In the heat of the state budget season, a group from our Cleveland-based team visited our small but mighty Columbus office to see first-hand more of the work that our policy team does in the Statehouse. We packed two days of legislative meetings, listening in on committee hearings, tours of the Statehouse and the passageway under High Street to the Riffe Center, and of course, sharing meals together (we never plan events without food). Across from the Statehouse, we watched as the tourism officials dusted off a beloved Ohio slogan.
We asked the staff for their reflections on our Columbus visit.
Did you learn anything new about Community Solutions while you were there with colleagues?
I had always known that each one of the CCS teams brings their gifts and talents to every project. But the meetings with the legislators served as a reminder of just how important the work is of each team and how powerful it can be when it comes together. The community fact sheets are a wonderful example of Research, Policy, Community Impact, and Administration working together that benefits elected officials, service providers, and individual members of the public. – Will
Leading legislative meetings with Community Solutions was an incredible experience, and it showed me how effective we are as a team.
Leading legislative meetings with Community Solutions was an incredible experience, and it showed me how effective we are as a team. I also saw firsthand the ways that our work can be used to communicate issues that legislators work to fix. The biggest insight from this experience is getting to see in real-time how our research and advocacy inform policy issues and is used to generate insight into future policy. The intersection of our policy and research work is crucial to informing decision-makers and also communities that need them most. – Kyle
What were some of the main concerns that came up in meetings?
It was nice to know that the legislators and their staff read our materials and use them. They said so at the beginning of a couple of meetings. I also found that Leader Antonio’s staff were eager to get their hands on more of our data and analyses, particularly regarding maternal and infant health. – Julie
Each legislator we met with could immediately point to a handful of issues about which they were very passionate. Many of those related to things they believe are important to their constituents. They all expressed interest in finding common ground across the political aisle or between the two chambers. They all see that there is much work to be done to move Ohio forward – Emily C.
They all expressed interest in finding common ground across the political aisle or between the two chambers.
What did the legislators ask from us, or what were challenges they might have shared?
When we met with Rep. Skindell’s legislative aide, she was interested in our work on the Lakewood Health Needs Assessment and Action Plan, specifically in some of the survey results related to the LGBTQ community. She was also interested in the Livable Cuyahoga report and the state of housing options for older adults in the district. – Emily M.
Rep. Brewer stated that constituent engagement as a challenge. Not enough constituents are involved in the legislative process and how it affects their district. He asked if we can spread the word about his work, and is eager to attend events locally to reach people both in his district and beyond. – Natasha
It was very gratitude-inducing to see how our team worked together in these meetings. As we shared the legislative district fact sheets (another team effort!!), the whole team weighed in and talked about the data itself, what it means, and why it’s important. I was in awe of how seamlessly our team engaged in these visits. – Tara
Did you SEE the flooring in the rotunda?!
Not the Rotunda, but…we passed through the crypt on several occasions as we headed to meetings, and I was tickled to see adults in suits who were taking the time to find their county on the giant floor map of Ohio – and they wanted to try to get a photograph standing on their home county. – Julie
I was tickled to see adults in suits who were taking the time to find their county on the giant floor map of Ohio.
We happened to be in Columbus during a day of intense political engagement with large groups of people protesting as the House was considering SJR2 (to amend the constitution to require 60% of electors to approve future constitutional amendments.) We couldn’t see the rotunda floor because there were so many Ohioans gathered. In fact, we had to push through the crowd in order to make it to the Senate side. Things were calmer over there. – Emily C.
I didn’t pay attention to the flooring, but the ceiling! The Ohio Statehouse is the only statehouse that has a flat dome in the country. – Natasha
The staff offered some more free-form impressions of our visit and advocacy as well.
First (and shifting) impressions
Our trip to Columbus fell during my very first week of being employed with Community Solutions. It was a great learning experience to observe my colleagues articulating the daily work of Community Solutions and to see some of that work in action at the State capitol. Representatives and legislators were genuinely eager to share their current initiatives and have meaningful conversation on how we can work together to improve health, social, and economic opportunities in Ohio. – Madison
Representatives and legislators were genuinely eager to share their current initiatives and have meaningful conversation on how we can work together to improve health, social, and economic opportunities in Ohio
I think that my initial thought of legislators was that they must be formal and staid, so it was refreshing to see how welcoming and nice they were upon meeting them. I also learned that, while I’m not a policy wonk or research guru, there is a need and added value of just the regular constituent that they want and enjoy seeing in their office, especially a constituent that can help connect the dots to services and programs that align with their passions within their districts, as well as can possibly foster conversations with their colleagues. – Eboney
One of the freshmen representatives I met with commented on how many groups he’s met since he took office that he had no clue existed. I believe he was impressed with the number and variety of people tackling issues across the state, as am I. – Angela
The value of Community Solutions
In every conversation, it was clear that policymakers are hungry for reliable, timely information about issues facing people in Ohio and interested in finding solutions. These visits reminded me about why we do the work we do. – Emily C.
My representative had just run a campaign in his newly drawn district and in light of that experience knew his demographics very well. If representatives had seen the fact sheets before, the meetings gave them a chance to pause and look at them more closely. – Angela
There are so many pressing health and human issues facing our state and our country, especially as the country has wrestled with the impact of the pandemic. Having up-to-date information that aligns with legislative boundaries as they currently stand, will be to the benefit of Ohioans from across the political spectrum and from all around Ohio. I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with some legislators, and reconnect with others, to elevate the policy priorities of Community Solutions. It was also gratifying to be able to share some of my experiences with my colleagues, as they learn more about the functionality of the Statehouse and the variables that shape the public policy process. – Will
Any parting tips?
I learned that if I worked in the Statehouse, I would get lost every single time I left my office. – Emily M.