In scenes Norman Rockwell might well have painted, family, music, prayer, and talk blended at the Statehouse Monday as Greene County Republican Mike DeWine was sworn in for a second, four-year term as governor of Ohio. Also sworn in for a second term at Monday’s ceremony was Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a suburban Columbus Republican.
Now, as a second-term governor, DeWine is sitting pretty. The state’s budget is in great shape. The state’s credit rating is the best it’s been since the 1970s. And DeWine’s fellow Republicans rule the General Assembly, and the state Supreme Court, a tribunal that includes DeWine son Patrick DeWine.
As Statehouse oratory goes, Mike DeWine’s inaugural address was eloquent. He structured parts of his speech as a celebration of Ohio’s attractions and opportunities for out-of-staters giving the Buckeye State a look-see:
“If you want to raise a family, get a good-paying job, and have an amazing quality of life — come to Ohio,” DeWine said.
“If you want to start or grow a business in a state with low taxes and reasonable and rational regulations — come to Ohio,” he said.
“If you want to live within driving distance of amazing art, theater, and major league sports teams — come to Ohio!” the governor also proclaimed.
“If you want to live in a state with 75 — soon to be 76 — of the most beautiful state parks in the nation — come to Ohio!” DeWine said.
(Coincidentally, the cadence of DeWine’s “come to Ohio” refrain called to mind John F. Kennedy’s 1963 pro-liberty “let them come to [West] Berlin” speech.)
With all due respect to the governor, there are some other things out-of-staters might want to consider about Ohio — albeit many due to a mulish General Assembly that, thanks to Republican gerrymandering of House and state Senate districts, isn’t the cross-sectional legislative body it is supposed to be.
If you want to live in a state (cleveland.com’s Jake Zuckerman recently reported) that “has the least stringent clean-energy requirements of any ... state with a renewable [energy] standard” — come to Ohio.
If you want to live in a state where the rights of LGBTQ residents aren’t fully protected — come to Ohio.
If you want to live in a state whose handgun lobby rules its legislature — come to Ohio.
If you don’t mind that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio seems more like a cheerleader than an umpire in dealing with electric and gas companies — come to Ohio.
And if you want to live in a state that defines natural gas as green energy (thanks to a bill the governor himself just signed) — come to Ohio.
In fairness to Mike DeWine, many of these uncomfortable facts are due to Ohio’s bro-ey General Assembly, which seems to mistake the paid agents of special interests — lobbyists — as drinking buddies, not favor-seekers.
Mike DeWine’s good faith isn’t in question, nor his genuine regard for Ohio’s children and families, nor the positive facts about Ohio his speech cited. There’s a lot to celebrate, commemorate, enjoy. But those things don’t necessarily translate into more prosperity for the average Ohioan in a state whose median household income ($61,938) is 10.3% less than the nation’s ($69,021). It’s income that puts food on a family’s table, not state amenities, praiseworthy as those are.
That’s why to audiences more questioning than that at Monday’s ceremony, there’s a bigger picture of Ohio, and its circumstances, that also needs looking at — and addressing.
Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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