A LETTER FROM MARILYN BROWN, FRANKLIN COUNTY COMMISSIONER
Welcome to the November edition of Commissioner Connection! As you’ll see, it is an exciting time to be a Franklin County resident. We’re very proud to have hosted almost 3,000 county commissioners from around the nation at the recent National Association of Counties annual conference here in Franklin County, and we’re ready to break ground next week on the county’s new jail and corrections center, which will replace the current downtown jail facility. That building is well past due for replacement, and the new jail will allow us to use the newest models for the safety of the staff and inmates, and to provide programming for real rehabilitation. Most of the people in the county jail haven’t been convicted of anything yet, and nearly every one of them will eventually be rejoining our community. We want to give them the best chance to succeed once they’re out so that they can successfully reintegrate and resume contributing to society.
In the meantime, it’s budget season at Franklin County. Many folks don’t find the county budget to be the most exciting topic, but the truth is that the Franklin County Commissioners’ $1.5 billion budget has a tremendous impact on the daily lives of our residents. The commissioners set the budgets for all elected county officeholders, as well as the 14 agencies we oversee directly. This includes the county court system, engineer, jail and sheriff’s department, Child Support Enforcement, Job and Family Services, the Office on Aging, and the dog shelter. In 2017, 47 percent of the county budget went to social and human services, and more than 18 percent paid for justice and public safety. In all, your county government touches every Franklin County resident in some way each year.
Unfortunately, counties in Ohio are facing very large cuts to funding from state government next year. In Franklin County, the cuts are expected to amount to more than $20 million, and the president has proposed even greater federal funding cuts. As always, it is a tremendous honor and privilege to serve all of the residents of Franklin County and, though we will face challenges this year, I am confident that together we will meet them in a way that will make the people of Franklin County proud.
Thank you for taking the time to read through our fall newsletter, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if there is anything I can help you with.
Franklin County Commissioner
NEW AMERICANS ADD TO THE SPICE OF LIFE IN FRANKLIN COUNTY
By: Jessica Sullivan and Tamara Howard
Policy Managers for Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce
Franklin County is the largest in the State of Ohio with a population of 1.3 million, and at our current rate of growth, our population is expected to increase by 500,000 in the coming decades. Franklin County is also home to approximately a quarter of Ohio’s New American population, with growing numbers of residents from Somalia, Bhutan, Iraq, Burma, Ethiopia, Japan, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Liberia, India and China. More than half of this immigrant population arrived in Central Ohio in just the last 10 years.
- Approximately 7,000 international students live in Central Ohio
- 644 foreign owned businesses with owners from 37 different countries employ more than 39,000 people in our community
- 199 different languages are spoken by Columbus City students
- 32 pro-athletes from 14 countries play for our Columbus Crew and Blue Jackets
In January of this year, the president signed an executive order on immigration policy that created fear, chaos and confusion throughout the New American community. With so many of our residents impacted by this executive order, the Board of Commissioners convened an emergency public meeting of community leaders and, with less than a week’s notice, more than 150 community members joined to discuss the executive order and its implications. It was decided that establishing an advisory council to advise the Board of Commissioners on best practices and policies that strengthen our interconnected community and empower our foreign born residents was essential.
In February, the commissioners unanimously passed Resolution 95-17 to establish the New American Advisory Council. Comprised of immigrant and refugee service providers, state and local governments, policy experts, immigrant and refugee leaders, and business and community partners, the council was charged with identifying challenges and barriers within the New American community, as well as building a platform that promotes inclusivity and developing effective solutions that promote positive integration.
Since its inception the New Americans Council has hosted the 2017 Annual Forum, launched its website, and it will publish an annual report to be released by the end of the year focusing on analysis and recommendations.
Cultural diversity has been the fabric of our country since its establishment, so it is no surprise that a community that is welcoming, inclusive and focused on the positive integration of its newest foreign born residents sets the stage to thrive and flourish over communities that lack such policies. Whether socially, economically or culturally, the implementation of inclusive policies that promote positive integration adds to the overall health of a community.
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners is committed to making our newest neighbors feel welcome, and the New American Advisory Council is just one initiative the Board has launched to keep Franklin County welcoming, diverse and thriving.
For more information and resources for New Americans, visit www.NAACOhio.com
SPOTLIGHT ON A COUNTY EMPLOYEE
Each year, the Franklin County Dog Shelter takes in more than 11,000 dogs, and Field Supervisor Jodi Kroeger and her deputies bring in most of them.
