WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.09.2014 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati police to get body cameras; early streetcar pass available; Ark Park wants to correct "myths"

All right y’all. After a brief delay while I listened to a presentation about health insurance (as captivating as it sounds) I’m here with the news this morning. Cincinnati’s 600-strong uniformed police force will eventually be equipped with body cameras after a seven-month pilot program involving West Side officers wrapped up this week. The move comes as activists around the country call for more police accountability in the wake of recent police shootings of unarmed citizens. Cincinnati’s body camera program will cost anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million depending on which vendor the city chooses. Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety committee has pledged to help find funds, and Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell will be making a trip to Washington to ask the federal government for some of the money as well. Officers involved in the pilot program said the cameras they tested aren’t perfect and expressed concerns about privacy for victims of crime and whether what is filmed will end up as public record.  Some activists around the country have called for federal rules requiring police wear body cameras, and President Barack Obama announced last week an plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to help equip police departments with the technology. Others, however, question the efficacy of the method, pointing to the death of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a choke hold by police in July. The officer who placed Garner in a headlock was not indicted by a grand jury despite video footage of the incident.• Though the streetcar is months away from being operational, you can still give the transit fanatic (or skeptic) in your life a rail-themed Christmas gift. Starting today, SORTA is offering a commemorative early pass for the Cincinnati streetcar allowing unlimited rides for periods of time after the streetcar opens. You can get the $25 card for those members of your family who are afraid of downtown and with whom you argued about the streetcar this Thanksgiving. Maybe some free rides will change their minds. Or they’ll hate it and give it to you to use. Win-win. They, or you, will be able to ride cost-free for the first 15 days the streetcar is operating. You can step it up for the serious streetcar supporter and get the $50 or $100 cards, which give the recipient 30 and 60 days of fare-free riding, respectively. These are the first physical items issued to the public for the transit project, which I’m sure will be interesting to some folks.• Answers in Genesis, the religious group behind a controversial Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County, Ky., has launched a billboard campaign it says seeks to correct “myths” about the project. The park has raised eyebrows because it could receive state tax credits even though its parent company makes its employees sign statements affirming their Christian religious beliefs. If the park did the same with prospective employees, it would not be eligible for help from the state. The state’s Tourism Development Finance Authority has preliminarily approved a 10-year tax incentive package for the park that could be worth up to $18 million on the $73 million project. National advocates for the separation of church and state have cried foul at the deal, saying it violates state and federal non-discrimination laws. The Ark group, however, says they’ll comply with those laws for the park. They’re fighting back with 16 billboards in Frankfort, Louisville and Lexington directing people to their website. They’ve also sprung for an electronic billboard ad running in New York City’s Times Square for some reason."With this new billboard campaign, the attention-grabbing wording will get people to visit our website, where they will discover the truth about our full-size Ark and learn how some intolerant people are trying to keep it from succeeding," the group said in an email news release. • The Ohio Board of Education will meet today and discuss eliminating rules that require public schools in Ohio to hire art and music teachers, librarians and other specialized staff. The so-called “5 of 8” rule could be on the chopping block because some local control advocates say it amounts to an unfunded mandate on local schools from the state. However, those who support the rule say it ensures that all schools have faculty who can teach vital subjects and perform other necessary duties. They say eliminating the rule will hurt low-income students, whose cash-strapped schools will be most likely to drop the positions. • State Rep. Alicia Reece formally introduced the so-called “John Crawford’s Law” yesterday, which would require toy guns to be brightly colored to distinguish them from real weapons. The bill aims to prevent police shootings like the one that happened in August at a Beavercreek Walmart, where Crawford was shot while holding a BB gun. More recently, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old, was shot and killed for holding a toy pistol on a playground in Cleveland. In a puzzling addition, the law would also limit where a person can carry a BB gun, even though Ohio remains an open carry state where you can tote around your real gun almost anywhere you please.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.25.2014 23 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Ferguson Solidarity Rally in Cincinnati Draws Hundreds

