Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Columbus Dispatch. Oct. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Don’t be duped: Weaselly ‘green energy’ group tries to con Columbus voters out of $87 million

Cons often come dressed in the most alluring ways.

If Columbus voters are duped by the “green energy” buzz words they’ll find on the Nov. 2 ballot, those behind a nearly decade-old grift will wrap themselves in $87 million from blindsided taxpayers robbed of discretion in deciding how the money is spent.

With early voting starting Tuesday, we join a choir that includes environmental groups, city officials and civic and business leaders in warning Columbus residents not to fall in the booby trap that persistent backers of ProEnergy LLC’s Issue 7 hope to spring on this community.

They are seemingly hoping that environmentally conscience Columbus voters will be attracted to the shadowy group’s stated “purpose of reducing the cost of electricity for customers who live in Columbus with a subsidy to purchase electricity from only wind, solar, fuel cell, geothermal, or hydropower producers.”

Make no mistake, green energy is a good thing.

Also know that this is not about green energy.

It is a shameful attempt to confuse well-meaning voters and bilk Columbus out of money that should be used for critical services such as police and fire protection, trash collection, health services, and recreation and parks programs.

They want to distract you with phrases like “energy conservation,” “clean energy” and “energy efficiency” to lift money from the city coffers.

It is not clear who is behind ProEnergy, what makes them green energy experts or how they intend to use an amount of taxpayer money equivalent to about 11% of the total taxes the city will collect this year for its general fund operations.

The impact would be significant.

“It would force the administration and council to make cuts; we couldn’t just absorb that,” City Council President Shannon Hardin told a Dispatch reporter.

Tom Sussi, a former TV reporter and now a city council candidate endorsed by the GOP, said the plan is not in the best interest of Columbus.

“I think the whole thing stinks,” he said.

Put plainly, voters are being asked to turn over $87 million without knowing who is really asking for the money, how they will address green energy issues or how much the group will pay itself.

— The mysterious and partly cloaked group would be authorized to use “an undetermined portion of the balance” of money received from the city for “the cost of administering distribution of said subsidies.”

— The city of Columbus would be required to turn over $57 million from its general fund for the so-called Clean Energy Partnership Fund for the stated purpose of subsidizing Columbus electric customers’ bills.

ProEnergy’s would have the discretion to decide which customers received the subsidize and how much it would be.

— The proposed Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Fund, the Clean Energy Education and Training Fund and Minority Business Enterprise Clean Energy Development Fund would get a whopping $10 million each from the general fund.

That money would be controlled by a majority of the list of petitioners on the ballot and held in “an entity to be designated” by the group.

The initiative is represented on the ballot by an apparent Texas resident, a deceased woman and four others.

Dispatch reporters could not reach most of the petitioners in recent years.

ProEnergy Ohio front man John Clarke (sometimes John Clark Jr.), faces election fraud charges related to the ballot issue.

The Columbus resident and electrical engineer pleaded not guilty to two counts of tampering with government records, both third-degree felonies, and two counts of election falsification, both fifth-degree felonies in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

In December, former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said investigators found that five people listed on the campaign finance report had given nothing at all.

This saga has been going on for far too long.

In 2012, the group now known as ProEnergy was panned for its attempts to push approval of a measure to transfer $13 billion in state bond money to a New York bank account controlled by an unknown group of investors.

At their discretion, the investors were to fund private infrastructure, research and development of “clean-energy initiatives.”

ProEnergy set its sights on the city of Columbus in 2017 and again in 2019.

After years of gymnastics, the group out-maneuvered city officials and weaseled its way onto the November ballot.

The group is operating in the shadows and is hoping you do not see its true intentions: taking this city’s money and using it as it sees fit.

Tell ProEnergy you can not be fooled by its misdirection play by voting no on Issue 7.

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Sandusky Register. Sept. 29, 2021.

Editorial: So long, farewell

Goodbye, Indians. Hello, Guardians.

Monday marked the last time the Cleveland baseball team would identify as the Indians at Progressive Field. Come 2022, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball franchise will become the Guardians.

Cleveland baseball owner Paul Dolan originally announced his intention to change the team’s name in December 2020 after the club said, in June 2020, they were considering a change. At the time, last summer’s social unrest, prompted by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, fueled his desire to pursue a name change.

The name Guardians is based on Cleveland’s “Guardians of Traffic” statues that watch over the city on the Hope Memorial Bridge.

For many, the name Indians represents a lifetime of tradition and love for the franchise. Several locals who attended the game Monday shared their thoughts with the Register. Their responses ranged from sadness to resentment.

