Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 29, 2022.

Editorial: Gerrymandered board of education districts do not accord with Ohio law and should be revised: editorial

Ohio voters created the State Board of Education in 1953. As the law is currently constituted, 11 of the board’s 19 members are elected to staggered terms, while the governor appoints the remaining eight. But this year’s board of education elections present unprecedented hurdles, thanks to decisions by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine amid political gridlock over the redistricting of Ohio Senate districts.

Gov. DeWine redrew the 11 districts Jan. 31 using a Jan. 24 map the Ohio Supreme Court one week later found to be unconstitutional. But DeWine didn’t change those districts, which today no longer reflect the boundaries of the state Senate districts being used for the 2022 elections.

That clearly violates Ohio law, which requires that each education district “shall consist of the territory of three contiguous senate districts” and prohibits dividing senate districts among different education districts.

Those statutory requirements are complicated, however, by the unsettled nature of state legislative redistricting in Ohio. The state legislative maps being used for the Aug. 2 partisan primary and Nov. 8 election were imposed by a panel of federal judges just for this election cycle, when five nonpartisan state education board positions will also be on the November ballot.

Beyond the issue of education districts that don’t align with state Senate districts as required by Ohio law, by the time the other six education board positions make it to the ballot, in 2024, state legislative districts likely will have changed again. Will that mean that some board members’ districts overlap, in turn excluding some Ohioans from representation on the State Board of Education? Or, will the state in 2024 have to decree new boundaries for already-elected board members?

Into this thicket of problems come Democratic critics of DeWine’s board of education maps to argue that the governor didn’t actually have the authority to redraw the districts, since Ohio law, if strictly construed, envisions the governor stepping in only by Jan. 31 of the year following the legislature’s failure to legislate new State Board of Education districts in the same year it reapportions General Assembly seats.

Since that reapportionment occurred this year, albeit not in final, constitutional form, Democrats argue DeWine jumped the gun, and his map is moot. One could argue, therefore, that the existing State Board of Education districts should be used for this election (although that would conflict with the state Senate districts imposed for 2022-24.) The alternative urged by state Democrats is for DeWine to redraw the districts to reflect the state Senate lines being used for this election cycle.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney argues the governor followed the law by acting by Jan. 31, 2022 and has no authority to take further action.

Complicating the picture is that Secretary of State Frank LaRose has already directed Ohio’s 88 county board of elections to start accepting State Board of Education candidate filings, with an Aug. 10 deadline for this year’s five races in Districts 2, 3, 4, 9 and 10.

Three of those five districts are represented by Northeast Ohioans -- Kirsten Hill of Amherst in District 2, John Hagan of Alliance in District 9 and appointee Tim Miller of Akron in District 10. Hagan’s district was significantly altered on DeWine’s new map, pushing it into the northeasternmost part of Ohio, cleveland.com’s Laura Hancock has reported. Hill is on the Aug. 2 primary ballot seeking the GOP nomination in the 13th Ohio Senate district, but says if she loses that primary, she will seek to get on the ballot for re-election to the state education board from District 2.

The state education board’s most important responsibility is to appoint Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction – the board’s executive officer for carrying out its “educational policies, orders, directives, and administrative functions.” The superintendent’s job is vacant, which means State Board of Education members are facing an especially critical task in searching for a new one.

It’s absurd that the DeWine-drawn state board districts are based on state Senate districts that, legally speaking, don’t exist. That’s likely to stoke voter confusion and cut turnout in state education board races at a critical time for public education in Ohio.

Close as the Aug. 10 filing deadline is, if there’s a way to use the Senate districts slated for use in November’s election as the basis for State Board of Education districts, that needs to be done. If it can’t be, the legislature needs to revisit the problem first thing next year.

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Columbus Dispatch. July 31, 2022.

Editorial: ‘Uncharted waters.’ DeWine, state must rescue Ohioans battling hunger, inflation

Mid-Ohio Food Collective President and CEO Matt Habash recently stared into his warehouse and saw a nightmare scenario for any organization tasked with providing food for those in need: empty rack after empty rack.

