Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Columbus Dispatch. February 5, 2024.

Editorial: Columbus and Greyhound’s relationship is burning to the ground. That’s a very bad thing.

Columbus needs more safe, reliable and affordable transportation options for visitors, travelers and residents — not fewer.

That's why it's unacceptable that the relationship between the city of Columbus, Greyhound Lines and Barons Bus has all but burned to the ground. There must be a reset to preserve intercity bus service in Columbus.

As many in central Ohio work to bring rail transportation back to the region through Amtrak, city leaders are in a heated dispute with the transportation companies that provide two of the few public ground transportation services for those who want to get in or out of the region.

There is blame on all sides.

The bus companies have not provided the safe service Columbus area residents and travelers deserve. City officials have demonstrated an egregious lack of foresight that has deepened and only shifted a solvable problem to a new location.

Even worse, just before he won reelection, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther allegedly tried to influence a judge deciding the fate of a bus station.

How did we get here?

Greyhound operated for more than 50 years out of a once state-of-the-art station at 111 E. Town St. downtown.

Ongoing crime issues at that 2.45-acre station rightly put Greyhound and Barons in the city's crosshairs. It averaged more than two police calls a day from January 2020 to July 2021 for incidents ranging from stabbings and assaults to overdoses and shootings.

Threats of code violations at the downtown site ramped up just weeks before COTA announced on July 21, 2021, that it would buy the centrally located station for redevelopment at a cost that added up to $9.5 million. Greyhound has left or is leaving decades-long downtown locations in Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland and several other cities.

On June 27, Greyhound announced it would open a new depot at 845 N. Wilson Road, the site of a former gas station on Columbus' West Side.

Complaints about crime and noise from nearby Hilltop residents and businesses began almost immediately after the depot opened a short time later.

Columbus resident Joe Motil, then Ginther’s challenger for mayor, slammed Ginther’s administration for apparently signing off on plans for the depot that were submitted to the city’s building and zoning services.

In late August, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the Wilson Road station "to cease all operations" until "criminal activity," code violations and other problems are addressed.

City should work with the bus companies not threaten them

Ginther became personally involved, sending a letter to a Barons official on July 28.

"It is my sincere hope you will come to the realization that it is not in your best interest to continue to operate at the N. Wilson Road location," the mayor wrote. "If not, we intend to use every available tool to force you to cease operations and relocate operations to a suitable site."

Ginther’s poorly veiled threats point to a lack of planning and vision.

Nearly two years passed between the time COTA announced it would buy the old Greyhound station and the companies’ move to the new Wilson Road location.

The city and the companies should have worked to ensure a suitable location was identified in that timeframe to preserve options for those seeking out-of-town travel by passenger bus.

They didn’t do it then, but they can do so now.

The need for more ways for Ohioans to travel to other cities is often raised as justification for the proposed plan for Amtrak lines connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.

Columbus is the nation's largest city without passenger rail service. It should not also be the largest city without Greyhound, the nation's largest intercity bus service.

There is much work to do.

Crime issues — some of them serious — at the downtown station have been transported to a new neighborhood.

Ginther’s alleged phone call

A 27-year-old Columbus man was arraigned on a felonious assault charge Jan. 26 for allegedly biting off part of a security guard's ear. On Oct. 8, 42-year-old Rhys R. Jones was shot and killed at the station.

Two-days after Jones' death, Ginther allegedly called Franklin County Municipal Court Environmental Judge Stephanie Mingo and left a message that he wanted to talk about the case.

Mingo said she spoke to Ginther Oct. 11. The following day, she told attorneys for the city and Barons and Greyhound that an “elected official” contacted her about the lawsuit and told her to do the “right thing” and shut the station down.

After the November election, Mingo revealed that the elected official who contacted her was Ginther.

The issue of the call is not resolved.

Klein has appointed a special prosecutor, Whitehall City Attorney Brad Nicodemus, to review the case.

Regardless of the outcome of Nicodemus' investigation, the saga must be resolved in a way that does not drive Greyhound and Barons out of town.

Columbus and its people must continue to move forward.

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Toledo Blade. February 5, 2024.

