Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. Sept. 19, 2021.

Editorial: In voting for admittedly flawed maps, DeWine and LaRose abrogated their duty to Ohioans

What were Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose thinking in voting for what they both acknowledged were deeply flawed -- and in DeWine’s case, possibly unconstitutional -- gerrymanders of state legislative districts?

Under 2015 voter-adopted reforms, one party cannot dictate 10-year redistricting maps -- but it can create four-year maps, as long as they meet Ohio constitutional requirements.

By its 5-2 party-line vote late Wednesday -- just within the constitutional deadline -- the Republican majority on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, including DeWine and LaRose, created four-year Ohio Senate and Ohio House maps that flout voters’ intent to prevent overtly partisan gerrymandering.

The other three commission Republicans voting “yes” were state Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman.

Given their reservations, DeWine and LaRose could have instead sided with the commission’s two Democrats, state Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, a father-daughter duo from Akron, to insist on fairer maps.

They didn’t.

Now, the skewed maps almost guarantee that the courts will step in.

Among other problems, the maps grotesquely slice and dice the majority Black city of Cleveland, raising concerns that the maps violate federal law by diluting Black voting power. Further, in carving up Cleveland and other communities, the maps also fail to adhere to the voter-approved Ohio constitutional reforms requiring keeping communities intact and not using the process to advance partisan aims instead of reflecting voting patterns of the past decade.

Maybe a judicial fix is what DeWine and LaRose are counting on.

But that’s an abrogation of the first order in their obligation to the people of Ohio. When they had the power to influence the redistricting process to a fairer, more constitutional outcome, DeWine and LaRose both whiffed.

“I have felt throughout this process that the committee could have produced a more clearly constitutional bill. That’s not the bill that we have in front of us,” DeWine said Wednesday night, as quoted by cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias and Jeremy Pelzer.

Yet DeWine later tried to walk that back: “I’m not judging the bill one way or the other,” Tobias and Pelzer quoted him later in the evening. “That’s up for a court to do.”

No, Mr. Governor. This was up to you to do. Kicking this down the road to uncertain judicial review was irresponsible and wrong.

Last week, our editorial board urged DeWine to exercise his authority to guide the Redistricting Commission to a fairer outcome. Instead, to his discredit, the governor has been strangely disengaged from this critical process.

LaRose, the state’s chief elections officer, along with Faber, a former Ohio Senate president, did try to negotiate an 11th-hour bipartisan compromise with Vernon and Emilia Sykes, the two Democratic commission members. This effort apparently failed.

But maybe if LaRose, who said Wednesday night he was voting for the Republican maps “with great unease,” had been willing to put his vote on the line for fairer maps, there would have been a more constitutional outcome.

If both DeWine and LaRose had sided with the Democrats, the commission’s 5-2 partisan vote of Wednesday night might have flipped to a 4-3 bipartisan vote on improved maps -- and made it more likely the maps would pass muster constitutionally while meeting voters’ expressed desire for fairer districts.

LaRose as much as admitted that the GOP maps have potentially fatal flaws.

“I fear we’re going to be back in this room very soon,” LaRose said, as quoted by Tobias and Pelzer. “This map has many shortcomings, but they pale in comparison to the shortcomings of this process.”

No, Mr. Secretary. It’s not the process. It’s the people in the process.

It is hard to reconcile with their oaths of office the governor and secretary of state’s almost blasé attitudes -- voting for flawed maps despite expressed qualms.

In taking office, they both solemnly swore to “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Ohio” and to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties incumbent upon me.”

Their actions last week were not a faithful and impartial discharge of their duties.

This is especially so when it comes to DeWine.

Even if the governor is looking over his shoulder at a GOP electorate in Ohio that’s swung rightward and that rose up against him and his then-health director, Dr. Amy Acton, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s no excuse for shirking his duties now.

The Ohio Constitution provides the governor with supreme executive power. It does not say he should subsume himself to his party, or to its chief legislative leaders, Huffman and Cupp.

It says he should lead. What DeWine, and LaRose, did in signing off last week on maps they knew were wrong was the opposite of leadership.

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Columbus Dispatch. Sept. 17, 2021.

Editorial: DeWine must call lawmakers’ bluff, institute a school mask mandate. Kids are in danger

It had been a while.

