OPINION

MORPC Matters: Central Ohio communities look forward through public-policy efforts

Joseph Garrity
Guest columnist

A new year finally has arrived and with it, a sense of optimism and some type of normalcy.

Vaccines for the COVID-19 coronavirus are being distributed, and we finally can see light at the end of this long and winding tunnel.

Joseph Garrity is director of government affairs and strategic initiatives at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

This also is a time to reflect on the lessons of the previous year. 2020 brought a once-in-a-century global pandemic, an economic recession, working from home and social isolation, and it shed even more light on racial and social inequities in this country.

It also reminded us of the important role local governments play in making our communities a better place for all of our residents.

In preparation for this new year, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission formed a group that was tasked with creating the agency’s public-policy agenda for the next two years. The purpose of this agenda is to inform and impact state and federal legislation and policies to improve central Ohio’s future prosperity. The group consisted of local government leaders representing rural, urban and suburban communities and was in collaboration with regional partners.

Although our politics in Washington are polarized and divided, that is not reflective of our region. This group of leaders addressed critical issues related to improving our transportation, sustainability and digital-infrastructure efforts.

Yet this past year was anything but ordinary. There were many questions that needed to be asked. How can local governments face unprecedented revenue challenges? Will communities have the flexibility to hold public meetings virtually? How can we improve broadband access in underserved communities?

Another question continually was raised: Can we do more in combating racial and social injustices in our community? Central Ohioans are at their best when we work together to address a challenge or opportunity, so the answer was a resounding “yes.”

As the voice of central Ohio local governments at the state and federal levels of government, MORPC created a new goal to its agenda, focused on raising awareness of racial and social justice issues and working to continually improve communities within our growing region.

For example, passing legislation stating that racism is a public-health crisis is a good start. This advocacy goal will hold us more accountable in our work with state and federal partners. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?' ” As we celebrate his life and work in this new year, we rededicate ourselves to the service of others.

MORPC’s 2021-22 Public Policy Agenda reflects the diverse needs and interests of the region’s cities, townships, counties, villages and regional organizations. For more information on the agenda and MORPC’s government affairs work, I encourage you to visit morpc.org/govaffairs.

Joseph Garrity is director of government affairs and strategic initiatives at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. MORPC’s purpose is to bring communities of all sizes and interests together to collaborate on best practices and plan for the future of the region.