By The Associated Press
Toledo Blade. June 10, 2023.
Editorial: Steen vs. DeWine
The long-running battle over investment management of Ohio’s State Teachers Retirement System is now in front of the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus. If justice prevails, Gov. Mike DeWine will be reminded that he is not a law unto himself.
At issue is Mr. DeWine’s expulsion of Wade Steen as his appointed investment expert on the STRS Board in the middle of Mr. Steen’s four-year term.
The governor says his action was based on missed meetings by Mr. Steen. In essence Mr. DeWine accuses his appointee of dereliction of duty, legally specified grounds for removal of a pension-board member.
But Mr. DeWine never followed the process for removal that starts with a complaint alleging willful neglect of duty filed in Common Pleas Court. Mr. Steen disputes Mr. DeWine’s charge and has filed suit against the governor and the entire STRS Board, claiming his removal was illegal, and is seeking immediate reinstatement.
Ultimately the court must decide whether a specified four-year term of office with detailed standards on grounds for dismissal and process for dismissal can be reduced to service at the pleasure of the governor.
If anyone deserves a historic judgment of dereliction of duty in regard to STRS and the entire Ohio public pension system it is Mike DeWine. As attorney general Mr. DeWine reached malpractice-level malfeasance in his failure to require legally mandated fiduciary and actuarial audits from all of the state’s pensions.
Mr. DeWine turned a blind eye to the loss of $32 billion by the five Ohio pension funds last year but seeks the ouster of Mr. Steen, the first and most ardent voice for investment management reform in the entire state pension system.
The most actively engaged beneficiary in all of the public pensions, the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association, has raised the money through donations from members to pay Mr. Steen’s lawyer, Norman Abood of Toledo.
ORTA says Mr. DeWine has “poured jet fuel onto a raging fire” and claims the governor’s action against Mr. Steen was based on the election of a reform candidate to the STRS Board, creating a majority to enact the reforms Mr. Steen was the first to advocate.
Transparency of investment holdings and reduction of fees is at the top of Mr. Steen’s list. It was a policy recommendation in the Special Audit of STRS by Auditor of State Keith Faber, and Mr. DeWine claims to support those goals. But firing the one board member on any state pension questioning blind investments and conflicted asset valuations directly contradicts mere words.
Ohio has poured tens of billions of pension dollars into assets it can’t specify and value solely on the word of the fund managers it’s given capital. “What’s the problem, we’re making money?” The pathetic first response from Ohio government in the Coingate scandal is still the operative investment strategy. Underperforming, politically connected fund managers still get rich in Ohio.
The state pension problem extends far beyond the 489,000 beneficiaries who received $9.9 billion from the retirement funds in 2021. Both STRS and the police and fire pension sought a change in law to get more money from taxpayers in the last legislative session and plan to try again this year after the General Assembly passes a budget.
Eventually the ramifications of years of underperformance by all of the pension funds will confront taxpayers. Coingate has shown how Ohio voters will react to an investment management scandal. Mr. Steen’s push for transparency and cost control seeds the cloud for political scandal and is behind his ouster from the STRS board.
Cleveland Plain Dealer. June 11, 2023.
Editorial: Making Ohio’s cities into free-fire zones is in no one’s interests
Ohio is a state that has seen more than its share of military sacrifice. The reminders are all around us: the gravestones, memorial highway signs, observances for those lost in combat, including the 2005 casualties suffered in Iraq by the Brook Park-based 3/25th Marine reservists. But long before, this state, settled in part by Revolutionary War veterans, found itself on the front lines of the War of 1812, and of the Civil War, weaving military service into the state’s history, and its family traditions. Ohio also remains a largely rural state, where agriculture is part of the economy’s lifeblood, and hunting a seasonal pleasure.
Which is all to say that Ohioans love their guns — for safety, for recreation, for the turkey hunting.
But the distortions this has caused in public policy, the mania in the Ohio Statehouse to make Ohio a free-fire zone where gun sales are encouraged and may soon be subsidized by eliminating the state sales tax on guns and ammo, where virtually anyone can carry concealed weapons virtually anywhere (except into the Statehouse), is now leading to a rising number of unnecessary deaths in urban, and rural Ohio.
Even commonsense gun restrictions — like background checks, red-flag laws to remove weapons from those not equipped to use them safely, gun-safe storage laws to keep the little kids from killing one another — are shunned at a Statehouse beholden to the gun lobby and dominated by rural interests.
But it’s in no one’s interest to make it easier for disturbed individuals to amass an arsenal and kill, whether it’s a sleeping family in Piketon or the innocent bystanders being wounded in gun battles in Greater Cleveland.
It’s gotten so bad that even the experts aren’t listened to anymore in Columbus — not the police groups vainly urging legislators not to eliminate concealed-carry permits last year; not the prosecutors warning against Ohio’s reversal of the burden proof in self-defense shooting claims in 2019 and expansion of its “stand your ground” law in 2021.
The results should have been anticipated — surging gun violence in Ohio’s cities, and reduced gun-violence arrests. And in Cuyahoga County, “the new laws have dissuaded the prosecutor’s office from seeking indictments in about 12 to 15 homicide cases each year, cleveland.com’s John H. Tucker recently reported, citing Saleh Awadallah, who oversees the office’s homicide investigations.