We had nearly forgotten what it was like to hear our governor — once a national voice in the fight against COVID-19 — preach the gospel of vaccines and the effectiveness of masks.

It was important that Mike DeWine returned to his pulpit with members of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association to stress the urgent need for masking in schools, but his message did not ring completely true.

As COVID-19 cases in kids soar and children’s hospitals fill up, DeWine insisted that his hands are tied and that he can’t issue a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools due to Senate Bill 22, which allows lawmakers to modify or repeal health orders issued by a governor or the Ohio Department of Health.

“I vetoed the bill that gave the legislature the power,” DeWine said during the nearly 90 minute press conference Tuesday. “That veto, as you well know, because you reported it, was overridden by the state legislature. In addition to that, the state legislature has made it very clear to me that they will take off a health order if I put a health order on.”

The ‘better angels’ have little pull

DeWine says fighting for a mask mandate in schools — something teachers’ unions and many school officials say they want, and reason dictates — would be counterproductive and create confusion.

Instead, his strategy is to appeal to the better angels, even though far too many school board members, superintendents and parents have been ignoring those very angels and squawking about masks this entire time.

There is absolutely no evidence that once again hearing the truth about the pandemic will change the hearts or minds of those who incorrectly and irresponsibly insist that it is just like the flu or a figment of our collective imaginations.

Those same better angels were ignored at the onset of the pandemic when the elderly and those with certain health conditions were viewed as the most vulnerable.

Hostility around mask wearing and vaccines at school board meetings and the Statehouse is a clear indication those angels will continue to be ignored.

DeWine said every county in the state is red hot with COVID cases, with many boiling over. Children’s hospitals are feeling that heat in a big way.

There have been nearly 30,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 for Ohio kids ages 5 to 17 since Aug. 15, according to the state.

The number of cases in that age range increased 198% from the week of Aug. 15 compared to the week ending Sept. 4.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that COVID-19 cases among children have increased 240% nationally since early July, when the delta variant began to take hold.

Cases for Ohio kids increased 2,000% during that same period.

Optimism goes only so far

The truth about coronavirus has been clouded by misinformation, some which is rooted in politics. A little less than half of the population of this state is fully vaccinated.

DeWine says he is optimistic.

It is naïve, not optimistic, to think that a news conference will convince the anti-vaxxers and COVID deniers influencing many school decisions to do the right thing.

The governor said that if he knew of anything other option, he would have done it.

What he needs to do is call lawmakers’ bluff.

DeWine needs to put politics aside and take a stand for children. For their very lives.

We call on the governor to institute a mask mandate for K-12 schools and fight his misguided Republican brethren over the issue in court if they lift it.

Let Senate President Matt Huffman and Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp explain why it is OK to ignore legitimate scientists and health experts and instead follow the lead of people such as Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, who falsely, and with a straight face, said that vaccines make people magnetic.

Let them and their negligent members look into the eyes of parents of sick or dead children and explain why the words of people such as Tenpenny are more valuable in the Statehouse than those of Cincinnati Children’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Patty Manning.

“We have our hands full managing the tsunami of kids coming our way,” she said during that Tuesday news conference.

Manning shared research that found that kids in the partial-mandate schools were nearly twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 as those with full mandates.

Nationwide Children’s in Columbus is experiencing record COVID-19 volumes, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rustin Morse said.

“We are in uncharted territory from a medical perspective. Not just in children’s hospitals, but adult hospitals, as well,” he said. “The infrastructure to care for patients is being strained to a point where it’s never been before.”

This week, officials from Greater Columbus’ four largest healthcare systems, Nationwide included, once again sounded the alarm about hospital capacity.

“Our waiting rooms are filled with people seeking care for COVID-19. Hundreds of patients who have been admitted to our hospitals are still waiting in our emergency departments for beds in our intensive care and medical-surgical units to open,” they wrote in an open letter to the community.

There were 30 children in Nationwide with COVID on the day of DeWine’s press conference; 10 were in the intensive care unit. There were 20 kids in the hospital with COVID two weeks ago.

Cases among school-age children are increasing at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the population.

DeWine needs to seize control

Despite his assertions, DeWine is anything but powerless to help slow the spread of the disease among kids.

The legislature may have given itself power to repeal DeWine’s health orders, but they have not stolen away his power.

