Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. Nov. 28, 2021.

Editorial: Rocketing food costs are also harming the hunger safety net

Eye-popping food price increases this fall, notably for meats, have taken a toll on many household budgets, especially for Thanksgiving. But there’s been a far more serious consequence to the rising food costs -- the one-two punch they’ve landed on anti-hunger efforts, both locally and globally.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, already stretched because of pandemic needs, saw turkey prices rise 25% over 2019, CEO Kristin Warzocha told cleveland.com’s Sean McDonnell. And that was dwarfed by the 43% jump in the cost of a jar of peanut butter, an anti-hunger staple. But other food costs also rose. A case of macaroni and cheese climbed 21%, and even the cost of muffin mix rose 16%.

Nationally, about one in ten Americans is food-insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal will come from.

In the six counties served by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank -- Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Ashland and Richland counties -- it’s worse: One in five is food-insecure, according to the food bank.

Globally, the figure is even grimmer -- about one in three, per the latest report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Worldwide, that translates to 2.37 billion people.

Pandemic and now food inflation are making a worldwide hunger crisis worse. According to Food Tank, which describes itself as a think tank for food, the U.N. World Food Program last year “delivered aid to around 115.5 million people in 84 countries.

“This is the largest number of people to receive aid from the WFP since 2012, when conflict in Syria and droughts in the Sahel region of Africa led to humanitarian crises,” Food Tank added, noting that the pandemic has disrupted both agricultural production and the delivery of food aid. Yet that just added to a crisis that was already building because of “conflict, climate change, and economic recessions” around the world, Food Tank said. Globally, donations just cannot keep up.

Luckily, that’s not the case, so far, in Northeast Ohio, where the giving spirit has been the rule, not the exception.

“Northeast Ohio has been a generous community that wants to make sure no one goes hungry,” Warzocha told O’Donnell, describing the “silver lining” of the pandemic in how it prompted even more support -- both monetarily and in donated time and food.

But the needs, and costs, just keep growing -- including in trucking costs, in grocery stores with less product to donate, and now in food price inflation. And the holidays always see intensified demand for food aid.

Warzocha told Fox News that the Greater Cleveland Food Bank would be distributing more than 1 million pounds of food per week this month. That’s right: Four million pounds of food in one month.

Even with advance planning and early ordering (this year’s turkeys were ordered in April, Warzocha told O’Donnell), both the costs per pound and the needs are still escalating.

In the 2020 fiscal year, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank helped more than 400,000 people access donated food and federal SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Now, the money the food bank is budgeting for the coming year is $37 million, O’Donnell reported -- two-thirds higher than it was in fiscal 2019.

What’s driving food price inflation? A raft of causes, apparently.

Meat has gotten more expensive in part because of higher feed costs tied to increased global demand and climate disruptions, while higher food prices overall reflect pandemic-related increases in food-buying, along with labor shortages and higher processing costs, agricultural economist Jason Lusk told NPR earlier this month.

Economic analyst Kimberly Amadeo, writing for “The Balance,” tagged five main reasons for rising food costs: higher oil prices; climate change; government subsidies for ethanol that steer corn crops to fuel; World Trade Organization limitations on food stockpiling; and increased meat-eating globally.

Some of these are macro trends that may be hard to influence, but Greater Clevelanders can help at a local level, not just in our own food-consumption habits, but also in how we give of our time.

So, if there’s one item to add to your holiday to-do list, it would be to reach out to your local food bank or food pantry and offer to volunteer or help in other ways.

With one in every five Northeast Ohioans unsure where their next meal will come from, and rising food-insecurity among older Ohioans, the person you help could very well be your neighbor, or the school-crossing guard down the street, or a retired former co-worker. And by helping an organization like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank that turns people’s donated time, food and money into nutritious, low-cost, hunger-abating meals for needy kids and families, you will be adding exponentially to the well-being of the Cleveland area.

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Youngstown Vindicator. Nov. 28, 2021.

Editorial: Ohio, Valley can lead reshoring efforts in US

While countries such as China and Taiwan worked for years to grow their technological prowess, Americans, sadly, have worked to send our manufacturing to other shores.

Now, due in large part to the effects of a global pandemic, we are paying the price for those decisions.

This holiday season, for example, Americans will struggle to find many foreign-made gifts due to supply-chain challenges triggered by clogged-up shipping ports.

Beyond that, car buyers know auto manufacturers for several months have faced shortages of semiconductor computer chips, manufactured mostly in Asia and necessary for new car computers. The chip shortage began in the spring of 2020 when global automakers were forced to shutter factories to stop the spread of COVID-19. The factories came back online sooner than expected with safety precautions, but by then, many chip makers had shifted production to high-demand consumer electronics. A fire at an automotive chip plant in Japan exacerbated the problem.

The chip shortage has led to the temporary closure of many auto plants, triggering significant drops in U.S. auto sales because automakers couldn’t produce enough vehicles to keep up with consumer demand.

