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State interference became chronic after the Civil War, when cities rapidly grew. Growing cities meant growing opportunities – for politicians and utilities. That meant that controlling cities’ politics and their policies became more and more important to political bosses and the “public service” companies formed to supply cities with electricity, gas and public transportation (streetcar lines).
Statehouse interference in local affairs became an avenue of choice for lobbyists because it’s much easier for special interests (and political party bosses) to sway the legislature – a body of officials that meets in one place – than to lobby Ohio’s numerous city and village governments. And then there’s this practical factor: What payback would a state legislator risk from interfering in with the officials of cities and villages that weren’t in that legislator’s Ohio House or state Senate district? The people who voted for or against such a lawmaker weren’t the same people that “ripper” bills (the Statehouse term for bills that let state officials interfere in municipal affairs) affected.
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Coincidentally or not, later last century, during which the General Assembly seemed to defer to home rule, Ohio elected governors from both parties who’d been mayors: Democrat Frank Lausche and Republican George Voinovich (Cleveland); Republican James A. Rhodes (Columbus); and Democrat Michael V. DiSalle (Toledo). And Democrat Gov. John J. Gilligan had been a Cincinnati City Council member while Republican Gov. John W. Bricker had been city solicitor (law director) of Grandview Heights. Those governors knew how state government could help, or hinder, municipalities.
Now, as during Ohio's years before World War I broke out, lobbyists have discovered that Statehouse schmoozing is more convenient (and offers better odds) than trying to sell something to 900-plus city and village councils. True, last week's high court ruling didn't necessarily signal a reversal of fortune for home rule. But Dayton's victory highlights home rule. And that itself can be powerful, given that our term-limited General Assembly is, as almost by definition, a legislature with amnesia.
‘Now, lobbyists have discovered that Statehouse schmoozing is more convenient (and offers better odds) than trying to sell something to 900-plus city and village councils.’