Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Parental behavior threatens high school sports
The Canton Repository
Which highly successful high school coach will be the next to say, "I'm done. I've had enough of parents."?
Equally as possible: Which coach, no matter the level of his or her successes on and off the field or court, will be forced out by an administration that caves to pressure from overzealous parents who are sure that coach is preventing their little Bobby or Suzie from attaining athletic stardom and a college scholarship?
When two executive directors of high school athletic associations author an article titled, "Parents and Adult Fans: The Biggest Challenge Facing High School Sports Today," you know there's a problem.
Karissa Niehoff, of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and Jerry Snodgrass, of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, collaborated on the article this past week. It can be found at OHSAA.org.
They contend "adult behavior at high school athletic events in Ohio has reached epidemic proportion."
Bad behavior. Abusive behavior.
It's tough to argue their premise, supported by this nugget: In a recent survey of 2,000 athletic directors from across the country, nearly two-thirds said what they like least about their job is "dealing with aggressive parents and adult fans."
Game officials, according to Niehoff and Snodgrass, bear an even heavier burden from overexuberant adults than ADs, with almost 80% quitting after the first two years on the job.
To the parents who wonder (and vocalize) why "the zebra" can't get the call right: Maybe that man or woman is brand new to the sport because your big mouth ran off the last good umpire who grew tired of your act and didn't want to be followed to the parking lot yet again.
In Ohio, a growing shortage of high school officials — profound in wrestling, swimming and track and field, according to the article — threatens the continuation of those competitions as we know them. "No officials means no more games," the article succinctly puts it.
We find it interesting that in two of the three sports mentioned as most affected by lack of officials, there is little subjectivity to interpret. Winners and runners-up are based on time or distance in track and by time in swimming. What's to argue?
Yet too many parents do.
Year-round sports can exacerbate the problem. When the "off-season" AAU coach puts an athlete in a role different than the high school coach, tensions can rise. And, of course, there is the issue of playing time, almost always the No. 1 reason parents take their concerns to the increasingly frustrated athletic directors.
Niehoff and Snodgrass offer six guidelines for parents to consider as they sit in the stands and do their slow burn over what is (or isn't) happening with their sons and daughters. The first, and most blunt: Act your age.
"Purchasing a ticket to a high school athletic event does not give you the right to be rude, disrespectful or verbally abusive," they said to parents. "Cheer loud and be proud, but be responsible and respectful. The future of high school sports in Ohio is dependent on you."
We need every good coach and official to say at season's end: "I'm not done. I can't wait till next year."
The Marietta Times
Trump plan for mortgage companies could be bad
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is right to be concerned about a proposal to privatize two mortgage industry giants that have been under federal control for about a decade. But Brown, D-Ohio, may be missing the big picture.
Before the so-called "subprime mortgage crisis" several years ago, two quasi-private entities with long names shortened to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac performed important roles in mortgage markets. They bought mortgages from private lenders, then sold them to investors. That helped banks and other primary lenders make credit available to homebuyers, by providing both money and by minimizing risk.
It turned out many of the mortgages should never have been made. When the balloon burst, many people lost their homes because they couldn't make payments. Financial institutions suffered, too.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be bailed out by the federal government, at a cost of $187 billion in taxpayers' money. Because of that 2008 action, federal regulators assumed a large measure of control over the two entities.
Now, President Donald Trump's administration wants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to return to private-sector control.
If that happens, the two mortgage giants would continue to benefit from guarantees that if they get in trouble in the future, Uncle Sam would bail them out.
In effect, they would have the enormous advantage of everyone dealing with them knowing that if they went under, the government would cover their liabilities. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fall into the "too big to fail" category. Small businesses do not have that luxury.
Critics of the Trump plan worry it could be setting the housing market up for another big collapse. They are right.
If Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are privatized, both companies should be required to build up their own capital to guard against mistakes — and any hint of a return to the bad old days of mortgages for all would have to mean withdrawal of Washington's bailout guarantee.
The government should not be involved in private-sector affairs, of course. But letting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac privatize while retaining Washington's safety net is reckless.
Brown, who is the senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, worries the plan "will make mortgages more expensive and harder to get."
