Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Tuesday, September 12

Ohio House 58th: Barrett (D) Determined to Win Seat on Second Try

It was a real pleasure to meet Matthew Barrett (D-Amherst) a few weeks ago at the Lorain office of the law firm Miraldi & Barrett Co. He had set aside an hour or so from his busy lawyering schedule for us to sit around his desk and talk about his race in the 58th Ohio House District, in Seneca, Huron and Lorain Counties. Barrett is running against retired executive Rep. Dan White (R-Bronson Township), recently appointed to the seat after the resignation of Rep. Kathleen Reed (R-Norwalk), formerly Kathleen Walcher. Barrett ran against her in 2004 and won 46.01% of the vote, a very good showing against an entrenched incumbent. He is determined to win this time out.

Barrett describes himself as a traditional family man, "married 17 years with four children and a dog." He graduated from Elyria High School and earned a bachelors degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1989, an associates degree from the Insurance Institute of America in 1993, and a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1996. He was a bodily injury claims adjuster for State Farm before getting his law degree and joining the personal injury firm where his father and brother are also partners. He has served as Amherst City Councilman-at-Large, Chairperson of Citizens for Amherst Schools, and a member of the board of St. Peter's United Church of Christ Pre-School.

Asked what got him into the race two years ago, Barrett said that as a lawyer he gets a weekly publication detailing new laws passed in Columbus and "was dismayed at the lack of answers for my clients, the working class families. Everything seemed to be going big business, special interest, and our state representative wasn’t standing up and saying anything about it." In fact, Rep. Walcher "wasn’t standing up and saying anything on the House floor," and reportedly in one committee hearing had, "right before the vote, turned to the chairman and said 'Mr. Chairman, which way was I supposed to vote on this?'" When Barrett heard that, he decided to act on his long-standing desire to go to Columbus and effect change.

As the filing deadline approached this time around, Barrett hesitated about filing because his partner Jim Miraldi had committed to run for Common Pleas Judge and it would have been very disruptive to the law practice to have two partners running in contested races at the same time. As it turned out, Miraldi is running unopposed, so Barrett went ahead with his plan to try again in the 58th District race.

Barrett was elected as Amherst Councilman-at-Large last year and is "having a lot of fun" in the position. It is very rewarding, he said, "to be able to add some input and then see the things actually happen in the city, instead of just sitting around your kitchen table saying 'I wish somebody ought to do this or that.' You say those things around the Council chambers and stuff gets done." His experience on the city council has led Barrett to believe strongly in a bipartisan approach of working together with the other party. Amherst has a Republican mayor and a divided council with a Democrat as President. Nevertheless, Barrett said, "we have yet to have an ordinance pass, or fail, where the final vote wasn’t unanimous." It doesn’t always start off unanimous and everyone has different points of view, but "politics has been put aside, and we are really striving to make sure that we are doing the best for the city. I think the state needs to do the same thing." Barrett anticipates a more bipartisan environment in Columbus if the Democrats gain the governorship and pick up just one seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, because "if you have a Democratic governor, you can still have a Republican House, [and] as long as it just can’t override any veto automatically, they’re going to have to come and talk."

As Chairperson of Citizens for Amherst Schools, Barrett has worked on school tax levies and "pretty much anything to protect the funding or advance the schools in the Amherst Public School District," which also encompasses a portion of the City of Lorain. The week that we talked, the organization was focused on the declaration by Craig Foltin, Mayor of Lorain and the Republican candidate in the 13th Congressional District, that an area of Lorain in the Amherst School District is “blighted.” Subject to a vote of the Lorain City Council in mid-September, this declaration could redirect 75% of area property tax dollars from the schools to the city. According to Barrett, however, "this 'blighted area' that he has determined is a slum has homes that are selling for $180,000 and up. His position is, the law is ambiguous and he can declare what’s blighted, and what isn’t." The organization's current campaign is to alert area residents and encourage them to call their council members, so the measure doesn't just "sneak on through."

Asked about his interest in public affairs, Barrett said that he has always been an avid reader (even before law school, where you have to be) who "starts every day by scouring all the news." He has "a little RSS reader on my blackberry" and even a subscription to Gongwer, because "I have to know what’s going on." However, he wasn’t really motivated to seek public office until after he started "working for everyday, working class people" and hearing their stories. From representing working families and injured people he learned that "if you don’t have a voice in the Statehouse, you just get trampled on." Barrett is angered at "all the money that comes in to the candidates" and "lobbyists that are actually writing the laws and pushing them through," and "seeing the jobs leave, going out of the country, going out of our area to other places." As an example, when Ford announced that they were closing their facility in Vermillion, Rep. Walcher said, “Vermillion has been living high on the hog with the Ford plant, it’s time they feel the pinch.” That, Barrett says, is "just not representative of everyday Americans. Sure, you know, the powerful and the elite are being represented, but in a democracy we’re supposed to be working for everybody."

