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Editorials from around Ohio

December 31, 2018

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

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The Akron Beacon Journal, Dec. 28

The United Nations describes the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Just a handful of numbers make the case. More than 20 million Yemenis, two-thirds of the country’s population, qualify as “food insecure,” or struggling to avoid hunger. That includes 10 million, or the near equivalent of all Ohioans, deemed severely so. Thus, many face famine and starvation. One estimate recently counted at least 85,000 children dead from malnutrition.

Disease has arrived, notably the world’s largest outbreak of cholera, more than 1 million reported cases and 2,500 related deaths. Roughly 3 million have fled their homes. Finally, there is the direct civilian toll from the armed conflict that has produced the loss and ruin, waged since 2015, 6,800 dead and 10,700 wounded, one-half due to the air war conducted by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.

November was the most violent month of the past three years in Yemen, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Saudi Arabia launched its campaign to thwart Iranian-backed rebels. The thinking among Saudi officials was: This will be quick. The reality is that little has changed in the fight as the devastation has mounted. Already a poor country, Yemen must cope with shortages of shelter and food, medicine, water and electricity. A Saudi-led blockade has fueled an inflation crisis.

What can the international community do? The United Nations recently brokered something of a deal between the rebels and the government, the parties agreeing to a limited cease-fire, a prisoner swap, a corridor for humanitarian aid and a framework for future talks. Yet, as analysts have cautioned, all of this is fragile.

Needed is sustained international attention and pressure. Which gets to the role of the United States, and not simply in seeking to advance a settlement (far off as that now appears) but as an enabler of Saudi Arabia, especially its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, whose dark deeds include the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and this air war, a strategic blunder in that Iran appears stronger as a result.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a report cataloging just how complicit the Obama and now Trump administrations have been. It appears the assumption going back further has been: The Saudis wouldn’t actually use the air power Americans have sold to them. Yet they have of late, and American military personnel, including mechanics and technicians, have advised and assisted.

That isn’t to say Americans have gone along without objection. They have stressed ways to limit civilian casualties and promote accountability. The Obama White House suspended the sale of munitions, which Congress eventually authorized. The Trump administration has ended American air-to-air refueling. Yet, for the most part, the Saudis haven’t listened while American support for their campaign has continued, with the president looking the other way in the Khashoggi killing part of the pattern.

This month, the U.S. Senate at last declared it had run out of patience, a 56-41 bipartisan majority calling for an end to American support of the Saudi air war. Unfortunately, the House then balked. Still, the Senate majority is right about taking such a step, applying pressure in the form of shutting off assistance to the campaign, even halting arms sales. One argument goes: The situation would be worse without the American presence. Actually, the plan now should be about making things better, for Yemenis facing a calamity, for Saudis who have blundered badly and for the United States, its reputation tainted by its contribution to so much wreckage.

Online: https://bit.ly/2saHKbX

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The Canton Repository, Dec. 30

When the calendar is flipping from one year to the next, it’s common to step back and assess the progress made over the previous 12 months.

Do we move forward as a community? Stay the same? Fall back?

Of course, it can be argued staying the same is little different than falling back in these competitive, challenging times, so discernible progress becomes the true measure of success.

Among the positive developments in 2018, and there were several, here are a few of the more notable:

Leaders in our education, law enforcement and mental health communities came together to address the bullying and teen suicide crises in our school in an aggressive manner based on best practices from national experts and data. The results have been encouraging, and creating more dialogue between kids and parents, and kids and school personnel, always should be encouraged.

Staying with education, Stark County is becoming a leader in promoting the trades as an alternative pathway to college for graduating high school seniors. Shortages of skilled applicants for good-paying jobs is beginning to become acute, and the time to address the need for more talent in the pipeline — pardon the pun — is now, which the local labor unions have recognized, taking their message to kids as young as middle schoolers. We are blessed with excellent trade schools and training facilities in our county to prepare the next generation of electricians, plumbers, ironworkers, HVAC technicians and others with in-demand skills.

The city of Canton passed an income tax that will generate revenue needed to continue progress on its comprehensive plan, while also addressing vital city services and the needs of neighborhoods.

Hiring Mike Crawford as CEO of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village and other restructuring of the project’s leadership team, especially the involvement of entrepreneur Michael Klein and his M. Klein and Co., will accelerate that $889 million project in 2019.

Aultman Health Foundation reached an agreement with the city of Massillon involving the former Affinity Medical Center. It also announced plans for the $28 million Timken Family Cancer Center on its Canton campus along with partnerships in other communities in the region that will strengthen its position in the health care industry.

Hrishue Mahalala and Janelle Lee, consultants for the Strengthening Stark initiative, brought together leaders from various businesses and nonprofits and set timelines for implementation of some programming to address our county’s decades-long trend of declining income and its population loss and aging of residents. We’re looking for big “wins” in 2019 in economic development across the county as more parties come together and collaborate.

We missed a year ago in predicting significant progress at the Hoover District in North Canton, at the former Doctors Hospital in Perry Township and at Market Square in downtown Canton in 2018. On the last item, Canton City Council in late July did authorize funding for the project, and design and construction now are expected to move forward in early 2019.

