Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Youngstown Vindicator. July 18, 2021.

Editorial: A meaningful message comes with new statue

The planning, creation and unveiling of the commemorative Jackie Robinson-George Shuba “Handshake for the Century” statue in downtown Youngstown has been underway and anticipated for many, many months.

Saturday’s unveiling proved it was well worth the wait.

We say that not just because the statue is beautiful; not because its location couldn’t be more perfect; nor because tying its dedication to the annual Summer Festival of the Arts in a new downtown venue created a wonderful connection.

Yes, all that is true, but the statue’s meaning goes so much deeper than the artwork itself, erected in a beautiful setting near the Covelli Centre in the new Raymond John Wean Foundation Park.

The larger-than-life statue, created by sculpture artist Marc Mellon, commemorates a significant moment not only in baseball history, but in American history.

The inspiring handshake took place April 18, 1946, when Jackie Robinson began his professional baseball career as the first ever African American to play Major League Baseball.

Robinson was beginning play with the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate. The first game with the Royals was a major media event in New Jersey against the Jersey City Giants, with a huge crowd in the stands, and the city’s schools ordered closed to mark the occasion.

In his second at-bat, with two other Royals on base, Robinson hit a home run. Both teammates who scored on the homer went into the dugout without waiting for Robinson to congratulate him.

Robinson’s other teammate, George “Shotgun” Shuba, from Youngstown was on deck. Without hesitation, Shuba stepped up to shake Robinson’s hand just as the future Hall of Famer crossed home plate, as is customary in baseball. The moment was captured in a landmark photograph, now owned by Mike Shuba of Youngstown, George’s son, as the first handshake of black and white players on a professional baseball diamond.

Now, Youngstown is the Ohio city to showcase a statue honoring Robinson.

During Saturday’s dedication ceremony, George Shuba’s son, Michael, read words his now-deceased father had once written: “To shake his (Robinson’s) hand after his first hit ever, a home run, was an honor that I will never forget, as that was the day professional baseball changed forever.”

Congratulations are in order to all those involved in this vast undertaking, including the organizers and the steering committee, affectionately referred to as the “bullpen,” the countless donors of both funds and in-kind services, and to the man who first envisioned the statue, Mahoning Valley native and New York bank executive Eric Planey.

It certainly is uplifting to see that so many people here and across our nation gave their time, effort and financial support because of what this statue represents.

Going forward, we are hopeful the statue will serve as an inspiration for open-mindedness, and for good relations among all who live or visit here, regardless of ethnic or racial background. Indeed, we must recognize the rich diversity of our Mahoning Valley for the blessing that it truly is.

“He taught me as a kid if you’re ever put on the spot, just do the right thing and everything will work out,” Michael Shuba told the large, attentive crowd that gathered Saturday morning, despite the light drizzle. “Please remember that we are all teammates in life. We are all on the same team.”

At a time when statues all across our nation are being torn down because of the pain and divisiveness they represent, we all should have an even greater appreciation that the “Handshake for the Century” statue represents racial harmony, equality and respect.

Here, this statue should serve as a starter of respectful conversations about race and history, a topic that so many other communities have avoided.

What a wonderful attitude for our Mahoning Valley to project to the nation and the world!

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The Akron Beacon Journal. July 18, 2021.

Editorial: Akron finds a way forward despite loss of malls, landmark venue

Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board

Change is constant in Akron.

The iconic blue dome on top of the Tangier restaurant and entertainment venue is gone. The West Market Street site has been home to innumerable concerts, banquets and family celebrations over the decades.

The drive out West Market from downtown won’t be the same without the dome and minarets. Celebrations and entertainment that returned to the venue season after season will have to move elsewhere once the venue closes for good on Dec. 31.

But quiet and decay will not replace the applause and laughter. The LeBron James Family Foundation bought the complex last year and plans a retail, dining and event community space to benefit I Promise School families and children. Work is ongoing.

It’s not surprising that a visionary has stepped in to find a new use for a site filled with memories. Even without the likes of a well-funded charity like the James foundation, Akron has a way of making things happen.

The Rolling Acres Mall had a good run from the 1970s to the early 2000s. After closing in 2008, it gained internet fame for its size and extent of decay, with one YouTuber calling it “one of the most, if not the most, infamous abandoned malls ever.”

