Issue 2 could change the balance of power in Ohio

Published: Saturday, October 06, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Saturday, October 06, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Helping you understand State Issue 2

Citizens have called and emailed our newsroom and said they are confused about State Issue 2. This issue is important to Ohio and is getting lost in the debate as the focus remains or more high-profile races.

Today, the Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV Channel 7 and Newstalk Radio WHIO are joining together to help you understand this issue.

Today at 8 a.m. on Newstalk Radio WHIO 95.7 FM and AM 1290: Listen in for a special half-hour broadcast explaining Issue 2.

Today at 10:30 a.m. on WHIO Reports on Channel 7: WHIO’s Jim Otte and our Columbus Bureau reporter Jackie Borchardt ask tough questions to supporters on both sides of Issue 2.

Wednesday at noon: Join us at DaytonDailyNews.com for a live web chat on Issue 2 with Jackie Borchardt. She will answer your questions on the issue.

What is Issue 2?

Issue 2 creates a citizens commission to draw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years following the U.S. Census. If enacted, the new panel would redraw last year’s approved districts in time for the November 2014 election.

Who is behind it?

The Ohio League of Women Voters, Common Cause Ohio and other good-government groups drafted the language but much of the funding has come from labor and teachers’ unions. The NAACP Ohio, the Ohio Libertarian Party and We Are Ohio, the group against Senate Bill 5, have endorsed the plan.

Who are the commissioners?

The 12-member Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission includes four members from each party and four not registered with any party. Any Ohioan who has voted in two of the previous three even-year general elections could apply to serve on the commission, provided they or an immediate family member have not been elected to federal or state office, worked for lawmakers or state officials or been a paid lobbyist. Applicants could not have made monetary contributions greater than $5,000 per two years to political campaigns or parties in the past five years. Commission members serve 10-year terms, but the actual work is done in 14 months between August of the census year and October of the following year. If boundaries aren’t approved by Oct. 1 of the second year, the Ohio Supreme Court will adopt the plan that most closely meets the constitutional criteria.

How are they chosen?

Eight randomly selected appellate court judges (no more than four of each party) screen the applicants and select the 42 based on relevant abilities including a capacity for impartiality. The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and minority leader can eliminate up to three members of the opposite party. From this pool, three Republicans, three Democrats and three non-affiliated with any party are randomly chosen. Those nine members then choose the remaining three.

What will it cost?

The state Office of Budget Management estimates the Issue 2 changes will cost between $10.9 and $15.2 million over eight years. The estimate was based on a redistricting plan proposed in 2005, a similar citizen redistricting commission in California and the cost of the current process. The estimate assumes commission members will be paid $100,000 for the first two years.

Voters First Ohio officials expect the cost to be much less and said the final cost would be determined by state lawmakers.

What will they do?

The commission will likely hire experts and consultants to assist in drawing lines based on four criteria: preserving county boundaries, competitiveness, representational fairness and compactness. All meetings and correspondence will be made public and the commission will give full and fair consideration to plans submitted by the public. Seven members of the commission must vote to adopt a plan.

— Jackie Borchardt and Text of Proposed Amendment

In the fog of a presidential election and hot U.S. Senate race, a ballot issue that could alter the balance of power in the statehouse and the Ohio congressional delegation is taking a back seat.

Many voters, if they’ve heard about state Issue 2 at all, say they are confused by the ballot language and direct mailings that are appearing on doorsteps.

In the Dayton Daily News/Ohio Newspaper Organization Poll released Sept. 24, too few people knew about Issue 2 to provide meaningful results: 35 percent said they had heard “nothing at all” about it.

If approved, Issue 2 would put the responsibility of drawing legislative and congressional districts in the hands of a new citizen panel. Redistricting isn’t a thrilling term, but small changes can move voters around and make districts lean more Republican or Democratic, become more competitive or safe for lawmakers in office.

Voters First Ohio, the group behind Issue 2, says the lines have been drawn for years to favor incumbents and have effectively made hyper-partisan primary elections more important than general elections. Their solution: Remove politicians from the process.

