By The Associated Press
Cleveland Plain Dealer. August 18, 2023.
Editorial: Cleveland researchers launch study of long-term health impacts from East Palestine toxic spill, but where is Norfolk Southern’s contribution?
The month after 38 cars of a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying toxic cargo derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, leading to a controlled burn that released hydrogen chloride and phosgene gases into the air, a dedicated team of Cleveland health researchers was already at work writing grant applications to support a long-term study of health impacts.
The payoff is that, six months after the Feb. 3 derailment, cleveland.com’s Gretchen Cuda Kroen reports, researchers from what’s called the Healthy Futures Research Project — backed by $75,000 in initial funding from University Hospitals of Cleveland, the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative — are already visiting county fairs near East Palestine, signing up prospective participants. They have applied for a National Institutes of Health grant, too.
The Healthy Futures Research Project is part of impressive “community-based participatory research” already underway at the Case center, which, while based at Case Western Reserve University, is actually a regional cancer research collaborative also involving UH and the Cleveland Clinic.
Among its local efforts are what’s informally called the “Barbershop Study,” officially known as the Cleveland African American Prostate Cancer Project, that seeks to enlist local barbers in the effort to get more young Black men to screen for prostate cancer, when it’s easier to treat and defeat.
And all signs are that the folks in East Palestine are enthusiastic about this community-oriented opportunity to monitor their long-term health and possible cancer exposures.
Laura Hammel, a Case center spokesperson, said the researchers were approached by close to 100 interested potential study participants at the recent Columbiana County Fair and will be at the Lawrence County Fair just over the border in New Castle, Pennsylvania, this weekend. More information on the study and how to sign up and be considered as a potential study participant is at the Healthy Futures Research Project website: https://case.edu/cancer/community/healthy-futures-research.
Little wonder there’s so much local interest in this study.
The state is monitoring village water sources and testing private wells, overseeing the removal by Norfolk Southern contractors of contaminated soils, and toxic and hazardous waste, and is also testing crop samples nearby (so far, not finding semi-volatile organic compound (SVOC) contamination, according to Gov. Mike DeWine’s Aug. 3 update ).
But there is no evidence of a move by state or federal officials to implement, or to require Norfolk Southern to underwrite, long-term health monitoring of exposed or potentially exposed private citizens in East Palestine — although CNN reported in late March that the state was about to begin a long-term health monitoring effort of first responders on the scene.
Such a longitudinal study requires not just the sophisticated baseline testing of DNA and other health markers that the Case researchers are planning to do with residents, but also a commitment over many years to follow the participants’ health.
DeWine, in his Aug. 3 update, did note that, so far, more than $1 million in federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Emergency Response grants have been secured for East Palestine and surrounding communities to “support ongoing community wellness and resilience efforts.”
Norfolk Southern, DeWine’s update also reported, has “provided funding to the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board to purchase a former doctor’s office … that will be transformed into a permanent Community Resiliency Center” once extensive repairs and renovations are completed. The center “will provide an array of outpatient mental health and substance use disorder services supported by the federal grant funding,” DeWine’s update added.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Norfolk Southern — which in May outlined a plan to compensate nearby homeowners for lost property values and, according to CNN, at that time stated on its website it had already pledged $34.4 million to the area and its residents — would not be enthusiastic about underwriting long-term health studies that might lead to more lawsuits and compensation claims.
But in the end, the railroad is responsible for this spill and its toxic after-effects — not the state, not the residents, and not a group of dedicated Cleveland researchers. Now that a longitudinal health study of citizens is being launched, the first in line to write a big check should be Norfolk Southern.
Toledo Blade. August 18, 2023.
Editorial: Market affordability
There is a huge problem in the United States and multiple independent studies on the issue have identified Toledo as an elegant solution.
Moreover, multiple Ohio cities also score high when measured as locations for this troubled population.
There is a fast growing population of retirees in the land who do not have enough money to live comfortably in their present locale. Number crunchers who measure cost of living and value of amenities important to retirement-age citizens consistently tell readers, “you’ll do better in Toledo.”
The New York-based real estate firm Orchard just put Toledo atop their list of best places in the country to retire, praising friendly people and a welcoming atmosphere, but most of all low housing costs for owners and renters.
GOBankingRates.com did their own study in May and reached the same conclusion on Toledo’s status as the nation’s best retirement value (“Toledo tops list of most affordable retirement cities,” May 26).
In the Orchard study, Cleveland and Cincinnati also made the top 15 cities, and in the GOBankingRates.com rankings, Columbus was also in the top 20, along with the other three cities.
With Toledo atop more than one list, the city needs a plan to market the findings to retirees and near retirees. It is cheap and easy to directly target consumers who would be receptive to this information on the internet. The city, county, and multiple organizations devoted to economic development in greater Toledo need an active program to spread the word on its most affordable retirement location status.
The Northwest Ohio Realtors Association above all others needs to aggressively market Toledo as a retirement location, given the importance of affordable housing to the assessment of Toledo as the nation’s best value. Currently, the Realtors association website does nothing to market Toledo as a retirement location.
The Ohio Department of Aging isn’t doing any better to market the multiple cities around the state also ranked as a top retirement choice. In a state with a stagnant population and a city with a declining population, status as best value for the fastest growing demographic group in America is foolish to ignore. Toledo and Ohio have a quality of life at a cost of living millions of Americans need. The publications punching the numbers to make the rankings do so because they know there are multitudes looking for this information.