We understand and sympathize with fans upset and/or angry over the upcoming name change. But, ultimately, we support the team’s right to rename.

Considered by many to be racist and insensitive, the name Indians, and, beforehand, the controversial Chief Wahoo mascot, stirred unrest before each season. Chief Wahoo was dumped a few years ago in favor of the neutral, if bland, block C symbol.

Dolan’s decision to change the name appears to be more about embracing the city than bowing to political pressure.

“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he told reporters in July. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders.”

We agree, Mr. Dolan. Fans of the Cleveland Indians can and should be fans of the Cleveland Guardians.

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Akron Beacon Journal. Oct. 1, 2021.

Editorial: Let’s find a way to protect and improve both Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Peninsula

The tiny village of Peninsula made some news this past week by imploring the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park to preserve a former golf course for unknown possible development.

Being a conservancy, the request was politely declined.

Instead, the group said it completed its purchase of the 207-acre former Brandywine Country Club property at 5555 Akron-Peninsula Road with the intent of selling 192 acres to the National Park Service and using 15 acres for unspecified programming being developed in a master plan. Generous donations made the purchase possible.

To us, this is all good news.

We consider the national park to be one of our region’s top assets and fully support not only protecting its scope but adding additional acreage where it makes sense.

We’re also sympathetic to the plight of Peninsula, a tiny gem with a population of just 536 that swells to thousands on nice days for visiting the park or nearby scenic railroad. About 2.76 million people visited the park in 2020.

Once a popular canal and railroad stop in the 1800s, the village still boasts more than 20 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the hub for many park visitors seeking food, shopping or even a bike rental. The park needs Peninsula as much as its businesses need the park to bring customers to their doors.

Village leaders viewed Brandywine as some of the last developable land within their boundaries, offering potential funding for village services, including a 24/7 police force with four full-time officers and 20 part-timers. They claimed the land sale would be “a worst case financial scenario” and “a death (knell) to the village’s prospects.”

If true, that’s unfortunate and demands a re-evaluation of whether the people of Peninsula and Summit County are best served by its current situation.

Nearly 11 months ago, erosion of Akron-Peninsula Road caused by the Cuyahoga River forced the closure of the busy two-lane road popular with park visitors and residents. The village was unable to afford repairs initially estimated at $810,000 and sought help from the Summit County Engineer’s Office, which secured a grant. Crews will soon begin moving the road about 35 feet with a reopening expected in November.

This is not meant as criticism of Peninsula’s leaders, but one could argue the village’s effectiveness is already compromised if it can’t maintain key roads. We’re not sure how any village could financially survive with so few residents and businesses and large swaths of tax-exempt land. Funding a police department alone is not cheap.

We’d also note the village’s existence and police force help serve everyone in Summit County by making the park area more attractive to visit.

We also don’t believe all potential development in this area should be avoided, presuming there’s a high bar for proper environmental considerations. There’s a similar debate taking place just a few miles south where Akron and Cuyahoga Falls officials are developing a master plan to balance environmental and development interests in the Merriman Valley.

The same planning conversation seems appropriate around Peninsula.

We also wonder if everyone might be better served by dissolving the village and allowing Boston Township to function as the primary local government with help from Summit County, especially the sheriff’s office. It’s happened elsewhere in Ohio in recent years, including Brady Lake in Portage County and twice in Clermont County near Cincinnati. A third village there is considering a November issue to dissolve.

Now, we’re not endorsing such a move. And we understand some in Boston Township still resent the extent of the park’s original property acquisitions while facing similar funding challenges to Peninsula.

We’re simply suggesting that recent events provide a window of opportunity to explore new options, perhaps including lobbying the county, state and federal governments for more support.

We want Peninsula’s businesses and the park to thrive in harmony while protecting a treasured area and river for future generations.

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Youngstown Vindicator. Oct. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Let’s make Nonviolence Week count

It wasn’t very long ago that our Valley’s residents were left reeling from the senseless death of a beautiful little girl gunned down in the middle of the night inside a South Side Youngstown home where she should have been safely asleep.

Later that day, Aug. 18, a tearful Mayor Jamael Tito Brown pleaded with those in his city who perpetuate daily violence.

“Street justice has proven not to be an answer. Put down the guns. Put down the guns,” Brown implored.

Sadly, there have been many, many other dark days in the city for families of dozens of other victims of violent crime.

Youngstown last week recorded its 25th homicide of the year. There were 28 homicides in 2020.

A community forum was held last week inside Taft Elementary School on East Avondale Avenue, where the mayor, police Chief Carl Davis and the public gathered to discuss ways to end the violence.

Inside the school hung disturbing handwritten notes from students about fears and anxieties these children experience due to gun violence impacting their lives.

