GALLIPOLIS — Representatives from local, state and federal government gathered in the Bossard Memorial Library Tuesday evening to take questions from members of the Gallia community centered mostly around infrastructure, economic development and the ever pressing challenge to bring more jobs to southeast Ohio.
US Senator Rob Portman Representative Todd Shelton, US Senator Sherrod Brown Representative Jeanne Wilson, US Congressman Bill Johnson Representative Juli Stephens, Ohio State Representative Ryan Smith Representative Taylor Stepp, Gallia County Commissioner Harold Montgomery and Gallipolis City Commissioner Tony Gallagher were all present to detail their viewpoints on issues as broad as the development of jobs in the area, increasing an internet presence to homes, as well as concern with ongoing healthcare controversy in Washington DC.
Moderator Alex Waugh dispensed the crowds questions via flashcards handed by in by audience members.
All members of the panel agreed internet infrastructure was a key component of bringing jobs to southeast Ohio.
Shelton and Wilson believed components of the current healthcare plan should be addressed differently. Wilson said Brown’s Office felt Congress should tweak parts of the Affordable Care Act instead replacing it. Shelton and Portman’s Office said they felt the Affordable Care Act had made insurance costs too expensive for consumers.
When asked about President Donald Trump’s budget both Shelton and Stephens said their respective offices needed more time to assess the budget’s contents but that the offices were committed to making certain it would not harm southeast Ohio constituents. Portman’s Office has said it was in support of expanding the needs of Medicaid for Ohio. Johnson’s Office reminded the audience that the budget would likely be modified as it went before Congress for approval and nothing was set in stone.
Wilson would say that Brown’s Office was committed to working with Trump in the aspects of improving Ohio’s infrastructure needs despite the many differences between the president and senator’s views on government.
Gallia Commissioner Harold Montgomery expressed concern that Gov. John Kasich’s Office had cut spending to local government too much and that while the county was “leaner and meaner” than ever, the state had made sacrifices at the cost of local government. Montgomery voiced thanks to Ryan Smith’s Office for continuing efforts on behalf of southeast Ohio and that his displeasure was with the governor’s office.
Gallagher was asked his opinion of the Gallipolis City Park splash pad debate . Gallagher said in no unclear terms that he was against the splash pad in the park as the park was listed with the National Registry. He considered a vote taken in February that did not approve the pad’s creation to have made it clear that the splash pad discussion should be over.
Further analysis of the forum’s discussion will be provided in coming editions.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.