2011 was an interesting year politically in the Dayton area. New fads and old fights surfaced, or resurfaced. The local economy continued to struggle, prompting both ends of the political spectrum to make noise.
Senate Bill 5 dominated the first half of the year. State Sen. Shannon Jones, a Republican from neighboring Springboro, introduced the bill, which limited the scope of public sector collective bargaining. Later, we found out that Governor John Kasich did not want SB5’s reforms introduced in a standalone bill. SB5 provoked a labor union backlash that resulted in a popular referendum and defeat.
Local Congressmen, Mike Turner and Steve Austria, cast votes for a balanced federal budget, a payroll tax cut, and the protection of the Dayton defense sector. On the latter, new jobs and UAV testing could be on the way to the region.
In September, the state’s Apportionment Board passed a new Congressional map to represent Ohio’s 16 districts. Ohio lost a pair of seats due to lax population growth. In the original map, both parties lost a single seat, but Democrats complained that the map created few competitive districts. Dayton’s chapter of the NAACP levied complaints that the law unconstitutionally split the city’s black voting population in half. Eventually, Republicans agreed to redraw a new map, which also failed to satisfy Democrats.
On the subject of the map, Reps. Mike Turner and Steve Austria will face off in a high-profile March 2012 primary because their old districts were combined.
Nearby Beavercreek’s City Council voted twice to block an RTA bus line to the city, eliciting charges of racism against the city. Ironically, Beavercreek’s Vice Mayor, a vocal advocate of the city’s actions, is African-American.
The City of Dayton passed the Welcome Dayton plan to woo immigrant entrepreneurs to the Gem City. Critics lamented potential costs of the plan as well as charging that an alternative identification card provision would make Dayton a magnet for illegal immigration.
Former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin indicated that she might get back into politics in the near future, perhaps running for the Dayton City Commission in 2012.
A group of left-wing protestors occupied Dayton’s Courthouse Square in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement to rally against what they called “corporate greed.” Now known as Occupy Dayton, the group remained in place until agreeing to move to an alternate location for the Grand Illumination in November. Later, the Montgomery County Commission passed a law that would effectively end the Occupy Dayton camp out.
Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain visited Dayton shortly before dropping out of the race after a series of sexual harassment charges.
Congress held a special hearing in Dayton about the Delphi pension controversy. Salaried Delphi retirees were able to air their grievances after having their pensions cut while hourly, union retirees had their pensions made largely whole during the GM bailout.
The same voters who gave SB5 the boot also voted by a larger margin to exempt Ohio from the federal health care reform law popularly known as “Obamacare.”