Jodi is a Deputy Dog Warden on the enforcement side of the Department of Animal Care and Control,
and helps to supervise more than 20 Wardens and Dispatchers who operate the department’s 11 animal control trucks throughout Franklin County picking up loose dogs, protecting public safety, and enforcing the laws in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 955. As such, the Deputy Wardens constitute a law enforcement agency, and their first mission is always public safety, but the employees’ first love is the animals themselves.
Growing up, did you always know that you wanted to work with animals?
I think so. I grew up with cats and dogs, but I really got my love for animals from my grandmother. She was the crazy lady on the street who took in all the neighborhood strays. I learned it from her and never stopped, I guess.
What’s a typical day like for you at the shelter?
Very busy. There is always a lot going on around here. I make daily assignments, interact with the public, and fill in for deputies and anywhere else I’m needed. I also teach an Animal Awareness Program for first offenders. These are folks who have been cited for maybe not licensing their dogs or something like that, and we’ll wipe the slate clean for them if they come in for a class.
What do you love about your job?
Oddly enough, I’m a people person, so I really like talking with the public, teaching my class, and helping people who are looking for a lost member of their family. There’s also a real shot of adrenalin when you’re out in the field trying to outsmart a dog that’s loose in a neighborhood.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Again, probably the people. Some folks are really upset with us if they don’t know why we’re doing the things we’re doing to protect the community and their dogs. They may not be aware of all of the dog laws that we enforce, and sometimes they’re just really upset because they can’t find their pet.
Who’s got the toughest job at the dog shelter?
Everybody at the dog shelter has a tough job, but also a really rewarding job. The dogs are mostly great, and it means the world when we get a nice “thank you” from the public or when people call me to compliment the service they received from one of our Deputy Wardens out in the field.
It seems like your job might be quite dangerous some days.
Sure. It can be tough to face down a big, cranky dog that doesn’t want to come to the shelter, and bites do happen. Sometimes the dog owners are cranky too, but in this job, you get pretty good at working with both dogs and people pretty quickly.
Do you get attached to the dogs?
In our job as Wardens, we bring them into the shelter, and then can kind of choose how much we keep track of where they go next or if we spend any real time with a particular dog while it’s in the shelter. I kind of get attached to the worst behaved dogs—their behavior is usually their owner’s fault, they sometimes end up at the shelter for a long time, and you know they might not have a good outcome.
How many do you have at home?
I’ve got an old cat, a goofy boxer, and a blue and gold macaw.
Anything else you want to add?
Come adopt a dog at the shelter-- we’ve got so many great pets waiting for a home. Then, be sure you get them vaccinated and licensed so that my team doesn’t end up picking them up again.
For more information about the Franklin County Dog Shelter, visit franklincountydogs.com or, to adopt a new family member like the curious, loving Stella pictured here with Warden Kroeger, visit the shelter at:
Franklin County Dog Shelter
4340 Tamarack Blvd.
Columbus, Ohio 43226
STEP UP TO QUALITY
Officials at the commissioners’ Job & Family Services department are urging child care providers to prepare now for new state requirements that don’t go into effect until 2020 because there is so much is at stake - for everyone.
The Ohio legislature is requiring all child care providers be Step Up To Quality star-rated by the year 2020 if they have clients receiving publicly funded child care. However, the requirement is expected to have an effect on anyone in the county - parents, child care providers and businesses - if more child care providers aren’t registered and awarded a rating. That’s because the requirement could create a shortage of child care providers, causing ripple effects for both families and employers.
The state’s rating process sets quality standards that go beyond current licensing and safety requirements. This process and can take some time for home-care providers or centers to receive their rating. Officials with the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services say some providers can be rated in as little as a few months, while others take as many as six months to earn the certification.
Job and Family Services Director Joy Bivens said that her staff first began this effort with an analysis of the child care demands and examined what would happen if the changes took effect today. “Last year we had about 32,000 children in Franklin County who received assistance with child care. Those children represent more than 10,420 parents who are employed and actively working in our community. Many of these children live in single-family households.”
Those numbers mean if more providers aren’t rated, parents could be left without child care and employers left without segments of their work force as parents could be forced to stay home.
“This could have a ripple effect on the availability of child care across the county,”
Franklin County Job and Family Services staff are working with consultants to raise awareness and help providers begin the certification process.