Districts are redrawn every ten years to reflect population changes noted in the once-a-decade Census. State Senate and House districts are mapped and approved by the Ohio Apportionment Board composed of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and one state legislator from each party — all but one were Republicans in 2011. State lawmakers decide the boundaries of Ohio’s 16 U.S. House districts.

Last year, Republicans held the redistricting pen, but politicians on both sides of the aisle have used their majority status to muscle the other into keeping incumbents safe in their districts and stacking more middle-of-the-road districts to lean one way. Politicians against the proposal admit the current system is broken, but say Issue 2 isn’t the answer.

The plan

Issue 2 would create the Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission, a new panel of 12 members chosen by lot from a candidate pool winnowed by appellate court judges and party officials.

Any Ohioan who has voted in two of the previous three even-year general elections could apply to serve on the commission, provided they or an immediate family member have not been elected to federal or state office, worked for lawmakers or state officials or been a paid lobbyist. Applicants could not have made monetary contributions greater than $5,000 per two years to political campaigns or parties in the past five years.

Local officials such as city councilmen and mayors would be eligible. Jim Slagle, an attorney for the Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, said those officials would likely be cut during the selection process that grants party leaders the opportunity to eliminate candidates.

The commission would meet in public to draft and review publicly submitted plans according to the four criteria from last year’s citizen challenge by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting:

* Preserve existing communities such as counties and townships,

* Balance districts based on voting history so they do not lean toward one party by more than 5 percent,

* Balance the number of districts that lean each way,

* Keep districts compact.

“These are the criteria that best capture fundamental values in our democracy,” said Dan Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law who helped draft the ballot initiative. “They’re values that will serve the interests of voters rather than the interests of partisan politicians.”

Proponents of Issue 2 say each district should reflect Ohio’s swing-state status.

In the 2010 election, 70 of Ohio’s 99 state representatives won their races by 20 points or more. Only three of the 33 senators elected in 2008 and 2010 won by less than 10 percent of the vote.

Statewide, Ohioans tend to line up on each side in similar numbers. The top statewide races in 2010 were won by 5 or fewer percent. The last five presidential elections were decided by fewer than 10 points in Ohio — George W. Bush won the state in 2004 by just 120,000 votes. More than 5.6 million Ohioans voted in that election.

History

Former Rep. Joan Lawrence, a Republican with the League of Women Voters who supports Issue 2, sponsored several failed redistricting reform bills in the 1980s.

“The process is manipulatable and it was manipulated and it would be no matter which party was in charge,” Lawrence said.

In 2005, voters slammed a Democrat-driven plan known as Issue 4 by a vote of 70 to 30 percent. A Republican-supported plan in 2006 failed to pass the General Assembly without support from Democrats. Democrats turned down another plan in 2010, certain they would sweep statewide offices and control the Apportionment Board. But Republicans won all statewide elected offices and picked up several seats in the House and Senate.

While politicians worked on their maps, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting held a public competition to draw fair, competitive districts using the same Census and election data. The competition collected 53 congressional maps and a Republican Illinois state representative won the contest.

Contest sponsors including the Ohio League of Women Voters and Common Cause Ohio drafted constitutional amendment language that has become Issue 2. Meanwhile, a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers claimed they were working on a solution that has yet to materialize.

Politics

Issue 2 is intended to take the politics out of the system, but politicians and political forces are lining up on each side.

Good-government groups drafted Issue 2, but unions, Democrats and left-leaning organizations have since backed the proposal. Getting the issue on the ballot cost upward of $1.3 million, according to state campaign finance reports filed in July, and unions bankrolled the majority of the cost.

The Ohio Republican Party came out strong against the proposal at first, and a new group called Protect Your Vote Ohio formed to serve as the official opposition and sought help early on from Columbus lobbyists. Protect Your Vote’s expenditures won’t be known until after the election.

Nine states use appointed citizen commissions to draw legislative lines, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California’s 14-member commission, created in 2008, most closely resembles Ohio’s Issue 2 proposal.

