Cleveland Plain Dealer. April 11, 2021.
Editorial: Shame on Ohio General Assembly members who prevaricate when asked to lead by example and get vaccinated
As a key Greater Clevelander lawmaker recently said, General Assembly members should undergo vaccination against COVID-19 virus to encourage their constituents – Ohio’s 11.7 million residents – to do the same. (As of Thursday, about 3.9 million people had obtained at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ohio.)
“We should be leading by example, and that begins by doing the things we know will end the pandemic – masking up and signing up for vaccines when we’re eligible,” House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
She’s correct. And to a degree, many of Sykes’s fellow legislators appear to agree with her.
For instance, the Cincinnati Enquirer recently reported, “Despite rhetoric at the Ohio Statehouse minimizing COVID-19 and questioning vaccines, many Republican lawmakers and nearly all Democrats are getting the COVID-19 shot.” The newspaper found that, “Of the 89 Republicans in both chambers, 41 said they either received a shot or planned to get one. Eight said they didn’t plan to get it; six said they were undecided. The rest did not respond by publication.” Some positions were gleaned from news reports, including a Dayton Daily News survey, the Enquirer said.
The Daily News asked Miami Valley legislators if they’d be vaccinated, “Six … said no; 11 said yes and four either declined to answer or didn’t respond.”
Among the noes was Rep. Bill Dean, a Xenia Republican, whose district includes Gov. Mike DeWine’s Cedarville homestead. “I don’t trust the vaccine. Basically, the whole COVID thing is bogus,” Dean told the Dayton newspaper. “I think it’s real, like the flu, but it’s not a pandemic.” Survivors of the 18,741 Ohioans killed by COVID-19 (as of Tuesday) likely wouldn’t agree with Dean.
Meanwhile, a suburban Cincinnati Republican, Rep. Jennifer Gross, is sponsoring a bill to forbid the state, local governments and businesses to discriminate financially or socially (defined to include requiring masks) against Ohioans who decline to be vaccinated for any of three reasons: Medical contraindications; natural immunity; or reasons of conscience, “including religious convictions. ” The Gross bill’s cosponsors include Greater Cleveland Republican Reps. Sarah Fowler Arthur, of Rock Creek; Mike Loychik, of suburban Warren; Reggie Stoltzfus, of suburban Canton; and Scott Wiggam, of Wooster.
To sum up: Amid Ohio’s worst public health emergency in a century, some General Assembly members are leading not by example, but by negative example. And that’s utterly irresponsible.
Akron Beacon Journal. April 11, 2021.
Editorial: Police transparency requires more proactive leadership from Akron officials
Akron’s city and police leadership failed the transparency test again.
They were either unprepared or unwilling to explain what happened during a use of force arrest for two months after it occurred, an extended period during which they could have freely disclosed that an officer shoved snow into a suspect’s mouth three times.
Instead, they stayed silent until damage control concerns motivated a press conference and the release of body camera footage showing a now resigned officer did not put his knee on a suspect’s neck, but did block his airway with snow.
With everything our nation has experienced in the 11 months since the death of George Floyd under an officer’s knee in Minneapolis, the city’s silence and repeated willingness to delay needed public disclosures is disappointing and needlessly overshadows what police did properly.
To be clear, Charles Hicks needed to be arrested in the early morning hours of Feb. 7. Officers responding to 911 calls claiming Hicks had a knife and had threatened people entered a dangerous situation to protect adults and children.
As Acting Police Chief Michael Caprez explained Thursday, officers sought to de-escalate the situation when Hicks refused to cooperate. Several officers safely took him to the ground and nearly had control over him when Officer John Turnure crossed the line and shoved snow down Hicks’ throat three times.
Turnure’s actions did not go unnoticed as police immediately launched a standard use of force review, which is required anytime force such as a physical takedown is used. It’s not clear if the review discovered Turnure’s “tactic” as police weakly described it or if other officers immediately knew a mistake had been made. This review amazingly is still pending more than two months after the arrest, and Akron’s police auditor was not aware of the situation until the Beacon Journal began asking questions about Turnure’s March 30 resignation.
This is the second time Akron has stalled the release of body camera footage in the past 16 months by claiming an ongoing investigation was more important than disclosure. Police waited for weeks following the January 2020 police shooting of a man to release video showing the unarmed suspect’s actions, including raising his hands in a shooting motion. Officers were cleared in the case.
Withholding body camera footage defeats the main purpose of using this valuable technology to quickly document what happened and protect both citizens and officers from false claims. Releasing key segments while an investigation is ongoing is no different than providing the public with basic information on crimes immediately after they occur, something police do every day. These videos document what happened, not what detectives discover.
