Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Fixing our broken country will require all of us

Akron Beacon Journal

May 31

With cities on fire from coast to coast and nightly battles raging between police and protesters, it may seem like our country has descended into a dark and dangerous place.

In truth, we’ve been here for a long time.

How could it be otherwise when so much, including whether you live or die, depends upon the color of your skin?

But that is life — still, in 2020 — in a country whose founders declared 244 years ago that “all men are created equal” at the same time many of them were slave owners. It is America’s original sin, and the ugly stain of racism has never really been washed away.

Not by the Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves.

Not by a bloody Civil War that guaranteed their freedom.

Not by the Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination.

It is simply undeniable that racism — at both institutional and individual levels — still exists here in the “land of the free.” It’s in the workplace. It’s in the public sphere. It’s in housing. And it’s in the justice system.

The killing of an unarmed and handcuffed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, served as the trigger for the spasm of riots that have erupted across the country. The surprise is it didn’t happen sooner.

For far too long we have counseled patience — always patience — when a person of color has been killed by police. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Walter Scott. Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Eric Garner.

But when you are black in America, you cannot afford more patience. Not when you, or your parent, or your spouse, or your child, could be the next victim.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, an astounding 1 in 1,000 black men in this country can be expected to be killed by police. That’s the same death rate as the seasonal flu.

Police violence is the leading cause of death for young men in the United States, according to the Academy. Although the vast majority of police officers take seriously their vow to serve and protect, this is not the case of a few “bad apples.” It is systemic in far too many departments.

As a society, we cannot find that acceptable nor tolerate it any longer.

Certainly, the violence and destruction raging across our country is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy of our own making. When the riots inevitably end, we cannot go back to everyday life and pretend the problem is solved, that all is well.

At long last, we must address the ongoing issue of racism aimed at black Americans — and not just when there is a flash point like riots to spur us to action.

All of us, this newspaper included, must do better. Living in a diverse community is not enough. Donating to nonprofits is not enough. Attending seminars or rallies is not enough. Being friends with diverse members of the community is not enough.

We must be willing to confront the issue of equal opportunity and equal treatment for all Americans openly and transparently. No more hiding behind anonymous phone calls, letters and emails. This must be a public conversation because it concerns all of us.

At other trying times in our country’s checkered racial history, we have looked to a national leader to light the way to a brighter and more just future. But there is no Abraham Lincoln, no Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., no Robert Kennedy, to guide us forward this time.

Certainly, a president who sows division instead of healing it, and who seems to think it’s in his political interest to do so, is uniquely unqualified for the task.

So we are largely our own.

But perhaps that is how it should be, indeed how it must be, because the solution — like the problem itself — is in us.



There is a way forward to rebuild America — together

The Columbus Dispatch

May 31

Looking back years from now, what will be the cultural icon that is symbolic of the shared spirit that we rallied around to rebuild America after the global coronavirus devastation?

Maybe images of face masks will eventually evoke feelings of national pride at overcoming a deadly scourge like nothing any of us had ever even imagined, let alone stood up to and finally forced into retreat.

We know from lessons learned during the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 that COVID-19 will one day be beaten and that we will emerge into a brighter future, strengthened from having been so sorely tested. There will be discoveries — certainly now in the making — that will recreate in us a culture that is more resistant to health dangers and more resilient for healing when new challenges inevitably rise up.

Even closer in history and still within the memory of those who lived through World War II is Rosie the Riveter. “We can do it!” proclaimed posters celebrating the determination of the women who took factory and shipyard jobs to replace the men who had gone to war.

These patriots did what they needed to do and were proud to contribute to the cause that united the country, fighting oppressive governments elsewhere so that more people around the world could enjoy the freedoms that defined the United States.

Now we must embrace a similar shared will to safely rev up a sputtering economy and restore the soul of an American psyche that was already battered by political division before COVID-19 stole more than 100,000 lives nationwide in just a few months.

Isn’t it political division, after all, that threatens to linger and infect us even after a proven vaccine finally promises a safe return to what we once took for granted —freedom to live our lives without concern for contagion and, if we’re honest, with scant regard for others?