Editorial: Vance failing at 1st duty

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance appears to be auditioning for the vice presidential slot on the Donald Trump Presidential ticket with positions of frightening implication.

Appearing on the ABC-TV Sunday morning public affairs program This Week, Senator Vance revealed logic of Civil War-era America.

Mr. Vance said, “if I had been vice president, I would have told states like Pennsylvania and Georgia that we needed to have multiple slates of electors, and the U.S. Congress should have fought over it from there.”

The issues Mr. Vance raises as reasons to question results in these states and others were all litigated in state courts, where the Trump Presidential campaign universally lost. Multiple slates of electors called for by Ohio’s junior senator requires total disregard for the rule of law as judged by state courts.

Shockingly, Senator Vance does not restrict his contempt for court decisions to state level judiciary. In advocating a second term Trump Administration, Mr. Vance advises “fire every single mid-level bureaucrat and every civil servant.”

“When the courts stop you, stand before the country like Andrew Jackson did and say, the chief justice has made his ruling now let him enforce it,” Mr. Vance said.

Bellwether Ohio is represented in the U.S. Senate by a man who believes it is acceptable for the president to defy the Supreme Court.

It’s amazing how far standards have fallen since another Ohioan, John Bingham, made violation of the oath to support the Constitution grounds for rejection from any state or federal political office.

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Youngtown Vindicator. February 8, 2024.

Editorial: Stay safe, don’t play with fire

Most of us learned pretty early that it is a bad idea to play with fire. But even when we are not playing, it is important to be vigilant against burn risks.

This week is Burn Awareness Week, and it is a perfect time to remember the dangers of fuels such as flammable liquids.

“We must acknowledge the serious danger that flammable liquids present in our daily lives,” Ohio State Fire Marshal Kevin S. Reardon said. “By educating our community and emphasizing safe practices, we aim to drastically reduce the occurrence of these preventable injuries.”

According to the American Burn Association, a person in the United States is seriously burned approximately every two minutes. While most people survive such injuries, they can lead to serious scarring, lifelong disabilities and difficulty adjusting.

If we practice safe handling of fuels such as flammable liquids — whether it be at home or work — we can do something to reduce the risk of such injuries.

That means properly storing flammable liquids in approved containers; keeping flammable liquids away from heat sources and out of the reach of children; using the correct type of fuel for each item (lamps, heaters and such) and never pouring flammable liquids near an open flame or while equipment is running.

If you spill a flammable liquid, clean it up quickly and ventilate the area to get rid of fumes.

Alternative means of heating a home can make it necessary to regularly practice these safety tips. The worry about burn risks can mean homes and living things — we’ve got to be vigilant not just on our behalf, but for the sake of pets and young children, too.

By the way, flammable liquids aren’t just the items we think of as fuel. Nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, turpentine, the contents of some aerosol cans and even some cleaning oils can pose a danger.

Be cautious, be smart, and don’t shrug off safety precautions. Even if your life doesn’t depend on it (and it might), the consequences of a burn can last for the rest of it.

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Sandusky Register. February 9, 2024.

Editorial: Bathroom cops in Ohio

Ohio’s gerrymandered Republican lawmakers are making war — on trans people. House Bill 68 — which will deny trans people personal healthcare options — is set to become law in the spring, after lawmakers voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of that horrific legislation. Now they want to regulate bathroom use, despite hearing from more than 100 people testifying against it, including trans students at Ohio colleges who said the proposed bathroom ban is “dangerous” and “scary.” The lawmakers contend they are acting to protect the public. That would be understandable — but still wrong — if it was 1924. But this is not 1924. House Bill 68 and this proposed law are motivated by deep-seated bigotry and hatred. We wish it were not so; we wish it wasn’t so disgusting. Lawmakers have given themselves permission to be hateful toward this group of human beings, however, because it get them votes. Do the haters in Ohio really outnumber LGBTQ+ community members? That must be what they figure. They’re leading Ohio — to becoming a backward state.

