By The Associated Press
Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 30, 2023
Editorial: Ranked choice voting works in some other states. In Ohio, it’s fodder for a publicity stunt
Ranked choice voting is not a radical idea. It was used for decades in parts of Ohio. And with two states (Maine and Alaska), two counties and 46 cities now using it elsewhere in the United States, advocates estimate 13 million voters currently have a chance to rank candidates on a single ballot. The ranking process, which appears to work seamlessly in these jurisdictions, then winnows the field down to a choice most voters ranked well, reducing the likelihood of extremists prevailing at either end of the ideological spectrum.
But now that one single town in Ohio, University Heights, with fewer than 14,000 residents, had the temerity to consider the idea — to consider it, but not to move ahead with it — entrenched powers in Columbus have leapt into action to squash this idea without further ado.
In what can best be described as a publicity stunt, a Republican lawmaker from Bowling Green has moved ahead briskly to introduce a bill to ban ranked choice voting in Ohio — violating (once again) the home rule powers the Ohio Constitution guarantees the state’s cities, villages, and charter counties.
State Sen. Theresa Gavarone’s Senate Bill 137 would not just prohibit ranked choice voting but also deny to any Ohio municipality or charter county (Cuyahoga and Summit) that might have the temerity to try it anyway its share of state Local Government Fund aid.
Gavarone agues that, “Ranked choice voting flies in the face of what the founders of the country and those in Ohio had in mind when they established the one vote, one voice model centuries ago,” cleveland.com’s Sabrina Eaton reported.
By that measure — basing today’s laws on what the founders “had in mind” when they wrote the Constitution in 1787 — women and Blacks might not be able to vote today.
Nor is it a radical departure from local tradition. According to Rank the Vote Ohio, between 1913 and 1961, five Ohio cities used ranked-choice voting: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Toledo, Hamilton, and Cincinnati. (With a November 1921 charter amendment, Cleveland voters adopted ranked choice voting for City Council elections. It was repealed ten years later).
Ranked choice voting is also in keeping with a one-vote standard. Everybody still votes on one ballot on which they rank the candidates.
Eaton describes the procedure: “Voters rank multiple candidates on a ballot in order of preference. If no candidate gets an initial majority of … first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice ballots drops out, and ballots for the eliminated candidate are reallocated to each voter’s second-choice candidate. … Eliminating the candidate with the fewest ballots and reallocating votes to other contenders continues until a winner gets a majority.”
FairVote, another nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for ranked choice voting, reports that “51 American jurisdictions have RCV … reaching approximately 13 million voters. This includes two states” — Maine and Alaska — “three counties, and 46 cities.”
Alaska’s use of RCV became widely known in November, when U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, won election to a full term, besting Republican ex-Gov. Sarah Palin.
Gavarone herself doesn’t appear to practice what she preaches on the supposed inviolability of voting rules. She is one of two primary sponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 2 that put Issue 1 on Ohio’s statewide Aug. 8 ballot. It would require a 60% “yes” vote on any proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution. For 111 years, the required “yes” vote has been 50% plus 1.
Last year, Gavarone joined other General Assembly Republicans voting to all but abolish August special elections based on their low turnout and costs. This year, Gavarone co-sponsored a bill seeking to permit August elections — to decide constitutional amendments such as Issue 1.
The Ohio Constitution guarantees home rule rights to the state’s municipalities and charter counties. Gavarone should respect that, not try to undermine it more than the General Assembly already has.
All else equal, if a city or village or charter county wants to try what it sees as an arguably more representative method of voting — one that’s already in use elsewhere in this country — that’s the community’s business, not the Statehouse’s.
That’s what the Ohio Constitution all but says, and what practicality demands. You’d think a supposedly conservative General Assembly would understand that. Evidently, not all its members do.
Toledo Blade. July 29, 2023.
Editorial: Angry teachers correct
Ohio State Teachers Retirement System Executive Director Bill Neville deserves a lot of credit for traveling to Maumee and spending time in the lion’s den of irate educators who are angry over their pension’s performance (“Area educators sound off on Ohio teacher retirement fund,” Wednesday ).