He needs the political courage; he and his staff already have shown they can be creative.

This ingenuity won DeWine prime spots on national news and headlines around the nation to discuss Vax-A-Million, a vaccine lottery concept that encouraged people to get vaccinated by offering college scholarships and $5 million in cash prizes.

As one reporter pointed out during Tuesday’s press conference, DeWine is a “professional politician.”

In fact, DeWine — a former U.S. and Ohio senator, lieutenant governor, Ohio attorney general, and Greene County prosecutor — is perhaps one of the best politicians in Ohio’s history.

There are plenty of things he can dangle in front of lawmakers’ faces to get what he says he wants: healthy kids in classrooms.

He could have made the redistricting battle a lot more interesting or hold up other legislation for instance.

DeWine needs to take control.

Leading the state of Ohio is not the job of school superintendents or medial directors.

It is the governor’s responsibility.

Surely, DeWine does not expect school boards and districts to courageously take on mobs of maskless COVID deniers if he won’t even square off with members of his own party.

He needs to find a way to exercise his power for the sake of Ohio kids, our future.

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Akron Beacon Journal. Sept. 17, 2021.

Editorial: Hudson mayor widens political divide by bullying school board to resign or face charges

Legitimate complaints about a book have morphed into another outrageous scandal for Hudson, and that’s largely due to grandstanding by the mayor, Craig Shubert.

Yes, that’s what happens when the mayor gives local school board members the choice of resigning or facing criminal charges related to what he wrongly believes is child porn in the classroom.

Shubert’s threats are a gross abuse of his mayoral power and another example of divisive politics diminishing public institutions, including his own office.

At Monday’s Hudson Board of Education meeting, residents expressed their anger that “raw filth,” as one man said, slipped by the gatekeepers and into the classroom. “642 Things to Write About” is provided to high school juniors and seniors in a College Credit Plus writing class as supplemental reading.

While online book sellers say “642 Things” helps spur would-be writers through such exercises as “crafting your own obituary and penning an ode to an onion,” furious speakers at the meeting detailed adult-oriented suggestions. Drink a beer and write about the taste is one exercise; another is to “describe your favorite part of a man’s body using only verbs,” according to a resident who read aloud some of the 642 suggestions.

We agree the book is inappropriate for minors. The writing class is offered in association with Hiram College, where we assume the book was first selected.

After Hudson school officials were made aware of problematic content, the book was taken from students and high school administrators apologized to parents. District leaders say they are investigating to determine how the material was reviewed and approved for the class.

It’s understandable that parents and other residents would want to express their outrage at a public meeting. What’s astonishing is that Mayor Shubert had to pile on with threats.

The mayor backs up his claim that the book is child pornography because of a conversation he had with a judge.

“It has come to my attention your educators are distributing essentially what is child pornography in the classroom,” Shubert said.

Actually, no. Superintendent Phil Herman emphasized in a statement that “at no time were any of these inappropriate writing prompts assigned as part of the class.”

Hudson police have turned child porn allegations over to the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office. In a statement, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said “a prompt about a fictional writing is not child pornography.”

The prosecutor’s office on Friday warned that threats against board members, faculty and administrators in Hudson “must stop.”

One resident who spoke to the board worried that children were being “groomed” for pedophilia, believing that they were writing about sex and sharing stories with an adult teacher and classmates. Assuming it’s true that nobody was asked to do that, no child porn was created for the class.

That’s not to say the material went unread. A senior who spoke to the school board reported that students quickly found the controversial pages and read them.

Some Hudson residents who spoke at the board meeting indicated they were already upset with diversity efforts in curriculum and strict COVID-19 policies. This book, despite its being supplemental reading for some college-bound students, is another reason these residents say they can’t “trust” the authorities.

One authority who could help them understand the issues better is the ambitious mayor, who sought the 37th House District seat in the 2018 Republican primary but lost to Stow Councilman Mike Rasor.

After an incident in which a veteran’s microphone was cut intentionally during a Memorial Day speech this year, Shubert sounded willing to lead in instructive ways.

He and all City Council members condemned the Hudson American Legion for trying to censor a speech about freed Black slaves. Shubert invited retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter to deliver his full speech at a council meeting.

On this latest issue, Shubert has missed the mark. He has lashed out at officials who are not under his supervision. He has told elected officials to quit or face charges for an oversight.

