Back home in Scioto County, over 500 people showed up to protest Governor Kasich’s budget that calls for the closure of the Department of Youth Services facility there and the over 300 jobs in an area known for high unemployment and crushing levels of poverty already.
According to the Portsmouth Daily Times (disclosure: whom I used to work for), freshman GOP State Representative Terry Johnson was the only elected Republican to appear at the rally. Senate President Niehaus, who represents the folks who live and work at the facility did not attend nor send anyone to represent him. Nor did anyone from the offices of Congresswoman Jean Schmidt or freshman Congressman Bill Johnson attend.
Dr. Johnson was upset that some people speaking at the rally dared to make negative comments about Governor John Kasich over Kasich’s decision to close the facility:
“Politics should have nothing to do with our presence here today,” Johnson said. “As far as I’m concerned, they can take politics and throw it in the river.”
With 300 jobs in his district at risk, Johnson apparently wasted little time in taking action to defend his constituents—by sending an aide to meet with a Kasich official and sending Kasich a timid letter asking him to change his mind:
“The essence of it is, I understand that we have an $8 billion deficit that we have to fill, and $8 billion in state terms is not $8 billion in federal terms,” Johnson said. “We can’t print money. We’ve got to do something to make up that $8 billion. And I understand the pain is going to be felt across the state by everybody. But when you come to an issue like this, when you have these other facilities in the state, and this is the best facility, why close our facility? I want to know exactly why.”
In that letter Johnson wrote, “ORV has a leaner staff to detainee ratio than other youth detention facilities scheduled to remain open and a better operational history as well. There has never been a murder, successful suicide attempt, or an escape from ORV. Sadly, this cannot be said of all DYS facilities.”
Johnson’s legislative aide Scott Evans met with the director of the DYS Martha Spohn earlier in the week and briefed Johnson afterward.
“He came away with the knowledge that they are firm in their decision,” Johnson said. “Our job is to get them to be less firm or change their mind.”
Johnson’s mind is probably best expressed in the last line of the letter to Kasich: “I strongly urge you to reconsider this decision and I am available to meet at any time.”
Johnson spends more time in his letter making excuses for Kasich than making the case for the facility. And I cannot believe he sent an aide to meet with Cabinet official. Way to send a strong message about how important this issue is to you: you sent an aide to a meeting instead of attending yourself and you wrote a letter that excuses the Administration’s own decision you’re supposed to be protesting! Wow, you mean that didn’t work?
Of course this is political. Everything Governor Kasich has done has been purely political. You think it’s been based on merit that the already closed facility in Marion (which went for Kasich in the election) is being reopened under private ownership and the facility in Scioto County (which is where Ted Strickland was born and raised and won last fall) is being closed?
Look at the rest of the State budget, Representative Johnson. You think it’s a coincidence that public schools and cities (areas which are considered Democratic constituencies) are taking the hardest hits while for-profit charter schools and businesses (major Republican donor constituencies) come out ahead?
It’s sure not merit. Last year, a record number of charter schools was slated to be closed due to poor academic performance. As Join The Future Ohio tweeted just this afternoon, five out of the top six schools in Franklin County are public schools, but six of the ten worst-performing schools are charters.
If Kasich was actually basing school funding based on the merits, such as school performance, then his budget wouldn’t have already punished public school districts with massive cuts while rewarding the charter school system with increased funding. Before we talk about merit-based pay, Governor Kasich, let’s talk about instituting merit-based policies.
There’s a reason they call first-term legislators freshman. And if State Representative Terry Johnson believes that it’s “unfair” to consider Kasich’s budget decision to cut 300 jobs in Scioto County as politics, then he has all the naïveté of a freshman.
Of course politics have something to do with why you were at the protest, State Representative Johnson. If you hadn’t been there, you were deathly afraid that the next job to be lost in Scioto County under John Kasich’s budget would be your own.