Rematch in 58th District
Lepore-Hagan again challenged by Simon
YOUNGSTOWN — State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan is being challenged again in the Ohio House 58th District seat by David Simon, a Youngstown Republican.
In the 2018 election, Lepore-Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, won with 70.3 percent of the vote to 29.7 percent for Simon.
Despite his defeat two years ago, Simon said: “The game isn’t over until I win. Winners dust themselves off and get back up again. To me, this is a journey.”
Should Lepore-Hagan win this election, it would be her last two-year term in the Ohio House. The state term limits law doesn’t permit her to serve more than four two-year terms.
Lepore-Hagan said she would focus her final term in the Ohio House on repealing House Bill 70, referred to as the Youngstown Plan and signed into law in 2015.
The law calls for academically failing school districts to be taken over by the state and run by a CEO. Youngstown was the first, followed later by East Cleveland and Lorain. The state passed a moratorium last year on having other poor-performing school districts lose local control.
“As an early and adamant opponent of the autocratic and undemocratic takeover of public schools, I will continue to advocate for local control to ensure that there is a fair and equitable educational opportunity for all of our children,” Lepore-Hagan said.
She added: “I will fight forever. I’m never going to give up on it. It’s not fair.”
Lepore-Hagan said the Youngstown Plan ignores the “root cause of failure: poverty,” and that the state needs to allocate more money for these school districts. Youngstown, however, has one of the highest rates of state funding per student than any district in the state.
Simon also supports the repeal of the Youngstown Plan saying it hasn’t helped the district’s academic scores.
“We need a new system,” he said. “We need accountability.”
That includes a collaborative evaluation system of teachers, administrators, the state, the courts and families, he said.
“We need to overhaul the entire system,” he said.
Simon also wants to change how education is funded.
Rather than relying largely on property taxes, Simon said he would work with companies to connect them with students who would learn skilled trades and the businesses would be willing to pay the school districts for the workforce.
“I would tell companies to invest in the school system to get them motivated to be part of it,” he said.
The 58th District includes all of Youngstown, Campbell, Coitsville, Lowellville and Struthers and most of Austintown. The job pays $63,007 annually.
Simon, owner of Smart Environmental Engineering Consulting and Construction, said his top priorities, if elected, are to create jobs, getting schools back to normal and eliminating “high-stake testing,” and creating a safe environment for those in the House district.
“I want to give this Valley hope,” he said. “I believe this area has lacked vision for 50 years.”
He added: “My goal is to make this area better. If it’s great for me, if it’s great for you, it’s great for the community.”
Simon said he would work to redevelop brownfield sites by obtaining funding for them, as well as increase manufacturing and warehousing.
Lepore-Hagan’s other priorities are the passage of legislation she’s sponsoring to create a universal vote-by-mail system in Ohio and another bill to establish protections for those who buy homes by land installment contracts, also known as lease to own or rent to own.
Under Lepore-Hagan’s voting bill, people could cast ballots in person, by mail or dropping ballots in secure drop boxes or voter service and polling centers or county boards of elections with the system helping to “alleviate the persistent problems that have plagued Ohio’s electoral process for far too long.”
The land installment contracts legislation would require sellers to correct code violations, provide an inspection and certificate of compliance with the building code, and pay outstanding fines before they can enter into these agreements with prospective buyers, she said.
It “is much needed and long overdue,” Lepore-Hagan said. “Its reasonable provisions are supported by traditional lenders, consumer groups, housing advocates, local government officials and real estate agents.”