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Valley must have a say in how state dollars spent



Published: Sun, June 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If there is such a thing as fairness in state government, the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives will appoint state Rep. Charles Blasdel, R-East Liverpool, to serve on the important Clean Ohio Council, while the governor will tap someone from Mahoning or Trumbull counties as one of his appointees.

Why should Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who gets to fill two seats on the 13-member panel, turn to Blasdel? Because the freshman legislator is the chief sponsor of a House-passed bill that provides for $200 million to be spent on brownfield cleanup, $175 million on greenspace preservation and $25 million on farmland preservation.

Shortly after he got to Columbus, the Republican from the 3rd District in Columbiana County made the so-called State Issue 1 initiative his top priority. Although he comes from a rural county, he quickly recognized that the Mahoning Valley -- Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties -- could qualify for money under all three categories.

Political alliance: The 10 legislators from this region formed an alliance and early on sent a letter to Gov. Bob Taft pointing out that about 7,000 acres of land in the tri-county area need some level of cleanup. This was land occupied by manufacturing plants, which means the soil is contaminated or there are structures with environmental problems that must be demolished.

In addition, there are numerous projects in the Valley that would qualify for greenspace preservation money, while encroachment on farm land is a problem here as it is in other parts of Ohio.

The unity that has been demonstrated by area legislators sends an important message to Columbus: We will not be ignored.

Thus, when the House passed the bill, it was Blasdel who was sought out by reporters for the details. And because the speaker gets to appoint one majority and one minority member to the council, we strongly believe that Householder should reward a member of his party who worked so hard to forge a bill that received bipartisan support.

According to the legislation, the brownfields money will be distributed by the Clean Ohio Council based on priority lists received from regional public works committees. Each committee would submit the top six projects that communities in the region have identified.

Of the 13 members in the council, the governor gets to name seven, including one who "shall represent the interests of municipal corporations," according to the legislation.

Trailblazing city: Youngstown Mayor George M. McKelvey can certainly make a strong case for that slot seeing as how the city's brownfield reclamation effort has served as a guidepost for state government. McKelvey's predecessor, Patrick J. Ungaro, was able to get federal and state dollars to clean up abandoned industrial sites and transform them into industrial parks.

During last year's general election, Gov. Taft came to the Mahoning Valley to rally support for State Issue I and noted that the region "is intimately familiar with the need for resources to clean up abandoned industrial sites."

Yes, we are, governor, which is why the Mahoning-Trumbull-Columbiana area should have a voice in how the money is doled out.




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