COLUMBUS — Frustrated by budget cuts and the state’s perceived encroachment on their home-rule authority, the mayors of Ohio’s 30 largest cities on Friday announced the creation of a new bipartisan organization through which they hope to speak with one voice.
“Ohio is unique in that it has a large number of urban centers,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democratic board member for the new Ohio Mayors Alliance. “That is why it is so important for us to come together with one voice to address the challenges and opportunities facing Ohio’s cities.”
The body consists of 20 Democratic mayors and 10 Republicans. Its bylaws require bipartisan representation on the board as well as representation of smaller cities with populations less than 80,000. A two-thirds super-majority vote of the total membership is required to adopt policy positions.
The alliance hopes to undo past budget cuts, have one another’s back in fighting against encroachment on cities’ constitutional home-rule authority, and get the federal government to fully fund already approved aid in the local fight against opiate addiction.
Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, a Democrat, said the mayors have informally backed one another on home-rule issues via friends-of-the-court briefs. Toledo, Dayton, and Springfield are all fighting in the Ohio Supreme Court against state laws restricting their automatic traffic camera programs.
“This is more of a formalizing of that, and, of course, we are going to ask for support and assistance as we go forward with the Lake Erie issue,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “There are a number of cities where they have large bodies of water, such as Grand Lake St. Marys.”
She’s also eager to see a united push to get help with local infrastructure such as roads, sewers, and water systems.
Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik, a Republican and a board member, and Lima Mayor David Berger, a Democrat, round out northwest Ohio’s representation in the alliance.
The six largest cities paid dues of $9,500, and smaller cities paid $4,500 to be members. The nonprofit organization also plans to seek contributions, with only public employee unions mentioned as potential donors.
The organization expects to focus more on the 30 cities than the much broader Ohio Municipal League, of which the cities are also members.
“Really, when we were putting this organization together, we recognized that the legislature, the governor, and political leadership want to talk to the political leadership of their communities,” Ms. Whaley said. “That’s really the big difference in this organization.”
The idea is to constantly remind decision-makers that cities are economic drivers and job creators, not the taxpayer drains they are sometimes presented to be in Columbus and Washington.
“All of us up here have been impacted by a decade of state budget cuts,” Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer, a Democrat, said, “Since 2004, the local government funds have been significantly reduced, numbers like from $647 million in 2004 to just $365 million collectively in 2015.”
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