Industry executives and analysts predict the chip shortage will last well into next year, and that automakers may not get back to normal production until 2023.

But all the news is not bad.

One of few good points to arise from the global pandemic is that it has spurred a national push to strengthen the domestic supply chain, especially for essential products. Studies show job announcements for reshoring — the process of returning production and manufacturing of goods back to the company’s original country — are growing. In fact, the number of companies reporting new reshoring and foreign direct investment in the U.S. are at more than 1,800 this year. According to a report released in September by Reshoring Initiative, a U.S.-based initiative that promotes reshoring and provides tools and support for companies evaluating locations, Ohio ranks No. 1 so far this year in reshoring announcements, with 37 companies totaling 12,423 jobs.

The report further indicates that most of the jobs coming back to America’s shores are in the fields of transportation equipment, primarily in electric vehicle battery production.

This hits close to home as the Mahoning Valley works toward the start of production at the new Ultium Cells auto battery plant in Lordstown, part of the continued branding of the area as the “Voltage Valley.”

It’s all very exciting for our region’s future.

Likewise, we are excited about the recently announced partnership between Lordstown Motors Corp. and Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn.

Under that deal, LMC is selling the sprawling Lordstown auto plant for $230 million to Foxconn. LMC and Foxconn also agree to pursue a contract manufacturing agreement for Lordstown Motors’ flagship vehicle, the Endurance truck.

The decision gives new credibility to manufacture of the electric pickup truck, following struggles the fledgling company experienced the past year.

We also are thrilled that the partnership will realize the tremendous potential of the Lordstown plant. Here, California-based Fisker’s PEAR (Personal Electric Automotive Revolution) electric vehicle is expected to be made under a Fisker / Foxconn agreement.

“As one of the largest contract manufacturers globally, Foxconn will bring to bear the purchasing power, supply-chain network and logistics capabilities to significantly reduce vehicle production costs and mitigate supply-chain risk,” stated a media release announcing the partnership earlier this month.

The potential is huge not only for our Valley, but for continued efforts to bring manufacturing back to America’s shores.

And as for the computer chip shortage, rather than sitting around fretting and waiting, Ford Motor Co. is developing a plan to fix the problem and prevent it in the future. That auto giant is engaging in talks with a U.S.-based computer chip maker to create joint development of automotive-grade chips.

America is among the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Surely, we have the capability, resources and workforce to manufacture these types of products right here at home.

The lure of cost savings in overseas markets where cost of living is significantly lower cannot be the only driving force when it comes to manufacturing and production.

Indeed, reshoring here to America, to Ohio and even to our Valley can play a big part of the U.S. manufacturing and economic recovery in 2021 and beyond.

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Toledo Blade. Nov. 25, 2021.

Editorial: A step forward for policing in Ohio

Body cameras will soon take a place as an essential part of the gear carried by Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers. That move, announced by Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday, continues his push to get body cameras to all law enforcement agencies in the state.

That goal is well worth the cost and training involved.

There’s still a long way to go getting body cameras for all departments statewide, but equipping 1,550 on the road officers in the state patrol can make a difference.

Body cameras can play an outsized role in police-reform efforts.

Now the governor and the General Assembly must continue to move forward on plans to equip all troopers with body cameras.

The price tag for equipping the troopers stands at $15 million — the cameras themselves also need to be hooked up to the other cameras in each police cruiser.

Those funds will, in the long run, save money. That’s true for the state police and for city and county departments.

How so?

By documenting police interactions with suspects and the public the costs of litigation over allegations against police can be resolved. If the allegation is false, that will be obvious.

If true, a violation of law or procedure by officers is recorded and should lead to a quick settlement. And yes, the cameras may deter bad apples among law enforcement officers.

Actions or words by a suspect, too, may provide evidence for police and prosecutors of wrongdoing.

Yet, deploying body cameras isn’t primarily about catching officers violating laws or procedures. It documents the reality of what happened during a particular interaction. They protect all sides involved by providing an unbiased look at precisely what occurred during a traffic stop or arrest.

The cameras also give another angle for the public to see an officer’s conduct besides a video shot on someone’s cell phone.

The next step is funding to expand body cameras for law enforcement throughout the state.

The state allocated $10 million in June for local departments. The requests for funding, at $16 million and counting, outstrip the money available. The costs add up because not only is a camera purchased and integrated with existing equipment, but police must have the means to store the data.

Those costs can be high and the governor acknowledged that’s one reason many local departments don’t have body cameras. Mr. DeWine said he’s working on additional funding possibilities with the General Assembly.

Adding funding for local departments for body cameras can carry forward the positive moves already in place to expand the use of cameras to all law enforcement officers.

Body cameras remain an excellent tool for police reform and the protection of officers and the public.

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Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. Nov. 23, 2021.

Editorial: The GOP tilts the scales in its favor

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine let down voters Saturday when he signed off on a gerrymandered map of congressional districts.

