Monday, May 28, 2018
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Legacy of bad appointments

SO MUCH damaging information has emerged about misfeasance in the highest office in the state that it might be easy to forget that the governor's record in other areas is shamefully inadequate as well - particularly the poor quality of his appointments, especially to the University of Toledo board of trustees.

But we haven't forgotten.

It becomes clear with each passing year that Bob Taft has been unable or unwilling to move his administration away from a pay-to-play system that begets mediocre appointments to key public boards and agencies.

If there is a common theme in our criticisms of Mr. Taft's nearly seven years as governor, it has been his blind allegiance to an old political game that his party has embraced as part of the GOP mantra. It's all about rewarding friends and benefactors, and if that sounds like the same game played in Washington by the Bush Administration, it is hardly a coincidence.

Can there be anybody in Ohio who remains unaware of the staggering challenges facing public higher education in this state? And who can forget the stunning blow to morale at UT and the embarrassment engendered there by the short but disastrous presidency of Vik Kapoor?

Mr. Kapoor was appointed president by the UT board in November, 1998, ironically just two weeks after Mr. Taft won his first race for governor.

Soon after Mr. Kapoor became the university's chief executive, it became evident that he was not up to the job. He ruled by intimidation, driving off administrators and faculty, and did lasting harm to the university. Nineteen months after his indiscriminate paranoia and reign of error began, he was gone.

If ever UT needed citizen oversight and leadership to help a lackluster institution perform in a manner its students and the community deserved, it was during and after the Kapoor debacle.

Did Mr. Taft seize an obvious opportunity to set the university on a sounder course? Did anything change? Evidently not. His board appointments have been as undistinguished as many of those made before him by previous Gov. George Voinovich.

It's the same system that put an individual such as Tom Noe on the board of Bowling Green State University and ultimately on the Ohio Board of Regents. Mr. Noe would seem to have been singularly unqualified for either board, but he certainly was generous with his checks.

This pay-to-play quid pro quo has become so pervasive over the course of 15 years of virtual one-party domination of state government that most Ohioans under the age of 25 do not remember it any other way. We do not absolve the Democrats of such tactics. But the fact that both parties do it does not relieve either of blame.

Governor Taft's great-grandfather was president and later chief justice, his grandfather a United States senator, and his father a congressman and senator. They are still regarded with respect in Ohio politics for their contributions to public service. Like most politicians they were partisan, but they never lost sight of their grander responsibilities to the citizens of their home state and nation.

Unfortunately, the current governor makes it clear, by virtue of the appointments he has made to the UT board - with little or no input from those in a position to be helpful - that it's a lesson he has not learned.

Though Coingate will be the most devastating memory of the Bob Taft years, it will hardly be the only one tarnishing his legacy.

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