Reaction from state legislators from the Mahoning Valley to Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State speech.
He gives a lot of feel-good stories and a lot of vague statements.”
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, Canfield, D-33rd
I didn’t hear anything new. He had the opportunity to provide specificity and put some meat on the bones. Instead I heard the same platitudes.”
Senate Minority Leader
Capri Cafaro, Liberty, D-32nd
His focus on restructuring [government] is a good thing. We need to see the details. Change is frightening and people don’t like it, but the state needs to be changed. We can’t keep doing the same thing.”
State Rep. Craig Newbold, Columbiana, R-1st
He talks of bipartisanship yet he shoves bills through the Legislature. His actions and words are two different things.”
State Rep. Sean O’Brien,
By DAVID SKOLNICK
During his first State of the State address, Gov. John Kasich spoke of nearly every part of Ohio, with several references to the Mahoning Valley.
Most state legislators from the Valley appreciated the various shout-outs to Youngstown, Lordstown and the region.
But many say they’ve heard it before from Kasich, who’s been governor for less than two months and has made three public appearances in this area in that time.
“I could probably give that speech myself,” said Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd. “I’ve heard it 100 times. [It’s] almost the exact same speech he gave” to the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber on Feb. 24. “I didn’t take anything from his speech except it’s the same speech and still no details.”
Other legislators at the Feb. 24 speech agreed.
“It was very close to the speech he gave to the chamber,” said state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th.
Early in the hour-plus speech, Kasich, a Republican, said people ask him “why do you go to Youngstown?”
Kasich said, “It’s in my blood.”
As he’s said numerous other times, Youngstown reminds Kasich of his childhood home of McKees Rocks, Pa. Kasich also said the two cities, separated by about 65 miles, are a “stone’s throw” from each other.
“He said a lot about the Mahoning Valley,” said state Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th. “Yes, he’s been to the Mahoning Valley and spoken to the people of the Mahoning Valley, and we appreciate that. But we didn’t hear a lot about job creation. There wasn’t a lot of specifics” in Kasich’s speech.
Kasich mentioned that Youngstown’s population has declined by half since 1950.
Kasich said the Lordstown General Motors complex is key to the Valley’s revival.
“We cannot let Lordstown fail,” he said. “It is the center of that Valley. We have to do what we can to make sure that plant is up to date.”
General Motors spent about $350 million recently at the complex to produce the Chevrolet Cruze. GM officials say they are depending on the fuel-efficient vehicle to rebuild the company’s standing in the compact-car market.
Kasich praised the working relationship between GM ownership and the United Auto Workers union, specifically mentioning Jim Graham, president of UAW Local 1112.
“Don’t tell him I mentioned his name; he’ll pass out,” Kasich said of Graham.
The governor also said Graham is running for mayor of some city. That city is Warren.
Graham didn’t hear the speech, but said he was told by about 20 people that the governor mentioned him. He added that he didn’t pass out.
“I’m running [for mayor] so he knows where Warren is,” Graham said. “He should have kept his mouth shut if he didn’t know the name of Warren. I’m just a lonely, little guy running for mayor of some place.”
Graham spoke with Kasich on Jan. 25 when the governor toured the GM plant in Lordstown. Graham said he told the governor how well management and union leaders worked together to ensure the future of the Lordstown plant.
However, Graham said, Kasich ignored that information when he supported a bill that restricts collective bargaining for public-sector employees without first meeting with state workers.
During his Tuesday address, Kasich referenced the Feb. 6 shooting at an off-campus house near Youngstown State University that left one dead and 11 injured.
The state is helping “to settle things down in Youngstown” with the increased presence of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Kasich said.
As for YSU, Kasich said it is “a great school” and the “best days are ahead” for it.
“He’s using [the shooting] as a backdrop to having the state patrol come into our community,” Gerberry said.
State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, said, “I was very disturbed to his playing to the different areas of the state attempting to score political points. How do you mention Youngstown and YSU and what he’s learned from there when he doesn’t have anything substantive in his speech to help us? Don’t come to Youngstown and use Youngstown as a poster child for your speech if you’re not going to help it.”
State Rep. Craig Newbold of Columbiana, R-1st, praised Kasich for delivering a “good speech” that “covered a lot of ground.”
Newbold was appreciative of Kasich’s mentions of the Valley, but added, “I would have liked to have heard more about Columbiana County,” which he represents in the Ohio House.
The State of the State isn’t designed to be specific, Newbold said, and the legislator is excited to hear the governor’s details on changing government in the coming weeks and months.
State Rep. Sean O’Brien of Brookfield, D-65th, said he was “disappointed” that Kasich identified problems, but “didn’t say how he would solve them.”
O’Brien added: “What I really wanted to hear is how he intends to solve these problems. I want to know how the governor plans to address the social and financial issues plaguing Ohio without placing the burden on the backs of our middle class.”
State Sens. Jason Wilson of Columbiana, D-30th, and Joe Schiavoni, D-33rd, also said they expected to hear more details in the State of the State speech.
“He was short on specifics,” Schiavoni said. “It also bothered me that he spoke of bipartisanship, but he only believes it when you’re supporting his position. That’s annoying. ”
Wilson said he wants “to be optimistic about our state.” But Kasich’s actions as governor during his first two months in office are causing Wilson to be concerned.