Editorial Roundup: Ohio

December 23, 2019 GMT

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Racial disparities in police stops demands attention

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dec. 20

The results from a study of police stops in Ohio’s three largest cities – Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus – are troubling and demand closer attention from law enforcement and our elected officials. Cincinnati’s data underscores the need to make the city’s landmark Collaborative Agreement – a cornerstone of the previous decade’s police reforms – a priority by committing more funding and staff to implementing its tenets.

An examination of police stops by reporters from the nonprofit newsroom Eye on Ohio, The Cincinnati Enquirer and researchers from Stanford University’s Big Local News program confirmed what many African Americans and other people of color have argued for years: police officers stop and arrest them at significantly higher rates than whites.

In Cincinnati, blacks were stopped at a 30% higher rate than whites. Blacks made up 52% of all vehicle and pedestrian stops between 2012 and 2017, despite being 43% of the city’s population. And once stopped, police in Cincinnati arrested more than three times the number of blacks pulled over as whites, 15,127 compared to 4,315. Blacks made up 76% of all arrests, compared to 22% for whites.

Analysis of traffic stops in Columbus and Cleveland showed similar results.

It’s not fair or accurate to suggest that all of these stops were racially motivated, particularly without the proper context. But the existence of racial bias in policing cannot be dismissed outright either. At the very least, the data shows that black neighborhoods are more aggressively policed than white neighborhoods, resulting in a higher risk of being profiled and pulled over for “driving while black.” In Cincinnati, police made 79% more total stops per resident in predominantly black areas.

The Collaborative Agreement spawned from a lawsuit brought by citizens who alleged discrimination and excessive use of force by Cincinnati police officers. The deal aimed to improve police-community relations in the city amid rising tensions between police and black citizens after riots in 2001. It has been touted as a national model of collaboration among police, city agencies and the community. But the city’s fidelity to the agreement has waned in the years since its inception and agencies that arose from the pact, such as the Citizens Complaint Authority, have been underfunded and understaffed.

Mayor John Cranley’s much-ballyhooed Collaborative refresh process hasn’t delivered on its promises so far. After nearly two years, little reliable data exists to show the community the impact of arrests, traffic and pedestrian stops by officers, policies regarding body-worn cameras, police training and the status of an independent body set up to review police conduct. The refresh process has also been hindered by personality clashes between principals at the collaborative table, namely Dan Hils, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Iris Roley, a community representative.

For Cincinnati to remain a leader in police-community relations, city, law enforcement and community leaders must continue to work to achieve the objectives of the Collaborative Agreement. Bias-free policing demands transparency, due diligence, accountability and the willingness to use data gathered to shape solutions.

Like all cities, Cincinnati has an imperfect policing record. But unlike some cities, Cincinnati has shown a willingness and the courage to pull back the covers of its police patterns and practices to see what lies underneath, no matter how unpleasant or uncomfortable the findings.

The police stop data is a reminder that even with the progress brought about by the Collaborative Agreement over the past 17 years, much work remains to be done. The city should start by fortifying the Citizens Complaint Authority by hiring the minimum of five investigators required under the city’s own administrative code. Currently, there are just three. The city should also take steps to speed up the process and meet the 90-day deadline for resolving citizen complaints against officers.

There also needs to be more buy-in from the police union and leadership. The Enquirer’s research found the police department was less focused now on problem-solving projects than in the past. The city, in a report earlier this year, released data showing 56 police problem-solving projects were initiated in the first six months of 2018, and 19 were initiated in the same period of 2019. And fewer projects have been initiated under Cincinnati Police Chief Elliot Isaac than under his predecessor, Jeffrey Blackwell, according to the city data and the independent review. This reinforces the notion among the department’s critics that police don’t see a problem or need for reform.

Nothing is more corrosive to the overall health and safety of our community than mistrust and bad police-community relations. Racial profiling dehumanizes, humiliates and stokes fears in those victimized by it. That is why the Collaborative Agreement is critically important to improving awareness and training so police are prepared to make the right decisions while on patrol.

Online: https://bit.ly/2MotCGx


It was a good year for Gov. DeWine — and for Ohio

The Columbus Dispatch

Dec. 22

For Gov. Mike DeWine, 2019 has been the first year of the culmination of a life in public service, and Ohio is better for it.

DeWine was not our choice in the 2018 gubernatorial race. We preferred Democrat Richard Cordray, both for his own long record of public service and out of concern that DeWine would do too little to counter the backward tendencies of a General Assembly dominated by his fellow Republicans.

His tenure so far has been a welcome surprise.

