Columbus-area driver of the rich and famous wants leaders to relate

Amy Pache, an undecided voter from Dublin, sits inside her van that she uses in her job as a livery driver on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Photo by Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch.

A typical week for Amy Pache includes a trip to the golf course, a run to the airport, and maybe an event or a visit to Ohio Stadium. She gets invited backstage to a concert from time to time, and politicians talk to her regularly.

But mostly, she stays in the car.

She waits on the wealthy and connected people who are going to these places, because she was hired to drive them in whatever transportation they’ve hired from the livery service for which she works.

But her life is no longer typical, and she lies awake at night in her Dublin apartment, wondering how she’ll pay the utility bills, and how much gas she can afford to put in her own car.

“It went from very fast-paced and completely booked to nothing, just immediately and completely,” Pache said.

She’s now gone through “every bit” of her savings, and has had to make hard calls about electricity payment plans and needs over desires.

“You count every single penny,” Pache said of her life now. “How much do I need this? Can I go without it?”

She fears her workload won’t ever be the same, with some businesses seeing the long-term benefits of work-from-home. She has a steady list of clients who ask for her by name, some attorneys, doctors, and even a few Ohio State alumni. But the work, for which she is paid per ride, is still just trickling in.

Losing the ability to do what she loves represents a loss of what kept her going, she said.

“I get to see a lot of the country, it’s kind of like therapy, I have a lot of time to think,” Pache said. “I get to meet different people, people that give me hope.”

Still, she finds herself lucky. Her boyfriend drives a bus for Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), which had it’s own struggles when the pandemic began. His hours are normalizing, she says, but their steady income as a household is uncertain.

She also says she remains hopeful about the future of the state and the country. She plans to vote for President Donald Trump because she feels he’s supported the country in ways she cares about: building up the military and talking about ending drug epidemics.

“If I’m on a train and we’re going where I want to go, and things are going in the right direction, why would I get off?” she said.

Pache voted for Barack Obama previously because she values those who haven’t been in politics for a lifetime, and she feels disappointed by state and federal politicians who “focus on the wrong things.”

“I want so badly to go to (U.S. House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, and (Ohio Gov. Mike) DeWine and ask what the price of milk is,” said Pache. “I want to know what they think my serious problems are?”

But as she waits to see when her next paycheck will come, and hopes to hear from her steady client list to come back, more than anything she wants to feel less exhausted by the flow of “information and disinformation.”

“I often wonder why I’m so tired, and I think it’s because we’re in a constant state of what’s next,” Pache said.

Susan Tebben was among seven journalists who participated with Ohioans in October in Your Voice Ohio online dialogues to gain understanding of concerns people have in the 2020 election.

Want to volunteer for a future dialogue and receive $125 for two hours? Register at the Your Voice Ohio Election 2020 website.

About this project

This is one in a series of stories on issues Ohioans say are most important in this election year. More than 50 news outlets are collaborating in the project under the umbrella of Your Voice Ohio, the nation’s largest sustained, statewide news media collaborative. In five years, Your Voice Ohio has brought more than 100 journalists together with more than 1,300 Ohioans for discussions on addiction, the economy and elections. Your Voice Ohio is managed and coordinated by the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization. The project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and Facebook. The Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes designs and facilitates the dialogues and digital forums. Retired Akron Beacon Journal managing editor Doug Oplinger directs the media work and can be reached at [email protected].

Five Ohios

For the Your Voice Ohio 2020 Election listening project, the state’s 88 counties were divided into five regions identified by John Green, emeritus director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, as having political and demographic similarities.

How participants were selected

Six people were recruited to participate with three journalists in each regional dialogue designed and facilitated by Kyle Bozentko and Sarah Atwood from the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a St. Paul-based non-partisan, non-profit research organization.

There was an attempt to make each dialogue demographically representative, though that was problematic in some regions, particularly in the Southeast where there were broadband challenges. Overall, the dialogues were representative of Ohio, based on Census data obtained by former Akron Beacon Journal data reporter David Knox.

A pool of about 1,000 volunteers was created through invitations published by Ohio news outlets and from advertisements on social media. To encourage a diverse group of volunteers, $125 was offered to those who answered basic demographic questions, participated in a test call, and then completed the two-hour online dialogue.

For the conversations, participants were granted anonymity with the understanding that what they said could be used in news stories without their names. They were asked afterward if they were willing to be quoted by name and participate in a follow-up conversation with a reporter. Most agreed.

Participating journalists were recruited from the more than 50 Your Voice Ohio news outlets. One reporter attended all five sessions and wrote the central narrative, a regional reporter in each helped identify themes and nuances. A third is guiding the Your Voice Ohio journalism and has attended all sessions since 2016.

Finding help with your ballot

There are organizations that attempt to provide fair representations of candidates and issues so that you can cast an informed ballot. 

Below are some of those resources:

  • Ballotpedia is a national organization that compiles information about federal and state candidates and some local races and issues The Ohio page is the place to begin.
  • Public radio stations in Ohio, led by WKSU FM 89.7, and with the help of Eye on Ohio and Your Voice Ohio, attempted to ask federal and state legislative candidates questions on your behalf. The questions were formulated after asking Ohioans in a statewide poll to name their most important concerns, followed by dialogues to gain better understanding of those issues. Unfortunately, candidates have been slow to respond. Those who have answered the questions can be found at this site, and new answers are added as they arrive. Disappointed that your candidate isn’t represented? Tell them that you’d like answers to questions that come from the more than 50 Your Voice Ohio news outlets that are attempting to represent your concerns.
  • As a part of its Civics Essential series, Issue Media Group news outlets in Ohio provided this primer on voting for judges. In the story are links to organizations offering appraisals of candidates for state and local judges. Outlets in the Issue Media Group are Soapbox Cincinnati, Freshwater Cleveland and The Hub Springfield.
  • Also as a part of the Civics Essential series, Issue Media Group news outlets in Ohio provided a guide to casting an informed vote on local issues. This story contains links that may be helpful.

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