The sight was in stark contrast to the abundance the food bank had available when COVID-19 raged around the globe and right here in Greater Columbus.

Food insecurity during the height of the pandemic and food insecurity now are two different beasts.

The knights that fight them in battle will have to be different too.

After The Arnold Sports Festival became the first Ohio event restricted due to COVID concerns on March 5, 2020, the collective enacted an emergency plan and ordered $5 million worth of food.

“What we knew was coming on the horizon was all this (federal) government food,” Habash told our editorial board. “Here we are today, and we don’t see any horizon where there’s food coming and the numbers (of needy) are much, much higher than they were during the pandemic.”

Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers should be rushing in to help solve a problem made worse by inflation, gas prices, the affordable housing crisis, child care and supply chain issues sparked by the pandemic.

After all, they are sitting on the money.

A fraction of the $1.9 billion Ohio received under the American Rescue Plan Act would go a long way in feeding Ohio families.

More nightmare scenarios on the horizon

There were volunteer and logistics issues during the pandemic, but supply was never an issue for Mid-Ohio Food Collective, a nonprofit that has its own food pantry and supplies food to soup kitchens, after-school programs and pantries run by 680 partner agencies in Franklin and 19 Ohio counties.

There is more inventory at the food bank now than the day Habash looked out and saw those empty racks, but he says he remains more “nervous” about food than he has been in his 38 years with the collective.

The problem keeping Habash up at night is clearly not just a Franklin County or Columbus issue.

It is a statewide crisis that should be top of the agenda for both DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly.

All too real nightmare scenarios are already playing out at smaller food banks.

“Our friends (at the Southeast Ohio Food Bank) have cut down (on food provided) and they actually closed a lot of their distribution points because they don’t have enough food,” Habash told us. “That’s going to start rippling more and more across the state because there’s just not enough supply to meet that demand.”

Feeding America estimates that 1,351,090 Ohioans are dealing with hunger. Among them are 412,670 children.

With the COVID-related expansion to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) ending, seniors are expected to soon represent nearly a quarter of all Ohio food pantry visitors, Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging Chief Policy Officer Beth Kowalczyk wrote in a recent letter to the editor.

Mike Hochron, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s senior vice president of communications, told our board that demand for his agency’s food is up 21% this year to date over 2021.

The collective served 661,603 people in that time period. Just shy of 98,000 of those people sought help for the first time, a nearly 30% increase over 2021.

About 67% of them live in Franklin County.

“We’re in uncharted waters when it comes to the number of our neighbors that need help,” Hochron told us.

It is time for Gov. DeWine and lawmakers to rescue hungry Ohioans

Mid-Ohio Food Collective announced earlier this year that its “Rooted in You” campaign raised $41 million, surpassing its $30 million goal.

But that won’t help meet the need for emergency food.

Money from the campaign is restricted for a list of initiatives that includes the Mid-Ohio Markets, Mid-Ohio Farm, and Mid-Ohio Kitchen and cannot be used for this food shortage crises.

Hochron and Habash say the community is very supportive of the collective’s work and donations from retail partners such as Kroger, Walmart and Amazon remain strong.

The collective used $1 million from its general fund to purchase emergency food.

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin announced Tuesday that the city had approved $1 million, and the collective is optimistic Franklin County commissioners will approve its $1.5 million request.

That money is just a Band-Aid.

It is beyond time DeWine and Ohio legislators step up to help Ohioans facing food insecurity — particularly children and seniors.

The Ohio Association of Foodbanks which represents 12 regional food banks and 3,700 food pantries, soup kitchens, and hunger relief programs has asked the governor and legislature for an emergency $50 million from that remaining $1.9 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds given to the state.

Mid-Ohio Food Collective — the state’s largest food bank — would get about 20% of those rescue dollars.

Families are living on edge

The help is needed here especially with federal programs and enhancements such as the Child Tax Credit ended, ending or being rolled back.

The unemployment rate is low in Columbus as it is throughout much of the nation, but that does not mean people are making money hand over fist.