The jury is still out there whether the commission worked. Experts say the process wasn’t as skewed toward the majority party — Democrats there — as it would have been had they controlled the process. But reports surfaced last year that showed Democrats hired people to falsely testify before the commissioners to build districts more favorable for incumbents. Tokaji said Ohio’s plan will succeed where California’s faltered because it requires the commission to balance the districts according to past voting records.

The Ohio State Bar Association opposed Issue 2, saying the process inappropriately gives appointment authority to judges and politicizes the judicial branch. Protect Your Vote’s Carlo LoParo said judges, who run in party primaries, could be pressured by party bosses to select their choice applicants for the initial group of 42.

“This is a worse solution than our present system,” LoParo said. “In the present system, there is transparency in the sense you know who’s making the decisions.”

Slagle said politicians will never support a plan that removes them from the process.

“They will mislead the public because that’s the only way they’ll defeat Issue 2,” Slagle said. “If voters understand what Issue 2 is, it will pass overwhelmingly.”

Trump calls efforts to remove Confederate monuments 'so foolish'

Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017 @ 9:48 AM

WATCH: Protesters Topple Confederate Statue In North Carolina

President Donald Trump on Thursday again criticized recent decisions to remove Confederate monuments across the country, calling the moves “so foolish” and the monuments irreplaceable.

>> Read more trending news

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump wrote in the first of a series of tweets. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it.”

He echoed comments he made at a fiery news conference in New York earlier this week, in which he wondered whether monuments remembering former presidents George Washington or Thomas Jefferson would be next to fall.

>> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville 

“The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” the president wrote.

His comments came amid continued criticism from across the political spectrum over his insistence that “both sides” were to blame for deadly, racially-charged violence that took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

>> Related: Heather Heyer's parents preach love, action after daughter's death: 'You just magnified her'

Police said 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed Saturday during a counterprotest of a rally organized by white supremacists. The rally was aimed at protesting the removal of a Confederate statue from the city’s Emancipation Park.

Authorities arrested James Alex Fields Jr., 20, on charges including second-degree murder and malicious wounding in connection with Heyer’s death. Police said he slammed a car into two stopped vehicles and rammed counterprotesters. Fields, from Ohio, participated in the rally and was described by a former high school teacher as a fan of Adolf Hitler.

Watch - President Trump Says "Blame on Both Sides, I Wait for Facts"

Push on to remove Confederate statues from U.S. Capitol

Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017 @ 3:01 PM
Updated: Thursday, August 17, 2017 @ 3:01 PM


            Alan Cottrill, right, smiles as he stands with the 900-pound statue of Thomas Edison that Mr. Cottrill sculpted. The statue replaced one of two representing Ohio in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. The statue of William Allen, a former Ohio governor and slavery sympathizer, was removed and returned to Ohio. A competition was held to arrive at a symbol more representative of the people of Ohio. KATIE RAUSCH / THE (TOLEDO) BLADE
Alan Cottrill, right, smiles as he stands with the 900-pound statue of Thomas Edison that Mr. Cottrill sculpted. The statue replaced one of two representing Ohio in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. The statue of William Allen, a former Ohio governor and slavery sympathizer, was removed and returned to Ohio. A competition was held to arrive at a symbol more representative of the people of Ohio. KATIE RAUSCH / THE (TOLEDO) BLADE

Sen. Sherrod Brown has joined a growing number of Democrats in calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.

The Ohio Democrat plans on joining Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in supporting a bill to remove statues of Confederate politicians and soldiers from Statuary Hall.

“Symbols of the confederacy should be removed from taxpayer-funded public property and put in museums where they belong.” Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement.

RELATED: Ohio ready for statue switch

For Ohio, the issue had already been decided. The state decided in 2010 to replace a statue of former Ohio Gov. William “Earthquake” Allen with inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Allen, the state’s governor from 1874 to 1876, never fought in the Civil War, but was an outspoken opponent of President Abraham Lincoln and was sympathetic to slavery.

State leaders gathered votes to determine who should replace Allen, and Edison beat out the likes of the Wright Brothers and Olympic athlete Jesse Owens to become one of 35 statues in Statuary Hall. Allen’s statue is now in Chillicothe.

