Turn on the news or open a paper and it seems as though the world is falling apart. From gridlock in Washington to chaos in the Middle East to war and tragedy in eastern Ukraine, bad news dominates the airwaves. But I am privileged in my job as your senator to work with ordinary Ohioans who are doing extraordinary things. I’d like to take a moment to share some of their stories.
During the recent revolution in Kiev, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were injured in attacks by their own government. The situation was dire, and local hospitals were overwhelmed. The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine put out a plea to anyone who could help. When the good people at Cleveland Clinic Foundation and MetroHealth Medical Center got that message, they did not hesitate to act. These hospitals are now providing world-class care to a number of Ukrainians, most of whom are seriously injured. The actions of these Ohio hospitals represent the very best of our medical profession.
A different kind of feel-good story is the one we are witnessing unfold in eastern Ohio, in places like Noble, Carroll, and Guernsey Counties. Only a few years ago, Northeast Ohio had some of the worst unemployment rates in our country. People were really hurting, and they weren’t sure how they were going to turn it around.
Then the Utica shale boom began. Now many of the restaurants and hotels are full, the unemployment rate is plunging, and the biggest problem we have in the area is finding enough qualified workers to fill open positions.
That’s a problem I am working to solve in the Senate. Last month, worker retraining legislation I authored was signed into law by the President, and I have recently introduced a bill that would reform and expand Career and Technical Education training for the next generation of workers. We must ensure our workers have the skills they need to compete in a modern economy. These pieces of legislation are going to help us reach that goal.
Sometimes the good work of Ohioans faces unexpected obstacles coming out of Washington. That was the case recently with the City Gospel Mission, a charitable organization that for more than 90 years has served the poor and homeless of Cincinnati. In addition to providing more than 130,000 hot meals a year, City Gospel Mission runs drug and alcohol recovery programs and a job readiness and placement program to help people break the cycle of poverty and addiction and turn their lives around.
Recently, City Gospel Mission sought to expand their facilities so they could help even more men and women, but they found their efforts stymied by red tape and government regulations.
By working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on their behalf, we were able to reach an agreement that cleared the way for the people of City Gospel Mission to continue—and expand—their good work. In two weeks they’ll officially celebrate the groundbreaking for this facility.
These stories don’t always get the headlines, but they are a reminder that, despite all the chaos and evil in the world, there are still good people out there trying to make a difference. While we must do more to address the bad, we shouldn’t ignore the good, either.
Senator Rob Portman represents Ohio and is a guest columnist.