Editorials from around Ohio

Published: Monday, June 10, 2019 @ 4:01 PM
Updated: Monday, June 10, 2019 @ 4:01 PM

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The Toledo Blade, June 10

Michigan sheriffs have a program in place to tell parents, by text or email, when their children under age 21 are pulled over in a traffic stop by the police. It's a novel idea that is generating a lot of interest and should be something Ohio police should consider.

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The program, designed to reduce the number of young drivers involved in crashes, is called STOPPED, or Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Drivers.

To participate, parents would register using a simple online form, listing whatever vehicles their child under 21 may be driving. They are then sent stickers to be placed on each vehicle's back window that has an identification number. Then, when a sheriff's deputy pulls over the vehicle driven by someone under 21, the deputy sends a text or email to the parents explaining the nature of the stop, the mannerism of the driver and passengers, and whether a citation was issued.

"This could be a game changer," said Blaine Koops, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs Association, which administers the program. "It's a whole new way of law enforcement."

After the digital notification aspect was announced in the past couple of weeks, interest in the program exploded, although initial signups figures have not been tallied. Mr. Koops was unaware of a similar statewide program.

The Wolverine state has had a notification program in place for about 10 years, with about 40,000 vehicles registered, but notices were sent by mail to the parents, usually about two weeks after the traffic stop. That time lag dampened the effectiveness, whereas an immediate digital notification would have immediate consequences.

Starting at the end of May, Livingston and Mason counties initiated a change to provide texts or email notices, the parents' choice, for traffic stops. The plan is to roll out the program soon to Michigan's 83 counties. Right now, only sheriff's deputies can participate, but Mr. Koops said local police eventually will be asked to join.

Livingston County Sheriff Michael Murphy lauds the program and said there has been limited objections from parents or students. The purpose of the program is to encourage conversations between parents and their children about safe driving. Most of the notifications sent to parents in the past, he said, were for their child's speeding or running a stop sign or traffic light.

Since it's voluntary and provides notification in real time, the program is a good one. It is privately funded by insurer State Farm, and had no political debate in the Michigan Legislature. Sounds like an idea that Ohio law enforcement should implement.



The Marietta Times, June 7

Our region is criss-crossed with railroad tracks. We get used to the sites and sounds . sometimes the waiting in traffic.

But a tragedy this week reminds us those trains that have become so much a part of the background cannot be forgotten.

Last year alone, 21 pedestrians were killed by trains in Ohio.

Monday, a Marietta man taking a lunch break as part of a county work crew in Oak Grove decided to take a walk along the tracks.

He was on the rail bridge over Devol's Run when a freight train approached. It seems he had nowhere to go, and the train could not stop in time.

His tragedy serves as a heartbreaking reminder that every precaution must be taken when near railroad tracks.

According to Operation Lifesaver: Rail Safety Education, all railroad tracks are private property, and walking on them is considered trespassing.

But illegal or not, walking on them is never a good idea. They are often built into areas that do not offer much of an escape route if a train does approach. Trains can move in either direction and are quieter than ever. It is often difficult to tell when a train is on its way, until it is in view. And once it is in view, it is probably moving faster than it seems.

Even when crossing tracks at designated crossings, "Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation," Operation Lifesaver reminds.

With warm weather and no school in session, the temptation to do a little exploring on the tracks might be greater, especially for young people.

Remind them to stay away, and stay safe.



The Youngstown Vindicator, June 9

If General Motors is so confident that the prospective buyer it's touting for its idled Lordstown plant is primed for success, why isn't it investing in the start-up company?

The simple answer is that GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra didn't reach the pinnacle of corporate America by making dumb decisions.

By any measure, investing in a company with no name and without the financial wherewithal to buy the enormous Lordstown assembly complex would expose Barra to harsh criticism from GM's shareholders. They're only interested in the bottom line, and right now GM is raking in the dough.

The closing of the Lordstown plant and four other manufacturing facilities in North America is part of the company's long-range goal of cutting expenses while increasing revenues. It plans to eliminate 14,000 jobs worldwide.

Thus, when Barra, who met Wednesday in Washington with members of Ohio's congressional delegation, gushes about the potential sale of the 53-year-old industrial fixture in the Mahoning Valley, we take what she says with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Last month, President Donald Trump preempted an announcement by GM that a newly formed affiliate of Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group was interested in buying the Lordstown plant to build electric vehicles.

Trump's supporters in the Mahoning Valley hailed the news as the Republican president keeping a promise to the Valley. However, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine warned against premature elation, noting that Workhorse's plans depend on the company securing a major contract with the U.S. Postal Service for electric delivery vehicles.

There are several big-name companies vying for the contract, which means there's no guarantee Workhorse will be successful.

Nonetheless, GM CEO Barra insists there's reason to be optimistic.