In so doing DeWine, along with Republican legislators, ignored the will of Ohio voters, who in 2018 voted into the state Constitution rules that were supposed to end, or at least rein in, gerrymandering.

The GOP’s map was no surprise, though. Republicans also crafted state legislative districts favoring their party despite an earlier constitutional amendment, approved in 2015, that also was supposed to enhance fairness. (Both amendments won overwhelming support from voters.)

Indeed, the new congressional map is so bad that the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave it an “F” grade and the site Dave’s Redistricting said it favored Republicans to win 12 of Ohio’s 15 congressional districts next year. Ohio lost a seat thanks to population shifts, so naturally the Republicans cut one of the four seats that Democrats have held for the past decade.

DeWine defended the map because it “makes the most progress to produce a fair, compact and competitive map.”

While the map is somewhat more compact than the mess Republicans crafted in 2010, the end result would be about the same: The GOP would control more seats in the congressional delegation than its share of the statewide vote. That’s hardly what we’d call “fair.”

In recent federal and state elections, not including judicial races, Republicans have won around 55 percent of the vote. Democrats have won about 45 percent of the vote.

If Republicans win 12 seats, that would give them 80 percent of Ohio’s congressional seats.

Because the map was so gerrymandered, Republicans didn’t get the Democratic support they needed to put it into effect for 10 years. Instead, it would last only for four. It also will no doubt be subjected to court challenges, just as state legislative districts have been challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.

What does this all mean for Lorain County?

Well, for starters, if the map survives court challenges, county voters would say goodbye to the three-way split among the districts of U.S. Reps. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, that they’ve been saddled with for the past decade.

(Gibbs and Jordan look safe in their prospective new districts, while Kaptur’s “competitive” district leans red.)

Instead, the entire county would be folded into a redrawn 5th Congressional District, which would stretch all the way to the Indiana border and include Crawford, Hancock, Huron, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Seneca, Van Wert, Wood and Wyandot counties. It would strongly favor a Republican candidate, according to Dave’s Redistricting.

The current iteration of it is represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, who’s running for another term.

“There is much work ahead of us to get our country back on track,” Latta said in a news release announcing his candidacy last week, “including lowering every day costs at the pump, combating inflation, securing and strengthening our southern border, and getting folks back to work while supporting our job creators.”

That’s fairly typical Republican stuff, and, unlike Jordan, Latta isn’t a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. At first blush, at least, Latta seems to lean toward establishment Republicanism, although that’s a moving target these days.

Latta is the son of the late Del Latta, who served in Congress for 30 years. The younger Latta has held office since 1996, when he won a seat in the Ohio Senate. He then served four terms in the Ohio House before winning a special election for the U.S. House in 2007. Thanks to his gerrymandered district, he’s cruised to reelection ever since, winning 68 percent of the vote in 2020.

If he managed to run up similar numbers next year, it would have little to do with whether he’s an effective congressman and much more to do with his running in a district that a Republican could hardly lose.

That might meet DeWine’s definition of “competitive,” but it’s not what voters wanted.

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Marietta Times. Nov. 26, 2021.

Editorial: Consequences to opioid epidemic

As it became increasingly evident that the opioid epidemic was sparked and fanned by “legal” drug dealers such as doctors, pain clinics and pharmacies, residents across Appalachia and the Rust Belt cried out for justice. Earlier this week, they got a little.

A federal jury in Ohio decided CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies recklessly distributed absurdly large numbers of the pain pills in Lake and Trumbull counties. This was the first time pharmacy companies decided to go to trial in an attempt to defend themselves. But the jury determined the pharmacies did, indeed, play an outsized role in poisoning our communities.

“The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted,” said Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties. “The jury sounded a bell that should be heard through all pharmacies in America.”

Of course there will be appeals, meaning for now the pharmacies in question are still trying to blame everyone else. There certainly were many entities at fault. But the very fact responsible pharmacies have since changed their practices in dealing with opioids and some other kinds of medication indicates they know they should have been better gatekeepers.

Approximately 80 million prescription painkillers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone between 2012 and 2016 — equivalent to 400 for every resident. Lake County saw approximately 61 million pills distributed during that period.

For now, the decision should be an important reminder to all pharmacies of their responsibility to adhere to principles such as the code of ethics spelled out by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which includes:

“A pharmacist promotes the good of every patient …,” meaning “A pharmacist places concern for the well-being of the patient at the center of professional practice.”

And “A pharmacist acts with honesty and integrity in professional relationships,” meaning “A pharmacist has a duty to tell the truth and to act with conviction of conscience.”

No where in that or similar documents does it say “A pharmacist should do what the doctors and pill mills say, even after discovering such orders are killing tens of thousands of people.”

A federal judge will determine this spring what consequences the three pharmacies will face in the Ohio case. It is a shame so many have paid already with their lives.

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