Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Republicans harming our democracy by cowering to Trump
Akron Beacon Journal
Enough is enough. Facts still matter. Evidence requires, well, evidence.
Any Republican leader who’s still publicly denying — or at least failing to admit — that Democrat Joe Biden is America’s president-elect is a coward.
They’re probably scared of the bully still occupying the White House and who’s rumored to be considering a 2024 run after losing by more than 7 million votes this year.
They’re likely more worried about saving their jobs in the next election by avoiding President Donald Trump’s wrath and a potential Republican primary challenger.
When Trump upset Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, she conceded and accepted the stinging defeat as professionally as possible while exploring her legal options in states decided by far fewer votes than 2020. Some liberals made noise about faithless electors in the Electoral College, but it amounted to nothing. It was Trump who baselessly blamed fraud for his popular vote defeat.
What’s happened since this year’s election threatens our democracy. Any losing candidate has the right to seek recounts and to challenge voter fraud if it exists. They don’t have the right to lie and make wild assertions that undermine the credibility of our democracy.
Thankfully, most local and state-level Republicans who co-manage our elections with Democrats have stood tall in defending our nation from Trump’s attacks. They are to be commended for protecting democracy and our Constitution.
We can’t say the same of attorneys general in 17 states who filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a far-fetched lawsuit filed by Texas seeking to delay certification of election results in four swing states Trump lost. They allege those states unlawfully changed voting rules, claims they failed to make before Trump lost.
Never mind that those elections and results were certified by local Republican election officials, who clearly would have cried foul if even a shred of notable voter fraud evidence existed. Just ignore the fact that Republican and Democratic poll workers verified signatures on absentee ballots in most places. Forget that William Barr, Trump’s own highly political and conservative attorney general, said there was no substantive fraud. Should we also toss out the Republicans’ impressive down ticket wins?
Thankfully, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a straight-shooting conservative, declined to lend his support to the Texas case despite pressure from more than 40 foolish Ohio Republican state representatives, including Bill Roemer of Richfield and Scott Wiggam of Wooster. A Thursday letter to Yost claims the election lacked integrity based on unspecified “grave allegations,” presumably the same baloney that even Trump-appointed judges have dismissed in courts.
Even more shocking, a majority of U.S House Republicans supported Texas’ case, including Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville.
What Republicans were asking for would destroy our democracy if the Supreme Court had somehow saved Trump. Justices refused to accept the case Friday night.
Any elected leader supporting the rejection of millions of votes without any evidence deserves significant scrutiny about their fitness for office. They’re ignoring the rule of law and Constitution they claim to embrace. They’re willing to harm our country just to keep a bully in power.
Can you imagine what Roemer, Wiggam and Gibbs would be saying if the scenario were reversed?
When the Electoral College votes Monday, Joe Biden will become the official president-elect. Our country needs its elected leaders to come together and help all of us overcome a pandemic that’s sickening and killing more and more people every day.
It’s time to solve problems and get people back to work. Do your job.
DeWine’s wrongheaded decision to give Browns a variance on COVID-19 curfew
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohio’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are accelerating alarmingly, with another boost likely from December holiday gatherings. This is happening despite warnings to keep such celebrations within the family -- warnings from Gov. Mike DeWine, among others.
How, then, can DeWine justify his Thursday decision to excuse Browns fans from the state’s 10 p.m. coronavirus curfew so they can attend Monday evening’s home game against the Baltimore Ravens?
DeWine said during his coronavirus briefing yesterday that not just the Browns but also the Cincinnati Bengals, the Columbus Crew, and the University of Cincinnati Bearcats would be receiving Health Department variances for their games this weekend so fans can attend without violating the state’s 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The Browns and Bengals can also still have up to 12,000 fans attend.
DeWine announced this even as he extended the state curfew, which has already been in place for three weeks, to Jan. 2, 2021 for everyone else.
In other words, sports fans get a special dispensation to carouse at night that no one else can obtain? How is this reasonable, right or justifiable? Especially when it can be argued that DeWine’s curfew is already so ill-defined as to become meaningless.
Instead of shoring up Ohio’s preventative measures to induce residents to end risky behaviors and help keep the state’s dangerously surging COVID-19 in check, DeWine has rolled out another exception -- a big one.
