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Democratic Group Brings Concerns About 'CRT' Bills to Realtors Diversity Summit

 A volunteer with Red Wine and Blue hands a copy of a letter to two realtors
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
A volunteer with Red Wine and Blue hands a copy of a letter to two realtors arriving for the Ohio Realtors' Diversity, Equity and Inclusion summit in Columbus. The letter was signed by 380 women, asking realtors to denounce two bills that seek to ban the teaching of "critical race theory" in schools and to stop financially supporting lawmakers who back them.

An organization of mostly Democratic suburban women is trying to push an influential industry to change its approach to Ohio politics, specifically with two controversial bills.

Members of the group Red Wine and Blue were outside the Ohio Realtors Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit. They brought cookies and copies of a letter signed by 380 women asking the realtors to publicly denounce two bills that could limit teaching on racism and public policy.

One bill would ban the teaching of "critical race theory," which is a graduate-school level approach to examining racism in public policy and is not taught in K-12 schools in Ohio. The other would ban "divisive concepts" in classrooms, which critics have said is vague and could lead educators to question what they can and can't teach and discuss in their classrooms. These kinds of bills have been talked up by Republican candidates for federal, state and even local offices.

They're also calling on realtors to stop financially supporting Republican state lawmakers backing those bills. The "critical race theory" bill has one sponsor and 27 co-sponsors. The "divisive concepts" bill has two joint sponsors and 34 co-sponsors, which is a third of the Ohio House and half the GOP caucus in that chamber.

Cynthia Vermillion is a city councilmember and realtor in Hilliard, ranked the sixth hottest real estate zip code in the country.

“We're wanting to tackle the changes that happen with who you're giving money to and what causes you're supporting that really affect and filter down to the people," Vermillion said.

Program director Crystal Lett was a Democratic candidate for the state Senate last year.

“The Ohio Realtors have supported financially a lot of politicians who are now cosponsoring or sponsoring two very divisive bills. And that's very concerning for us. These bills both run counter to DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] values," Lett said.

"And so as moms, that's very concerning for us. We want honesty and education. We want our children taught that racism is wrong."

The group's volunteers described their interactions with the realtors outside the summit as friendly and positive.

The CEO of Ohio Realtors has agreed to meet to talk about changes the group has made for the 2021 election cycle and their “commitment to becoming a more inclusive industry”.

Scott Williams
Ohio Realtors
A statement from Ohio Realtors CEO Scott Williams, provided via text Oct. 10.

But Scott Williams was out of town and unable to meet with the group before the summit.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.