From a much-needed gas-tax hike to spending on children’s needs to environmental protection, DeWine has focused on problems that the Republican legislature over the years largely has yawned at. In some cases, he has done so against opposition from others in his party.

Working with a supermajority of conservative Republicans, many of them to the right of rightwing, parts of DeWine’s agenda are only slightly more popular than a Democrat’s with some members of his party. Yet he has been resolute in pursuing it, and part of the reason seems clear: Unlike most of his predecessors, Mike DeWine can do what he really wants.

The 72-year-old governor won’t be running for any further public office other than re-election, and that’s a different prospect from seeking the presidency or a senate seat. DeWine doesn’t have to worry about alienating President Donald Trump’s hard-right supporters or collecting chits from Statehouse politicians with their own ideological agendas.

And so it was that DeWine began his term in the wee hours of Jan. 14, swearing his oath of office in his Cedarville home and immediately issuing a raft of executive orders, including one to continue former Gov. John Kasich’s order extending anti-discrimination protection in state hiring on the basis of gender identity or expression.

Another extended protection against discrimination to foster parents or parents of young children. Others created new positions and offices to tackle opioid addiction and focus on the needs of children and families in foster care.

The new governor’s priorities came into sharper focus in the spring, when his 2020-21 budget proposal included an unprecedented investment in children’s well-being, doubling the allocation for county children services agencies. That prospect may have helped Franklin County Children Services to get by with only a renewal levy on the May ballot rather than a replacement, which would have meant a tax increase.

DeWine also requested an increase of $550 million over two years in the fund that supports “wraparound services” such as health care, counseling and after-school programs for public schools with lots of families in poverty.

Also unprecedented was DeWine’s eye-popping request for $900 million to create H2Ohio, a fund to pay for 10 years’ worth of projects to protect and clean up Lake Erie.

When he saw the dismal condition in which his predecessors left Ohio’s roads and bridges, he didn’t shy away from pushing the most obvious solution: raising the state’s gasoline tax, which had been unchanged for more than a decade. Initially proposing an 18-cent hike as part of the budget, he ended up settling for 10.5 cents per gallon.

The result is a recently approved transportation plan for $1.1 billion in work over the next four years.

As Ohioans learned the full extent of sexual abuse of patients and staffers by former Ohio State University sports physician Dr. Richard Strauss and the fact that the State Medical Board essentially sat on hundreds of allegations of abuse by doctors, DeWine declared it a failure and called on the board to review every case that had been closed without action for the past 25 years.

We don’t share all of DeWine’s priorities; his race to sign a destructive nuclear-bailout bill was unfortunate, as was his support for an anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” that is extreme and clearly unconstitutional.

DeWine has had less success budging Statehouse Republicans from their blind loyalty to the gun lobby. Moved by the demands of a crowd in Dayton to “do something” after a mass shooting there in August, the governor unveiled a list of proposed law changes including expanded background checks and a long-sought “red flag” measure allowing the seizure of guns from people deemed to be dangerous.

His measure lacked important components, such as bans on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, and still in the face of opposition he watered it down further, changing the background check from a mandate to an incentive.

He’s still pushing for his plan, dubbed STRONG Ohio. While we regret the measures aren’t stronger, we salute DeWine’s determination to find what’s possible on this especially fraught issue. While he unfortunately supports some excessive gun-rights legislation such as a “stand your ground” bill and one allowing concealed carry of lethal weapons with no license or training, we were gratified when he recently advised lawmakers not to bother forwarding either of those measures to him until they pass his STRONG Ohio package.

Those who know DeWine say it’s easy to see what helps him find the possible in Ohio’s contentious political environment: boundless energy and a genuinely likeable personality.

Where Kasich quarreled with lawmakers, they say, DeWine hosts lunches and picnics and listens. Local government officials, including the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, marvel that he shows up at their meetings and new-courthouse openings and listens to their concerns.

“He obviously loves being governor,” one friend said. “He enjoys the people.”

We thank Gov. DeWine for his hard work and we look forward to at least three more years of progress on behalf of all Ohioans.

Online: https://bit.ly/36VEAuS


Impeachment as a political weapon

The Toledo Blade

Dec. 22

The Republicans started this.

It was the Republicans who defined impeachment down. No longer would it be a matter of grave seriousness for the nation. No, it would be political. And it would be personal.

The Republicans hated Bill Clinton and could not accept him as the president. And so impeachment, which Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution says shall be “for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” became, not a constitutional remedy but a weapon of raw, and ongoing, power politics.

It is not unreasonable to assume that, if President Donald Trump is re-elected, he will be impeached again.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the next Democratic president who faces a Republican House will be impeached.

