Akron Beacon Journal. June 6, 2021.

Editorial: Taking time to listen is wise move; trying to silence others is not

Recent events show how history repeats itself.

As you probably have read in the Beacon Journal, a retired Army officer’s microphone was cut for the portion of his Memorial Day speech in Hudson in which he described Black Americans as possibly the first to commemorate the holiday.

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You also may have read about the Canton McKinley football coaches who were fired for allegedly forcing a player to eat pork after he told them it was against his religious beliefs.

You also may have read that some Ohio legislators are introducing bills to protect Ohio students from history lessons based on “critical race theory” because they may induce “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or “psychological distress.”

Also in Hudson, the school district is investigating students’ use of a phone app video game in which racial and homophobic comments were made.

The Canton coaches may face criminal hazing charges; police are investigating. Hudson police have been made aware of the game players’ offensive comments. The folks who cut the microphone at the Hudson ceremony are being tried in the court of public opinion — Twitter, Facebook and national and international websites.

It’s easy enough to say the young gamers are wrong. Stop the hate and don’t be a bully, kids.

What to say to the Hudson ceremony organizers, the Canton coaches and Ohio legislators is more difficult. Are any likely to start listening?

We’re pleased to know that the head coach and six assistants were fired in Canton. The incident is horrifying not only because someone’s religious beliefs may have been violated, but because forcing a teen in their care to eat a whole pizza, regardless of whether it was topped with a pork product, is demeaning and inappropriate.

Fortunately, the two ceremony organizers in Hudson are being held accountable. In a tweet Thursday, the American Legion of Ohio’s commander Roger Friend announced he has requested the resignation of officers James Garrison and Cindy Suchan of Post 464. The commander says a full investigation and review of the post’s charter are pending.

Suchan, the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary president, says Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s microphone was turned down because it “was not relevant to our program for the day,” adding that the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.” Suchan has declined to say whether she or Garrison, adjutant of the post, specifically interfered with audio.

While ceremony organizers may have wanted to silence Kemter, people across the country and around the world now are listening to or reading his speech online and learning about how Blacks in South Carolina honored the fallen Union troops in the weeks after the Civil War’s end.

Kemter acknowledged there is “lively debate among historians” on whether the freed slaves were the first to celebrate Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was once known. What is important he said, is the attention they gave to the Union soldiers — exhuming the soldiers’ remains from a “hastily dug mass grave” and giving “each soldier a proper burial.”

All too often these days, some folks are threatened by “new” information about African Americans. Is it because white people might not be able to carry the banner of “first” and “most patriotic”? Microphones are silenced. Legislation is introduced.

We also wonder what is so wrong about revising history books. According to Kemter, the actions of the freed slaves were forgotten until researchers made “a remarkable discovery” in a Harvard archive in the late 1990s.

That wasn’t in our history books decades ago. Neither was there a mention of the Tulsa Race Massacre 100 years ago that killed hundreds of Black residents and left thousands homeless.

President Joe Biden, in marking the anniversary Tuesday, said we can’t pretend that “none of this ever happened or it doesn’t impact us today.”

“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know,” Biden said.

We wish more Americans would take the time to listen with an open mind. Alas, Biden’s thoughtful statement will be dismissed as just the words of a Democrat.

Examples of racism, ignorance or profound indifference shouldn’t just be brushed off or covered up. We should learn from history. Unfortunately, there are laws (or soon will be) against that.

Sandusky Register. June 2, 2021.

Editorial: No right to that gun

A headline in Saturday’s newspaper made a notable distinction: “This AK-47 not covered by the Second Amendment.”

The article by Register reporter Brandon Addeo was a deeper dive after the arrest of a Vermilion man. The weapon — which was customized to have automatic firepower — was found in the man’s home along with other weaponry.

About 10 days earlier, the man sped from a traffic stop after telling the police officer who stopped him that he was a “sovereign,” a person not subject to the laws of any government — local, state or federal — a person subject to nobody’s rules but his own.

The man — a convicted felon, by weight of his circumstance and the video recorded statements he made that day — is instantly a person police view as armed and dangerous, and you should, too. We all should view such circumstances as dangerous. The chase he led police on that day put anyone and everyone in the general area at risk of harm or injury, even death, by his recklessness.

But the fact he’s in possession of an unlawfully customized weapon capable of firing off 600 rounds a minute should scare each and every one of us, no matter what our own circumstances or beliefs might be. It should scare us all.

