Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Columbus Dispatch. April 15, 2022.

Editorial: While your groceries go up, DeWine, LaRose, Huffman, Cupp waste millions to keep power

The $25 million price tag to hold a second primary would be way more than enough it that was all. It is not all.

In typical times, it would be hard to draw a link between the prices of bacon and gas and the cost of redistricting – a process that determines how legislative districts are divided in Ohio.

These are not typical times.

Like elsewhere in the nation and state, people here in Greater Columbus are still recovering from economic pains brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Add to that lingering supply chain issues, Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the current national rate of inflation — annual consumer price increases reached another 40-year high of 8.5% last month — and it is clear why people are watching what goes in and comes out of their purses and wallets a lot closer.

Experts expect less dramatic rises in inflation over time. That time can not come fast enough for most paying higher prices for goods and services.

Over the past 12 months, for instance, the cost of poultry, fish, eggs and meat such as bacon has jumped 13.7%, a Forbes advisor just reported. Furniture and bedding jumped 5.8%, electricity rose 11.1% and the cost of women’s dresses went up 10.1%.

Why are we talking about redistricting?

Redistricting determines how you are represented at the Statehouse in Columbus and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Back in 2015 and 2018 Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to break from partisan gerrymandering which gives one political party an advantage over the other during redistricting — a process in Ohio that every 10 years has leaders redraw the maps that divide voting areas for political representation.

Voters did not seek a 50/50 split, but they did demand fairness.

Ohio leans right and the maps should reflect as much. But with map after map, the Republicans who control the Ohio Redistricting Commission have shown they want dominance, not the fair representation every American deserves.

Groups suing over Ohio’s legislative maps — former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Action Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio — have asked the high court to hold commission members in contempt of court for approving slightly tweaked state House and Senate maps they created from maps that had already been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The latest map approvals came after commission members ditched maps created in the public’s eye by hired mapmakers.

The Ohio Supreme Court rejected those state House and Senate maps Thursday in a 4-3 decision.

The state needs legislative maps by this coming Wednesday to conduct the second primary Aug. 2, the last possible date, according to election officials.

What does any of this have to do with the price of bacon?

The smoking hot mess that has been redistricting in Ohio is an example of government waste at its worst.

Not only are elected officials playing a game with who will represent you, they are making you pay for it.

If these were different times perhaps the ongoing cost of this embarrassing episode might not be such an issue.

After all, the extra $25 million or so Secretary of State Frank LaRose estimates it will cost Ohio taxpayers to hold a second primary election due to months of shenanigans from him and other Republican members of the commission is a drop in the bucket when you consider the size of Ohio’s general fund: roughly $35 billion this year.

But these are not typical times. (Incidentally, there are no times when $25 million in public money is chump change.)

It would be bad if the cost of the primary election was it.

As Jessie Balmert of the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau which serves the Dispatch and 21 other news organizations, has spent months reporting, it is not.

Neither is the nearly $100,000 the state paid two mapmakers for creating the ditched maps that were apparently too fair for the taste of four of the five GOP members of the seven-member commission — LaRose, Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp.

Those mapmakers, University of Florida professor Michael McDonald and National Demographics Corporation’s Douglas Johnson, were to make $450 an hour for the maps by the way.

The commission has spent another $60,000 for staff travel, computers, mapmaking software and map advertising. Attorneys’ fees — mostly to defend the lopsided maps — are already around a million dollars.

On top of all that, more than $9 million — mostly for speeding up the map uploading process — has been allocated for the May 3 primary.

Who is shifting responsibility for wasted tax money?

Some Republican lawmakers are screaming “judicial activism” and pointing fingers for delays at the Ohio Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, and the Democrats challenging the maps in court.

O’Connor — who is leaving the court at the end of the year due to age limits — has been threatened with impeachment.

State Rep. Ron Ferguson, of Wintersville, wants to punish the court by taking the $25 million for the second primary from its $204 million budget.

That’s a ridiculous solution.

This chapter would have been closed long ago if lawmakers would have simply followed the will of the people laid out right in front of them.

The $25 million and most of the rest could have been used to better serve Ohioans as the state recovers from the worst pandemic since the so-called Spanish flu more than a century ago.

Instead of finding ways to rebuild a resilient Ohio, Republican members of the redistricting commission and their colleagues in the General Assembly have focused on ways to ensure they will remain employed no matter how much or what it costs you.

When it comes to redistricting, it is their hands stealing money out of your purse and wallet.

