Two longtime public servants, State Rep. Ron Gerberry (D) and three-term Boardman Board of Education member Kimberly Poma (R) will vie for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives on Tues., Nov. 6 in the newly-redistricted 59th district.
Gerberry, 59, of 2940 Whispering Pines, Canfield, has served as a state representative for 23 years; while Poma, 55, of 4900 Hopkins Rd., Boardman, is currently in her 13th year as a member of the school board.
Poma entered the race after redistricting eliminated most of Austintown from the 59th District.
Her candidacy was touted as a key race by the Ohio Republican party, that to date, has failed to provide direct support for the candidate.
Local GOP chairman Mark Munroe said months ago that Poma figured to have a chance to beat Gerberry since the 59th District eliminated most of Austintown, where Gerberry traditionally ran strong; and included all of Boardman, where Poma has been a consistent top vote-getter in school board races.
Key issues in the state representative’s race include the decline of public education and the state budget that has reduced funding sources for local school boards and local governments.
Neither Poma nor Gerberry has provided any, firm solutions to halt the decline in public education; nor has either candidate touted a solution to funding local school boards or local governments.
Gerberry lays blame to part of the funding issues on the doorstep of Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich.
“Public schools and local governments are a shared responsibility, and this administration (under Kasich) has not lived up to that responsibility,” Gerberry says, noting the state’s budget “has been devastating to public schools ad local governments.”
Gerberry says he is an outspoken opponent of “the administration’s expansion of charter schools,” pointing out the Boardman Local School District lost $770,000 in revenues last year that was redistributed to charter schools.
Gerberry says charter schools have a negative impact on public schools.
Poma says she would not vote to fund expansion in school choice (charter school funding) when those schools don’t share the same accountability standards as public schools.
For decades, the current public school funding formula has been declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Yet nothing has been done about it.
Are there solutions to the current shortfalls in school budgets across the state?
“We should move away from reliance of property taxes,” Poma suggested, noting that in order to cope with current project deficits, school systems’s only alternative is “to cut expenses, whether it is in the best interests of public schools or not.”
Gerberry said he believes that “number one, we should not increase the ability to fund charter schools.”
He said the Ohio Legislature has not reduced a reliance on property taxes....“Shame on the Legislature.”
Poma suggests that after 23 years in the Ohio Legislature, perhaps Gerberry has become complacent.
“Sometimes change is a good thing,” Poma says.
Gerberry says he is not embarrassed to be a lifetime public servant.
“If I was not doing the job...then maybe it would be time to get out. But, I am working harder than ever.”
Gerberry stands firm in opposing privatization of the Ohio Turnpike.
“We built it, we maintain it, we should keep it,” Gerberry says of the turnpike.
Poma said she favors the state retaining the operation of the turnpike “if it is not a burden on the taxpayers.”
On the issue of abortion, Poma responds she is ‘pro-life and a Christian and wouldn’t be surprised if her district is a pro-life district.
Gerberry, who notes he is a practicing Catholic, says on the issue of abortion the he believes in a woman’s right to choose.
“That’s between herself, her God and her doctor,” Gerberry said.
Neither Gerberry or Poma offer no clear opposition to shale oil and natural gas development, said to be the new economic boom for this extreme northern part of Appalachia.
Gerberry’s lengthy tenure in politics carries with it a host of endorsements for his current run for office, he says 25 in all, including the Ohio Manufacturers Association, Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Medical Association, Ohio Education Association and United Auto Workers.
As best could be determined, Poma’s candidacy has been endorsed by Ohio Right to Life and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Gerberry says he played a key role in approving legislation that will allow the construction of a race track and Hollywood slots in Austintown, as well as a casino in Dayton; and has also introduced legislation to increase local government funding.
Gerberry says he has also sponsored legislation that would prevent gouging at he gasoline pumps; and he opposed the $1.8 billion cuts in education funding and $1.08 billion in cuts to local government funding in the current state budget.
The 59th District includes Beaver, Berlin, Boardman, Canfield, Ellsworth, Goshen, Green, Jackson, Milton, Poland, Smith and Springfield townships; the city of Canfield; and the villages of Beloit, Craig Beach, New Middletown, Poland and Sebring; and four precincts in Austintown.