Gov. John Kasich campaigns at Mr. Spots restaurant in Bowling Green.
BOWLING GREEN — During campaign stops Friday, Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald changed their political rhetoric from red and blue to green.
The Toledo region’s three-day water crisis was center stage during afternoon stump speeches to small gatherings of residents at local businesses.
Mr. FitzGerald said local governments were not able to prepare for the water crisis, which began Aug. 2, because the Kasich administration has not invested in local government.
“When you rob local government for your own purposes, it takes away part of their ability to respond to whatever crisis is happening — if it’s a natural disaster or if it’s a manmade disaster like we just saw happen with the Toledo water situation,” he said to a crowd of about 30 people at Grounds for Thought coffee house.
Mr. Kasich, however, praised the efforts of local and state officials during the detrimental algae bloom.
All levels of government worked cohesively, he said.
“We knew we had a lot of work to do and we worked with the [Toledo] mayor, who is a terrific leader,” Mr. Kasich said to a crowd of about 40 people at Mr. Spots restaurant. “We worked with his people and we ... focused on trying to move as much material as we could up into the region so people could have some relief until the crisis passed.”
Mr. Kasich was quick to thank private businesses that helped during the crisis and said their response to the emergency is another example of how business and government can aid one another.
“Working together with all those people and private businesses — the Wal-marts, the Meijer stores, the Kroger stores, the private employers — we were able to move an awful lot up there in a short period of time,” he said.
Dorothea Barker of Bowling Green listens to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald at Grounds For Thought coffee shop.
Taking issue with Mr. Kasich’s leadership before and during the ordeal, Mr. FitzGerald said the governor is focused on serving the interests of business and the rich.
The crisis is a supreme example of something that shouldn’t have happened, he said.
“There’s a very small group of people and a small group of institutions who are getting whatever they want out of this governor. They’re doing very well,” Mr. FitzGerald said. “When the governor describes the situation in Ohio as so fantastic and it’s a miracle, he’s partly right. For a few people, it’s a miracle. For a few companies, it’s a miracle.
“If you’re somebody that just wants to be able to turn on the tap and have confidence that what comes out is going to be completely safe, this has not been a miracle to you.”
Barbara Baumgartner came to Mr. FitzGerald’s talk because she said the state needs a change in leadership. Mr. Kasich has done a great deal of damage to Ohio, which was further proved by the water crisis, she said.
“It’s been a lot of denial. I know that there have been people who raised alarm bells for a long time that knew this was going to happen,” the 68-year-old Rossford resident said. “As a person affected by this water crisis, really, still, I’m having a difficult time drinking the tap water. I’m still drinking bottled water.”
During his remarks, Mr. Kasich called Lake Erie “precious” and said his administration has spent half-a-billion dollars to improve its water quality. He said further cooperation among state and local leaders is needed to solve the issue in the future.
“We still have challenges ahead, we need to work with our agriculture community to make sure the runoffs can be limited,” Mr. Kasich said. “We need to make sure we can work with the city of Toledo to try to do the upgrades we need to do on their water plant.”
Mary Charters, who attended Mr. Kasich’s speech, said she was impressed with the governor’s handling of small businesses and the water crisis.
“He’s helping the ones that need help,” she said, adding that Ohio is in a better place than when Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland was in office.
Kris Turner can be reached at: email@example.com or 419-724-6103.