The city’s decision also flaunts the will of 90 percent of voters who supported a charter amendment in November calling on City Council to legislate the “prompt release” of police footage in cases of serious bodily harm or death. This legislation, which is still pending, needs to be expedited and expanded to include any case where an officer is found to violate department policy. Prompt, to us, means less than a week and quicker depending on the situation.
Akron also needs to press forward with much-discussed plans to add more power and support to the police auditor role. This episode again proves the position lacks the necessary tools to improve public confidence.
What’s most troubling about all of this is the unnecessary negative attention placed on the brave officers who report to duty every day and night to protect Akron’s citizens. Nearly all approach their dangerous work professionally and with honor at a time when they face unprecedented but necessary scrutiny.
Not only did their former colleague let them down, their leadership missed an opportunity.
Columbus Dispatch. April 8, 2021.
Editorial: Investment in infrastructure would move Ohio and America forward
The Biden administration’s so-called “once in a generation” infrastructure plan has Washington Republicans fuming more than anything that could come from a diesel truck.
President Joe Biden’s plan “is not going to get support from our side,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said.
He condemned the entire Democratic agenda, saying, “I’m going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America.”
It is true that roads, railways and bridges are not the only things that come with the infrastructure plan’s $2 trillion price tag.
The Biden Administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan will invest in roadways, bridges, rail, broadband and other projects.
The proposal also would mean investment in such things as universal broadband, electric-car charging stations, affordable homes and assistance to older and Americans with disabilities.
To be certain, the plan broadens the definition of infrastructure. But focusing on those ancillary issues – many of which address real needs – paves over reality.
The nation’s infrastructure is outdated and in bad shape, and that affects the ability of U.S. businesses to compete in a global marketplace – and all of us on the street level.
The American Jobs Plan would invest $621 billion in repair and construction of roads, bridges, transit and rail service. That includes modernizing 20,000 miles of roads, fixing the nation’s 10 most “economically significant” bridges and repairing 10,000 smaller bridges in poor condition. That would support many, many jobs across the country.
There also would be big allotments for transit improvements and expansions, railway improvements and to update airports. Billions would be directed to modernize federal buildings, improve community college infrastructure and modernize Veterans Affairs hospitals.
Infrastructure should not be a polarizing issue, and there was a time not too long ago that it was not.
“They know we need it,” Biden said this week of Republicans. “Everybody around the world is investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we’re going to do it here.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers says that 43% of our public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition. It gives the nation’s overall infrastructure a “C-”.
Former President Donald Trump pledged twice to address infrastructure. While running for office in 2016, he pushed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would have used tax incentives to entice private investment in public works projects.
Trump outlined a second $1 trillion plan in early 2020 for roads, rail, water systems and other infrastructure, paid for by fuel tax revenue.
He couldn’t get either done.
Biden wants to pay for his eight-year spending package by raising the minimum tax on U.S. corporations to 21% and the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%.
President Joe Biden says he is willing to work with Republicans on an infrastructure plan, but GOP leaders have balked so far.
A Moody’s Analytics report says that “despite the higher corporate taxes and the larger government deficits, the plan provides a meaningful boost to the nation’s long-term economic growth.”
In short, investing in infrastructure and transportation systems would be in support of the very corporations that are being asked to help pay for the improvements. They use and benefit from roads, bridges, rail lines, power lines and water and sewer lines more than any other taxpayers.
Ohio certainly could use help with our more than 21,000 center-line miles of road and 44,047 bridges.
In February, the Ohio Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state’s infrastructure an overall grade of “C-,” which is slightly ahead of the national average of “D+” given in 2017.
Ohio’s levees, roads and transit all received big, fat “D’s,” the lowest grade.
More than 5% of the state’s 27,072 highway bridges are classified as structurally deficient, according to a recent report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, which uses data from the Federal Highway Administration National Bridge Inventory.
In 2020, Ohio ranked 12th in the nation when it comes to structurally deficient bridges.
Matt Bruning, statewide press secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation, says most of 25 bridges the association lists as Ohio’s top traveled, structurally deficient bridges have been replaced or repaired, or are scheduled to be.
The infrastructure controlled by ODOT is in overall good shape thanks in part to the gas tax increase signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2019, but Bruning says additional money from the federal government would be put to good use.
“Ninety-six cents of every dollar goes to the preservation of roadway we already have,” he said. “If Washington were to send us more money, we know where we would spend it.”
Biden said he will have “a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done.”
McConnell and other Republicans need to meet him at the table.
The crater-size holes in the nation’s infrastructure need to be filled to keep America moving.
Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. April 9, 2021.
Editorial: Error leads to confusion and poker
Lorain County officials folded a perfectly good hand when they let the domain name for the Lorain County Visitors Bureau’s website expire.
Now an Indonesian online poker website has taken over VisitLorainCounty.com.
The county wouldn’t have needed much of an ante to stay in the game, just $17.99 to keep the domain name. When the county failed to act, an apparent cybersquatter swooped in and bought it.
