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Hitting the ground running: Congresswoman Shontel Brown on representing Ohio's 11th District

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Rep. Shontel Brown at her swearing-in ceremony
Office of Rep. Shontel Brown’s
Rep. Shontel Brown (center) at her swearing-in ceremony with the Congressional Black Caucus.

Just 48 hours after she was sworn in to represent Ohio’s 11th District Congresswoman Shontel Brown voted “yes” on the largest infrastructure plan the country had seen in more than a decade.

The package includes money for roads, bridges, transportation, expanded internet access and other projects.

According to Brown’s office, Ohio’s slice of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package includes $9 billion for road and bridge repair, more than a billion for public transit and $1.4 billion for drinking water systems.

In Northeast Ohio, Brown said replacing lead pipes in homes in Akron and Cleveland is key not only for people’s health, but for getting people back to work.

“That was something that was really, really important to me to deliver something that will turn our economy around. So, I couldn’t be more excited to have passed that humongous bill on my second day (in Congress),” Brown said.

Brown is one of the newest members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which was instrumental in getting the legislation passed.

Brown said the caucus bridges the gap between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party.

“I think the diversity of the caucus is what allowed us to be able to broker negotiations to get this deal done,” she said.

She and her colleagues are now working to get the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better act passed. That plan expands health care, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creates affordable housing and provides free preschool.

Brown, a former Cuyahoga County Council member and the current chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, said she’s relied on her mentors in getting her bearings since winning the special election earlier this month.

They include her predecessor and current Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Central Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, and South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, among others.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative and grateful for that friendship, that mentorship and that support,” she said.

Brown said instead of the traditional red carpet, her colleagues rolled out a blue one for her in Washington.

Brown’s term lasts a little over a year, but when she runs for re-election, the 11th District could look markedly different thanks to redistricting.

When asked about her confidence in the Ohio Redistricting Commission, she had her doubts.

“I’m not very optimistic, candidly speaking. Because it’s Republican dominated,” she said.

“Whatever comes my way, I’ll be ready.”

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.