Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
COVID-19 winning as Akron and Ohio politicians spin their wheels
Akron Beacon Journal
Two votes in recent days illustrated how COVID-19 continues to exploit our divided politics as it sickens record numbers of people.
With no warning and little debate, Akron’s all-Democratic City Council proposed and imposed a ban on gatherings of six or more guests on private property Monday to theoretically control the current surge of virus cases.
We know the ban supported by Mayor Dan Horrigan and nine of 12 voting council members is well intentioned. It’s also undoubtedly sound advice to avoid such events, which health experts believe are fueling the spread of new illnesses.
But legislating $250 civil penalties for people exercising their constitutional rights on private property creates serious concerns unlikely to survive legal scrutiny. Nor can one community’s law effectively stop a worldwide virus.
It’s a great example of a Democratic overreach that helps fuel the right’s commitment to protecting personal liberties even when it’s not in the best interest of the citizenry.
That was evident Thursday in the heavily gerrymandered Ohio House where majority Republicans approved a Senate bill stripping Gov. Mike DeWine of several public health powers he’s used to keep COVID-19 from overtaking the state until recently.
Senate Bill 311, which DeWine has wisely threatened to veto, would block state health officials’ quarantine orders for residents who have not been exposed or diagnosed with the virus and enable lawmakers to rescind certain health orders. Another House-approved bill would allow businesses to remain open during a pandemic if they observe safety rules.
Backers believe the bill allows Ohio to fight the pandemic while ensuring businesses also survive the virus’ wrath. Opponents say it would rob the Ohio Department of Health of its ability to respond quickly and effectively save lives.
We believe the bill is actually motivated by the frustrations of rural Republicans who dominate the legislature. They’ve forgotten that DeWine is the chief executive of our state and that he doesn’t need the consent of partisans to carry out his lawful duties. They’ve also apparently failed to notice that their considerable input has already tempered DeWine’s efforts as the virus now surges through our state.
Yes, we want businesses and the jobs to survive the pandemic. Surely we all don’t want people to die needlessly either. Like many issues, there’s a middle ground that better serves everyone.
Asking Akron police officers and Summit County health officials to knock on the doors of citizens to break up Thanksgiving parties could create more problems than it solves. Stripping power from a governor who’s saved many lives through his bold, science-based decisions would give the virus another advantage it does not need.
This is a time when we need good governance more than ever.
We would urge Akron City Council to reconsider its actions and hope DeWine’s promised vetoes survive another misguided legislative effort.
Ohioans deserve real solutions.
Don’t blame DeWine for COVID half-measures; blame the stubborn and selfish
The Columbus Dispatch
It is not hard at all to find fault with Gov. Mike DeWine’s official actions related to the coronavirus pandemic: They’re too much and not enough, intrusive and disruptive without solving the problem. And there’s a good reason for this: What he is expected to do — tame a raging virus in a society where many value personal liberty over public health, even their own health — borders on impossible.
So, no, not many Ohioans praised DeWine’s latest health orders as Ohio cases and hospitalizations soared and Franklin County became the first in Ohio to be designated purple, the highest-risk category, indicating severe exposure and spread. The governor warned businesses they could face temporary closure if they don’t enforce mask-wearing and he ordered more curbs on private gatherings like weddings and a general curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The curfew is to run for three weeks that started Thursday night.
Has DeWine threaded the needle perfectly? Who knows? But he deserves credit even for trying to lead Ohio through this unprecedented challenge. Some of his fellow Republican governors, far toward the extreme end of the political spectrum, have made it a point of pride to belittle concerns about the virus and do virtually nothing to arrest it. Their constituents are paying a high price.
South Dakota, where GOP Gov. Kristi Noem spurns mask mandates and welcomed nearly a half-million largely unmasked attendees to the jam-packed Sturgis motorcycle rally in August, now joins neighboring North Dakota in suffering through the nation’s worst COVID-19 outbreak and one of the worst in the world.
That means, while the U.S. overall is seeing about 35 cases per 100,000 people, South Dakota has 137 and North Dakota has 177. North Dakota’s hospitals are at full capacity and the governor is asking nurses to go to work even if they have tested positive for the virus.
Ohio has avoided this so far, and that arguably is due to the statewide shutdown that DeWine ordered in March, a move that went beyond what many other states were doing at the time. While the governor enjoyed a wave of popularity and praise from those who appreciated the decisive action, the pushback from the know-nothing wing of his own party was immediate and has grown steadily worse.
Bills were introduced to curb the power of the governor and state health director to issue public health orders or reduce penalties to nothing. One of those resurfaced on Wednesday and was approved by the House, with Senate approval likely. DeWine has promised a veto, but hard-right Republican supporters might have enough votes to override it.
The whole world saw the stunning photograph by Dispatch Photographer Joshua A. Bickel, taken on April 13 when a small crowd of protesters, angered by the stay-at-home order, pressed against a Statehouse window during one of DeWine’s daily virus update press conferences, their faces contorted in rage.
DeWine has been called a tyrant and a dictator; some of the dimmer bulbs in the GOP have tried to have him indicted for terrorism. Less comically, a Piqua man told police in October that a woman from Springfield tried to recruit him in a plot to kidnap DeWine and place him under “citizen’s arrest.”
It is against this backdrop that DeWine has struggled to balance further actions to curb COVID. It isn’t necessarily a matter of cowardice, political or personal; those obstructionists are elected members of the state legislature and DeWine can’t simply ignore them. DeWine also is surely aware of the real pain felt by shut-down businesses and their employees.
