Time to Re-Brand the Ronald Reagan Highway?

 Time to Re-Brand the Ronald Reagan Highway?

Don Mooney

Is there trouble brewing amongst our Hamilton County commissioners? It’s been less than a year since the 2018 election produced the first all-Democratic commission in the county’s history.

But storm clouds have gathered to rain on Democrats’ victory lap; only months after she took office, Commissioner Stephanie Dumas’s chief of staff, Dr. Paul Sohi, filed discrimination claims against the other commissioners. Hard to imagine that happened without her approval. Dumas raised more eyebrows by blocking the relocation of a commission meeting to accommodate Todd Portune’s temporary hospitalization.

Here’s how all three Democrats can find some common ground: rename the Ronald Reagan (aka cross-county) Highway. The 16-mile highway was built from 1958 to 1997, allowing an expedited path from Interstate 275 in the west to Montgomery Road in the east.

In 1993, an all-Republican commission voted to name the Cross County Highway for the former president. Then Commissioner John Dowlin cited Reagan’s electoral success in the county during the 1980 and 1984 election as grounds for the honor.

That 1993 commission vote set a precedent: to the victors belong the spoils, including the right to rename public highways. In that tradition, the three Democratic commissioners should come together to rename the highway after another former president who won two consecutive elections in Hamilton County: Barack H. Obama.

Of course, it can be a mistake to name public stuff (roads, bridges, schools, etc.) after the living. Think Pete Rose Way. On the other hand, former President Reagan was still clearing brush on his California ranch when he received the county’s 1993 honor.

And who’s going to complain? The GOP has squandered its Hamilton County foothold, and local Trumpublicans seem to have no love lost for the “Gipper’s” brand of politics.

Ronald Reagan practiced what he called the “golden rule”—never speak ill of another Republican. But Donald Trump relishes making up disparaging nick names for GOP rivals, like “Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”

Reagan spoke of our nation as a welcoming “shining city on a hill.” In a 1986 speech at the Statue of Liberty, Reagan signed immigration legislation that gave legal status to millions of immigrants who he invited to step out of the shadows and “into the sunlight,” with an opportunity for citizenship. Trumpublicans would denounce such legislation as “amnesty.”

The current GOP president shifts money from the defense budget to build border walls. But in what may have been his most famous speech, the former president called on the Russian president to tear down walls.

In a June tweet, WCPO cartoonist Kevin Necessary suggested that the Reagan Highway be re-named for Neil Armstrong, the Ohio native who placed that first human footprint on the moon 50 years ago. Armstrong spent his later years on the University of Cincinnati faculty. A good choice, no doubt.

But I’m sticking with Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, who won election twice with the strong support of Hamilton County voters. Such a “re-branding” of a highway that connects our west to our east would acknowledge the important role our African American citizens and communities have played in building a prosperous and diverse county that is no longer the domain of Ronald Reagan’s (or Donald Trump’s) GOP.