Delaware County was a stop this week on the campaign trail for one of the five Democrats trying to become Ohio’s next governor.
“As I travel the state, it’s reassuring when I see good crowds like this of people that are really excited about this election,” said State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, the keynote speaker during a forum hosted by the Delaware County Young Democrats on Tuesday. It was the first in a series of events the group is sponsoring featuring statewide candidates.
“This is what we need. This is how we’re gonna win. And it’s your job to pick who you think the best candidate is and then get behind them,” Schiavoni said.
Schiavoni is one of five Democrats that have officially declared their intention to seek the governor’s seat in 2018. The others are former State Rep. Connie Pillich, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and former Wayne County Commissioner Dave Kiefer.
During his talk, Schiavoni addressed numerous issues that he has addressed during his ten years in the Ohio Senate, including charter school reform and expanded broadband internet access across the state. He’s calling for continued action to reform charter schools, specifically online schools, and has just proposed a “broadband for everybody” bill that would take access to many areas in Ohio that still don’t have broadband.
Questions from the audience also covered a broad range of topics, from the crush of student loan debt to the opioid crisis that continues to grip Ohio and many other states. According to Schiavoni, the issue of student loan debt could be further resolved if Ohio invested more in higher education.
“I’ve put forward legislation that would help deal with student debt,” he said. “We modeled it after a Maryland bill that they passed three or four months ago. What we’ve done in Maryland and what we’ve proposed is that if you graduate from a state institution, within five years of graduation if you buy a home in one of the targeted areas of the state, then the state would cut off half of your student debt.”
Schiavoni said the plan calls for offering incentives for college graduates to move to areas such as Youngstown, Toledo, and Canton, which are, “desperately trying to hang on and we’re trying to hang on to our young people.”
“People want to stay, but they have to have affordable housing, good jobs, and good schools,” he said. “It’s about investing in all those areas so we don’t have all our young kids that are graduating moving out of state immediately and helping them with that debt that everyone is strapped with.”
When asked about his plan to address the opioid crisis, Schiavoni shared his idea to dip into the state’s Rainy Day Fund to provide necessary funding for education, treatment, and law enforcement.
“We’ve proposed a bill in the Senate that would allocate 10 percent of the Rainy Day Fund to invest in the problem now,” he told the crowd. “The bill I’ve proposed would invest $200 million over the next two years for three things: educating kids on the front end; giving local governments the ability to fund police, mental health, addiction services, because all three of those are being starved out by the local government cuts; and then $100 million dollars on the back end for rehabilitation and job training and housing and giving people an opportunity to get back on their feet.”
Schiavoni said being on the campaign trail has opened his eyes to many other issues facing Ohio, including poverty, infant mortality, failing infrastructure, and environmental problems.
Schiavoni represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes Columbiana and Mahoning counties. He was appinted to fill a vacant seat in 2008, won election to a full term in 2010, and won reelection to the seat in 2014.
This article originally appeared on the Delaware Gazette.