Akron Beacon Journal. May 9, 2021.
Editorial: $20 million can’t reduce Akron’s gun violence without innovation, clear plan
Guns remain at the heart of America’s political divide.
On the streets of Akron and most large American cities, gun violence has risen sharply since the COVID-19 pandemic began, leaving a long line of grieving families. In Congress and the Ohio Statehouse, proposals to control guns with reasonable reforms almost always die themselves. Instead, Ohioans are now allowed to “Stand Your Ground.”
The result is a bloody gridlock, with the Second Amendment pitted against the rights of those who want to live in peace.
Akron City Council and Mayor Dan Horrigan want to change that conversation by boldly attacking gun violence with $20 million of $153 million in federal COVID recovery funds. Horrigan’s early plans call for employment programs and training, support of ongoing initiatives and more recreational opportunities.
The urgency among council members was evident Monday as police leaders reported shots fired calls have doubled despite officers seizing a record level of illegal guns. Police were urged to come back in six weeks with a list of proposals for council to consider, with members suggesting ShotSpotter technology, more community policing and adding officers to a gun violence reduction team, among other ideas.
“We shouldn’t spare any expense,” said At-Large Councilwoman Linda Omobien, “because there’s no way we’re going to be able to grow our city and keep residents here without reducing all the violence that we are experiencing in our community.”
She’s correct. Something must be done. But we also urge Akron’s leaders to resist the understandable temptation to quickly use this one-time funding in an attempt to reduce violence.
Without being defeatist, Akron’s role in solving this problem is somewhat limited. Nor is this an Akron-centric problem.
We can’t count on state and federal lawmakers to pass common sense reform laws for universal background checks, red-flag removals of weapons from mentally ill people or protections for domestic violence victims. Even with reforms, it would be nearly impossible to control the flow of guns into the community, let alone convince young people to escape a culture where guns are prominent and seen as a solution. Social media and video games further complicate the challenge.
Even worse, nobody knows for sure what’s fueling the recent violence with a 33 percent increase in homicides nationally. Experts theorize the tough economic year, social anxiety, policing reforms and releasing inmates from jail to reduce COVID risks all played a role. We’ll likely never know the true answers.
So, how can Akron spend $20 million and get measurable results? What does true success look like this year and in five years? Fewer homicides and shots fired? More guns seized? People feeling safer in neighborhoods with growing populations? What has truly worked in similar cities?
Those are the difficult questions Horrigan and council must answer before launching any major initiatives.
We suspect the answers can’t be found in council’s chambers. We need innovative ideas from the very people who are coping with violence in their neighborhoods. We need to talk to young people and better understand what they need to turn away from guns and violence. Social agencies, faith-based groups and others may offer good ideas.
Reducing gun violence presents an immense challenge that will play a key role in Akron’s overall future. It’s a cause where we believe Horrigan, council, police and citizens could work together and make a real difference.
Spending $20 million for little or no return would leave everyone more frustrated than they are today.
Cleveland Plain Dealer. May 9, 2021.
Editorial: With drug overdoses at record pace, Cuyahoga County needs to ensure best treatment practices
Cuyahoga County set a record of 727 drug overdose deaths in 2017 when Ohio was still the nation’s epicenter of opioid abuse. Four years later, the county is on pace to break that record.
Beth Zietlow-DeJesus, director of external affairs for the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board, told cleveland.com reporter Laura Hancock last week that, at current rates, 758 will die in Cuyahoga County this year from drug overdoses.
And it’s just May. That number could rise if trends keep accelerating.
During the pandemic, fentanyl use kept spiking, changing the face of the drug scourge from primarily white rural guys to young Black men. And with fentanyl so cheap, plentiful and relatively easy to make, that trend shows no sign of abating.
The good news is that, on top of Cuyahoga County’s $117 million in opioid settlement money, COVID-19 relief funds include resources aimed at improved addiction and mental health services.
Even better, Ohio and Cuyahoga County have already done a lot of things right in tackling the opioid scourge, according to a panel of national experts consulted by the editorial board of The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.
The bad news, according to the panel, is that, without adequate accountability measures, it’s not clear that best practices for treating opioid addiction -- including, critically, using proven, gold-standard medication to treat opioid use disorder -- are being implemented.
