VOICES: It’s time to form a Miami Valley Caucus of local lawmakers

A caucus would be an effective tool to advocate for local priorities
Tom Raga
Tom Raga

A few months ago, Ohio’s new General Assembly convened in Columbus with our regional delegation. Due to mandated term limits, these leaders change more frequently. Our region has been fortunate, and we can point to excellent examples of elected leaders to emulate and seek advice. Dedicated and skilled legislators like Representatives Fred Strahorn, Jim Butler, Senators Peggy Lehner, Bill Beagle, and Shannon Jones, all were committed to improving outcomes for Ohioans and the Miami Valley.

As our leaders work in Columbus, they should expect and need us to inform them about community priorities. The legislature is processing the state’s bi-annual budget and community program support right now. The Miami Valley can’t assume our elected leaders know all of our region’s priorities and detailed strategies for the future.

Together as business leaders, mayors, commissioners, and community leaders, we must share information with our new legislators providing them the ideas, support, and feedback needed to advance our region arming then to fight for our priorities.

As a former elected official, I know how critical it is for local stakeholders to engage and, for elected officials to understand the strategic plan for the region. Our legislators will soon learn that their best ideas come from their own community. While some individual policy issues are often contentious and partisan, effective legislative leadership happens when we can create bipartisan solutions. So, it’s up to us to decide what priorities will drive the fastest possible recovery as we emerge from COVID-19 and share with our delegation what we need to get there.

One meaningful step delegation members can take --- state representatives and senators –-- is to form a “Miami Valley Caucus” and cooperate to support policies and pilot programs allowing the Miami Valley to test and create solutions for all of Ohio. A similar caucus, under the leadership of then-Speaker and now Lt. Governor Jon Husted, made great strides in advocating for Miami Valley priorities. It is a strategy that has proven to work.

As we look forward, we need to start with a commitment to support the needs of those employers and the key anchor institutions like health care, higher education, and energy that drive our economy and serve as innovation engines. Our community leaders, including organizations such as the Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, are key information providers.

We should ask our delegation to focus on investments to develop the talent and skills that are needed to drive our economic development today and in the future. We should ask them how they can help us build on the workforce initiatives like the credentialing and training programs at Sinclair Community College. We need them to advocate for more resources to close the digital divide as we have seen the impact we can have through efforts like the Dayton/Montgomery County Digital Equity initiative.

We all know that the post-COVID recovery won’t be fast or smooth for anyone, but we also know that some regions will fare better than others. The Dayton region can thrive. Now is the time to share our plans and advance our priorities. Now is the time, for our community to work together, with our delegation, to drive a stronger economic future.

Tom Raga is a vice president at AES Ohio and a member of the Dayton Daily News’ Community Advisory Board

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