Our second most popular post in the past 100 days is my post about John Kasich’s “first” Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Resolution:
Yes, John Kasich’s first resolution as Governor was declaring St. Patrick’s Day as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In fairness, it was a typo they cleared up the following day. However, they still said Dr. King broke “down the barriers of racial and economic justice.” Pretty sure they meant “injustice,” but since they’ve already had two goes of it, maybe not.
What could have been a one-day typo story, though, quickly became a symbol of an Administration that seemed to view diversity as a dirty word. As Kasich made one appointment after another of older white males, people began to notice that Kasich’s Cabinet was on pace to potentially be the least diverse Cabinet in Ohio since the Civil Rights era.
Senator Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland) used the MLK, Jr. resolution gaffe to push Kasich to fulfill his campaign promise to renew Governor Strickland’s Executive Order providing anti-discrimination protection against GLBT employees. Kasich eventually renewed the Executive Order, but omitted transsexual employees from the protection, that he promised.
Kasich’s dismissive attitude towards questions about the lack of diversity in his Cabinet hit a fever pitch when State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) publicly revealed the Governor’s response to the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus’ offer to help the Governor find qualified minority candidates to serve in his Administration:
“I don’t need your people.”—Gov. John Kasich
According to ONN’s Jim Heath, Governor Kasich’s office confirmed that Governor Kasich made the comment to Senator Turner, but insisted that he meant he was referring to Turner’s political party, not race.
Yeah, right. This is the same guy who cited the fact that he’s married to a woman and has two daughters as his commitment to gender equality.
In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Governor Kasich announced the hiring of his Director of Minority Affairs, who just happened to have already been on the job for over a month. In fact, Ms. Stevens was supposed to deliver one, which one we don’t know, of the Governor’s MLK, Jr. Day resolutions to the SCLC in Cleveland until they cancelled their invitation after learning of Kasich’s flippant comments about diversity.
This all lead to this takedown by Stephen Colbert:
Kasich was also mocked over the issue locally, as WNCI in Columbus made a parody song about the new Governor called “Keep It White.” Kasich then announced the retention of a Strickland holdover in the ODJFS, whom Kasich elevated to the Cabinet Director position and selected an African-American, Harvey Reed, to run the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
However, that didn’t prevent the Dayton Daily News to note that while Kasich’s Cabinet finally is reflective of Ohio’s racial diversity, the Cabinet still largely under represented women in State government, especially when compared to Governor Strickland’s Administration.
As SB 5 and the State budget came to light, the issue fell away, but not without causing Kasich some self-inflicted and lasting damage to his reputation. Plus, it can’t be ignored that the communities that are most affected by Governor Kasich’s local government cuts are Ohio’s major urban areas which are where Ohio’s African-American population largely lives and where African-Americans largely hold elected positions.
In fact, some have wondered if Kasich’s Bob Evans deal was intended to deliberately hurt Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman by helping the business move out of Columbus. The Kasich Administration has denied any intention to help businesses move out of major cities.