They must be if we are to spend this new money wisely in Cuyahoga County and Ohio and bring this scourge under control, now and into the future.
Medications to control opioid addiction may create dependence, but that is not the same as a deadly addiction that can escalate to death, as with opioids. It’s more akin to ongoing treatments for other diseases to keep the worst outcomes at bay. But the persistent idea that drugs like methadone are bad in themselves has become a dangerous bar to this proven approach to saving lives.
The experts our editorial board consulted were Richard G. Frank, the Margaret T. Morris Professor of Health Economics in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; Keith Humphreys, the Esther Ting Memorial Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; and Colleen L. Barry, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management and holder of the Fred & Julie Soper Professorship at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All have participated in creating “Evidence-Based Strategies for Abatement of Harm from the Opioid Epidemic,” a menu of best practices that can be any community’s first stop for evaluating how to use resources most effectively to combat opioid abuse and prevention.
So what have Cuyahoga County and Ohio done right? The panel pointed to aggressive efforts by former Gov. John Kasich to address the opioid addiction crisis, including by expanding Medicaid in Ohio, a key way that treatments and interventions were then paid for.
Ohio has also been aggressive in promoting and delivering lifesaving naloxone throughout the state and in Cuyahoga County -- underscored last week by the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine announcing that it would be spending $2.5 million to send 60,000 extra naloxone doses to the counties with ZIP codes showing the highest reported opioid deaths recently, including Cuyahoga.
The panel of experts also praised Ohio for its “sophisticated and effective” prescription drug monitoring effort.
These initiatives together helped put the state on the cutting edge of combating the opioid crisis.
In addition, in Cuyahoga County, largely thanks to the ADAMHS Board, officials innovated with a focus on re-entry -- the men and women leaving jails and prisons who are among those most at risk of opioid overdose as they return to home turf. Cuyahoga County also wisely invested in peer-support services, a key way that people can be helped to overcome their addiction.
The problem is in the lack of clear accountability for drug treatment programs. Without that, it may be impossible to move enough people out of addiction and into medication-assisted maintenance to make a difference, especially when drug treatment beds remain scarce, as they do now.
Nationally, only 15% to 20% of those who need treatment get it; only one-third of those get evidence-based treatments, and of those, only about 40% make it all the way through the treatment program. That translates, according to the panel, to a dismal 2.4% of those needing treatments getting treatments that work.
As Cuyahoga County expands its addiction treatment efforts using both opioid settlement and COVID relief dollars, it needs to make sure that all treatment facilities getting public funds are accredited and fully accountable for their work. This means, among other measures, making sure that proven treatments, including gold-standard medications to control opioid addiction, are deployed. The well-being of our citizens and the need to spend this onetime money wisely both demand nothing less.
Youngstown Vindicator. May 9, 2021.
Editorial: Keep an open mind to possible regionalization
Regionalization of government and local agencies to create better efficiency, reduce costs and shrink the size of government is the right attitude, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect the types of essential services that government was created to provide.
This year’s state budget bill would require cities of fewer than 50,000 people to possibly merge with county health departments after an evaluation of the effectiveness of such a merger. The bill passed the state House and moved on to the Ohio senate.
The proposed state budget bill first mandated the departments merge, but after going through the House Finance Committee, the language was changed to require a study in these cities to determine if the department should merge with the county districts.
As passed in the House, HB 110’s language required “each city with a population less than 50,000 served by a board of health of a city health district to complete a study evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of merging with the general health district that includes the city for the administration of health affairs in the merged general health district,” according to a summary of the bill produced by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
The language now indicates the state director of health and the state auditor will be required to develop criteria to determine whether a merger between the city and county departments is “advisable” and requires the city itself to conduct an evaluation using the criteria.
The cost to conduct the study “may” be covered by a $6 million earmark, the summary states.
Unfortunately, the bill hasn’t even passed yet, and it already has begun receiving pushback from some local officials.
In Warren, for example, John May, deputy health commissioner, said both the county and city health districts are aware of the language. Neither sees a reason to merge, and they feel it would be a detriment.
May said he fears a merger would decrease accessibility and response time.
