Editorials from around Ohio
Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The Akron Beacon Journal, Nov. 18
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge reported that her Friday meeting with Nancy Pelosi was “very open and frank.” The Democrat, who represents Akron and Cleveland, along with parts in between, made her point about some in the caucus feeling left behind and the need for a transition to new leadership. Fudge said she still is giving thought to challenging Pelosi for House speaker.
Fudge isn’t one to express lightly or loosely such concerns. She most likely would be effective in a leadership position, and House Democrats, as they move into the majority role, must begin to make way for the next generation of lawmakers to step up. Pelosi is age 78, having served as the caucus leader for 16 years, including four years as speaker starting in 2007. Her lieutenants, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, also are in their upper 70s.
The question for Democrats is whether this is the precise moment for change. It is hard to see the case.
Many have noted the oddity: Other caucus leaders fared poorly on Election Day, even losing seats. Yet they have been re-elected. Pelosi and House Democrats achieved their largest gains in decades. Now they are going to deny Pelosi the speakership? She was instrumental in raising money and shaping strategy.
Part of that strategy involved the emphasis on health care, embracing the Affordable Care Act, reflecting the turn in public opinion toward support. Pelosi proved key in delivering the act eight years ago, holding firm when others advised backing away. She was crucial to passage of the stimulus package and improved regulation of Wall Street. Under her leadership, the House moved ambitiously to deal with climate change, approving market-oriented cap-and-trade legislation.
When House Democrats must serve as a check against the excesses of the Trump White House, not to mention propose clear and reasoned policy alternatives, Pelosi appears the best match for the job.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan challenged Pelosi two years ago, and lost the caucus vote 134-63. The Niles Democrat, who also represents portions of Akron, now stands at the front of the current effort. He wonders why the caucus wants to stick with a leader who polls so unfavorably, amounting to a persistent drag on the party at election time. Fair enough. Yet Republicans have demonized Pelosi, in part, because she is a formidable leader. Do Democrats concede the dark arts have worked?
No question, there are newly elected Democrats who pledged to oppose Pelosi as speaker. The trouble with Ryan and allies has been their difficulty getting beyond opposition. What is the better path, especially in the wake of an election in which the demonization didn’t work? Ryan hardly aided his cause when he clumsily told reporters last week that there are “plenty of competent females” who could serve as speaker.
This tussle belongs in the category of simpler to resolve. Make Nancy Pelosi the speaker, the first to reclaim the position since Sam Rayburn in the 1950s. A strong majority of the caucus backs her. At the same time, commit to a real transition, even replace one of the lieutenants or otherwise alter the leadership team. Democrats face the task of showing they can govern while providing a responsible counter to the president. They won’t help themselves, or the country, by engaging in a messy leadership scrap.
The Toledo Blade, Nov. 19
Do cell phones cause cancer?
The largest and most expensive study to date has determined there is “some evidence,” a notch higher on the confidence continuum from “equivocal evidence.”
Looking at 3,000 rodents, spending $30 million, and extending two decades, the National Toxicology Program found positive evidence that radio waves from some types of cell phones could raise the risk that male rates would develop cancer.
As alarming as it may sound, the exposure levels were far greater than what people typically encounter and the radio frequency associated with an early-generation cell phone technology aren’t really in use much any longer.
Nonetheless, the implications give pause to some experts. A preliminary draft of the study in May, 2016 noted the radiation had “likely caused” the brain tumors. Some months later, in February, 2018, the draft report moved away from the firm conclusion. Then, in March, a panel of 11 experts from industry and academic struck a middle ground and chose the words “some evidence” of a link between cell phone radiation and brain tumors in male rats.
This study should give pause, but not because our cell phones will instigate a cancerous growth in our bodies.
Rather, the study gives pause because it is another sign — incrementally stacking — that should make us consider stowing away our technology - and the most ubiquitous technology is our mobile.
Anecdote upon anecdote; Study upon study; they lead parents to implement technology-free days. They lead companies to implement rules that cell phones be stowed away during staff meetings.
Do they have to cause cancer to prompt a realization that our cell phones — most of which are “smart phones,” which allow us to be connected to email, voice calls, and text messages — are distracting us in both a literal sense and a figurative one.
We are not focusing on the person in front of us when we keep glancing at our phones. We are not immersed in our outing or our work project when we’re checking text and email messages.
Do the cell phones we’re carrying now and using to the extent that we’re using them cause cancer? It seems unlikely. But cancer isn’t the only ill to avoid.
The Columbus Dispatch, Nov. 19
Franklin County Common Pleas Court soon will lose a trio of respected judges due to Ohio’s mandatory retirement age.
The Ohio Constitution prohibits a person from beginning a judicial term after turning 70. The rule prevented Judges David Cain, Guy Reece and Charles Schneider from seeking re-election this year.
Because Ohio’s judicial terms are six years, some judges can serve until age 75. Cain and Reece are 75; Schneider is 70. Between them, they have 70 years of judicial experience: Cain, 32; Schneider, 22; and Reece, 16.
Each has earned favorable ratings from the Columbus Bar Association. Each has served the judiciary and community in a wide range of leadership roles. In addition, Reece and Schneider are military veterans.
The Dispatch salutes the contributions of all three and wishes each many years of good health to enjoy post-judiciary pursuits.