___

Youngstown Vindicator. April 17, 2022.

Editorial: ODOT, all road workers’ safety always critical

Ohio’s 2022 Department of Transportation construction season is underway, and this year ODOT is attempting $2 billion worth of work on 829 projects.

Ninety-five cents of every dollar spent goes toward preserving existing infrastructure, according to a recent presentation made at the ODOT District 4 offices in Canfield.

In the Mahoning Valley alone, 18 projects between Mahoning and Trumbull counties totaling about $40 million are either slated to begin in the next few months or have already started.

But while workers fan out across the Buckeye State to improve the safety of our roads, bridges, sidewalks and other infrastructure, it is important we keep the workers safe, too.

Last year, there were 4,796 crashes in Ohio work zones, 35% of them occurred with workers present. ODOT workers, vehicles, and equipment were hit 154 times last year. Thirty people died in those crashes.

“The men and women working on these construction projects are doing dangerous work. Motorists can make it less dangerous by paying extra attention, moving over, and slowing down when they see our crews,” ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said.

Of course, this applies not just to Ohio Department of Transportation workers, but to all road workers — including local crews from Trumbull and Mahoning counties and also from local townships and municipalities.

Lower speed limits in work zones are not there to inconvenience drivers. They are meant to keep both workers and drivers safe. It takes a good deal of nerve and faith in humanity to carry out your job while cars are whizzing past even at 55 mph. The men and women toiling to improve our roads shouldn’t have to deal with those who disregard the speed limit and drive dangerously in work zones.

Marchbanks is right. Pay attention, slow down and move over if you can. Those in road-work zones depend on the rest of us to keep them safe while they get the job done.

___

Elyria Chronicle. April 14, 2022.

Editorial: GOP voters should stick with LaRose

Although he’s a former U.S. Army Green Beret, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose invoked a nautical theme in explaining why his fellow Republicans should want to keep him on the job.

“They know I’ve been a steady hand on the rudder,” he told us during an endorsement interview.

We agree.

During his first term, LaRose, a former state senator, has focused on keeping Ohio’s elections secure and fair.

He called the 2020 election “the most successful election that Ohio’s ever had,” and despite having voted for then-President Donald Trump, he recognized that Joe Biden won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States.

Unfortunately, the 42-year-old LaRose’s primary opponent, former state Rep. John Adams, does not share the incumbent’s realistic take on the outcome of the 2020 election.

A small business owner and a former Navy SEAL, Adams, 62, of Sidney, has insisted the election was stolen from Trump. During an endorsement interview, he pointed to several debunked conspiracy theories and other sources to bolster his claims, but the fact remains that Trump lost fair and square.

Adams also argued that doubt about election outcomes was reasonable simply because so many people “lack confidence in the electoral process.”

“You cannot trust any of the results,” he said.

People believe and say a lot of things, but that doesn’t always make them true. So many Republicans believe the election was stolen primarily because Trump and his acolytes keep saying it was, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

In the 2020 election, for instance, LaRose’s office found 27 “potentially illegal” votes out of nearly 6 million cast in Ohio. That’s around 0.0005% of the total. That’s a rounding error, not evidence of widespread fraud.

Not only that, but elections boards around the state conduct post-election reviews. In 2020, the accuracy rate was 99.98%, while in 2021, it was 99.99%. In many counties, no errors were found, LaRose said.

The reasons for the mistakes were usually innocuous. For instance, LaRose told us ballots sometimes get stuck together. In one instance, he said, a voter used a purple glitter pen to fill out an absentee ballot, which caused the vote-tabulating machine to have trouble reading it.

These sorts of things happen but, again, they are not evidence of fraud.

Moreover, the errors were caught, which shows the system works in Ohio. Those who are suspected of breaking election laws have rightly been referred to prosecutors for further investigation and possible charges.

Although LaRose, disappointingly, has toyed with the idea that voter fraud is a bigger problem outside Ohio than it actually is, he has defended the sanctity of Buckeye State elections.

He’s fond of saying, “In Ohio’s elections, it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” a sentiment we agree with.

Adams sees things far differently. He insisted that Ohio’s elections were nowhere nearly as secure as LaRose claimed. He called for more audits of elections, stricter voter ID laws, eliminating early voting and more frequent purges of the voter rolls.

He even suggested that Ohio’s election machines weren’t secure and floated a return to paper ballots. LaRose rightly disagreed with that assessment.

