Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The unknown King
The Toledo Blade
It may come as a shock to realize that, had he not been assassinated in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., could still be alive today. He would have turned 92 last week.
He was a young man when he died. He was 26 when he led the successful Montgomery bus boycott following Rosa Parks’ famous arrest; 34 when he made his “I have a dream” speech on the Lincoln Memorial; barely 39 when he was shot to death on a hotel balcony in Memphis.
There was, however, more to Mr. King than the majestic speaker or even the civil rights leader for African-Americans. In his later years, he was increasingly concerned with economic inequality and structural poverty. He conceived of the “poor people’s march” in an attempt to unite poor, disenfranchised whites, Hispanics, and blacks - urban and rural. And he favored a guaranteed annual income for all Americans.
He also opposed the Vietnam War, which was controversial because many felt he was distracting himself from his chief identity and main task. Exactly a year before he died, Mr. King delivered a major address opposing the war, which brought wrath from some friends and allies, most notably the American politician who had done more for civil rights than anyone - President Lyndon B. Johnson.
This Martin Luther King - the critic of the American economy, of the militarization of American life and of our consumer society - is too little known and discussed.
There is a second side to him that is also often ignored. And that is the prophet of the color blind society.
Mr. King was not a practitioner or advocate of identity politics or indeed any form of separatism. To the contrary. He preached integration, racial reconciliation and American unity.
Mr. King knew that he might well not live to be an old man. That is clear in his last speech, delivered the night before he died. He told his followers he might never see the “promised land.” In his too-short life, he persuaded America that segregated Jim Crow laws could not stand and that it was time to “lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice.”
But if one reads his essays and speeches it is clear that, for him, the promised land, our “more perfect union” was one in which human beings could one day transcend race and find a brotherhood and sisterhood of values - one in which human rights were universal and forgiveness and friendship were possible across all lines of division. He would be satisfied with no less and he challenged his fellow Americans to be satisfied with no less: that we all might be, not many tribes and factions, but one.
We have largely forgotten this part of the dream.
Mr. King envisioned a society in which character and not external identity mattered most, and in which people of all colors and religions were united by what, for him, were gospel values and the deepest American values. He was not a separatist. He did not demonize. He was righteously angry but never bitter. He taught and practiced nonviolence. He united; he did not divide. He did not preach resentment, but love.
Unemployment continues to be a problem
The Marietta Times
As another wave of federal stimulus rolls in, checks in personal bank accounts are not the only benefit. State unemployment systems got a much-needed boost, too.
In fact, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says many of the state’s unemployment claimants will soon see the $300 supplemental payments that were part of the stimulus bill. That is, of course, wonderful news for those struggling as the pandemic changed the way we live and work together.
“Ohio stands ready to assist those in need as soon as possible, within the bounds of the new law. Those eligible will receive all benefits to which they are entitled,” said ODJFS Director Kimberly Henderson.
But pandemic unemployment benefits and other programs have been extended only through March 13. Then what?
While there is great hope a vaccine will eventually mean our economy can, indeed, come roaring back, the consensus is that sufficient herd immunity through the vaccine will likely not be accomplished until late spring/early summer. If everything goes according to plan.
Even then, there is another problem to consider. Some employers may never return to pre-pandemic staffing levels, and too many employers have already been forced to shut down. It is unlikely the number of jobs available in, say, June or July will come near matching the number of jobs in this country 18 months ago.
Buckeye State lawmakers, education officials, policy makers … all of us should begin now the process of planning for creatively diversifying our economy and training (or retraining) our workforce in a way that prepares them for such a changed jobs landscape. Of course, potential employees will have to be willing to get creative and think outside the way things have always been, too. But it is time, Ohio. We can’t wait to consider this challenge until it is too late.
We renew King’s call for unity, equality
The Warren Tribune Chronicle
Today, on this holiday, we ask how can we better follow the example and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
Area clergy and Valley leaders told our reporter last week that in light of events in the past 12 months that included upheaval in our nation’s capital or that led to Black Lives Matter protests nationwide and in our Mahoning Valley, there still is much work to do.
