Elizabeth Walters, Ohio Democratic Party Chair, spoke about the benefits and improvements her party can bring to rural Ohio at an early Friday morning event at Armory Park.
From the stimulus checks and child tax credit to the American Rescue Plan, Democratic leaders have been working to get money back into the pockets of rural Americans, according to Walters.
In previous years, she admits that Democrats haven’t reached out to rural voters like those in Athens County, saying, “Democrats haven’t done enough of a good job to come to communities like Athens, to come to Appalachia, or Nelsonville or Carbondale.”
A focal point of the presentation revolved around the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passing in the Senate and moving on to the House, making it the largest infrastructure investment in the nation’s history. Walters stated that the bill will help fund work on roads, bridges, clean water systems and broadband expansion, thus helping create jobs in the process.
The bill passed with bipartisanship approval (69-30), with outgoing Senator Rob Portman (R) — and one of the bill’s lead authors — voting in favor. Leading Republican candidates for his position, including author J.D. Vance and former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel, have differed from their possible predecessor, expressing vocal opposition of the bill.
Walters says the opposition to the infrastructure bill as well as the American Rescue Plan shows that, “These politicians are only looking out for themselves.”
Athens City Councilmember Sarah Grace said that by coming to Athens, Walters is keeping the promise of the Democratic Party to not leave rural America behind, saying that “Thanks to Democratic leadership, there has been substantial progress for families right here in our community.”
Grace sited the stimulus checks and expanded child tax credits as extremely beneficial to a county where one in three children live in poverty.
Ted Linscott, a man of many hats in the county that include President of Southeastern Ohio AFL-CIO and Athens Township Trustee, made the point that everybody reaps the benefits of improved infrastructure.
“One thing everybody has in common, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, we drive on the roads. We cross the bridges. We get on the internet.” said Linscott.
In order to compete with other countries like China, we need to improve our infrastructure, according to Linscott.
For the rural communities he has worked with, broadband access helps to spread their talents to areas they weren’t able to before. By making broadband accessible, equal opportunity is shared,a goal Lindscott compared to the popular comic of three men standing at various heights behind a fence. While it’s nice to give someone shorter a stool, it’s time to lower the fence a little, he explained.
He’s stated that for too long, there hasn’t been enough given to the area to get done what needs done in order to compete economically.
“For many many years we’ve been doing more and all we can with less.But there comes a time when you do less with less.” said Linscott. “And that’s where we’re at. If we don’t get some more, we’re just going to keep being able to do less with less.”