Just maybe a renewed regard for others will be the elusive remedy that delivers us from the danger now lurking in a stranger’s sneeze as well as from the discord that has weirdly turned wearing a face mask recommended by health professionals into a political lightning rod.

With humility — that sadly rare ability to put ourselves and our desires last in weighing options — we can acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers but are willing to follow rules intended for the greater good of our neighbors, our communities, our nation, even the world.

With respect for others — visibly practiced by keeping a safe distance and wearing face coverings whenever and wherever we’re likely to encounter people outside of our own households — we can keep each other protected from the virus.

With a shared sense of responsibility — accepting that our own actions might affect others negatively or positively — we can commit individually and collectively to rebuilding America as a beacon for the world to follow for peace and prosperity.

As much as we’d like to, and as much as some might want to proclaim it, we cannot simply will this virus to go away and conjure our previous circumstances back into being by fervently wishing their return. We cannot selfishly indulge an entitled mindset and allow weariness of social isolation to carelessly invite subsequent waves of COVID-19 deaths.

But we can muster the will to work better together to create a united front against coronavirus — and to unite against contentious political bickering.

This is not to say all must agree on the preferred course forward, just that there is a way forward if we commit to seeking it together and are willing to compromise and consider the needs of others to reach it.

And there is the real prospect that we will be better for the effort.

As those who have pushed unemployment ranks into record territory return to work, new health rules aimed at preventing COVID-19 might also help protect us from seasonal flu and colds that can run rampant through workplaces. After all, the advice of health professionals to wash our hands often and to resist touching our faces has long been core to good hygiene even if most of us previously failed to heed it.

Likewise, a healthy dose of civility would be as welcome as the preventive coronavirus vaccine most are desperate to receive. It’s not necessary for us all to embrace different viewpoints, but we can at least concede that others have the right to see the world differently and that we might even learn from other perspectives.

We will rebuild America, and probably stronger than ever, if history is the indicator it usually has been. The sooner we join forces on that shared goal, the better.



Gov. DeWine needs to direct energy panel he appointed to reconsider its anti-Cleveland wind energy ruling

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

May 31

Unless the obscure but powerful Ohio Power Siting Board rethinks a wrongheaded move, the panel, whose voting members are Gov. Mike DeWine’s appointees, will -- for unclear reasons -- likely end a pioneering plan to install six power-generating wind turbines offshore of Cleveland.

Backers of the Lake Erie Icebreaker project have spent years raising money and perfecting engineering plans -- with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Case Western Reserve University, an early NASA wind-energy scientist, environmentalists and overseas investors, along with the city of Cleveland. Aim: to test the economic potential of wind power in Lake Erie and the Great Lakes as a whole.

Greater Cleveland’s leaders understand the economic and job-creating potential and the care with which this project was designed, eight to ten miles offshore of Cleveland, to minimize disruptions for boaters, birders and others.

Project leaders with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, also had to surmount challenges from winter ice to finding a viable way to supply electricity to the local grid.

DeWine needs to show that he understands this project’s importance, too, by making it clear that his appointees – and that’s who they are, his people – should stop obstructing this renewable energy project.

Otherwise, the power-siting board’s May 21 decision effectively kills the $130 million Icebreaker demonstration project.

Icebreaker’s fans are many. It won a $40 million U.S. Energy Department grant, bringing its federal DOE money to more than $50 million. It earned sign-off from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mayor Frank Jackson recognized that Icebreaker would put Cleveland on the wind-energy map, helping to complete a deal by which the demonstration project would supply the electricity it generates to Cleveland Public Power via an 11.8-mile cable buried in the lakebed.

Three major environmental groups in Ohio -- the Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, all exacting stewards of Ohio’s natural world -- support the project.

If built, Icebreaker would be the “first offshore wind facility in the Great Lakes, the first freshwater wind farm in North America, and only the second offshore wind project in the entire U.S,” according to LEEDCo.

Unfortunately, words such as “first,” “innovative” and “new,” when applied to electricity production, seem to alarm rather than please Ohio regulators.

