Tuesday, March 30, 1999

9 social service agencies to lobby legislators in D.C.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Speaking as a group for the first time, leaders of nine social service agencies will meet in Washington, D.C., next month with legislators and the Council of Jewish Federations.

        The group hopes to loosen purse strings, influence policy and identify itself as a cohesive community.

        “The trip reflects a huge change. We want to stress to lawmakers that we are progressive in Hamilton County, and we've broken down some old turf barriers,” said Walter Smitson, executive director of mental health agency Central Clinic.

        Fund-raising is also on the agenda. “Certainly money, always money,” Dr. Smitson said.

        The April 13 trip is being organized by Dick Weiland, a Mount Adams consultant who raises money for candidates and causes. It is timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the Council of Jewish Federations.

        A council representative as well as several legislators who are involved in social issues will meet with the group. Among them are Rep. Ron Widen of Oregon, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and Ohio Reps. David Hobson and John Boehner. The group may also meet with Ohio's senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich.

        Jim Mason, executive director of Beech Acres, which provides services to foster children, said he travels to the Capitol with other child welfare advocates. But this mix of local agencies, he said, will give them an opportunity to debate the region's most important needs.

        “One of the things we're going to have to do is get our heads together on what's our overall strategy, our common message,” Mr. Mason said.

        Others planning to attend are Bob Mecum of Lighthouse Youth Services, Sheila Adams of the Urban League, Michael DeFrancesco of Ohio Valley Residential Services Inc., Charlene Ventura of the YWCA, Sally Westheimer of Comprehensive Community Child Care, Annette Tarver of the Cincinnati Business Incubator and Joel Kaplan of Jewish Family Services.


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