Strickland offers a glimpse into his governing agenda



Inaugural addresses are about broad themes; state of the state -- or the union -- speeches are blueprints for action, complete with specifics.
On Saturday, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the first Democrat to hold the office in 16 years, was inspiring, eloquent and even preachy (he is an ordained Methodist minister) as he addressed a large crowd gathered on the West Lawn of the Statehouse for his and Lt. Gov. Lee I. Fisher's ceremonial swearing-in. The official oath of office was administered to Strickland and Fisher on Jan. 8.
In his address, the former 6th District congressman who calls Lisbon home, talked of the challenges confronting the state, but also of the "limitless potential" of the people of Ohio.
In a wonderful turn of phrase, he said, "We have it within out historical DNA to add significantly to the ledger of human achievement. But that depends on our ability today, both as Democrats and Republicans, to seize the moment."
The themes that the governor focused on -- what he termed "common hopes, common dreams and a common purpose" -- included: health care for those who need it; a solid education for Ohio's children; affordable higher education; safe and secure neighborhoods; and protection of the natural environment.
Strickland now has a couple of months to prepare for his State of State speech to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly. Then, he will lay out his agenda for the next two fiscal years within the context of the state budget.
Economic revival
While all Ohioans will want to know how he intends to deliver on the promises he made during last year's campaign for governor, the people of the Mahoning Valley will be particularly interested in his proposals for the economic revival of regions that have had to live with the reality of Ohio's loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs.
Indeed, the uncertain future of General Motors Corp.'s Lordstown assembly plant is not only cause for concern for the Valley, but for the state at large. GM has said production in Lordstown of its new compact car, the Cobalt, will cease in 2009; the company has not revealed whether there will be a new product to replace the Cobalt.
It was a full-court press by labor and management at the Lordstown plant, political and community leaders in the Valley, and the administration of Republican Gov. Bob Taft, Strickland's predecessor, that gave Ohio the advantage in the Cobalt sweepstakes. Taft's development team put together an economic incentive package that was far more lucrative than those submitted by other states vying for production of the new car.
The Strickland administration must be ready to make a similar pitch to General Motors if and when the need arises.
We will also be paying close attention to the governor's plans for primary, secondary and higher education in the state.
In his inaugural address Strickland said, " ... I expect and will encourage my fellow public servants to remind me that the goal of making our schools and colleges work cannot be achieved with simply more and more money. We must be willing and brave enough to take bold steps to reform and renew the system of education itself. We must be willing to experiment and innovate until we find a method or methods that work for every child in Ohio."
Special interest groups
A tall order, if ever there was one, given the various interest groups involved in public education in Ohio. But Strickland is right when he says that education isn't just about money.
We look forward to his detailing how his administration intends to deal with failing public schools, especially in the urban areas.
There is no doubt that the new Democratic governor is optimistic about the future of the state and the ability of Ohioans to meet the many challenges.
"To the cynics who say it can't be done, I say, in the words of the old Baptist preacher: 'Get thee behind me, Satan.'
"And, appealing to the better angels of our nature say: free us from the shackles of self doubt; free us from the curse of feeble expectations; free us from the fear of failure that causes us to cling to the security of the status quo."
To which we say, Amen.

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