Lang, Wyenandt agree on many issues facing 52nd House District

Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Democrat challenger Kathy Wyenandt, of Liberty Twp.
Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Democrat challenger Kathy Wyenandt, of Liberty Twp.

Both candidates seeking the 52nd Ohio House District seat agreed during Tuesday’s debate on several key issues facing the community: the opioid crisis, school safety and rehabilitating prisoners.

Miami University, the Journal-News and the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance partnered to present the debate between Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Democrat Kathy Wyenandt, of Liberty Twp., at the VOA Learning Center in West Chester Twp. It was the first of three civic education debates organized by Miami University and the Journal-News.

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One issue discussed early on in the debate was the opioid crisis, and specifically helping those with addiction.

Wyenandt said the opioid crisis is a “complex problem” and is going to take a comprehensive solution, which means affordable and accessible treatment.

“Unless you have a court order or a lot of money, it’s difficult to get treatment,” she said.

Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., agreed with his opponent.

“We have to figure out ways to come up with treatment over incarceration for users,” he said. “It’s my party that’s saying we can’t afford treatment. I’m calling B.S.”

Lang said the cost of treating someone long-term is cheaper than the cost of incarceration.

“If we treat somebody as a whole, and get them productive, guess what, rather than sucking taxes out of the system to incarcerate them, they are productive and they’re putting money into the system,” he said. “So treatment is one of the things we have to do.”

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Wyenandt said Ohio could work with local governments and regional partners to expand access to treatment and mental health therapy.

“There’s so many things that need to happen,” she said. “Families need additional support, first responders need additional support.”

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is pushing school districts to allow armed teachers or staff in schools as a way to deter school violence.

While Lang and Wyenandt disagree on who should be armed inside a school, both agree that no one should be armed if they only go through a conceal-carry class.

Wyenandt said she could support an air marshal model in the schools, which is an undercover law enforcement officer, rather than someone who only took an eight-hour concealed-carry class.

“(A concealed-carry class) is not enough training to prepare someone for that horrible, unthinkable incident,” she said.

Lang agreed more training than just a concealed-carry class is needed.

“I do support under certain circumstances arming school personnel,” he said.

Armed personnel in the schools need to undergo more intensive training, not unlike what pilots have taken since the 9/11 terror attacks, Lang said.

“The airlines said our passengers are precious enough that we’re willing to take that chance,” he said. “I think our students, the future of our country, are precious enough that it’s worth-while of at least taking a chance to see what happens.”

In addressing the skills gap, both also agree on training those incarcerated to be productive citizens.

Lang said there are around 49,00o people in jail costing Ohio $2 billion, and America has more people in prison than China. Politifact reported in 2015 the U.S. has 2.4 million incarcerated while China had between 1.66 million sentenced prisoners.

“I don’t think we have a workforce development issue, we have an allocation of assets issue,” Lang said. “We’ve got a workforce. We just have to treat them and train them. It’s going to cost money, but in the long run, it’s going to save the taxpayers an incredible amount of money.”

Wyenandt said it’s important the state has “a workforce development opportunity for the people that we are imprisoning.”

ABOUT THE 52nd DISTRICT

The 52nd Ohio House District includes all or parts of Fairfield Twp., Liberty Twp., West Chester Twp., Hamilton and Sharonville.

The district is predominately Republican (nearly 69 percent) and more than half (53.1 percent) are between 25 and 64 years old.

The median household income is $91,000 and the median home value is $205,400.

Source: Ohio Statehouse and Ohio Manufacturers Association

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