“The public safety concerns and listening to the workers down here and the community down here, public safety concerns are very real, including the towers,” Burga said, standing under a canopy in a downpour. “I’m here today to show support that with Senate Bill 5 (Issue 2) it is only going to exasperate safety concerns. Senate Bill 5 takes away the ability to negotiate certain safety issues. And certainly that’s the wrong way to go. So we’ll let the local community here decide what is best in terms of public safety.”
The rank and file from SOCF as well as members of several other unions were standing in the rain carrying their signs. “We’re set up to protest against (Gov. John) Kasich and all of his ideas on changing the local government,” said Luke Van Sickle, president of OCSEA Local 7330. “Our towers are now closed except for two towers. We’re also out here to support the local teachers. Kasich has attacked them. He has made our communities unsafe.” Van Sickle then pointed to nearby Valley High School. “He has made this school behind us unsafe by closing our towers.”
Vansickle said the union’s goal is to get Kasich to “negotiate instead of dictating his policies on us.”
“The closing of the towers would save the state about $1.9 million a year,” said Carlo LoParo of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “In terms of the towers, there are two towers at the facility that we deem vital and necessary to the security of the facility — and that is the front entrance tower and the Sally Port tower. The other towers are redundant in terms of security, and have become obsolete in light of other security measures in place at that facility.”
LoParo said watchtowers are not being included in new prison construction because of other technologies that are available.
“I’ve never seen the outpouring of opposition as I have to Senagte Bill 5,” Burga said. “When you start to scapegoat police officers, corrections officers, nurses, firefighters, teachers, for the economic conditions that are happening the public knows it’s politically motivated. So they sense a terrible unfairness and injustice here. Any time you’re looking to strip basic worker rights you’re going to hurt the middle class. It’s unfair, and as a result the entire community is going to suffer. It has been the type of demonstrations and energy and unity that I have never seen on an issue in my lifetime in this state. And as a result we’re going to be successful. And I believe the citizens to vote no on Issue 2 to uphold.”
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.