Editorials from around Ohio
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Why is ‘stand your ground’ necessary?
Akron Beacon Journal
The numbers are staggering.
In 2017, the most recent year for which we have complete data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 39,773 people died in the United States in gun-related incidents. It was the most in the U.S. since at least 1968, according to the Pew Research Center.
In Ohio, there were 1,589 gun deaths in 2017, the most since 1999.
After several mass shootings last year, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich introduced legislation to reduce gun violence, but it didn’t make it out of legislative committees.
But after an Aug. 4 shooting this year in Dayton, where a gunman killed nine in 32 seconds — only hours after 22 were killed and 24 injured in shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart — Kasich’s successor, Republican Mike DeWine, also was forced to confront the issue.
Perhaps prodded by a crowd at a prayer vigil in the days after the shooting chanting for him to “do something,” DeWine actually did do something. Or at least he took the first steps toward doing something, showing an admirable willingness to follow Kasich’s example and buck the pro-gun elements of his own party to advance public safety.
“I have an obligation to do this,” he said in late August of his original proposal, recently modified to hold gun sellers more accountable for private sales and increase “pink-slip” committals of people into mandatory inpatient treatment for mental health and addiction issues.
“Look, you run for governor because you want to make things happen, change things. ... This is an opportunity ... for us to do things that should be done.”
Unfortunately, DeWine wasn’t the only one who saw an opportunity.
Late last month, state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, reintroduced a “stand your ground” bill, which would allow a person to use deadly force without having to retreat, even in public, if that person felt threatened. Kasich last year vetoed a watered-down version of a similar bill that didn’t include stand-your-ground language, although both chambers overrode that veto.
But that single bite of the apple wasn’t enough for the elected officials who control the levers of power in the Ohio General Assembly, and now they are back for the rest.
As of Friday, Keller’s “stand your ground” bill had 24 sponsors, all Republicans, in the House. With DeWine’s “STRONG Ohio” bill starting in the Senate, where it is expected to be better received than in the House, the possibility of a compromise measure that includes “stand your ground” cannot be ruled out.
That would be a mistake. We would love for sponsors to provide real examples of where people have been harmed by a fear of defending themselves or prosecuted for doing so under current law.
Although DeWine bowed to political reality and scaled back the scope of his proposal, it still represents a good first step forward in addressing gun violence. Weighing it down with a concession to the pro-gun lobby is not only unnecessary, it is unseemly.
According to state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, a sponsor of DeWine’s proposal, the “stand your ground” bill is “tone deaf to the feelings that are out there.”
DeWine, who has indicated he wants his bill passed as is without adding “stand your ground,” clearly is listening to his constituents.
Can the same be said of the General Assembly?
Cuyahoga County’s pioneering Judge4Yourself judicial ratings coalition revamps itself
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cuyahoga County voters who often confront unknown names on the judicial portion of their ballots are fortunate to live in a county where lawyers have banded together in an intensive judicial ratings coalition. Judge4Yourself is one of the few such in the country. The process hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been an important brake against the local “name game” where Russos, Hagans, Gallaghers, Corrigans, etc., seem to have an edge, no matter what their qualifications.
In recent years, however, local judicial candidates of color had challenged a rating process they saw as insular and inherently biased. Our editorial board, likewise, raised concerns about transparency and fairness.
Admirably, Judge4Yourself listened, worked for the past year to systematically re-evaluate its process -- and then reformed it. The volunteer coalition has added far more internal brakes on possible bias, more transparency with candidates, and a fifth local bar, the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio, to the four bar associations involved in most of the recent years. The four others are the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Ohio Women’s Bar Association and the Norman S. Minor Bar Association representing many local African-American lawyers.
The results look promising, which is why it’s troubling that two of the four judicial candidates competing in contested Cleveland races in the Nov. 5 election -- W. Mona Scott, contending for Housing Court judge, and Joseph Russo, seeking the Cleveland Municipal Court seat currently held by Judge Marilyn B. Cassidy -- elected not to participate this year in the Judge4Yourself rating process.