In all, 100 statues in the Capitol Building — some are scattered in hallways or in the Capitol Visitors Center — represent the achievements of the 50 states. Edison is accompanied by former President James A. Garfield in representing Ohio.

RELATED: Edison statue packed for move to capitol building

Some of the statues have garnered additional scrutiny in the days since violent protests erupted last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., over the decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate troops during the Civil War. Lee is one of the statues representing Virginia; it now stands in the crypt of the U.S. Capitol.

A Washington Post analysis of statues in the Capitol found that there are 12 statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians and just four of African-Americans: Civil rights pioneers the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Lee himself appeared to discourage memorials to the war or to those involved.

“I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered,” he wrote in an 1869 letter published in a Virginia newspaper.

RELATED: Who will represent Ohio’s Statuary Hall?

Booker, D–N.J., announced late Wednesday he would introduce a bill seeking the removal of the Confederate statues. One day later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D–Calif., echoed his call, saying the statues are “reprehensible.”

“The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” she said, calling upon Speaker Paul Ryan to remove the Confederate statues “immediately.” “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation.”

For his part, President Donald Trump defended the memorials Thursday, tweeting in part, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

Congressman Turner says he’s disappointed in Trump’s response to Charlottesville

Published: Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 7:09 PM
Updated: Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 7:20 PM

Turner Joins Forces With Civil Rights Leaders

With two local civil rights leaders at his side, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Wednesday denounced racism in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and expressed disappointment with how President Donald Trump has responded to the turmoil there.

Turner said in strong terms that there is no room for racist hatred in the Dayton community or the nation.

“We renounce racism, violence and hatred,” he said. “Our actions today may be symbolic but our dedication to our community and cultural diversity is not.”

Turner pointed to how the city responded to the Ku Klux Klan in 1994 when he was mayor and the Klan was about to hold a rally on Courthouse Square. He credited former Dayton NAACP President Jessie Gooding with coming up a plan that helped preserve the peace.

RELATED: How many hate groups are there in Ohio and where are they?

The city encouraged people to stay away from the Klan gathering and instead attend a unity rally the following day on the same spot, Turner said. When the Klan arrived, they had about a dozen supporters and were met by a few hundred counter-demonstrators. Small skirmishes broke out but there was no major violence.

At the following day’s unity rally, people poured water from the stage onto the square to signify the cleansing of the hatred left behind by the Klan.

Gooding, who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s, said King today would be upset with the violence and bloodshed in Charlottesville.

“I think he would cry,” Gooding said. “I’m crying to see the clock turning back.”

Turner, who until now has largely stood quiet while others in his party criticized Trump, took the president to task for his handling of the Charlottesville violence.

“I am deeply disappointed that an issue that is so clear is so difficult for President Trump,” he said.

The president had at first issued a response to the Charlottesville violence that drew criticism for pointing the finger of blame, not just at the KKK, but also at counter-demonstrators. “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides - on many sides,” Trump said on Sunday.

Later, Trump called out the Klan and Nazi groups by name in a formal statement from the White House. But in a question and answer session with reporters in New York Tuesday, Trump again blamed both sides for what happened, sparking more outrage from critics, including some Republicans.

Turner said he would like to see some clarity and unifying leadership from the president.

“This needs to be clear for the president. You can’t pull the country together if things aren’t clear and unambiguous. Evil is evil and there’s nothing good about it. The president needs to pull the community together. He needs to have clarity about this. And certainly our community does and if the President looks out from the White House he is going to see a country that rejects racism and looks for unity and they are looking for it in their president,” Turner said.

The current NAACP president, Derrick Foward, said the counter-demonstrators last weekend were trying to protect the advances made by civil rights leaders of multiple generations. Unlike past protests of the 1960s, Foward said, the people opposing the Klan are much more diverse.

“What you are seeing today are multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-cultural activists who want to make sure the country turns a leaf, turns a corner,” Foward said.

Turner said details of how Dayton dealt with the Klan in 1994 needs to be taught in Dayton Public Schools. The message to students and the nation should be, “Look, we’ve done it,” Turner said. “We know how to deal with these forces, Dayton style. We have civil rights leaders. We know how to answer to this and we know how to speak with one voice.”

