COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mayors from Ohio's 30 biggest cities and suburbs said on Friday they're forging an alliance to fight for more state and federal government investment in urban infrastructure and local job creation efforts.
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Leaders of the bipartisan Ohio Mayors Alliance say they will promote their cities' shared interests and work to dispel negative stereotypes commonly repeated at the Statehouse.
"Big picture, what's good for cities is good for Ohio," said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat.
The group's launch came within days of Republican Donald Trump's election as president and some Democratic U.S. mayors declaring they would make their cities safe havens against some of his expected policies.
The Ohio mayors' group, which has 20 Democrats and 10 Republicans, said its effort is unrelated to Trump's victory.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said the need became critical about a year ago after a series of cuts to the state's local government fund that supports basic city services.
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"The past six years, we don't think the mayors have really been voicing their opinions on the state budget," Whaley said. "And, moving forward, I would argue that we haven't seen a governor candidate even have an urban agenda since (Republican George) Voinovich — who was, by the way, a mayor. So we really want in 2018 for the governor candidates of both parties to start talking about what they're going to do for cities and their plans for cities, because it's such a key economic driver for the state."
Voinovich, who died in June, was governor from 1991 to 1998.
Cranley said it's imperative that state lawmakers properly understand the contributions cities are making to the state's economy for the state to thrive.
"Too often we hear rhetoric that's very anti-local government, anti-city coming out of Columbus (state government) that suggests that somehow that we're asking of them. Actually, it's the other way around," he said. "The state can't do anything for Ohio, including our wonderful rural areas, without the jobs that are created in cities."
Last year, a combined $850 million in private investments was announced in Ohio's 30 largest communities, representing more than 8,700 jobs, the group said. In Ohio's 11 largest metropolitan regions, cities help create 84 percent of the state's jobs and 90 percent of its gross domestic product.
Representatives of the alliance met this week with legislative leaders, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and members of Republican Gov. John Kasich's staff to share their vision.
"Our focus will be developing a common set of policy priorities that bring communities and leaders together, ensure a high quality of life for our citizens and strengthen the economic vibrancy of our communities and our state," Whaley said.
She said the nonprofit organization is structured to assure bipartisanship. Its board must include at least one opposite-party member, and all its policy positions much be approved by a two-thirds supermajority of its member communities.
They include: Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Cuyahoga Falls, Dayton, Dublin, Elyria, Euclid, Fairfield, Findlay, Grove City, Hamilton, Kettering, Lakewood, Lima, Lorain, Middletown, Parma, Springfield, Toledo and Youngstown.
The memberships of Beavercreek, Canton, Cleveland, Lancaster, Mansfield, Newark, Strongsville and Warren are pending.
This story has been corrected to reflect Cranley is a Democrat, not a Republican.