- Associated Press - Monday, September 14, 2020

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Browns season is finally here, but what will it look like for fans and players?

Clevland Plain Dealer

Sept. 12

Gov. Mike DeWine has given a gift to the Browns and Bengals during the NFL’s COVID-19-shadowed season this year — a limited number of fans at two home games for each team, starting with the Browns’ home opener against the Bengals next Thursday.

The governor called it a two-game trial, suggesting that, if all goes well at both Browns games, fans could be allowed at other home games.

What are the ground rules for these games?

First, no tailgating in Cleveland, per a prohibition from the city of Cleveland. And no vehicles allowed into any city-owned lots until two hours before kickoff.

Second, per DeWine’s Sept. 5 order, an upper limit of 6,000 fans at each game, with no more than 1,500 at each side of the stadium.

Third, also per DeWine’s order, mask-wearing will be mandatory for the fans.

Fourth, in a decision by the Browns, tickets for these games will be distributed on a single-game basis using an elaborate system that appears to give preference to season ticket holders based on their seniority and their personal seat license status, but without limiting it to just those groups. More information is here.

There was a dress rehearsal of sorts last Friday during the Browns’ scrimmage at FirstEnergy Stadium, for having fans look on.

Cleveland.com’s Dan Labbe reports that a limited number of Browns family members, friends “and some season ticket holders” were able to attend, “scattered along the lower bowl on the north sideline. There were gates set up in the concourse to divide the stadium into quadrants.”

The Browns open at Baltimore Sunday — without fans at M&T; Bank Stadium per a decision by the Ravens for the early part of their season. The Bengals’ home opener, also Sunday, is not one of the four games given a variance by DeWine from Ohio’s order limiting crowd size.

Besides Sept. 17 for the Browns’ home opener, other variances are for:

Sept. 27, Browns home game against the Washington Football Team.

Oct. 4, Bengals home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Oct. 25, Bengals home game against the Browns.

So what do we think? Does it lift our spirits to see football on the fall agenda, even without fans for most games? Did DeWine strike the right balance in limiting fans to four Ohio games for now? Any predictions for the season or for COVID-19′s potential for spreading among football players and/or fans in attendance?

Online: https://bit.ly/3hsInod


Prison officials dodge questions

Sandusky Register

Sept. 14

The state’s prison system hasn’t been exactly forthcoming when called upon for sourcing information. We don’t often request records from it, or from the state parole board or other parole or probation offices. But when we do make requests we do it in a straightforward, polite and professional manner. In the few times we’ve pursued information from the prison department, there’s no recalling when we were impressed by their helpfulness. No, more than that, there seems to be a decided attitude for being unhelpful.

That was the case when we asked the parole office to provide information about David Rawls, a man who was sent to prison for a crime he says he never committed. Rawls, through 23 years in prison never wavered in claiming to be a framed man, which, we assume, hurt his chances of being paroled from prison earlier. He was convicted in 1996 of an armed robbery in which store employees were tied up and pistol-whipped. We assumed refusing to admit guilt hurt his chances, but we cannot know that for sure.

Prison officials, the parole board and others associated with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, refused to acknowledge the question, answer it or direct it to the right party for an answer. Instead, they provided no response. We did not file a lawsuit to open the records, because it was a simple question about why he was denied parole previously, how many times was he denied parole and did his refusal to admit guilt impact the parole board’s prior decisions to deny Rawls’ request to be released from prison.

The fact the department refused to assign anyone with the authority to provide a competent answer is a statement in itself about the agency’s competency.

In January, the Reflector wrote about Rawls’ nearly quarter-century quest to clear his name, reporting about details concerning lost evidence that could clear him through DNA testing. And in May, the parole board reversed itself, agreeing to release Rawls from prison in August. But again, the board and prison officials are not being forthcoming about what prompted the about-face in whether Rawls would be a free man.

It’s a simple question, again, for the board: What was the reason, this time, that you decided to parole Rawls? Someone for the prison department should be able to answer that question. The fact there isn’t such a person is not a confidence builder.

Rawls intends to continue his quest to force the Euclid police department to produce all of the evidence it gathered back in 1996 - even the evidence that was allegedly withheld from his attorney during his trial - and prove he was wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned. Rawls, in our view, is more believable than the agencies that sent him to prison.

Online: https://bit.ly/35A4xCF


Census remains important

The Marietta Times

Sept. 14

No Census during the past century has faced challenges like those which must be overcome by the people in charge of the 2020 population count

Clearly, however, they must develop solutions to the problem of counting Americans who may have been too preoccupied with staying well to respond to the Census by mail or online - and for the same reason may be reluctant to answer the door when a Census information gatherer knocks.

More than just information for the statisticians to pore over is involved in the Census. It is used to determine how many members of the House of Representatives each state is allotted - and how much weight each has in the Electoral College that selects presidents. Census numbers are used within states to determine representation in legislatures. Federal funding agencies hand out hundreds of billions of dollars based on how many people live where.

In a word, the Census is important.

So how did federal officials react to this year’s unique obstacles? By reducing the amount of time provided for collection of information.

At one point, the Census Bureau had set the end of October to conclude gathering of information. Earlier this summer, it was decreed the deadline would be pushed back to the end of this month.

Last Saturday, a federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order banning Census officials from proceeding with that schedule. It will be in effect at least until after a hearing on the matter is held Sept. 17.

The order should be extended. If anything, Census officials and workers will need more time, not less, to gather information this year.

Census Bureau officials should be ordered to keep counting until Oct. 31. Doing otherwise would make a mockery of the 2020 Census - and those who can least afford to lose federal representation and funding.

