The (Findlay) Courier, Dec. 27
The response to Ohio’s opioid problems can’t be just about helping adults face their addictions. Communities must also make sure the innocent victims of the epidemic aren’t forgotten.
Children of addicts are often left behind, either temporarily or permanently, and as a result, demands on foster care are straining an already overburdened and underfunded system.
Today there are over 15,000 children in foster care in a state with fewer than 7,200 foster families to fill the need. The problem is expected to get worse.
A report released last week by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio predicted that by 2020 there could be 20,000 foster children statewide and that related costs could rise from $370 million to $550 million.
Currently, 52 percent of the foster care tab is picked up locally, 38 percent federally, and just 10 percent by the state.
Though that funding formula will have to be recalculated, the greater challenge may be finding enough foster families to fill the need.
A positive step in that direction was taken last week when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that eight counties, including Allen County, hit hard by overdose deaths will be part of a “family finding and foster family recruitment program.”
A $1 million grant will provide the cost of a full-time staff member in each county who will be responsible for family search and engagement and foster family recruitment. The program will be administered by the Waiting Child Fund, a nonprofit with expertise in foster care. …
… During times of blood shortages, people step up to donate. When the Red Cross needs volunteers or funds to respond to a disaster, like a flood or fire, people step up.
A similar response is needed now in Ohio with foster care.
The Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 2
In its 13-plus years, Facebook has become the modern exemplar of unbridled growth with an unimaginably popular — and powerful— product, used regularly by one-quarter of the world’s population.
Twitter, at 11-years-old, is smaller, but also has immense power to influence users. Now the implications of that power are becoming clearer, and 2018 should be the year when Facebook and Twitter turn their considerable strengths— innovation, psychological savvy and tech brilliance — to limiting the harm wrought by their creations.
The social-media masters sold their platforms as a great democratizing force, a neutral platform allowing ordinary people around the world to make their voices heard and join with like-minded others. But they also designed them to be incredibly addictive and to reward sharing of information. Human nature being what it is, people with darker motives have learned to harness their power for decidedly undemocratic aims.
In the past year, we’ve learned that Facebook and Twitter were tools used by political ideologues, both left and right, to spread false and inflammatory claims during the 2016 U.S. election cycle. …
… Obviously, it has worked.
… Hoaxes and lies have been a part of society forever, but the power and speed of social media amplify the damage immeasurably.
And Facebook goes beyond simply providing the platform. A recent Bloomberg News article described a little-known “global government and politics” team within the company that contracts with governments and political candidates globally, helping them use Facebook more effectively to spread their messages and make money. Clients have included the campaign of Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte and the anti-immigrant German party Alternative for Germany.
Facebook can’t do that kind of work and claim no responsibility for political outcomes.
Here at home, Americans need to become smarter about evaluating what they see on Facebook and Twitter. From now on, no one should graduate from an American high school without a social-studies class dealing with the effects and dangers of social media.
But sorting through garbage shouldn’t fall entirely to consumers. The geniuses who created the social-media juggernaut and have deployed every possible trick to entice users should take responsibility for its abuse.
The Canton Repository, Dec. 31
The calendar turning from one year to the next marks an appropriate time to recognize accomplishments, while also looking ahead at challenges to come.
After two years in office, halfway through his term, there are several areas in which Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei can claim success. Arguably, his most important accomplishment is getting a handle on city finances. He inherited an operating budget deficit of more than $5 million. He has chipped away, mostly through expense cuts, and that deficit is projected to come in at less than $1 million in 2018. That is solid progress and one of the tenants upon which Bernabei was elected.
Another area of progress for Bernabei’s administration in 2017: building and code enforcement. That department is targeting homes for demolition and enforcing code violations better than the city had done in the past. This Editorial Board welcomes the attention being paid to distressed neighborhoods, but reaffirms it would prefer a more targeted approach focusing on one of the severely blighted areas to make a more noticeable difference.
Part of implementing the comprehensive plan was hiring a planning director, and the mayor found his man in Donn Angus. Some of the same people who criticize the mayor for not finding a way to fund the city’s $125 million portion of the plan also opposed hiring a planning director. Those critics now need to help contribute to a meaningful, intelligent discussion on a means to fund the plan.
The city signed operating and maintenance agreements with Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village earlier this month. Those important agreements define the roles of the entities in the nearly $1 billion development and needed to be completed by the end of the year to maintain special taxes assessed within the Village. Those taxes help to finance some of the project.
Following these highlights from 2017, the mayor faces many challenges in 2018, which is shaping up as the pivotal year of his term. Personnel, and Bernabei’s ability to build relationships, will prove vital.
For starters, Bernabei will be working with a council that is relatively inexperienced, with recent turnover in four of 12 seats. Elsewhere, he and his three-person parks commission seemed to be on opposite pages. One has to look only as far as the dust up between the board and the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce over the use of city-owned bleachers for the Hall of Fame Parade. Bernabei now has the opportunity to appoint three members who share his vision. Together, they then must hire a parks director and, frankly, hit a home run because Canton’s parks remain an under-valued asset in the city.
That’s not the only director Bernabei must hire. He also needs to find a public service director who can perform the job at least as well as William Bartos, who abruptly resigned earlier this month.
The most important objective in the coming year: attracting an employer to Canton that brings jobs paying real living wages. Bernabei’s administration needs an economic development “win” that the city helps to create. More jobs eventually lead to more revenue for the city, which helps turn that bottom line from red to black.
Bernabei will have to do all this while handling the distractions that will come regarding his decision whether to run again. He likely will face constant criticism from those interested in challenging him in two years. His best response: build on 2017’s accomplishment and succeed in achieving the objectives outlined above for 2018. It’s much more difficult to criticize, or challenge, a sitting mayor who is making progress that benefits the city’s residents.
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