Many of us know about State Senator Eric Kearney as being Ed FitzGerald’s first pick for lieutenant governor. We also know that he had to drop out not soon after due to controversies surrounding his tax problems.
Being term limited, however, he will soon be out of Columbus, and back to his native Cincinnati. However, he has been active in his last remaining months.
In late October, he made headlines in Cincinnati media outlets when he introduced a bill to name a major stretch of highway known as the Norwood Lateral, the “Barack Obama Norwood Lateral Highway.” Officially known as State Route 562, Kearny has stressed that as a state route, it is within the Legislature’s power to rename it. His rationale for renaming it? The fact that there is a local stretch of SR 126 known as “Ronald Reagan Highway.” Kearney insists for a bipartisan representation of local roads, and he stresses that the road is worthy of being renamed because like Reagan, Obama has carried Hamilton County twice.
As expected, the idea has been very controversial. And, even some Democrats don’t support Kearney’s proposal. Norwood Mayor Tom Williams, a fellow Democrat, replied to the proposal that it’s too soon to tell if Obama’s terms in office will be deserving of a name change. Williams in general doesn’t like the idea of renaming the stretch of OH-562 that runs though his city, but if it is to be renamed, he suggests naming it after Carl Lindner. Lindner was a Norwood native who founded United Dairy Farmers, becoming a beloved community figure who was always willing to give back.
Kearney justifies naming the Norwood Lateral after President Obama to display party parity in Hamilton County, noting that the Ronald Reagan Highway was renamed while President Reagan was still alive. He also says that winning Hamilton County twice is deserving of a renamed road. But Kearney misses some important facts: OH-126 was renamed after Ronald Reagan in 1994… five years after he left office. Naming something after a president is fine, but if we start renaming things after a sitting president… well that’s something else. Second, other presidents have won Hamilton County twice as well. George W. Bush did both in 2000 and 2004. If we start renaming anything just because a candidate wins a county twice, we’re going to be starting a slippery slope of a precedent.
Basically, Kearney’s proposal was an effort to honor his friend, President Obama. And, with the GOP in firm countrol of General Assembly even in this lame duck session, this is a proposal that will go nowhere.