Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Toledo Blade. August 6, 2022.

Editorial: Ohio Ethics Commission - Fix it or eliminate it

Ohio’s financial disclosure law doesn’t work and must be fixed.

That the Ohio Ethics Commission failed to see a violation in a widely reported example of avoiding reporting requirement is telling.

Ohio’s top utility regulator collected $22 million dollars in consulting fees from FirstEnergy. The deferred prosecution agreement between FirstEnergy and the Justice Department stipulates that $4.3 million paid to former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman, Sam Randazzo was a bribe. Of course, FirstEnergy has motivation to cast blame elsewhere.

Mr. Randazzo has been charged with no crime and denies any wrongdoing. Prosecutors must either charge Mr. Randozzo or exonerate him. The limbo he’s in isn’t fair to citizens or Mr. Randozzo.

The facts behind FirstEnergy’s $230 million fine for $60 million in bribes to pass a billion dollar bailout of Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants are well known.

What has gone unnoticed is the financial disclosure statements filed with the Ohio Ethics Commission by Mr. Randazzo between 2007 and 2020. Remarkably, the entire time FirstEnergy was paying Mr. Randazzo, he was filing financial disclosure statements as a member of the PUCO Nominating Council or as PUCO Chairman.

Of course, those documents showed no financial connection between a regulator and regulated company. Mr. Randazzo created one-man consulting companies shown as the source of outside income. The exact amount of revenue and specific source of the funds was not revealed.

Ohio law requires the exact amount from the specific source of payment when there is a connection between government duty and outside employment.

It’s a failure of the Ethics Commission to see this problem as a failure to report and go after it.

When it comes to the Ohio financial disclosure law, transparency is the relevant issue. Once citizens became aware of the business relationship between FirstEnergy and PUCO Chairman Randazzo, he was finished as a regulator.

This despite knowledge by Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and their senior staff of the past connection between Mr. Randazzo and FirstEnergy.

It’s public awareness of potential conflicts that protects Ohio taxpayers. That’s why it is high time for a change in Ohio law requiring financial disclosure by public officials of the exact amount and specific source of all outside income.

It’s an embarrassment to the very concept of state ethics laws that a regulator could earn millions from a firm he regulated while filing Ohio financial disclosure statements.

It would be better to abolish the Ohio Ethics Commission than to allow this massive failure of process to go unfixed.

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Youngstown Vindicator. August 7, 2022.

Editorial: As kids head back, safety is paramount

As the new school year quickly approaches, it’s sad that many of us with children or grandchildren in local school buildings will suffer fear, anxiety and concern over their safety and security.

That’s why we are pleased to see the state of Ohio taking steps to make our local school buildings safer for all who enter.

Controversial legislation, House Bill 99, that recently passed into law now could allow teachers and administrators to carry firearms into school buildings.

We understand this is an issue that many Ohioans never will agree upon. But whether or not we agree, we all know that the act of arming teachers who are willing to be trained and to carry weapons inside our school buildings is only one part of an effort to keep our students and teachers safe.

Gov. Mike DeWine, who recently signed that bill into law, stressed on Tuesday that is only a part of the issue. During his presentation in Columbus when he outlined a firearms training program, DeWine also outlined more funding for Ohio schools, including many locally, in order to improve security measures.

In fact, nearly $47 million in grants will be awarded to more than 1,100 schools in the state to assist with safety and security needs.

These funds may be used to cover expenses associated with physical security enhancements, such as cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems and exterior lighting.

Good.

In Mahoning County, Youngstown City Schools received the largest security allocation, $550,000. Some of the others receiving funding included Boardman Local School District, $279,310; Jackson-Milton Local School District, $93,930; Lowellville Local School District, $100,000; and Poland Local School District, $200,000. These are just a few.

We have consistently been adamant that security in our school buildings must be paramount.

Local schools must take full advantage of this significant funding being made available to ensure that our buildings are appropriately fortified. Further, everyone must understand the risks that come with not fully utilizing the equipment or fortifications provided with these funds.

If metal detectors or weapon scanners are purchased, they must be used all the time to scan all who enter. If doors are better equipped for security measures, then they must be closed and locked as necessary. All exits also always should be alarmed. That way if the door is opened, it is known — immediately.

Surveillance cameras, especially at all exterior doorways, are critical.

Staffing police officers or security officers in the buildings also is a critical part of this.

Yes, it’s sad that we need to take such measures to keep our school buildings safe. But that is our reality today. Frankly, if we are able to scan thousands of concert goers at venue gates or tens of thousands of fans lined up to enter Major League Baseball games, then certainly we can scan hundreds of kids each day in order to keep everyone inside safe.

We’ve said it before: we must not impose limits when it comes to keeping our children safe.

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Sandusky Register. August 3, 2022.

Editorial: Who does Swearingen represent?

We get it that state Rep. D.J. Swearingen doesn’t like to be criticized here on this page, but criticism does come with the job. We disagree with his contention that criticism represents bias, the reason he gave for opting out of a debate this fall with his opponent in the 89th House District race.

We’re quite sure any elected official who continues to spread the big lie about the 2020 presidential election and refuses to repudiate the violent, racist mob that swarmed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to overthrow our democracy, would be criticized regardless of party, gender, age or other affiliations.

We’re quite sure that any politician anywhere would be criticized if they made statements about teachers indoctrinating students, the way Swearingen did recently, without substantiating those hyperbolic claims. We know teachers to be dedicated public servants whose first concern is the welfare of children. We don’t know any teachers — and have found no evidence, at all — that supports Swearingen’s contention that our schools are swarming with educators who have nefarious aspirations.

If he can allege that our children are being radically indoctrinated into sexual cults, or otherwise for evil aspirations, then he should be able to provide information that shows that to be happening. Otherwise it seems to be nothing more than cheap, tasteless and dirty politics beneath the stature for anyone in elected office trusted with the people’s work.

Swearingen has had ample opportunity to substantiate those claims, but he hasn’t. And he hasn’t, it seems clear, because he can’t. If he could, he would, we believe, and it is right to criticize that behavior, to ask him to put up or stop making those claims.

We expect that Swearingen will complain again about a news article this week that details his recent purchase of a six-unit apartment building in Sandusky. Swearingen, according to one tenant there, is raising rents by 71%, or $500 per month. He’s looking to collect $3,000 more each month from those residents beginning in less than 30 days. He canceled all the current leases and replaced them — starting Sept. 1 — with new leases at the higher rental rates and with steep late fees if payments are late.

A reporter reached out to Swearingen repeatedly before the news article was published, asking him about the rent hikes and giving him ample opportunity to refute the information, object to the questions, or otherwise address the issue. The story surfaced after a resident called the Register and said Swearingen visited the building last week and personally delivered the new leases.

Normally, politicians who visit residents during campaigns are canvassing for votes. This is the first time we’ve ever seen one visiting residents delivering bad news like that. A lawmaker’s job, we believe, includes looking at laws and regulations and working to fix issues that leave vulnerable people at risk of losing their homes or being taken advantage of by profiteers with no sense of concern for people who might be hurt.

In Ohio, raising monthly rents on people living on fixed incomes by 71%, giving them short notice and adding stiff late fees is perfectly fine. There’s no law against it. We suspect if Swearingen is re-elected in November, he’s unlikely to initiate any legislative proposal to change that or support anything that would.

But if the law allowed mortgage companies to change the terms of mortgage contracts and increase his own monthly mortgage payment by 71% the way it allows landlords like Swearingen to change rental contracts, we suspect he would support change.

END