County Commissioner Matt Lundy, a Democrat, said he’d warned county Administrator Tom Williams on Feb. 18 that the county’s claim to the domain was about to expire, but nothing was done.
For the price of a few cups of coffee, the county could have avoided this embarrassment.
Buying back the domain name from its new owner would cost $1,100, Commissioner David Moore, a Republican, told our reporter Dave O’Brien.
The name isn’t worth the expense at this point, but someone seems to have realized the mistake and checked to see how much it would cost to fix.
Still, Moore and Williams defended letting the domain lapse.
Williams said the VisitLorainCounty.com website was last updated in 2018. He described it as hard to work on and navigate. He also said visits to the site had plummeted.
Moore went a step further, describing the website as “an utter disaster for over three years” that had “no traffic.”
Lundy painted a different picture, saying the website got 57,000 visits in 2018 and 62,000 in 2019, although he acknowledged traffic was down 30 percent or 40 percent last year because of the pandemic.
“It’s not a fair assessment to say that it was a dinosaur or no one was visiting,” Lundy said. “You keep the domain for a hand-off or smooth transition. … This is the time when the economy is opening up, not a time to hit a big roadblock.”
Exactly, and anyone contemplating a visit to the county will have a harder time learning about its attractions, hotels and restaurants because of this error in judgment.
Sure, would-be visitors can check out the bureau’s Facebook page, but the last post there was on March 17, 2020, so it’s not much help either. And, as of Wednesday evening, the Facebook page still listed VisitLorainCounty.com as the bureau’s website. (It appeared to have been removed by Thursday evening).
Moore said the county planned to relaunch a redesigned website with a (dot)gov extension rather than a (dot)com one.
That’s fine, but the county doesn’t yet have a new website or a new web address for Visit Lorain County, although the commissioners said those were in the works.
Even if the bureau had a fully functional and updated website with a nifty (dot)gov extension ready to go, though, it would have benefited if the old domain name had been kept and set to redirect visitors to the new site.
That’s exactly what the county Board of Elections did in 2019 when the state mandated that boards change to (dot)us or (dot)gov extensions. At the time, the board was using a (dot)com extension.
Elections Board Director Paul Adams told us the board chose a (dot)us extension because it required less paperwork. Last year, the federal government told elections boards to switch to a (dot)gov extension, which meant the county’s board had to change its web address once again.
Nonetheless, the board wisely prevented confusion by keeping its old domain active to redirect visitors to the new site through the presidential election.
Adams also told us that several years ago the county let the elections board’s domain lapse, but the error was discovered before anyone else snapped the domain up. After that, he said, the board took over maintenance of its domain.
That was a smart play.
As Kenny Rogers once observed, ““Every gambler knows/ That the secret to survivin’/ Is knowin’ what to throw away/ And knowin’ what to keep.”
The county threw away the wrong cards.
Sandusky Register. April 10, 2021.
Editorial: Break up recovery board
If there’s one thing nobody should accuse Erie County commissioners of being, it’s complacent. That’s evident by the decision this week to move forward with a plan to discuss potentially dissolving the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties. It’s been years coming, as disheartening as that is to contemplate.
If a plan goes forward, the current board could be disbanded, and the cross-county agency would be dissolved. Two new agencies — one board for each county — could be created to replace the current one. The current funding contracts the agency has would be divided according to constituency.
No decision has been made and anything could happen, but the board has been dysfunctional for years. Normally, we promote collaboration across governments — municipal, county and regional — as a way to cut expenses and improve services. The current recovery board has been serving both counties for decades, and it was created by a state mandate under state regulation. Recovery boards in Ohio are established under the Ohio Revised Code. Often referred to as ADAMhs boards (Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental health services). The administrative code requires there to be 18 board members, or in some instances, 14.
But leadership of the two-county board has been tone-deaf for many years, and the disconnect widened as our region, state and nation was engulfed by the opiate epidemic. County commissioners, who make the appointments for board seats, became ever more frustrated as their appointees would serve for a period of time only to later resign out of frustration with the slow pace of the board and what seemed to be a confrontational approach toward other stakeholders supporting the recovery movement.
In January, when five Erie County-appointed board members resigned, commissioners began this process to consider whether the current board should be dissolved. Commissioners Pat Shenigo, Matt Old and Steve Shoffner all, it seemed, hoped to build a better working relationship with the board, but that hasn’t happened. A thorough review of the options is necessary to make sure the funding available from the recovery board — from a small tax property owners pay — is distributed fairly, appropriately and in a timely manner.
We appreciate the fact commissioners hoped to build a better relationship, we appreciate the patience they showed attempting to do that, and we appreciate they feel forced to consider different options now. It is time to do that, in our view, and commissioners are correct in moving this discussion forward.