Pictured are Ohio Governor John Kasich (R-OH) (wearing brown suit), Ohio state Senator Sandra Williams (D-22) (in Black suit), state Representative Alicia Reese (D-33) (in red blouse), state Representative John Barnes Jr. (D-12) (in gold suit), and Nina Turner (in teal suit), a former state senator and the chair of political engagement for the Ohio Democratic Party
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News.Com, and the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.com, Ohio's most read digital Black newspaper and newspaper blog. Tel: (216) 659-0473.
Coleman is a community activist and 21-year investigative journalist who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio.
WILMINGTON, Ohio-Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State address on Feb. 24 at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio to an audience that consisted largely of state legislators and fellow Republicans, and he utilized the bulk of his 75-minute speech to push his tax plan and education funding proposals. And while political pundits said afterwards that Kasich's speech was directed to state legislators and did not indicate one way or another his intention to run for president next year, it was difficult to ignore the fact that the popular governor closed with 'God Bless America,' a phrase often used by presidents like Barack Obama in State of the Union addresses.
Click here for a transcript of the speech.
"God bless Ohio, God bless America, and God bless you," said Kasich, whose speech repeatedly highlighted job expansion and economic policy, and also covered drug addiction, mental health, and flaws in a legal system under scrutiny, among other issues.
The governor's speech on the state of affairs in Ohio comes on the heels of his reelection last November with a landslide vote over former Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald. It also follows controversial police killings that have put Ohio in the national spotlight
The unprecedented killings, which have spurred racial unrest and ongoing community protests, include the Cleveland police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice , and John Crawford, who was shot dead at a Walmart store in Bevercreek, Ohio for grabbing a fake gun from a store shelf.
Adding further speculation to the general consensus that Kasich will make a bid for president in 2016 was his bipartisan compliments to Black Democratic state legislators, specifically state Rep Alicia Reese (D-33) of Cincinnati, former state Sen. Nina Turner, who is now the chair of political engagement for the Ohio Democratic Party, and state Sen. Sandra Williams (D-22) and state Rep John Barnes Jr. (D-12), the three of them of whom are Cleveland Democrats.
Turner also chairs the governor's task force on police-community relations, which he established late last year at the urging of Turner and Williams.
“These events demand our attention as we work to create safer communities and effective law enforcement strategies. We must not be complacent in addressing these issues, as every large metropolitan area of the state has experienced civil unrest centering on police conduct within the past half century,” wrote Turner and Williams in a letter to Kasich.
"Tonight I want to salute Nina Turner," said Kasich. "She's done a great job on the commission [task force]."
Ohio is a pivotal state for presidential elections and Cuyahoga County, which includes the majority Black city of Cleveland and 58 other municipalities, townships or villages, is the largest of 88 counties statewide, and a Democratic stronghold.
A former congressman in the first year of his second four-year term, Kasich ousted Democrat Ted Strickland in 2010, and Strickland is now fighting back, having announced publicly this week his decision to run next year for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Rob Portman.
The governor wants the state income tax eliminated and said during his speech that to do otherwise merely drives businesses to other states that do not have an income tax mandate, including Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Nevada.
But Kasich, 63, also urged the Ohio General Assembly to cut the state’s income tax rate by 23 percent and to eliminate it altogether for small business owners, initiatives that are part of his overall agenda to cut taxes by $500 million over a two year period beginning this year.
Kasich talked about what he called a $1.5 billion surplus, and said that unemployment in Ohio is "the lowest in a decade."
Blacks, however, are not at parity with Whites, whether its jobs, education or the manner in which they are treated or mistreated by the nation's legal system. A Cleveland NAACP study found that the majority White judges of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas hand out harsher sentences to Blacks, and a report released late last year by the U.S. Department of Justice found systemic problems in the largely White Cleveland Police Department, including a pattern of excessive force.
Unemployment in Ohio for Blacks harbors at 12 percent, compared to roughly five percent for Whites.
The governor called for a 21st century education system and said that the future of the state is still at risk unless education and jobs are a priority.
"It all starts with job creation and a strong economy," said Kasich.
The Third Grade Guarantee, a program that requires Cleveland kids to repeat the third grade if they are behind in reading, is successful, Kasich said, a statement that was not data driven, and is questionable.
Kasich commented that education reform of the predominantly Black Cleveland Metropolitan School District is moving forward, though Cleveland students remain at the bottom relative to state mandated standardized testing, along with neighboring East Cleveland.
Kasich advocated for more flexibility in teacher evaluations, and said that public schools that have more wealth should not expect to be allocated resources by the state commensurate to poor districts. He said nothing though about the continual refusal of the state legislature to revise its unconstitutional school funding system.
The Ohio Supreme Court , in DeRolph vs. State of Ohio, deemed Ohio's method of funding public education unconstitutional in 1997 because it relies too heavily on property taxes and creates property rich and property poor school districts. But after 12 years of the failure by the state legislature to comply with its order to revise the formula, the high court relinquished jurisdiction or authority over the case in what some say was a slap in the face to poor children, a disproportionate number of them of whom are Black.