The city’s gun-violence stats also tell the story:
“After falling in 2022, felonious assaults with guns are up more than 7% in (Cleveland) this year, according to Cleveland police,” Tucker reports. “In the division’s Second District, which covers the city’s near West Side, including Old Brooklyn, the jump is 78%. At the same time, weapons arrests in Cleveland are down 40% from last year, likely due in part to an Ohio law that went into effect last June allowing anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed gun without a license, training or background check.”
The statewide trend, over the two decades since Ohio authorized the concealed carrying of firearms, is also daunting. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio, funded by a range of Ohio philanthropies, reported last year that, “in 1999, a firearm was used in 57% of (Ohio) homicides, and in 2020 that percentage increased to 82%.”
The interlocking problems of crime guns and gun violence are magnified in cities where gangs, poverty and opportunism ensnare too many young people in the gun culture and rule of the firearm. Inevitably, innocent people die in these shoot-outs.
Yet Ohio’s lawmakers, abetted by the Supreme Court in overriding the Ohio Constitution’s municipal home rule provisions, have handcuffed the state’s cities by prohibiting local gun laws, even those requiring safe storage of weapons.
That doesn’t serve the public interest and it snubs city and village residents who want to tailor local laws to local needs, including that most basic of political responsibilities, a community’s safety.
Ohio lawmakers profess to respect law enforcement and the sacrifice of police officers who put their lives on the line every day. If that were the case, they’d also respect their input on the dangerous results of this drive to find new ways to make guns easy to acquire, legal to conceal and easy to justify when used to kill.
Enough is enough. It’s time Ohio’s elected leaders see the truth — that their policies are leading to more gun deaths, not fewer — and move to end the gun deaths, defy the gun lobby and serve all the people of Ohio
Youngstown Vindicator. June 9, 2023.
Editorial: Ohio schools do well educating ‘whole’ child
Among the ways in which Ohio schools prepare students for life after their K-12 experience is implementing prevention-focused programs and supports. According to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal, school officials are doing an excellent job, as 95% of Ohio schools offer such programs and supports. The Ohio Department of Education’s 2020-21 Prevention Services Data Report shows that is an increase from the 2019-2020 report, in which 70% of Ohio schools offered prevention-focused programs and support during the school day.
Approximately half of Ohio counties have all schools offering the programs and supports. Carroll and Harrison counties had the lowest percentage of schools offering them, at 80 percent.
Meanwhile, 81 percent of Ohio schools offer prevention-focused curricula, such as D.A.R.E., Second Step, Signs of Suicide (SOS), Start With Hello and Zones of Regulation. Muskingum County had the lowest percentage of schools offering a prevention-focused curriculum at 36.4 percent.
So there is room for improvement in some districts, but by and large Ohio schools are doing a better job of giving children the tools and support they need to focus on their mental, behavioral and physical health, in addition to their academic growth.
“This report shows how Ohio schools are supporting student wellness work through an outstanding increase of prevention programming and supports,” Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Stephanie Siddens said in a news release. “Prevention education helps students build the resiliency skills needed to overcome life’s obstacles and fully engage in learning.”
So long as educators continue to have access to the resources they need to ensure students build their academic skills, too, it sounds as though Ohio schools are doing all they can to, as
Gov. Mike DeWine put it, educate “the whole child.”
Sandusky Register. June 10, 2023.
Editorial: Remember these dates
They very well may be the most crucial votes in the state’s history: The Nov. 8 election and Aug. 8 special one-issue election to change Ohio’s constitution from a majority vote to approve new amendments to a minority vote to stop change.
The reproductive rights amendment is proposed for the Nov. 2 election. The two elections are inextricably overlapped. The special August election was crafted by lawmakers to defeat the reproductive rights amendment — and for no other reason, legitimate or otherwise. The reproductive rights amendment was created by women and families to protect the integrity of personal, medical decisions that are a matter between a woman and her doctor, not the business of lawmakers to regulate.
The reproductive rights amendment is a fair and honest effort; the minority rule amendment is a reprehensible power grab that must be defeated, for so many reasons, if only to reject a Party that has abandoned the rule of law in this instance and in so many past instances, from the $61 million bribery of its former leader to this gerrymandered special election for its chief constituency, mandating its Evangelical wing’s beliefs onto everyone.
The August election will cost Ohio taxpayers $20 million for a special one-issue ballot at a time of the year when history shows fewer people vote than at any other time when elections are scheduled in a calendar year. This is lawmakers cheating, and cheating some more. They are proposing a self-serving, significant change to the state’s constitution to mandate their own personal beliefs onto everyone, and they’re doing it blatantly, endorsing minority rule with minority rule.
Republicans, by the power of their gerrymandered incumbency, aren’t holding anything back. They are demagogues. The cost of this election should be paid through a payroll reduction plan for them after August, for as long as it takes to pay back Ohio taxpayers this farcical expenditure.
The best outcome, from early voting starting early next month, through Election Day Aug. 8, is to vote. Make sure your mother votes. Make sure your sisters vote, your daughters, sons, your brothers, fathers and others. Make sure you vote.
Early voting for the Aug. 8 election starts July 11.
Early voting for the Nov. 2 election starts Oct. 11.