It is important not to confuse the rights of law-abiding citizens to own lawful weapons with what this is. This AK-47 is unlawful. It isn’t protected by the Second Amendment, and a convicted felon has no right to possess any weapon, of any kind, in any event, let alone one like this, which is manufactured to be highly, violently and wildly destructive in an offensive manner.

Don’t be fooled by anyone who claims differently.

Youngstown Vindicator. June 6, 2021.

Editorial: Fight to keep united Valley House district

As a region, Mahoning and Trumbull counties share a regional airport operated by a port authority with an effective economic development arm. The Mahoning Valley shares a military base that generates millions of dollars of economic impact for the region.

Efforts to improve transportation, water and air quality, land-use planning and local infrastructure for decades have been handled regionally. An increasing number of local governments has been sharing services and creating mutual-aid agreements with neighboring communities.

Culturally, the three-county area often unites as one common venue for arts, entertainment, sports and other social engagement. Local universities and institutions of higher learning largely educate students in both counties and beyond.

The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber provides excellent economic development efforts and serves business and industry in both counties every day. Local business incubators and facilities offering opportunities for experimentation in developing advanced technologies like electric vehicle batteries or additive manufacturing exist in both counties, and they have worked together as a team on many occasions.

Likewise, members of the Mahoning Valley’s labor force share a strong blue-collar work ethic. Geographically, this region benefits from its location and excellent highway and rail transportation systems that link it easily to the rest of the nation.

Sadly, significant challenges face the residents of both our counties. Those include things like high unemployment, need for job training, the ongoing opioid epidemic, high rates of infant mortality, obesity and other health issues.

And for the most part, the two counties overall have shared similar political views.

For these reasons and many more, it’s only logical to keep the two counties united in one congressional district.

Sources, however, now indicate that’s unlikely to happen. The new congressional map being drawn will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Until 2002, Trumbull, Mahoning and even Columbiana counties were united in one district. During that year’s redistricting, Columbiana and a southern portion of Mahoning were put into a district stretching 300 miles along the state’s eastern and southern borders. A few northern townships in Trumbull were put in a district with northeast counties.

Still, most of Trumbull and Mahoning were kept together, united with parts of Portage and Summit counties. Redistricting in 2012 cut other small pieces of the Valley from the district U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, continues to represent.

Now, however, sources say splitting the two counties is probable, as the state again loses a seat, coupled by a new law limiting how counties can be divided.

The 2020 U.S. Census data shows Ohio’s population grew only 2.3 percent since 2010, far less than the 7.4 percent average growth in the U.S., so the state will lose one of 16 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Each congressional district must be redrawn to accommodate 787,000 residents, or about 66,226 more than a typical district today.

Congressman Ryan’s recent announcement that he’ll seek a U.S. Senate seat next year, frankly, will make it even easier for district map drawers to cut up the district, dividing Mahoning and Trumbull counties. But easy doesn’t make it right, especially for constituents of a region like ours.

There is little dispute districts that work best for constituents are geographically compact and include whole communities with shared interests. Not only should counties be kept whole within a congressional district, so, too, should regions like our Valley because of shared interests, economic conditions and development efforts, facilities and organizations representing the Mahoning Valley as a whole.

Splitting our region threatens not only preservation of the state’s 13th Congressional District in which Mahoning and Trumbull counties are dominant forces, it also threatens cohesive representation of the Valley — typically viewed as Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

Together our region has power that can be more effectively represented in Washington. If divided, our region, already struggling with issues like unemployment, high poverty rates and comparatively low household income, stands to suffer. The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area ranks first in Ohio for extreme poverty.

If fragmented into two or more districts, the Valley’s collective voice would be even more severely muted. Lawmakers must not lose sight of the shared struggles and common interests of communities large and small throughout the Valley.

That’s why members of the Ohio General Assembly from both political parties, particularly those representing the Valley, must make it a priority to keep that collective voice and regional identity as strong and cohesive as possible as decennial congressional redistricting begins.

It would be illogical to do anything else.

Lorain Morning Journal. June 5, 2021.

Editorial: Gardens contribute to communities in so many ways

Community gardens sprouting up throughout Lorain County are good in so many ways.

In south Elyria, Lorain County Community Action Agency, Elyria Public Library System and nonprofit foundation Our F.A.M.I.L.Y. are partnering for a new vegetable patch at the library’s South Branch, 340 15th St.

Eventually, the community garden produce will be part of recipes created for area residents, with cooking lessons available.

The project is part of the re-emergence of the library, which put programming on hold in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Community Action Agency will pay for the plot with money from its Community Services Block Grant under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.

