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uyahoga Democratic Women's Caucus (CDWC) Forum

On Monday evening, January 8th, we went to the "Market Wine Bar' near Market Square at West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue to attend a forum organized by the Cuyahoga Democratic Women's Caucus (CDWC) that featured four of "NE Ohio's Powerhouse Women Legislators" who were State Senator Sandra Williams (District 21) and State Reps Stephanie Howse (District 11), Janine Boyd (District 9); and Nickie Antonio (District 13) talking about what it is like to serve in the legislature which is largely Republican (at this point), their various accomplishments, and what we can expect from the legislature in 2018.

We were happy to find that the "Market Wine Bar" was quite full of people wanting to hear what the legislators had to say and that there were quite a few men as well as women in attendance. Even though the night outside was still quite cold, the atmosphere in the back room of the Wine Bar was quite comfortable; indeed Rep. Antonio very much captured the ambiance when she  smiled and said, "welcome to our fireside chat!"

Among those we spoke to before the program started we Ms. Linda A. Striefsky from "Thompson Hine LLP" who is a longtime friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong as well as our good friend, Ms. Jazmin Long from "Global Cleveland". When it was time for the program to start, we shared a table with Ms. Megan Walsh, a social worker who used to work at "Lincoln-West High School" and remembered the powerful commencement speech that Ms. Wong gave several years ago.

In the course of the program, it was noted that the Ohio State House of Representatives is composed of 99 members of which 66 are Republicans and 33 are Democrats. Likewise, the Ohio State Senate is composed of 33 members of which 24 are Republicans and 9 are Democrats. Therefore, all four of the legislators present that evening stressed the need to be able to work across party lines to accomplish things for their districts. Senator Williams explained that because of her efforts in crafting the Capitol Budget Bill she was able to get significant amounts of funding for projects in her district.

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The four legislators were welcomingly frank when they stated that they realized a lot of the bills that they introduced would probably not pass in the foreseeable future (i.e. pay equity) but it was still important that these issues be brought forward so that they could at least be made prominent. Nevertheless, there are successes along the way and certainly some looming on the horizon. For example, it was said that a bill that would protect LGBTQ people against discrimination is finally gaining traction because it was been endorsed by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

It is such scattered successes that makes the work of these legislators so worthwhile. Another example was offered by Rep. Antonio when she poignantly spoke of how she was once thanked by a mother and daughter who were reunited due to a bill regarding accessibility of adoption birth records that Rep. Antonio championed. 

During the Q and A, we asked about upcoming legislature that might affect immigrants and refugees so Rep. Howse told us about a bill that she is working on with Rep. Dan Ramos (56th District) that they call "Welcoming Ohio" which will give localities the option of deciding for themselves how welcoming they want to be to undocumented immigrants. In other words, it would be up to them if they wanted to be sanctuary cities or not. On the other hand, there is an effort to cut state funding to sanctuary cities. Unfortunately, it was noted by Rep. Boyd that debate regarding undocumented immigrants tends to be quite emotional as she recalled how bitter things got when the passages in the workman's compensation overhaul that pertained to the undocumented were discussed.

At the conclusion of the program, Senator Williams and State Reps Howse, Boyd, and Antonio got a big round of applause because as Ms. Cindy Demsey, Chair of the CDWC, aptly said, these women do a "tremendous job to make our lives better" and Ms. Lana Moresky termed them "passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated."

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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