Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Toledo Blade. November 27, 2022.

Editorial: Ohio is fat

The fitness website Total Shape rates Ohio as out of shape in a nationwide health ranking. Ohio is ranked as the 45th healthiest state, or if you like to score high, the fifth unhealthiest location in the nation.

It’s easy to ignore some internet fitness site, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Center for Health Statistics validates the concern with a 2022 report showing a declining life expectancy for Ohioans.

Obesity is the first cause for concern.

More than a third of the state population meets the body fat index measure for obesity. That’s not overweight, that’s obese as defined by more than 30 percent of body weight coming from fat.

The national statistics show that Ohioans support more fast food restaurants per thousand residents than most other states. Biggie fries and extra-large sugary drinks are not a good combination for fitness maintenance.

Diet is just part of the health problem in Ohio. Smoking is a daily habit for more than one in five Ohioans. Combining smoking with high fat diet and high fat body mass is conducive to heart disease and strokes. Both maladies will take years off your life, and the decrease in Ohioans’ longevity bears that out.

The final component of Ohio’s poor-health rating is based on what we don’t do rather than the bad eating and smoking that we score too high on.

When it comes to gym memberships as a measure of fitness-related activity, Ohio scores low. The combination of all measures produces a health index score that is way behind leading states and puts Ohio in line with West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

A low health index like ours is an early warning for companies that may be interested in establishing or expanding operations in Ohio to expect higher than average insurance costs.

Health is wealth, and we should act accordingly.

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Youngstown Vindicator. November 26, 2022.

Editorial: Show gratitude by giving this holiday season

Though few of us are involved in the harvest season these days, most of us take part in the celebration of all for which we are thankful — including the embarrassment of riches with which we are blessed in this country.

It is easy, when faced with rising inflation like we have faced this year, and other day-to-day struggles, for us to forget how much we often take for granted here.

We have written often this year about struggles many local families have with hunger issues. The local food banks and charities tell us they have seen more needy than in many, many years. To make matters worse, some people and organizations who previously assisted food banks meet their demands, simply are unable to help the way they used to do.

If you are one of those blessed in our Valley and not affected by hunger, then we encourage you to assist others as much as possible. It is easy to give in to the gloom. We need the purpose presented by this day to focus on the blessings. Giving to others is a wonderful way to do that.

As humans, sometimes we need to be reminded of our blessings, especially as we, at times, forget and roll our eyes, grumbling about things like the lines at the grocery store, forgetting how thankful we should be that such bounty is available to us.

Those with roofs over their heads, a car in the driveway, food in the kitchen, clothes in the closet, honest work to do, schools for their children and loving friends and family are blessed in ways too many around the world simply cannot comprehend. Though the sizes of the homes and number of cars may vary, we cannot forget that.

And should such a thought bring to mind those in our midst who are struggling even on this day of celebration, many of us have the means to do something to help. We should be grateful for the many organizations in our community who give us the chance to help those in need — and we should do just that.

Today, as we have for many, many years, we have devoted pages of this newspaper to thoughts from readers — including many school children who participated in class projects — reflecting on what they are most thankful for.

We urge you to set aside some time today or this weekend to read through the hundreds and hundreds of submissions. Some are light-hearted and others will bring a smile to your face. Others are more serious and heart-wrenching.

But overall, we are hopeful that our readers will find these thoughts are uplifting as we head into the holiday and giving season.

Please look around you today. We have so very much for which to be thankful. While we take a moment to celebrate with food and family on this occasion. And we must remember it every day.

May you and those you love have a happy, safe, healthy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

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Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. November 22, 2022.

Editorial: Don’t make the Ohio Constitution harder to amend

Ohio’s Republican overlords should be sated.

GOP candidates swept statewide races to keep control of the Governor’s Mansion and four other statewide executive offices in the midterms. They won three contested seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, held a U.S. Senate seat and won supermajorities in the Ohio House and Senate.

Those victories confirmed Ohio’s status as a red state, setting up Republicans to steamroll Democrats and do pretty much whatever they want.

Somehow that is not enough.

It seems too much power still resides in the hands of voters. Specifically, it’s too easy to amend the Ohio Constitution in ways Republicans might not like.

This, of course, cannot stand.

