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What the commercial news media isn’t telling us about the group behind the firing of several Ottawa County officials

January 4, 2023

On Tuesday, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners fired the County Administrator and replaced him with John Gibbs, a candidate who ran for the 3rd Congressional District in last years election, but was defeated by Hillary Scholten. 

This news, which has been reported by most of the West Michigan commercial news media, is presented as shocking news. And while I agree that the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners decision was abrupt, none of what happened is in any way shocking or a surprise. Look, within the past 2 years, we have seen millions of people denying the election results from the 2020 Presidential Election. In January of 2021, there was an attempted insurrection at the nation’s capitol, where only a few people have suffered any real consequences for their actions. In the 2022 Elections, there were hundreds of candidates running for local, state and federal positions, all of which were election deniers, with many of them winning their races. (Check out this new resource by the Center for Media & Democracy, Insurrection Exposed.)

With this recent history, we should not be shocked or surprised that people in Ottawa County embrace the same ideological positions that those who participated in the failed insurrection. What I find most instructive about the local news coverage, especially the articles coming from MLive (there have been 3 articles, listed below), which mentioned the group Ottawa Impact, is that none of the articles or the other coverage has bother to link to or explore their ideological and political beliefs. The rest of this article will explore their political ideology. 

The Ottawa Impact group is a 501c4 group, which means they can endorse candidates, plus they have their own Political Action Committee. Their PAC is registered with the State of Michigan, but they have yet to file any fundraising data from 2022, according to the Michigan Secretary of State.

Their mission statement reads:

We are committed to defending the constitutionally protected rights of parents to make health and education decisions for their own children. We desire to preserve and pass on the blessings and heritage of Ottawa County to future generations.

We recognize our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage and celebrate America as an exceptional nation blessed by God. We oppose indoctrination of our county’s youth and the politicization of public schools.

We believe civic engagement, ground up, is critical to preserve a healthy, moral society. We seek to educate, encourage, and support local leaders who fight to preserve Ottawa’s values and work to eliminate policies which oppose them.

The last sentence makes clear that the firing of the of the current Ottawa County Administrator, shows exactly what they will do when anyone opposes them. 

The Ottawa Impact group has a contract for those running for County Commission and for the Ottawa County School Board. The contract for the County Commission is 8 pages  and the one for the School Board is 9 pages. People should read them and not just dismiss them as lunacy, since these contracts will do very real forms of harm to people. 

These documents were created in March of 2022, and their policy agendas are very clear. For example, the fact that the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners announced that they were doing away with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office is because they say very clearly in the contract, “I will support removing Ottawa County from the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (“GARE”) membership, and discontinuing Ottawa County’s promotion of divisive teachings aligned with Critical Race Theory such as; racial equity, privilege vs oppression based on skin color, intersectionality, implicit bias, systemic racism, and revisionist history.

In addition, the contract for Ottawa County Commissioners running as Ottawa Impact candidates also must be committed to removing any and all Planned Parenthood-aligned resources, view civil liberties as rights the government takes away – such as during COVID restrictions – but not civil liberties as in right for BIPOC, queer, immigrants or other marginalized groups, and parental rights, specifically as it relates to education curriculum.

With the candidates who run for Ottawa County School Board, they must commit to opposing curriculum that is seen as applying Critical Race Theory, protect religious freedom, promote teaching “America’s True History”, oppose controversial materials, which they define as “containing controversial sexuality and racial teachings.” This contract also includes a commitment to support censorship of materials, like library books, plus they must take a hard anti-trans stance, which denies trans students from using bathrooms that are gender specific. The anti-trans commitment is framed as protecting women and children.  

Under the Documents section of the Ottawa Impact page there are numerous links, with the first being one that is used to vet candidates. This document has some of the same language as the other contracts, but also includes language about protecting the 1st and 2nd Amendments, being Pro-Life, in support of the freedom of businesses, churches and individuals to not be subjected to what they call Health Freedom, which is basically to oppose any further government restrictions like what has happened under COVID. Then there is language under law and order stating that candidates must oppose defunding of the police and must support an America First ideology, of closed borders, undocumented immigrants, “as well as refugee influx from areas/countries hostile to America.” Lastly, candidates must oppose labor unions of any kind. Some of the other documents under this section, have more details on the contract commitments that candidates must take. 

There is also a News section on the website banner, which has only about a dozen since this group was founded. Speaking of founders, Ottawa Impact was founded by Joe Moss and Sylvia Rhodea, which you can follow on Facebook. Ottawa Impact also has a Facebook page. 

None of this information was presented by the local commercial news, which it seems to me is vitally important if we are to understand what Ottawa Impact stands for, what they believe and how to organize to reduce the harm they clearly want to do.

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