Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Columbus Dispatch. Sept. 24, 2021.

Editorial: Disingenuous Ohio Republicans disregard will of people to maintain dominance

Ohio voters, we have egg all over our faces.

How silly of us to think that the state’s top elected officials would compromise on a map that would fairly divide state House and Senate districts.

It is only what constitutional amendments overwhelmingly approved by the people require.

We were fooled once, and we will likely be fooled again, when the process for dividing up congressional districts begins soon.

Lawmaker’s first deadline for a map is Thursday, Sept. 30, but it is likely to be missed due to the high threshold of support needed from Republicans and Democrats for approval.

The task will then shift the to the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission.

Voters should prepare to have their will trashed once again.

Republican members of the anything-but-bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission grossly misused voting percentages to justify continuing Ohio’s unacceptable tradition of rigging the system for the party in charge.

The commission vote was five “yes” votes from the five Republicans to two “no” votes from the two Democrats.

“The commission determined that the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio predominantly favor Republican candidates,” said a Republican statement released before the approval.

In other words, the party dominating the Statehouse due to gerrymandering determined that voters want the party dominating the Statehouse due to gerrymandering to continue to dominate the state with gerrymandering.

Inexplicably, they “reasoned” that the statewide proportion of voters favoring Republicans is between 55% to 81% and the proportion favoring Democrats is between 19% and 45%.

That all somehow means that Republicans deserve a 62-37 advantage in the House and a 23-10 majority in the Senate.

Huh?

The reality is that the total number of votes cast in the 16 statewide partisan contests in the past 10 years races favored Republicans 54% to Democrats 46% (near the lower end of the scale Republicans endorse).

Based on how people vote for statewide contests, Ohio is a right leaning state, but it is not dominated by Republicans.

It is deceptive to say otherwise.

More than that, it is remarkable that Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican and member the commission, was able to write the sentence “the General Assembly truly represents the voice of the people, district to district and town to town” with a straight face as part of his recent guest column for Dispatch readers.

The voting percentage the commission clearly ignored was the 71% of Ohioans who in 2015 voted for a fairer process for drawing legislative districts.

The 2015 constitutional amendments and one in 2018 sought to change the way officials draw voting district boundaries.

Instead, our leaders decided to once again stiff voters out of fair representation.

“Ohio voters can do amazing things when they work together. Let’s work together to reform the congressional map,” Sandy Theis, then executive director of ProgressOhio, said at the time.

Instead of reveling in a victory for democracy, Theis recently tweeted the words, “A solution to getting a constitutional map?” with an article about a little-known law that voters can use to remove public officials from office if they violate their oaths of office.

The lawmakers on the commission were working to keep members of their chambers in power instead of the people their members represent.

A map that would stand for 10 years would have required a majority of commissioners with two votes from each of the largest political parties. In this case, at least two Republicans and at least both Democrats on the commission.

The approved map, which would stand for four years because the commission vote was not unanimous, is being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and several individuals have filed a lawsuit Thursday.

The people wanted compromise, something neither Democrats nor Republicans are apparently willing to do in this state.

The Republicans have the power but blew their chance to be heroes for democracy.

Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor Keith Faber and Secretary of State Frank LaRose pushed for compromise during a process that does not appear to have involved negotiation or consideration of the mountain of voter input offered.

That’s fine, but like the other members of the commission, the trio gets a failing grade.

They knowingly put the will of voters on the back burner by voting for the map instead of pushing for more negotiation.

“We know that this matter will be in court,” said DeWine, a Republican and commission member. “What I am sure in my heart is that this committee could have come up with a bill that was much more clearly constitutional. I’m sorry that we did not do that.”

Saying “sorry” after betraying voters is far from adequate.

You do not get a gold star for saying something is wrong and doing it anyway.

In his opinion piece, Huffman urged people not to fall for what he calls the false narrative of, “my candidate can’t win based on the lines.”

That’s a fun argument considering that he helped create the very real narrative that divides voting districts into shapes not even found in jigsaw puzzles.

Lawmakers and members of the commission have a chance to get things right when they draw the congressional district.

