Editorials from around Ohio

The Associated Press Published:

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

The Columbus Dispatch, March 12

Double-dipping, in which public employees can "retire" to collect their full pension, then immediately be rehired to their old job and continue collecting a salary on top of their pension, rightly draws the ire of taxpayers, most of whom have no prospect of ever getting such a cushy deal. ...

In 2010, a consortium of Ohio's newspapers found that a quarter of the superintendents in the state's 614 school districts were double-dipping. In all, the newspapers found that 32,000 public employees were collecting $1 billion in pension payouts on top of their government paychecks.

This is a system that is deeply flawed and should be reformed.

The practice is bad public policy for several reasons. First, the pension plan is unnecessarily stressed, because it is paying retirement benefits to someone who doesn't need or want to be retired. Those additional years of payments add strain to pension systems that already are on thin ice financially, because of stock-market losses in 2008 and the skyrocketing cost of health care, which is included in most of Ohio's public pensions, even though the law doesn't require it. ...

Efforts are under way to reform Ohio's public-pension plans, and they likely will raise retirement ages slightly. But no plan proposed so far requires public employees to wait until the typical Social Security retirement age to draw their pension benefits. This is a system ripe for an overhaul.




The Lima News, March 10

Talk about short memories.

It hasn't been even a half-year since Ohioans learned about the dozens of exotic animals near Zanesville that were let loose by their owner, who then committed suicide. The fact that lions, tigers and bears could be seen walking alongside Interstate 70 was stunning enough. Those feelings of horror were trumped, however, when angry residents found out that all it took to own a rhinoceros was money.

Ohio failed its state's residents back in October with its lax regulations on the ownership of dangerous wildlife. Those same residents were failed again last week when the state Senate fell short of banning the biggest source of problems -- private owners keeping dangerous wildlife.

The senate ignored the recommendation by the governor's task force concerning private owners who keep dangerous animals as pets. The task force asked that people who do not meet certain exemptions be required to by 2014. The task force envisioned narrow exemptions for zoos, circuses, licensed breeders and animal sanctuaries meeting safety and security standards, thus ensuring the overriding goal of protecting the public from animals kept by casual owners.

However, the proposed bill before the Senate only requires that new animals be banned. ...




The (Toledo) Blade, March 9

Ohio's overcrowded prisons are getting a needed makeover, building on previous gains and focusing on turning inmates into productive citizens.

Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, unveiled a plan recently to reorganize state prisons into a tiered system based on levels of control. Disruptive, violent inmates would be separated from the rest of the prison population. That will make other inmates safer and allow officials to focus on rehabilitating inmates in the general population and reintegration groups. ...

Inmates at reintegration facilities will get job training, with a goal of having jobs waiting for them when they get out. Mr. Mohr said he wants them to work eight-hour days before their release. Research shows that inmates who get job training are less likely to go back to prison.

The changes in prison organization follow sentencing reforms that took effect last fall. Those reforms allow many nonviolent and first-time offenders to be diverted to community programs. ...

Ohio's prison director said he is no liberal when it comes to the treatment of inmates. But after four decades in the business, he believes the best way to cut crime, reduce recidivism, and save money is to give inmates hope and the tools to build a better life. He's right.




The (Youngstown) Vindicator, March 10

The natural reaction to Vladimir Putin's recent election as president of Russia would be, "He's back" -- but for the fact that he never actually gave up the presidency, even though he deeded the position four years ago to Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin, who had served as president for two four-year terms and then was appointed prime minister in 2008 by Medvedev, has always held the reins of power. Indeed, he hand-picked his successor and made sure that the policies he had put in place were maintained. While Medvedev won the post in an election, Putin retained ultimate power.

Thus, his return March 4 through an election that independent observers, including western monitors, have said was fraught with irregularities puts an end to the farce. Indeed, Putin could be president for the next 12 years.

The citizens of the Russian Federation, along with the United States and other nations committed to the spread of democracy, have reason to be concerned.

... (T)he United States and other Western countries should urge the United Nations to investigate the complaints of voting irregularities and of physical force and intimidation against Putin's critics.