Scott also did not take part in the cleveland.com/Plain Dealer endorsement process and, as of Friday, had not submitted biographical information to the Judicial Votes Count website started by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor, with co-sponsorship from other good-government groups and hosted by the University of Akron, to increase voters’ knowledge about judicial candidates statewide.
Russo told our editorial board he did not think the Judge4Yourself process was fair or accurate. When reminded the process had been revamped, he said he wanted to give it another year.
However, we applaud Judge4Yourself for positive results that are already apparent, including in a more careful, inclusive process. We would have liked to see more transparency, but given the sensitive nature of some of the Judge4Yourself inquiries, and also how dependent practicing lawyers are on the good will of judges, we understand some of the constraints on the full transparency we would have liked to see.
Not only did Judge4Yourself adopt comprehensive reforms, but it did so through a time-consuming process -- without a cent of compensation for the lawyers involved who usually charge by increments of an hour.
Tackling Toledo’s poverty
The latest U.S. Census data offers new, but not surprising, news about Toledo: The region is disproportionately poor and increasingly uninsured.
The information, released recently as part of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, discovered that during the last year the percentage of metro Toledoans who are going without health insurance soared by 26 percent, and those living below the poverty line increased by 4.4 percent.
Those results echo an earlier study commissioned by Toledo City Council and completed by the University of Toledo’s Jack Ford Center for Urban Affairs. That study, released over the summer, concluded that nearly half of the city’s residents are renters and too many of them spend too much on housing, among other findings.
The new statistics should emphasize, once again, the imperative for the city to ensure that Toledo’s nascent revitalization reaches beyond downtown and affluent areas into all the neighborhoods.
This is why it is crucial for Toledo to focus on improving its schools, expanding and modernizing public transportation, and focus on developing a first-rate ready workforce.
The region has a serious challenge to solve with its poverty problem.
Not only do the poorest people in the Toledo area deserve better opportunities, but the region itself will never achieve its full potential and attract the economic development and new residents it needs without improving this important community metric.
Toledo-area leaders must focus on proven solutions and demand results. Among the goals moving forward should be eliminating the redundant agencies that accomplish little direct action so that resources can instead go to more effective programs that should be able to grow and scale up their efforts.
The University of Toledo study emphasized that effective poverty solutions would require the city to use its $7 million per year Community Development Block Grants in a better way, funding creative and collaborative solutions instead of funding an assortment of community development corporations.
The latest Census data show that about 16.6 percent of people in the Toledo metro area — nearly one in six — live below the poverty line. This is up from 15.9 percent from a year earlier.
Dense urban poverty has proven an intractable problem in Toledo. The solutions that bring relief to that poverty call for creative, new approaches to improving the lives of the region’s most vulnerable residents.
Licking County elections worth your time to vote
Voters across Licking County will pick their local leaders next week - and it is our hope that the electorate is motivated to make those choices.
For while selecting township trustees, school board members or even mayors doesn’t have the same excitement as voting for president, those positions are far more likely to affect local residents’ day-to-day lives than any federal office.
The President doesn’t select which roads get paved, which farm gets transitioned to a subdivision or how our schools work to keep students safe. Licking County voters have an opportunity this week to pick leaders who will address those challenges in the best way possible.
In Newark we are blessed to have two good candidates offering visions for the future of the community. Selecting the city’s executive is the single most important office for deciding the future of our community.
But the ballot goes beyond that to many “low-level” offices that make decisions about the future of the community on a daily basis.
If you care about the future of downtown Newark or police protection in the city, vote.
If you care about how people are treated when charged with misdemeanor crimes, vote.
If you care about how fire protection service is handled in your rural community, vote.
If you care about how our community supports keeping senior citizens in their homes, vote.
If you care about our children attending quality schools, vote.
But we’d also add a caveat to do a little research before heading to the ballot. An informed vote ensures the election results best reflect the beliefs of the community instead of simply which candidate’s name is more recognizable.
The Advocate has compiled all of its election coverage into one place online for easy access. In addition, the League of Women Voters of Licking County has published its questionnaire responses for all races at vote411.org.
Take the time to see what races are on your ballot and which candidates are the best for the position.