Congressman Steve Chabot could give Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci a few pointers about doing quick backflips.
Less than three days after Chabot prohibited the use of cameras at a supposed “town hall” meeting in North Avondale and used the services of a Cincinnati police officer to stop offenders, the congressman is rescinding the rule for future sessions.
As Bernadette Watson decides whether to run for Cincinnati City Council again in 2011, she's keeping busy by helping a former council member get elected to state office.
Watson has been named as campaign manager for Alicia Reece, a Democrat who is seeking to keep the Ohio House 33rd District seat. Reece, an ex-Cincinnati vice mayor, was appointed to the seat in March to replace Tyrone Yates. Yates, who was facing term limits, was appointed to a municipal judgeship.
Private prison critics have been proven right once again. Smuggling incidents are on the rise around Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which Ohio sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011.
In a letter to Gov. John Kasich’s northeast Ohio liaison, Conneaut Councilman Neil LaRusch claimed a rise in contraband smuggling has forced local police to increase security around the CCA facility.
Since the end of 2012, four have been arrested and charged with smuggling. Another four were arrested Monday and police suspect they were in Conneaut for a smuggling job. According to the Star Beacon, the four suspects arrested Monday were only caught due to the increased police presence outside the Lake Erie prison.
LaRusch said Conneaut and its police department are already running tight budgets, and they can’t afford to continue padding prison security. He then asked the state and governor to help out with the situation.
The letter prompted a reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU), which has staunchly opposed prison privatization in the state. In a statement, Mike Brickner, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU, said, “Unfortunately, this is a predictable pattern with private prisons. Promises of lower costs quickly morph into higher crime, increased burdens on local law enforcement, and in the end, a higher bill for taxpayers.”
He added, “This is not an anomaly. It is a predictable pattern. The private prison model is built on profit above all else. These facilities will cut corners and shift responsibility to taxpayers wherever necessary to maximize profits.”
The governor’s office and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a response becomes available.
Update (5:00 p.m.): Col. John Born, superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, responded to the councilman's letter. In his own letter, Born doesn't contradict that there's a rise in drug smuggling, but he gives the issue more context.
Born wrote criminal incidents at the Lake Erie prison have actually decreased. He acknowledges drug smuggling cases went up from four in 2011 to seven in 2012, but he says drug cases have gone down at the prison since 2010.
He also claims seven other state prisons have seen a greater rise in drug smuggling. Born frames the issue in a national context: “Unfortunately, despite best efforts, the national problem of illegal drug usage and drug trafficking continues to plague our nation.”
Regarding state assistance, Born wrote the Ohio State Highway Patrol does not have the authority to strengthen security in order to directly prevent drug smuggling: “It is important to point out the Ohio State Highway Patrol's legal authority and corresponding duties prior to the sale of the prison and after the sale remain largely unchanged. Ohio troopers did not have original jurisdiction on private property off institution grounds while under state operations nor do they today.”
He adds the Ohio State Highway Patrol has already deployed more cruisers at the prison, but he believes local law enforcement are still the best option for responding to incidents.
JoEllen Smith, spokesperson for ODRC, wrote in an email, “DRC will be in communication with the parties involved to ensure any remaining concerns are addressed.”
CityBeat previously covered private prisons in-depth (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). Within a week of the story going to stands, ODRC Director Gary Mohr said the state would not privatize any more prisons. On the same day of his announcement, Mohr apparently received an audit that found the CCA facility was only meeting 66.7 percent of state standards (“Prison Privatization Blues,” issue of Oct. 10).
Republican Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist and U.S. Army veteran who unsuccessfully ran for Cincinnati mayor in 2009, announced today that he will challenge incumbent Jean Schmidt next year in the GOP primary to run for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District seat.
Wenstrup ran against incumbent Mayor Mark Mallory, a Democrat, two years ago. Wenstrup lost 54-46 percent, but many local Republican leaders were impressed by the showing of the first-time political candidate.
It started with a couple of greasy hot dogs.
When solar energy expert and Cincinnati native Patrick Sherwin was charged with removing some solar collectors from a client's roof, he got to thinking.
Those solar collector tubes, he realized, were collecting such a great deal of heat that he thought it just might be enough to cook food. So he took a few of them home and did just that.
Today, he and one of his business partners are grilling fajita peppers on a cloud-free September day in the backyard of a Spring Grove Village home. Soon, he hopes, Cincinnatians — and the rest of the world — will have access to a new form of solar technology he's developed based on that same solar collector that cooked his first hot dog.
In the 10 years since Sherwin removed those solar collectors from a client's rooftop, he's been working on perfecting the art of solar cooking; on Sept. 5, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to mass-produce his GoSun Stove, a compact, $279 solar cooker that he hopes could not just change the way Western civilization uses and looks at sources of renewable energy, but also impact the entire world. His interest in solar energy originally stems from his desire to shift away from dependency on harmful fossil fuels, but it's branched out into something greater. Cooking, a cultural exercise shared and loved across the globe, seemed like the perfect place to start.
