KANAUGA — Gallia democrats gathered at the Quality Inn Friday evening for the annual Kennedy Day Recognition Dinner to discuss the future of southeast Ohio, the nation and what it would take to increase a democratic presence in Ohio legislation, with gubernatorial candidate Joe Schiavoni.
Schiavoni, 37, of Boardman, represents the 33rd District of Ohio and served as the Senate Minority Leader until stepping down Wednesday to concentrate on his campaign for governor. Schiavoni was considered a Golden Gloves boxer while in high school and attended Ohio University before completing his law degree with Capital University.
Welcome was led by Gallia Executive Committee Chair Carole Roush. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Don Rumley and the opening prayer was led by Clay Baker.
Past County Commissioner Justin Fallon introduced Schiavoni to the assembled.
“I appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with you tonight,” said Schiavoni. “Driving down from Youngstown, I had some flashbacks of going down to Athens … I’ve been crisscrossing the state for the last couple of years, meeting people and talking about what’s important to them and what we can do to make this state stronger. When I come to these places, I don’t come in with an agenda. I come in to truly engage the crowd and talk about what’s important here.”
Schiavoni said he felt wherever he went in Ohio, the issues were similar. Schiavoni said being near Youngstown he understood the mentality of the “good old days” when older generations said it wasn’t uncommon to have a few dollars in one’s pocket to go on vacation because of the steel mills and didn’t have to worry about paying bills. He said he felt Youngstown was now in a better position and he saw promise.
“When I go to communities like Mansfield and Lima, they’re not so different from Youngstown,” said Shiavoni. “People just want to work hard and have a fair shot in life to live that American Dream that their father and grandfather had. So I’m trying to do that in the Senate.”
Shiavoni said he has pushed legislation with a focus on education. He would eventually take questions from the crowd focusing on questions such as area infrastructure, how to motivate area youth to get involved, energy consumption and infrastructure, to name a few topics.
Schiavoni said he felt infrastructure was important to Ohio and that he had previously proposed legislation to help with underground infrastructure for waterlines. He felt the bill would push $100 million for 10 years to go on the ballot for the people to decide whether they wanted investors to come to help rebuild storm water and sewer systems and to replace aging lead pipes. He felt it would put thousands of tradesmen to work for years while also protecting water.
“I don’t go into the Senate everyday trying to pick a fight,” said Schiavoni. “I go in to get things done.”
Schiavoni said he and another senator sponsored a bill in the past which would increase funding for broadband going through current broadband providers to give them the ability to build out an infrastructure to partner with companies in an attempt to reach rural areas with limited internet access.
“It’s not just a business problem,” said Schiavoni. “It’s also a school problem.”
Schiavoni felt it wasn’t uncommon for students to get homework at school with better internet and then be unable to complete an assignment because of not having access at home.
“You can’t truly give a kid a good learning environment and succeed with an environment like that,” he said. “I think that needs to be a priority. It’s not one you can’t do. It just costs money.”
With a “rainy day fund” kept by Gov. John Kasich’s administration, said Schiavoni, he felt there should be opportunity to tackle funding issues at lower government levels.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.