Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cincinnati Enquirer. November 6, 2022.

Editorial: Ryan’s moderate approach might not be enough to stave off red wave

One of the most watched Senate races in the country on Tuesday will be Ohio’s, featuring Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance. The two men are vying to replace longtime Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who announced his retirement last year.

Ryan says the voters of Ohio need “an a-- kicker” like him not “an a-- kisser” like Vance to represent them. But Vance might very well ride Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s coattails − and a national red wave − all the way to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Why J.D. Vance could win

It’s a Republican state and in an election with a Republican − Gov. Mike DeWine − at the top of the ticket likely winning by 20 points or more, there just aren’t enough split ticket voters to elect a Democrat to the Senate this year.

Vance has grown as a candidate. Newcomers to politics often struggle in high-profile races. Vance is no different. In the early part of the campaign, he didn’t look comfortable playing the role of candidate and struggled to find his own voice. During the debates and a recent town hall, it was clear that Vance has learned a little something about politics. He’s performed much better as a candidate in recent weeks, connecting with voters and showing a human side in campaign ads.

Trump’s endorsement propelled Vance to victory in the Republican primary, and will likely help him with voters in a state where the former president is still popular in some counties. Vance also did an effective job during the campaign of pointing out the massive job losses in Ryan’s district during his two-plus decades in Washington.

Ryan worked hard to convince voters that he would be a moderate in Congress. Ryan’s reliably Democratic voting record in the House − and his shift leftward on issues over the years − opened up a line of attack that the Vance campaign exploited effectively down the stretch. If Vance wins, it’s because voters don’t think Ryan will vote more like Chuck Schumer than Joe Manchin.

Why Tim Ryan could win

Despite our polarizing political climate, voters are found in the middle. If Ryan wins, it’ll send the message to Democrats across the country that avoiding extreme positions is the key to success. Ryan is running as a moderate and a commonsense conservative − sometimes even Trump sounding − Democrat. A victory for Ryan in Ohio could lead to some soul-searching in the Democratic leadership, as it looks to retool ahead of a very difficult 2024 election cycle when 24 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for grabs.

Ryan’s ads were darned good. The most memorable television ads of the cycle came from his campaign. Throwing footballs at the television. Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. Sitting on the couch with his wife talking about their political disagreements. Do ads matter? Politicians certainly seem to think so. If Ohio goes for Ryan, many experts will point to his ads as a key factor in the race.

Ryan worked hard to try to separate himself from Joe Biden and some of his policies, even going so far as to say the president shouldn’t seek reelection in 2024. He also rejected claims that he would be a rubber stamp for Chuck Schumer in the Senate. Ryan emphasized his tough-on-China stance early in the campaign and repeatedly portrayed Vance as a Silicon Valley-backed opportunist and extremist who didn’t really know Ohioans.

Quality candidates matter. Ryan’s an experienced politician who knows how to run a campaign and how to connect with voters. He’s a likeable candidate who worked hard on the campaign trail despite the very difficult electoral environment. Unlike Vance, Ryan hit the ground running and that work may well pay off on election day.

___

Akron Beacon Journal. November 6, 2022.

Editorial: Ohio voters are gatekeepers as election deniers seek power, important issues face them

With Election Day on Tuesday, we would like to share some final thoughts on what’s at stake and why you should vote.

Democracy is on the line

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House’s Jan. 6 committee, sees the country, and Republicans especially, going in a dangerous direction because they are beholden to a man “who was willing to attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.”

At an event Tuesday in Cleveland, Cheney told “PBS Newshour” anchor Judy Woodruff that the violence at the Capitol was a direct result of Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

The republic will unravel, she said, if we give power to people who “will only honor an election if they like the outcome.”

We agree with Cheney’s assertion that the constant spread of lies and conspiracy theories creates more doubt in voters’ minds, especially when politicians are too chicken to confront liars like Trump.

Sometimes, we all have to put aside our policy differences, as Cheney suggested, to pick the best candidate. Democracy is at stake.

Woodruff noted that Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance has said the 2020 election was not free and fair. This false statement is disturbing enough to Cheney, a Republican, that she acknowledged that if she were an Ohio resident, she would not vote for Vance and would instead vote for Democrat Tim Ryan.

In all races this Tuesday, we hope Ohio voters will do the right thing and cast ballots for candidates who stand up for democracy and the Constitution.