Certainly, that’s a possibility. But, how does anyone know for sure without serious analysis of services, employees and residents? (And, to be clear, a reason to avoid merging never should include the possible loss of jobs or local control.)
Let’s face it, Ohio has not been known for its regionalized approach to services and operations. Just look at the numerous small school districts that make up most Ohio counties, including the dozens in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
This health district regionalization attempt could be the first strong effort to combat the problem that includes the massive management expenses at the top of each individual organization.
Regionalized efforts also have the potential to reduce expenses not only by shared management teams, but also by sharing purchases and increasing buying power. Locally, it already has been proven that the idea can work as a cost saver. The city of Niles, for example, already gave up its individual health department when facing fiscal emergency in recent years. Now, even former opponents of the measure in Niles have acknowledged newfound support of the conversion.
Indeed, this idea should be examined closely on a larger scale.
We urge all cities affected by the language to approach the idea willingly and to study it with open minds before refusing to think outside the box.
Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. May 7, 2021.
Editorial: Republicans target Trump’s critics
Integrity has become the cardinal sin of the Republican Party.
That’s why the party is systematically punishing those clear-eyed enough to recognize that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and then egged on the insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
That shouldn’t amount to a profile in courage, but here we are.
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was booed at a meeting of his state party last week and only narrowly avoided censure. Romney has the distinction of twice voting to convict Trump.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, faces censure by the Ohio Republican Party at a meeting today for his vote to impeach Trump.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is in danger of losing her leadership post because she keeps doing the unthinkable: Rebuking Trump and recognizing that President Joe Biden was legitimately elected. She’s already been censured by her state’s party for her vote to impeach Trump.
It’s not as if Gonzalez and Cheney are secret liberals. Gonzalez voted with Trump 85.7 percent of the time, according to the website FiveThirtyEight. Cheney clocked in at a whopping 92.9 percent.
That no longer matters in in today’s GOP, which acts less like a storied political party and more like a cult devoted to the authoritarian whims and lies of Trump.
If Kipton Mayor Bob Meilander, a Republican State Central Committee member representing Lorain County, is any indication, the censure vote is unlikely to go Gonzalez’s way.
Meilander told us Thursday that he supported censuring Gonzalez because “he betrayed his constituents” with his impeachment vote. He then went on to insist that the election was stolen from Trump and that the attack on the Capitol was orchestrated by antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Neither of those things is true, nor is there any evidence to support them.
Even if Gonzalez isn’t censured today, he’s already drawn the wrath of Trump, who has busied himself exacting revenge on those he believes have wronged him. Former Trump aide Max Miller is challenging Gonzalez next year with his ex-boss’s backing.
Additionally, Republican candidates running to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, have condemned Gonzalez, including former state party chair Jane Timken. She once defended his impeachment vote, but has since called for his resignation over it.
Her about-face is easily explained. Timken and her rivals are desperate to win Trump’s endorsement, which they believe is necessary to win the GOP primary. Sadly, they’re probably right.
Cheney, meanwhile, appears to have resigned herself to her fate, writing in a blistering column published in The Washington Post that “Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”
The GOP, however, has chosen a different direction.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, who represents portions of Lorain County, told Fox News on Wednesday that “the votes are there” to purge Cheney from her post. Jordan said he backed ousting her three months ago, a vote she survived.
“You can’t have a Republican conference chair reciting Democrat talking points,” Jordan said. “You can’t have a Republican conference chair taking a position that 90 percent of the party disagrees with, and you can’t have a Republican Party chair consistently speaking out against the individual who 74 million Americans voted for.”
Recognizing the results of a free, fair and secure election isn’t just a Democratic talking point. It’s reality. More than 81 million Americans voted for Biden, a fact that Jordan, like so many other Trump sycophants, conveniently ignores.
Then again, recognizing reality has never been one of Jordan’s strong points.
The odds-on favorite to replace Cheney is U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who has morphed from a moderate into a diehard Trump backer. Trump, in turn, has backed her as Cheney’s replacement.
Cheney does have some Republicans in her corner, including Gonzalez, who told The Hill he intended to support her while also recognizing how out of step she was with their party.
“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit,” he said. “Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes. She’s going to stand on principle. And if that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”
It was a depressing and accurate assessment of the state of the Republican Party.
