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Talking up Ohio’s plusses, as Gov. Mike DeWine wants to do – albeit at a possible cost of $50 million, if the General Assembly will go along – isn’t a bad idea.

Trouble is, Ohio’s leaders have some explaining to do:

Such as – why Ohio incomes, on a per-capita basis, lag the nation’s.

Such as – why, in an America made digital-first by COVID-19, Ohio continues to futz around about statewide broadband access. Talk, talk, talk: That’s Ohio’s broadband “strategy.”

Such as – why Ohio’s purportedly liberal Democratic Party has yet to elect a Black Ohioan to a statewide executive elected office. (Democrats did nominate and help elect Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart, a Greater Cleveland Democrat.)

Republicans nominated Ohio’s first elected Black statewide executive officeholder, Cincinnati’s J. Kenneth Blackwell, who was state treasurer, then secretary of state, and in 2006, Republicans’ nominee for governor. And in 2002, Republican Gov. Bob Taft chose Columbus City Council member Jennette Bradley to be his running mate, as GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. The Taft-Bradley ticket won, making Bradley the first Black female lieutenant governor of any state. (In fairness, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate that year, Tim Hagan of Greater Cleveland, also chose a Black running mate, Columbus’ Charleta B. Tavares.)

Moreover, Republican Gov. James A. Rhodes appointed, and voters subsequently elected, the Ohio Supreme Court’s first Black justice, the late Robert M. Duncan.

Democrats have nominated Black Ohioans for statewide executive office, most recently in 2014, when they nominated then-state Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, for secretary of state. But none of those Democratic nominees won. (Turner is running for Congress in a what will be a special 11th District election held after the U.S. Senate confirms Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrat chosen by President Biden to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development).

As to selling Ohio, some other topics also need explaining:

Such as – why the Ohio General Assembly has repeatedly tried to fetter Roe v. Wade.

Such as — how Ohio, realistically, can lure Californians and New Yorkers to move to Ohio to take a likely pay cut. Example: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that two years ago, per-capita personal income in the New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area was $79,844. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area, it was $66,684.

But in the Cleveland-Elyria metropolitan area, it was $55,451. In the Columbus metropolitan area, it was $52,477. In the Dayton-Kettering metropolitan area, it was $49,161 – and in the Cincinnati area, it was $56,033.

The inevitable counterargument: Taxes are killing New Yorkers and Californians, and scaring off businesses. But according to the U.S. Regional Economic Analysis Project, statewide per-capita personal income in New York in 2019 was $71,717; in California, $66,619; in Ohio, $50,199 – and, nationwide, in all 50 states, it was $56,490.

Then comes what’s supposed to be the ultimate, unbeatable argument for why people should leave Manhattan and Beverly Hills for suburban Ohio: “Your dollar goes further in Ohio.”

Actually, it doesn’t go very far at all. You send dollars to the electric company and the insurance company a few counties away. The electric company and insurance company pay Statehouse lobbyists to persuade Ohio politicians to boost your electric rates or make it harder for you to win a personal-injury lawsuit – a perpetual motion machine that strip-mines your checkbook.

As Ohio attractions go, the State Fair’s butter cow and Saturdays in Ohio Stadium are decent lures. But they can’t hide the fact that, yeah, sure, some people in Ohio are making money – but you may not be one of them.

The late James P. Celebrezze

Besides criminal cases, the Ohio Supreme Court’s real role is to referee fights between statewide foes: utilities versus consumers; policyholders and their lawyers versus insurers. In that connection, there’s a lot to be said about former Justice James P. Celebrezze, who died Feb. 10, brother of the late Chief Justice Frank D. Celebrezze (1928-2010).

Journalists reported. Voters voted – and unseated Justice Celebrezze in 1984 and Chief Justice Celebrezze in 1986. Thirty-five years later, the Supreme Court’s history is there for anyone to judge.

It’s possible to wonder if what really bugged foes of the Celebrezze brothers was their arguable tendency to see state law not as holy scripture but as a framework for solving the real problems of real Ohioans – Ohioans who might perhaps belong to veterans’ posts or bowling leagues, not country clubs.

Thomas Suddes, a member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

To reach Thomas Suddes: tsuddes@cleveland.com, 216-408-9474

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