Obviously, any privatization plan should guard against that. But it also should not include federal incentives for lenders to make mortgages too easy to get. That, after all, caused the subprime mortgage crisis.
Don't believe ads opposing FirstEnergy bailout referendum
Akron Beacon Journal
How much money is at stake in Ohio lawmakers' bailout of Akron-based FirstEnergy Solution's nuclear power plants?
Enough to motivate backers of House Bill 6 to produce slick TV commercials and mailers that wildly twist the truth in an effort to stop a referendum seeking to block the bailout. It's even been enough to prompt a physical altercation between a woman and a man asking people to sign petitions whom she was monitoring.
We say enough already, FirstEnergy Solutions.
Passed this summer, HB 6 implements a special 85 cent monthly charge on Ohioans' residential electric bills to bail out FirstEnergy Solutions' two nuclear power plants producing renewable power, plus a couple of unrelated coal plants. It also will boost a few specific solar-energy projects but otherwise foolishly decimate clean-energy development in the state.
If the law's opponents succeed in getting the 265,774 valid petition signatures they need by Oct. 21 to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot, we can expect a hard-fought campaign with a barrage of ads like those we saw while the General Assembly was debating the bill.
In this case, though, those who want to see the bailout bill survive aren't even waiting for an election campaign; they're spending money to keep an election from happening. A new group called Ohioans for Energy Security is running two horribly false TV ads and sending misleading mailers urging people not to sign the referendum petition.
The ads are masterpieces of misdirection, casting the referendum effort as an attempt by the Chinese government to take over Ohioans' electric power. The newest piece now airing falsely claims Chinese interests are buying power plants in Ohio.
The first TV spot featured random scenes of Chinese officials and ceremonies, and you-should-be-scared music as from a suspense-film trailer completed the effect. It's silly enough to be a parody of political ads, but unfortunately it reflects the state of public debate on this issue.
"They took our manufacturing jobs. They shuttered our factories," the classic ominous campaign-ad voice intones. "Now, they're coming for our energy jobs."
Here are some facts:
--- The effort to overturn the bailout bill is funded largely by the natural gas industry, which will benefit if the nuclear plants close and, yes, some natural gas companies have financing from the Chinese national bank. And guess what? So does FirstEnergy Solutions' soon-to-be former parent company. It's hard to say which is worse, the scaremongering or the hypocrisy.
--- Opposition to HB 6 isn't limited to the gas interests. Those who want to see Ohio develop a thriving clean-energy economy oppose its gutting of most clean-energy incentives. And plenty of people object in principle to making ratepayers bail out power plants.
--- Keeping the nuclear plants open, i.e., rejecting a referendum and letting HB 6 stand, would save some Ohio jobs, mainly the 1,400 or so people who work at the Perrysburg and Davis-Besse plants. But this argument ignores the uncounted jobs and investment that clean energy could bring to Ohio, if only the General Assembly would stop undermining the nascent industry at every turn.
--- Passage of HB 6 already is affecting other electricity options for Ohioans. Clean Energy Future, an interest that has natural gas plants in northwest Ohio and had invested $1 million toward developing another $1.1 billion facility in Lordstown, is scrapping those plans. Another company, LS Power, said previously that it would cancel a $500 million expansion of its plant in Luckey, Ohio.
HB 6 bails out two nuclear power plants by giving its owners nearly $1 billion, and that will save those 1,400 jobs and preserve renewable power sources for now. The bill also does a lot to damage Ohio's future, and Ohioans have good reason to second-guess the legislature's actions.
It's an issue worthy of more public debate, presuming it can be based on arguments resembling facts.
For now, we call on FirstEnergy Solutions to hold its supporters to a much higher standard.
Accountability must be assured for doctors who abuse patients
The Columbus Dispatch
Doctors are supposed to protect patients; university officials are supposed to look out for the well-being of students. People in authority aren't supposed to protect each other at the expense of the public.
Those truths endure, even though decades have passed since Dr. Richard Strauss used his position as a physician at Ohio State University to sexually abuse what might be hundreds of student athletes. We applaud Gov. Mike DeWine's determination that doctors or others who had reason to suspect that Strauss was abusing patients — but did nothing about it — should be held accountable.