Sandusky Register. May 8, 2021.
Editorial: Securing lake funding top job
We appreciate it when lawmakers do the right thing, and the smartest way to get on the path is by listening to the folks back home. That’s what worked best when Randy Gardner and Steve Arndt were the state lawmakers for this area, in the Ohio Senate and Ohio House, respectively.
State Rep. DJ Swearingen, R-Huron, and state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, were able to team up for that with recent legislation that will reduce the number of board members required for the local ADAMS board, the mental health and addiction recovery board.
Erie County commissioners have struggled for years finding members of the community to appoint to the board, and its 18-member size caused the board to be pretty non-responsive, plodding and generally problematic. If the change does get made, it could lead to more effective recovery funding across the state.
Score one on the plus side. The very least is, we’re confident this change will assist and better distribution of funding in Erie County.
Gavarone also is taking up the cause for Lake Erie, with Senate Joint Resolution 2. She’s teamed up with Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat, to support the resolution, which, if approved, would put before voters a constitutional amendment next year allowing up to $100 million in bond proceeds annually to go to “clean-water improvements.”
Protecting Lake Erie should be the No. 1 priority for every legislator. This resolution would create a dependable funding mechanism to sustain those ongoing programs that must be maintained, sustained and constantly reviewed and upgraded to protect our No. 1 resource. We hope it gets done.
(Willoughby) News-Herald. May 1, 2021.
Editorial: Camel incident provides important reminder for animal owners
A recent News-Herald story about the mess that resulted from a camel defecating in Madison Village Park elicited an abundance of comments on Facebook.
The most common reaction, it seemed was people expressing disbelief that anyone would find fault with the camel for pooping in the park.
But these people seemed to overlook a bigger problem: that the owner of the camel failed to clean up properly after the animal.
Mayor Sam Britton discussed the incident during the April 26 Madison Village Council meeting, which was held remotely by video conference.
The camel, which stopped by the park with its owner a few weeks ago for a little exercise during a road trip, ended up defecating in multiple spots on the property, Britton said.
To make matters worse, the owner didn’t clean up adequately after the animal, leaving behind a dirty job for village Road Department employees, Britton added.
Britton said he had learned, after the fact and from a resident, that the camel was being transported on Interstate 90 by its owner.
“They got off at our exit (the I-90 and Route 528 interchange) and were looking for a place to stretch the camel’s legs,” Britton said.
After arriving at Village Park, located at River and West Main streets in the community’s downtown, the animal’s appearance “turned into a photo op for everybody in town,” the mayor noted.
“People were just parking on the road and just getting out of their cars and taking pictures of the camel,” he said. “And a gentleman told me — he’s one of our bike riders/walkers every day — that the camel was in the park for probably about an hour and a half.”
About a week later, Britton was contacted by other citizens who reported seeing piles of excrement that apparently were produced by the camel. One place where the animal defecated was on the floor of the gazebo, where musical performances and other community programs are held.
“Well, the camel did his business on the stage ... and nobody cleaned it up real good,” Britton said. “So I called the road crew in, and then we started going through the park. And the camel (defecated) more than once. It was quite a mess to have the Road Department clean it up.”
In our opinion, this controversy could have been avoided if the camel’s owner would have removed the animal’s feces from the gazebo and the park’s grounds before leaving the site. One would think that if the animal is transported by trailer, the owner might bring along a cleanup kit of some sort — perhaps a shovel, bags and gloves — to remove deposits made by the camel during pit stops.
And think for a moment about the atmosphere at Madison Village Park. It’s not a densely wooded area with primitive trails where it might be more common for wild animals to defecate.
Instead, the park is a typical village square with sidewalks and grass, which is regularly mowed, where people walk around or sit and relax, and children play. It’s a place where you would expect dog owners to clean up after their canines. So it seems appropriate that owners of camels or other larger animals that visit the park would follow suit.
Animal feces is unsightly to look at and unpleasant to step in. We believe that Britton was justified in being perturbed about the excrement left behind at Village Park by the camel.
For animal owners, cleaning up after their animals on public land or someone else’s private property is really a matter of common courtesy. It’s a good rule of thumb to follow, not just when walking or exercising dogs, but camels as well.