Some 500,000 teachers see 28% of their compensation devoted to the STRS pension system (half of it paid by taxpayers). That is way more than the 12.4% paid to Social Security.
Ohio is one of seven states that assume total retirement risk and does not participate in Social Security. Retired teachers are angry because they see STRS investment staff collecting millions in annual bonuses even when they have gone without cost of living adjustments. An $11 million staff bonus is up for a board vote in August.
STRS is one of the largest pensions in the United States because it collects $4 billion a year from teachers and their school districts. But the fund pays more than $7 billion a year in benefits, so investment performance is crucial.
Because STRS has not consistently earned enough money to close the gap, the teacher’s retirement fund is asking to increase taxpayer contributions to the pension by 28.5%.
STRS is not alone.
The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund is seeking a 22% hike in the taxpayer contribution to the retirement fund. It is fortunate that STRS reports investment results for their last fiscal year of 7.5% and did not add to the gap between obligations and assets.
OP&F, with a risky, high leverage portfolio The Blade red-flagged in September, lost $2.1 billion on a negative 8.73% investment return last year (”Ohio’s out of the box public pension,” Sept. 18).
Storm clouds are gathering over these Ohio pensions that will hit every taxpayer or place more cuts on public retirees as years of political neglect become evident.
Wall Street investment managers reap hundreds of millions from Ohio, pension employees pocket six-figure bonuses, and politicians collect campaign contributions laundered through organizations created for that purpose. Benefits to retirees and costs to taxpayers are the last priority at the Statehouse.
STRS retirees have repeatedly spoken out in opposition to the lavish fees collected by Wall Street whales from their pension and the bonuses to STRS employees.
Their voices will surely be joined by Ohio taxpayers when the process begins to try for massively increased pension contributions.
The ignorance-is-bliss malfeasance of state politicians will end if taxpayers join beneficiaries in awareness that Ohio pensions have been overserving insiders and creating a monumental liability for future generations.
The STRS retirees seeking a change in the investment portfolio to fully transparent index funds are precursors of the coming debate. The activist teachers are right, regardless of sophisticated sounding claims made by STRS investment experts to defend the status quo.
Mr. Neville claims STRS cannot move the 31% of the investment portfolio devoted to high-cost alternative investments because the fund needs to be diversified.
Nationally recognized public retirement fund expert Richard Ennis has recently released a white paper concluding these investments are “highly correlated with stocks” but cost 10 times more on average.
Because of the high costs, the alternative investment portfolio actually causes STRS to fall short of potential return by 1.2% every year.
That is about a billion dollars and far more than the cost of an annual 3% COLA to STRS retirees. The investment expense monitoring company used by STRS, CEM Benchmarking, has written that only half the true costs of alternative investments are known to their pension clients.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is attempting to change their regulations to force alternative investment managers to reveal all of their costs and STRS is supporting the effort.
But it begs the question, why is Ohio investing with firms that aren’t trusted by the SEC or investment industry experts?
A portfolio filled with alternative investments doesn’t diversify the fund but it does allow asset values to be set by fund managers without input from a market.
Accounting fiction — fraud — lets the pensions claim asset values supplied by fund managers who use unsubstantiated performance claims to dupe more pensions into investing.
The Equable Institute, a think tank devoted to public pension research, recently concluded “valuation risk” from alternative investments is a clear and present danger to most of America’s public pensions.
Excess optimism helps pensions perform on paper but there will be a crisis if a third of the portfolio cannot be sold for the assumed value. In the key issue of dispute between disgruntled teachers and their retirement system the educators are right. Alternative investments don’t cut risk they just add cost.
Ohio voters need to know this before the battle over more tax money for a bailout begins.
Youngstown Vindicator. July 30, 2023.
Editorial: Ohio voters are not taking lightly changes that would come with Issue 1
We are very pleased to report that it now appears the critical importance of the effects of Issue 1 on future attempts to amend Ohio’s constitution has not been lost on voters.
