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Calfee NOW Episode 11 With Ohio State Representative Dontavius L. Jarrells  (D - District 25)

On Episode 11 of Calfee NOW, Michael Bowen, Associate with Calfee's Government Relations and Legislation practice group spoke with Ohio State Representative Dontavius L. Jarrells  (D - District 25). 

Topics discussed included: 

  • What made him want to be an elected official.
  • The assets and weaknesses of District 25 in Columbus.
  • The legislation and policy initiatives he hopes to accomplish in his first term. 

Watch the full episode.



Video Transcript

Michael Bowen:

So welcome everybody back to another Calfee NOW interview. Today we have the newly, I guess he's no longer newly elected, but newly sworn in-

Dontavius Jarrells:

Yeah.

Michael Bowen:

... State Representative from District 25, Dontavius Jarrells. Cleveland native, but currently lives in Columbus.

Dontavius Jarrells:

[crosstalk 00:00:16].

Michael Bowen:

How you doing my friend?

Dontavius Jarrells:

I'm doing well. How are you?

Michael Bowen:

Hey, I'm doing great. I'm doing great. So we'll get right into it, Representative. So tell me what made you want to be an elected official? We're rare breeds, even though I'm not one, but I obviously associate with elected officials. What made you jump into the game and decide that's what you wanted to do?

Dontavius Jarrells:

I think that policy is personal for me. As someone growing up in Cleveland who dealt with all of the issues my residents dealt with, from inadequate access into transportation, to eviction, to lack of access to healthcare. It was really an opportunity for me to really build out a platform and a space to build a better Ohio for all of us, and to build neighborhoods and district that we deserve.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so I think part of my journey was more personal. It was really seeing my neighbors as my family, and really thinking about, "How can I take the policy perspective and experience I have, with over eight years of that, and use it for good, use it for the betterment of neighborhoods?" And I ran on that message. I ran on that we need to build an Ohio that we all deserve. And to do that, it takes leaders who really understand the life struggle of other people.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so that's what kind of called me to serve is ... Because everything I push, everything I introduce is a bill that gets me one step closer to saving my own family. And so it is personal for me.

Michael Bowen:

Great. So talk to me a little bit about your district, District 25. What's the makeup of the district? What are some of the assets of it? And also what are some of the weaknesses you're dealing with within the district?

Dontavius Jarrells:

Yeah, absolutely. So my district is the Eastern part of Columbus. I have a couple of townships, Mifflin, Clinton and Sharon township also in my district. My district is a historical in many ways, we have a majority-minority district so we have over 50% of the district is African-American or minority.

Dontavius Jarrells:

The one interesting thing about my district too, is I have a large group, a large population of our Somali community. In fact, we are the second ... I mean, Columbus as a whole has the second largest population of Somali residents, Minnesota being the first. And so I think that that's really unique about our community, and we have very diverse culture.

Dontavius Jarrells:

In terms of the business corridor, I'm honored to have the airport, so the, the John Glenn Airport in the district, I also have Easton. Most folks probably know where Easton is, if you ever gone to the Apple store. It's a really ... Interestingly enough I have some of the most extremes of income. I have some folks who are living paycheck to paycheck and I have some folks who are living lavishly wealthy.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so to get to some of the difficulties of the district, my district has ... We have the highest ... Well, let me rephrase. We're one of the highest districts with evictions. We're also have a large number of unemployment in the district. We have a large number of individuals who are renters, they don't necessarily own their homes. I have an older district, so many of the families have particularly set income levels. And so they either are social security or on some other disability.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so when I think about the work I have to do, it really is managing and looking at older Ohioan policies. False policies, looking at ways that we can allow families to keep their homes, even though their taxes may have gone up four, five, six times the amount that it originally was when they first bought their home. I mean, so there's a number of things that we have to address. But my community is an amazing historical community on the East side of Columbus, and I'm just proud and honored to represent all of them.

Michael Bowen:

Well, you gave us a little sneak peek here of what you plan on doing here in your first term. So let me ask you, we're getting ready to hit the ground running here soon. What's the legislation you plan on introducing, supporting, getting behind? What are some of your major policy initiatives of your first term?

Dontavius Jarrells:

Yeah, so there's a couple of, I won't say low-hanging fruit, but a couple of opportunities that I think we have. The one thing is a lot of my legislation is I would say common sense legislation. So for example, it doesn't make any sense that we don't provide receipts to families after they pay their rent. There's been cases where families have paid their rent via cash and then unfortunately, check may have gotten lost in the mail or the money order may have got lost or something may have happened. And the renter may have said that they didn't pay. And so one of the bills I want to do is looking at ways to make sure that renters are receiving receipts, something very simple to me.

