A LETTER FROM BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS PRESIDENT, JOHN O’GRADY
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Commissioner Connection, the Franklin County commissioners' new quarterly newsletter! We're so glad to be able to share with you some of the really exciting things going on in Franklin County, and hope that you'll come to look forward to each new edition of this newsletter to learn all about the work of your county government and the more than 1,500 county employees at your service every day.
April was National County Government Month, and all month we shared some of the highlights of Franklin County government and why counties matter nationwide. We celebrated Autism Awareness month by welcoming the amazing autistic guitar player, Zane Harshaw, to our weekly session; we honored Central Ohio state champion student athletes, and convened a meeting of county-wide elected officials to advocate at the Statehouse for a fairer state budget. We are also pleased to have unveiled a new Board of Commissioners website last week that will help us to connect even more efficiently with our Franklin County residents. Also out earlier this week, is our annual State of the County Report. This interactive report details the day-to-day successes and challenges our community faces, the commissioners’ policy priorities, and the good work of our excellent county staff. I'm so proud of our team!
One of the most exciting things going on in Franklin County this year is that we have been selected to host the 2017 annual conference of the National Association of Counties. This prestigious convention will be held in late July and will bring up to 3,000 elected officials and opinion leaders to our community from all over the U.S. They’ll attend workshops, speeches, and tours, but they’ll also be getting out of the convention center to visit Rickenbacker, Ohio State, the Scioto Mile, and so much more. We have so many things to show them, and can’t wait for them to see why everybody loves Central Ohio.
Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about what your county government is up to, and be sure to check out the State of the County Report. We're excited for this new way to engage with our residents, and hope that you won't hesitate to contact our office with any questions or concerns.
John O’Grady, Board President
I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER CHANGING LIVES ON THE SOUTH SIDE
The Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services is helping to reshape the lives of young men on the South Side of Columbus through the I Am My Brother’s Keeper program (IAMBK). This place-based, collective impact initiative seeks to answer the 2014 challenge from then-President Barack Obama to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color by providing in-depth family engagement and intensive experiential learning and mentoring, while also leveraging community assets and stakeholders. It incorporates innovative new data-driven approaches to monitor academic performance through the Agency’s partnership with Learning Circle Educational Services.
Although only in its third year, IAMBK, has had a profound, transformational impact on many of its participants and their families. Over the course of the pilot, the majority of boys (ages 10-14) demonstrated positive behavioral growth, while two-thirds experienced accelerated, positive academic growth. The participants and their families also reported positive social-emotional development, improved maturity, increased feelings of self-efficacy and, for many boys, a new life outlook all together as they expressed interest in becoming engineers, doctors, lawyers, police officers and even joining the IAMBK staff in the future.
There are currently 75 young men enrolled in the program, which is managed by the Columbus Urban League in partnership with the Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and Community Development. Together with Franklin County, they are also seeking to implement additional, evidenced-based interventions -- including trauma-informed interventions, positive police and youth interactions and neighborhood violence interventions -- to further reduce the likelihood of youth participants becoming involved within the juvenile justice system.
In addition to experiential learning, academic study and homework assistance, the programing teaches the boys lessons to strengthen social competencies.
Understanding that the success of a child does not rest entirely on his individual experiences and actions, I Am My Brother’s Keeper incorporates a two-generational approach, with the intention to provide holistic, wrap-around services to the participant families in addition to the youth himself. The components of the two-generational approach include deepened family engagement (home visits), incorporation of an intervention specialist and collaboration with the many other programs and services offered by The Columbus Urban League (i.e. Father 2 Father, Choose 2 Change, My Brother’s Closet, Workforce Development and Career Services, 700 Credit Score (financial counseling), Home Buyer Education Classes, Fair Housing and Landlord-Tenant Mediation, and Empower U (AOD programming).
Experiential Learning Opportunities:
- STEM programing
- Business Management
- Arts and Performance
- College Preparation
- Physical Fitness & Wellness
- Martial Arts
- Horseback Riding
- Field Trips
- Guest Speakers
The commissioners are proud to be able to support this important and successful program, and look forward to expanding such programing in the future.
For more information, visit I Am My Brother’s Keeper
SPOTLIGHT ON A COUNTY EMPLOYEE - Commissioner Boyce
Shining a light on a Board of Commissioners employee who’s doing a great job for the residents of Franklin County will be a regular feature of Commissioner Connection, and for the first edition, we thought we’d start with one of our newest employees, County Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce.
Commissioner Boyce grew up in Columbus and graduated from East High School, before going on to earn degrees from the University of Toledo and Central Michigan University. Since then, Boyce has had duel careers in public service and as an investment banker. He’s been the executive director of both the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, and KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit that promotes college access for high school students. In his career in public service, Boyce has also served on Columbus City Council, as State Treasurer, and in the Ohio House of Representatives. In his short time at the county, Commissioner Boyce has already taken an active role in leading the county, rolling up his sleeves to get into policy details, and he helped to create the New American Advisory Council to identify challenges and barriers within the new American community and build a platform that promotes inclusivity and establishes effective solutions to help our new American neighbors to succeed in Central Ohio.