So is the overnight curfew really as ridiculous as critics are saying? Of course it doesn’t prevent as much risky interaction as an earlier curfew, or closing bars and restaurants, would. But, if people follow it — those working or tending to emergency needs obviously are exempted — it will stop the gatherings that arguably are the least necessary and most problematic. Contact tracing has shown that private parties and gatherings are worse for spreading the virus than restaurants and bars, where safety rules are in place.
At the same time, the overnight shutdown is significantly less harmful to businesses and employees — enough so that John Barker, CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, appeared on DeWine’s Tuesday briefing saying his members accept it as a reasonable compromise.
Other states undeniably are doing more than Ohio. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday that schools must close for the semester starting Monday; bars and restaurants had to close by Friday for indoor service; weddings and funerals are limited to 25 people and no more than two families, eight people total, should gather indoors.
DeWine’s latest measures might prove inadequate, especially if too many Ohioans ignore them. The state might be forced to impose greater restrictions, with real penalties for violators. Such a failure may lead to the overwhelming of hospitals and all of the cascading fallout from that — exactly what the governor has been trying to avoid. If that happens, he’ll be blamed for having wasted time with half-measures.
It will be unfortunate, but the blame will lie as much with a culture of selfishness and denial as with a governor trying to lead the heedless.
Signs of revival
The Toledo Blade
The former Wonder Bread bakery downtown is rising from the ashes.
It’s another sign that downtown revival can become a reality. In this case, it’s also a dream come true for Ambrea and Kevin Mikolajczyk.
A dream built on hard work, endless frustration, starts, and stops. The plan for loft apartments and commercial space brings hope to a long-suffering neighborhood — and more so to the residents of that neighborhood.
Through all the struggles to bring the dream to fruition, Ambrea Mikolajczyk, the owner of ARK Restoration & Construction, kept her eyes on the future.
“I would remember my mentees, my peers, little brown and black girls, like my own who are here today, who need to see me do this.”
The project signifies more than the reuse of an old building. A minority-owned business is investing in a struggling neighborhood, bringing the prospect of housing at reasonable cost, commercial development, and the possibility of attracting services and jobs to the community.
Plans call for 33 loft apartments along with 4,000 feet of commercial office space. Construction may be finished in the fall of 2021.
The project, once again, proves the value of public-private partnerships. State historic tax credits and $4.7 million worth of financing from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation provided the dollars to help make the dream a reality. The local funding is channeled through the ProMedica-LISC Health Impact Fund.
The building rose in 1924 and is inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bakery shut down in 1986, and no business has operated there since around the turn of the century — revival took time. Moreso, it took dedicated entrepreneurs to see the possibilities.
The Lucas County Land Bank, once again, was instrumental in saving the building after the property fell into foreclosure.
The rest fell into place when Ambrea and Kevin Mikolajczyk took notice.
The neighborhoods of downtown Toledo have a future. That future will be built on hard work, business people searching for opportunity, and a mix of public and private funding.
Extraordinary steps needed for care facilities
The Warren Tribune Chronicle
Thankfully, we have learned — at the cost of tens of thousands of possibly preventable deaths — that COVID-19 finds nursing homes to be good hunting grounds. At one time earlier in the epidemic, more than half the nation’s deaths from the disease in many states were among residents of long-term care facilities.
Extraordinary steps taken to protect nursing home residents have paid off. By Saturday, a total of 245,495 Americans had perished from COVID-19. More than one-fourth of them were in nursing homes.
That certainly is better than the rate last spring — but it is not acceptable.
Clearly, the coronavirus is on the offensive again. In some states, the peril is worse than ever. And nursing homes once again are prime targets.
The danger has not escaped the notice of some governors, who have stepped up action to safeguard long-term care facility residents. One excellent idea is frequent testing of nursing home employees, who clearly are the most likely sources of infections among their patients.
Both state and federal officials should view the spike in COVID-19 cases as a serious threat to nursing home residents throughout the United States. Extraordinary efforts must be taken to protect them — or the cost in lives will grow by leaps and bounds.
Caring for kids costs the same
It takes a lot of money to properly raise children — provide for their needs, keep them safe and give them the best opportunities possible. According to a federal lawsuit, however, officials in Ohio believe it costs less for relatives to raise children placed in their care than for licensed foster caregivers to do it.
That’s a load of nonsense, of course. In fact, children placed in kinship care may very well have needs for which their relatives must turn to outside resources.
According to the lawsuit, one person involved is caring for a one-year-old boy in Cuyahoga County, and receiving $302 per month in state benefits under the current system. Licensed foster care parents in Cuyahoga County receive from $615 to $2,371 per month per child — and even more if children have special needs, the lawsuit said.
A ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already ordered equality in payment in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. Of those four, Ohio is the only state still not making the payments.
Kimberly Hall, director of Ohio’s human services agency, told The Associated Press in October 2019 the agency planned to increase such payments. Gov. Mike DeWine said in February he was close to releasing his plan on the issue.
None of that has happened.
“While foster parents make a choice and plan to become caregivers, kinship caregivers are often abruptly asked to make a dramatic, unexpected change in their life and take on a major new commitment,” said a Policy Matters Ohio report by budget researcher Will Petrik.
Readers will note both Hall and DeWine made their pledges before the COVID-19 pandemic had reached Ohio. Certainly they have had a lot on their minds since then. But making sure all Buckeye State kids are treated fairly by the state, and have opportunities for the same resources and support, is essential. It would take a few phone calls, a couple of executive orders –maybe a little cooperation from lawmakers.
There is no excuse for that not to happen. Now.