Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bexley, Ohio. Representative Jim McGregor discusses legislative matters with WCRX-LP host Joe Contino

Ohio House Representative Jim McGregor was today’s guest on the Joe Contino Show. Representative McGregor gave an overview of legislative matters for WCRX-LP listeners.

The discussion began with comments on how wildlife is flourishing in Ohio. Wildlife such as bobcats, deer, geese, black bear, wild turkey, pheasant, otter and beaver are seen sometimes in abundance throughout the state. Some of these animals were only seldom seen two decades ago. McGregor said that his father was a trapper and spent many recreational hours outdoors but fifty years ago his father had not seen wild turkey or otter in the state.

There was a brief discussion of the Gahanna mystery lion of a few years ago. Representative McGregor said that the mystery lion was first seen by a Columbus police officer so there was some credibility to the first reported sighting.

McGregor’s father was a trapper but never saw turkey, deer or otters in the wild.

Contino then asked about educational funding. McGregor said that Ohio is going through an experimental period. He said there is a spirit of innovation and a willingness to try new arrangements in education. McGregor said that he saw value in small private innovations that address local needs. He said that there is recognizable benefit when top down, one size fits all arrangements are abandoned. Charter schools are providing valuable lessons in innovation.

Representative McGregor said that an important part of the answer is protecting the freedom of people to do things, and to do things differently if they want to try to solve their own problems. He said that not all of the experiments will be successful but freedom is not about always succeeding.

Contino and McGregor then discussed a Groveport Madison Local School District disagreement. Groveport Village wanted to separate itself from Madison Township. The result would have been each unit having its own school district. The demographics of both units were essentially identical. And the infrastructure division would have benefited Madison Township with newer larger facilities. The Village of Groveport basically wanted to run their own community schools. The separation was not approved and the combined system remained and has not flourished since the dispute.

Representative McGregor then offered a comment that “small systems work.” He described his own experience as a youth growing up in Gahanna where people knew their local officials. He said that in large cities, citizens are less likely to know the police officer, city councilman and water department manager

McGregor and Contino then traded remarks that “Big doesn’t work” and “Big works differently.”

They then discussed the kinds of choices that expanded liberty permits. Vouchers, special education, full day and half day pre-school, publicly funded or special program assessments, corporal punishment permitted or corporal punishment banned, charter schools. The greater freedom, the more individual solutions.

Producer Troy Patton commented that a wild card is parental involvement. McGregor and Contino both offered comments that parents are part of the mix, but that adult mentors, neighbors and others can be important parts of any child’s education.

Contino and McGregor then traded stories about Ohio history. Contino offered a comment on Admiral Perry’s defeat of the British on Lake Erie. McGregor recalled a battle at Fort Stephenson near Sandusky where American soldiers defeated British troops, including British marines and sailors. This battle was an important precursor to Perry’s victory on Lake Erie. Tecumseh attended the British during their unsuccessful fight at Fort Stephenson.

Representative McGregor then discussed the results of his recent constituent survey. He said the most common areas of concern are education and alternative energy.

Contino noted that McGregor is chairman of the House alternative energy committee. McGregor then described a study that estimated that 3,000 windmills could be built on Lake Erie. He said that the economics of wind energy are fast approaching parity with the cost of energy produced by coal.

McGregor also commented that the East Coast needs clean energy. Ohio can be on the leading edge of supplying clean energy to the East Coast or it can not try to be in the clean energy business and let a deep Midwest state like Iowa supply clean energy to the coast. In the first scenario Ohio will profit. In the other, Ohioans will subsidize the cost of energy supplied by other states to the East Coast.

McGregor said that his judgments are guided by the principle that alternative energy markets should be opened up so individual consumers have the freedom to choose the technology that they find useful.

McGregor offered Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio as an example of where an open market is needed. SWACO has a $30,000 annual energy bill. SWACO had an engineering proposal to utilize natural gas by-product of the SWACO landfills. SWACO proposed to American Electric Power that the energy produced be applied to its energy needs. AEP offered a “standby energy contract” for $60,000 per year. For SWACO to use its own by-product for energy would double its energy bill. Free markets eliminate the kind of irrationality AEP proposed to SWACO.

Representative McGregor is a four-term member of the Ohio House of Representatives from the 20th House District which includes Bexley and Gahanna.

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