Editorials from around Ohio
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The Akron Beacon Journal, May 19
Mike DeWine and Larry Householder have won deserved applause for two-year state budget proposals that put a high priority on the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children. For instance, the governor and the speaker would route additional funds to programs for neglected and abused children, plus students living in severe poverty. Yet amid the advances, something is missing — an increased commitment to the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.
A modest increase in resources would permit this nearly three-decade-old success story to expand its reach and improve the lives of many Ohioans and their children. The hope is the state Senate will see its way to bolstering the trust fund as it puts together its version of the state budget.
Research affirms the crucial role that stable housing plays in bettering lives. The state commission on infant mortality identified housing as a key element in improved outcomes, Ohio with one of the country’s worst rates of infants dying before age 1. Studies show that a steady place to call home raises the performance of children in the classroom.
So Ohio has good reason to focus attention on housing, especially when data from the federal government show a slight increase in homelessness here in 2018. The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio notes a striking increase in homeless children, up 25 percent the past five years, children now nearly one-third of the 70,000 homeless across the state.
Ohio voters set in motion the Housing Trust Fund in 1991 when they approved a constitutional amendment making housing a public purpose. The trust fund offers a range of services to those with low incomes, including affordable housing development and emergency assistance to the homeless. That has translated to helping nearly 1 million Ohioans. The trust fund not only has a competitive application process. It has generated an impressive rate of return.
For every dollar the trust fund invests, it leverages an additional $8 in private and federal money. The trust fund points out that in 2016, its $42 million investment resulted in nearly $590 million in overall economy activity.
The concern is that the trust fund has faced a decline in its funding stream. It receives a share of the fee collected by county recorders on real property and mortgage transactions. From a peak of $73 million in 2005, the trust fund lately has collected around $45 million a year. That means doing less for the needy. For instance, as the number of people accessing homeless services increased 12 percent from 2013 to 2017, the amount of trust fund money directed to homeless services declined 19 percent.
Trust fund projects involving affordable housing development and rehabilitation fell from 42 in 2012 to 23 five years later.
When some 400,000 Ohioans currently spend more than half their income on rent, it is reasonable for state lawmakers to ask: What can we do to help? The logical answer is: Deliver more resources to the program created for just this purpose. Vulnerable and disadvantaged Ohioans would benefit from a relatively modest increase for the Housing Trust Fund, say, an additional $20 million a year from the state general revenue fund or through an adjustment to the recorder’s fee.
This is something for state senators to keep top of mind — along with the importance of stable housing to the lives of children.
___The Toledo Blade, May 18
Journalists gather information and report on their findings.
When a couple of South Dakota reporters were interested in the $65 billion-a-year federal food stamps program, they asked the federal government for information on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They only got a fraction of what they wanted.
Now, eight years later, the Argus Leader newspaper of Sioux Falls is making news in addition to reporting it. Its battle for information has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an article on its own case, Argus Leader News Director Cory Myers, who directs a staff of 18, said getting the information is about “knowing how our government is operating” and “knowing what government is doing with our tax money.”
Legal pundits are speculating about the nation’s highest court and it’s someday decision: It could be narrow, or it could significantly impact interpretation of the law that grants the public access to government records: the Freedom of Information Act.
On behalf of citizens everywhere, we hope for the latter. And more.
Newspapers and people everywhere attempt to use the FOIA to gain access to public records but find themselves waiting, often months and years, for the information to which they are entitled. And that’s just one problem with FOIA. In the Argus Leader case, there is an issue as to the scope of the information the newspaper is entitled to receive. The case was argued on April 22, and questions from the justices hinted that the ruling on the scope of the information may go against the paper, which is owned by Gannett.
Created in 1967, the FOIA allows the public access to records from federal agencies. There are exemptions that relate to national security, law enforcement, and personal privacy. And while agencies must acknowledge within 20 days receipt of a request, actually receiving the information can take years
It is understandable that a boilerplate deadline for production of federal documents may not be reasonable. But more can be done to facilitate access to federal information.
Many government agencies do not have the staff in place to respond to public records requests. And while President Barack Obama signed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, promising there would be greater levels of transparency, no new resources were committed for implementing improvements.
This is not a matter to be dismissed lightly. Withholding information from the public — whether intentionally or by default — is a disenfranchisement of the public. Information is power. As Thomas Jefferson is believed to have opined: An informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy.
The Columbus Dispatch, May 14
Children shouldn’t have to be savvy and proactive about suicide. They also shouldn’t have to consider the dangers of online predators or worry about how it might feel to be the target of a cyberbully.
