I wanted to take some time out and congratulate my Ohio friends and family on their successful efforts to overturn the Ohio Law limiting collective bargaining. Perhaps the best indication of what occurred is in that only six of Ohio's 88 counties voted in favor of the measure, a resounding defeat for Governor John Kasich-- a man who maybe know begins to understand that he was not voted into office because of a statewide embrace of his policies, but because of the fear of Ohio residents weathering an economic crisis most had never seen in their lives. I take a great deal of pride in the fact that my home state is largely one of moderation, despite the best efforts of some to make it otherwise. Maybe now, the Governor will focus on tasks that would help save Ohio money, improve services, and increase jobs.
To help get him started, here are some suggestions
1. Partner with local governments and unions to develop a plan for reducing the number of Ohio Township's and island villages in urban areas. These unnecessary layers of bureaucracy still exist in many places where they shouldn't. Franklin and Hamilton county, for example, should long ago annexed all land into cities-- which are designed and intended to be the form of government for urban areas.
2. Partner with Ohio universities and colleges to match enterprising students who want to start businesses or engage in the creative arts with communities in need. By using available public and private space in these communities partnered with the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of those starting out-- poorer communities could become incubators of young talent and economic innovation.
3. Partner with the existing top 500 employers in the state to determine what local and state governments can do to encourage these companies to expand their workforces. Through job sharing, working from home, internship programs and similar programs, it is much easier to grow what already exists, at least in the short term, to improve economic opportunity.
4. Focus on the State's educational system, in partnership with local communities and unions, to bring best practice's models of teaching to Ohio's schools at all levels. Match the efforts of Vocational High Schools and two year colleges on the industries with demands for new employees and the skills that are required of a modern-workforce. Companies such as Honda, Boeing, and other manufacturers need a specialized workforce-- one that many other states do not have-- in order to do 21st Century Manufacturing.
5. Local communities must be supported in all efforts to reduce crime, blight, and other issues that are affecting Ohio's cities. People will not live in communities that they do not feel safe in. Partnerships between government, law enforcement, public safety unions, and community groups should develop an immediate action plan to decrease crime in all of Ohio, especially its urban core.
6. Develop legislation that allows the unemployed to be utilized for public works projects across the state for reduced wages in addition to unemployment benefits. Even at 20 hours per week, getting people back to work on projects that benefit the community also benefits the worker. Combined with twenty hours a week attending classes in a state university or an employment training program, the unemployed could obtain valuable skills and training while working in their local communities to address significant needs.
7. With land and construction costs currently low, labor costs low, and the state in crisis-- now is the time for Ohio to invest in critical infrastructure needs-- even if it requires debt financing. The long term borrowing costs will be incredibly low as will the outlays. Therefore, a state needs bank, based on counties, should be developed. By identifying the ten most outdated facilities or infrastructure items in each county, limited funds could be directed to fund these critical projects. Public Safety; Education; and Bridges/Highways could be addressed at a starting amount of, for example, $5 million per area per county. If communities are encouraged to use matching funds on a one for one basis, a total of $30 million per county could be put to use improving critical needs, increasing jobs, and saving money in the process.
8. Ohio must again become a State of tolerance for all persons and a symbol of the moderation that used to be so common in the Midwest. Efforts must be taken to remove the 2004 anti-gay marriage amendment from the state Constitution. The young people of the state who graduate from its high schools and universities are not in favor of anti-gay measures. statistics show that these young people- those who will be the new innovators-- are leaving the state in droves. This is not a recipe for long term success and does not encourage a climate of growth and new ideas. This issue must be addressed- and soon.
9. Ohio Law should be changed to encourage new development to be more dense and in-fill in nature wherever possible. One of the most significant elements to the rising cost of services in Ohio is that so much growth has occurred in areas where services from sewers to waterlines to schools to firehouse had to be built from scratch. Encouraging development in already developed areas rather than in a "sprawl" fashion, allows existing resources to be better utilized and costs and services to be more easily maintained. This is reflected in lessened capital costs, less personnel costs, and, in the end, reduced taxes for local residents.
10. Immediately begin an effort to reduce costs in two critical areas: Health Care and the Prison population-- together these two areas are critical pieces of most states budget problems. They are also, in many ways linked. By getting all residents of Ohio access to affordable quality health care and focusing on juvenile crime prevention and rehabilitation-- the impacts on local and state budgets are lessened, crime is reduced and communities are safer.
11. Listening. The people of Ohio are a smart, creative, and pragmatic bunch. They have the ideas about how to make better their local communities and how to involve their neighbors in a process of solving problems. To solve any problem-- Ohio has to again become a state where the opinions of all are valued, and people of a different political stripe, or a different church, different age, or different orientation are looked to as part of the solution-- Not part of the problem. If this is where Ohio starts on it's newday, then all things will truly be possible.
And Now a Word From The Sponsor
Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.