A year ago we wrote: ?... we again call on our political and business leaders to commit to working together so that this year will be viewed unequivocally as a success when revisited in 12 months.”

It would be a stretch to declare unequivocal success over the past 12 months, but on the whole, significant, important strides were made in many areas. Groundwork laid will allow projects in progress to accelerate and others to get started.

We remain optimistic for our county’s prospects in 2019.

Happy New Year.

Online: https://bit.ly/2GMPafx

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The Toledo Blade, Dec. 31

In 2016, the Home Security Advisor recently named North Ridgeville, Ohio, one of the state’s safest cities. With invested police officers like the one who lectured the 18-year-old he pulled over for driving 100 mph, there’s little wonder why.

The unnamed officer in the Cleveland suburb of about 30,000 wasn’t satisfied with whatever tongue-lashing he gave the 18-year-old by the side of the road. He later went on Facebook and posted a message that’s gone viral. At turns, angry, heartsick and frightening, it should be required reading at driver’s license exam centers nationwide.

The officer began by telling the young man “you’re welcome” for the traffic stop that might have saved his life or, if he had collided with another car, someone else’s. He told the “kid” he was lying when he said he didn’t know how fast he was going because, at 100 mph, a driver feels every bump in the road. He mentioned the other kids who thought they were invincible, too, until they died in crashes like this one risked.

He talked about the heartache of telling parents about a young driver’s death. Each time, he says, “part of your soul disappears.”

He said he was proud of the speeding ticket he gave the young driver and hoped he would have to spend months paying it off, remembering all the while how stupid he had been. He told him to take to heart his mother’s admonitions to “drive safe” and to imagine the officer sitting in his family’s kitchen, “telling your screaming mother that you have been killed.”

Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty. It’s gone viral, so it means lots of people have read it, thought about it and passed it on. No one ever will know how many more lives the police officer saved by posting this message.

There are lots of programs out there to encourage teens to be safe drivers. But they’re never enough. As the North Ridgeville officer pointed out, kids still believe they’re invincible and do stupid things.

That’s why communities should have zero tolerance for driving offenses by young drivers. Big fines, suspension of driving privileges and high insurance premiums all are helpful. But perhaps nothing beats a dressing-down from a police officer who’s seen it all but still cares enough to treat a random 18-year-old like his own child.

Online: https://bit.ly/2SpEQLz

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The Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 31

Sadly, a recent front page headline in The Dispatch was not surprising, which makes it all the more a shame: “Local homelessness on rise.”

That a city as prosperous as Columbus cannot reverse the growth in number of people without a place to live is an attribute that cannot continue if we aspire to be a beacon of economic growth and well-being.

For 2019, there must be a firm resolution shared by city and county government officials as well as corporate and nonprofit leaders to turn the tide against homelessness in central Ohio.

The rising numbers witnessed to date are disturbing. Each of the past 10 years has seen the trend creep upward, rising from 1,341 homeless persons in Franklin County in 2008 to 1,807 in 2018.

This year’s 6.4 percent increase was far larger than the 0.3 percent increase nationally and the 1.5 percent increase in Ohio.

Twin problems of a lack of affordable housing and an unusually high eviction rate in Franklin County are contributing factors.

We have the disturbing distinction of having the most eviction cases filed here than in any county in the state — more than 18,000 a year.

And the need for more affordable housing has been well-established at some 54,000 units. The number threatens to increase with predictions for central Ohio to gain a million new residents by 2050. Or, if this challenge cannot be solved, the exciting new growth that is expected may not materialize after all.

Recent developments provide some hope for reducing homelessness in the area.

Columbus City Council has provided a new tool to help slow the rate of evictions by updating an ordinance barring retaliatory actions against tenants who complain to landlords about substandard conditions.

Taking effect in January, the new measure puts the burden on landlords to justify an eviction when tenants make a claim that they are being targeted. Without the law, and with the city’s affordable-housing shortage, it has been more of a landlord’s market, according to Melissa Benson, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

More movement from other quarters to prevent eviction could also help resist continued growth in local homelessness.

In October, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced a new city partnership with the Columbus Apartment Association to create an emergency eviction-prevention fund to help people pay their rent when a temporary financial crisis arises. To be available in 2019, the fund will help with situations such as an unexpected medical issue or having to make an expensive car repair.

Legal help can also keep a roof over the heads of tenants facing unwarranted evictions. The Legal Aid Society created the Tenant Advocacy Project in March 2017. A study released in November showed it helps keep people in their homes 240 percent more often than for tenants with no legal help to fight eviction notices.

Recognizing needs in this area, City Attorney Zach Klein said a $50,000 settlement this month in the city’s largest-ever nuisance suit alleging code violations against a landlord will go toward eviction-prevention programs.

And look to nonprofit Homeport to continue providing more affordable housing, with new projects announced in December for Reynoldsburg and Franklinton.

Let’s make 2019 the year homelessness finally drops in Franklin County.

Online: https://bit.ly/2R0U2T2

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