No credible evidence exists that voting machines, which aren’t even connected to the internet, were hacked, and LaRose has made improving cybersecurity a priority.

Which isn’t to say that LaRose has avoided any missteps. For instance, he’s proven overly partisan as a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which keeps churning out gerrymandered congressional and state legislative maps. The Ohio Supreme Court’s rejection of those has led to chaos in the primary election, scheduled for May 3.

Despite amendments to the Ohio Constitution designed to curtail gerrymandering, whichever party held the majority on the commission, in this case the GOP, was going to seek partisan advantage.

That makes LaRose’s conduct disappointing, but not unexpected.

Even though he isn’t blameless for the turmoil, LaRose has worked hard to make sure county boards of elections are prepared for the primary. That speaks to his professionalism.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Chelsea Clark in the fall. She’s a businesswoman and member of the City Council in the Cincinnati suburb of Forest Park, and she is unopposed in her party’s primary.

The better Republican candidate to face her is LaRose.

___

Toledo Blade. April 17, 2022.

Editorial: Help folks navigate Medicaid changes

Long before the pandemic struck, navigating Medicaid was tough for the average applicant and recipient. There’s no need to make it tougher with changes on the way when the coronavirus public health emergency ends.

A modest proposal by some Ohio legislators makes sense. Hire some help to make sure people who need it and qualify stay on Medicaid. That’s good policy, and a way to avoid people falling out of the safety net. The last thing Ohio needs is people who are working and then penalized for making some money by losing their Medicaid.

It’s a very complicated situation, but it comes down to changes during the pandemic. Ohio wanted, understandably, to keep federal Medicaid dollars. During the pandemic, that required the state to keep folks on the rolls until the federal health emergency ended. That effectively stopped redeterminations. In July, they start up again. Estimates are that hundreds of thousands of Ohioans could lose coverage. That would be foolish and cost money in the long run.

Keeping people healthy saves taxpayer dollars. The best care is preventive care and early detection of serious illness. Those are things that Medicaid provides.

It’s not wrong to hire an outside vendor to screen Medicaid redeterminations. What must be avoided is making alleged savings a priority. That may sound great. But cutting people off of health care creates hazards and expenses down the road.

Providing helpers to work with people on their Medicaid redeterminations is sound policy and forward thinking about the cost to taxpayers of people who can’t afford to pay for the costs of serious illness.

Staying on Medicaid might save them and their fellow citizens.

___

Marietta Times. April 18, 2022.

Editorial: Government needs to remember those that stepped up

It has been more than two years since federal officials began calling for American-made personal protective equipment to help us combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses all over the country pivoted to answer the call… or tried, to, anyway. But the struggles they have faced since then are a perfect example of two things very wrong with our economy: we drown ourselves in red tape; and we don’t learn lessons.

Here is an assessment of the experience of one company that tried to make face shields and N95 masks in Missouri:

“So far, it has been a net drain of funds and resources and energy,” said Halcyon Shades owner Jim Schmersahl.

In fact, the Associated Press did an analysis of manufacturers that began producing PPE after the government’s call.

Though their efforts were fueled by a sense of duty to their country, patriotism alone does not sustain a business. Many that received state or federal money to do so have been forced to close or scale back. According to interviews with many of those manufacturers, the reasons were logistical hurdles, regulatory rejections, slumping demand and fierce competition from foreign suppliers.

Ohio awarded $20.8 million to 73 businesses to manufacture pandemic-related supplies, according to state data. Of 60 businesses that complied with a recent reporting deadline, more than one-third no longer produced PPE by the end of 2021.

“I’m still a firm believer in that — that we need to be making PPE here in this state,” said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. “Unfortunately, a lot of entities went right back to where they were getting it before.”

They asked U.S. businesses to adapt, those businesses did, and governments almost immediately forgot the supply problems that spurred their request in the first place and purchased from overseas manufacturers anyway.

“If the federal government doesn’t come in and help support the U.S. manufacturing base, it’s almost certainly going to go back to China, and we’ll be just as vulnerable as we were in early 2020 and 2019,” said Brent Dillie, the association chairman and co-founder of Premium-PPE, a Virginia manufacturer started during the pandemic, which has cut about two-thirds of its roughly 300 employees.

What a mess — and one created by the bureaucracy and illogical purchasing practices. Dillie is right. If we fail to learn our lesson now, we’ll be in an even worse position to face the next crisis.

END