"We remain thinking it's a strong possibility and think people should focus on opportunity and maybe every now and then a little optimism wouldn't hurt anyone," she told Reuters news service after her meeting in Washington with Ohio's two senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, Valley Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and others.

Public relations stunt?

Reuters asked Barra if the Workhorse deal was a public relations stunt. She said "no" and added, "We vetted many opportunities."

But while the potential sale of the Lordstown assembly complex is uncertain, at best, this much is clear: General Motors has no plans to restart its Valley operation.

Barra's refusal to assign another vehicle to replace the top-selling Chevrolet Cruze leaves little doubt that the complex will remain closed even if the Workhorse project falls through.

"We want to see General Motors in this plant," Sen. Brown said. "We want an electric vehicle. They're making 20 electric vehicles (models) by 2023. That's their plans. She wouldn't commit to me when I asked her" to put an electric sedan at the Lordstown facility.

Ryan, who is running for president and has demanded that President Trump commit $1 billion to upgrade the plant so GM can build electric cars there, said he isn't optimistic "about anything from General Motors going in there."

"There's not a lot of hopefulness coming from General Motors on Lordstown. People in the community are going through a lot. It's a shame they (GM) got tax cuts and all the benefits, and we get screwed."

Just three years ago, the Lordstown facility, which had earned a global reputation for building the highest quality, technologically advanced, competitively priced compact cars, had a work force of 4,500.

But in 2017, GM eliminated the third shift with its 1,500 jobs, even though the Chevrolet Cruze was the top-selling vehicle in the company's fleet.

The justification from Detroit was that consumer tastes were changing and that demand for trucks, SUVs and crossovers was growing while the popularity of sedans was declining.

Sen. Portman, who joined Brown and Ryan in pressing GM to assign another product to the Lordstown plant, said the effort will continue even though Barra remains noncommittal.

GM has said there's additional unused U.S. capacity in the plants that are operating, which is why it has no intention of assigning another product to Lordstown.

Even if Workhorse does come up with the money to buy Lordstown, the number of workers will pale in comparison to the thousands who have walked through those doors.

Thus, despite Barra's positive spin on the project, here's the bottom line: GM has abandoned the Valley.



The Akron Beacon Journal, June 9

The world's automakers want President Trump to strike a deal with California. On Thursday, 17 car companies, including General Motors, Ford, Honda and Toyota, sent a letter to the White House urging the president to find a middle ground in his planned rollback of tailpipe pollution standards. They warned the current path would put the auto industry in the untenable position of operating in a divided American market.

The hope is the president will heed the concerns of automakers. The industry faces enough turmoil without having to contend with the split it foresees.

What is driving the division? The answer goes back to the Obama presidency and the agreement with automakers to raise the standard for average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The process included a midway review. Thus, early in the Trump administration, the companies asked the president to make some changes. He returned with a plan that essentially freezes the mileage standard at 37 miles per gallon, with the final rule set for release soon.

That is more change than automakers want. They see the president's proposal triggering a mammoth and distracting legal battle.

Under the Clean Air Act, California long has had authority to set its own more strict regulations for auto emissions. Thirteen states have followed its lead. Alter the mileage standard as the president proposes, and all are certain to file a lawsuit with the goal of preserving their capacity to act as they deem fit. Which promises a prolonged headache for automakers as they seek to meet two sets of standards, those defined by California and those set by the federal government.

The complications are easy to imagine as automakers seek the right balance of products and pricing, depending on the standards applied. Add the popularity of SUVs, and you have a layer of competing pursuits, consumers preferring vehicles with lower fuel economy while the standards push for improved efficiency. What about some car buyers crossing state lines to make their purchase? Automakers would remain on the regulatory hook.

This gets to why the automakers let the president know his proposal would deliver more harm than good. In the past, they have advised the White House to reach an agreement with California. Now they are pleading. They sent a similar message to the California governor. The companies want the two sides to reach a compromise — a mileage standard somewhere between the Obama standard and Trump proposal.

That will require both California officials and the president to back away from harsh words and hard positions. Actually, they had been talking until the White House ended the discussions in February. Now a deadline is near. The responsible thing would be to do as the automakers request, knowing the direction of the industry tilts toward improved gas mileage over time.

More, automakers do not need this contentiousness in view of the other challenges they face, evident in what has happened at Lordstown, General Motors shutting down the plant as it seeks to keep pace in a changing industry. The past year auto sales declined for the first time since 2009. The president's tariffs have hit the industry, Ford and GM putting the cost at roughly $1 billion, and he has threatened additional such duties. Then, there is the major realignment across the sector, automakers on a course to investing more than $400 billion the next five years in electric cars, digitalization and automation.

That means upheaval for companies and their workers, not to mention the many communities affected, especially in this part of the country. It also argues for paying attention to automakers and reaching a deal on fuel economy.