Summer Caucuses and Forum with State Legislators
TMACOG members and partners gathered at Penta Career Center August 4 to meet in caucus sessions with their peer groups and to ask questions of a panel of state elected officials from Ohio and Michigan. The summer caucus is also an opportunity for networking and this year, for members to meet the new TMACOG President, Tim W. Brown who took office at the end of July, 2016.
Caucus groups developed questions for the state lawmakers. (Not all the questions could be answered at the forum. To see the complete list of priorities of each caucus, see the summary on the TMACOG blog.)
Caucus groups representing cities, villages and townships had many of the same questions for the state lawmakers. The first question at the forum asked if municipalities could count on current state funding for their budgets or was there any chance some of the funding that has been cut over the years would be restored. After a pause, some on the panel noted that Ohio’s local governments are supported by the state better than most other states.
Another question that came from more than one caucus was about the pressing problem of infrastructure. Local governments working on their own are not able to fund bridge, road, and water infrastructure repairs that are essential. Responses from the panel referred to specific funding bills that direct funding for infrastructure, and proposed bonds. It is unlikely that lawmakers will raise the gas tax to fund road infrastructure. Panelists said that there is no one of either party who will propose or support that tax increase.
There was some discussion about the value of marketing campaigns both for tourism and for economic development. A case was made that people in the Great Lakes area should resist the “rust belt” moniker and work to replace it with Great Lakes states or Fresh Water Region. “It Matters Where You Make It” is an existing regional marketing plan.
Workforce readiness is recognized as the best route to regional economic development. Problems with readiness noted by TMACOG members include drug use, which was identified as a social condition related to poverty, and poverty directly correlated to underachievement in school. Some noted that parents need to recognize skilled trades as a valuable career path.
A growing issue shared by governments and the schools caucus is the problem of drug addiction. School professionals noted that they were graduating people with good degrees who couldn’t find work because they are failing drug tests. The panel of lawmakers said that there are a lot of programs – by health departments, churches, and law enforcement - rising to address addiction and treatment. It was generally agreed that incarceration is not the answer to drug use and that prevention was the goal.
Ohio Senators Randy Gardner and Edna Brown answer TMACOG member
questions at the 2016 Summer Caucus and Forum with State Lawmakers.
TMACOG President Tim W. Brown welcomes panelists to the Forum with