Updated Mon, Apr 7, 2014 11:48 am
Hundreds of local Democrats gathered at the annual Athens County Democratic Party Spring Dinner Saturday evening to hear from local and state candidates, including Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald.
FitzGerald, who currently serves as the county executive of Cuyahoga County, was the keynote speaker for the event. He will take on Gov. John Kasich in November. FitzGerald also used to serve as the mayor of Lakewood and was an FBI agent assigned to investigate public corruption in Chicago.
Debbie Phillips, 94th District Ohio House representative, said that if anyone can “untangle” the mess of corruption implemented by the Kasich Administration, it’s FitzGerald.
“He’s someone we can trust and who can lead us in a more positive direction,” she said.
FitzGerald said he was impressed by the level of activism among the Athens County Democrats.
“At some point in your life you decided it wasn’t just about how you personally were doing, but how society was doing in general. That’s what made me a Democrat and what makes me proud to be a Democrat,” he said.
The Democratic governor candidate said Ohioans need to undo the harm that was done in 2010 when Kasich was elected over Democrat Ted Strickland.
“John Kasich ran a campaign that basically just said one thing over and over and over again. The economy was bad and it’s all Ted Strickland’s fault. Every once in a while he’d say something else, but that was basically the answer to every single question,” FitzGerald said, noting that Kasich’s campaign focused on lost Ohio jobs during an international economic downturn.
He continued that the Kasich Administration has implemented the most extreme agenda that any Ohioan has lived through in the state’s history. FitzGerald said that no one would let someone implement such an agenda at a local level.
“They would be thrown out because people would get mad and they would organize… We forget that we own this state government,” he said.
FitzGerald said that a small group of people are running the state government for their own benefit and making money off of it.
“They’ve taken almost every service you can think of that the state provides and they are twisting it from something that is supposed to serve the average person and are serving their own selfish interest,” he said.
Some examples FitzGerald cited are Senate Bill 5, which threatened unions, and the cutting of the local government fund by 50 percent.
“That hurt every county in Ohio and I know that the elected officials here can tell you stories about how it specifically impacted this county,” he said, noting that the reduction in local government funds took $40 million out of his own county budget. FitzGerald said he’s seen communities that have drastically cut fire and police services or have raised local taxes to make up for the lost funds.
According to FitzGerald, the Kasich Administration also cut $2 billion from k-12 education.
“I’ve been in school districts where every single program that isn’t on a state test has been cut and they did it at a time when they were imposing all kinds of new requirements on schools,” he said. “ I’ve had teachers come up to me and say, ‘I really didn’t want to retire but I’m not really allowed to teach anymore. Everything I do now is around the standardized tests that they’re imposing.’
The education process is supposed to educate the whole child…the whole human being. You can’t recreate that on a standardized test... It’s incredibly short-sighted.”
Fitzgerald also spoke about the privatisation of services, such as prisons, which he said are unsafe for prisoners, prison guards and are terribly expensive.
The gubernatorial candidate also spoke about the corruption of JobsOhio. He said the Kasich Administration took billions of dollars in public money and gave it to a privatized agency, which was led by one of Kasich’s friends. He said those dollars were then given to corporations in which the board members of JobsOhio worked for.
“If I were still an FBI agent, this is what we would call a ‘clue,’” he said.
“One of the reasons we know about the conflicts of interest of JobsOhio is because the corporations that they have given money to have disclosed this. But JobsOhio hasn’t disclosed it. In other words, the corporations are more accountable to you than JobsOhio. If a local official tried to do this, you’d run them out of town on a rail. They’d never get away with something like this,” he added.
FitzGerald also spoke about the level of inequality in America and Ohio, noting that the 87 richest people on the plant have more income in wealth than the bottom 3-1/2 billion people. He said that what used to make America great was the enormous middle class.
“The problem is that people in the middle class are struggling more than they ever have before. They are barely hanging on and the poverty numbers are going up and up and up,” he said, pointing out that over 40 percent of Ohio public schoolchildren are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
“We’ve got a chance to change this whole situation. Our state is being used as a laboratory for all these crazy right-wing ideas and we didn’t ask for these things and we didn’t vote for these things,”
FitzGerald said. FitzGerald added that the difference between the 2010 election and the 2014 election is that Kasich can’t blame Ted Strickland for the economy anymore and that he’ll have to defend his own record.
“And it’s not defensible. It’s why he doesn’t even talk about half of these things,” he said.
FitzGerald said he has been outspent in every election that he has been in, but the most important part of elections is face-to-face conversations with people.
“John Kasich has served up a terrible meal for everyone and we need to tell everybody, ‘Don’t go there again,’” he said. “It’s that simple. That’s what we need to do. We’ve got seven months until this election. We can’t let people believe that these elections don’t matter. They took this state in a direction that nobody really signed up for. People didn’t know what they were in for, but now we do. We know what the consequences are…Wouldn’t it be great if you traveled outside of Ohio and people said, ‘I heard there’s great things happening in Ohio,’” he said.
He said he wants people to talk about how Ohio is implementing universal pre-k, promoting equality for everyone and protecting the rights of people to organize labor unions and increase the minimum wage.
“You are one election away from having those kinds of conversations,” FitzGerald concluded.