But in our fast-paced and interconnected society, children don’t get to remain innocent — as in, ignorant of and protected from difficult things — for very long.
Many parents probably long to change that and return to what seems like a simpler time. Because that isn’t possible for most people, stories like that of Emma Martinez offer hope that, with the right guidance, children can cope and even thrive amid today’s challenges.
Martinez, an eighth-grader at Hilliard Heritage Middle School, knows what it’s like to feel so broken and alone that you don’t want to be alive any more; she also knows how important it is to have help. When she suffered from bulimia two years ago, she could turn to her mom, who is a social worker. She knows not everyone has that kind of support system at home.
Now that she’s better, Martinez is part of Hope Squad, a program in which students are available to help peers who are suicidal. Hilliard is the first central Ohio school district to formally train student volunteers to guide other students to professional help.
Phil Cox, a seventh-grader at Hilliard Weaver Middle School who is part of the program, figures a teen at risk might be more comfortable talking to him than to an adult: “We’re an outlet for people, so they know where to go when they need help because it can be scary to take that step.
“It’s about being there for people when they’re down and spreading kindness.”
With suicide rates on the rise nationally for more than a decade, more schools are including discussion of suicide in their health classes or creating standalone units. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults, second only to car crashes and other accidental injuries.
Ohio law has been changing incrementally to require training for teachers and other adults in schools to learn about preventing suicide, and lawmakers are considering requiring some training for students, too.
It’s appropriate, because the risk is a reality for many. A study led by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus found that youth suicides nationwide spiked after the 2017 release of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” in which a young girl leaves behind recordings explaining her decision to kill herself.
While it may seem unfortunate that middle- and high-schoolers are called upon for such grave duty, the good news is that many can rise to the occasion and grow from it, and adults in schools are recognizing students’ potential as a support system for their peers.
Adolescents have a reputation for cruelty that, for some, is well deserved. But other experiences show an enormous capacity for caring. After a 17-year-old junior at Westerville Central High School tried to hang himself at school in front of his classmates, students the next day blanketed the walls and stairs with colorful sticky notes featuring encouraging messages.
The school’s art teacher kept a box full, and students are working them into permanent art projects in the guidance area.
They are a testament to what can happen when kids practice kindness.
The Canton Repository , May 16
Almost exactly three years ago, representatives from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Black College Football Hall of Fame unveiled a partnership that eventually would move the latter’s exhibit space from Atlanta to Canton.
At that time, David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said the long-term goals of the organizations also included enshrinement ceremonies being held in Canton and an annual kickoff game honoring Historically Black Colleges or Universities that would be played in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Well, football (and drum line) fans: Mark your calendars for Sept. 1, because in 108 days we are in for a real treat.
The inaugural Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic will kick off at 4 p.m. that afternoon, featuring the Alabama A&M University Bulldogs and the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers. The schools are among the 107 recognized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S.
Of the pro football hall’s 318 members, 29 played at an HBCU institution — a list that includes former Alabama A&M standout John Stallworth (Class of 2002). Many of the Gold Jackets have used that status to help raise the profile of their alma mater.
A couple of days’ worth of events in Canton also will bring well-deserved attention to these schools, from an audience of rabid football fans — let’s fill Benson Stadium! — and others here who will roll out the welcome mat.
Festivities tied to the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic weekend will include tailgate parties and social events. Music will be a huge part of the Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 schedules, with performances that will include each school’s marching bands playing at halftime of the game, a battle of the bands, a drum line and dance competition, and a special concert from Morris Day & The Time immediately following the game.
Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and James Harris, the first black player to be a regular starting quarterback in the NFL, co-founded the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Younger fans might not appreciate that several of the country’s big-conference football powerhouses weren’t fully integrated until well into the 1960s. The hall recognizes those players who made their mark at places like Jackson State, Alcorn State, Morgan State and dozens of other notable schools.
“All of us associated with the Black College Football Hall of Fame look forward to working with the team (from Canton) to elevate the story of the greatest African-American players, coaches and contributors who overcame such obstacles to achieve their dreams,” Harris said on the day the partnership was announced in May 2016.
Words from three years ago today have become a reality.
We celebrate the news of the first of what we hope are many, many Black College Football Hall of Fame Classics in Canton. We can’t wait for Stark County to show the players, fans and alumni of Alabama A&M University, Morehouse College and all HBCUs we know how to host a football party.
In 108 days, and counting.