Voters, let’s not hold our breath or let the egg dry. Flood the commission members with your thoughts on this. Here are their names and email addresses:

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R): 614-466-9624, rep04@ohiohouse.gov

Senate President Matt Huffman(R) : 614-466-7584, huffman@ohiosenate.gov

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes(D) 614-466-3100, rep34@ohiohouse.gov

Senator Vernon Sykes (D), 614-466-7041, sykes@ohiosenate.gov

Auditor Keith Faber(R): 614-466-4514, CentralRegion@ohioauditor.gov, StateRegion@ohioauditor.gov

Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R): 614-466-0562, FLaRose@ohiosos.gov

Auditor Keith Faber (R) : 614-466-4514, contactus@ohioauditor.gov

Gov. Mike DeWine(R): 614-644-4357, 614-466-3555

___

Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. Sept. 24, 2021.

Editorial: Gibbs grandstands

Oh, look, here comes U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs with something to distract us from Republican threats to wreck the fragile economy by refusing to raise the federal borrowing limit.

What is Gibbs, who represents portions of Lorain County, up to, you ask?

Why, the Lakeville Republican wants to impeach President Joe Biden, of course.

That can’t be right, you say. Surely not the same Bob Gibbs who twice voted against impeaching former President Donald Trump.

Yep, the very same.

All Trump, a fellow Republican, did was try to coerce the Ukrainian government into conducting a politically motivated investigation into Biden’s son.

No biggie. Apparently.

Then there was that whole thing when Trump ranted about the election being stolen from him and directed a mob of his supporters to the U.S. Capitol, which some violently invaded.

What’s a little attempted insurrection, after all? It sure didn’t seem to bother Gibbs all that much. Only a few hours later he voted against certifying the results in states key to Biden’s victory.

Anyway, as you can imagine, Gibbs is pretty upset with how things have been going in the months since Biden, a Democrat, took office.

Biden’s alleged high crimes and misdemeanors?

First, he hasn’t stopped undocumented immigrants fleeing violence, poverty and natural disasters from streaming across the southern border. And he halted some of Trump’s signature border policies, including construction of a “big, beautiful wall.” You know, the one easily breached using power tools and ladders readily available at any hardware store.

Have there been problems at the border under Biden? Absolutely. The treatment of Haitian refugees has been particularly horrendous, as evidenced by images of border agents chasing them down on horseback. But failing to solve the issue of illegal border crossings, something that has stymied presidents of both parties, is hardly an impeachable offense.

Gibbs’ second accusation is that Biden violated the separation of powers when he extended an eviction moratorium, even though he acknowledged it might “not pass constitutional muster.”

It didn’t, which is why the U.S Supreme Court rejected it. Biden overstepped, but he’s not the first president to do so. That’s why we have a court system.

In his third article of impeachment, Gibbs complained that Biden mishandled the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, including leaving before every American civilian had been evacuated.

The American military pullout was riddled with mistakes and miscalculations. A terrorist attack killed 13 American service members. Too many Americans and allies were left behind in part because of Biden’s refusal to extend an artificial deadline.

No president — not even Trump, whose administration negotiated the withdrawal with the Taliban in the first place — was ever going to get out of Afghanistan cleanly. It’s not called the “Graveyard of Empires” for nothing, as the Russians, British and others can attest.

None of those things is grounds for impeachment. They’re political disagreements about policy decisions, right or wrong.

Gibbs doesn’t even meet the standard he himself set for impeachment in a letter he sent fellow Republicans in Congress in August suggesting exactly this course of action.

“Many of us were witness to the politically motivated impeachment proceedings of the previous four years,” Gibbs wrote. “As conservatives and Republicans, I believe we understand impeachment is a serious constitutional mechanism, meant to be used only in the rarest and most grave circumstances. Sadly, we saw our Democrat colleagues debase it and use it as a talking point for electoral gain. We must strenuously avoid such trivial treatment of our duty.”

Trump’s conduct demanded that he be impeached. Agree or disagree with Biden, he has done nothing that warrants this waste of time.

Gibbs himself acknowledged that his articles of impeachment wouldn’t go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled House.

Why do it then? (Besides a few media mentions and some fleeting cheers from the GOP base.)

“This is a shot across the bow,” Gibbs said. “When Republicans take back the House, we will take our commitment to the separation of powers, our role as a check and balance to the executive branch seriously. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the entire administration is officially on notice.”

Too bad he didn’t take his oversight duties seriously during the Trump years.

“Maybe something like this makes the White House think twice before they do some of this nonsense,” Gibbs told The Washington Examiner.

Oh, there’s nonsense all right, but it’s not coming from the White House.

___

Toledo Blade. Sept. 21, 2021.

Editorial: Ohio’s opioid crisis is a local crisis

The opioid crisis, which continues to hammer Ohio particularly hard, has always been a personal crisis and a community crisis.

