then what is signal Ohio.
Mike Curtin 38:10
Signal Ohio is a nonprofit news startup. Okay started in Cleveland one year ago with a lot of seed money from the Cleveland Foundation and other foundations in northeastern Ohio. They are covering Cleveland City Hall they’re covering the Cleveland Board of Education. They’re covering all the usual beats you’d expect a newsroom to cover. They’re online as signal Ohio, they are just opening up signal Akron, okay hope to come to Columbus and open up signal Clete Columbus within the next year or so. They seek foundation money and down the road. It’ll be seeking membership money, just like Public Radio, public TV seeks memberships, to support old fashion, community journalism, the stuff we need to be informed voters. And I think St. Ohio is one among hopefully a plethora of nonprofit newsrooms that fill gaps and they’re developing a team of people called documenters. Okay, he used the word, you know, earlier in this discussion, what are documentaries they’re essentially low paid. If you’re paid you’re not a volunteer, but they’re a low paid volunteers like poll workers, ya know, just works the polls for money, but you do get your 80 bucks or 100 bucks whatever it is, well signal house developing a team of what they call documenters to go out and cover their boards of township trustees and their boards of education. And there’s village halls and so forth to to report on what’s going on out here that people need to be aware of and also to engage with everyday citizens to ask them what you want covered that you don’t think has been adequately covered in your community, whether it’s a library Levy, or whether it’s, you know, the fight of the Board of Education over gendered bathrooms, you name it. I mean, in this age, where so much is being driven by razor sharp ideologies, there’s a lot of interest out there. And I do compare documentaries to borders because you do it. Because you understand the importance of the function in journalism is important day in day out, is elections are twice a year. And so I hope to see this nonprofit model develop in a way that foundations, philanthropists, Everyday everyday citizens want to help crowdsource through memberships. Likewise, you do, quite frankly, I mean, this is what you do is invaluable stuff. And we need more and more and more of it. Well, thank
Tim Fulton 40:47
you. I end every interview with the same two questions. What is Columbus doing? Well, and what is Columbus not doing so well?
Mike Curtin 40:57
Well, what Columbus is doing well, I think, is trying to be inclusive. And I can say this was some historical context. It used to be the same three or four white guys around everything. And that’s good and bad. It’s good, because it gets things done. You don’t have to have a big plebiscite, right to set the agenda. And so but compared to what Columbus I grew up in, I mean, we had this messy process now for how we form priorities. What are we going to do in this town, it’s, it’s a tale of two cities, it’s a lot messier, it’s a lot less, it’s a lot less efficient than three or four guys in a boardroom making a decision. But the decisions are made today, for the most part by people elected to make those decisions, and not by four guys in a boardroom somewhere telling those guys what the agenda is going to be. That’s a good thing. It’s a messy thing. But it’s but it’s a good thing. I think we’re doing democracy pretty well. Although, as I said earlier, I wish we had two parties represented everywhere, as opposed just one party at City Hall at one party at the Statehouse. What we’re not doing so well as what so many urban areas are not doing so well. And that is public safety. You know, public safety is become a bigger, bigger sore, a bigger and bigger problem, for reasons that are very complex, and it’s going to take the village so to speak, is going to take all of us doing something to pitch into, you know, get that trendline going back in the other direction. And it’s got to start of course at the youngest age as possible. And to the mayor’s credit, to Bishop Fernandez credit to the credit of a lot of people. A lot of leaders now figuring out how do we combine resources, you know, to make sure we occupy kids from the youngest ages doing productive things, using our playgrounds more productively use our gyms are our places of public assembly to get kids into productive areas, reinventing the bring it back, the Police Athletic League was very vibrant back in the 70s. You know, and fell off the map some years ago, Americans was bringing back the place athletically. Why? To have cops renting athletic programs for kids and kids to get to know cops in some arena other
Tim Fulton 43:26
than a non confrontational
Mike Curtin 43:29
non confrontation not not the cruiser not the uniform, but learning basketball, learning, soccer, learning, boxing, these sorts of things it’s going to take to george HW Bush’s credit I think was he did Bush 1000 Points of Light Program. sounds hokey? It wasn’t. I mean, the 1000s was the
Tim Fulton 43:49
Mike Curtin 43:50
1000 Points of Light was about building empowering these nonprofits everywhere to do the Lord’s work. You know, where the need is greatest. And you know that that’s work. That’s evergreen, that’s where we all have to be in every day of our lives. Mike, thanks
Tim Fulton 44:08
for your time.
Mike Curtin 44:10
Great being with you, Tim. Thanks for Thanks for the opportunity.
Tim Fulton 44:24
Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode of The confluence cast.com Please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite author. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast.com Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson, our producers Philip Cogley, I’m your host Tim full Welcome. Have a great week.