Moving the State of the State benefits all Ohioans

Last year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich went to Steubenville to deliver his State of the State speech. He was criticized by some in state government for breaking a longstanding tradition of governors presenting their annual addresses at the Statehouse in Columbus.

This year, Kasich plans to give the speech somewhere in western Ohio, at a location yet to be determined. Once again he is hearing criticism. Tradition dictates the State of the State address be presented before a joint session of the General Assembly in Columbus, say those who want Kasich to stay in the capital city.

“The moving of this address significantly destroys a historical tradition … and needs to be stopped before another tradition is lost,” objected Rep. Ronald Gerberry, D-Austintown, in a letter to House Speaker William Batchelder.

Perhaps so. But too many traditions in government are for the convenience of officials, not the good of the public. And too often it is not tradition at all, but simply because something has “always” been done in a certain manner, that is involved.

When Kasich went to Steubenville, he was accompanied by many legislators and other high-ranking state officials. Some of them may never have visited the city before. A few may have learned something about East Ohio and its residents.

That is part of Kasich’s goal in taking the State of the State speech out of Columbus. In addition, he understands doing so demonstrates to people in regions other than central Ohio that he and legislators care about the welfare of all their constituents – not just those who visit them in Columbus.

As the governor himself noted, the Statehouse should be the site of the State of the State speech during some years. But he and legislators represent the entire state, and should be willing to take their show on the road. Kasich should stick to his plan and deliver this year’s address in western Ohio.