Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. June 24, 2022.

Editorial: Jon Husted should resign his seat on a private bank’s board of directors

It is hard to understand how Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted does not see a problem with serving as a paid board member for a private Ohio bank that is regulated by and does business with the state of Ohio.

You may recall that Heartland BancCorp, which does business as Heartland Bank, recently announced Husted’s appointment to the company’s board of directors.

The post is a paid position, although neither the bank nor Husted disclosed his compensation.

Husted was elected to the board in March after he and his wife invested in Heartland, but the banking company didn’t announce his appointment until May.

That appointment is loaded with potential conflicts of interests.

Husted runs InnovateOhio, the state’s business and technological innovation initiative. He was paid $171,300 for that work in 2021.

As lieutenant governor, he also heads state initiatives to promote workforce training and streamlining of regulations and tends to serve as a point person for Gov. Mike DeWine’s business and economic development-related initiatives. That includes having influence at JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development arm.

Heartland Bank has several points of overlap with the state government.

As a state-chartered bank, it is regulated by the state Department of Commerce. It is certified as a public depository, meaning it’s eligible to hold cash and other investments owned by the state government. Through a title company subsidiary called Transcounty Title Agency, Heartland participates in an electronic lien and titling program administered through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which falls under the governor’s office. Transcounty received $813,100 in state grants, administered through the state Public Works Commission, from 2013 through 2015, according to the state.

Heartland, in its statement, said Husted consulted with a lawyer before taking the board post and has pledged to recuse himself and act in any way that the law requires should any conflicts arise.

That’s not good enough.

Effective government requires transparency and public confidence that those holding positions of public trust are acting free from undue outside influences.

As such, the standard for officeholders should be to avoid any appearances of potential conflicts or impropriety.

Husted’s decision could open a floodgate for elected officials to use their seats of power to secure lucrative positions in the for-profit universe, raising immediate questions about whether they sought office to serve the public or to fill their pockets with cash.

The head of the Ohio Ethics Commission told cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias that Husted would have to abstain from any matter that might affect the bank in (his) public roles.

But there is nothing in state ethics law that permits or prohibits a lieutenant governor from holding outside work.

That’s something the General Assembly should address.

It’s hard to accept that “trust me” is the proper guardrail for public confidence in state government. Husted should resign from this position immediately, and if he does not, voters should take note when they go to the polls in November.

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Toledo Blade. June 21, 2022.

Editorial: Redistricting officials hold Ohioans in contempt

The damage is done. Voters lost.

The Ohio Constitution lost. There will be no fair redistricting maps in 2022.

The redistricting commissioners found a way to slither out of doing their duty.

Whether the majority of commission members are held in contempt of court by the Ohio Supreme Court no longer is the point.

If they are in contempt, it won’t change the reality. Elections this year will go forward with unconstitutional maps.

The only way to salvage the future of redistricting in Ohio depends on voters turning out any member of the General Assembly who will not commit to assuring fair maps next time. Legislators can do that by pressuring the elected officials who make the appointments to the commission.

Since the maps that did pass were without the agreement of all commissioners, the maps will be revisited for the 2024 elections.

The exact same thing, delays and lawsuits, will happen in 2024 unless voters send a message this November.

The commission majority negated the votes of a large majority of Ohioans who wanted fair redistricting maps. Those voters passed two sets of Constitutional amendments in 2015 and 2018 aimed to make that happen.

It didn’t matter. Those votes didn’t count.

The commission gave voters the finger.

The clear message: We don’t care how you voted, we’re doing what we please, constitutional amendment be damned. The constant delays, the failure time after time to produce constitutional maps, all designed to negate the law. The Supreme Court let commissioners know precisely what they’d need to do to produce constitutional maps.

They wouldn’t follow those directives.

The commission stands in violation of the Ohio Constitution. Their devious work was aided and abetted by federal court judges who played their game.

Voters should be angry. That anger could bring stronger consequences than if the court holds commissioners in contempt.

It will take electing candidates pledged to observe the spirit of the 2015 and 2018 constitutional amendments. It will take voters who ignore the “R” or “D” next to a candidate’s name. If constitutional amendments passed by voters don’t matter, the state of democracy in Ohio has reached critical condition.

Voters must send the commission majority and the elected officials who facilitated their obstructionism slithering home in November.

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Youngstown Vindicator. June 24, 2022.

Editorial: New ideas make big difference for state of Ohio

Ohio lawmakers have been right, over the past several years, to pay attention to the Buckeye State’s burgeoning brewery business. Now, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association is celebrating the 400th licensed craft brewery in the state — the Guernsey Brewhouse in Cambridge.

According to the OCBA, there now is at least one brewery in 72 of Ohio’s 88 counties, with nearly 40% of those breweries opening in the past three years. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has averaged 48 new brewery openings per year (and, by comparison, just 11 average annual closings).

Ohio craft beer is gaining an international reputation. That means it is doing more than just wetting Ohioans’ whistles. An entire tourism industry is growing up around it, too; and that is good for communities across the state. There are brewery passports, craft beer trails and festivals. The OCBA estimates Ohio craft breweries accounted for more than $880 million in economic activity and 8,300 local jobs in 2020. As we appear to be transitioning away from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the association expects the industry to continue to grow.

Craft brewing is just one example of how an outside-the-box industry can challenge our thinking about diversifying and growing our economy — not to mention improving quality of life and attracting / retaining residents. Lawmakers and communities would do well to take that example as a reminder to be open about new ideas when it comes to moving toward our brighter future.

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