On May 26, Elyria Public Library System Director Lyn Crouse and library Superintendent of Facilities and Operations Frank Szuch met with Community Action Agency President and CEO Jackie Boehnlein and Health and Nutrition Manager Rebecca Rodriguez, and Emma and Bobby R. Taylor, founders of Our F.A.M.I.L.Y., which is short for Fathers and Mothers Involved in Local Youth.

They walked the site, which sits immediately west of the library building.

Right now, it is a grassy field with a treeline and poison ivy dividing it from neighboring lots to the south.

But soon, very soon, vegetables will emerge.

Shortly after that, the produce will be ready for consumption, from garden to table.

The planners discussed the layout of the growing plots, which will use raised beds covered with hoop houses that extend the growing season in the spring and fall.

The end product will be similar in style to growing plots now at the Lorain Public Library System South Branch, 2121 Homewood Drive in South Lorain.

There will be a new sign, with visible outreach to the neighborhood, which is really important.

The Elyria Library will supply water for an irrigation system used for the edible greenery.

The planners also acknowledged the work needs to happen quickly if they hope to cultivate the plants in the best part of this year’s growing season.

Boehnlein outlined the to-do list, which includes a paper layout of the garden, layout for a sign, some grading of the land and cutting down the bushy plants at the property line.

Installation is expected in coming weeks.

But over at the French Creek YMCA, 2010 Recreation Lane in Avon, a garden project is underway.

The gardens are not for just growing vegetables but will harvest flowers for aesthetics and beauty.

The North Coast Rotary Club is sponsoring the YMCA’s garden club, which is bringing multiple gardens to the facility.

The YMCA explored ways of making the branch more inviting, to beautify the facility and make it more appealing when patrons walk through the front doors.

From that, the garden club originated.

Also, there will be a garden dedicated to military veterans planted under the flag post to honor those who have fought for freedom.

The veterans garden will include bricks inscribed to personally recognize local heroes.

On the opposite side, there will be a Rotary garden that honors those who have served at the French Creek YMCA.

Phase two of the inside transformation includes a community garden-on-wheels on the second floor, where the skylight is, and members can rent a plot to tend for a season.

Ben Altemus, membership director for the French Creek YMCA, said a member of Avon Boy Scouts Troop 333 is planning and building that garden for his Eagle Scout project.

Altemus wants the YMCA members — both young and old — to know that they can grow their own food.

At the same time, the YMCA’s goal is to encourage people to visit the garden and sit at peace there, reflect and think about others.

While construction of all three components of the garden won’t be finished until later this year, Altemus hopes to have the garden functional by mid-June.

Altemus facilitated the garden project along with Kathy McKean, active older adults coordinator at the French Creek YMCA.

Another community effort to the project, is that Avon High School students repainted the bike racks, tables and benches for the new garden area.

Doug Maurer, president of the North Coast Rotary Club, said he is fortunate to lend a helping hand to the garden because the garden will help the community.

Maurer and several members of the Rotary Club were out in full swing the last week of May helping to jumpstart the garden project and lay the foundation for the pathways.

Brian-Kyles Landscapes of Distinction in Lorain donated the materials and supplies for the garden.

All of the groups in Elyria and Avon deserve credit for creating and contributing to community gardens.

Marietta Times. June 3, 2021.

Editorial: Extracting good ideas

Ohio state senate Republicans have presented their own version of the upcoming state budget, which holds some appealing details for Buckeye State residents. It includes a 5% personal income tax cut over two years and increases funding for public schools. It also changes the way in which state charter schools would be funded.

“If we want to talk about stimulus plans and what works and what doesn’t, an income tax cut will always be the best stimulus,” said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima.

State Senate Republicans’ proposal also includes eliminating sales taxes paid by Ohio job employment agencies.

“It is a sustainable plan,” said Senate Finance Chairman Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, “which means, we can pay for this plan and the school districts can rely on it.”

Perhaps. But Ohioans can be forgiven for wanting a great deal of assurance about HOW lawmakers believe they can pay for this proposal, and for how long. For example, one of the cuts proposed is $200 million that was supposed to fund grants for expanding broadband service.

On that issue, Huffman seems remarkably unconcerned.

“People are anxious to spend money on something that everybody thinks is a good idea,” he said. “I think it’s a bad idea to just start spending without a plan.”

Meanwhile, having spent far too many years in school funding limbo, administrators across the state may be thinking “Here we go again,” if this proposal does, indeed, throw out the bipartisan school-funding plan approved earlier this year by the House as part of its budget proposal.

It appears there are good ideas to extract from state Senate Republicans’ proposal. In doing so, lawmakers must be very careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water by ignoring the good ideas that have already been presented.

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