Ideastream news anchor Rick Jackson interviews Dennis Kucinich about his campaign for governor of Ohio and key issues facing Ohioans. The interview was broadcast on January 29 on WVIZ-TV, Channel 25, the Public Broadcasting System affiliate in Cleveland.
Rick: The tussle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination continues to run in high gear despite several candidates stepping aside. State voters still have five viable candidates battling in the May primary.Now Richard Cordray and Connie Pillage have already appeared on Ideas. Today we had the opportunity to talk with former Congressman, former Cleveland mayor, Dennis Kucinich. He dropped by the Idea Center several hours ago. We started talking with my asking about the six-year gap since he served, whether politics has changed and why he’s chosen to return to the battlefield right now.
Dennis: This is a moment, Rick, people want someone who is independent minded, who understands the problems of working people and people trying to make ends meet and get a job, get decent pay. They want to see the state rebuild infrastructure. I think they support my idea of making sure that everyone has health care, making sure that everyone gets a good college education and so this is the moment for all the experience that I have, just pouring it right into this moment. And I’ll tell you, even though the campaign’s not even two weeks old, the response that we’re getting is electric.
Rick: Yeah I wanted to talk about that too, but let me go to your first policy announcement. You talked about education and health right there, but first off you went to oil and gas saying it’s something that Ohio doesn’t necessarily need. Why was that your first goal?
Dennis: This is about fresh water and groundwater, yes, surface water that’s not contaminated. I mean we have we have so many areas in the
state where their drinking water supplies are contaminated. Remember what happened in Toledo a couple years ago? People were told they couldn’t drink their city’s water because there was contamination in the lake from all kinds of sources. All across this state there are communities concerned about the quality of their drinking water, about fresh about surface water, about groundwater. And you know what? That’s not negotiable. You can’t say, well you know we can do with X amount of pollution. And all of this fracking, all of these deep injection wells present a real danger to the public health, to the quality of life. If you do not have access to fresh water, and frankly, you know Lake Erie is the largest part of the chain of Great Lakes, the largest freshwater supply in the world. We have to protect our freshwater. We have to protect our surface and groundwater. And no Ohioans should ever have to worry about whether they should be able to drink water out of the tap because the groundwater might be polluted or surface water might be polluted because of fresh water supplies polluted. So yes, I’ve taken a strong stand on that. To me, it’s fundamental. You can’t, you can’t have life if you don’t have, if you don’t have fresh water.
Rick: That’s certainly something we don’t think about as much here because of the lake. But the Appalachian counties are very concerned about the water
Dennis: Well they are. But we should think about it because you have agricultural runoff into the lake. I’ve looked at certain reports, scientific reports, that talk about all kinds of toxic substances going into freshwater supplies. So yeah, and you know what surprised me? That none of the other candidates would join me in that call. Maybe they drink bottled water.
Rick: Yeah it could be, we’ll see. Another issue you wanted to talk about was the unresponsive government in Columbus. We’ve heard that from some of the candidates but you, you used that big word unresponsive
Dennis: Well here’s how it works. The wealth of the state goes into the capitol. But then the capital of the people who are making decisions, they send that money to the top, in terms of tax breaks for the wealthiest interests, in terms of taking money from local communities away from local communities, and sending it to the top in terms of tax breaks. Local government spending is deprived of about a billion dollars a year by the state from the local government fund that would distribute it. Our communities are starved for revenue, and one of the reasons is the state’s taking that money away.
Rick: You were a mayor there’s a lot of tension going on between cities in this state and the state government.
Dennis: Well one of the things just going on right now is the state wants to gather the local tax dollars and then take, not give it back to the cities. No, I mean this is, there’s a thing about local control, about home rule. It’s in the Ohio Constitution and every community has a fundamental right to be able to make the laws for themselves and not have the state interfering. I mean this idea of small government, there’s a conservative principle, and you would think that that a certain political party would respect that, and that home rule would mean something. But Home Rule means being able to hold on to your tax dollars, being able to get your share when the state takes its amount of money from your community. It also means being able to make laws to protect your community; so as a former councilman in Cleveland, as a former mayor of Cleveland, I understand this in a fundamental way. And actually, it’s local government that works best for people because they have access to it. And what I hope to do as the next governor, is to be able to give people access to state government. Make state government come alive and make it transparent and make it responsive to local communities.
Rick: Let me say that a couple of weeks ago we had a debate here in the Idea Center. Nan Whaley was in the race. She’s gone now. You and Bill O’Neil weren’t there but you’re here now. One of the things that kept coming up was program after program after program. Never did we hear how to pay for it. There are things you’d like to do. How do we pay for some of the things that Ohio desperately needs?
Dennis: You set your priorities and you reallocate funds. That’s where it starts and there’s a lot of ways. I mean I’ll give you an example. This, the for-profit charter schools right now are taking over, you know, probably a billion, maybe over a billion dollars a year and are not held accountable at all. And they’re taking money that communities ended up voting for their schools and levies and they’re standing right there, getting a cut, these for-profit operators. All the money’s fungible. So, to me, local communities should have a voice as to whether you want to partner with a charter and give up their money. That’s a fundamental thing. But the state government, here again, the state’s taking control. They’re taking money and giving it, taking it out of public education budgets, giving these for-profit charters, who by the way, do give people in the Statehouse a lot of campaign contributions. So what you have, is a pay-to-play a corrupt system. And one thing people know about me: no strings attached. I intend not just to shake things up, but to clean things up in Columbus. And I know how to do that.
Rick: I’ll give you one chance to stump here. Why you, instead of the other people who are running for the Democratic nomination?
Dennis: Because people know me they can trust me. They know that I’m willing to take a stand and put it all on the line to do the right thing for the people and I’m ready.
Rick: Senator, good to see you again.
Dennis: Thank you, Rick, thank you