King dedicated his life to service to our nation and in a fight for equality. But King never lived to see that racial unity. Today, more than 50 years after his death, we remember and renew his call for unity, equality and service.
After all this nation has endured, incredibly, racial division and discrimination remain prevalent in America - the place where all men, all people, supposedly were created equal.
Lea Dotson of Warren, one of the founders of IVote Black, a political organization formed in Warren in 2020 that focuses on making sure political leaders and organizations work on issues affecting black communities and their progress, says we’ve come a long way since the days of MLK, but we still have far to go.
Dotson and other area leaders pointed out in a Sunday article that systemic racism still exists and affects minority communities nationwide.
It’s undeniable that blacks still face the lingering effects of discrimination in many fronts - jobs, housing, education and more. Working-class Americans see a growing gap as they struggle to climb the ladder to prosperity. The re-emergence of white supremacist groups brings flashbacks of ugliness.
And while we may want to believe that race relations are better now, Dotson points out as it becomes increasingly more taboo to express openly racist ideas, many people became more covert in sharing their racist opinions. “Racism never really left,” she said.
On this day, we all should make a pact, a promise to ourselves, that we will, for the good of our community, for the good of our society, make a true effort to see life through the eyes of others, particularly through the eyes of people of other race and color. Understanding - or seeking to understand - just might be a step toward erasing racism.
In realizing that the cause of justice would be waged over the long arc of history, King wrote this: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
King saw the good in people. His inspiration was powerful because it was real. He knew the burden of hate would turn on itself and that every American would have a role in starting a new path of equal opportunity for all.
Today, in a nation still sharply divided, let us try harder to live his message, legacy and hope for unity, equal opportunity and respect.
Ohio can rein in the corrupting influence of dark money - if the legislature acts
Cleveland Plain Dealer
General Assembly members from both political parties know perfectly well what needs to be done about “dark money” in Ohio politics: Identify the people behind it. Then, the source of that money will no longer be “dark” but rather transparent, for all Ohioans to see and know.
But, because some of those dark dollars — often, dark millions of dollars — end up greasing policies key lawmakers want, the Ohio legislature has shown no appetite to do anything about it.
That needs to change.
House Bill 6 — the nuclear bailout law whose 2019 passage was allegedly underwritten by $60 million in dark money — is Exhibit A for why this is critical. If it weren’t for federal criminal charges, Ohioans would still be in the dark.
But HB 6 is only the leading edge of a far more pervasive system of hidden influence-peddling.
Reporting by cleveland.com’s John Caniglia shows how FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the Illuminating Co., deployed dark money to undercut city-owned Cleveland Public Power (CPP).
First, a nonprofit named Partners for Progress obtained $20 million from FirstEnergy and its affiliates, Caniglia found. Of that, $200,000 went to Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, an anti-CPP group. The avowed goal of Consumers Against Deceptive Fees was “to educate East Side residents about CPP’s rates, which the group said were among the highest in the state,” Caniglia reported. But Cleveland officials, he wrote, called it “nothing more than an attempt by FirstEnergy to gut a competitor.”
However, $200,000 wasn’t the only funding for Consumers Against Deceptive Fees. The group “took in more than $551,000 in 2018 and 2019,” Caniglia reported.
Who provided the bulk of that anti-CPP money remains obscure.
Dark money is political lingo for virtually unlimited sums donated to an organization considered legally independent of the candidate or issue campaign the organization supports. Such independent organizations aren’t required to identify their contributors – hence, “dark money.”
Nondisclosure of dark-money donors leaves unanswered a key question that many Ohioans ask when trying to judge candidates or ballot issues: Who is for them – and who is against them? And why?
And hiding who or what bankrolls dark-money groups also hides who is responsible for lies or smears that money may spread.
Federal prosecutors, for instance, attributed more than just passage of HB 6 to the influence of dark money. They allege dark money was also used to kill a statewide petition drive that would have let Ohioans vote up or down on HB 6. And if Ohioans had had a chance to vote, there’s little doubt they would have killed the measure.
