By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
PENDLETON - Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell read the census numbers: Ohio leads the nation in the exodus of 25- to 39-year-olds. It's one of a handful of states that's exporting more college graduates than it's importing. And every day, 250 people leave Ohio for Florida.
The reason, Blackwell said, is that Ohio's taxes are too high.
The former Cincinnati mayor spoke to about 200 people Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce. His address was part lecture on tax policy, part Blackwell's life story, and part motivational speech to Over-the-Rhine developers, bankers and business owners.
Unstated - but just below the surface - were Blackwell's political ambitions.
"There's a rumor that he might be running for another position in 2006," said Over-the-Rhine Chamber President Tom Besanceney, in an understatement. That other position is Ohio's governor, and the event may have marked the Republican's first Cincinnati stump speech in his unofficial campaign.
In a speech that referred to James Madison, the Declaration of Independence and the Boston Tea Party, Blackwell said Ohio has "shrinking tax base with an increasing tax burden."
"When government won't cut their taxes, Americans will cut their own taxes - if they are able - by moving," he said.
Although Blackwell spared the audience a sales pitch on his tax repeal plan - he's leading the effort to repeal the state's temporary one-cent sales tax ahead of schedule - he said the state's taxes were stifling innovation.
"I'm a staunch defender of concealed-carry, but I think our legislature has been more concerned with who's packing heat than who's packing suitcases," Blackwell said in an interview.
Blackwell, a former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said cities like Cincinnati - and neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine - need to play off their diversity as an economic strength.
And while he paid homage to the "creative class" - the emerging class of knowledge workers who are defining urban economies from Boston to San Francisco - he said Ohioans should be careful not to disparage its industrial past.
"I saw it with how the governor managed his Third Frontier campaign. Where it was defeated is where people still have a sense of pride in making things, manufacturing, or growing things, agriculture. It said to them, your time has passed.
"We need talent and tolerance, but we also need economic diversity."
Erpenbecks switching to guilty pleas
Hanging chads proving costly
Angina cure a step closer
Political spending will zoom
Working for a safer Avondale
IN THE TRISTATE
Ohio's taxes blamed for flight
Calling all Butler County Democrats: Run this race
Energetic cast, crew shine in Beechwood High's 'Annie'
'Just happy to be alive,' but much more than that
Judges struggle with Flynt case
Center names spokeswoman
Green Twp. may need levy this fall
Zoning change opens land for supercenter
Senior housing planned
Mutation linked to lung disease in newborns
Workshop to explain three Lunken options
New wastewater plant increases Mason capacity
Newtown slaying still a mystery
Public safety briefs
Price Hill to plan for new elementary
Taking Fernald back to nature
Montgomery to choose developer in April
Money sought for baseball diamonds
Bronson: Lack of faith in City Council leads to Angels
Crowley: Henry wants Kentucky to have a surgeon general
Summit continues helping heart fund
Ernest Mauer was star at Newport High
Commandments must go
N.Ky chamber endorses tax plan
Furnish gets death penalty a second time
Senate panel OKs price-gouging bill
Gun Shops in the Home
Thieves take kegs, leave dirt behind
Flowers add more color to purple bridge
Clooney, Davis spar over polls