CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A statehouse lobbyist whose clients include the City of Cincinnati -- former Ohio Sen. President Stanley J. Aronoff -- also represents the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, where the budget over the years has been pumped up with money from local, state and federal assistance. It opened in August 2004 and now says it needs more. Aronoff is skilled in the ways of Columbus. That must have helped to keep a $2 million appropriation for the museum on track last week.
Aronoff's successor as Senate President, Richard A. Finan, had to leave the post because of term limits. Finan now lobbies for the American Red Cross and the FreeStore FoodBank, two charitable organizations that saw $1 million they sought carved away by the Ohio House. Still, the Freedom Center got what it was after.
Action shifts to the Senate next week, the chamber were Aronoff and Finan both presided and where their influence was unrivaled back in the day. Finan no doubt will try to get the money restored for the charities. It will be interesting to see if he can match the clout of Aronoff. Both are Republicans, but Finan is probably more conservative.
The Freedom Center has already gotten nearly $13 million in state funds. If lawmakers are worried about runaway state spending, and feel they need to make cuts while watching the state's bottom line, why not chop money from the museum on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati? Simply shift those public dollars to charitable organizations that actually assist people in times of need.
The FreeStore gives away food to the poor. When disaster strikes, the Red Cross answers (yes, it has run into criticism, but it always tries to help).
The people who set up the Underground Railroad in the days of slavery risked their necks -- also their property and fortunes -- to defy the authorities. They helped destitute slaves escape their fatcat masters in the South, the monied class who owned and ran the plantations and treated those in poverty like dirt.
So where would the farmers and preachers and abolitionists who started the Underground Railroad want Ohio's public money to go? The answer: TO HELP PEOPLE.