Sometimes I worry that we only publish negative comments about Ohio’s public officials. So I take great pleasure in pointing out two Republican public officials who have been standing up for what is right. And just so we are clear, by “standing up for what is right” I mean “agreeing with what we said weeks ago.”
First, some props for Attorney General Mike DeWine. We have been frequent critics of DeWine. He was wrong to have joined in a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s rules on contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans. And support for Kasich’s plan to allow the Highway Patrol to conduct investigations at private prisons – despite directly contrary statutory language – can only be described as bizarre. These actions, we noted, were motivated by personal and political, not legal, reasons.
DeWine, according to news reports, is opposed to changes in Ohio’s Public Records laws that would permit any state agency to exempt a record from public disclosure simply by sharing the record with JobsOhio. On April 4, we wrote, “Hidden within the Legislation is an exception to Ohio public records laws for records created or received by JobsOhio. The proposed provision would . . . significantly limit the scope of the information about JobOhio that is subject to Ohio public records laws.” We were concerned that the changes in the law would create “a huge loophole in the public records laws that will allow lobbyists to inject (more) money and politics into the decisions made by JobsOhio.”
DeWine has taken this one step further, and we applaud him for calling for changes in Kasich’s plan. He expressed concern that records unrelated to JobsOhio could be “immunized from disclosure” simply by sending them to JobsOhio. This reminds of of the book Cryptonomican, in which Neal Stephenson describes the establishment of a “data haven” in an island in the middle of the Pacific where corporations and individuals can safely store information outside of the reach of government oversight. DeWine has correctly pointed out that under Kasich’s plan, JobsOhio would become a “public records haven” where embarrassing public information could be kept outside of the view of the media, bloggers, or the general public.
Second, some props for Richard Finan, a Republican and the current president of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. Finan criticized a plan by Kasich and the leadership of the Highway Patrol to install metal detectors and close some entrances to the Ohio Statehouse. Finan noted, correctly, that limiting access to the Statehouse undermines the view of the building as “The People’s House.” He also noted that there has never been a problem with weapons “being brought into the Statehouse,” and that the most common security problem is “public intoxication and public urination.”
The leadership of the Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety, with the support of Kasich and the Dispatch, has been urging the restrictions as necessary for safety. They would have a lot more credibility in this respect, however, if this did not follow so quickly on the heels of a request earlier this year by the leadership of the Highway Patrol for an additional $2.7 million for executive protection.
Do we have to say, AGAIN, that this money would go further in making Ohio safer by restoring funding to local governments so that local law enforcement officers can be put back on the street? Even the Sunday editorial in the Dispatch in support of the plan acknowledges that “no serious security incidents involving guns, knives or other weapons have occurred at the Statehouse. . . . and the protesters last year over Senate Bill 5 were numerous and angry, but no violence resulted.” Finan deserves credit for standing up for the value of free access and the reality of the situation rather than whatever hypothetical threat the leadership of the Highway Patrol can imagine.