His explanation was also exceptionally lame -- that television contracts roped these teams into nighttime games that would inescapably last past the 10 p.m. curfew. So why not encourage fans who’d otherwise attend in person to watch from the comfort and safety of home, like most fans will do?
And then DeWine dug himself deeper. “The biggest risk from these games,” he said Thursday, as quoted by cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer, “is not the spectators who will be attending the games and will be following the safety protocols, but from other fans not attending the game in person who may have that urge to gather with friends to watch these games inside without following the mask or social distancing protocol.”
In other words, “other fans” who will be congregating indoors in violation not just of the curfew but of the state’s 10-person limit on such gatherings? Is DeWine really trying to say that the state can do nothing about thousands he suggests will improperly pack into others’ living rooms and dens to watch the game together?
The 9-3 Browns are having their best season ever as an expansion team. Why tarnish that by bending the COVID-19 rules just for them and a handful of other teams? DeWine needs to stick to his game plan, such as it is, and not let COVID-19 steal the football.
Letter sheds light on county hiring favors
The Warren Tribune Chronicle
A letter written by an attorney who represents the Trumbull County sanitary engineer’s office that mysteriously emerged last month seems to paint a picture of how hiring is handled at public entities in Trumbull County.
Sanitary Engineer attorney Matt Blair, who previously served as a board member at the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, acknowledged in a letter he sent last May to Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda that he had done a favor for both Fuda and the now-imprisoned former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante when the MVSD hired a Niles man to work at the district in 2004.
That man, Anthony Vigorito, worked at the MVSD for many years before getting fired after he was convicted in 2017 of forgery, noncompliance with Ohio’s Safe Drinking Water Act and tampering with records.
In a subsequent hunt for a new job, Vigorito turned to Trumbull County. The sanitary engineer’s office being run by Randy Smith — who also holds elected office as Trumbull County highway engineer — was considering hiring him.
Blair said he opposed the hiring, and in his letter to Fuda said Vigorito would not be able to obtain EPA licenses necessary to fill the vacancy in the sanitary engineer’s office.
Vigorito is ineligible for certification through the Ohio EPA after his convictions.
The Tribune Chronicle reported on the potential hiring at the time, and Vigorito never was hired by the county.
Now, we realize this is just a single incident, but it does seem to spell out details of behind-the-scenes hiring favors, albeit from 2004, that many suspect happens but have a hard time confirming.
Frankly, this is not how hiring at public entities is supposed to work. Sadly, it’s not the first time these hiring scenarios have been debated in Trumbull County.
It was about three-and-a-half years ago when hiring transparency came to light after a big squabble between Commissioners Frank Fuda and Dan Polivka had them accusing each other of hiring favorites. After that, commissioners agreed to begin sharing county job openings with the newspaper to be better publicized and more transparent.
Three years now have passed, and it seems it’s time again to urge them to keep transparency in the forefront when public jobs come open — no matter what skill level or pay grade.
We long have believed that transparency problems that have existed in Trumbull County government and particularly in hiring likely stem from a lack of checks and balances, triggered in large part by the weak local two-party political system. We believe it’s the one-party political system that has existed for decades in Trumbull County that breeds backroom politics.
Hopefully this year’s election of Republican Niki Frenchko to replace Polivka will bring about some change. Elimination of sweetheart deals and backroom politics was one of her key campaign promises when she ran for office.
We need to be able trust that our elected and appointed public officials are working hard to truly serve the public as a whole, not just trading favors as part of routine politics.
Jim Jordan’s ridiculous tweet
Leave it to U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan to keep waging a silly culture war in the middle of a pandemic.
“Dr. Fauci says Americans should ‘avoid travel’ over the holidays,” the Urbana Republican tweeted Friday. “What will he cancel next? Saying Merry Christmas?”
We’re going to go out on a limb here and assume that whether people say happy holidays or merry Christmas is the last thing on Anthony Fauci’s mind these days. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is too busy trying to save lives.
Jordan, on the other hand, is still trying to score political points while people are dying.
The next day, Jordan tweeted, “No lockdowns. More freedom.”
