Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Toledo Blade. November 12, 2022.

Editorial: An agenda for DeWine

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has been re-elected but with no clear mandate or agenda for leadership in a second term. That said, there’s plenty that needs doing.

The governor ducked debates and used a huge fund-raising advantage to fill our TVs with video of the Intel chip plant’s groundbreaking. U.S. business is bringing manufacturing back to America and Ohio’s inherent advantages make us competitive for the relocations. Mr. DeWine must do more than preside over the status quo.

If the governor really wants to help the people who elected him, residents of small town, suburban, and rural Ohio, he will boost the Local Government Fund from the anemic 1.6% of general funds to a robust 5%. The state has cash reserves of $5.5 billion while local governments struggle to afford basic services. Development goes to the already strong.

It would be a historic achievement for the DeWine administration to produce a transportation corridor between Toledo and Columbus.

The progressively worse bottlenecks grown over the last 60 years impede commerce between the two cities and are a unique disadvantage to northwest Ohioans. The governor who solves this problem is a giant.

Mr. DeWine’s H2Ohio program, designed to thread the needle between protecting Lake Erie water quality and agriculture interests with runoff-causing algal blooms, needs more money and clarification that the lake is the first priority. Mr. DeWine should also throw the full support of Ohio government behind Congressional legislation offered by Toledo’s U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur to create a Great Lakes Authority to lend enhanced federal protection to our water resources. Ms. Kaptur is correct to worry about diversion to the arid West without such protection and needs all-out bipartisan support.

Given the bribery scandal associated with Mr. DeWine’s first term, it would be wise to reform Ohio’s ethics laws to become the best in America. Dark-money political action committees should be forced into transparency by Ohio law. Fees paid to lobby for Ohio laws should be public down to the penny. Outside earning by Ohio public officials should also be fully reported. To show seriousness, the penalties for violation should be treated as a nonviolent felony.

Mr. DeWine could propel Toledo’s fast growing solar industry through a repeal of state law that gives local jurisdictions authority over renewable energy installations. Solar panels and windmills need to be treated like oil, gas, and electric and permitted at the state level. Fracking should not get regulatory assistance that is lacking for solar.

Mr. DeWine should ask the General Assembly to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to resolve the question of abortion in Ohio, now that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has made abortion law a state decision. Taking the lead on the question would avoid the complications of an initiative petition and lead to a quicker resolution. An issue of this consequence needs a vote of the people, and Mr. DeWine would be wise to facilitate the inevitable.

Finally, Ohio’s public pensions need reforms that bring down investment costs and improve investment results. Mr. DeWine should push lawmakers to repeal the law that gives pensions carte blanche power over investments and force them back into publicly traded fully transparent funds available for a fraction of the current costs.

There is plenty for him to do and make his mark on Ohio history.

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Youngstown Vindicator. November 7, 2022.

Editorial: Population and workforce dips grow more critical

Greater Ohio Policy Center has conducted a study that shows Ohio is getting older, losing workers and, in fact, losing population in general. Over the past two decades the state’s population has grown by 3% — but that increase is due largely to growth in Columbus. If you remove the state capital from the numbers, the rest of the state has lost population by approximately 1%.

Further, the state’s population grew significantly slower than many other parts of the nation, resulting in Ohio actually losing a Congressional district this year. (The 13th Congressional District currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan will be split and merged into the 6th Congressional district to the south and the 14th Congressional district to the north beginning in January.)

The Greater Ohio Policy Center’s report states: “Much of Ohio functions like a legacy state rather than a rapidly growing place. As a result, state policy makers need to think differently about the needs and challenges of the Columbus area versus other places in Ohio.”

That doesn’t sound like the kind of state we hear described during economic development announcements — at least one of which will be within easy commuting distance of Columbus.

Researchers lament the condition of the population in places such as Akron, Toledo or Dayton — “legacy cities.”

“Today Ohio’s legacy cities are no longer experiencing precipitous population declines but may still be seeing only marginal population change, be it slow declines, slight growth or remaining steady,” according to the authors of the report. “These dynamics go hand-in-hand with an aging population and decreased economic vitality.”

