Thursday, October 27, 2016
Mahoning County would be well served by having Democrat John Boccieri and Republican Corrine Sanderson in the Ohio General Assembly.
Boccieri is the incumbent in the 59th House District and is being challenged by Republican Don Manning.
Sanderson is one of two candidates running against incumbent Michele Lepore-Hagan, a Democrat, in the 58th District. The second challenger is Andrea Mahone, who is running as an independent.
In reviewing the tenures of the officeholders, we decided to judge them on how they dealt with issues of singular importance to their constituents.
58th District race
In the 58th District, which encompasses all of Youngstown, Struthers, Campbell, Lowellville and Coitsville, and 36 of Austintown’s 40 precincts, the state of Ohio’s rescue of the academically challenged Youngstown City School District was a test for Rep. Lepore-Hagan. She did not fare well.
It should be pointed out that The Vindicator strongly supported Republican Gov. John Kasich in his laser-like focus on the Youngstown school system. Kasich’s commitment to save the urban district prompted passage of a bill in the Republican-controlled General Assembly that gave rise to the so-called Youngstown Plan.
The plan resulted in the creation of a refined academic distress commission, which is statutorily empowered to hire a chief executive officer in place of a superintendent. The CEO’s duties and responsibilities are defined in House Bill 70.
The commission hired Krish Mohip, an educator from Chicago, to serve as CEO, and in the four months he has been on the job, there has been a discernible change in attitude in the community. Hope is springing eternal.
Lepore-Hagan’s opposition to the Youngstown Plan reflects a political blind spot that we find troubling.
We believe that Sanderson, as a Republican, would be in a strong position to pursue a legislative agenda in the GOP-controlled House that is important to the 58th District. We have no doubt that the House leadership and the Kasich administration would be willing to work with her to ensure that she succeeds as the representative of the heavily Democratic area.
But what made Sanderson’s candidacy especially appealing to us is her support, as a member of the city school board, of the Youngstown Plan. Her opposition to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law shows good judgment on her part.
She has disagreed with Mohip’s taking over school board meetings and telling board members what they can and cannot do, but we see that as indicative of growing pains.
59th District race
In the 59th District race, the defining issue was the Sebring water crisis, which placed 8,000 customers in jeopardy.
Rep. Boccieri, a former congressman, state senator and state representative, rose to the occasion by making sure state officials responded with urgency and that the concerns of Sebring residents were taken seriously in Columbus.
The water crisis epitomized the failure of local and state governments to protect the health of the citizenry. Sebring customers weren’t warned in a timely fashion about unsafe drinking water.
Thus, Boccieri has been pushing for changes to state law to provide a clear definition of a public health crisis. In addition, the lawmaker wants the law to specify how public notification of lead contamination would be made. And, he wants state and local agencies to plan in advance to respond to lead contamination.
There’s another reason we urge Boccieri’s retention: He is the voice of the Mahoning Valley in Columbus on the importance of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township.
Boccieri, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves, is commander of the 757th Airlift Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
The 59th District encompasses Boardman, a part of Austintown, Canfield city and township and a slew of communities in the southern part of Mahoning County.