Habash told us that the bulk of those served by his agency have a job. Many have multiple jobs.

“These are people that are trying. These are people that are working,” he said. “We get all these new families living on the edge.”

Seeking food from a pantry is often the last resort.

As the saying goes, rent eats first.

The median rent in Columbus increased by 16.9% between May 2021 and May 2022, according to the rental site Dwellsy. That is a hike of $177 a month. The median rent was $1,222 in June.

Nearly 40% of households in Greater Columbus are rentals, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The mean wage here is $16.99 an hour.

Add Greater Columbus’ affordable housing crisis to increased fuel and food costs, supply chain issues, the cost of childcare and inflation that saw a 40 year high in June and other economic issues exacerbated by the pandemic and it is no wonder the collective is seeing record demand.

Food banks are in a pinch

In April, Feeding America — which represents the collective and thousands of other food banks and partner agencies — reported that food banks are paying 40% more for the same amount of food they bought in 2021.

The amount of food the collective has gotten from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is down 51% from 24 million pounds to 11.6 million pounds.

The variety of product has been reduced and shipments are less reliable. Over the past year, 73 needed USDA deliveries the Mid-Ohio Food Collective needed and expected were canceled.

States can use the American Rescue Plan dollars to respond to a broad range of “needs” brought on by the pandemic and its impact.

If ensuring seniors, children and other Ohioans don’t go to bed hungry does not fit the definition of need, we don’t know what does.

This is an opportunity for the governor and state lawmakers to rescue Ohioans living far too close to the edge.

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Toledo Blade. July 30, 2022.

Editorial: Let CHIPS fall in Ohio

The passage of the CHIPS Act can help build Ohio’s economy for decades to come.

The U.S. House of Representatives agreed to Senate changes in the act, named for its purpose of creating-helpful-incentives-to-produce-semiconductors.

The $52 billion incentive package for domestic production of the vital source of technology that touches nearly every aspect of our lives, simply matches what computer-chip manufacturers can get in Asia or Europe.

It’s a big deal for national security and economic competitiveness. But it’s a huge boost of nearly unfathomable impact in Ohio. The $20 billion chip-fabrication plant Intel planned for Licking County, but delayed breaking ground on pending passage of the CHIPS Act, seems a sure thing.

That’s not to say there aren’t hurdles to overcome. Intel’s second quarter results were what the Wall Street Journal called a disaster. The company faces significant headwinds, including some self-inflicted wounds.

The CHIPS Act, though, can help Intel retool and move forward.

The planned plant is a $20 billion investment likely to create 3,000 jobs with average salary of $135,000. That’s easily the largest economic development achievement in Ohio history.

With the CHIPS Act available to spur growth, Intel has plans to expand their Ohio investment to $100 billion. The additional $80 billion is almost 11% of the total Ohio economy. Bringing the impact home to Lucas County, the additional Intel investment is 320% more than all of the economic activity that takes place here.

Ohio’s Senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, were in agreement, both voting to pass the CHIPS Act. In the House, most Ohio Republicans voted to support the incentive destined to make our state the “silicon heartland.”

If Intel’s plans come to fruition, tens of thousands of Ohioans for years to come will be glad political maneuvering to stymie the CHIPS Act failed.

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Youngstown Vindicator. July 29, 2022.

Editorial: Lawmakers in Ohio must move forward

Each year, CNBC ranks the top states in which to do business, based on a variety of factors. Last year, the Buckeye State did well, ranking 10th on the list. This year, that success has slipped a bit. On the 2022 version of the list, Ohio is 15th.

As Axios reporting pointed out, it is still a point of pride to be ranked so highly (above Michigan at that), but there is a lot of room for improvement if the state is to remain competitive.

Among the positives for Ohio are infrastructure and ease of shipping goods by air, road, waterway and rail. The report’s authors gave weight to our prioritization of tech innovation, relatively low cost of living and plenty of tax incentives for businesses — though that may not be playing out as officials had planned with companies such as Intel.

