by Janina Klimas, Organizer, Ohio Student Environmental Coalition
In Tuesday's State of the Union President Obama promised to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail in the next 25 years. This is huge! And a far cry from the struggle we are facing with the Governor of Ohio to get rail in the Rustbelt.
Ohio students have wasted no time in registering their disenchantment and disapproval of our recently-inaugurated Governor, matching the speed with which John Kasich began undermining Ohio’s recovery, environmental progress and industrial sector-development with a slew of austerity measures, anti-environmental policies, and conservative attacks on public services, upper education, and organized labor. Even before being formally inaugurated as one of the least popular starting governors in our state’s history, Gov. Kasich was overseeing the wreckage of our infrastructural aspirations through the unabashedly-nonsensical and lopsidedly-partisan initiative to kill the ’3C rail corridor;’ a project designed to not only provide alternative transit to one of the most densely traveled corridors in the U.S. currently not served by high-speed rail, but also to provide jobs for Ohio’s families and beleaguered construction sector, and mobility and access both to Ohio’s young talent and elder residents.
The wash out from his success in killing 3C before even taking office? 16,000 jobs lost, $400 million federal stimulus dollars shipped to other states, and Ohio students joining the rest of the state in their lack of interest in any kind of honeymoon.
Thus, Ohioans sent a bold message on inauguration day; they’re not only mobilizing to hold Kasich accountable from day one, but they’re also building coalitions with labor, education, public services, industrial manufacturing and progressive organizations intent on ‘Defending Ohio’ from Kasich’s backwards policies. These coalitions represent the true breadth of Ohio’s diverse and vibrant society; families and steelworkers and folks who love their green spaces and lakes and rivers, rather than asphalt industry lobbyists and silicon valley venture capital managers (notable additions to Kasichs administration). They represent the true strength of Ohio’s citizens in times like these, and amount to a movement not only for Ohio’s future in socio-political realms, but also for the green economy we know our state deserves and is capable of building. A green economy our mothers and fathers would recognize, and our kids can be proud of.
Thus, Ohio students amplified their power not only in numbers at Saturdays rally, but also in their ardent potential as Ohio’s future; as intellectual capital in a state battling brain-drain, as an organized and cohesive force to be reckoned with, as social actors who embrace the wholeness and richness of Ohio, and as a movement being DRIVEN crazy by lack of effective public transit, students are showing the leadership and vision they deserve to see matched by our incoming administration. So far, we’ve found it lacking. After an outstanding student-caucus following the rally, we’re all excited to keep working together for the Ohio we want; one with it’s rail funds staying in the state, and it’s vibrant public sectors intact. Stay tuned for more student-led actions as Kasich settles into his new office; we’ll be making sure he doesn’t get too comfortable. Especially when we bring the energy from Power Shift 2011 back to Ohio!