COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland's would-be second-in-command said Tuesday she plans to devote herself to helping Ohio's cities and is not interested in continuing the recent tradition of lieutenant governors doubling in cabinet-level posts.
"For the next four years, the cities will be my focus. Forever the cities will be my pride," said Yvette McGee Brown, a former juvenile court judge from Columbus and Mr. Strickland's running mate on the November Democratic ticket.
In her first policy speech away from the boss, Ms. Brown announced an urban agenda that, in some cases, repackages and refocuses programs that exist or are in the works.
Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher had served as Mr. Strickland's director of development until he launched his U.S. Senate campaign last year. Before him, Maureen O'Connor, Jennette Bradley, and Bruce Johnson - lieutenant governors under former Republican Gov. Bob Taft - doubled as directors of public safety, commerce, and development, respectively.
Ms. Brown said after her speech that she wants to remain flexible to serve Mr. Strickland as needed.
"I think Ted has a strong record in supporting the urban cities of this state," she said. "What I'm going to do is provide focused leadership. I'll be the person who the mayors and community leaders can call. … I believe that as our cities succeed, so does the rest of the state."
Rob Nichols, spokesman for Mr. Strickland's Republican opponent, former congressman John Kasich, said the governor, who hails from rural southern Ohio, is late to the game on support to cities. He pointed to the high unemployment rates in many of Ohio's metropolitan areas.
"Not until Ted Strickland feared needing their votes did he give urban Ohioans a second thought," Mr. Nichols said. "Having grown up in a chicken shack on Duck Run, he has all but ignored our cities' economies and their workers. It's a disgraceful record whose pain for urban Ohioans can't be swept under the rug with a bunch of pretty speeches."
Mr. Kasich's running mate is State Auditor Mary Taylor.
Ms. Brown called for the creation of a new Leadership Center for African-American Male Achievement under the Ohio Board of Regents that would focus on graduating more black men from college. The program would be an expansion of an existing initiative in Mr. Strickland's administration that focuses on high school graduation rates. "Let me be blunt here," she said. "We will not accept African-American boys giving up on schools, and we will not accept schools giving up on African-American boys."
She also pointed to a law recently approved by the General Assembly and signed by Mr. Strickland that sets aside $25 million from an anticipated $200 million in one-time casino licensing fees for an urban job-training and internship initiative.
She also chided the Republican-controlled Senate for going home for the summer without acting on House-passed bills addressing home foreclosures.
"No Ohioan should be kicked to the curb while our state senators lounge by the pool," she said.
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Gov. Ted Strickland's would-be second-in-command said Tuesday she plans to devote herself to helping Ohio's cities and is not interested in continuing the recent tradition of lieutenant governors doubling in cabinet-level posts.