By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
It’s not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You have to be the right person in the right place at the right time.
– T. Harv Eker
More than 140,000 U.S. children lost a parent or caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 65 percent of COVID – associated orphanhood being minorities. The loss of a parent or grandparent that provided basic needs and care permanently changes a child’s life. Most recently, there were 850,000 new COVID cases in September among kids alone.
In addition, before placement in supportive housing, people with severe mental illness use $40,451 per person in services (1999 dollars), straining the healthcare and criminal justice systems. Meanwhile, social media apps like Instagram have a harmful impact, especially on teenage girls. When young people don’t see faces, bodies, or styles that look like them, it worsens body image issues and erodes mental health.
These public health-related issues occur concurrently with record-breaking violent crime in Toledo when social safety nets are being compromised or devalued by legislators.
That is why I am excited about the candidacy of Michele Grim for Toledo City Council at-Large. More than any other candidate, her personal history as a public health professional, public policy expert and background in public service intersects with the community’s need at this particular time for this specific place.
If elected on November 2, Grim, who finished fifth in the at-large council primary, will step into the precise moment that her personal history has led her.
I caught up with Grim to discuss her candidacy. Here is our conversation:
Perryman: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Grim: I was born and raised in Ashland, Ohio, and I moved here to go to the University of Toledo in 2001. I received my bachelor’s and master’s at the University of Toledo. I have a bachelor’s degree in women and gender studies and a master’s degree in public health.
I also started my career here in Toledo. I worked for Equitas for a little while and at Bowling Green State University, both of those places doing HIV prevention work. Then I worked at the Toledo Lucas County Health Department. I actually did an H1N1 vaccination clinic. It’s all deja vu with getting people vaccinated for COVID. My husband Ben and I left Toledo in 2010, came back last fall, and bought a home here in West Toledo. We’re back and very excited to be running for Toledo City Council.
Perryman: Why do you feel like it is your turn to run for office, particularly right now?
Grim: I believe that my experience meets the moment as a public health professional. I also have a doctorate in public policy, and I believe my background in public service, social justice, public health, and healthcare meets the moment. I also worked for a community health center when we lived in California. These experiences and my background compelled me to run at this time. You don’t see a lot of people in public health running for office. So, I do think that my experience in public health and public policy meets the moment. Toledo is home to me, a place I love, and I’m excited to be running.
Perryman: What do you plan to accomplish if you’re elected?
Grim: I want to accomplish a couple of things. A lot of my campaign has been about reducing gun violence in Toledo. I put out a 10-point gun violence reduction plan that has a lot of evidence-based approaches. Also, I want to put public health at the forefront of city government. My most meaningful initiatives look at health in every aspect of public policy. That includes affordable housing, making sure that people have roofs over their heads, green space, or just making sure that we take care of the health and well-being of our constituents.
Perryman: What is your opinion on food deserts, and what can be done about them?
Grim: We lived in Chicago for two and a half years, and they took some initiatives with tackling the food deserts there. I know that they got Whole Foods to go to the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and their prices were much lower than you would see in other parts of the city. So, I would like to approach companies and negotiate lower prices and bring a grocery store here. That’s a big issue in the central city and other pockets of Toledo. We need to make sure that we do have affordable food choices.
Perryman: There have been several proposed projects in Toledo designed to help empower the vulnerable. Yet opposition has occurred because no one wants them in their district or neighborhood. How do we overcome NIMBY or the “not in my backyard syndrome?”
Grim: That’s a good question. I assume that you’re talking about Warren Commons. I support the decision that city council made to approve the project. I appreciate the concern that Councilwoman [Vanice] Williams raised concerning concentrated poverty. We want to make sure we get people out of poverty, but this is a much-needed project. I don’t think a lot of people understand what supportive housing is. I worked at a community health center where we had 10 supportive housing sites. They really do make a difference for people who are chronically homeless. These projects help homeless persons stay in their apartments, so I think that’s something that we critically need here. There’s going to be a lot of support at Warren Commons, with plenty of case managers and things like that. So yes, I do support that project, and I think education around what the projects are and what they do will certainly help.
Perryman: Let’s shift to the American Rescue Plan Act and Fiscal Recovery Funds. There are $850 million that has not yet been distributed in the State of Ohio. And, currently, we see inequities throughout the issues that affect minorities, dealing with minority health in particular. What would you do to make sure that there is equity in how Toledo distributes those funds?
Grim: I have seen the mayor’s proposal. I’m excited about many of the neighborhood projects that they’re going to work on. I’m also excited about the youth investment. I think the summer programs that we did this summer were great, and it looks like they’re going to expand on that. I do believe we need to start looking at social determinants of health again. With the pandemic, things shifted because of the crisis response. We need to go back to look at how we respond to the racial and health disparities in the community. There are some areas in the mayor’s plan that will address that, and I am excited.
Perryman: Speaking of neighborhoods, what neighborhood do you reside in?
Grim: The Lincolnshire neighborhood of West Toledo.
Perryman: What are your favorite places to spend time in Toledo?
Grim: I was able to go to the ball park this summer, that was really great. I love spending some time downtown. I think we’ve done a fantastic job with downtown and hoping that we can trickle that into the neighborhoods now. In addition to downtown, Adams Street is another favorite place. I love going to the shops like Handmade Toledo, where they have local artisans on display.
Perryman: Many policy experts believe that a bottom-up approach to our city is the best way to go forward and advise us to stop betting our future on large irreversible projects such as downtown. What are your thoughts?
Grim: I don’t think the admirable work downtown is complete. However, we need to start looking at strengthening our neighborhoods because there are a lot of sections that need improvement. I think the ARPA funds will be unquestionably helpful to start building up our neighborhoods again.
Perryman: Finally, will you repeat the central message of your campaign for our readers?
Grim: Sure. Again, I think my background and experience meets the moment. I was a public health professional, a gun violence advocate, and a public policy researcher. I am genuinely excited to be running for Toledo City Council. I love Toledo, and I’m looking forward to serving the community and looking forward to being on council.
Perryman: Thank you. I look forward to you being elected.
Grim: Thank you, Reverend.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org