Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Toledo Blade. March 30, 2024.

Editorial: Pension power corrupts

The wheels of justice are turning so slowly it’s unlikely ousted State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio board member Wade Steen will ever be restored to his position as the governor’s appointed investment expert.

It’s been nearly a year since Gov. Mike DeWine expelled Mr. Steen from his appointed position citing absence from meetings and excessive zeal for a risky investment. Mr. Steen’s appointment expires in September and this case will almost certainly be appealed again, no matter how the 10th District Court of Appeals rules (“Ex-member asks court for override of removal,” Wednesday).

A magistrate for the court has ruled that the governor overstepped his legal authority. A three-judge panel from that court heard arguments Tuesday.

Whatever the Columbus-based court decides it’s important the case goes to the Ohio Supreme Court to establish a clear precedent on the extent of the governor’s power over his appointees to the state’s public pension boards.

Ohio law stipulates a 4-year term of office for the pension board investment expert appointed by the governor. The law has a clear process for removing a pension board member for cause, which begins in Common Pleas Court.

Mr. DeWine acted outside this process and the court must uphold the sanctity of the statutes that govern pension board appointments.

Mr. Steen’s Toledo attorney told the judges, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unsaid but more important is the protection of the fiduciary responsibility as the foremost duty of all pension board members.

The best interests of STRS beneficiaries cannot come first if the governor can replace his appointed board member at will. Mr. Steen’s obligation is to the beneficiaries of the $91-billion fund. Governor DeWine’s action outside the legal process for removal of a board member is a serious threat to the sanctity of the fiduciary duty.

Mr. Steen was the first to criticize STRS for poor investment returns, a high-fee portfolio, and lavish bonuses to investment staff despite a freeze on cost of living adjustments for retirees.

Independent pension expert Richard Ennis, writing in The Blade last March, concluded STRS had underperformed the returns a passive index fund could have provided by 1.62 percent a year for 13 years. Mr. Ennis reported a $12.5 billion shortfall caused by the poor return on investment.

Mr. Steen was right to ask tough questions and seek investment options. But when elections on the STRS board provided a majority to act upon Mr. Steen’s reform agenda, the governor swept him off the board.

Oversight of Ohio’s pensions has been shameful. The state was six years late on the legal deadline for fiduciary audits of the pensions, including STRS.

The attorney general who provided legal advice to the Ohio Retirement Study Council when they ignored their most significant duty was Mr. DeWine.

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, and STRS all seek legislative approval of increased contributions from taxpayers.

Operating without regard for the laws governing these pensions proves that Ohio cannot be trusted with more money. It is breaking the covenant with beneficiaries from the top on down.


Youngstown Vindicator. March 28, 2024.

Editorial: Search for opioid abuse solutions needs to continue

Ohio is working at every angle to attack the substance abuse epidemic that continues to grip our region. A recent change could make a big difference in the way we think about and therefore react to drug overdoses.

For many of us, the overdose data with which we are familiar involves fatalities. That doesn’t give us the whole picture. Now, a change approved by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review will require emergency departments to report nonfatal drug overdoses to the Ohio Department of Health.

As Gov. Mike DeWine put it, this is a way to do better to “address the overdose crisis, to support those in recovery, and to encourage wellness to prevent addiction in the first place.”

More accurate information, including a better picture of the populations or geographic areas disproportionately affected by nonfatal overdoses, will help ODH develop strategies and allocation of resources that truly target the problem.

“The purpose of this new rule is to improve the coordination of care for individuals who have previously experienced a drug overdose,” RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick said. “Studies show an elevated risk of death from overdose in individuals who had recently reported a nonfatal overdose. Adding this new reporting feature will provide health-care professionals with additional tools available in real time.”

It’s another important step in Ohio’s fight. We’re already making headway with the expansion of accessibility to naloxone. In the Buckeye State, the number of unintentional drug overdose fatalities has decreased by 5% since 2022. Nationwide, that figure has ticked up 1%.

These are important efforts. Our successes must be applauded, but the search for more such ideas must not stop.


Sandusky Register. March 26, 2024.

Editorial: Put up, or don’t claim it

Now that he’s won the primary, we think maybe it’s time for state Rep. D.J. Swearingen to answer the tough questions he’s avoided for the last three months.

Unlike state Rep. Jon Cross, R-Hancock County, and three other conservative lawmakers who lost to Republican opponents, Swearingen, R-Huron, handily defeated his challenger, former state Rep. Steve Kraus.

Kraus, who on social media has a defined anti-LGBTQ+ presence and seemed to be endorsing the questionable views of a disbarred attorney pedaling deep state conspiracies and other controversial changes, lost to Swearingen by almost 2-1 in last week’s election.

Kraus might take his right-wing views to the extreme, but he owns what he says, and he’s unafraid to say it. Swearingen is a horse of a different color.

In 2022 and 2023, Swearingen claimed children were being indoctrinated by teachers to do ... God knows what. It was just another talking point when he said he and his colleagues could not simply look away and do nothing about all these bad teachers making children do all those bad things.

They pushed for their bad teacher legislation, which was crafted with the help of focus groups to motivate conservative voters and to demonize all others, including teachers, unions and working people. There is no real legislative purpose to it.

Seriously, if a person can make such an outlandish and hateful allegation against an entire profession, made up of people who dedicate their careers to helping children, that person ought to be able to back up that claim.

There were just so many complaints, Swearingen said, that he and the other gerrymandered representatives just had to develop legislation to address it.

Except when reporters asked Swearingen and other lawmakers supporting legislative proposals that were rightly called “Don’t Say Gay” and “Bathroom rules for transgendered people,” for the names of the school districts where this was happening there was a long silence.

When reporters asked what objectionable worldviews children were being indoctrinated to follow and why local school boards were ineffective in handling these complaints, there was more silence.

Silence should not be an option for any candidate. We’re not sure why Swearingen won his primary and why the other Republicans who lost didn’t win. It could be Kraus’ felony record, fair or unfair, was the culprit, not Swearingen’s charm that won over voters.

And in the fall, he will have his gerrymandered majority district to help him beat his challenger, Alicia Wolph Roshong, D-Huron. Republicans in Columbus flex their muscles like they’re the bully on the beach, but the truth is without that unfair advantage there would be no super-majority in the statehouse.

Swearingen owes it to constituents to answer those questions and others. If children are being indoctrinated by teachers at public schools, they deserve to know, which teachers, which schools and what is being taught to them. It is an egregious complaint; if it’s made-up one, even more so.

Reporters should continue asking those questions and demand answers for every culture war issue gerrymandered politicians use to demonize others. If they cannot put up, indeed, they should shut up and start talking about real issues that impact real people — like protecting public funding for our public schools.