It seemed full circle reading about Tracy DeMore and her children, Nick Hiss and Chelsea (Hiss) Campbell, developing “DeMore’s Hideaway,” the planned renovation of the former Waldock Investment building on East Washington Row. The restaurant will be on the ground floor of the three-story, 15,000-square-foot building. The second and third/top floors will be five individual condominiums. “We have had so much loyalty from the community supporting us for many, many years, and that is what made our business so successful,” Tracey said. “We have always had the desire to get downtown, and now we’re doing it, and we couldn’t be more excited.” Back at you. It is a homecoming for the DeMores. In 1934, the family ran a fishery near Shoreline Park in the same building where the former New Sandusky Fish Co. operated for many years. Tracey’s grandfather, Anthony “Tony” DeMore, owned the fishery back then.

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Findlay Courier. February 9, 2024.

Editorial: Easy questions go unanswered

Some questions are so easy that any law enforcement agency that gets asked should be able to answer them:

• Will this alleged crime be fully investigated?

• Will all of the evidence be examined and will it be presented to a grand jury if warranted?

The answers are obviously, yes, yes and yes. That’s the job.

A full investigation is a no-brainer for any agency, including the Ohio Attorney General’s office when it’s asked to investigate. Obviously, if a crime has been committed, or appears to have been committed, any agency with jurisdiction would fully investigate. The public has a right to expect that. Victims of crime have a right to expect it. Of course, all available evidence will be examined and will be presented to a grand jury, if that’s warranted.

Yes, yes and yes.

There are few reasons the answers could be any different. Why would any agency not want to fully investigate an alleged crime? Incompetence? Ignorance? Bureaucratic inertia? There might be more reasons for a law enforcement agency to decline to look at all the evidence? Don’t look, don’t see, don’t do anything. A thin blue line?

We’re baffled why Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost seems completely befuddled and overwhelmed. He might want to be governor someday, but he has no skill set for the job he has right now. He cannot say, one way or the other, if the death of a jail inmate in Richland County in 2019 will be fully investigated? He cannot say, one way or the other, if all the available evidence will be reviewed? These are easy questions.

Yost recently agreed to take over prosecution of the lone corrections officer charged with reckless homicide and manslaughter in the death of Alex Rios in 2019. Mark Cooper, 58, was indicted in December 2022, but his trial late last year ended in a hung jury. Two of Yost’s prosecutors — Drew Wood and Micah Ault are listed as prosecutors for his second trial, scheduled to start in April.

Rios was brutally assaulted by five corrections officers; it’s unclear why only one was charged. The Montgomery County coroner, his chief deputy coroner and the Richland County coroner all agreed to falsely classify the death as an accident caused by a made up diagnosis. It’s unclear if any of them have ever even been asked why they did that. Meanwhile, the deputy coroner who actually conducted the autopsy testified at Cooper’s first trial that Rios died because he was suffocated by the officers; his airway was compressed by them during the brutal assault.

Yost’s prosecutors, his unit supervisors and his spokespeople all cannot say, one way or the other, if the suspected homicide will be fully reviewed. They cannot say if all the evidence will be examined or if it will be presented to a grand jury if warranted. The employees of the Ohio Attorney General’s office have been stuck in the oozing goo of bureaucratic inertia for years. The only sure bet for performance is that they will fail to protect victims and families, especially when an alleged crime involves suspected wrongdoing by public officials.

The problem for Yost, we suspect, is that the Richland County sheriff, the jail staff, Yost’s own state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and both the Richland County and Montgomery County coroners’ offices failed to properly respond after Alex Rios was killed when he was attacked by five jail guards. It’s a conspiracy of incompetence, at best.

For more than three years nobody was charged in Rios’ death. It’s as if everything was routine and nobody did anything wrong. But about 18 months after he was killed, a surveillance video of what happened to Rios surfaced and the county’s insurance company, in a matter of just days, agreed to pay out $4 million to his family because what the video shows is egregious, and obvious. The money will be used to support Rios’ three children, his family has said.

The insurance company’s attorney recognized what was obvious after viewing the death video; Rios was wrongfully killed. In contrast, the Richland County sheriff, the coroners’ offices and Yost all are acting like blind mice, accountable to nobody.

Rios’ family does not deserve this treatment. The public should not tolerate it.

END