Confounded in Akron

First, there was the push that led to Issue 10 going before voters. Then, Akron City Council passed Mayor Dan Horrigan’s plan for police oversight by a civilian board.

And in a very short period, threats, accusations, flyers and robocalls also came along to add to the pre-election clamor.

We certainly understand why people are eager for accountability and transparency at the Akron Police Department. Video of the June 27 police shooting of Jayland Walker was shocking.

We have been impressed with Issue 10 supporters who detail why they believe the charter amendment is needed and how it would work. We also can applaud some of the positive measures in the mayor’s plan.

But recent actions by city leaders seem to undermine the city’s position.

Last month, Police Chief Steve Mylett placed the eight officers involved in the Walker shooting back on desk duty. Then, At-Large Councilman Jeff Fusco introduced a last-minute anti-Issue 10 resolution.

These developments might convince undecided voters that Issue 10 is indeed the best way to give a voice to a community that feels unheard. Remember, Issue 10 reached the ballot because 7,000 people signed petitions and are eager for change in police-community relations.

On the other side, the clear threat from an Issue 10 supporter to Fusco — “you can see me in a dark alley” — in a public meeting is beyond troubling. Violence or threats of violence only damage efforts to bring about meaningful change.

We’ll leave it to Akron voters to decide whether Issue 10 is the answer to decades of calls for police reform. Should the issue pass, City Council should withdraw the mayor’s plan. If it fails, the city still should proceed with a good-faith effort to improve civilian oversight of police.

Faith in election systems

Residents who have already voted or those who prefer to wait until Election Day must keep the faith.

There are many steps that keep elections secure, says the office of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, from testing, examining and certifying all voting equipment, to making sure bipartisan (Republican and Democratic) teams handle ballots and voting equipment and work together at precinct polling locations.

Voter fraud remains exceedingly rare in a state that cast 5.9 million votes in the 2020 election.

However, one poll released in September shows a fifth of likely Ohio voters are concerned about “threats to democracy,” although Republicans and Democrats differ on what those threats are. Republicans worry about illegal voting and Dems fear extremism among Trump fanatics.

We hope such concerns and a general distaste for politics don’t discourage voters.

Voters, don’t give up. Make sure you understand the issues and know what really matters to the candidates running for office. Vote your conscience and help save democracy.

___

Toledo Blade. October 31, 2022.

Editorial: Fix state pensions

The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio recently revised the fiscal year financial performance to a loss of $5.3 billion. That news comes after the controversial payment of nearly $10 million in performance bonuses to STRS investment staff. That bonus bonanza was paid based on benchmarks an expert in pension finance calls rigged.

Richard Ennis, co-founder of Ennis Knupp, the firm Ohio turned to for an explanation of how the Bureau of Workers Compensation’s ‘Coingate’ scandal happened and for a process to keep it from happening again, says public pension investments are managed to produce the biggest payday for internal staff and external consultants. It’s no consolation that Ohio is not alone in pension malfeasance.

Creation of pension specific benchmarks provides extra, unearned compensation to investment staff and consultants but costs beneficiaries through lower returns. Mr. Ennis says public pensions routinely outperform their self-created standards but consistently fail to match the returns of a broad-based index fund. Mr. Ennis says this disparity between high pay and low performance would be obvious if pensions used an index as the measure of performance.

That was the recommendation in the 2006 fiduciary audit of STRS, which said the Russell 2000 or 3000 index fund, plus 5%, should be the bar to clear for performance bonuses by investment staff at the teachers’ pension. All of Ohio’s public pensions look bad compared to the results available in an index fund for a fraction of the cost they pay. The funds claim their portfolio is widely diversified and therefore the best safeguard for pension capital. Mr. Ennis says the index funds provide both diversity and transparency.

Low fees don’t appeal to the politicians with legal authority over state pensions. Index funds don’t make political contributions, but highly compensated outside fund managers make large campaign contributions to advocacy groups who pass it to the candidates who will protect the status quo. A direct contribution from fund manager to candidate is illegal, but laundered through an advocacy group, it’s a rich source of campaign cash.

Politicians, staff, consultants and outside fund managers have pushed beneficiaries aside as the top priority for Ohio’s public pensions. As a direct result, both STRS and the Ohio Police & Fire Retirement Fund are seeking more support from state taxpayers through legislation in a lame-duck session when the General Assembly returns after the election.