Which is why last week Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, and state Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, rolled out a plan that would make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution.

Right now, amending the Constitution requires 50% plus one vote.

The threshold for passage would rise to 60% under a constitutional amendment proposed by LaRose and Stewart, but only for citizen-led petitions. Amendments proposed by the Republican-led General Assembly still would need the support of only one more than 50% of voters to pass.

LaRose and Stewart explained away the difference by arguing that state lawmakers needed a two-thirds supermajority to place an amendment on the ballot.

Except that Republicans have supermajorities in the legislature in large part because LaRose and his fellow Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission ignored the Constitution to impose gerrymandering.

In 2015, 71.5% of voters cast ballots in favor of amending the redistricting process for state legislative districts to curtail gerrymandering. In 2018, 74.9% of voters cast ballots in favor of a similar measure for congressional redistricting.

Did Republicans heed the will of the people, as expressed in overwhelming majorities? They did not.

Instead, they pushed through maps overly favoring GOP candidates, which a bipartisan majority of Ohio Supreme Court justices struck down.

With Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican who voted with Democrats on redistricting cases, leaving office at the end of the year, Republicans will almost certainly have the votes on the court to draw even more favorable districts for themselves.

So why would Republicans be so eager to limit the authority of voters to amend the Ohio Constitution?

According to Stewart and LaRose, the change is necessary because, as the rules now stand, “special interests” have an outsized influence on amending the Constitution thanks to big spending. (The proposal would not increase the number of registered voters’ signatures necessary to get an amendment on the ballot.)

Yet, despite the supposed power of special interests, the pair acknowledged that in the past 22 years, 11 of the 16 citizen-initiated amendments have failed at the ballot box. They include the failure in 2015 of an amendment that would have legalized marijuana and limited cultivation to just 10 sites in Ohio, including one in Lorain County.

What Republicans are probably fretting about is the possibility that whatever draconian abortion restrictions they might pass would be overridden by a constitutional amendment Democrats and abortion-rights activists are working to get on the ballot.

A Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute poll found that 59.1% of Ohio voters polled would vote in favor of a constitutional amendment making abortion a fundamental right compared to 26.7% who would vote against such a measure.

Broken down by party, 84.2% of Democrats, 35.4% of Republicans and 59.5% of independents said they would support enshrining abortion rights in the state Constitution, according to the poll results made public in October.

It’s also worth noting that voters in several other states, including Kansas and Kentucky, approved abortion-rights measures this year.

Ohio Republicans likely fear a similar dynamic could play out in the Buckeye State and not just with abortion. Other popular policy ideas Republicans disapprove of could find their way into the Ohio Constitution as well.

That, apparently, wouldn’t do at all.

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Columbus Dispatch. November 21, 2022.

Editorial: ‘Everyone has a gun.’ State stymying Columbus’ fight to protect people from guns

Homicides are down in the city of Columbus from the record of 205 set in 2021

That’s moving in the right direction, but no consolation to those living in fear in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence or to the families and friends left to mourn the nearly 130 lives taken thus far in 2022, all but a handful to gunfire.

Such heartbreaking violence would be hard to tackle in any city or any state.

It is made even more challenging in Columbus due to legislation approved by Ohio lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine that make it easier to possess, buy or otherwise obtain firearms.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein told our editorial board that the city’s efforts to combat gun violence are being stymied by the Republican-led state legislature.

The latest example is a back-and-forth court battle between his office and that of Attorney General Dave Yost over gun restrictions the city wants to institute and a state law barring municipal gun regulations — Ohio Revised Code Section 9.68, the state’s so-called “Right to bear arms — challenge to law.”

Klein said cities are facing the ramifications of the extreme decision made by the state in the name of second amendment rights above all others.

The impact of new Ohio laws relaxing gun restrictions has not yet been measured, but Klein cited information he has received from police officers working in Columbus as evidence.

“They are just seeing so many guns,” he said. “Everyone has a gun.”

Klein pointed to a March study by the Washington, D.C. think tank Third Way that shows so-called red states controlled by Republican elected officials like Ohio have more homicides.

Recent studies by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with relaxed carry and conceal laws have increased police shootings and a 10% increase in firearm assaults per 100,000 people.