But today, the area is unrecognizable – in a good way. In 2016, the city acquired the site and quickly began demolition at a cost of $450,000. Through local and state tax incentives, as well as road improvements in the area, Amazon was convinced to buy the site and build a fulfillment center designed to employ 1,500 people.

To prevent Chapel Hill Mall from ending up like Rolling Acres, Mayor Dan Horrigan’s administration spoke with the former owner over the years about finding new uses for the mall, Jason Segedy, Akron’s director of planning and urban development, said in January.

With the city supporting rezoning, Industrial Commercial Properties (ICP) bought the mall in March and plans to find new, mostly nonretail uses for it. Nearby retailers are among those welcoming the business park that is expected to have a mix of offices, warehouses and light industrial businesses.

As part of the transition, ICP plans to donate the mall’s beloved carousel to the city, which plans to have it installed at Lock 3 park.

We can mourn the loss of landmark restaurants and malls, but we are fortunate that city leaders have been able to help nonprofits and businesses make investments that promise to stabilize neighborhoods and offer a range of jobs.

In late 2019, Horrigan announced a “Five-Year Strategic Framework” that calls for making downtown a destination for all, increasing economic opportunities, improving the city’s livability, expanding cultural learning and alleviating inequities.

The ongoing apartment projects and road projects in downtown Akron are tangible steps toward the downtown goal. Development of Amazon and planned reuse at Chapel Hill will go a long way toward increasing economic opportunities. And now the James foundation’s work at the Tangier site will address learning and inequities.

One strong voice Akron has had as it negotiates change is James Hardy, deputy mayor for integrated development. He is stepping down to become a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Sean Vollman, development attorney, will serve on an interim basis, overseeing planning and urban development, economic development, downtown operations, recreation and elements of engineering.

While it is unclear what is next for the office Hardy has led — the city has said it is undergoing “a post-COVID strategic analysis” — it is clear that Akron will never be able to let its guard down.

A rise in violent crime and a reported lack of desirable rental units are among the challenges the city faces if it wishes to meet its goal of lifting population to 250,000 by 2050. Many complicated issues are at play.

But we think the city has learned how to strengthen relationships with Summit County, the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, philanthropies and the private sector. Let’s hope that can continue with promising results.

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Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. July 14, 2021.

Editorial: Ohio’s needless new regulations on renewable energy

So much for the market being king.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, handed a huge advantage to the fossil-fuel industry Monday when he signed into law a bill that gives county commissioners across the state the power to stop wind turbine and solar power projects in unincorporated areas.

Coal and natural gas companies face no such restrictions.

As state Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, pointed out in explaining her opposition to the bill: “The legislature should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the energy sector in the state of Ohio.”

That’s exactly what this is, however much proponents of the change insist that they’re protecting rural Ohio from the ravages of wind turbines and solar panels. Never mind, apparently, that those technologies produce clean power that doesn’t contribute to climate change.

State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, painted a bleak picture of the dangers.

“They think it’s just fine to put these monstrosities all over rural Ohio, to ruin the landscape in rural Ohio, to create 600-foot-tall structures with moving parts where the blades break and the fires start and the birds and bats are chopped to smithereens,” he said.

Was he talking about wind turbines or a rampaging cyborg Godzilla?

We’d agree that most people probably wouldn’t want a wind farm nearby, but most people don’t want power lines, cellphone towers, wastewater-treatment plants, landfills or any number of other things near their homes, either.

Nor did a lot of people want the Nexus Pipeline running through their properties.

Yet that pipeline, which carries natural gas from shale fields in eastern Ohio to Michigan, is now fully operational. That, despite receiving significant pushback from residents along its route, which runs through Lorain and Medina counties.

The city of Oberlin and other communities sued to stop the project in federal court, but lost.

Although the Lorain County commissioners at the time sympathized with landowners and other pipeline opponents, there was little they could do to stop the project.

Under the legislation signed by DeWine, which takes effect in three months, the commissioners in office today would remain powerless to stop another natural gas pipeline from being built.

They will, however, be able put a halt to a specific wind or solar project, carve out certain areas where such projects would be barred or ban them entirely in the county.

Sure, proponents of renewable energy projects would be able to gather signatures to challenge such bans in a referendum, but it’s unclear how successful such an effort would be.

Those looking to build wind turbines or solar farms also will be required to hold public meetings before asking the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve a project. A local county commissioner and a township trustee would be temporarily added to the siting board to consider such projects.

Currently, the board decides which wind and solar projects get built. It already factors in local input, which is one reason it recently rejected a wind farm project in Seneca County.

