The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 8, 2014

FitzGerald visits Ashtabula County

Governor candidate vows change

ASHTABULA — One day after a convincing victory in Tuesday’s primary, gubernatorial candidate Edward FitzGerald outlined his campaign platform during a swing through Ashtabula County.

FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County’s executive and former mayor of Lakewood, discussed Ohio priorities during a late afternoon visit to the Star Beacon. Hours earlier, he and Democrat running mate Sharon Swartz Neuhardt easily outpointed Larry Ealy and Ken Gray for the right to challenge Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, in the November general election.

“We’re pretty pleased with the numbers,” he said.

As expected, FitzGerald took issue with Kasich’s performance and shared his thoughts on topics such as education, the economy and hydraulic fracturing, which is a growing concern in northeast Ohio.

Even though the state’s unemployment rate has dipped slightly based on U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the number is misleading, FitzGerald said. The drop is due in large part to residents leaving the labor market, he said. Half of all Ohioans continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck, FitzGerald said.

“We lost high paying jobs at a higher rate and the low paying jobs at a lower rate,” he said. “Things are still tough out there.”

Kasich cut state income tax at the expense of local government and education, FitzGerald said.

“The cuts have had dire consequences,” he said. “The choices Gov. Kasich has made are not in the best interests of the people of Ohio.”

Reductions to the local government fund have far-reaching impacts on communities, including law enforcement, said FitzGerald, a former FBI agent and assistant county prosecutor. Police don’t have the resources to fight crime, such as skyrocketing drug use.

Revenue exists to restore — at least in part — Ohio’s local government fund, FitzGerald said. “It’s not a question of whether we have the money, but what is your priority?” he said.

FitzGerald’s other big economic initiative would reverse funding cuts to Ohio’s public school districts. Rural districts, including many in Ashtabula County, would benefit from centralized funding, he said.

“Things are heading in the wrong direction,” FitzGerald said.

He also believes all-day kindergarten classes and pre-kindergarten programs prepare a good foundation for a child’s education, and post-graduation options — whether college or vocational training — must also be emphasized. Cuyahoga County has created a college fund for each kindergarten student that will provide some money for students upon graduation, FitzGerald said.

“I’d like to see that expanded state-wide,” he said.

Voters should also have a say in how lawmakers are elected, FitzGerald said. The state’s district layout doesn’t make sense and outside interests can have too much sway with candidates, he said.

“I would push for election reform to go to the ballot,” he said.

Hydraulic fracturing used by the oil and gas industries to extract deposits in a growing issue in the northeast corner of the state. Questions have been raised whether “fracking,” as the process is known, leads to contamination and seismic activity.

FitzGerald said he is not opposed to hydraulic fracturing “if it can be done in ways that are appropriately regulated so that our environmental standards are protected,” he said.

“I don’t want the industry writing the rules,” he said.

A big chunk of the taxes raised from fracking should stay in the communities where the work is done to help mitigate any impacts, FitzGerald said.

“It should be invested in the local economy,” he said. “Not only is (fracking) taking resources out of a community, but it’s taking income (via tax) out of a community.”

Too many out-of-state workers are coming to Ohio to handling fracking projects, FitzGerald said. State law should provide more opportunity for Ohio residents, he said.


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