Last week, chartered financial analyst David Valentiner, director of interest rate management for First National Bank, spoke in our Valley about the challenges that declining population brings, particularly when it comes to preserving solid workforces.

Valentiner spoke Thursday morning at the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber’s annual economic forecast breakfast.

The workforce issues could become a crisis. Of course, that isn’t unique to Ohio.

There are 153 million workers now, he said. In comparison, there were 152.5 million in February 2019.

He admits the economy has had some dips, “but really the economy has been growing for two years; the workforce has not,” Valentiner said. “That’s the situation we are in right now.”

One cause is the baby boomer generation — workers who traditionally have stayed in the workforce longer than other generations — is retiring at an unprecedented rate.

In 2019, 1.5 million baby boomers retired. The last two years, they retired at double that rate.

Valentiner said America has lost more than 3 million of the most experienced workers that normally would not have exited the workforce.

Family dynamics and birth rates also play a role in the shrinking population and, therefore, the workforce. People are waiting longer now to marry and have children. Birth rates across the developed world are declining below the 2.1 children per family needed to keep a population stable, excluding immigration, Valentiner said.

The insight and statistics shared by Valentiner present a challenge that Ohio must work to overcome in order to maintain and attract new business.

Getting back to the Greater Ohio Policy Center study, let’s forget “legacy cities” for a moment. If that kind of sluggishness or decline is being felt in Ohio’s more urban areas, the outlook for rural Ohio — particularly Appalachian counties — is even worse.

“This (Appalachian) region, which has never been densely populated, struggles with many of the same challenges that Ohio’s legacy cities face on top of the effects of an resource extraction economy,” researchers wrote. “Though Appalachia is not a specific focus of this report, several of the solutions offered for Ohio’s legacy cities are also likely to help rural Appalachian cities and towns.”

Maybe. But it will take more than an emulation of what MIGHT work in the rest of the state to make real change here. Surely the folks we elect to represent us in Columbus understand that. And, if they do, they must urgently be thinking of ways to correct this negative trend.

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Sandusky Register. November 10, 2022.

Editorial: End gerrymandering now

Ohio’s Republican leaders didn’t do right by voters in the state when they gerrymandered political districts this year despite the will of the people and state law which prohibits it. In 2015 and in 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved amendments to the state constitution — by more than 70% margins — to outlaw gerrymandering.

Those amendments, when voters approved them, were celebrated by both parties as a victory for democracy and an assurance that future elections would be fair.

The goodwill of this move quickly wore off as Republican hands on the General Assembly and congressional district maps have been made clear.

They ignored the rule of law, which was a hallmark of what the Republican Party has historically stood for. We remain disappointed by their actions and fearful that the next round of mapmaking will result in the same routine of pretending to abide by the law while breaking it. It is clear that gerrymandering, the act of stacking the electorate to give an unfair advantage to one party over another, results elections that are compromised.

The thing of it is, Republicans do maintain a legitimate voter percentage advantage, 54% to 46%, over Democrats in past elections that likely would have helped them maintain their majority status in the statehouse. In other words, they didn’t have to cheat to win. But they did.

Gerrymandering results in weaker leaders who aren’t accountable to voters. It results in weaker state government and weaker leadership from Ohio and Washington. Look no further than the new 9th District for clear evidence of that. Here’s the breakdown of how they gerrymandered the district: The portion removed from the new 9th District, Lorain County, voted Tuesday with 47% of the ballots cast in favor of the Democrat. Four of the five counties added to the new 9th District all favored Republicans by wide margins: Defiance County (60%); Fulton (59%); Sandusky (54%); Williams (63%).

The Republican Party failed to run a candidate who served as a true 9th District challenger to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was easily re-elected Tuesday. J.R. Majewski, according to unrefuted press reports, exaggerated both his resume and his military service and, on some level, he participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Those serious flaws doomed his candidacy. Trading Kaptur for Majewski would have been a serious loss for Ohio. Kaptur has shown up and delivered for Ohio, and we’re glad she’s going back to Washington.

Now the hard work of getting mapmaking right needs to begin in earnest.

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