Commissioner, you’ve been in public service for a long time. What drew you to it initially?
I would say that my early life experiences led me to where I am today. I grew up in difficult circumstances in center-city Columbus, and all around me were things that I thought should be different. I wanted to make a change, and at first, that meant just doing well in school. And then that led to wanting to go to college, and at college I learned about public policy and how government works. Each new milestone led to the next; after school, I got married and started a family, and then I wanted to keep going to help others and public service was the next step.
One of the first things you did as commissioner was create the New Americans Advisory Council, which is something that you had begun as a state representative. Tell us a little about that and why it’s so important to you.
America is a microcosm of the whole world, a nation of immigrants, and that has helped to make our country a beautiful and rich place to live. Central Ohio is great, in part, because of our many immigrants from all over the world, and that just makes more people want to come here. Now, in light of the president’s executive orders on immigration, I just thought it was really important that we put together a group to start planning for and addressing some of the new challenges our new neighbors are facing, and figuring out ways for all of our Central Ohio families to be successful regardless of where they’re from or how they got here.
Since becoming a commissioner, you’ve really dived into the nitty-gritty of policy and seem to be learning everything you can, not just about what the BOC does, but about everything county government does. Do you approach everything like that?
I do. I’m a detail guy. You know, my other job is in finance, and to do either thing- public policy or finance well you really have to be up on the details and know what you’re talking about. And as a commissioner, I need to feel really comfortable and really confident that the decisions I’m making on behalf of our county are the right ones for our residents. That means getting into the weeds on policy. It really is how I approach everything, though. When I began training to run a marathon, I didn’t just go running. I researched the best ways to train, put together a formula that I thought would be successful, and then a plan to implement it. I try to question everything.
When you’re not at the county courthouse, you’re an investment banker. That’s a pretty impressive career in and of itself, why try to do both and how do you balance the two?
It’s tough to balance both of those, plus a family, and everything else that I’ve got going on. I think it makes me a better commissioner, though. In the banking world, many of my clients are municipalities, so the same very detailed information I need to succeed there is really helpful in doing my other job as a commissioner.
You’ve got two kids, including one about to go to college. What kind of advice do you give to him or would you give to any young person about to set off into the world?
I couldn’t be more proud of my boys, and I talk with them every day about life, and its challenges and of being yourself, and about making the most of your opportunities. One thing I have always focused on is that you get out of life pretty much what you put in, so do the work. I also want them to take time to enjoy being young, but you should try to earn that by putting in the work you need to make sure that you’re on the right path, and then you can goof off a bit and have fun. I also mentor some other young people in my life. We all come from different circumstances and each of us has our own gifts, and we’ll all end up with different opportunities in life, but I think that advice holds true no matter what your circumstances. Life isn’t easy, but it’s easier if you put in the hard work.
AT THE INTERSECTION OF PUBLIC SAFETY, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
By Michael Daniels,
Policy Director to Commissioner Marilyn Brown
Reentry is the transitional process from life in jail or prison to life in the community. It is a complex transition for formerly-incarcerated individuals, their families, and their communities, and the last week in April was National Reentry Week.
Reentry is also at the crux of public safety, economic development, and social justice. Residents who re-enter from incarceration and who can secure housing and employment are much less likely to re-offend or be on public assistance, and much more likely to pay taxes and be current on child support obligations. After release from incarceration, however, life often becomes more difficult for ex-offenders than it was while locked-up. The three most pressing re-entry challenges are housing, healthcare, and employment. A deficiency in any one of these three is a serious risk factor to relapse.
Housing can be hard to find because landlords are averse to renting to ex-offenders because of poor credit scores, underemployment, or because of limitations imposed by housing assistance programs. Removing barriers to housing and encouraging equal access for ex-offenders is a significant social justice issue, and one with public safety considerations. Ex-offenders resettling in neighborhoods gives them a support system and probation and parole, both used post-release to monitor inmates, are very important to help reducing recidivism, as are community organizations, non-profits, and the faith community.
Many returning ex-offenders have mental health and/or substance abuse issues, and all need access to affordable and available comprehensive healthcare. Medicaid expansion has vastly widened the number of those eligible, and continued provision of neighborhood-based mental, physical, and spiritual healthcare is essential to help people stay healthy, sober, and productive.
Everyone makes mistakes. Some mistakes are not serious; some are. Some people get caught; some don’t. Being an ex-offender doesn’t predict being a future offender
. Men and women who have been to prison or jail and are now reentering their communities have paid for their crime, and are usually grateful and willing to work hard for a second chance. Think of these men and women as a recycled workforce that is readily-available, eager, and valuable.
Collectively, we all face issues of reentry together. No ZIP code, no street, no family is immune. The sooner we band together in this cause, the sooner we can bring safety, security, prosperity, and dignity back to our most challenged neighbors and neighborhoods.
2017 State of the County Report
Each year, the Board of Commissioners issues an annual State of the County Report to update residents on the health and progress of Franklin County. This year, once again, the commissioners are pleased to be able to report that the state of the county is strong. To see the full report, visit report.franklincountyohio.gov.