These retirements present a natural opportunity to re-examine the state’s three-score-and-ten rule, to borrow from the psalmist.
The rule itself is aging; it just hit the half-century mark. In November 1968, Ohio voters approved the Modern Courts Amendment, a product of years of study by academics, judges, lawyers and legislators.
The amendment granted the Ohio Supreme Court administrative, rule-making and supervisory authority over all state courts. It reorganized local courts and provided for uniform record keeping.
And it made Ohio the 32nd state to adopt a mandatory retirement age for judges. Today, 31 states and the District of Columbia have such mandates. Ohio is one of 18 states to place the marker at 70. The average is 72. The outlier is Vermont, letting judges serve to 90.
The argument for mandatory retirement: It’s the most effective, diplomatic way to deal with inevitable physical and mental declines associated with age. The argument against: Life expectancies and effective working lives have expanded by the decade.
In 2018, in 159 races not involving vacant seats, 26 incumbents were barred from running due to their age.
Ohio’s retirement mandate has survived repeal attempts both in federal court and at the ballot box. In 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s law.
In November 2011, Ohio voters were asked to raise the retirement age to 76, which would have allowed some judges to stay until age 81. Ohioans thumped the proposal, 62 to 38 percent. The thrashing has kept the issue from resurfacing in any serious manner.
There are, of course, many outstanding judges over 70. A silver lining in Ohio’s law permits the chief justice to assign retired judges to hear cases on a part-time basis. Many retired judges accept the work.
To replace Cain, Franklin County voters elected Karen Phipps, who has been practicing law locally for 15 years. She has both civil and criminal law experience.
To replace Reece, voters chose Columbus City Councilwoman Jaiza Page, who previously worked as an assistant city attorney.
Replacing Schneider will be either Municipal Court Judge Dan Hawkins, head of its Environmental Division, or Carl Aveni, a litigator and partner at Carlile, Patchen & Murphy. That photo-finish race awaits official vote certification.
The Dispatch wishes the winners well and hopes they will serve with the same distinction as the judges they are succeeding.
Youngstown Vindicator, Nov, 17
Most Americans hardly needed a new FBI report to recognize that hate and the pernicious crimes it spawns continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout this country.
In recent weeks, for example, just consider a few of these hate-inspired headline-grabbing examples:
Eleven Jewish worshipers were attacked and killed while taking part in worship services at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
A deranged white man opened fire at a Kroger grocery store near Louisville, Ky., killing two blacks after he tried but failed to execute an attack on worshipers in a nearby black church.
And just this week, a man created panic and fears of mass violence when he stood up in a crowded Baltimore theater and shouted “Heil Hitler” at a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” a musical about a Jewish family facing persecution in Tsarist Russia.
These and many, many other examples of mayhem and tragedy triggered at least in part by hatred toward minority groups make the conclusions of the FBI’s annual report on hate crimes, released Wednesday, completely unsurprising. They are nonetheless disturbing.
Overall, it reported hate crimes climbed a significant 17 percent in 2017, the third year in a row of spikes in crimes rooted in hatred. What’s more, many reasonably argue the scope of hate-based crime in America is far worse than projected in the the FBI’s admittedly incomplete data.
According to the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, hate crimes are those “that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race; gender and gender identity; religion; disability; sexual orientation; or ethnicity.”
Highlights of the 2017 report show a total of 7,106 single-bias incidents that involved 8,493 victims and 6,307 known offenders. Of them, 58.1 percent were motivated by a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 22 percent were prompted by religious bias and 16 percent by sexual-orientation bias.
Is it any coincidence, then, that after years of declines, the rate of hate crimes began to intensify when Donald J. Trump began his successful campaign for the presidency in 2015? We think not.
Ever since he cruised down the escalator at Trump Tower to throw his hat into the presidential ring, the billionaire New York City real-estate developer has oftentimes used implicit and explicit racist, nationalistic, chauvinistic, xenophobic and homophobic comments that appeal to the basest instincts among some of his followers unhappy with the demographic changes that are transforming the U.S.
The president, however, clearly is not solely responsible for the disturbing growth in the gravitation toward hatred and prejudice in our culture.
The rise of hate-based websites and social media platforms have succeeded in enlisting growing ranks of recruits who range from thrill seekers to passionate opponents of those of differing races, ethnicities, gender or sexual identity. Divisive rhetoric from politicians of all political stripes also make our national turf fertile ground for growing hate.
The FBI report, then, has value in taking the pulse of hate crimes in the nation - even if that pulse is inaccurate. Because reporting by law-enforcement agencies remains voluntary, a complete picture of the scope of such nefarious violence remains a mystery.
For example, the FBI report does include examples of race-based hate crimes from such Mahoning Valley communities as Austintown, Boardman, Howland and Salem. It does not include a single report from Youngstown, as no data from the region’s largest city was submitted, according to the report.
That’s why some are reasonably calling on Congress to provide law enforcement with incentives for hate-crime reporting or to make such reporting mandatory.
But before any dent can be made in the level of hate-based violence, a tamping down of hate-based attitudes must come first.
For his part, President Trump provided some hope in this reaction to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world, and something has to be done”
He and all decent Americans would be wise to respect and follow through on Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s response to the new hate-crime report: “The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes. They are also despicable violations of our core values as Americans.
“This report is a call to action - and we will heed that call.”
All Americans should do likewise.