The mayor might like to ponder whether he would like to be held to the same standard when he makes a mistake.

Given his clear error in judgment, should he be forced out of office?

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Toledo Blade. Sept. 18, 2021.

Editorial: Ditch September primary

Less than 8 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in Tuesday’s primary election.

That’s appalling. And it means only a tiny portion of citizens were involved in choosing Toledo’s mayor and at least half the members of city council.

What’s to be done to boost that pitiful turnout rate? To be sure, increasing voter participation is complicated and will require a multifaceted strategy.

One element of that strategy, however, is straightforward and can be set in motion immediately — Toledo must dump its dismal September primary.

Toledo is just one of a few municipalities in Ohio to hold a late-season primary and moving it to the more typical spring date is something the Lucas County Board of Elections has been requesting for several years.

Moving the primary will require a city charter change — something city council leaders voted in July to put to voters. Accomplishing that would mean putting a referendum on the ballot. Voters should not hesitate to approve it in November.

Late primaries, in theory, can streamline city elections. In reality, they not only burden the elections process and confuse voters, but they create artificially short campaign seasons that unfairly advantage incumbents.

Spring primaries allow challengers the opportunity to campaign longer. Primary winners have more time to prepare for the general election and campaign throughout the summer months, potentially creating more competition.

Primaries typically draw fewer voters than general elections. Holding a primary for one city’s municipal officials out of sync with the usual May voting day only makes that problem worse.

Last year’s primary election was complicated in several ways by the coronavirus pandemic, causing atypically low turnout. In 2019, the last September primary, only 5.79 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in city council races. In 2017, the last mayoral election year, turnout was 13.5 percent.

By contrast, in 2016, when the primary was in March because it was a presidential-election year, 35 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Lucas County.

Elected city officials arguably have the biggest effect on the daily lives of their constituents. How Toledo takes care of its streets, its police and fire services, and other close-to-home issues are decided by those officials chosen in city elections.

Toledo must do better to bring out as many voters as possible to choose those city leaders. The place to start is with a springtime primary election.

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Youngstown Vindicator. Sept. 15, 2021.

Editorial: Loychik’s rant demonstrates only disrespect

As an elected official himself, one would expect state Rep. Mike Loychik to demonstrate more respect for local elected officials and the decisions they make.

Earlier this week, a Cortland police officer escorted Loychik from a Lakeview Board of Education meeting, the school district where his child attends school. Loychik lives in Bazetta Township, but represents several areas of Trumbull County in the 63rd Statehouse district, including Cortland, Vienna, Lordstown, Niles, Brookfield, Hubbard, Girard, Mineral Ridge, Liberty and McDonald.

Loychik was asked to leave after he refused to follow the designated rules requiring a face mask.

That’s bad enough.

But then after Loychik was escorted out, he took to social media to lambaste school leaders.

“I was escorted out of the Lakeview school board meeting at the discretion of the cowardly Superintendent Velina J. Taylor and the cowardly board members,” he wrote. “My mission was to speak about making masks optional, and they had me escorted out by their (school resource officer) for not donning a mask. As a healthy individual, a leader and representative, I would have looked hypocritical for wearing one and will never bow down to their ridiculous mandates.”

Also, prior to leaving, Loychik told the three board members facing re-election this year to “start campaigning now.” On his subsequent social media post he vowed to offer the “full resource of any asset he could provide to their political opponents.”

We couldn’t be more disappointed in the behavior of this elected official.

Let’s face it, board of education members these days are facing a no-win situation. We strongly believe members of boards of education here in our Valley and everywhere are working hard to make the best decisions possible in an effort to keep our children and their employees safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while also attempting not to overstep. In today’s divided society, these board members certainly will face harsh criticism and opposition no matter how they decide to proceed.

Our state government has made a decision, so far, to allow these decisions to be made on the local level.

Good. We support that.

But that means, then, that members of the state government should respect and abide by those local-level decisions. Certainly, it is never the right approach for anyone — especially our elected state officials — to stoop to the level of namecalling or language and web posts that are so demeaning.

Respectful responses, whether in agreement or disagreement, should never be too much to ask.

How can we expect constituents, parents and, yes, our children to act respectfully and with proper decorum if this is the example we get from an elected state official?

END