SIDNEY — Janet Garrett, of Oberlin, Democrat candidate for Ohio’s 4th District seat in Congress, is in Sidney this weekend to listen to constituents.
She will oppose incumbent Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, on the ballot in November.
Garrett will greet area residents at High Grounds Cafe, 705 Fair Road, at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. She’ll sit down Saturday afternoon for round table discussions at Amos Memorial Public Library, 230 E. North St., with educators from 1 to 2 p.m., with people concerned about the opioid epidemic from 2 to 3 p.m. and with small business owners from 3 to 4 p.m. The public is welcome to participate in any of the sessions. Saturday evening, she will attend the Kettlersville-Van Buren Fireman’s Picnic at the Van Buren Township Firehouse, 8833 North St., Kettlersville.
“I won’t be there to make a stump speech,” she told the Sidney Daily News, Friday, July 20. “I’ll be there to listen to what people have to say about what they need.”
Garrett stopped at the Daily News offices after a meeting with Sidney Addict Assistance Team members at the Sidney Police Department and a two and a half-hour tour of the Shelby County Jail, where she talked with prisoners, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and jail staff about the opioid crisis.
“Every county in this district is struggling with it,” she said. She thinks the federal government should provide more resources than it has to solving the problem.
“The good news is, we know what needs to be done. We have models that are successful. We just need the resources,” she said, noting that while national disasters, like hurricanes, rightfully get large infusions of federal cash to help in recovery, the drug crisis harms even more people and is woefully underfunded. Garrett said that the current federal budget allots just $6 billion to addiction issues for the whole country over the next two years.
“That’s a pittance,” she said. Congress’s response to natural disasters is to funnel more than $100 billion into recovery programs.
Garrett praised President Donald Trump’s creating a commission to look at the opioid crisis.
“They came back with 56 recommendations. I completely agree with that, but we do need to bring money back to the districts,” she said.
To pay for additional funding for drug programs, Garrett would work to change the tax bill that was recently passed.
“Congress voted to give a little tax break to the middle class that’s temporary and a huge tax break to the well-off that’s permanent. That was completely irresponsible. The middle class definitely needs a break. I would advocate reversing the tax bill they just passed. People at the upper crust don’t deserve to have more money. They need to pay their fair share. We need to give the middle class a real tax break, which (Congress) said they did, but didn’t do,” she said.
Garrett also thinks that fixing the health care system in America is paramount.
“Everyone should have good quality, affordable health care … cradle to grave, and it should (include) vision, dental, mental health, opioid (treatment). What that looks like — I’m not married to any one vision. I’m willing to work with anyone to solve this problem. There are lots of models in the world, lots of options,” she said.
She thinks a current suggestion to turn the Medicare program into a voucher program is a “horrifying idea.” Garrett has discussed the issue with hospital administrators who have told her that without Medicare and Medicaid funding, they would have to shut their doors.
“It would create health care deserts. Someone could bleed out just trying to get to a (far away) hospital,” she said.
While she would work to get Washington more involved in solving the health care and opioid crises in America, she would like to see Washington less involved in dictating education practice. Now retired, Garrett was a special education and kindergarten teacher for 35 years.
“When I first started teaching, we gave tests, but standardized tests did not drive instruction. Somewhere along the way, we were taken over by the test-taking industry, and it is an industry,” she said. Teachers have to spend so much time preparing students for the tests that they don’t have time to teach what children really need to learn, Garrett said. “We have to get testing in balance. I taught for 35 years to give kids a future and now I’m running for election to make sure they have one.” She advocates local decision-making when it comes to what is taught and how schools are run.
A gun owner who shoots with her husband at ranges, she praised the program in place here that Lenhart described to her, Friday, in which teachers volunteer to be trained to take on an active shooter. However, she admitted that when she was a teacher, she would not have volunteered.
“Anyone who is courageous enough to say, ‘I will face down a shooter in my school’ — I applaud that courage. There are things we can do to protect (people),” she said. Universal background checks of would-be gun purchasers is one of them. “It’s not just about schools. It’s about public safety, as well,” she said.
This is her third attempt to unseat Jordan, who was first elected in 2007. The mood in the country has shifted since the 2016 election, she noted, and this time, she has professional consulting support for her run and a professional staff.
Adam Reynolds, her regional field director, is impressed that Garrett listens more than she talks on the campaign trail.
“She’s out (meeting) with every type of person across every walk of life. I think it’s inspiring to work with someone who’s … doing everything she can to find out what people need,” he said.
Calling herself a moderate Democrat, she’s ready to help fix a “broken” Washington.
“I’m running to be a change agent. The last election said people want change. We haven’t seen it yet. We’re still waiting for it. We need new leadership. We need to work for the benefit of people, not the benefits of special interests,” she said.
When Garrett’s elected, she’ll use the negotiating skills she honed as president of the teacher’s union.
“I understand that I have to be able to reach across the aisle and work with people on the other side. We meet in the middle. I don’t get all of what I want, and you don’t get all of what you want, but we get what we can live with,” she said.
As a congresswoman, Garrett would continue to listen to constituents, she said, recounting a story from when she was a teacher.
A normally outgoing little boy was sullen and anxious on a Friday afternoon. When she asked him what was wrong, he said he didn’t want to go home because there was no food in his house. During the week, he got breakfast, lunch and snacks at school.
Garrett called the boy’s mother and got him registered for the school’s backpack program that provided weekend meals for students. She filled a backpack with food and sent him home with it.
“That’s what I want to do (as a congresswoman),” she said. “I want to find out what people need. I want to go to Washington and fill up that backpack and bring it back to the district.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.