It has affected thousands of Ohio families on a personal level and it has strained the resources of our community social service agencies and local governments. That’s why it is important that the state direct as much funding from legal settlements from opioid drugmakers as possible to the local level.

Attorney General Dave Yost recently announced the state has reached a settlement with three more drugmakers that is expected to bring $808 million to Ohio.

Of that, 55 percent will go to a foundation that will distribute the money to people affected by opioids and use it to fund programs that help them and prevent addiction. Another 30 percent of the settlement will go to local-level community recovery programs. And the final 15 percent will go to the state.

The local community investment is most important. The burden of this addiction epidemic has always hit hardest close to home. Police and fire departments have struggled with ever increasing numbers of calls for overdoses and other addiction-related issues. Children’s services agencies have been overwhelmed with more children in need of foster care when addicted parents can no longer care for their children. Detox and treatment facilities have struggled to keep up with demand for services.

This is not an issue that is likely to go away anytime soon.

In 2019, the last year for which complete data is available, Ohio had the second-highest drug overdose mortality rate in the country. Only West Virginia’s was worse.

That year 4,028 Ohioans died of unintentional drug overdoses, which was a 7 percent increase over 2018 deaths in the state.

Even more alarming, though, are the initial statistics for 2020, when authorities fear the coronavirus pandemic contributed to even worse overdose totals.

The attorney general’s Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education analyzed data from April, May, and June, 2020 and discovered Ohio’s death rate from opioid overdoses was 11.01 per 100,000 population. That is the highest overdose rate for the state in 10 years.

There is no question the demand for more resources to manage the addiction crisis and its rippling effects through our communities will continue for many years to come.

Ohio must make a priority of creating the programs and funding streams to manage this and then to continue to support those.

___

Youngstown Vindicator. Sept. 21, 2021.

Editorial: Tax-list bill would limit transparency

The majority of property owners in the Mahoning Valley and in Ohio responsibly pay their property taxes on time.

Unfortunately, not everyone who owns property is responsible.

Twice annually the Tribune Chronicle publishes pages and pages of delinquent property taxes owed on thousands of parcels of land in Trumbull County. The goal of publishing this delinquent tax list, required under Ohio law, of course, is to inform the general public that the owners of the listed parcels have not paid their property taxes and thus their property is in danger of being confiscated by the government.

Further, publication in the newspaper of record has served local government well by triggering payment of these delinquent taxes. We know it works because when the list is published a second time, it always is significantly shorter — an indication that many property owners reacted quickly and paid their overdue taxes. Frankly, some may not even have realized they were delinquent until they read it in the newspaper or some acquaintance saw it and let them know.

The most critical reason for requiring the publication of this list in the newspaper is the high level of transparency and information that this list brings — not just for county residents and neighbors, but more importantly, for the property owner.

You see, without this notification, it’s quite possible that a property owner may not even realize he or she is in arrears and could be facing confiscation of the property.

Now, there is a very real possibility some of this transparency is about to dissolve.

The Ohio House voted unanimously last week to approve a bill no longer requiring county auditors to publish this delinquent tax list in newspapers more than once. Under the legislation, the initial list still would have to be published in a newspaper, but after that, county auditors could choose to make the second list available online.

We and the Ohio News Media Association believe eliminating even one required publication in the newspaper of record starts us down a slippery slope of removing required transparency that keeps the public informed.

Under the new legislation, if a property owner who is about to lose his or her property to foreclosure happens to miss the first notice in the newspaper, he or she may never know to go looking online for the information. At a time when many Ohioans are suffering extreme economic hardship, it is very concerning to see lawmakers seek ways to reduce public awareness that the government may seize their property.

Further, these legislative moves stand to reduce checks and balances that come with local government officials providing these lists to an outside entity — the newspaper — for publication.

Monica Nieporte, president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, testified in May at a House committee hearing that “such a move would create problems for Ohio taxpayers” because “by placing these notices in a newspaper we provide a credible and impartial record to taxpayers. Further, this guarantees due process and avoids creating a conflict of interest for governmental” entities.

Newspapers reach thousands of readers every day. What happens when this obligation is removed? Few residents would search government websites regularly in an effort to see if they might have overlooked a property tax bill, not to mention that so many Ohio residents still do not have easily accessible internet access.

Finally, in the name of fairness, shouldn’t the shortened list, in which names of those who paid their bills after the first newspaper publication are removed, be reflected in a second newspaper publication?

