By The Associated Press
Akron Beacon Journal. November 17, 2023.
Editorial: The people of Ohio have spoken clearly 3 times in 2023. When will GOP get the message?
There’s a disturbing trend among those who lose elections or get caught doing something wrong.
Instead of accepting defeat, learning from the experience or even just staying quiet, the losers keep on fighting with irrational claims and lies. They foolishly blame others.
No, this editorial is not about the University of Michigan’s football scandal.
We’re speaking about the similarly unhinged response of too many Ohio Republicans after 57% of voters on Nov. 7 approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion and reproductive rights. They’re also upset that a slightly higher percentage of Ohioans voted to legalize recreational marijuana through a law initiated by a citizen petition.
It’s true that lawmakers can adjust the approved marijuana law and some level of tweaking may be defensible, with House Speaker Jason Stephens eyeing criminal justice funding for proceeds of a new 10% marijuana tax. But any changes that violate the main spirit of what voters approved would be unacceptable.
On abortion, four highly conservative state lawmakers issued a news release claiming Issue 1 was deceptive and pledging to remove the power of judges to review current abortion laws. Apparently they’ve never read the Ohio Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold. Fifth graders, as Stephens thankfully pointed out, know the legislative branch can’t take constitutional power from the judicial branch.
While more sensible Republicans will stop some of this absurdity, even Stephens and Senate President Matt Huffman have pledged to fight the decision of 2.18 million voters.
Sadly, this rhetoric is not surprising from a party that ignored voter-approved amendments to end gerrymandering of legislative districts and pushed an August special election to reduce citizen power. Imagine how upset 57% of Ohioans would be right now if the August issue had passed and required a 60% yes vote on Issue 1.
Too many Republicans believe in the law and order of a democracy only when it meets their needs for ruling, not governing, a population. They only believe in individual rights when they approve of those rights.
Republicans, who hold illegal supermajorities in the Ohio House and Senate, could have read the tea leaves and adopted laws allowing abortions after six weeks or legalizing marijuana on their own terms. Such a sign of respect for majority views may have thwarted both issues.
Instead, they chose to abuse their power and lost. Perhaps it’s time for some of the most partisan Republicans to face a more moderate primary challenger for the sake of the party?
Democrats now want to repeal any laws that violate the new amendment once it takes effect. There’s little chance of Republicans agreeing, likely forcing any misguided attempt to prosecute abortion into the courts where any rational judge will have to side with the voter-approved amendment.
We sincerely believe most Ohioans want sensible middle-ground policies and laws reflecting the common view of residents, not far-right or far-left visions of how we all should live our lives.
We’re tired of the never-ending culture war and long for the day when politicians — as imperfect as they will always be — can compromise on what’s best for as many people as possible.
That’s how a democracy really works.
Cleveland Plain Dealer. November 19, 2023.
Editorial: Is political loyalty the key criterion in Gov. Mike DeWine’s appointments?
In a questionable move, Gov. Mike DeWine has picked Stephen D. Dackin as director of the new Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, a Cabinet agency replacing the existing state Education Department and gelding the partly elected State Board of Education, sidelining a panel that voters created in 1953.
The new Education and Workforce Department, unlike the former Education Department, will report directly to the governor. The new setup will give DeWine and future governors hands-on oversight of K-12 schooling in Ohio for the first time since the 1950s.
The move, being challenged in court, resulted from frustration by successive state administrations over what was periodically perceived as a lumbering education bureaucracy out of touch with gubernatorial priorities.
Before resigning in mid-2022, Dackin briefly – for 11 days – served as superintendent of public instruction, or head of the now-abolished Education Department. He quit, unpaid, after reporting by cleveland.com ‘s Laura Hancock revealed Dackin, as a State Board of Education member, among those tasked with hiring a new state superintendent, had positioned himself for the job.
That touched off a state Ethics Commission investigation. Result: A settlement in which Dackin agreed not to apply for the state superintendency until early this year and to attend three hours of ethics training. In exchange, the Ethics Commission agreed not to refer its investigation to a prosecutor.
Earlier in his career, Dackin served as an administrator in the Reynoldsburg schools, in suburban Columbus, on the staff of Columbus State Community College, and on the Education Department’s staff. He graduated from Ohio Northern University and earned a master’s degree at the University of Dayton.
No matter how accomplished Dackin may be, his appointment by DeWine is tarnished by Dackin’s ethical lapses as State Board of Education member, when he landed appointment as state superintendent of public instruction. It’s fair to ask whether the governor thinks Dackin is the best candidate for the job – albeit one that requires state Senate confirmation – or whether in fact the new Cabinet member, chastened by the ethics matter, can be depended upon for unflinching loyalty to the governor’s education program.
That’s impossible to say at this juncture. But it’s fair to ask whether Dackin’s appointment is arguably an example of DeWine privileging likely loyalty by an appointee over an appointee’s overall suitability. Examples: DeWine’s appointment of former aide Dan McCarthy to the State Racing Commission and DeWine’s appointment of former Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters to the state Supreme Court.
Deters, a long-time ally of DeWine, had never previously held a judgeship. And McCarthy was once a DeWine aide in charge of relations with the legislature. Cleveland.com ‘s Jeremy Pelzer reported that, in 2017, McCarthy was the principal of Partners for Progress Inc., a dark money group funded with $5 million from the Akron-based electric utility, FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the Illuminating and Ohio Edison companies.
