By Kevin Kelley
Rep. Jim Renacci said most people’s opinion about him has been formed from 30-second campaign commercials. But the Wadsworth Republican said he hopes his constituents from the new sections of a redrawn 16th Congressional District will make the effort to get to know him better.
“If they learn a little bit about me, they’re going to find that I grew up in a working-class, blue-collar, union family,” Renacci recently told West Life.
Renacci said he was the first person in his family to go to college, paying for it himself.
“I grew in those kind of roots, so I do understand the challenges of the working class family,” he said.
He tells of when he was 8 and his father lost his job, causing hardship for the family.
“The one thing I’m so proud of is that I had the opportunity to live the American dream, and I want to make sure that everybody has that opportunity – not the right, but the opportunity,” he said.
Renacci said people who get to know him will see him as a “common-sense” guy. He said although all people won’t agree on 100 percent of issues, a lot can be accomplished on the 80 percent most people agree on. Nevertheless, according to the Washington Post website, Renacci voted with his party 92 percent of the time in the 112th Congress.
The 54-year-old congressman has been making an effort get to know the new parts of his district, including Westlake, North Olmsted, Fairview Park, Olmsted Falls, Olmsted Township and a part of Rocky River. Last month, he spoke at Cuyahoga County Councilman Dave Greenspan’s town hall meeting at Fairview Park City Hall.
Although the new 16th District runs from Westlake to Wooster, Renacci said most of his constituents are interested in jobs and the economy. He told West Life he didn’t believe his district was made up of strongly conflicting interests. However, during his recent Fairview Park appearance, Renacci pointed out some conservative traits of the district. First, he noted that Republican challenger Mitt Romney won his district by 8 percentage points even though President Barack Obama won Ohio in last year’s presidential election. And, in response to a question on gun control, he said callers to his office said they strongly favored the Second Amendment.
Renacci said he has instructed his District 16 staff members to visit city council meetings throughout the area to learn about their needs. When he’s not in Washington, the congressman said he’s in his car crisscrossing the district. He said he’s met every mayor in his district.
In December, Renacci visited Fairview Park Mayor Eileen Patton and the
directors of departments in that city.
Although a Democrat, Patton spoke favorably of Renacci’s efforts to get to know about her city’s needs.
“We need that voice speaking on behalf of Fairview Park,” Patton said of the city’s representative in the House.
Renacci has taken an interest in the fate of two now-vacant NASA buildings on Brookpark Road, buildings which mean a great deal to Fairview Park’s financial health through tax revenue they would generate. The buildings were recently sold to area developers.
One issue Patton specifically brought up with Renacci is the set of costly state and federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates placed upon local municipalities. The regulations, on procedures such as disposal of leaf debris, are being “forced upon the cities without any financial help at all,” Patton said.
Such EPA mandates have been criticized by mayors from across the state, including Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough. The seven-term Republican also brought up the EPA mandates in a meeting with Renacci. Clough said it’s not realistic for the federal and state governments to require local municipalities that don’t have enough money to meet EPA regulations by EPA’s timeline, especially when those regulations are constantly changing.
Clough, who credited the District 16 congressman for reaching out to the area, also complained to Renacci about the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law often called Obamacare. Clough said it’s forcing cities such as Westlake to reduce hours worked to part-time employees to avoid the added costs of providing benefits to them. Obamacare is also raising health insurance costs, Clough said.
Renacci and Democratic Rep. John Carney, of Delaware, will hold a public bipartisan forum at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Williams Conference Center at Southwest General Hospital in Middleburg Heights.
The meeting will be open to the public. However, space is limited
and the doors will be closed once the 150-person room capacity has been reached. Signs and large bags will not be permitted into the event.
Renacci spokesman Shawn Ryan said health care would likely be addressed extensively because the forum is taking place at a hospital, although that won’t be the only topic.
Renacci and Carney are founding members of a bipartisan working group that meets regularly to discuss areas of common ground. The group began meeting in 2011.
“Congressman Carney and I have worked closely over the last two years to achieve open dialogue and find common ground between our two parties in the House of Representatives,” Renacci said in a statement announcing Thursday’s forum. “While much of Washington is polarized and plagued by gridlock, we have focused on areas where we can work together to get America back on track.