This House impeached this president, not for treason or bribery or high crimes, but for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. This lowers the standard for impeachment. This is a standard that could be applied to every president since Theodore Roosevelt.

And this is indisputably unwise.

One can search the Federalist Papers and the records of the Constitutional Convention for clear intent in the minds of the Founders on impeachment. One will search in vain.

What is clear, with apologies to those on the originalist spectrum, is that the Founders gave us the structure of a political system and expected us to make it work, in different ways, in real time and through time. And throughout American history, impeachment has been regarded as what we today would call “the nuclear option.”

Up until Richard Nixon, who was about to be impeached by the House before he resigned, impeachment had been invoked only once in almost two centuries. In the Nixon case, two sound principles were established: First, that impeachment would have to have some bipartisan support to move forward, and second, that it should be established that a crime was committed. We have now seen impeachment invoked twice in roughly 20 years. And in neither case was there support from the party of the president. In neither case was a “high crime” proven.

With Bill Clinton, the nuclear option was applied to a violation of decency and of norms (and lying about it under oath). The president was undignified. He demeaned his office and embarrassed the country. That might have been worthy of censure, or political defeat if he could have stood for election again. It was not worthy of impeachment.

A majority of Americans might easily agree that Donald Trump violated norms and decency, and sound policymaking, in playing hardball with the government of Ukraine, hoping to damage a political foe. But that rises to the level of impeachment only if impeachment is no longer nuclear but just one more weapon of political warfare.

By applying such a potent weapon to political conflict, we have plunged ourselves into a state of permanent political warfare — an endless politics of payback with no interruption for governing.

And this, in turn, means a politics of permanent division, with no bridges and no bridge builders.

The fact that there have been no surprises in the impeachment saga so far, that almost every actor in the drama has behaved in a way that was totally predictable, shows how broken our politics really is.

Read the responses of the Democrats and the Republicans in the House to each other. What you heard was two angry tribes, with each tribe living completely in its own reality and granting zero recognition to the other’s reality. The Dems could not see any issue but the President’s personality. They hate him as the GOP hated Mr. Clinton and Barack Obama. The GOP could not admit that what the President did was wrong.

What now?

We go to the Senate for a trial. The trial should be sober, thorough and fair. It need not be long. It should not be a fresh fishing expedition. The House has acted as the grand jury. Each side should summarize its case and the Senate should vote with alacrity.

Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell have already begun to play games with the Senate process, with the speaker wanting to delay sending the House’s charge and the majority leader looking for a way to elongate the trial (before the polls shifted, he wanted to simply dismiss it).

One of the results of endless political warfare without pause for governance is that there are no statesmen. The bullies and thugs lead, and no one stands up to them.

Think of the people who have left politics in just the last four years. A Sam Ervin or a Wayne Morse, who stand above the fray, is impossible in this milieu.

On this matter, the Founders were clear. They wanted competition and a balancing of powers and interests. They did not want constant warfare.

This is what Americans want, too, even today — especially today.

The Founders also expected there to be statesmen.

Our citizens, today, long for them.

Online: https://bit.ly/2sf3qam


Push for e-cig strategies, with suits if necessary

Warren Tribune Chronicle

Dec. 22

For decades, tobacco companies insisted their product was not hazardous to health. When scientific proof countered that, they maintained their advertising strategies were not calculated to get as many new smokers hooked on nicotine as possible.

We know now that all of those protestations were, well, smoke and mirrors.

It is appropriate, then, to find out the truth about e-cigarettes and how they are marketed.

Scientists already are discovering that “vaping” carries with it serious health risks. Some public health officials add, however, that e-cigarettes may be a path smokers can use to wean themselves off nicotine.

What of teenagers who were never addicted to nicotine until they tried e-cigarettes, however?

Last month, California officials filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs, by far the biggest producer of e-cigarettes and the nicotine-laden cartridges used in them. The state’s attorney general is alleging the Juul Labs has intentionally marketed flavored products to attract teenagers.

A similar lawsuit was filed earlier this year by North Carolina officials.

A Juul spokesman told The Associated Press that the company does “not intend to attract underage users.” Meanwhile, however, the firm has stopped selling most of its flavored cartridges. Only menthol and tobacco flavors are being marketed now.

A variety of other companies continue to advertise and sell flavored e-cigarette cartridges, however. “Very cherry,” “chocolate indulgence” and “passion fruit” are among the varieties still readily available.

Suggestions that government should ban sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges have been shelved in most places.

Finding out more about both e-cigarettes and producers’ marketing strategies — and goals — is important. Clearly, the only way that will happen is through trials in lawsuits such as those filed by California and North Carolina officials. The sooner that can happen, the better.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Si4sgp