Local lawmakers and community leaders react to Biden inauguration

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Local leaders share thoughts on what they hope comes from the Biden Administration

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Republicans and Democrats who represent the Youngstown area agree with President Biden about unifying the country, but Republicans were not ready to reverse what they call the gains of the past four years.

After his swearing in, Joe Biden made unifying the country one of his top priorities.

“I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said.

Republican Congressman Bill Johnson and Democrat Congressman Tim Ryan both represent the bulk of the Ohio counties around Youngstown. Johnson said he was encouraged that President Biden talked about wanting to work with the people who voted for Donald Trump.

“I was encouraged to hear him say that that he is going to work as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as did vote for him,” Johnson said.

Ryan is encouraged to hear that Republicans are interested in coming together for the country.

“I think the country is at one of those moments where I think there is going to be some unity for a while,” Ryan said. “I think there is genuine interest in trying to come together for the country. I think what happened two weeks ago scared a lot of people. Whether they looked the other way, whether they were against it, it got too far,” Ryan said.

Both Johnson and Ryan watched the inauguration in person. Ryan was on the podium with a clear view of the President. Johnson was below the podium.

Johnson said he hopes President Biden governs the way he spoke during the inauguration ceremony, and he doesn’t want people to forget about the positives of the past four years and how before the pandemic unemployment was low, the flow of crime curtailed across the southern borders, taxes were lowered and there the mobilization effort to fight COVID-19.

“Is he going to build on the successes we’ve had over the past four years, or is he going to say everything’s got to go, and I’m going to clear the etch-a-sketch and start all over simply because they were signed into law by Donald Trump?” Johnson said.

Ryan said he was impressed with Garth Brooks, who after singing “Amazing Grace,” made a point to not only shake the hand of President Biden but also the outgoing Vice President Mike Pence.

Leaders of Youngstown’s Black Community also reacted to Biden’s inauguration. Reverend Ken Simona is the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church on Youngstown’s south side, a neighborhood with a high crime rate and with abandoned houses and vacant lots.

“I’m feeling good. It was so emotional I almost cried through the whole thing,” Simon said.

Simon called the inauguration a ray of hope in the midst of darkness but says unifying the country will take time.

“This entrenched racism and divisiveness that has been fostered for the last four years, it’s going to take some time to get us out of this and to move forward,” Simon said. “I have hope because we are moving from a divider to a uniter.”

Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Mike Kelly said one way to work together is to build on the Trump Administration’s successful, conservative policies.

“Calls for unity and healing sound nice, but they must be backed by action. It is my hope that the Biden Administration will respect the lessons of the recent past by choosing sense over radicalism that will only divide us further,” Kelly said.

Reverend Simon says he watched President Biden’s speech from his office at the church. Congressman Kelly attended in person.

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