“There is a direct correlation between lacking gun laws and the violence we are seeing, and that is a problem that cities across the nation see,” Klein said. “The state of Ohio is trying to put its thumb on the scale and run guns in our streets — then turn around and blame big cities. “The state’s “stand your ground” law was signed in 2021. Laws approved this year allowing legally qualified Ohio residents 21 and older to conceal firearms without training or permits and drops the training hours a teacher needs to be armed in school from 728 hours to about 24.

Columbus’ ability to curtail gun violence is being stymied by lawmakers who should be striving to protect all Ohio’s citizens.

The meaning of ‘stay’

Columbus officials’ hopes of enacting a trio of gun regulations might hinge on the meaning of a stay issue by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen L. McIntosh and how enforced home-rules are or are not applied.

City officials want to prohibit those who can legally buy guns from purchasing them for those who can’t, ban large-caliber ammunition magazines containing more than 30 rounds and require the safe storage of firearms when minors could reasonably be in danger of getting a hold of them.

Early this month and after being sued by Columbus for inaction on its 2019 case, McIntosh temporarily blocked a portion of an Ohio law that keeps cities from passing local gun laws.

City officials say that law infringes on its home-rule rights under our state constitution and that it should be able to add the three gun restrictions.

On Nov. 11, McIntosh granted a preliminary injunction stay requested by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.

Yost told us that the stay stops the city from proceeding with the gun restrictions. Klein contends that it does not and only pertains to further proceedings in the case itself.

Yost says his position is about following the law as handed down by lawmakers and not a comment on the city’s proposed regulation.

“I completely agree that we cannot ignore the carnage that is going on,” he told us, noting that among his office’s undertakings are efforts to solve crimes through ballistic testing using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

He pointed Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters zero plea-bargain policy for cases involving guns and applauded Columbus police Chief Elaine Bryant’s attempts to target areas of high criminal activities.

Yost acknowledges that home-rule is allowed in other sections of Ohio law partly because “there are things that matter in urban environments that may not matter as much in a rural or exurban areas.”

The Ohio law restricting cities from devising their own gun laws intends to prevent a patchwork of different laws when it comes to possession of firearms, he said.

“A citizen should not have to worry about crossing the street and going to a different jurisdiction (where guns restrictions are contrasting),” Yost said. “We should have one law for possession of what the government says is contraband.”

We understand his points, but think is more important that there are safeguards in place to help protect citizens in this city from the pain and heartbreak cause by weapons that large-caliber ammunition magazines containing more than 30 rounds were made to carry.

Targeting criminals is clearly not enough on its own.

Lives being left in shambles

McIntosh or an appeals court judge will make their call, but it is counterintuitive that gun laws are somehow exempt from home rule which, according to information prepared for members of the Ohio General Assembly by the Legislative Service Commission Staff, “include the power of local self-government, the exercise of certain police powers, and the ownership and operation of public utilities.”

Gun violence may not be as big of a problem in rural and suburban communities, but it is certainly a problem in Columbus and other major Ohio metro areas.

“We are responsible to the million people in the city of Columbus, and we see violence every day,” Klein told us.

On the heels of a gun-related homicide record set in 2020 and broke in 2021, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther declared gun violence a public health crisis in February.

“My life is still in shambles,” Jackie Casimire, the mother of slain 2020 gun violence victim Corneluis “Ray” Casimire said as part of a Dispatch article on the declaration. “The guns on the street are causing death daily ... this is a story that is being repeated over and over again.”

A citizen of Columbus should not have to fear the impact or pay the ultimate price for untethered gun rights.

Columbus and other cities should be able to enact sensible gun laws that protect people.

The state legislature sadly has shown no signs it is willing to do so. In fact, the opposite is the case as Klein says. Decisions from the Statehouse are making guns more easily obtainable to the potential peril of people who live in cities like Columbus.

“They are flooding the market (with guns) across the state of Ohio,” Klein said. “There are real world consequences.”

Those consequences have sent far too many people here to early graves and left far too many mourners behind to keep a tally of those taken by gun violence.

Far too many are left in shambles.

Ohio’s gun laws are moving Columbus and the rest of the state in a very dangerous direction.

That should be criminal.

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