Barrett said that his role model as a public official and legislator is Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon). He recalls Brown speaking at Elyria High School during his campaign for Secretary of State in 1982. "I was really impressed with his energy and his passion, at the time. I’ve since come to know Sherrod Brown, and like him," Barrett said. "I would like to emulate Sherrod Brown’s desire to help everybody. Level playing field, no more, no less. And it’s his passion for what he does, I think, that is inspiring."

Barrett says, however, that he's "just a little bit more conservative than Sherrod Brown on some issues," noting in particular that he is pro-life. Barrett's opposition to Roe v. Wade dates back to studying the case in law school. That occurred shortly after he and his wife lost a baby during pregnancy, after seeing it and hearing it's heartbeat via ultrasound, a difficult experience that persuaded him that "I didn’t agree with the law at the time and still don’t." Barrett is a member of Democrats for Life.

Going door to door, Barrett finds that the top concern on voters' minds is jobs ("we need better jobs, better paying jobs, we need jobs that are going to stay here"). Jobs are especially the focus in Huron County, which is in the bottom ten percent of the state in job creation and retention. Barrett said that his opponent Dan White owned a company in Norwalk (in Huron County) which employed hundreds of people. In 2003 he joined a group called the Society for International Business Fellows, which Barrett describes as a "network to teach business people how to outsource." Within a year of joining, after attending classes at a conference in Brazil, White moved all those jobs to India. He has since started a consulting firm for outsourcing jobs called SourceQuest.

White contends that outsourcing is good for the local economy and creates jobs, but Barrett finds it "kind of hard to buy that logic." There are no definite statistics to prove White's claim, and Barrett says "I don’t think your maid and your gardener and your caddy should count in those numbers." White has made a "lot of money" but his ideas are "not best for Ohio, and they’re definitely not best for this district." As to White's recent appointment to the seat, Barrett says that White is "trying to have the best of both worlds, saying 'I wasn’t there to mess it up, but I’m the incumbent so re-elect me.'" White outspent his primary opponent by a large margin, and Barrett expects him to put a substantial amount of his own money into the general election.

Voters are also "fed up" with the pay-to-play culture in Columbus, Barrett says. "It’s the corruption tax," he said, as exemplified by giving workers compensation investment funds to a politically-connected buddy to invest in rare coins and funnel money to the Bush presidential campaign. "Then, when the workers compensation system is losing money, they say 'We need workers compensation reform,' because the workers are getting too much money." It’s "just backwards," people are "irate," and "nobody is actually taking it seriously, they feel." As an example, Barrett reports that his opponent said in an interview in June that he thinks the corruption scandals and ethics scandals in Ohio are all "trivial." "It’s that attitude that has led to our pay-to-play system," Barrett said. "They don’t think that it’s a very serious problem. And it’s huge!"

Another big concern among voters is school funding. It doesn’t matter whether they are for or against the tax levies, "everybody is sick of the state turning its back on its responsibility" to fix the unconstitutional school funding system. Everybody believes that "they’ve got to get it off the back of the property owner," and unfortunately "our state leaders’ answer was, 'Let’s get a new Supreme Court.'” Since the DeRolph trial court first declared the system unconstitutional in 1993, "we’ve had an entire generation of school children start kindergarten and go through and graduate from the twelfth grade, and we still haven’t addressed it." As to what it will take to fix the system, Barrett says it depends on who is in the legislature. "If it’s still the party in power, it’s going to take a prayer and a whole lot of negotiating. They’ve been able to stay in power without addressing it, so I think it’s comfortable for them to not address it." Ultimately, Barrett said, Ohio needs a "hybrid system of funding" to avoid reliance on any one source. Michigan is an example of a state that relies too heavily on income taxes. That "is fine when your economy is going strong, but when your economy takes a downturn you lose your education funding," just when a strong education system is needed to boost the economy.

Barrett pointed out that Ohio tax abatements are reaching a level almost equal to the education budget. Barrett would like to "start redirecting some of those resources from the bigger companies and put them into priorities for the state. Let’s fund our priorities first, and then see, what do we have left, what can we afford, for tax abatements." For example, in Piketon, Ohio there is a uranium enrichment plant that Gov. Bob Taft brought to Ohio through abatements equivalent to $250,000 per job. "I agree that we need incentives to create jobs, but $250,000 per job is too expensive," Barrett said. "We could have taken $250,000, given it to a family farmer or a small businessman, and they’re going to create more than one job out of that, and they’re NOT going to move it to India." Ohio needs to redirect its priorities from the big businesses that are "just going to leave when they find it profitable enough" and give incentives instead "to the people that actually live and work in the state, ones that love the state, they’re going to stay here."