Three-hour march shut down I-75, passed through OTR and West End

A rally in remembrance of those who have died in recent police shootings of unarmed black men drew as many as 300 downtown Tuesday evening. The rally was followed by a nearly three-hour march that made its way through downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the West End before briefly shutting down I-75 as protesters streamed onto the highway. The rally and march were in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo., where black 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot Aug. 9 by white Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Yesterday a grand jury in St. Louis County declined to indict Wilson, spurring civil unrest in the area and demonstrations in cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the march through downtown neighborhoods had echoes of the city’s past — civil unrest lasting days tore through the same communities in 2001 after unarmed black teenager Timothy Thomas was shot by white Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach in OTR.Protesters briefly shut down I-75 during a Nov. 25 rally remembering those killed in police shootings.Nick Swartsell“Honestly, after the decision yesterday I was a bit numb,” said Curtis Webb, as he marched through downtown. “I even questioned whether I would come out tonight. I’m tired of hearing the talk. I’m more interested in seeing the walk about these situations. As a black man, I’m… I don’t know. I’m scared to be black. I don’t know how to say it. I’m always questioning, 'Am I doing the right thing? Do I look too dangerous? Are the police going to pull me over?' ”Protester at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse Nov. 25.Jesse FoxProtesters march through West End Nov. 25.Nick SwartsellCincinnati’s demonstrations started with a rally at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse on Fifth Street attended by State Senator-elect Cecil Thomas, State Rep. Alicia Reece, community organizer Rev. Damon Lynch III and Mayor John Cranley, among others.At the initial gathering on the steps of the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, Cranley highlighted the progress Cincinnati has made since 2001. "Like all of you, I am deeply concerned about the loss of life and the events that are unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri," he said. "I can sympathize with all aspects of what the community is experiencing because Cincinnati has had similar tensions in the past. It wasn’t easy, and there were a lot of trial and errors, but we made progress."Over shouts of “no justice, no peace,” and “hands up, don’t shoot,” the speakers there urged peace and calm, but some also expressed anger at the deaths of Brown and others killed in similar incidents closer to home. These include the Aug. 6 police shooting of John Crawford III in a Beavercreek Walmart and Tamir Rice, the Cleveland 12-year-old shot by police in a park in Cleveland last week. Both were carrying toy guns. Both were black.Anger from some speakers focused on a failure by a grand jury to indict Crawford’s shooter, Beavercreek Police Officer Sean Williams.“We are here today to say ‘No more business as usual,' ” Reece said, her voice rising to a shout. “We are here today to say ‘John Crawford, we will remember you. Mike Brown, we will remember you.’ ” Reece said she’s pushing for a federal investigation of Crawford’s shooting and a state law named after him that will put new requirements on the appearance of toy guns to make them look less like real ones.Protesters gather at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse Nov. 25Jesse FoxState Sen. Cecil Thomas speaks to the crowd gathered at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse Nov. 25.Nick Swartsell“I spent 27 years in law enforcement, and not once did I fire my weapon to harm someone,” Cecil Thomas said. “And all of a sudden, we see so many officers so quick to pull their guns. How do you pull your gun on a 12-year-old when someone tells you it looks like he has a toy gun? We have to change the way we do our policing.” Thomas was a peacemaker during the 2001 unrest, working with police, community groups and the city's Human Relations Commission to broker calm.Many attendees at the initial rally joined in a meandering march that stopped traffic in many of the city’s major streets and passed just feet from the spot where Timothy Thomas was shot in 2001. However, the rally was much more peaceful than the days of unrest 13 years ago. About 20 police followed the march, blocking off streets and working to corral protesters. Organizers with the Cincinnati chapter of the National Action Network say the march was not part of their plans for the rally.Police arrest a protester at a Nov. 25 march in memory of victims of police shootingsNick SwartsellTensions rose when protesters, after making their way down Ezzard Charles Drive in the West End, split off onto a highway on ramp  onto the north-bound lane of I-75. Police had initially blocked the on  ramp, but moved to the highway to block off traffic temporarily. After roughly five minutes, officers drove protesters off the highway with the threat of arrest. Eight protesters were arrested when they didn’t leave quickly enough. They are being held without bond at the Hamilton County Justice Center.After leaving the highway, the march continued through the city for another hour, eventually dissipating at the Justice Center on Court and Main streets.Joshua Davis, who helped lead the march, said the problems go beyond any specific case. “I’m out here because I have nieces who are four, five, six years old and I want them to come up in a world where they don’t have to be afraid of the cops," he said. "There are many things cops can carry that don’t kill people. I’m out here not because I agree Mike Brown was innocent or guilty, or because the cop was guilty or innocent, but because black men are being killed daily.”The march ended at the Hamilton County Justice Center at about 8:30 p.m. Fifteen were arrested during the march, according to police. UPDATE: A hearing for those arrested was held Wednesday at 12:30, according to the county clerk. Court records show some of the protesters have posted bond.Onlookers watch protesters march down Ezzard Charles Dr. Nov. 25Nick SwartsellA protester at a Nov. 25 rally remembering victims of police shootingsJesse Fox
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.24.2014 24 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati area follows national trend in arrest disparities; rail advocates concerned city leaders are trying to shut down a commuter rail project; someone made a video game controller that draws blood

