This morning, social conservatives around the world dug themselves into Armageddon-resistant bunkers, preparing for what they knew was coming. Today, marijuana and same-sex marriage were being legalized in Washington state.
But the bunkers may have been a waste of time and money, considering the end of the world didn’t occur. In fact, it seems like a lot of people are happy with the legal changes, which voters approved on Nov. 6.
From the perspective of this CityBeat writer, same-sex marriage would be great. It’s something I wrote about extensively before (“The Evolution of Equality,” Nov. 28 issue). As a refresher, not only does same-sex marriage bring a host of benefits to same-sex couples, but it also produces economic benefits for everyone. A recent study from Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics LLC, found that legalizing gay marriage would grow Ohio’s gross domestic product, which measures economic worth, by $100-$126 million within three years.
Marijuana has similar benefits. Not only does it give people the freedom to put a relatively harmless plant into their bodies, but it also provides a big boon to state budgets. For Washington, it’s estimated the marijuana tax will bring in as much as $500 million a year.
Legalization also creates jobs and economic growth as businesses pop up to sell the product and customers buy the plant to toke up. Washington State’s Office of Financial Management estimates the marijuana market will be worth about $1 billion in the state. Considering the state is about 2 percent of the U.S. population, that could be extrapolated to indicate a potential $50 billion nationwide market.
Still, public use of marijuana and driving while intoxicated remain illegal. In a press conference Wednesday, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “If you're smoking in plain public view, you're subject to a ticket. … Initiative 502 uses the alcohol model. If drinking in public is disallowed, so is smoking marijuana in public.”
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) seems a bit friendlier. In an email today, SPD told officers to only give verbal warnings until further notice. The warnings should essentially tell people to take their marijuana inside, or, as SPD spokesperson Jonah Spangenthal-Lee put it on the SPD Blotter, “The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”
The Washington law also faces possible federal resistance.
Even though the state legalized pot, the drug is still illegal under
federal law. That means the feds can still shut down marijuana
businesses and arrest buyers, just like they have with legal medical marijuana
dispensaries in the past.
In fact, maybe the limitations are what’s keeping the
apocalypse at bay. Maybe social conservatives will get to make use of
those bunkers if the rest of the country catches on to Washington’s
Almost a full decade after Cincinnati voters passed a charter amendment that changed the way police chiefs are selected, it's being used for the first time.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced this morning that he's selected a candidate from outside the current police ranks to head the Cincinnati Police Department. James E. Craig, who currently is the chief in Portland, Maine, will take the top spot here beginning in about a month, a city spokeswoman said.
An animal rights group had one of its members question executives of the Kroger Co. grocery store chain at its annual shareholders meeting held here Thursday.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had member Lindsay Rajt, who also is a Kroger shareholder, ask during the meeting whether Kroger has plans to move toward a less cruel method of poultry slaughter, called "controlled-atmosphere killing" (CAK), instead of its current practice.
Cincinnati native Whitney Holwadel Smith, born April 10, 1984, died April 4, 2009, of suicide at the United States Penitentiary (USP) in Terre Haute. Smith had reportedly been depressed and emotionally broken after being forced to spend more than a year in the Segregated Housing Unit (The Hole).
Smith grew up in Mount Lookout and was sentenced to the Dayton Correctional Institution as an adult for his first robbery at 17-years-old. From 2002-2003 he wrote a regular column on prison life and his struggle to rehabilitate for XRay Cincinnati Magazine which I published. Smith was released in 2005 and convicted the same year for bank robbery. He was sentenced to more than six years at the USP Terre Haute. Smith's blog, Super Friends: The life and times of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute has been published since November 2008. It was notable for being an unusually lucid and frank account of prison life. Smith's writing was variously acerbic, humorous, brutal and hopeful.
After his 2005 release, Whit lived in my home. He was a kind young man with a good heart and a broken one, too. He was my friend. After many discussions in both the outside world and behind barbed wire fences, I still don't fully understand why he committed the crimes he did. He walked through his short life with a corrupted mind that led him to poor choices again and again. His choices to be a criminal were his and he deserved his time, but I also earnestly believe he was let down by a justice system that should help offenders rehabilitate — that is to restore dignity — rather than beat them down into someone more jaded and injured than they were at the time of their arrest. My 2005 CityBeat article Prisoners Forever articlewas inspired by Whit's journey through the prison system.
A memorial for Whit will be held on Wednesday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Civic Garden Center, 2715 Reading Rd. at 2:30 p.m. It is open to the public.
If you would like to make a donation in Whit's memory, the family has asked that those be made to Circle Tail, an animal shelter in Loveland, Ohio. Whit had recently told his father, Jeff Smith, that he hoped to volunteer at an animal shelter when he got out of prison. Circle Tail works with a several prisons to foster their shelter animals before they are placed in a permanent home.
“In democracy, the role of government is to represent all of us and show us how we work together,” said Sister Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun and executive director of Catholic lobbying group NETWORK.
“So that when some politicians want to tell us that there is no role for government, that government is only there to let individuals take care of their individualistic selves, I want to say, ‘that’s not democracy. That’s not our Constitution, and that’s not our faith.'”
