Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Toledo Blade. November 19, 2022.

Editorial: Unmuzzle pension boards

The State Teachers Retirement System Board of Trustees had a telling debate over their governing policies at the Nov. 17th meeting. STRS has what they call a “one-voice policy,” that would be more fittingly labeled a membership muzzle plan.

STRS was attempting to get buy-in to a no-dissent policy from newly elected members not to take policy disagreements beyond board discussions. Once a vote is taken, STRS wants all members to publicly support whatever policy decision is made. The state legislature’s pension oversight body, the Ohio Retirement Study Council, works to indoctrinate pension board members with the same one-voice counsel in a mandatory orientation program required before a trustee can join the board.

It would be unthinkable that strongly opposed lawmakers or justices of a multijurist court could be pressured to speak with one voice in support of a decision they opposed. Dissenting opinions in judicial decisions or legislative debates often prompts change in the public’s point of view. A fiduciary that would stifle personal conviction on a policy decision to comply with a governing principal is out of step with a legal and moral obligation inherent in that status. The state’s orientation program coaching one voice as a best practice is an outrage given the abysmal performance of Ohio’s pension system.

At STRS, the dissent centers on $10 million bonuses paid to in-house investment staff, despite losses of over $5 billion. The bonuses were paid while the Auditor of State’s Special Investigation Unit probed an allegation from dissident board members that STRS has literally under-reported investment expenses to qualify for bonuses.

Ohio’s pension policy pushes one voice to maintain trust in the largest public retirement plan that foregoes Social Security and puts total reliance on the state system. But Ohio’s performance has earned nothing but distrust, meaning the pension board dissidents are not troublemakers, they’re truth tellers.

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Youngstown Vindicator. November 20, 2022.

Editorial: Proposed education bill could be bad for Ohio students

As is too often the case these days, the folks in Columbus are considering tackling a problem by creating another level of bureaucracy and pulling control away from those the people intended to have it.

This time around, Senate Bill 178, introduced by state Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, would “restructure” the State Department of Education, according to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal. In this case, restructuring means creating a new administrative division in the governor’s office and taking responsibilities away from the elected state Board of Education.

Reineke cited shortfalls on fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores, and a “massive talent gap,” when it comes to asking Ohio graduates to do the jobs available in our state.

“This data, coupled with our staggering remediation rate, demonstrates a cycle of disappointment in our education system, and, most importantly, shows we are failing our children,” Reineke told the Capital Journal.

We are, indeed. Adding to government bloat and clawing a little more control into the hands of King Bureaucracy is not going to fix that. In fact, it is lawmakers’ intentional failure — for decades — to establish a fair and constitutional school funding formula that has laid the groundwork for the struggles Ohio’s public schools now face. Why would we tighten the grip Columbus has on our schools, to try to do better for our kids?

There will be “several hearings” on the bill, according to Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee chair state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware. Surely that will give lawmakers enough time to figure out the right plan is for them to do what they were elected to do — give Ohio schools what they need and get out of their way.

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Sandusky Register. November 19, 2022.

Editorial: Don’t fear the mink

Early reports that civilization might be upended and Ohio could become a different version of a 1970s movie franchise, “Planet of the Minks,” turns out, are greatly exaggerated.

But up to 40,000 minks are reported to have escaped from a mink at a farm in Van Wert County (near the Indiana border) on Tuesday. There were some conflicting reports from reliable media companies, the Associated Press and CNN. One estimated the number of small mammals escaping could be as few as 10,000, and a CNN reporter told viewers that some were “corralled by employees.”

But far from the simian domination of the planet and the burial of the Statute of Liberty depicted in the original “Planet of the Apes,” these minks aren’t likely to take over civilization. They’re domesticated, according to Kevin Newsome, a law enforcement operations manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

It means they’re tamer compared to their wildlife counterparts. Other information — likely misinformation — was circulating almost immediately after the great escape on social media. “They are very aggressive,” according to one post. “They are gonna be on the hunt for food. Your dogs, chickens other farm animals, even humans are not safe from them.”

Newsome downplayed some of that.

“It’s not like these mink are accustomed to hunting. They are used to having food provided to them,” Newsome told the Register. “But they are carnivores. If someone has a chicken farm nearby, it might be a problem. But we are dealing with domestic animals that have never had to provide food for themselves. I really don’t think this is going to be a big issue.”

Newsome said some of what’s being said is a massive exaggeration.

“The chances of them getting anywhere near Sandusky is zero,” Newsome said. “I don’t see how they would make it that far. Especially this weekend, with the cold temperatures, people shouldn’t worry about them being a threat to public safety.”

Authorities do urge people to not approach mink and, instead, contact the state wildlife office upon encountering one. People can call the department at 800-945-3543 to report a problem.

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