What have we come to when the problem is so common that our children are assigned or invited to write about it in school?

But today marks the start of Nonviolence Week in Ohio. In Youngstown, it takes on an even deeper importance.

The 11th annual Nonviolence Parade and Rally will begin 3 p.m. today at the intersection of Wood Street and Wick Avenue, proceeding through downtown to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre for a rally. Other events are planned to raise awareness throughout the week.

Nonviolence Week has been celebrated in Youngstown since 2010 when, at the request of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past students, resolutions were approved by local elected bodies. This year, let’s make it count.

We are pleased to have reported recently about an increase in community policing efforts and a more proactive approach to crime.

The police chief said officers are better trained in de-escalation techniques and have focused more heavily on areas that have experienced an uptick in gun violence.

Near Taft Elementary, proactive policing efforts have led to 43 arrests and confiscation of 19 guns in the month of August alone, Davis said.

Malik Mostella, Youngstown police community liaison, said officers now work more closely with schools, also offering more wrap-around services for students and their parents. Also, a new mentoring effort encourages students and their mentors to work together until the students graduate.

Plans also call for coordinating career days for students to help them develop more solid future plans.

In addition, the department has opened a satellite office at Taft, in part so that young people “can see police officers doing their job on a daily basis,” and help counteract the national narrative that largely casts police in a negative light, Mostella continued.

Bravo!

All these efforts are excellent steps needed to help build trust and strong character, while also reacting to students’ fears about violence.

Of course, social efforts are only a part of the effort.

Removal of illegal guns from the streets is critical. Increased police patrols are a key part of this effort, and the enlisted help of other police agencies such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office are steps in the right direction.

As a society, we often are afraid to call for more police patrols, but the fact is that better enforcement of existing traffic laws will help lead to the removal of guns — and thugs — from the streets. Our elected leaders must accept that fact and allow police departments to do what is necessary to seize illegal weapons and slow violent crime.

It’s only logical that neighbors and law-abiding citizens are afraid. Fear of retribution is a big problem that must be solved.

But we believe once neighbors begin to see arrests being made aggressively and justice being served, witnesses with knowledge of crimes may start to have more faith that the system is working. They, then, may be more likely to share tips with police investigators.

Trust in law enforcement will grow with results and by improving relationships.

At the end of the day, we all must be willing to help clean up our own neighborhoods. We can do this best by helping police, even if it is anonymously. Tips may be given anonymously by calling Youngstown Crime Stoppers at 330-746-CLUE (2583).

We must do better, and we can do that together.

Our country was founded on democracy, but democracy cannot survive if people are going to be lawless. We must work together to end these lawless, senseless acts.

In the words of deceased civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

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Toledo Blade. Sept. 30, 2021.

Editorial: Let reason, logic prevail in book debate

Since 1982, the American Library Association and Amnesty International have teamed up to sponsor Banned Books Week during the last week in September.

Banned Books Week showcases books that have been challenged by parents, school boards, and politicians who claim they want to shield young readers from bad ideas and points of view they deem dangerous.

Some authors, like Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, and J.K. Rowling are perennials on the list. It often doesn’t take much for religiously conservative parents to push for some books to be challenged because of the presence of wizards or gay people in a beloved children’s book.

This year the most challenged books explore anti-racist themes that have come under scrutiny because they allegedly mirror the agenda of critical race theory — the latest bogeyman of the right.

Last year, a list of books and resources put together by the diversity committee at Central York High School in York, Pa., to help parents and students understand the historical context of the George Floyd protests was banned by the school board because of pressure from parents concerned about “anti-white indoctrination.”

Books like education activist Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, a children’s book about Rosa Parks, and even a Sesame Street collaboration with CNN on racism generated the ire and suspicion of parents who question whether racism is systemic or pervasive.

Students at Central York High School and many of their parents and allies in the community protested the ban, attracting national attention. Ridicule was heaped upon the school board for failing to vet any of the challenged books or teaching materials in the year since the ban was imposed.

Earlier this week, the school district reversed the ban. The students and parents who opposed the ban had prevailed.

It seems only fitting that the York, Pa., school district’s reversing of the ban coincides perfectly with Banned Books Week.

The victory of reason, logic, and literacy reinforces the best values of a democracy committed to expanding understanding between diverse communities with intertwining histories.

Instead of being a cautionary tale about the dangers of book banning, Central York High School is now a data point about the importance of standing up for the community’s highest educational values — not its lowest.

It speaks to the intellectual integrity of the students that protests at the high school would’ve happened with or without Banned Books Week. The fact that they coincided is what makes democracy great.

END