As if it’s somehow un-Christian or un-American to recommend that people forego their traditional holiday trips and gatherings to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 to their loved ones, friends or even complete strangers or catching it themselves.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health, warned Monday that the rate of spread in the state was roughly 160 percent of what it was nationwide.
Things are so bad that with a 15.9 percent positivity rate on tests, Ohio meets the requirement to be placed on its own travel advisory map.
“We’re now the state that the other states are advising people to avoid travel to,” Vanderhoff said.
So, yeah, Fauci is recommending people not travel. It’s good advice, which Jordan and everyone else would do well to heed.
It’s not just the positivity rate that is frightening, either. Ohio hospitals were at 72 percent of capacity Monday.
Even if cases in Ohio have plateaued — the state reported 9,273 new ones Monday, its sixth highest count — remaining beds will continue to dwindle. Remember, people are still having heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis and other emergencies that require hospitalization.
“These numbers are just not sustainable,” DeWine warned.
He’s absolutely correct, which is why he promised Monday to extend the 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. curfew set to expire Thursday. He also has warned that other restrictions likely will be needed to curtail the spread, although he has yet to say what those might be.
No one, of course, is eager for more restrictions. Everyone is weary of the pandemic and the sacrifices he or she has had to make, but the nation is only days away from the first vaccine receiving federal approval.
We understand the economic hardships those restrictions have placed on far too many people. Congress’ failure to reach a deal to help has only made things worse.
Jordan, who represents portions of Lorain County, should devote his energy to passing a stimulus package that will provide real relief to the American people.
Ohio reached 7,022 COVID-19 deaths Monday. Over the past 21 days, the state has averaged 61 deaths per day. Nationally, roughly 283,000 people have died from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
The deaths aren’t going to stop until vaccines are deployed in large enough numbers to achieve herd immunity. That’s still months away, but it is visible on the horizon.
Wearing a mask, avoiding travel and enduring additional restrictions will keep more people around to offer season’s greetings next year.
Jordan can take offense when someone wishes him happy holidays then.
Police chief gets deal
One of the causes for there being a cesspool of incompetence and dangerous dereliction inside the village of Put-in-Bay’s police department is a penchant for covert deception, and a tolerance of that. The latest symptom of that disease is the announcement this week that police Chief Steve Riddle will retire at the end of the year and get a $36,000 pay check to walk away, in the form of a consultant’s contract.
Not bad. Not bad, if you’re Steve Riddle and you’ve been on the job just since 2017 with little or no practical experience to manage a law enforcement agency, and no apparent success at doing it. In fact, for the last six months Riddle has been benched, sidelined with a suspension since June after officers under his command targeted minorities in a traffic stop that was disgraceful and narrowly avoided a disastrous outcome.
Viewing the available body cam video from the cameras officers were wearing when that incident happened suggests the only reason the traffic stop did not turn deadly is because the “suspects” encouraged each other to remain calm as it began to get out of control. The officers were not heroes in that incident, or in another racially charged incident on the island a few weeks earlier, it was the people who were stopped.
Within days all charges against the men and women of color visiting the island that day were dropped and an investigation was ordered to determine if police racially profiled them before initiating the traffic stop. The FBI, also, was duty bound to investigate and determine if that was the case since to do so would be a federal violation of the civil rights guaranteed to all Americans.
Here we are six months later, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in typical fashion, refuses to release any information about its findings. That’s a sore spot with us, as it is with any watchdog organization, that the FBI is accountable to ... apparently nobody. But worse than that, local officials refuse to say what was determined after months of investigating and review — all at taxpayer expense.
Instead of transparency the public gets lip service, and an announcement about an agreement designed to avoid litigation between the village and the sidelined police chief. That, in our view, is covert deception and it does not serve the interests of the public — en masse — and particularly for people of color who are the ones victimized by poorly led public agencies like the Put-in-Bay police department.
A lawyer for the village said the report that determined if there was racial profiling is being withheld because it is part of trial preparation records. Records, in our view, don’t change from one period in time to the next, and a civil rights trial or a wrongful termination lawsuit, either or both, are public events. The village’s lawyer, the mayor and council that is going along with that shabby excuse for deception, are as much part of the problem as Riddle, and they aren’t deserving of a severance package, either.