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YOUNGSTOWN Hearing bypass of area irks senator



Published: Fri, August 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The governor is very interested in the future of the Mahoning Valley, his spokesman said.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- State Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown is starting to sound like a broken record, but he says the state is continuously ignoring the Mahoning Valley and he's tired of it.

For the third time in the past few months, a state agency is having public hearings or community forums around the state, and there is no stop planned for the Valley.

This time, it's the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which is having 10 public meetings between Aug. 17 and Oct. 10 in locations such as Westerville, Cadiz and Lancaster to discuss how to improve the quality of service provided by county child support enforcement agencies.

Closest to Valley: The closest locations to the Valley are Cleveland, about 70 miles from Youngstown, and Wooster, about 80 miles from Youngstown.

"What has been happening is the state seems to be consistently and repeatedly ignoring the Valley," Hagan, D-33rd, said. "You finally reach a point where it's ridiculous. Three strikes and they're out."

Besides the child support forum, public meetings to discuss the reapportionment of state legislative districts and hearings on changes to local telephone service regulations have bypassed this area.

"Everyone wants to talk about being bipartisan and we have been bipartisan, but the governor doesn't reciprocate," Hagan said. "They continue to do it unless I scream and say, 'I'm tired of being ignored.'"

Response: Joseph Andrews, spokesman for Gov. Bob Taft, said the governor not only cares about the Valley and its future, he has been here numerous times in the past few years to hear the concerns of its residents firsthand.

"The governor is very interested in that part of the state," Andrews said.

Not good enough, Hagan said.

In a letter to Cheri L. Walter, assistant director for the Department of Job and Family Services, Hagan wrote: "Mahoning Valley residents, the majority of which are my constituents, have as much at stake as any other area of this state with regard to reforming our current system of child support. Given its higher than average unemployment rates, which tend to be precursors to high divorce rates, I would have hoped the Taft administration would have given Mahoning Valley residents a bit more consideration and attention."

skolnick@vindy.com




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