The (Youngstown) Vindicator, May 29

When more than 75 percent of the voters in this month’s primary election approved a constitutional amendment for the redrawing of Ohio’s congressional map, the message was clear: The current congressional districts are an abomination.

The mapmakers — they met in secret because they knew the public would not stand for their shenanigans — packed Democrats into four districts.

The fact that some boundaries stretch 100 miles is proof of GOP political immorality.

The 1.1 million-plus voters who approved Issue 1 earlier this month obviously thought so as well.

We strongly endorsed State Issue 1 and hailed its passage. But if there’s a downside, it is that the new map stemming from the constitutional amendment will not be created until after the 2020 census. In other words, the current congressional boundaries that Ohioans rejected will remain intact for the next several years.

That said, there is one move that could speed up the transition to fair, sensible districts: a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current map.

That suit has been filed in federal court in Cincinnati by the following plaintiffs: the Ohio League of Women Voters; the Ohio chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute; one Democratic voter in each of the state’s 16 congressional districts.

Given the glaring unconstitutionality of Ohio’s congressional district map, the lawsuit filed by the Ohio League of Women Voters and others is timely and necessary.

We are confident that the 1.1 million voters who supported State Issue 1 would fully endorse the legal action so changes can be made without waiting for the 2020 population census numbers.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Jiw6FT


The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, May 31

On the Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging front, it’s been concord and good will for months. But a recent Senate subcommittee investigation led by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio reminds us how recently Corps officials were “gaming” the system with budget manipulations and attempted extortion over keeping Cleveland’s economically critical Cuyahoga River navigation channel open for business.

A Senate investigation has concluded that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sought and received a $3.5 million cut in its annual budget for 2016 with the intention of forcing the Ohio EPA to accept the dumping of dredged sediment into Lake Erie, Sen. Rob Portman said in a letter (on May 10).

Among the Army Corps’ gambits struck down a year ago in a scathing 52-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent: trying to force Ohio to pay more than $1 million of federal dredge costs before the Corps would even agree to dredge the final “money” mile to ArcelorMittal docks.

There are reasons Congress prioritized Cuyahoga River dredging and budgeted to cover its costs — the Cleveland harbor accounts for $1.7 billion in direct economic activity, $1 billion in personal income and thousands of related jobs, Nugent noted in his ruling. Spinoffs are national as well as regional, including in Ohio construction and manufacturing.

Recently, the Corps has been compliant, with a new leadership team in the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, led since March by R.D. James.

But is it game over for Army Corps machinations? And if the Corps attempted such high-profile tactics in Cleveland — in the teeth of public outrage, a barrage of critical editorials, determined state leadership and high-placed congressional representatives frequently confronting Army officials with their concerns — what might it be doing or contemplating in other, smaller harbors that can’t mount such a concerted fight?

Four years of strife prompted by the Army Corps’ announcement in late 2013 that it planned to dump as much as 80 percent of Cleveland Harbor dredge directly into Lake Erie, instead of putting all contaminated sludge in a safe confined disposal facility as it had done for four decades, has cost taxpayers plenty. No more. Let the battles end.

Kudos to Portman for shining a light on the Corps’ internal maneuvers, to ensure that today’s safe, sustainable dredging continues.

Online: https://bit.ly/2HgNhmh