- Associated Press - Monday, October 2, 2017

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

Akron Beacon Journal, Oct. 2

David Hamilton and colleagues on the Summit County Council are right to form a task force or committee to examine operations and finances at the county jail. The impetus is the death of Anthony Jones, an inmate who died after an altercation with sheriff’s deputies last month. Any such death at the jail rates as a failure.

Sheriff Steve Barry moved smartly to ask the Stark County sheriff’s office to conduct the investigation of the fatal incident. That effort continues, and it is crucial that Stark officials examine fully what happened, their work comprehensive and findings credible.

What Hamilton has proposed is something complementary and no less important. This is an opportunity to look broadly at the jail. The committee shouldn’t be an exercise in casting blame. Rather, the focus should be making improvements at an entity that consumes a large share of the county budget. If the sheriff’s office accounts for roughly 30 percent of county spending, the jail represents the largest of portion of that sum.

Managing the jail has been a test for decades. Studies and assessments have been performed in the past. The jail operation now faces mounting strains resulting largely from the state slashing funding for local governments.

The county has attempted to adjust. It has closed a wing of the jail. It has contracted with Geauga County to take inmates. It has adopted double-bunking and sharply reduced programming, including counseling for anger management.

What that means is the sheriff and deputies are without key tools for managing the jail effectively. Sheriff Barry has reason to warn about safety at risk.

As a practical matter, the county cannot expect to continue indefinitely on this course of half-measure. It is not sustainable, especially when 2016 saw the most man days served at the jail in a decade.

For the committee, that means weighing a range of priorities and factors, from the need to increase staffing to the role of drug treatment, from reviving programs and services to exploring options for those inmates with mental illness. Much depends on the capacity for community-based alternatives.

More, Gov. John Kasich proposes an added challenge. He wants to reduce the state prison population by diverting low-level felons to probation, local jails and alternative programs. Summit County appears willing to take up the task. The committee is positioned to help with the preparation.

Most of all, the committee has an opening to advance public understanding. The sheriff and deputies point to the stresses in running the jail. Others, especially in the black community, worry about conditions there. The committee provides a setting for both to meet.

If candid, the discussion must include a look at additional resources. The new state budget provides counties with the option of raising the local sales tax by 0.1 percentage points. The committee has a responsibility to ask whether that is the price of operating a safe, cost-effective jail.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xTzAZ0

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(Findlay) Courier, Oct. 20

If there’s an issue in Hancock County worthy of public conversation, it’s flood control.

For 10 years now, the community has been engaged in a discussion about what to do to minimize damage when the Blanchard River floods.

While there is still no consensus as to a solution, and likely will never be, almost everyone agrees something must be done. The debate often falls along geographical lines, pitting city versus county, urban versus rural, business versus agriculture.

That may never change, either, but the dialogue must continue as the community tries to find common ground.

We have reservations about privatizing the conversation.

Convening a small group of business people and farmers has been suggested by Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson as a way to bridge the gap between city and country ideas about how flood-control projects should proceed.

Such an ad hoc committee, by design, would avoid public meeting requirements by not having a quorum of any one government group. Having just one commissioner at such gatherings, for example, would circumvent Ohio’s public meeting law.

That could mean limited information would become known publicly about what was said, or not said, at the meeting.

It’s true, sometimes people will be more willing to openly discuss matters if they know they won’t be quoted the next day in the newspaper.

On the other hand, very few things, if any, should be kept from the public, especially regarding something as important as flood control, which in some cases involves individual property rights.

The goal of having non-public meetings, presumably, is to build trust between two parties with different points of view, but we question whether public trust can be established in private.

Our view is that trust more likely would come from being open and upfront with the very people affected by flood control, including all taxpayers. Opening the door to those with different thoughts or ideas could even shed new light.

Private meetings of a select group of people could do more harm than good, depending on who is invited to the table, especially if the public isn’t made aware of the discussion that takes place.

Agreements made in private meetings that lead elected officials to form public policy would do little to build trust.

Flood-control projects, large or small, will affect everyone in the watershed in some fashion. Going behind closed doors on an issue that has proven to be divisive and contentious is a slippery slope that could increase distrust, not reduce it.