The inclination to shield professional colleagues from criticism or shame is understandable on a human level but still wrong, especially when the stakes are as high as they are for medical practitioners. Perhaps it is those very stakes that makes some difficult and high-stress professions — doctors and police officers come to mind — especially prone to closing ranks against outside critics.
It's as plausible a reason as any for why a 1996 investigation by the State Medical Board of Ohio resulted in no finding or action against Strauss even though a separate, concurrent investigation by Ohio State eventually found that Strauss had been "performing inappropriate genital exams on male students for years."
Regarding cases falling into oblivion, a 15-member panel DeWine appointed to review the medical board's probe was told by some investigators, that "that sometimes happens."
We hope that further actions discussed by the medical board will make such negligence less common in the future or at least make it easier to uncover. Ideas include reviewing closed cases regularly to double-check whether closure was appropriate and working more closely with law enforcement to ensure that criminal charges are filed when warranted.
Ohio State during Strauss' two decades at the university did little better; despite the fact that multiple students complained to multiple doctors about Strauss' abuse as early as 1979, no one took action to keep him away from students until he went too far with one in 1996.
After the outraged student left Strauss' office in apparent fury, yelling at other students to get out of there, Strauss was placed on administrative leave. He left two years later, after failing in his fight to be reinstated at the Student Health Center. But he was allowed to keep his faculty appointment until he left and was even given emeritus status, entitling him to perks and benefits.
He never received an unsatisfactory performance evaluation.
A comment by one ex-OSU official, defending his role in the matter, is telling. As director of Student Health Services in the mid-1990s, Dr. Ted Grace knew of two fondling complaints against Strauss by early 1995 but didn't remove him from seeing students until a year later.
Grace has refused to talk to The Dispatch but told his current hometown newspaper, The Southern Illinoisan, "I felt like I had absolutely done what was right. Taking out a tenured faculty member, it wasn't easy."
Neither was being violated by a university doctor.
A latter-day investigation, commissioned by Ohio State and performed between June 2018 and this past spring, concluded that Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students while his colleagues let him be.
The thoroughness and openness of OSU's recent investigation has been welcome, but the university has yet to fully do right by the students it acknowledges were wronged.
At least seven lawsuits against OSU involving as many as 300 plaintiffs have been consolidated in federal court. Ohio State contends the suits should be dismissed because the statute of limitations for the complaints has expired. It is participating in court-ordered mediation with the former students, but an agreement — and compensation — could be a very long time coming.
The statute-of-limitations claim is frustrating. The Ohio State of today might be far more responsive than the Ohio State of the Strauss era, but it still seems wrong for the institution to have it both ways: to evade legal liability via the statute of limitations when it failed to act on claims that were brought decades ago, almost as soon as Strauss was hired.
The remedy to this is for lawmakers to heed the governor's call to reform Ohio's statutes of limitations for sex crimes. By their nature, sexual assaults can remain hidden for decades. Victims, especially children, can be too frightened or traumatized to come forward.
Strauss victims are backing a measure, House Bill 249, which would create a specific legal exception allowing them to sue Ohio State. The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Brett Hillyer of Uhrichsville, has said he would consider expanding the bill to address statutes of limitations more broadly. That would be a better solution than singling out one group of victims.
The medical board's and Ohio State's efforts to redress wrongs from the past are part of the societywide response to the #MeToo movement. Institutions are struggling to prevent sexual misconduct and to deal effectively with it when it happens.
Ohio State, under pressure from the U.S. Department of Education for earlier failures under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, invested heavily in 2015 in a new Sexual Civility and Empowerment Center, aiming to be a national leader in combating sexual misconduct on campus. Somehow, what followed were accusations of victim-blaming by the staff and failure in at least 57 potential felony cases to report them to police.
Ohio State started over last fall with a new Office of Institutional Equity whose director reports directly to Provost and Executive Vice President Bruce McPheron.
It's up to people who are tired of the free passes for powerful sexual abusers and their enablers to keep the pressure on for change and redress. It's not too late for those who ignored Strauss' abuse to be held to account. And it's none too soon for Ohio State to do more than apologize.