Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

It’s time to address our eviction crisis

Akron Beacon Journal

Jan. 11

We’ve all heard the horror stories.

The evil landlord who refuses to make necessary repairs, or ignores black mold or insect infestations. Or worse.

The tenant from hell who disturbs all of the neighbors, or damages the property, or uses it as a drug lab. Or worse.

We probably don’t hear as often about the tenant who loses his job and can no longer afford the rent. Or about the landlord who has no choice but to raise the rent, above what her tenants can reasonably afford, to compensate for higher utility bills or property taxes or another built-in cost.

But it is increasingly difficult to avoid hearing about where such circumstances usually end — in evictions.

According to a report late last year by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, Akron’s eviction rate is the highest in Ohio and 24th highest nationwide. In Akron, nearly seven renters are evicted from their homes every day, the Beacon Journal reported reported in mid-December. In 2016, there were 2,492 evictions in the city, where the eviction rate of 6.06% was 2.34 percentage points above the national average.

The problem, of course, is not limited to Akron. Just in Ohio, Dayton ranked 26th nationally with an eviction rate of 5.94%, Toledo 30th (5.63), Cincinnati 46th (4.70), Columbus 52nd (4.55) and Cleveland 53rd (4.53).

Nationwide, an astounding 1 of every 50 renters was evicted in 2016, when 2.3 million eviction notices — four per minute — were filed in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the burden of eviction has been borne most heavily by the lower and middle classes, who are most likely to rent and have seen their income fall steadily in relation to rent payments. According to a 2018 Harvard University study, median rent payments have climbed by 61% since 1960 while median renter income has grown by just 5%.

Fortunately, the problem is not going unnoticed.

In Congress, Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio joined with Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado in December to introduce the Eviction Crisis Act, which would establish a federal committee to examine data and policies to help prevent evictions or reduce their impact. In addition, it would provide money to “track evictions, analyze laws involving tenants and landlords and examine the factors leading to evictions,” according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Crucially, the legislation would also create an emergency fund to help tenants pay rent in extraordinary situations, Portman told the Dispatch.

“If you miss a rent payment, the emergency assistance fund would be there to help,” Portman said. “Lots of landlords would be interested. They don’t want to go through evictions.”

Still, Akron municipal judges wisely are not content to wait for the U.S. Congress to take action. The judges are set to vote Jan. 17 on “new rules requiring more of landlords who evict tenants while giving tenants the chance to seal such cases, which can bar them from finding an apartment in the future, even if they won the eviction case or a judge tossed it out,” the Beacon Journal’s Doug Livingston reported.

Although we typically prefer public records to remain open, we can see the public interest in making an exception in eviction cases judged to have been filed without merit.

Local landlords, however, are already sounding the alarm, warning the new rules will go too far and empower tenants at their expense. That is a legitimate risk, and we urge the judges to proceed with caution and strike the proper balance.

All of us — tenants, landlords or not — have an interest in seeing this issue resolved. Too much for too many is at stake.



Hopes, dreams vital to save young lives

Canton Repository

Jan. 12

Highly unlikely are the odds anyone reading this editorial has gone through life with no hopes or dreams.

We all have hopes and dreams, right?

And we know right from wrong.

Tear-filled proceedings in a juvenile courtroom on two days this past week compels us to step back and accept this reality: For some young boys in our community, that’s not the case.

As a consequence of the unfocused, seemingly (in their minds, at least) hopeless lives of two such boys, a young girl described as energetic and kind — like the boys barely into teenage years — died a coldly calculated and brutal death last March.

One boy, now 14, will spend at least the next seven years in a juvenile prison for pulling the trigger of the gun that killed Sylvia McGee. Hanging over his head is an additional adult prison term of 18 years to life, depending on his conduct in an Ohio Department of Youth Services facility.

Ironic considering the boy told a psychologist as part of the proceedings in his case that he didn’t expect to live past the age of 18.

Tragedy atop tragedy.

“I don’t know if you have any hopes or dreams,” Judge Rosemarie Hall told defendant Isiah Lynch as she sentenced him Tuesday.

Lynch told the psychologist he was “too deep in the streets” to take a different path in his life. He spent more than two weeks planning the fatal shooting.

Are we as a society prepared to accept the possibility there is a point of no return for young boys looking toward gangs for the fulfillment they’re not finding elsewhere?

Not here. We’re not willing to concede defeat or turn over more boys “to the streets.”

It won’t be easy, and it’s going to take more than mothers already working three jobs to survive, as was the case in the Lynch household.

Perhaps the counselors and other staff in the state prison system can find a way to reach Lynch.

In the end, though, it depends on Lynch himself — a point Hall made clearly during the sentencing.

“Your future is in your hands,” she said. “Change has to come from you ... (and) you have to be open to services (the Ohio Department of Youth Services) are going to offer. If you don’t change on the inside, nothing is going to change on the outside.”

Seven years is plenty of time to find the right path if he so chooses.

Lynch’s accomplice, Michael Boykins, could get his second chance in one year.

For McGee, there is no second chance. No do-over. We grieve with her family. We share their anger.

“Our pain and our suffering is every day. Every single day is pain,” Darnellas Milini, McGee’s step-grandmother, said in court.

We commend a willingness to forgive that some relatives expressed in court.

Carlina Hanley, McGee’s great aunt, told Boykins: “I just pray you turn your life around because the road you’re going down is a road of destruction.”

For the Sylvia McGee’s in our community, all of us must work to help troubled boys find a road leading not to violence and pain but one with hopes and dreams.



