March 2009 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Employees, Events & Editorials

- March 15, 2009

¡Bienvenida! – We’re thrilled to welcome (back) Wendy Patton as a new Senior Associate out of Columbus, focused on federal policy, particularly as it relates to making Ohio’s economy greener while building and retaining employment here. Wendy studied and worked at Kent State in the 1970s and received her masters degree in regional planning and economic development from the University of California at Berkeley in 1985. Her career spans several states and sectors, including a previous stint at Policy Matters and work for two Ohio governors, a union, and several academic entities: the common thread is devotion to a vibrant and inclusive economy. We’re also delighted about the impending arrival of Shanelle Smith, who has a BA from Kent State and an MA from University of Toledo, both in political science. She has interned with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, and was president of Kent’s NAACP chapter. Shanelle is part of the growing field capacity of the Apollo Alliance in the Midwest and will be coordinating the work of the Ohio Apollo Alliance, housed out of Policy Matters’ Cleveland office. Amanda Woodrum in our Columbus office was promoted to Researcher.

(Not) just our opinion – We scored a hat trick on Ohio’s op-ed pages this week with Amanda Woodrum’s guest piece on mass transit in the Akron Beacon Journal, Amy Hanauer’s op-ed (along with ally Bobbie Garber of Community Research Partners) on getting the most out of the stimulus bill in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Zach Schiller’s piece on state tax policy, due to run soon in the Dayton Daily News. Editorial pages have also been highlighting our work, from the Beacon Journal, to the Columbus Dispatch to others around the state.

Not to be missed –  Policy Matters is moderating a forum on green-collar jobs at the City Club of Cleveland on Wednesday April 29 at noon, speaking on foreclosures and communities at the Miami Valley Fair Housing Conference on April 2 in Dayton, speaking at a Labor Economy Summit at Cleveland State on April 24 , and sponsoring the second conference on Labor in the New Energy Economy in Cleveland on May 18. Last month we held a briefing for legislators, which highlighted the revenue losses stemming from the 2005 tax changes, and documented that those changes have not improved the state economy as promised. Find a powerpoint and two reports providing the numbers here.

Testimonials – David Rothstein, Zach Schiller and Amanda Woodrum have all submitted official remarks to the legislature in the past few weeks, David on regulating credit cards on campuses and protecting renters who’ve been foreclosed upon, Amanda on the need to invest in mass transit, and Zach on the failures of the 2005 tax overhaul, which is depriving the state of needed revenue while failing to improve our economy. The press characterized these grillings as evincing “spirited debate.”

Another record year (sigh) – Ohio set a new record in 2008 with 85,782 new foreclosure filings, according to our latest study. This represented a staggering 70 percent increase over a decade ago, and a slight 1.2 percent increase from last year. Cuyahoga County led the state once again in foreclosure filings per person and Allen County led in growth compared to the previous year. The report calls upon the state to better regulate loan servicers, consider moratoriums on foreclosures, and develop plans for vacant and abandoned properties.

Committing to commuters – Public transportation could be a low-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to passenger-vehicle transportation, but the state hasn’t made the commitment. We rank 40th among states in share of transportation spending devoted to public transit. A misguided constitutional provision means that not a penny of state gas tax revenue can be spent on public transit, while 18 percent of such revenue goes to transit in the country as a whole. Even as demand for mass transit rose during last summer’s gas price spikes, commitment went down. We surveyed local transit agencies and analyzed national data, concluding that transportation spending should better reflect the positive role public transit can play in creating a more equitable, vibrant and sustainable Ohio. We recommend fixing the constitution and devoting 20 percent of Ohio’s gas tax revenues to an Ohio Transit Trust Fund.

Getting the most out of the recovery –  With billions of dollars in federal Recovery Act spending coming to Ohio, we partnered with Community Research Partners to urge investments in programs that will give struggling low-income families and unemployed workers new opportunities to succeed economically. We asked Governor Strickland and Ohio legislators to ensure that stimulus money helps stabilize the economy and benefits those hurt most by the recession. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a down payment on an economy that will work better for all of us and we hope to help lawmakers make it as inclusive, green, efficient and accountable as possible.

The road to Copenhagen – With support from the Energy Foundation, we’re working with federal legislators and grassroots groups to identify policies that can protect Ohio’s industrial base while promoting good green jobs as both the planet and the debate about climate change heat up….The word on the streets is that the road to Copenhagen (where the next international climate agreement will be negotiated) runs through the Midwest (Ohio!). Policy Matters is working from Ohio communities to Capital Hill to map out policies that protect and promote Ohio jobs.

Packing up –  After a fire in our Columbus office, our allies at Community Research Partners offered us space in their downtown suite. Our Columbus team can now be found at 300 E. Broad Street, Suite 490, Columbus, Ohio 43215, 614-221-4505. Stop by and say hello. Thanks to all the generous friends who reached out to help.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team


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