Another problem with tax abatements is that they don't automatically expire and they don't have "clawback provisions." Barrett says that his law firm sued York International when it pulled out of Elyria after receiving years of tax abatements on the promise that they would stay at least ten years. The lawsuit was hampered by the lack of a clawback provision, but the firm fought it and won back almost a million dollars for the city and schools. "I am a believer in 'You make a deal, you’re going to stay here, you’re going to carry through with your end of the bargain, or you’re going to pay it back,'" Barrett said. So clawback provisions and a review of tax abatements every few years are needed.

Barrett also strongly believes that Ohio should fund tax abatements only after priority needs like security and education are funded. Rep. Joe Koziura (D-Lorain) of the neighboring 56th District has introduced a bill that would require state priorities to be funded first, as compared to the current system in which pet projects are funded and then education gets what’s left. Barrett said "the first thing we’re going to need to do is pass a bill like that because the debate is ongoing about how we’re going to fund [education], and as long as you’re going to continue to fund [education] last we’re never going to get an answer."

Barrett has been endorsed by the Ohio Education Association, Service Employees International Union, Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Ohio AFL-CIO, Laborers' International Union of North America Local 758, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Tri-County United Auto Workers Community Action Program and Lorain County AFL-CIO Federation of Labor. He is a preferred candidate of the Ohio Justice Fund, is recommended by the Buckeye Firearms Association, and is co-endorsed by Ohio Right to Life.

There will be a meet-the-candidate wine and cheese fundraiser for Matthew Barrett on Thursday, September 14, at 5:00 pm at Grange Hall, Amherst Sandstone Village, on Milan Avenue just west of Lake Avenue in Amherst.


At 11:23 PM, Anonymous scott bakalar said...

great profile - definitely worth the wait.
I think a Kozuria-Barrett-Lundy trifecta would have a positive impact on my little corner of the state.

At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Tenant’s Guide to Renting

The first challenge every tenant faces is finding an apartment for rent that suits their individual needs. For today’s tenant, the most effective apartment search can be done using an online apartment finder. Tenants should decide what they require in an apartment or house rental before beginning their search. For example: the number of bedrooms, location or distance from public transportation and how much the tenant can afford to pay in rent, furnished or unfurnished apartment, etc. By making these important decisions first, tenants can avoid renting an apartment or house only to regret it later. Many tenants today are taking advantage of the convenience of the internet to locate apartments for rent as opposed to the traditional print publications.

Once a possible apartment or home has been found, it is the tenant's duty to thoroughly inspect the premises making a commitment in the form of a security deposit. A tenant should not rely on the landlord or the landlord's agent to tell the tenant if anything is wrong with the property. The tenant must inspect the property carefully and ask questions about it.
Inspecting the condition and functionality of the following areas/features of the apartment before committing yourself as a tenant is highly recommended.
1. Kitchen appliances in working order.
2. Water pressure strong, plumbing without leaks.
3. Electrical outlets and wiring working.
4. Walls and ceiling painted or papered without cracks
5. Ventilation or air conditioning accessible.
6. Floors, railings and bathrooms in good repair.
7. Fire escape easy to use.
8. Stairs safe and well-lighted.
9. No rodents or insects.
10. Heating system in working order.
11. If furnished, check and write down condition of all furniture.
12. Windows and doors operable and weather-tight; screens provided.
The tenant should also check the security of the building to find out if there is a dead-bolt lock, security chain, or through-the-door viewer.
BEWARE OF EXISTING DAMAGES: In order to avoid being blamed for damages that already exist in the rental unit, the cautious tenant should take every step for self-protection. Before moving in (or as soon as possible thereafter), the tenant should make a list of all existing damages and repairs that need to be made. A copy of the list should he presented to the landlord and attached to the lease This way the landlord cannot blame the tenant for damages caused by others and the tenant will know what the landlord intends to repair. If the tenant keeps good records the landlord will not be able to keep the tenant’s security deposit for damages that were actually caused by others. Taking pictures before moving in is also strongly recommended.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Rossano, associated with www.AllSpaces.com who “Conveniently Connects All People with All Spaces in All Places” has been dedicated to the Real Estate rental market for over 8 years. He has assisted over 25,000 tenants with their renting needs. Any questions about renting apartments, houses or other rentals, feel free to visit www.AllSpaces.com or email him at Paul@AllSpaces.com.


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