Kasich’s eyes likely on southwest Ohio

Give Republican Gov. John R. Kasich this: He’s made what historically had been an Ohio Statehouse ho-hum — governors’ annual “state of the state” speeches — interesting. Maybe that’s why some Democrats bellyache about them.

Kasich gave his first state of the state speech, in 2011, at the Statehouse. About 100 years ago, Gov. James M. Cox, a Dayton Democrat, began the custom of giving in-person “state of the states.” Before then, governors had sent the General Assembly printed messages.

Beginning in 2012, Kasich broke tradition by taking the speech on the road. That year, he gave the state of the state speech in Steubenville. In 2013, Kasich gave it in Lima. And last year, Kasich spoke in Medina.

On Monday, Kasich aides are expected to announce the site and date of this year’s speech.

Safe guess: Kasich will give the speech late in February.

Educated guess: Kasich will give the speech somewhere in southwest Ohio, fairly close to House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s hometown, Clinton County’s Clarksville.

After all, Kasich chose Medina for last year’s speech as a salute to then-Speaker William G. Batchelder, whom term-limits retired. And southwest Ohio is the one quadrant of the state that hasn’t so far played host for a Kasich state of the state.

Thing is, Medina’s 2010 population, the Census reports, was 26,678. Clarksville’s population was 548, not counting any travelers stopping for gas at the Marathon.

So: Screen for places relatively near Clarksville that may offer event venues with adequate seating. Then, after Monday’s announcement, confirm (or not) your pick.

Taking Ohio’s state of the state on the road draws potshots about show-biz politicking. But except maybe for the speechwriters who crafted them, Statehouse-delivered state of the state speeches have been anything but memorable.

And that creates a problem, regardless of party or governor: “State of the states” are really reports to Ohio’s voters. (Officially, governors are reporting to the General Assembly’s 132 members, but most think they know everything already.)

So moving the speech off Capitol Square likely draws more attention to a governor’s message than it would otherwise get. And, partisan gripes aside, for Ohio voters, more information is better than less.

There’s this, too. Columbus is booming. In 1960, the capital city’s population was 471,000. The latest Census population estimate is 823,000. Big swathes of Ohio aren’t doing nearly so well. So taking a virtually full-time legislature out of Columbus every so often may offer Ohio lawmakers a reality check on statewide concerns and needs.

Another kind of reality check already is, or should be, in play. This is Year One of Kasich’s second term. He can’t run again for governor in 2018. Kasich’s looking over the presidency. Policy-wise, a second gubernatorial term can be perilous. Interest flags; energy may, too.

And a governor’s wiser appointees know to scout now for future jobs, because, by Year Three and Year Four, everyone will be job-hunting. Meanwhile, even dim General Assembly members understand that a second-term governor is, by definition, a lame duck, so there’s slightly less risk than before in crossing him or her. (This administration does have this offset, though: The Kasich crowd takes no prisoners. You’re 100 percent on board or … well … you really don’t want to know.)

A second administration can tempt a governor to go through the motions. Given Kasich’s personality, that’s unlikely. But Ohioans won’t know whether Kasich will take policy risks in this term until he outlines its agenda — in the 2015-17 budget he’ll propose and, someplace between Columbus and Cincinnati, in next month’s speech.

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