Tax delinquency is a very serious problem, and law-abiding residents who pay their taxes on time have the right to be notified if they missed a payment in error.

The legislation now moves on to the Senate. If it passes there, it would move to the governor’s desk. We urge you to contact your state elected officials to remind them of the importance of openness and transparency.

State Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Lenox, can be reached at 614-466-7182; or Sandra.OBrien@ohiosenate.gov.

State Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, representing Ohio’s 64th District, can be reached at 614-466-5358; or by email at rep64@ohiohouse.gov.

State Rep. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, representing Ohio’s 63th District, can be reached by phone at 614-466-3488; or via email at rep63@ohiohouse.gov.

Gov. Mike DeWine can be reached at 614-466-3555.

We urge Ohio senators to vote no, and we urge the governor to argue against passage, and if necessary to consider a veto on this bill that is just one more step to allowing government to operate in the dark.

___

Akron Beacon Journal. Sept. 26, 2021.

Editorial: Sensible candidates needed after Donald Trump helps push aside Rep. Anthony Gonzalez

The political exit of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez may mean Northeast Ohio residents will continue to struggle with the legacy of Donald Trump.

The two-term Republican congressman from Rocky River announced this month he will not seek reelection in 2022. His decision follows a censure by fellow Republicans and vitriol from Trump, namely for Gonzalez’s vote to impeach Trump.

Challengers to Gonzalez emerged in the weeks following the vote, including Max Miller, a former Trump White House and campaign aide. Miller, you might remember, shared the stage with Trump at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in June, when Trump repeated his Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

In the gerrymandered 16th District that includes part of suburban Summit County, many residents may not know much about their 37-year-old congressman, except that he is a former NFL and Ohio State player.

But Trump used his rally, as other media have pointed out, to make sure his loyalists remembered that Gonzalez went against Trump. The Trump-endorsed candidate has not confronted Trump on his lie.

Meanwhile, the future of the jigsaw-puzzle piece area currently known as the 16th Congressional District is murky.

Ohio learned this year that it will lose a congressional seat, going from 16 to 15. The district that runs south from Cuyahoga to Wayne County and juts east into Portage County will somehow expand or contract as political map makers get to work this fall.

With Republicans controlling Ohio’s congressional redistricting process, it seems unlikely the new district will be drawn in such a way that Democrats would have a clear advantage.

One district that political analysts say could be significantly changed is the 13th District, which includes part of Akron. The seat is currently held by Howland Democrat Tim Ryan, who has announced a run for the U.S. Senate.

Next year, it will be up to Ohio voters to make a decision. Will Republicans vote for the person representing their own principles and values in the primary or will they remain under Trump’s spell and vote for his brand of divide-and-conquer politics? Will Democrats find capable candidates who present an actual challenge to Republicans?

Democrats, if they are to stay in power in Washington and make advances in state and local government, must play up their strengths.

President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are falling: 53% of adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center in September disapproved of how he is doing his job. Public confidence is low in his handling of foreign policy, military action, immigration and bringing the country together. A slim majority— 51% — has confidence in his handling of the COVID pandemic, down from 65% in March.

Chaos at the southern border, a bungled exit from Afghanistan and confusion about COVID-19 are among issues the Democrats must face. In doing so, they must emphasize their commitment to action.

While Trump consistently underplayed the threat of COVID-19, Biden has ordered sweeping vaccine mandates. His positions may have further angered some in the Trump camp, and some messages, including those on booster shots, have been confusing.

But Democrats may have the upper hand as COVID variants remain serious threats. If the execution hasn’t always been perfect, at least the Dems have pushed for science-based solutions.

Miller, for his part, understands the power of the immigration issue. Just a few days ago he tweeted, “It’s time to restart the construction of President Donald J. Trump’s border wall.”

Practically speaking, a nearly 2,000-mile “wall” through rivers and deserts is a boondoggle, but its simplicity captures imaginations. Democrats have offered few easily digestible solutions to a complex, often heartbreaking problem.

Also, outside of a few firebrands, Democrats seem hesitant to speak up on abortion, voting rights and school policy. Meanwhile, Texas Republicans shock the nation with a strict abortion law, red states curtail voter access and school board meetings across the country have heard from loud anti-maskers and “critical race theory” fear-mongers.

Gonzalez’s voting record was reliably conservative, but when faced with the impeachment vote, he voted his conscience. He recently labeled Trump “a cancer for the country.”

We can only hope for more politicians who can think for themselves and act in the best interests of their country.

END