While it is great news that Toledo and Ohio score so well as a retirement location, it is a great disappointment to see missed opportunities by the city and state for lack of marketing motivation.
Youngstown Vindicator. August 17, 2023.
Editorial: Embrace new ways to find good teachers
In many lines of work, on-the-job training is the most effective way to prepare a person for success in his or her chosen profession. Ohio’s new Teacher Apprenticeship Program will use that model to better prepare educators, too, and address the state’s teacher shortage. The idea is to strengthen relationships among the state’s K-12 schools and identify staffers who might benefit from such a non-traditional path.
“This is an innovative way to help those already working in schools, such as teachers’ aides, library specialists, or bus drivers, obtain their teaching license,” Gov. Mike DeWine said last week. “School districts are able to identify potential future teachers who are already a part of their communities and provide them the support and guidance they need to succeed.”
Ohio’s Department of Higher Education, Department of Education and Department of Job and Family Services will work together to support school districts in developing these apprenticeships. Through them, potential teachers will be allowed to start the program at different levels of experience and schooling.
The program will provide credit for prior experience to count for both related instruction and on-the-job training requirements; give wage increases as skills and experience are attained; and pair candidates with teachers who will model best practices.
Those who participate in the program also will have a chance to apply for the Grow Your Own Teacher scholarships — up to $7,500 per year for four years in exchange for committing to teach in a qualifying Ohio school for at least four years.
Our students deserve to know Ohio officials are leaving no stone unturned in tackling the teacher shortage. An apprenticeship program does that and more. School districts across the Buckeye State should embrace the opportunity to look for new teachers who already are working hard for our kids.
Elyria Chronicle. August 18, 2023.
Editorial: Voter photo ID requirement proves to be a problem
A requirement that voters present a valid photo ID when they show up at the polls is unfortunately working exactly as the Republicans who passed it last year intended.
The Lorain County Board of Elections on Wednesday discarded the provisional ballots of 160 voters because 39 didn’t have a photo ID and 121 had expired IDs when they showed up to vote in the special election Aug. 8.
“That makes me very uncomfortable,” Democratic board member Anthony Giardini said. “These people weren’t cheating.”
Board President Marilyn Jacobcik, a Republican, agreed, saying, “I think we all share that concern.”
The board’s other Democratic member, Inez James, called it “voter suppression.”
Some might argue that James went too far with her comment, but the reality is that the ballots of voters who were otherwise “perfectly qualified,” as Giardini put it, weren’t counted.
Of the 302 provisional ballots the board rejected, just under 53% were rejected because of ID problems.
The other 142 provisional ballots were rejected for other reasons, including 101 that were submitted by people who weren’t registered to vote in Ohio. Unregistered people accounted for around 33.4% of the rejections.
Those ballots shouldn’t have been counted, but their rejection showed that the system works.
Compare the share of ballots rejected for ID issues earlier this month — again, it was just shy of 53% — or the share rejected for similar reasons in May, about 55.6%, with the figure from November, before the new rules took effect and voters could still use utility bills and other documentation to prove who they were.
In November, the elections board rejected 17 ballots because of ID problems. That was about 7.9% of the rejected ballots.
In other words, the new law has led to more voters having their ballots turned away because they lacked sufficient ID.
The demand for photo IDs at the polls is part of the right’s ongoing freak-out about voter fraud, which is vanishingly rare in Ohio and beyond, whatever former President Donald Trump and his acolytes might claim. (Losing an election, as Trump did in 2020, is not proof of fraud.)
Some might argue that tossing a hundred or so votes in the name of election security is worth it, but, again, there’s no evidence that the voters who lacked proper ID weren’t who they claimed they were.
Another possible argument is that not counting those votes wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the special election, which centered on a GOP-backed proposed constitutional amendment that would have made changing the Ohio Constitution harder. Roughly 62.8 percent of voters in the county rejected Issue 1 as did around 57 percent of voters statewide.
True, adding 160 more votes wouldn’t have made much of a difference in this election, but some elections are tight.
For example, Republican Jeff Riddell defeated then-county Commissioner Matt Lundy, a Democrat, by just 136 votes in November. The 17 votes rejected in that election because of identification problems wouldn’t have been enough to sway the outcome, but 160 votes might have.
Nor does it appear that only voters from one party or the other were rejected because of identification issues.
Election board Director Paul Adams, a Democrat, told us that although he didn’t have a party breakdown of voters who were rejected for that reason in August and May, they included Democrats, Republicans and independents.
He also told us that the voters whose ballots were rejected because of ID problems varied widely in age. Some might not have gotten around to getting a driver’s license or might have lacked a U.S. passport. Others might no longer drive and might have neglected to get a state ID to replace their expired license. Perhaps they simply hadn’t had the time to swing by an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles office to get the proper ID.
None of which means their votes shouldn’t count.
The elections board members intended to draft a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who oversees elections and supports photo ID requirements, expressing their bipartisan concerns.
Although LaRose loves to say that in Ohio “it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he’s been drifting ever closer to the wing of his party that acts as if elections are under constant threat of fraud as he runs for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary next year.
That’s disappointing because as Ohio’s chief elections official, LaRose should be championing greater access to the polls, not supporting policies that diminish it.
The elections board has correctly identified a big problem with the state’s new voter ID law, but sadly the members probably shouldn’t count on LaRose or Republican lawmakers to fix it.
Making it harder to vote was the whole point.