Advocacy & Communication Solutions LLC and its strategic partners Triumph Communications and EMC Research, started by organizing focus groups of parents and providers and a phone survey of parents in Franklin County. Fewer than a third of those surveyed knew of or had an opinion about the state’s Step Up To Quality campaign or its star-rated system.
So, Franklin County Job & Family Services and its consultants developed television and radio advertisements to raise awareness. The ads aired on all three local network stations in the month of September and sparked interest. Job & Family Services saw an increase in web traffic and parents and providers calling the agency with questions. Action for Children, a non-profit agency that contracts with the county, also saw an increase in interest.
The agency’s plan now involves moving to a more grassroots approach that will engage providers, and enlisting the help of partner agencies to raise awareness and create a momentum. The ultimate goal is to have enough certified child care providers in Franklin County by 2020 to meet demand. It’s not an easy task, but Bivens says staff are committed.
“For the next two years, our staff will be doing all that we can to raise awareness and encourage compliance. We have a lot of hard work ahead, but we know Franklin County children will experience the benefits in the long run. And that’s what it’s about.”
To learn more about the star-rated requirement, see who is certified or watch the ads go to
Star Rated Child Care Program Page
on The Job and Family Services Website
RIGHT TO WORK, RIGHT TO ORGANIZE
On October 3rd, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners adopted Resolution 711-17 in support of the right of Central Ohio residents to bargain collectively in their employment, and in opposition of any so-called Right to Work legislation before the Ohio General Assembly. They also sent a letter to Franklin County’s delegation to the Ohio House and Senate laying out their support for Ohio employees and opposition to such legislation. In part, that letter read:
"Since 1983, Ohio’s collective bargaining laws pertaining to public sector organizations have provided a framework for ensuring the effective use of taxpayer dollars through local decision-making. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners recognizes the high quality public services that county employees render daily to residents and taxpayers and believes that preserving their right to negotiate benefits, equipment and other issues is paramount to protecting both their welfare and that of the public they serve.
Legislation recently introduced in the Ohio General Assembly removes requirements that public employees join or pay dues to any employee organization, prohibits public employers from requiring public employees to join or pay dues to any employee organization, and prohibits employee organizations from being required to represent public employees who are not members; these provisions are designed to weaken unions and the public employees they represent.
This Board of Commissioners declares its strong opposition to any effort by the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation that attempts to weaken organized labor in the state of Ohio, and reiterates our strong support for the public sector employees that strengthen our communities and our state."
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners has long been a strong supporter and proponent of collective bargaining laws and the rights of public employees to organize and bargain collectively, and will continue to fight for such rights for employees everywhere.
Click here to see the full text of Resolution 711-17.
STAR HOUSE SERVES CENTRAL OHIO HOMELESS YOUTH
Since 2015, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners has joined in supporting Star House a non-profit drop-in center for homeless youth that provides young people with food, clothing, rest, healthcare, substance abuse counselling, job-seeking skills,
education support, and housing help. Star House opened its doors in 2006 as a partner organization of The Ohio State University, and since then has opened a new, 14,000 square-foot facility to better meet the needs of street-living youth. The prior facility was 1,800 square feet and could only serve 25 youth at a time.
Today, Star House estimates that there are 2,000 homeless youth in Central Ohio, and it remains the only drop-in center for them, as well as the only research-based drop-in center in the country. Each year, homeless youth aged 14-24 visit Star House more than 17,000 times for services. Last year, 984 individuals were served. These young people are able to shower or cook, use a computer, work out, read, do laundry, and pick up donated necessities. Star House can even connect its clients with healthcare, education, counseling, and other resources.
In July, Star House and The Ohio State University changed the nature of their relationship, maintaining research ties, but otherwise separating, which allows Star House to be more nimble in its fundraising, and more responsive to the community it serves. The commissioners reaffirmed their support for Star House in its new form with a resolution on October 10th
Star House is always in need of donations, particularly at this time of year. High on the agency’s list of needs are:
- Sleeping bags
- Body wash
- Shaving cream
- And new men’s and women’s underwear and socks of all sizes
- Or, you can click here to make a monetary donation or see the Star House Amazon wish list
Star House is making a powerful difference in the lives of some young people who are at their most vulnerable, and who need adults to believe in them and give them the tools they need to succeed.
The commissioners are proud to continue to fund this important community mission.
To learn more about Star House, visit StarHouseColumbus.org