Yes, the project had its share of opponents, including powerful coal and electric utility interests. When some yachtsmen, boat dealers, lakefront property owners and bird conservation groups added their challenges to the Icebreaker wind project late in the process, LEEDCo officials spent months negotiating a compromise with the Ohio Power Siting Board staff. The deal they struck would have added safeguards but not killed the project.

Yet when the board itself “approved” Icebreaker May 21, this compromise was nowhere to be seen. Instead the siting board voted -- unanimously -- to impose a killer condition that would require the turbines to be turned off every night for eight months to lessen bird and bat collisions.

LEEDCo President David P. Karpinski said Icebreaker’s backers were “stunned by the order,” which he said reneged on the agreement reached with the Siting Board’s staff and would likely make the project financially unviable.

Voting 6-0 to approve Icebreaker with the project-killing requirement were: Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chair Samuel Randazzo, who also chairs the power-siting board; Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz; and designees sitting in for Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda, Development Services Director Lydia Mihalik, Environmental Protection Director Lauri Stevenson and Health Director Amy Acton.

Those board members are all Mike DeWine’s appointees. Their actions or inaction, deservedly or not, reflect on the governor.

Unless Gov. DeWine is OK with the panel’s mystifying decision to kill this pioneering wind project for Ohio, the governor should step forward and require the board to reconsider its Icebreaker ruling – promptly.



Getting everyone back to work

The Toledo Blade

June 1

Getting the economy on the road to recovery means getting workers back to work. But if those workers can’t make as much money on the job as they make on unemployment, the nation faces a double-headed problem: Unemployment coffers continue to be depleted, and companies that need workers on the clock don’t have them.

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) has proposed an intriguing solution — pay now-unemployed workers a $450 weekly return-to-work bonus through July.

The idea has caught the eye of Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, and it should likewise get a good look from Congressional Democrats who have instead been arguing for continued expansion of the unemployment benefits approved in March.

That $2 trillion stimulus bill increased weekly unemployment benefits by $600 to get out-of-work Americans through an unprecedented job-loss event. It has saved many families from economic ruin, but it also created a disincentive for some to return to work.

Between 60 percent and 70 percent of people drawing unemployment now are bringing in more with that enhanced benefit than they did with their paychecks, according to research from the American Action Forum and the University of Chicago.

The gap is even more stark for people at the bottom of the earnings ladder. The bottom 20 percent of wage earners are bringing in about twice as much money as they did when they were working.

It’s not crazy for workers to choose a higher unemployment check over a lower paycheck. It’s just math.

Sen. Portman’s suggestion solves that math problem by eliminating the need to ruthlessly pursue workers who don’t give up unemployment to return to work and instead gives them a solid economic incentive to get back on the job.

Congress is now negotiating a fifth coronavirus response bill, and leaders from both parties and both houses should include Mr. Portman’s provision in it.



There must be limits to US assistance

The Warren Tribune Chronicle

June 1

Activities such as that which, in recent weeks, embroiled this county and Venezuela in another controversy are nothing new in American history. Though the word “filibustering” is normally confined to politics these days, it had another use during part of the 19th century.

Then, it referred to Americans who mounted their own private military expeditions to topple governments in Central and South America. They failed. Participants often paid for their lack of judgment with their lives, sometimes in front of firing squads. Seldom did our government intervene in attempts to rescue them.

Then, the regime of Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro recently revealed it has prevented an attempted military coup. Part of the goal of those involved was to kidnap Maduro.

At least two Americans, both armed forces veterans, were captured by Maduro’s forces. They are linked to a private security firm in Florida.

President Donald Trump and other U.S. leaders say they had no knowledge of the plan and no involvement in it.

Maduro’s regime is kept in power through violence and the threat of it. They have wrecked the once-prosperous Venezuelan economy. The people of their country enjoy virtually no significant liberties.

Maduro should be deposed, for the good of the people he represses. And it is they who, somehow, must accomplish that.

Humanitarianism dictates that our government help Americans in trouble abroad. But the extent of that aid has been, and must be, linked to the level of their guilt in wrongdoing. We do not rescue those caught red-handed in large-scale drug deals, after all.

So it must be with the Americans who attempted to engage in 19th-century filibustering in Venezuela. There must be a limit to how far U.S. officials go in attempting to help them.