Partners for Progress passed the money along to the political network of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican. In March, a federal jury convicted Householder of using more than $60 million in FirstEnergy bribe money to help enact House Bill 6 of 2019, a huge bailout – at Ohio electricity consumers’ expense – of money-losing nuclear power plants FirstEnergy then owned. (Part of HB 6 remains on the books, thanks to an indifferent General Assembly, and is costing Ohio consumers $153,000 a day to bail out two money-losing coal-fueled power plants – one of them in Indiana.)
McCarthy has not been charged with any wrongdoing, And in bipartisan, 31-0 vote, the state Senate confirmed McCarthy’s appointment to the Racing Commission; the job pays about $11,000. (Judgeship nominations like that of Deters do not require state Senate action.)
Neither Deters (whose 2023 salary is $184,575) nor McCarthy has been charged with any wrongdoing, and as noted, Dackin reached a settlement with the Ethics Commission. But the question recurs: Is political loyalty or personal suitability a candidate’s prime criterion when Mike DeWine considers whom to entrust with a public office?
Toledo Blade. November 15, 2023.
Editorial: Fix DYS now
Ohio is responding to a crisis in the Department of Youth Services, laid bare by an eight-month newspaper investigation. The Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, and other papers in the Gannett Ohio network combined to detail major dysfunction in the state’s juvenile justice system.
Gov. Mike DeWine promptly appointed a 10-member task force chaired by former DYS Director Tom Strickrath, composed of judges, prosecutors in the juvenile justice system, and four legislators, including Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, (D., Toledo).
The mission of the Department of Youth Services is rehabilitation more so than punishment. Ohio taxpayers spend $236,000 per-juvenile, but 43 percent of the youthful offenders now end up in an adult prison.
But more concerning than a mediocre record on rehabilitation is a breakdown in safety and civility for both incarcerated youth and the guards, and the teachers and counselors who serve them.
According to the newspaper investigation, understaffed Ohio juvenile prisons have been taken over by gangs who force new arrivals to join or face violent retaliation. Fights between rival gang members or attacks by juveniles on guards and staff have resulted in serious injuries and even deaths.
Because of a lack of guards, juveniles who are normally in an open dormitory setting are often locked away in solitary confinement without access to a toilet. The report details feces and urine in corners of the cell or water bottles. Guards indicate they are often doused with bodily fluids.
In announcing the DYS task force Mr. DeWine said, “I’m hoping this group … will take a hard look at DYS, how they’re running their facilities, looking at every aspect of it. There is no limit to what they can look at.”
The DYS working group should examine the communication between the administrators of the juvenile prisons and detention centers and the governor’s office. All of the issues revealed by the newspaper investigation should have been known by the governor’s office. Mr. DeWine provided immediate support for DYS Director Amy Ast, expressing confidence in her leadership, so the strong presumption is that DYS has been performing their duty to keep the governor apprised of problems revealed by the newspaper investigation.
It’s not hard to find the big problem at DYS. The population at the three juvenile corrections facilities housing the most serious offender has increased by nearly 30 percent. Yet, state budget documents reveal 8 percent less staff than in 2018.
Governor DeWine’s budget proposed a 13 percent increase in spending at DYS, but Republican lawmakers cut that to 10 percent. The DYS budget showed 144 vacant positions, approximately 15 percent of the department. The current budget assumes the addition of 100 staff, but low pay and high danger is making it hard for DYS to keep the employees they have.
Detailing the many problems in the Ohio Department of Youth Services provides political cover through public opinion to support spending levels necessary to align DYS staffing with juvenile population.
Thirty percent more serious juvenile offenders and eight percent fewer DYS employees is a dangerous equation Ohio must change immediately.
Youngstown Vindicator. November 16, 2023.
Editorial: Use criminal plot as a lesson for Ohio prisons
It’s a plot straight out of a movie. But this time, the main character is accused of spending more than seven years running a very real international drug operation — while incarcerated in the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. Brian Lumbus Jr., 43, of Cleveland, had help from Giancarlo Miserotti, 51, an Italian resident and citizen, according to U.S. Attorney Rebecca Lutzko.
Lumbus is among 11 people charged by federal authorities for smuggling opioids including fentanyl and other substances from foreign countries, through Italy, for sale in the U.S.
“From the confines of the Ohio Penitentiary, Brian Lumbus led an international and interstate drug trafficking organization that brought fentanyl and other, more potent synthetic drugs from overseas factories to the streets of our region. Several others, both in the United States and outside it, acted in concert with Lumbus to do what he physically could not: obtain, assemble and repackage those drugs, then mail or deliver them to other conspirators for further distribution,” Lutzko said.
“As this indictment reflects, the United States Attorney’s Office will continue its collaborative efforts with federal, state, local and international partners to identify, target and dismantle drug- trafficking organizations, whether the suppliers of such poisons are in the Northern District of Ohio or a continent away.”
According to a news release from Lutzko’s office, state corrections workers did eventually uncover the plot and report it to the Ohio State Highway Patrol and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. That is good to know, and those who finally did the right thing are to be commended.
But it begs the question, how on earth did such an operation go undetected for more than seven years? Surely part of the federal investigation will be to determine whether anyone working within the penitentiary is at fault, either through simple negligence of duty or more active assistance.
Should state officials determine Lumbus was, indeed, just doing an excellent job of keeping such an operation under wraps, priority No. 1 must be to figure out how he did it and how to teach future corrections workers to spot and stop it.