Here’s the state of Kasich on diversity in January:

“We pick people on the basis of who’s qualified.  We don’t pick them on the basis of quotas.  I mean I think quotas are yesterday.” Governor Kasich (01/02/11).

Back then, suggesting that Governor Kasich needed to have diversity in his Administration was akin, to him, to demanding that he engaged in illegal quota hiring. 

But last week, Governor Kasich called the diversity dust up one of his biggest regrets in his first 100 days: (Source: Marc Kovac @ Ohio Capitol Blog):

Then, late last week, Governor Kasich announced at a bill signing ceremony that he intends to push the State to do more to fulfill its goal of setting aside 15% of all State contracts to minority-owned businesses:

Kasich said he directed his cabinet to help the state meet the requirements of a state law that says 15 percent of Ohio’s spending on goods and services – construction contracts are exempted – should go to minority-owned businesses.

“He’d probably want a re-do on saying that,” said Kevin McDermott, a partner in the Columbus law firm Schottenstein Zox & Dunn who argued and won a 1998 federal case against Ohio’s construction set-asides. “People may not appreciate the legal ramifications of (Kasich’s) words, but set-asides have been frowned upon by the courts for a long time.”

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the state’s set-aside program for goods and services, but McDermott thinks that it would be overturned in a federal court. [Source: Columbus Dispatch (04/22/11).

Of course, as often is the case with Kasich, he’s rhetoric seems deeply at odds with his budget.  As Clips & Comments noted a month ago, Kasich’s budget slashes funding for these minority and female-owned business programs by more than half.   As Pelikan noted in C&C, Governor Strickland signed an Executive Order in 2008 designed to promote the use of minority and female-owned vendors in state government contracts and began a reporting mechanism to see how well the various State agencies were doing it meeting the 15% goal.  By the end of his term, the Strickland Administration’s record was a mixed bag with only a third of his Cabinet agencies hitting the mandate for MBE vendors and a little over half of the Cabinet agencies hitting the goal for EDGE vendors.

Still, as a result of that executive order, state spending with such businesses increased from $95 million in FY 2008 to $403 million by FY 2010, an over four-fold increase.  Nonetheless, that didn’t stop at least one African-American business owners who sought State contracts from organizing a stock photo laden website called “BlackOut 2010” that called on African-Americans to sit out the 2010 gubernatorial election.

The 15% set aside was part of HB 584 that was signed into law by Governor Jim Rhodes in 1980.  And the reality is that since then the State of Ohio has never been closer to meeting the mandate than it was during Governor Strickland’s term.  We’ll see if somehow Kasich can do better despite the fact that he’s slashing the funding for the offices charged with overseeing compliance with these mandates.  And on this issue, we should fully support Governor Kasich.

Yes, you read that right.  We all must support Governor Kasich on this front or else the criticism over his lack diversity sounds like nothing more than meaningless partisan sniping.  Besides, we all know that there will be precious little support for the Governor within his own party on this front.  If, and I do mean if, Governor Kasich is serious about doing even better than Ted Strickland in meeting the minority/female-own business mandates in State contracting, then we must support him or else he can abandon them for lack of popular support.  Supporting Kasich, though, also means holding him accountable, such as questioning how he will do a better job if his budget calls in cutting over half the budget for the relevant agencies.

Not everything Kasich is doing is inherently evil, partisan, or wrong…just most of it.  For example, Governor Kasich has endorsed State Senator Bill Seitz’s (R-Cincinnati) sentencing reform platform and incorporated into his budget.  This would, among other things, finally eliminate the racist disparity between how Ohio’s drug laws treat crack cocaine possession compared to powder cocaine possession.  The sentencing reforms in the Governor’s budget is definitely a good thing from a progressive perspective as is the Governor’s promise to do more to make Ohio meet the minority business set aside mandate.

Those of you (not me) who support gun control laws would be happy to know that Governor Kasich was likely behind the mysterious end to consideration of laws that would allow a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permit holder to carry a concealed weapon inside restaurants and bars where alcohol is served.

Do these things negate SB 5, Kasich’s economic policies, JobsOhio, or the draconian and unprecedented executive power grabs in the budget?  Not for me, and probably not for you.  But we’d be doing a real disservice if we didn’t take time to acknowledge the areas in which we can agree with the Governor and support him as he takes positions that go against what many in his party believe.

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