The “Nuns on the Bus” tour started Wednesday in Cincinnati and will travel through Dayton, Lima, Columbus, Toledo, Fremont, Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, Athens and Marietta before ending back in Cincinnati on Oct. 15.
The trip features Catholic nuns from across Ohio who will be urging Ohio voters to examine what the Bible says about caring for the poor. Dominican Sister of Hope Monica McGloin said voters should choose the candidate who would best embody those teachings.
McGloin said the tour would not support any political party or candidate.
“We certainly don’t want to be partisan, because that’s not what we’re about,” she said. “The fact is, neither candidate is talking about the poor.”
While the bus tour kickoff was nonpartisan – speakers avoided mentioning either candidate by name – a number of attendees had their jackets or cars adorned with buttons or bumper stickers supporting president Barack Obama.
McGloin said she had a list of things she’d like to see from the next president: access to health care for all Americans, more jobs, a focus on education and programs that help people meet their basic needs, like housing.
This isn’t the first bus tour for Campbell, who planned on heading to work in Washington, D.C. after the first Cincinnati stop. She organized the original nine-state “Nuns on the Bus” tour over the summer. The earlier tour was in protest over the budget proposed by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, himself a Catholic. Ryan’s budget would gut many social programs relied on by the poor.
UPDATE: Some courthouse officials are saying CityBeat's sources are wrong, and that no decision has been made on who will fill Clancy's former job. The officials say applications were being accepted until Jan. 5, and the judges will decide later. One option would be to keep the position vacant, at least temporarily, to save money. Other sources, however, are saying the selection of Jodie Leis-George and Casey DeNoma to share the job is a "done deal" and courthouse officials are seeking political cover for the choice. We shall see in the weeks to come.
Environmental Justice is about keeping already polluted neighborhoods from having to accept more polluting neighbors – usually industry, not a family of 12 or more. The myth that jobs will be lost and businesses will choose other locations (taking their precious tax dollars with them) is one of several objections used to support placing polluting companies in “overburdened” areas.
Gary Mohr, director of ODRC, made the announcement while talking to legislative reporting service Gongwer in Columbus Tuesday.
“We're going to stay the course on those (sentencing reforms) and I think privatizing
additional prisons would take away from that reform effort that we have,
so I'm not anticipating privatizing any more prisons in the short term
here,” he told Gongwer.
Ohio became the first state to sell one of its own prisons to a private prison company in 2011. The ACLU criticized the move for its potential conflict of interest. The organization argued that the profit goal of private prison companies, which make money by holding as many prisoners as possible, fundamentally contradicts the public policy goal of keeping inmate reentry into prisons and prison populations as low as possible.
In his comments to Gongwer, Mohr said the state will now focus on lowering recidivism, not increasing privatization: “I don't think you can go through upheaval of a system and continue to put prioritization on reform at the same time. I think if we were to re-engage again on privatization of prisons, then we're going to take the eye off the ball a little bit, and I think we're making great progress. It's a matter of focus.”
In the past, the ACLU and other groups criticized Mohr's previous ties to private prison companies — particularly his private work for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) before he became the director for ODRC. CCA in 2011 became the first private company in Ohio's history to purchase a state prison. The connection presents another possible conflict of interest, and it is only one of the many connections between CCA and Gov. John Kasich's administration.
Mike Brickner, ACLU researcher and director of communications and public policy, praised ODRC's decision in a statement: “Despite millions spent by private companies trying to convince policy makers and local governments otherwise, numerous studies have shown private prisons put their own profit ahead of good public policy. ODRC is wise to see that the privatization model distracts from their important efforts to shrink inmate population and reduce recidivism.”
But Brickner also made further demands from the state: “ODRC should go a step further by making a commitment not to privatize additional prison services such as food and medical care. Arguments for privatizing these services use the same faulty logic as the arguments for privatizing entire prisons.”
CityBeat was not able to immediately reach ODRC for comment on Mohr’s announcement. This story will be updated if comments become available.
During the course of researching and reporting last week's story on prison privatization in Ohio, CityBeat found the ODRC to be dismissive of our interest in speaking with Mohr or a spokesperson about private prisons. During two weeks of correspondence, CityBeat received numerous excuses as to why the ODRC couldn't grant an interview and eventually received two emails with the exact same statement — one from ODRC, a state
department, and one from Management and Training Corporation, a private
company that manages prisons in Ohio. The statement added a strange twist to the already-suspicious fact that the ODRC didn't want to talk about its prison privatization plan with the media. A full explanation of the issues ODRC posed to the reporting process can be found in the editor's note at the end of the cover story.
Facing national criticism about his decision to appoint an anti-gay rights activist as a legal adviser, the president of the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter issued a warning on his radio show this weekend.
Christopher Smitherman, the local NAACP president, talked about unspecified consequences if the gay and lesbian community continues pushing for the ouster of Chris Finney, who Smitherman recently appointed as the group’s “chair of legal redress.” He made the remarks on Smitherman on the Mic, a show he hosts Saturdays on WDBZ (AM 1230.)