In fact, early predictions of miserably low voter turnout for the Aug. 8 special election are proving to be very wrong.
The vote on state Issue 1, of course, is to change the percentage of votes required for future amendments to the Ohio Constitution. If approved, future constitutional amendment proposals would need 60% support to pass rather than the current simple majority.
Also, if Issue 1 is passed, effective Jan. 1, 2024, proposed constitutional amendments would need at least 5% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election from all of the state’s 88 counties to qualify for the ballot rather than the current 44-county minimum.
Issue 1 is the only item on the Aug. 8 special election ballot and needs a simple majority to pass.
Early voting turnout for the election has been strong statewide. Certainly, such an important change never should be made by the woefully low turnout that generally plagues August elections.
In fact, it was the consistently low August voter turnout that led the Ohio Legislature to vote this year to remove all special August elections in Ohio except for under a very few unique circumstances. That’s why we, like so many other Ohio voters, were sorely disappointed at the hypocritical decision from our state’s Republican lawmakers when they decided, instead, to go ahead with this measure, costing taxpayers more than $20 million, all in an apparent rush to see Ohio’s constitution changed to limit the way in which constitutional amendments may be made in the future.
The public was not taking this decision lightly, and whether folks like it or hate it, they seem to be making their opinions heard at the polls.
Local boards of elections leaders now tell us that early voter interest for the Aug. 8 special election has Mahoning Valley election directors expecting turnout to be on par with a typical general election in an odd-numbered year, or a nonpresidential primary.
“It’s pretty amazing for a special election,” said Stephanie Penrose, Trumbull County Board of Elections director. “It’s pacing like a general election. It’s even on pace with the gubernatorial primary last year. This has captured people’s interest.”
“There’s a lot of interest in this race,” Tom McCabe, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, said. “This is going to be better than most odd-year primaries and could potentially be close to what we get in primaries with governor races.”
McCabe, who also is chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, said the party can’t keep the yard signs at headquarters supporting Issue 1 in stock.
So, whether you, as a voter, support or oppose Issue 1, we urge you to get out and make your voice heard now during early voting at your local board of elections office, or Aug. 8 at your local polling place.
If you’ve already voted or made arrangements to cast your ballot, we applaud you.
Indeed, such an important decision must not be made by a small percentage of voters.
Elyria Chronicle. July 27, 2023.
Editorial: Better police training would serve the public and officers
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was right to call for improved police training in the aftermath of a Circleville police dog attacking a truck driver.
“This incident in Circleville should be a lesson, a wake-up call to everyone that police training in the state of Ohio is not equal,” DeWine, a Republican, said.
We agree, but it shouldn’t have taken what happened outside the small town south of Columbus on July 4 to spur a call for improved police training. Too often, police reform efforts fail to gain traction with lawmakers.
Body camera recordings raise troubling questions about the actions of the dog’s handler, identified by the Ohio Highway Patrol as then-Circleville Police Officer Ryan Speakman.
Speakman, who is white, was fired Wednesday, nearly a month after the incident.
Troopers tried to get the truck driver, 23-year-old Jadarrius Rose of Memphis, Tennessee, who is Black, to stop for a vehicle inspection, but he continued driving.
In recordings of 911 calls released by the Ross County Sheriff’s Office, Rose can be heard telling dispatchers that he didn’t know why police were trying to stop him and didn’t feel safe pulling over because he feared officers were “trying to kill him,” The Associated Press reported.
The dispatcher he spoke with told him to pull over and that police weren’t trying to hurt him.
Once Rose did stop, he at first refused to get out of the truck and then didn’t immediately comply with orders to get on the ground. He eventually raised his hands and appeared to be surrendering when Speakman released the dog, according to body camera recordings.
This despite a trooper repeatedly telling Speakman, “Do not release the dog with his hands up!”
The dog can be seen attacking Rose, who begged officers to get the dog off him. Troopers can be heard yelling at Speakman to “Get the dog off him!”
