Saturday, January 25, 2003

Lawmakers: Growth will continue in suburbs

Counties face 'pleasant problems'

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer




WEST CHESTER TWP. - The residential and business building boom sweeping Cincinnati's northern suburbs won't subside, despite a down economy and even as the nation marches toward war with Iraq, lawmakers confidently predicted Friday.

Excellent schools and prime location along Interstates 71 and 75 between Cincinnati and Dayton continue to fuel growth, three state legislators with districts in Butler and Warren counties said in a joint interview here.

Though the counties face challenges in trying to handle the impact of rapid growth, these are pleasant problems to have, three state representatives said.

"What is perceived to be problems here, other legislators would die to have," Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester Township, said.

"It is much easier dealing with problems of growth than problems of decay, period. Just go down to Cincinnati and ask them and they will tell you how bad of a problem it is in trying to resurrect an area," he said. "We live in a tremendous area and have a lot to be thankful for."

Mr. Cates and fellow state Reps. Tom Raga, R-Mason, and Shawn Webster, R-Hanover Township, spoke with Enquirer staffers in the newspaper's North newsroom.

They said the prosperity in the suburbs isn't taking away from downtown Cincinnati's appeal. The success of the suburbs also is the success of urban cores such as Cincinnati and Dayton.

"This is one of my pet peeves. I would love to have Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County commissioners ... stand alongside (I-75 or I-71) when there's an event in Cincinnati, whether it's a symphony or a ballgame, and you will see the people from Butler, Clermont and Warren pouring down to those events," Mr. Raga said.

They said that if war strikes, the Tristate region can expect to see the state's deficit deepen, with many of its public safety workers leaving to defend our country.

"We will have a bigger deficit to fill. There is no doubt in my mind," Mr. Webster said. "When we are at war, people kind of hunker down and just remain in their houses."

If the war is short, however, it could spur economic growth, Mr. Raga noted. "Once that's behind us, there is a chance that fuel prices are going down and business has a better attitude about what they expect," he said.

The lawmakers also called for more financial accountability for Ohio's universities and a public vote on gambling.

Despite a $720 million budget shortfall this year in Ohio, state leaders pledge efforts to bolster economic development, biological terrorism protection, corporate accountability and education.

The men outlined legislation upcoming this year including:

Placing a constitutional amendment before Ohio voters in November to set up the Third Frontier Operating Bond Program. The issue would provide resources to recruit world-class scholars, attract more research dollars and help researchers move their products from the lab to the marketplace.

Launching economic initiatives to attract business and industry to Ohio and to strengthen the state's job climate.

Improving quality of education in Ohio, focusing on recruitment, training and retention of high-quality teachers and other staff. The legislation will be based on the work of the Governor's Commission on Teaching Success, which is expected to release its recommendations in March.


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