| The Columbus Dispatch
Here’s everyone’s chance to be heroic
American military members often spend holidays away from the people they love. I should know: I am a military spouse of more than 15 years who has spent only a handful of Christmases with my family in my hometown of Columbus. Because of COVID, 2020 is another year we will celebrate apart.
Deployments and remote duty stations mean that postponing plans to gather with family are par for the course of our lifestyle. Civilians might admire the sacrifices of military families like mine, but now it’s their turn to make sacrifices and serve the greater good.
The first week of December alone, American deaths from COVID-19 were three times the number killed in the entire Iraq War. By staying home, reducing travel, avoiding large groups, and masking up, we can save American lives. The more that patriotic Americans make these small sacrifices, the sooner all of us can gather. Sacrificing for our country is everyone’s job.
Katharine Marsh Lord, Columbus
We need trustworthy utility watchdogs
In 1978 I joined the Ohio State University faculty as a professor of regulatory economics and director of the National Regulatory Research Institute. We helped federal and state public utility commissions regulate the electric, natural gas, telecommunications, and water utilities.
For the past 42 years it’s been my privilege to teach graduate seminars in utility regulation to several hundred students, including many public officials.
So, as a long-time celebrant of fair and effective regulation of the utility sectors in the public interest, it has been extremely disheartening to read of the apparent mess that is the House Bill 6 saga.
The sordid story is bad enough in its own right as a breakdown at nearly every turn in Ohio’s legislative and administrative process. What is more hurtful in long term consequence is the devastating effect on the public’s trust in the fairness and professionalism of utility regulation in the state.
With the possible exceptions of taxation and justice, no state activity touches Ohio’s 11 million citizens as importantly as does the PUCO. Originally created as part of a national movement to regulate railroads, the commission saw its authority expanded to other essential industries in the face of the clear need for consumer protection from the excesses of corporate bad behavior.
This type of regulation turned out to be a good choice; earlier attempts to rely on courts and legislatures had failed. The independent commission approach – a governmental agency, staffed with technical expertise in finance, law, engineering, and accounting and directed by multiple appointed or elected commissioners – became the preferred solution to public oversight of utilities. This arrangement has stood us in good stead for more than a century.
Renewing the public trust in the workability of Ohio’s regulation of public utilities must be a primary goal, starting with the repeal of HB 6. That should be followed by a detailed examination of the procedures and cultures at: the PUCO nominating council, for the vetting of commissioners candidates; the governor’s office, for actual selection; the Legislative Service Commission, for transparency as to who participates in drafting bills; the PUCO, for safeguards against regulatory capture; and the legislature itself, in its protections against corruption.
Douglas N. Jones, Upper Arlington
Professor emeritus, Ohio State University
Call this longtime GOPer an Independent now
As an 87 year-old life-long Republican I am appalled at the actions of the Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives — a majority, it seems! — who continue to support President Donald Trump in his increasingly irrational denial of reality. As sore loser go, he must take the cake.
As a veteran I served in the U.S. Army because I believe in the very democratic system Trump is trying to undermine. Dr. Harold Barnstein, who in 2015 examined then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, found him to be “astonishingly healthy” — as a senior citizen! Trump must have been “wonderfully astonishingly healthy” at draft age, yet he did not serve in the military.
No matter. I now declare myself an astonishingly healthy Independent.
Jack Wolock, Worthington
‘Black Out’ series was moving, important
I want to commend the Dispatch reporters and those involved in headlining the excellent “Black Out,” the recent Dispatch series on racism. It was frequently difficult reading about the experiences expressed by those affected by intolerance and racism in our city through the years. The writing beautifully captured the feelings of those involved and I often thought about what I might do in a similar situation. Unfortunately, I suspect that those who really needed to read this series and put themselves in others’ shoes will never have seen it.
I also was glad to hear about Martina Ellerbe, now a lawyer with BakerHostetler. I loved watching her outstanding play on Ohio State’s women’s basketball team.
Nancy F. Beja, Columbus
Keep party off of judicial ballots
An independent and impartial judiciary, free from the improper influence of the other branches of government or partisan pressures of the day, is critical for ensuring our judicial system is fair and that citizens have confidence in our courts.
For this reason, the Ohio House of Representatives should not rush through legislation during the lame duck session that would inject more partisanship into how judges are elected, by giving them the option to list party affiliation on the ballot.
The Ohio State Bar Association shares the concern of the bill’s sponsors about a lack of voter participation in judicial elections. That’s why we work each election cycle to educate the public though our Supreme Court ratings process and by serving as a watchdog over judicial advertising. Likewise, many local county bar associations have judicial ratings programs to serve voters. We’re also proud to partner with the Supreme Court and other civic-minded organizations to promote nonpartisan information about judges on the ballot via judicialvotescount.com.
There is more work to do to ensure the public knows about these resources and makes it a priority to learn about the qualifications and experience of candidates for judge, but House Bill 460 isn’t the answer. It will only exacerbate the pernicious notion of “red” judges vs. “blue” judges when our justice system and all who participate in it deserve impartial judges.
We’d welcome the opportunity to work with legislators on other ways to increase voter engagement in judicial elections, but in the meantime, they should reject HB460.
Linda Tucci Teodosio, President, Ohio State Bar Association
Mary Amos Augsburger, CEO, Ohio State Bar Association
Of course renters pay property taxes
Regarding the Monday letter from Robert Hopkins, complaining about who does and doesn’t pay property taxes: He believes that renters do not. This is a fallacy. Renters pay indirectly through the landlord or property owner.
Only a truly inept landlord or property owner would charge a rent that does not cover property taxes (and insurance and maintenance and mortgage payment). Therefore, everyone who rents has just as much interest in property tax rates as the owner, because no one gets a free ride.
Elaine S. Farrington Johnson, Columbus
Maybe we all earn special titles
What is all the hoopla about dropping the title prefix of “Dr.” in front of Jill Biden’s name? I kinda like the idea. After working in various departments with equal number of job titles, I left my company of 43 years with a free education and a job title of General Maintenance Skilled 4. I think I have earned the right and respect to be known as “Gen. Larrick.”
Miles C. Larrick, Dublin