Ohio lawmakers behind effort to overhaul NAFTA

Published: Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 3:47 PM


            U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, shakes hands with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, accompanied by Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, after they spoke at a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the start of NAFTA renegotiations in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
            Jacquelyn Martin
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, shakes hands with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, accompanied by Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, after they spoke at a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the start of NAFTA renegotiations in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)(Jacquelyn Martin)

The nation’s top trade official vowed Wednesday to work to negotiate a major overhaul of a 23-year-old trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, saying that the North American Free Trade Agreement has “failed many, many Americans.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer made his comments on the opening day of NAFTA negotiations in Washington, D.C.

The trade agreement — which President Donald Trump vowed to overhaul during the 2016 campaign – has been a lightning rod for Ohio lawmakers, who argue that NAFTA, as it is commonly called, has hurt U.S. manufacturing jobs and done little to protect workers.

RELATED: Brown: ‘This time workers must be at the table’

“NAFTA shipped U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas and put Ohioans out of work,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, who voted against the agreement as a U.S. House member in 1993. “Renegotiation is an opportunity not only to create a better deal for Ohio workers, but to reset the way we do trade agreements. That means bringing workers to the table, securing strong anti-outsourcing provisions, and making sure we can hold our trading partners accountable if they break the rules.”

Brown, who also authored an editorial for USA Today this week on the trade agreement, released a four-point plan in May aimed at helping the Trump administration secure a deal that would protect workers. He urged Trump to prioritize provisions that would prevent outsourcing and push “Buy America;” to make sure that industry and U.S. workers are not pitted against one another in negotiations; to include workers in negotiations and to build enforcement tools that favor U.S. workers over foreign corporations.

RELATED: U.S. demands big NAFTA changes

He is not the only Democrat anxious to offer input. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said this week that he has watched as people in places like Warren, Ohio, in his district, watched their factories close only to move over the border to Mexico.

“We are working off a model that was created in the early 1990s,” he said. “There were barely websites. At that point in the early 1990s, the internet was in its infancy. So many changes have happened since NAFTA was written.”

Ryan said he is hoping for a structure that “takes into consideration” the things that have changed, be it climate change, displacement of workers “and the lack of and inability of some communities to recover what they’ve lost.”

Not everyone is a NAFTA foe. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal both offered glowing praise for the deal, with Villarreal stating that it “has been a strong success for all parties.”

RELATED: Trump wants new NAFTA deal to cut trade deficit with Mexico

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report issued on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA concluded that U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico skyrocketed in the years after the agreement, with Mexico and Canada buying about one-third of U.S. merchandise exports. That report found that trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs, and concluded that 187,968 jobs in Ohio supported by trade with Canada and Mexico are directly attributable to the trade deal.

Those numbers lie in stark contrast to those of Global Trade Watch, a non-profit advocacy organization that has been a critic of the 1993 agreement. In a fact sheet issued earlier this year, the organization found that as of December 2016, the U.S. lost more than 900,000 jobs because of NAFTA.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who backed the agreement as a House member in 1993, argued earlier this year that it was due to be modernized and updated. He said he hoped the final agreement would “expand access to American-made products and strengthen trade enforcement to protect against unfair imports — all of which will create more jobs, boost wages, help our farmers, and improve American manufacturing.”

Lighthizer, meanwhile, said the reworked agreement must address digital trade, service trade, update customs procedures and protect intellectual property. He did say the agreement has been good for U.S. agriculture, making it easier for farmers to send their products overseas.

“The views of the president about NAFTA — which I completely share — are well known, Lighthizer said Wednesday. “I want to be clear that he is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions, and a couple of updated chapters.”

Lighthizer said at least 700,000 Americans have lost their jobs because of NAFTA.

During his 2016 bid for the White House, Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever made” and “a total and complete disaster” and threatened to pull out of the agreement. But he later agreed to renegotiate and Lighthizer made no mention of Trump’s threats to leave the agreement on Wednesday.

Negotiators will work through this weekend in Washington on a renegotiated pact. They’ll meet in September in Mexico City, meeting after that in Canada.