That obviously wasn’t enough for state Rep. Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, who represents portions of Lorain County and sits on the siting board. He praised the bill, which received no Democratic votes, saying it would give citizens “a more active voice in industrial wind and solar development.”

But not coal or natural gas.

In fact, it’s hard to believe that Republicans would grant local governments what amounts to veto power over any other industry.

Perhaps in their zeal to regulate renewable energy sources Republicans forgot that wind and solar are part of a growth industry offering employment to their constituents, just as the fossil-fuel industry does. There’s a reason, after all, that Lorain County Community College offers training in those emerging technologies.

There’s no good reason for Ohio make it more difficult for wind and solar power to flourish.

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Toledo Blade. July 17, 2021.

Editorial: Maumee’s dirty deed

For decades, the city of Maumee illegally let millions of gallons of sewer overflow into the Maumee River. For years city officials ignored a plan to manage the problem. For years state regulators apparently did not follow up on that plan. How can that happen?

Earlier this month the issue finally came to the public’s attention when Maumee Mayor Richard Carr announced that effective immediately the city’s water rates would jump by 40 percent to fund the fixes to keep untreated water out of the river.

Residents who will soon have to pay these massive hikes are livid, as they should be. They may be getting new water bills, but they’re not getting many answers about what led to them.

The problem of combined sewer overflows -- which happen when heavy rainfalls cause combined sanitary and storm sewers to overflow and spill untreated sewage into waterways -- has plagued many communities with aging sewer systems for decades. Like most of those communities, Maumee apparently identified the issue back in the 1980s and made an agreement with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regarding them.

The deal allowed for the city to discharge 25 million gallons of sewer overflow water into the Maumee River each year. If the city’s overflow discharge exceeded that, Maumee was required to alert the state EPA.

At some point in the mid 1990s, according to Mayor Carr, the city simply stopped worrying about this requirement. And for about 25 years some unknown amount of untreated sewage spilled into the river. This was allowed to go on, unchecked and unmanaged, even as other communities took on the expensive projects to address combined sewer overflows and even as comprehensive efforts to reduce pollution flowing down the Maumee into Lake Erie became a priority.

About a year ago an unnamed recently hired city employee raised an alarm about the overflows, after which the mayor said Maumee immediately notified the Ohio EPA in July, 2020. And yet, even then, city officials said nothing publicly about the issue.

The city and the state agency have reached a new deal over the issue. Maumee has been fined $30,000 and has agreed to make upgrades that will finally fix the problem.

Neither Maumee nor the Ohio EPA is square with the public yet, though. This astounding level of negligence demands answers. How could this have ever happened? How could it have gone on this long? This is a serious issue that demands a serious, independent investigation from an outside agency.

Maumee residents deserve answers to go along with those astronomical water bills. The public in general deserves accountability for this failure.

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The Marietta Times. July 15, 2021.

Editorial: Work on wages is needed

Ohioans know our state has some work to do as we shake off the socio-cultural norms that have held back so many. A report by Columbus-based economics and public policy firm Scioto Analysis has showed us another way in which we can do so. Their data shows there is still a big gap in pay between white men and women and people of color.

According to the Ohio Capital Journal, the firm, using data from the U.S. Census Community Survey, found in 2019, the average non-white male in Ohio earned 20% less than the average white male. The average white woman made almost one-third less. Though we know a gap has existed from the beginning of formal employment in this country, the report showed the gap has persisted over the past five years.

Scioto Analysis showed the gap between white men and women is responsible for 80% of the overall earning gap in Ohio. And though they are fewer in number, pay disparities for non-white women are responsible for a portion of the earnings gap as well.

Nationally, an analysis of census data by the National Partnership for Women and Families showed Native American women make 60 cents for every dollar a white man does, Black women 63 cents and Asian American and Pacific Islander women 83 cents.

While the factors creating such a gap are complex, the bottom line is no one should be getting paid less because of the color of their skin or gender. Other factors cited frequently by employers — differences in physical ability, education, experience and time away from the workplace — are simply not enough (nor entirely legitimate these days) to account for the enormous difference in earnings.

It is a shame it continues. Employers can do better.

At the least, the data should inspire employers to take a look at their payrolls and honestly assess whether employees are being paid what they are worth, regardless of race or gender. Should they find trends that mimic those seen in the Scioto Analysis report, they should figure out why, and do their best to eliminate the gaps when warranted.

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