Editorials from around Ohio

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

The Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 21

Ohio has done a poor job of protecting residents and visitors from being preyed upon by dishonest tow-truck operators. Legislators, especially those from big cities, hear the complaints. Tow-truck operators wield a lot of unchecked power over their captive customer base, and the state should do something to keep it from being abused.

Rep. Heather Bishoff, D-Blacklick, told Gongwer News Service that she has heard from local college students who have lost their cars for days because tow lots have made it so difficult to get them back.

So Bishoff and Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, have introduced House Bill 382 to put a halt to some questionable practices. The ideas sound reasonable and deserve debate and consideration.

One provision requires tow-truck operators to inform people of their rights. Under state law, for example, if a vehicle owner arrives while the truck driver is still hooking up the car, the owner can pay half the typical rate and have it unhooked.

Many owners, especially out-of-state visitors and students, might not know that.

Another provision makes it illegal for companies to charges fees not authorized by state law. ...

The bill also requires that tow companies accept major credit cards from vehicle owners, both at the site of the tow and on the lot. Often towing companies demand cash -- more than most people carry around -- or some other inconvenient form of payment to get a vehicle back.

H.B. 382 prohibits companies from taking towed vehicles farther than 25 miles away. It also requires the tow-truck drivers to take at least one timed and dated photograph of the car proving that it was illegally parked.

Online: http://bit.ly/1c1deCkhtml

The Marietta Times, Dec. 21

Virtually no human activity occurs without some effect on the environment and some risk to human health. Reasonable trade-offs and minimized risk are the keys to our modern way of life.

On one controversial issue, disposing of the wastewater generated by many oil and natural gas drilling operations, the Coast Guard is proposing just such minimizing of risk and impact on the environment.

Coast Guard officials are recommending river transportation, by barge, be permitted for wastewater taken from hydraulic fracturing operations.

Some environmentalists were outraged at the Coast Guard report. They predict dire consequences if millions of gallons of "fracking" wastewater are transported on inland waterways. ...

As proponents of shipping fracking wastewater by barge point out, a variety of hazardous materials have been transported that way for decades, with comparatively few problems. When chemical spills occur in rivers, sometimes not from barges but from stationary sources, municipal water treatment plants merely close their intake valves until the dangerous river water has flowed past. ...

Again, there is risk in virtually all human activities. Minimizing it is the key -- and using barges to transport fracking waste may do just that. The only alternatives appear to be trucks or rail cars, both of which have accident records substantially worse than the barge industry.

It appears several other federal agencies must sign off on the proposal before barges can be used to transport fracking waste. Their officials should look at the situation objectively -- not through the political lens that so often seems to guide policy.

Online: http://bit.ly/1a3CEfj

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 20

The story of Cincinnati's streetcar has had more plot twists than a Hollywood thriller, so it's fitting the story had a suspense-filled and ultimately happy ending Thursday.

Cincinnati's elected officials deserve credit for respecting the political process, listening to constituents with an open mind and being willing to let facts and data lead them in a different direction than the paths they'd previously staked out. Council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn deserve a shout-out for working hard behind the scenes to ensure the best possible outcome for the city.

The legions of Cincinnati residents who collected petition signatures and showed up at council chambers to wait hours for the chance to speak deserve our respect for their inspiring campaign. They could have surrendered or turned the conversation ugly; instead they persisted and used the institutions and processes for their advantage.

The philanthropic leaders who stepped forward to create a path out of the mess, people like Tim Maloney and Eric Avner of the Haile Foundation, Otto Budig and Murray Sinclaire, also deserve our thanks. We wish more leaders from business and higher education had been willing to chime in, but perhaps they'll now be willing to follow the path others have created.

Online: http://cin.ci/18HQwAP

Youngstown Vindicator, Dec. 22

State Sen. Capri S. Cafaro walked into a buzz saw last week when she proposed what she obviously thought was a common sense bill designed to offer children the greatest level of protection against abuse during their school years.

Cafaro, D-Hubbard, called Senate Bill 248 "Teddy's Law" as a tribute to and reminder of Teddy Foltz, the 14-year-old Struthers boy who died in January after enduring months of abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, Zaryl Bush.

Teddy's death raised significant questions about how the level of abuse the boy was receiving continued, especially after it was learned that teachers in Hubbard and Struthers schools had reported suspected abuse. His mother, Shain Widdersheim, pulled him from Struthers schools when questions of abuse were raised, saying she was going to home school him.

Cafaro made the tactical error of trying to close that loophole in her legislation and opened a firestorm of opposition from home-school advocates. Under that pressure, an apparently chastened Cafaro announced Thursday that she was withdrawing the bill. Her new bill, she said, would be more comprehensive, but would in no way address the question of home schooling.

The kneejerk reaction to Cafaro's bill was unfortunate. While there is no question that the vast majority of home-school parents are conscientious in providing their children the education that they believe is best for them, Teddy Foltz's mother used home schooling as a ruse that ultimately resulted in the death of a child.

Online: http://bit.ly/1dy2OJJ

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