Dontavius Jarrells:

The other piece that I want to talk about is GrandFamilies. So most folks, when you hear GrandFamilies, if I break it down, it basically is grandparents raising grandkids. I came from a household where grandparents were ... I was always over at my grandmother's house. In fact, my other grandmother, she currently raises her great-grandchild. And she raises that child off of her social security, and so it doesn't make any sense. But related to our Kinship laws, that our GrandFamilies are getting short shafted.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so one of the things I want to address and really look into, and we already started to do that, is Kinship laws as it relates to grandparents. Making sure that they have access to funding and supports so that they're not having to support a plethora of children that they are bringing in, because they love their daughter's or son's child. We don't want them to have to go without food just because ... Or go without their prescription drugs, just because they have to get new clothes for their grandbaby. And so looking at GrandFamily laws and Kinship laws to ensure that there's adequate access to supports financially for them.

Dontavius Jarrells:

The other piece, I talked about this a little earlier. Six people a day get evicted from a neighborhood from my district, and that was prior to COVID. The eviction rate in Columbus is high, or one of the highest in the state. But my district in particular probably has one of the more higher percentages of folks who are losing their homes and have unfortunately becoming homeless. So we need to do a number of things related to eviction.

Dontavius Jarrells:

So one, we need to contain the moratorium. I think that we need to do that through the pandemic. We need to have a real honest conversation about what is eviction forgiveness look like, and how do we make that real and impossible. And then when it comes to individuals who own their home, there's an initiative called the circuit breaker tax exemption, which allows families who have more house than they have money, but they lived in their home for 30 plus years. And again, tackling the older Ohioan issues here, we should be figuring out a way to stabilize their property taxes so they're not kicked out of homes that they lived in all their life. And they've really cultivated and built up the community. We don't want those families to be forced out.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so those are some of the conversations I'm having with my Democratic and Republican counterparts to figure out ways in which we can build a better Ohio. And really address the needs of my district.

Michael Bowen:

So, Representative, you made a good point to them there, which is the perfect lead into my next question. Democrats are in the super minority, as you know, at the state house.

Dontavius Jarrells:

Yeah.

Michael Bowen:

So when we talk about certain legislation and passing legislation, it's difficult as a Democrat, to be blunt.

Dontavius Jarrells:

It is.

Michael Bowen:

How are you planning on the attack, that you have a fresh eyes on this? How are you going to get your legislation passed essentially, being in the super minority and just talk a little bit about that.

Dontavius Jarrells:

Well, I think it's all about relationships as you know, Mike. It's building relationships. I mean, I was in a position where with the pandemic, we had to do things a little differently, but I'm steadily sitting down and talking with my Republican colleagues about ways in which we can work together and opportunities that we have to work together.

Dontavius Jarrells:

I think at the end of the day, it's about putting aside our political ideology and really talking about the needs of people. And so when I talk about, for example, this GrandFamilies legislation that I want to do, these are individuals who live in Appalachian Ohio, suburban Ohio, urban Ohio. These are people who are white, who are being impacted by the opioid epidemic. All the way to black families who may have been impacted and their families impacted by the criminal justice inequities that exist.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so those types of conversations, what I think about is the broad swath of audiences and people and constituents that my legislation will address, and how I can utilize that as a connector to transcend politics. There's so many things that are impacting us as a community, and my hope would be, through the relationships, through being intentional about policy and how it can impact all families across Ohio, we can really begin to break down some barriers and address these issues collaboratively.

Dontavius Jarrells:

And so that's the hope. Obviously I'm not going to win every battle, but that is the art of the compromise, as many folks who are in politics know. And so my hope is we can work together to do some amazing things together.

Michael Bowen:

Well, State Rep, I appreciate the time. And obviously we have a history prior to this, but I look forward to working with you in your new role.

Dontavius Jarrells:

Thank you.

Michael Bowen:

And just so you know, we have clients, potential clients, internal audiences. Is there anything you want to wrap up and say just to our client base or anybody else, just to close up here?

Dontavius Jarrells:

I guess the one thing I'll say is thank you so much to you and all of your clients for doing the good work you all are doing across the state. I'm trying to build a district where no one is unseen, unheard or uninspired, and it takes all of us to get there. And so, as I said to every single association, lobbyist, group, my phone is always open. I'm always here to sit down and talk about issues, ways that we can collaborate. If you have ideas about legislation that you think will be good, love to hear from you.

Dontavius Jarrells:

Really just, look, my office is your office. This is the people's house. And it's important that, as a public servant, I do all I can to connect you and your families to the best policy and change that we can make in Ohio's laws. And so I have an open door, my hope is that you have a open door too, and then let's see what we can do together.

Michael Bowen:

Fantastic. Representative, good luck.

Dontavius Jarrells:

Thank you.

Michael Bowen:

Congratulations once again, and we look forward to talking to you soon. And this is another episode of Calfee NOW.

Dontavius Jarrells:

Beautiful. Thank you so much.

Calfee Connections blogs, vlogs and other educational content are intended to inform and educate readers about legal developments and are not intended as legal advice for any specific individual or specific situation. Please consult with your attorney regarding any legal questions you may have. With regard to all content including case studies or descriptions, past outcomes do not predict future results. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the view points of all attorneys and professionals of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP or its subsidiary. Updates related to all COVID-19 government assistance programs are provided with the most current information made available to Calfee at the time of publication. Clarifications and further guidance are being disseminated from government authorities on an ongoing basis. All information should be reaffirmed prior to the submission of any application and/or program participation.

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