"Everyone's well aware of the fact that fossil fuels are creating a lot of issues," he says. "Not to mention that they're dwindling, getting more expensive...but, you know, there are also also other resources — natural gases, gasoline, electricity...it's all coming from these giant, multinational corporations that we don't appreciate in our lives, so why not power stuff ourselves?"
The Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than one-quarter of its $40,000 goal within the first 10 hours of its launch, is being used as means for Sherwin and his team to raise funds for marketing, equipment and manufacturing and other programs to bring the invention to developing countries in need of less dangerous and time consuming ways to cook food.
Sherwin hopes to eventually mass produce his solar cooker to both promote less dependency on fossil fuels across the the world and make a dent in smoke-inhalation deaths around the world, which account for the No. 1 cause of indoor ire-related deaths around the world.
His current prototype, which he says is the culmination of about 30 different models he's tinkered with over the past years, is a 3.5-pound, sleek, shiny-looking pop-up contraption that looks more like a play spaceship than a gadget you'd see at a modern-day grillout. He and his partners claim they've created a solar cooker that uses the most efficient and advanced technology available in the green market today.
Solar power technology, Sherwin concedes, is a field that's been subject to innovation and research for decades, particularly in Eastern countries such as China, where solar panels are commonly used for everyday activities like heating tea kettles.
It's been a long journey to come to model Sherwin and his team are working on now, which he says is markedly different from other modern-day solar cooker models.
He cites another Kickstarter launched earlier this summer for a different solar cooker model, which garnered around $140,000 to meet its goal. He says GoSun Stove's model is particularly innovative because it possesses the unique ability to insulate its products in a safe and more efficient way; the GoSun Stove, he says, isn't hot to the touch, is portable and easy to clean, retains heat and cooks food much more quickly than other solar cookers on the market today.
"I was frying ants with a magnifying glass on the sidewalk when I was a kid. It's nothing really that new," he laughs. "The reality of those [other models] is that they're not really safe, because what happens is you have so much intensity of sunlight on a particular spot in ends up creating like a...it could burn your eyes or hands."
Still, like most successful inventions, the venture has involved a good bit of trial and error.
"It was pretty messy what I was doing originally. I'd take like, eight hot dogs, and I found a stainless steel skewer. So I had like eight hot dogs on this giant skewer and I remember hitting the brakes in my car too hard one day after an event and I didn't realize there was a bunch of grease and the grease shot off and hit my windshield with hot dog grease. So that was a wake-up call. It was really a pain to clean up. Every once in a while you would lose a hot dog in the skewer and it'd get stuck at the bottom," Sherwin laughs.
Once they earn more capital, Sherwin and his team hope to develop more versatile models, including those with larger insulator tubes to accommodate larger quantities of food. Currently, the GoSun Stove prototype accommodates up to 3 pounds of food and can reach up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
The current model uses a compact, easy-to-clean tray, but his first hot dog-based models have evolved a great deal to what his KickStarter campaign advertises today. Those first prototypes used large, cumbersome solar collector trays, until Sherwin had what he calls his "A-ha!" moment at a solar expo two or three years ago.
"The thing I was cooking with was about six feet long, it was cumbersome..and I was at a solar expo at a conference and there was a tabletop thing that was demonstrating what a solar hot water heater would look like, and it was tubes about two feet long. And I saw that and I went, 'A-ha.' "
That took the GoSun Stove from simply an idea to something tangible and marketable to everyone from survivalists and campers, green life enthusiasts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) interested in improving the lives of populations in developing countries, although he and his partners say there's a lot of planning and research to be done before they try to take the GoSun across the world.
"These models we're showing on KickStarter are not
what we're intending to take to the developing world. Far more
affordable stoves that'll use the human and natural resources of the
areas we're trying to empower to make it a real solution that'll stick.
And we realize that we don't know what they need. We're conscious of our
ignorance," says Matt Gillespie, an industrial designer on the GoSun team.
Sherwin adds, "We've got to come up with
accessories that make it easier to eat things like rice and beans, which
is what, like, 90 percent of the world eats."
Today, just three days into their KickStarter campaign, they've raised almost $30,000 of their $40,000 goal. Sherwin's hopeful it will be well-received once he and his team are ready to officially launch and that the GoSun will actually change the landscape of solar energy technology and its presence in our everyday lives.
"Most users, when they open their packages, they're going to be like, 'Ohmigosh,' a little bit, and then they might also get a little sunburned as far as they'll want to take it out on any day because they think it's going to work just like a microwave. It's not a microwave and you can't just hit a button. But it is the microwave of solar ovens."
Despite the economic troubles affecting the state, Ohioans are smoking more than ever, according to a study that found the highest percentage point increase of any state. An official with the Ohio Department of Health attributes the increase to the stress people are under, though the Ohio General Assembly also cut funding to the state's smoking cessation help line, so there's that. Ohio ranked as the 36th healthiest state in 2011, down from 33 rd in 2010, while Indiana came in at 38th and Kentucky 43rd.