Prospects for long-term health in the US continue to decline

The Columbus Dispatch

Jan. 9

For a state and nation already on notice that our long-term health is deteriorating, news at the beginning of this week sounded disturbing wakeup calls.

The health of millennials is worse than the Generation Xers that they follow; and a 40% increase in uninsured rates for the youngest Ohioans — infants to preschoolers — could have long-term consequences not only for their health but also their brain development and overall well-being.

Combined, these developments raise serious questions about the likelihood that trends toward decreased life expectancy can soon be reversed.

It was already distressing when the Journal of the American Medical Association reported late last year that Ohio was one of four states with especially high numbers of “excess deaths” — cases in which more people died than would have been expected if life expectancy rates remained stable. In fact, life expectancy in the United States has declined for three years in a row through 2017, the most recent year for which rates are available.

The U.S. life expectancy, now at 78.6 years, is the lowest among a dozen comparable nations, with a decline starting in 2014 as the life span in other developed nations has continue to rise to an average of 82.3 years.

Now we learn from health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield that millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are significantly less healthy than the population cohort just before them, the Gen Xers with birthdates between 1965 and 1980.

Being less physically active and having more issues with addiction, depression, high cholesterol and hypertension are millennial characteristics noted in the Blue Cross Blue Shield report, which warns the mortality rate for this sector of the population could be 40% higher than the generation they succeeded.

Beyond the obvious concerns of higher health care costs and reduced quality of life for millennials are wider societal issues: More sick time taken by this group means they will contribute less to the economy as a whole, which impacts all of us.

And what of the even younger generations to come? Seeing more of them start off without access to regular medical care due to being uninsured is a frightening prospect, yet that is what is happening across the nation, according to a new study by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

For the first time since federal health care reform was enacted with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, more than 1 million children under age 6 across the country did not have access to health coverage as their uninsured rate, which had been declining, rose from 3.8% in 2016 to 4.3% in 2018.

In Ohio, the impact was even greater, with the uninsured rate for young children rising to 5% from 3.6% in that period — amounting to 12,000 more uninsured babies to preschoolers — a 40% jump that was third-highest in the country.

Fortunately, emergency medical treatment will be available to uninsured children who get sick enough to require hospitalization because of laws requiring such care regardless of ability to pay. But not having insurance keeps them from getting the regular checkups that can ensure healthy development for the rest of their lives.

The Dispatch is glad to see Gov. Mike DeWine was appropriately dismayed at the Georgetown findings and asked state officials to identify ways to reduce any bureaucratic barriers for uninsured children to access coverage through Medicaid. That’s the least we should do.



Latest security breach at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport highlights need for culture change

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Jan. 12

Mere weeks after Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Director Robert Kennedy reassured a Cleveland City Council committee last fall that all was well at the city-owned and city-managed airport -- with a clean security slate, and new security procedures in place -- another ranking airport official was involved in a security incident.

Details about the possible breach in late November or early December involving Deputy Commissioner Eric Turner -- a case that came to light only recently when the Transportation Security Administration notified Cleveland by letter Jan. 3 it was opening an investigation -- remain sparse.

TSA spokesman Mark Howell told reporter Robert Higgs the incident involved an access control violation, but didn’t give details or a date, or identify personnel involved.

Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration said the incident involved Turner, a longtime airport employee. Jackson spokeswoman Latoya Hunter Hayes said it happened around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yet there is no escaping the obvious: Four security incidents in a little over one year at the region’s busiest and most important airport.

Two of those incidents -- the most recent and the first, an October 2018 breach when then-airport Assistant Director Fred Szabo improperly helped Jackson’s chief of operations Darnell Brown evade required TSA security so he wouldn’t miss his plane -- involved high-ranking officials.

And the October incident was the third security-related incident in two years to involve Szabo, who, after a brief disciplinary suspension, was moved to another city job outside the airport.

The October breach further angered TSA when Cleveland failed to report it for 20 hours, preventing remedial action. That inexcusable delay came from the top: Then-airport Security Manager Howard Phillips told TSA investigators Kennedy had specifically directed him not to report the matter to TSA until Phillips could question Szabo. Szabo then initially “misled Phillips,” Higgs discovered from city records, “falsely telling (Phillips) that he had the security paperwork required to take Brown around security.”

Phillips quit in disgust last July, blasting off a bitter resignation letter to the airport’s chief of human resources that complained of lack of staff and other "support to make the changes needed to be compliant” with TSA regulations. He also complained about an apparently politically protected employee “who does not provide value and in fact creates issues.”

At the time, the city said it was following a “hiring process” to replace Phillips, but it’s not clear if a replacement has been hired; a call Friday afternoon to Jackson spokeswoman Hayes was not returned by deadline.

The TSA has told our editorial board they took the October 2018 breach very seriously, despite the fact that no fines were levied for it. Nor do we yet know the seriousness of the incident that prompted the investigation TSA just launched.

What does emerge from recent incidents remains troubling, however -- suggesting an ingrown airport culture that prioritizes political loyalty over a commitment to security.

The city’s lack of transparency on these breaches feeds this concern. Why is the public hearing only now of a more than month-old security incident? Why has the city continued to oppose full transparency on the October 2018 breach?

Security rules are there for a reason, and it is no small matter when they are violated. It is time for a truly clean slate and new attitude and approach to security at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport that prioritizes a changed culture, improved training, transparency and greater immediacy in reporting.



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