ASHTABULA – Ashtabula County was center stage on Sunday afternoon as four Democratic statewide office candidates attended a town hall at Kent State University Ashtabula.
Gubernatorial candidates Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, and Joseph Schiavoni, a state senator from the Youngstown area, were joined by treasurer candidate Robert Richardson, an attorney from Cincinnati, and attorney general candidate Steven Dettelbach, a formal federal prosecutor, on the stage of the school’s main auditorium.
More than 100 people attended the event with moderators from the Star Beacon and Gazette publications helping facilitate the town hall, as well as Kent State Ashtabula college Democrats and Rep. John Patterson and State Sen. Sean O’Brien.
All four candidates expressed concern relating to the reduced revenues coming from Columbus to area governmental entities while mandates increased.
“This robbing Peter to pay Paul has been going on for eight years,” Whaley said of Republican led tax cuts that reduce revenue coming to local municipalities while increasing responsibilities.
Whaley and Schiavoni presented their ideas on the importance of a change in Columbus and both discussed working together to find solutions to problems.
Both candidates also discussed the importance of creating jobs and investing in state services such as education and business development.
Dettelbach said he spent seven years as a federal prosecutor in charge of northeastern Ohio and believes it is important that the rule of law applies to everyone. He said it is important powerful people are held accountable for their actions, but Ohio residents feel there is a discrepancy in how justice is handed out.
“There are one set of rules for those with money and power and one for everyone else,” he said.
The gubernatorial candidates discussed the idea of a $15 minimum wage, with Schiavoni saying a $12 or $13 minimum wage would be a good compromise while Whaley said she believes the voters should decide by referendum.
Schiavoni also related the importance of investing in the state through brownfield restoration, broadband internet for those who can’t afford it and clean water.
“You have to invest first,” he said.
Whaley shared a story of a Lake County school employee who after 16 years of service just broke the $30,000 yearly salary barrier. She said hard working people shouldn’t have to work two jobs just to make ends meet.
Whaley also emphasized the importance of maintaining regional decision making.
“This state is very diverse. What works up here along the lake doesn’t work in Marrietta,” she said.
When discussing education funding, Schiavoni said after more than two decades of “kicking the can” down the street real solutions are needed.
All four candidates bashed a Facebook post by Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill, who commented on his sex life Friday in connection to a large discussion of sexual harassment. The candidates said the comments did nothing to diminish the importance of stopping sexual assault and harassment.
“People need to understand we aren’t going to take this anymore,” Whaley said.
Richardson said it is important that men stand against sexual harassment when it comes to their attention.
The candidates also backed organized labor and said they would keep an eye on “right to work” legislation. Whaley said a constant watch on the rights for collective bargaining is needed even though a statewide initiative was defeated in 2011.
Richardson and Schiavoni said it is crucial to provide “incubation” services to help grow businesses; especially around universities in the state.
When discussing the overburdened foster care system, Whaley emphasized the importance of investing in the Children Services’ kinship program because relatives taking in children whose parents have been determined unfit do not receive any finances to help.
“If we really believe the children should stay with the family then we must invest” resources to make it happen,” she said.
Whaley said investment in foster care children must continue after they turn 18. She said only 2 percent of foster care children graduate from college.
“That is unacceptable,” she said.