Rose was treated for dog bites and has been charged with failure to comply.
We don’t know why Speakman released the dog, but from the video it appears he should have known better. Certainly the troopers on the scene believed it was unnecessary and are to be commended for trying to stop Speakman.
Perhaps it was a matter of training, as DeWine suggested.
“There is no substitute for training,” DeWine said. “Our big police departments are expertly trained, but when you get to smaller police departments, they may not have the resources to have that training that’s needed.”
Big police departments aren’t immune from problems, either, but DeWine is correct that better training would be helpful for smaller departments.
DeWine called for the state to build a “scenario-based training facility” that would be funded in the state’s next capital budget. He also wanted the General Assembly to set aside money so departments could use it at little or no cost, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Exactly what would be offered at the facility if it becomes a reality was still under discussion, according to Andy Wilson, the director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
At a minimum, de-escalation tactics and training on how to recognize and respond to mental health issues should be included. So should reviews of when — and when not — to use force.
Indeed, we hope such training is part of what will be taught at a new facility that would be jointly operated by the Elyria Police Department and the FBI. The first phase of the project is expected to include multiple firing ranges, a support building and an indoor simulation building.
We don’t know the scope of what DeWine envisions, or whether he’ll be able to secure funding for it, but it’s possible that some of the training he wants could take place in Elyria.
Nor should training be confined solely to police officers.
Corrections officers also could benefit, as demonstrated by a recent incident at the Lorain County Jail in which Corrections Officer Brian Tellier threw inmate Jeffrey Fry to the ground, where he struck his head.
Fry later was manhandled onto a gurney without the use of a backboard or a collar that are commonly used when back and neck injuries are suspected. In a jail surveillance recording, Fry appeared injured and unable to stand on his own.
That incident is now the subject of an FBI investigation, although an internal probe determined that Tellier broke rules dealing with “physical mistreatment of a prisoner” and being dishonest about what happened. Despite those findings, he remained on active duty as of last week.
Improved training would be a step toward better preparing officers to deal with the public in a fair and even-handed manner.
Sandusky Register. July 27, 2023.
Editorial: Dodgy Yost continues to let down
We’re astonished by audacious disregard Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has toward transparency and straight talk on a whole variety of topics, from public records to prosecuting women who report possible sex crimes and to not prosecuting or pursuing serial rapists.
We’ve seen examples of all three of these things, and Yost remains unresponsive to questions about this errant behavior.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Yost finally acknowledged that the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation was conducting an investigation of at least one Huron County sheriff’s office employee accused of wrongdoing, but hid the name of that person and that person’s job title.
Yost, in that instance, stood toe-to-toe with Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin in violating the spirit and intent of the state’s public records law, hiding public information from the public. Yes, the public has an absolute right to know who has been on paid leave for two months, and what that person has been accused of doing that prompted a suspension.
Corbin and Yost — because of their behavior and disregard for the responsibilities each has — have tainted the investigation before results from it are even available.
On Wednesday, a reporter was searching for answers why Yost joined other state attorneys general in signing a letter asking the federal government to drop privacy protections for women who seek abortions out of state. Again, a spokesperson responded and claimed the letter was about crime victims, not about women seeking abortions. Problem is, the letter Yost signed doesn’t mention crime victims at all, but does mention opposition tactics to women seeking abortions 49 times.
We’ve asked Yost many times about his decision to prosecute a woman who reported a strange sexual encounter in 2020. He wrongly charged her with falsification. She was acquitted when a judge determined she was telling the truth about what happened and that the investigation was botched. Yost has never explained himself.
We’ve asked Yost many times about his decision not to prosecute an accused serial rapist who was identified through linked DNA samples from three women who reported being raped. He’s never explained himself.
At least with regard to Yost wanting to gain access to the private medical records of women, a spokesperson responded. Unfortunately that response was simply not credible. We grow more disappointed in the attorney general with each unfortunate misstep, and there are too many missteps to count.