Online: https://bit.ly/3hvCXJd


Virus’s effect has us down, but not out

The Warren Tribune Chronicle

Sept. 14

COVID-19 is being blamed for lengthy delays in new area construction and business growth, including the planned Boscov’s opening at the Eastwood Mall Complex and development of a new Menards warehouse in nearby Portage County.

We are sorely disappointed to see the current health crisis has resulted in these businesses having to delay their significant plans for our area.

Boscov’s announced this month it will delay the opening of its extensive retail store in the mall’s former Sears wing by a year until October 2021. The opening of what will be the retail chain’s 49th location originally had been targeted for next month. Boscov’s, based in eastern Pennsylvania, is billed as the nation’s largest family-owned department store chain.

The very same day that Boscov’s made its delay official, a separate two-year delay on the $52 million Menards manufacturing and distribution center in Portage County, just west of Newton Falls, also came to light.

Of course, we understand why these delays are happening.

Boscov’s Chairman and CEO Jim Boscov said, “You only get one chance to introduce a new store the right way. … We want to give the Mahoning and Shenango Valley communities the grand opening celebration they deserve, full of entertainment, food tastings, educational seminars and so much more.”

Sadly, these types of opportunities are greatly limited because of health and safety restrictions brought on by social distancing and limits on large gatherings.

Store officials also noted properly merchandising a new store is a challenge now due to the disruption in supply chain for consumer goods, also triggered by the pandemic.

Menards, which had been scheduled to start construction within the next four months, now will delay the start on its new distribution center until January 2023. Company officials there blamed “all the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Yes, we grasp the reasoning. Still, understanding it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. The delays are just further examples of how much damage the COVID pandemic has done to our economy - locally, nationally and globally.

Still, we must remain optimistic! We are pleased that plans remain in the works for the future. Indeed, we expect both projects will be meaningful for our area. As it already has proved, Menards, which already operates a large store in Bazetta Township, will continue to be a good neighbor. And we have high expectations that Boscov’s will be welcomed by area shoppers and it, too, will enjoy great success and be a bright addition to the Mahoning Valley.

While the COVID-19 pandemic might have us down, our Valley’s spirit and drive must remain intact.

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


Slaps on wrist do nothing to head off future corruption

The Vindicator

Sept. 14

Light sentences handed down in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in the latest incidence of public corruption are, once again, an insult to the taxpayers who must rely on city leaders to represent them well.

Sadly, slaps on the wrist have been the trend in ongoing cases of Mahoning Valley public corruption.

Elected or appointed local officials who accept the responsibility of working for and representing the taxpayers, only to be lured by greed into nefarious dealings, should receive stiff sentences sending firm messages of the wrongdoing - not the opposite.

The latest cases involved former Youngstown Finance Director David Bozanich and two area businessmen. Their sentencing hearings came on the heels of a related case involving former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone.

Bozanich, 63, pleaded guilty to felony counts of bribery and tampering with records and two misdemeanor counts of unlawful compensation of a public official. For his admission to the crimes, he was ordered to serve one year in prison, pay a $10,000 fine and face three years of probation.

He is the only defendant in this multi-count indictment to receive any prison time. That sentence left his attorney surprised, based on other lighter sentences handed down.

Such a reaction tells us the message being sent by previous light sentences is missing the mark. Public officials who violate the public trust should walk into court cowering at the harsh sentence they face - not expecting to walk away with little more than a stern tongue-lashing and an order of community service.

Bozanich’s bribery conviction was for accepting free gifts from Raymond Briya, a former MS Consultants Inc. chief financial officer, so his company “could secure work for or within the city of Youngstown, then devised a scheme to hide the benefits,” according to the indictment.

The tampering conviction was for Bozanich giving $1.2 million from the city’s water fund to downtown developer Dominic Marchionda if he gave $1 million back to the city’s general fund in December 2009 to buy the Madison Avenue fire station property. That illegal transaction allowed Bozanich to balance the city’s general fund that year.

Judge Maureen Sweeney, who handed down the sentences, correctly described Bozanich’s crimes as an “abuse of power for personal gain.”

Still, Sweeney disregarded the recommendation for more prison time that came from Dan Kasaris, a senior assistant attorney general and lead prosecutor on the Youngstown criminal investigation. Kasaris had asked Sweeney to sentence Bozanich to six years in prison, the maximum sentence. Bozanich’s attorney had asked for only probation for his client.

It has consistently been our position that people in public positions, who are appointed or elected to uphold the public trust and who use their public positions for personal gain, should face penalties twice as harsh as private citizens who commit similar crimes.

For that reason, we believe Bozanich’s sentence was too light for someone who so boisterously abused the trust of the people of Youngstown. Still, the sentence was significantly more appropriate than the sentence of no jail time handed down recently to Sammarone. The ex-mayor had been charged in the same corruption indictment as Bozanich. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts of tampering with records and was sentenced to five years of probation and 30 days of community service.

Marchionda, 63, of Poland, a co-defendant involved in the case, also received only five years of probation and 1,250 hours of community service for four felony tampering with records convictions.

Also, Briya, 73, of Canfield pleaded guilty to five felonies and was sentenced to 180 days of house arrest, 300 hours of community service and fined $5,000. Briya had admitted he gave more than $100,000 in cash, meals and gifts to Bozanich over a decade, and gave at least $9,000 in cash to Sammarone, when he was mayor, to corrupt them in their official capacities with the city.

Kasaris explained well the damages that come from bribery involving government officials: “Bribery goes against what public service is about - serving the public and not one’s self. … Greed and corruption destroy the legitimacy of government.”

These types of actions trigger the public’s distrust of government. The only way to earn back that trust is with a firm hand of justice. That will send a message to both taxpayers and any other officials that government corruption will not be tolerated.

Online: https://bit.ly/3ivA7Ff

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