On the other hand, there are an increasing number of factors causing us to falter in attracting and retaining employers. What Axios termed “burdensome” business regulations are a problem (in that category, CNBC ranked Ohio a dismal 43rd), as is the lack of potential employees who have Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics backgrounds.

CNBC also took a look at “life, health and inclusion,” which examined discrimination protections, voting rights laws, health care quality and crime rates. On that front, we ranked 29th.

For comparison’s sake, CNBC’s top state for business in 2022 was North Carolina. The worst was our old friend Mississippi.

Ohio lawmakers, economic development and education officials have some work to do (for us, not themselves) if taxpayers are to believe they take seriously their responsibility to keep moving the state forward; and to do better for ALL Buckeye State residents. It appears we’ve been moving backward lately — and that those elected officials who are intentionally pushing us in that direction are getting what they sought.

Employers are demonstrating they won’t tolerate it; and neither will voters.

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Sandusky Register. July 30, 2022.

Editorial: Vote against veterans is ‘unconscionable’

Like advocates, we’re simply flabbergasted by the vote on Wednesday to kill the benefits package for veterans who are sick and dying from toxic exposure.

The U.S. House approved the bill — which would fund healthcare for veterans who become ill and provide survivor benefits to families of veterans who die from service-related diseases — earlier this month. The Senate, however, voted it down by a 55-42 vote after giving it overwhelming support in June.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan voted against veterans, as did U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Neither provided a response to questions about their votes against the bill, although a spokesman for Jordan expressed frustration with Jordan being questioned about it, without explanation.

That spokesman, Russell Dye, previously said Jordan’s “no” vote was because the bill’s funding mechanism was a Democrat Party “gimmick,” but neither he nor Jordan would explain that or expound upon that claim and Jordan offered no alternative plan.

Funding healthcare for veterans is not a liberal or a conservative, or a Democratic or Republican party issue; it’s an American responsibility. As U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has repeatedly said, paying for it is “the cost of war.”

There’s speculation the Senate could vote again — soon — and still get the Heath Robinson PACT Act approved before summer recess next week, or later this year. But that just isn’t acceptable, according to Susan Zeier, a veterans advocate from Sandusky. She’s also the mother-in-law of the bill’s namesake, an Ohio National Guardsman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and died in May 2020 from illnesses associated with his military service.

“They voted no,” said Zeier, who spent Thursday overnight on the steps of the U.S. Capitol protesting the Republicans who voted down the benefits package. “They voted against my family. They are endorsing our suffering.”

Comedian Jon Stewart, a veterans advocate who attended a Thursday news conference at the Capitol building with Zeier and other advocates, explained the difference between how Jordan, Portman and other members of Congress experience the passage of time and how veterans and their families experience it.

“They say, ‘This’ll get (passed),’” Stewart said. “‘Maybe after we get back from summer recess, maybe during the lame duck.’ Because they’re on Senate time. (Veterans) aren’t on Senate time. They’re on human time. Cancer time.”

The vote against funding veterans’ benefits was a terrible blow and an unexpected development, he said.

“(Veterans) lived up to their oath. And yesterday, (senators) spit on it in abject cruelty.”

We support Zeier, Stewart, Burn Pits 360 co-founder Rosie Torres and all the other advocates demanding immediate action, demanding an immediate vote. We support Sen. Brown and the senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, John Tester, D-Montana, and others in Congress who are asking for a re-vote now.

To fail to do that, in Sen. Brown’s words, would be simply “unconscionable.”

Roll call

These 25 Republican senators who voted for the bill on June 16, but voted against cloture on July 27:

John Barrasso, R-Wyoming; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Mike Braun, R-Indiana; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas; Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska; Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee; Josh Hawley, R-Missouri; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi; Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma; Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin; John Kennedy, R-Louisiana; Roger Marshall, R-Kansas; Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska; Rick Scott, R-Florida; Tim Scott, R-South Carolina; Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; and Todd Young, R-Indiana

“We have to make sure these senators know they have sentenced these veterans to death.” — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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