Rather than hit taxpayers with bigger bills that will be paid at the local level so state lawmakers can conceal the culprits, Ohio lawmakers should order a return to pension investments that are publicly traded and fully transparent.

Ohio’s experience with alternative pension investments has been lucrative for staff and increased campaign contributions for politicians, but beneficiaries and taxpayers have been shortchanged.

It’s past time for Columbus to do its job and fix a broken, untrusted system of pension finance with low-cost indexed investments. Ohio is the largest of the seven states that do not include Social Security payments in their public pension program. Ohio has an unmet moral obligation to manage the pensions for beneficiaries and taxpayers.

That needs to change, now.

___

Cleveland Plain Dealer. November 4, 2022.

Editorial: End the harmful rhetoric making rational political debate nearly impossible: editorial

The tirade of intemperate political invective tied to 2022 midterms that’s been hitting our email inboxes, flashing across our TV screens and filling our mailboxes isn’t just negative campaigning gone viral.

It’s more dangerous than that -- a worrying symptom of a political system pulling itself apart into warring camps where compromise, rational debate and civility are seen as weak. Instead, a zero-sum game of total domination becomes the goal, pushing both political parties to extremes.

Already we see suggested in the hammer attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul the possibility that the angry rhetoric of political parties and candidates has lowered the bar of violence. According to The Los Angeles Times, the accused attacker later told San Francisco police he sought to take Nancy Pelosi hostage and break her kneecaps if she “lied.”

All politicians -- even those who might have stayed silent about the unprovoked assault -- surely felt the ripple of danger to themselves. Over time, all politics can become a wave of cause and response, where one party emulates the other.

By making political attacks personal (remember “Lock her up!”); by spending in this election cycle tens of millions of dollars to demonize Pelosi (“fire Nancy Pelosi and take our country back”; show “the strength to fight Biden, Pelosi and the woke mob”), the GOP was emulating what they’d earlier decried: The personal vilification by Democrats of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (and other justices) over the leaked draft overturning Roe v. Wade. Anger over that had prompted Kavanaugh’s accused would-be assailant to travel from California to the tree-lined Maryland street where Kavanaugh lived, diverting from his planned assault only when he saw federal marshals guarding the home and texted his sister, who urged him to give himself up.

How do we temper the invective and break this cycle of toxic vilification of the other side?

One way might be to follow the example of Abraham Lincoln, whose Second Inaugural Address came as the nation’s horrifically costly Civil War was drawing to a close. His address on March 4, 1865, can be seen on one level as a defiant restating of the war’s just moral cause -- to end slavery -- and the need to persevere until that end was achieved.

But yet, there were no taunts, no epithets, no denigrations of the other side.

A National Park Service summary of the occasion notes the remarkably inclusive, conciliatory language Lincoln chose to use in his 703-word speech.

“Unlike previous second inaugural addresses, Lincoln’s words are directed away from himself. Instead of words like ‘me’ or ‘I’, he uses more inclusive words like ‘all’ or ‘both’ to draw attention to his broader intent,” observes the unsigned article, posted on the National Park Service website.

“Another unique component of this inaugural speech,” the article adds, “is its use of Biblical verses and theological language. Lincoln provides quotes from the Bible four times, mentions God 14 times, and summons prayer three times.”

In other words, Lincoln sought through conciliatory words and Biblical references familiar to virtually all Americans of the time to find a common language to heal, rather than further inflame and divide.

Lincoln concluded with those famous words:

“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan (tilde) to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Did Lincoln’s impassioned words in themselves bind those wounds, abate the resentments and cool the animosities that four years of war had wrought? Obviously, not in themselves. Forty-two days later, Lincoln was dead, felled by an assassin’s bullet at Ford’s Theatre.

But Lincoln’s instincts were right. Words matter. A divided nation is a weakened nation -- and must heal itself to regain its strength and vigor. That’s no less true of the sharply divided America today than it was after a terrible Civil War.

So let us all bind ourselves together to work to end the toxic political rancor that’s dividing us by ever greater degrees. Let us, from Main Street to the U.S. Capitol, look for common ground; eschew divisive, angry, accusatory words; listen rather than attack; and look to the future to try to make our politics less personal, and more conciliatory.

END