The commissioners should think twice about shutting out the public, even if it’s being done in good faith. When it comes to government matters, the public must always be a primary participant, not a secondary one.

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

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The (Toledo) Blade, Oct. 2

A mature society, like a mature individual, must face its problems and find a way to deal with them.

A functioning government does not declare the difficult problems before it as too difficult to deal with. That applies whether the problem is drinking water, lead, ISIS, street gangs, or immigration.

President Trump gave a straight-forward and restrained response to the tragedy Monday. But, ultimately, the government must respond to the death of more than 50 people and the wounding of 500 more, in Las Vegas Sunday night, with policy.

America must come to grips with the anger and hatred now afoot in our culture.

And it must, in practical and constitutional ways, come to terms with gun violence.

With no other problem in modern times, from unsafe autos to terrorist states, have Americans readily accepted the proposition that, really, nothing can be done.

Imagine if medicine approached disease the way America approaches gun violence.

Our culture of violence has many sources, from hate speech on the Internet to violence in our films and pop music. But there are three great wells of this violence: a spiritual and moral crisis that has produced individual desolation and nihilism for millions of people; a mental health crisis that has released thousands of sick people to the streets; and a governmental crisis in which, local, state, and federal authorities have failed to protect public safety in instances both spectacular and repeated.

The third may seem the most intractable problem. It may seem a matter of “influence,” and lobbying power. But actually that part of the crisis would disappear if Americans believed in the efficacy of democratic government and the inherent integrity of their own lives.

We must deal with our country’s gun problem, our anger problem, and our incompetence in dealing with the mentally ill, so that we can deal with our democracy, and our reality, and our God and man problems.

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

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The (Ashtabula) Star-Beacon, Oct. 1

Today is the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness month, a 31-day period that has become synonymous with one color - pink.

Fighting breast cancer is an important battle - 1 in 8 women will get it, and it kills more than 40,000 each year. And the month of pink-coated awareness has led to a lot of positive education efforts - we know exercise, a good diet, annual mammograms and self-examines can go incredibly far in preventing cancer and making sure it is caught early if it does develop.

But all that pink and “awareness” has given birth to a new cottage industry - the commercialization of cancer. Everyone wants to give back, and because breast cancer touches so many lives and the pink ribbons and gear is well-associated with it, many businesses and non-profits want to get in - some might say exploit - the phenomenon.

Famously, the NFL decks its players out in pink every Sunday in October and then sells the associated gear to “support breast cancer research.” However, it has now been thoroughly reported by various media outlets that, after everyone takes their cut and overhead, only 8 percent of the money spent on the NFL’s pink gear actually goes to breast cancer research.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has taken a public relations hit in recent years after funding breakdowns showed only 20 percent of its money goes to research. (To be fair, charitynavigator.org indicates 80 percent of its revenue goes toward some kind of breast cancer programming, but that also included education and screenings/treatments.)

The situation only underscores that our assumptions about where our money is going when we give to charity can be quite inaccurate. Whether it’s the pink ribbon bought in the grocery store checkout line or the shirts being sold at various schools, we give in well-meaning hopes of doing good without putting any critical thought to it. People spend hours researching the right phone to buy but don’t consider which charity will be the best stewards of their money.

Experts do offer some tips to consider:

Ask questions - Don’t assume the proceeds from that pink ribbon you’re buying at the drug store is going to cancer research at all. Ask not only where the money is going but also what percentage of the cost will be donated and how the funds will be used. If they can’t answer the questions - or you can’t verify the answers - take a second look.

Know the business and charity - Ignore the immediate pressure to donate or make a pink purchase and take the time to research the business or charity. Make sure they have good reputations, using sites like the Better Business Bureau or the aforementioned Charity Navigator (which offers a financial breakdown for many charities).

Think about your purchase - If whatever pink item you’re buying doesn’t represent something you truly want or need, consider if you would be better off simply giving that money directly to a breast cancer charity - it’s even better if the charity is one that permits you to designate specifically what the funds can be used for. …

Online: https://bit.ly/2fL8soO

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