More than five months ago, a federal grand jury indicted then-House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican from Perry County’s Glenford, and four other Statehouse figures for alleged corruption related to HB 6′s passage. Two defendants have pleaded guilty. The other three, including Householder, are awaiting trial — and entitled to the presumption of innocence.
Soon after the indictments surfaced, General Assembly members of both parties introduced five separate bills to require dark-money groups to reveal their contributors.
Greater Cleveland state Reps. Diane Grendell, of Chesterland, and Gayle Manning, of North Ridgeville, both Republicans, and Democrat Bride Rose Sweeney, of Cleveland, were among the legislators who called for dark-money reforms.
But GOP leaders – House Speaker Robert Cupp, of Lima and then-Senate President Larry Obhof, of Medina – let the disclosure bills die. Because of their failure to act, Ohio’s House and state Senate must go back to square one with new legislation in the 2021-22 General Assembly session.
In 2010, in another of the lost opportunities that dogs Ohio politics, the GOP-led state Senate unanimously approved a dark-money disclosure bill, sponsored by then-state Sen. Jon Husted, a Republican who is now lieutenant governor. But Ohio’s House, led by then-Speaker Armond Budish, a Greater Cleveland Democrat, took no action on Husted’s 2010 plan.
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley is considering seeking subpoenas to find out how the $351,000 in as-yet untracked dark-money contributions flowed to the now-defunct anti-CPP group Consumers Against Deceptive Fees,
If Ohio required the disclosure of dark-money donors, officials wouldn’t have to resort to subpoenas to uncover the truth. And individual Ohioans who don’t have subpoena power wouldn’t remain in the dark about such hidden financial backing before casting their ballots for candidates and ballot issues.
In voting, as in much else, knowledge is power. That’s why the General Assembly, to empower voters, must require dark-money groups to reveal where their money comes from.
Recovery Board needs fixed, again
The Sandusky Register
When nearly one-third of your 18-member board of directors resigns in protest, there must be a problem.
We were disappointed to learn about the resignation of five board members from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties on Wednesday. This agency is funded through a small tax that all property owners in the county pay, plus additional federal and state grant funds bringing its annual budget to about $7 million. That is money meant to be spent to serve families struggling with addiction and recovery.
The Recovery Board is mismanaged, unorganized and unprofessional, one board member wrote in his letter of resignation. Another board member who resigned echoed those comments and said the board was failing in its mission to help families. The board is withholding funding for worthy programs and its director is maintaining an inappropriate level of control over the board, Caleb Stidham wrote in his letter of resignation.
All five who resigned put some blame for the failures on the board’s director, Brenda Cronin. In the last few years, Erie County commissioners and other leaders in the county also have expressed similar frustrations about the board failing to execute. Late last year, Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said he was so offended by the disrespect the board displayed when he made a funding request that he hoped he would never have to work with it again.
Cronin would be wise to reach out to each of these board members, to the sheriffs, to the Erie County health commissioner, the Job and Family Services director, county commissioners and others who are dissatisfied and detail her plan to fix what’s broken. If one person tells you it’s not working, that’s a suggestion. If a dozen stakeholders tell you that, it’s a mandate for change.
Stidham, who was elected county treasurer in November, expressed sincere regret about the breakdown and dysfunction, and he urged change. The mission of the Recovery Board is too important to be sunk by petty power grudges, he said, and misinformed board members who don’t understand the board’s role or respect the people the board is designed to help.
Another board member whose commitment to helping people overcome addiction is beyond questioning also resigned on Wednesday. Rob Quinn, the former Kelleys Island mayor and founder of a residential recovery community in Vermilion that is part of Erie County’s circle of care for addiction services, said he too believes the board failing its mission. Quinn cited a board decision a few years ago to buy a building that was too expensive, too big and in too much disrepair as an example of misspending that is occurring due to the board’s dysfunction. He also suggested the agency’s director was mishandling the job.
Erie County commissioners are reviewing options for splitting away from the partnership and forming a separate board. If that’s what must happen to end the dysfunction then that is what must happen. But if Cronin and the board members who haven’t quit want to fix the Board they should reach out and talk with their critics and learn how this breach can be mended.
One thing seems apparent: It’s time for a change.
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