Editorials from around Ohio

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Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The Columbus Dispatch, July 28

A recent Ohio appeals-court ruling that cruiser dash-camera videos are confidential "investigatory materials," rather than open public records, threatens Ohioans' ability to monitor police and defend against abuse.

This decision is no favor to law-enforcement officers, either. They often rely upon these videos to prove they behaved professionally and even heroically under difficult circumstances.

For these reasons, police agencies would be wise to promptly comply with requests to turn over these videos — which have been regarded in practice as a public record — and to ignore a single court's opinion as overreach....

Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, called the decision "disturbing," and said it "would greatly limit the ability to assess the performance of law-enforcement agencies." He fears it will open up "a vast new opportunity for government secrecy."

While the ruling is effective only within the 12th District, the fear is that it will provide police a precedent to say "no" when videos cast them or someone powerful in a bad light....

The dashboard cameras aren't turned on only when a crime is in progress. They are recording even if an officer stops to help someone with a flat tire. They are a routine part of police work....

The judicial branch is making it increasingly difficult for people of ordinary means to monitor their government and defend against abuse of power. The compounding effect of these court cases is alarming.

Police and other public officials should remember that hiding public records undermines public trust.

Online: http://bit.ly/1uyBesp

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The Marietta Times, July 26

Public school teachers and administrators sometimes grow frustrated at demands politicians put on them. No wonder. Curriculum demands vary regularly, depending on what seems to concern the public most at a given time.

But some failings in the priorities we set for schools seem obvious. One is "financial literacy." In essence, that means teaching students how to handle personal finances and basics on the economy as a whole.

An international assessment of financial literacy among students has been completed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It included nearly 28,000 15-year-olds in 18 countries and economic regions.

Though American students did not turn in embarrassing scores, they certainly did not shine. Their financial literacy was ranked ninth among the 18 groups.

Too many U.S. high school graduates do not recognize the importance of balancing a checkbook, not to mention how to do it. They do not understand that when the Treasury Department prints more money, it is not creating new wealth. They do not realize that someone has to pay for every "free" offer, whether by government or business. They do not make connections between government policy and their cost of living. Interest on loans is a mystery to them.

In short, they lack basic knowledge needed to safeguard their own interests. That may well be the most important priority U.S. educators should address in any school reform campaigns.

Online: http://bit.ly/1nyylTR

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The (Toledo) Blade, July 28

You haven't heard that much about children's issues in this year's campaigns for statewide offices and Congress in Ohio and Michigan. The flippant explanation is that children don't vote or make campaign contributions. But even if too many elected officials allow such cynical calculations to guide their behavior, voters can't afford to.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy that is one of the nation's most effective advocates of child-welfare and juvenile-justice reform, has just released this year's edition of its Kids Count data book. The annual report assesses how children are doing, across the country and in each state, in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

The 2014 report suggests that the kindest adjective to apply to the condition of children in Ohio and Michigan is "mediocre." That's not good enough. Our children deserve more-effective public policies (as well as private efforts) to improve their lives, but won't get them until voters demand them.

Ohio ranks a middling 24th overall among the states on the Kids Count report card — slightly better on education, health, and economic well-being, but worse on family and community measures....

One of every four Ohio children lives in poverty, and one of every three has parents who lack secure jobs, the report says. Both rates are slightly above the national average, and both have gotten worse since the Great Recession. Ohio also lags behind the nation in teen births and in its rates of children who live in single-parent families and in high-poverty areas — a measure of economic segregation.

Online: http://bit.ly/1uyCvQs

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The (Findlay) Courier, July 26

In recent weeks, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has come under fire for how his office awards contracts for outside legal work.

David Pepper, a Democrat who is seeking DeWine's job this November, has accused DeWine, a Republican, of engaging in a pay-to-play scheme in which firms which make donations to his campaign, or a Haiti charity created in DeWine's daughter's memory, are favored when it comes winning lucrative state contracts to handle securities fraud and other legal matters.

While the claims may be politically based, and would be difficult to prove, the suspicion cast is damning for DeWine, and he must address them to retain credibility.

One way would be to make the process used to pick outside firms more transparent by documenting why one firm is selected over another....

One firm seeking work as a collection agency was created just before the bidding started and was formed by a DeWine supporter and longtime contributor to the Summit County Republican Party. Even though it lacked experience and appropriate licensing credentials, it still won a contract.

The timing, if nothing else, is highly suspect....

Meanwhile, DeWine has denied any connection between contributions and contracts, as have previous attorneys general who have been accused of similar activity.

Still, he needs to put the controversy behind him as soon as possible.

The simplest way to clear the air would be to make the selection of outside firms as public as possible, and refuse to accept political donations from any firm that wants to work for the state.

Online: http://bit.ly/1lMrlOC

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