Morning all. Let’s get right to the news, shall we?It’s hardly a secret that arrest rates in communities across the country are often much higher for minorities. That’s certainly true for suburbs in the Cincinnati area, where authorities often arrest a much higher proportion of blacks than whites. In Sharonville, for instance, blacks are 12 times more likely to be arrested, and in Norwood, they’re seven times more likely. Law enforcement authorities in those communities say that the data controls for the lower population of blacks in those communities but doesn’t take into account the fact that not everyone committing crimes in those places lives there, which they say skews the numbers. Civil rights activists, however, say the data shows a clear racial disparity caused by a number of factors that need to be addressed. Many studies have made it clear that drug use, for instance, is just as high among whites as it is blacks, but law enforcement in many communities makes many more arrests in the latter. • Are City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley trying to pre-empt a rail project right out of existence? It seems a little premature to say, but that’s the concern expressed by the city’s planning commission chair Caleb Faux and some advocates for a rail component of the proposed Wasson Way trail. The project looks to extend bike paths and eventually, possible commuter rail lanes through Evanston, Hyde Park and Mount Lookout. But on Thursday, Black removed from the city’s planning commission agenda legislation seeking to preserve the possibility of rail in the area by creating a transportation overlay district. The move has sparked worries that Black was acting on orders from Cranley, no friend of rail, in a bid to pre-emptively block a future rail project through the Wasson Way corridor. Cranley said he only wanted to give time for more public input before a vote on the overlay district was taken.• In other City Hall news, Black announced his pick for the city’s director of trade and development today in a news release. Oscar Bedolla will be the city’s head of economic development. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration on infrastructure projects in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and Denver. • State Rep. Alicia Reece, who represents Cincinnati, is pushing for a law that would require greater aesthetic differences between fake guns and real ones in the wake of another police shooting Saturday night in Cleveland. A 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by police officers, who thought the toy gun he was carrying was a semi-automatic pistol. The incident has tragic echoes of the August shooting of John Crawford III in a Beavercreek Walmart. Crawford was carrying a pellet gun sold in the store when police shot him. • As lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly wrangle over how to fix the state’s unemployment compensation system, a new report on the fund reviews how slashes to taxes on employers put the state in debt to the federal government to the tune of $1.3 billion. It’s interesting reading, to say the least, and a primer in the problems that can arise from some lawmakers' "cut every possible tax to the bone” mentality.• Finally, if you’re really serious about video games, I have a Kickstarter for you to check out. It’s for a company that wants to make a controller that extracts real blood from you every time you’re injured in a video game. “It’s stupidly simple,” the pitch starts. Well, that’s at least partially right. Yow. The device keeps track of how much blood it hass removed, however, so you don’t like, pass out or bleed to death because you’re terrible at "Call of Duty."
 
 

Activists Push Voter Bill of Rights

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a “Voter Bill of Rights” on the Ohio ballot this November.  
by German Lopez 01.17.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, Election at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Ohio Activists Push Voter Bill of Rights

Constitutional amendment could appear on November ballot

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage."I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.The Voter's Bill of Rights:
 
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2014
Posted In: Death Penalty, News, Voting, Preschool at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Troubled execution draws critics, activists push voters' rights, Preschool Promise needs help

A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before noon.As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus. But some students and parents say the school should pursue more aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus bookstore.Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 11.20.2013
Posted In: News, Voting at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
ohio statehouse

ACLU Opposes New Limits on Early Voting

Proposed legislation removes five days in which voters can simultaneously register and vote

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days and repeal a five-day period in which Ohioans can simultaneously register to vote and vote in person. “The five-day window offers major benefits to many voters, including those with disabilities or inflexible work schedules, and there is little evidence that it has created any major problems,” said ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner in a statement. “S.B. 238 throws away these critical, nonpartisan benefits for no good reason.” The bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Nov. 13 by Republican State Sen. Frank Larose. It’s co-sponsored by six Republicans, including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati. The bill’s introduction follows a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urging legislators to trim in-person early voting days. The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims uniform voting hours are necessary to avoid legal challenges in case some counties set longer voting periods than others, which courts could deem unfair under equal protection grounds. The uniform voting periods reduce early voting days in some counties without their approval, the organization acknowledges, but it’s necessary to keep the standards uniform without placing an unfair burden on smaller counties. Democrats, including State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, say the real reason behind such proposals is to suppress voters. “The Secretary of State’s voter suppression agenda is extremely disappointing. As the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary Husted is tasked with the duty of ensuring that Ohio’s elections are fair and accessible to all citizens,” Reece said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the proposed changes are aimed at restricting voters’ access to the ballot box in 2014.” Democrats have some evidence to their claims. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch in an email regarding early voting, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
 
 

City Officially Opposes Proposed “Stand Your Ground” Laws

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
City Council joined statewide efforts to avoid loosening restrictions on the use of deadly force when it unanimously passed on Sept. 11 a resolution that opposes Ohio’s version of controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws.  
by German Lopez 06.14.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Health, News, Voting at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill restricts abortions, locals to combat infant deaths, Reece criticizes voter investigations

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue. CityBeat is also looking to talk to anyone who’s been incarcerated for a drug-related offense in Ohio. If you know someone or are someone interested in talking to us, email glopez@citybeat.com. An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would impose harsher restrictions on legal abortions, and some of the requirements may coerce doctors into giving medically inaccurate information. Among other requirements, the bill would force doctors to explain fetal development and supposed risks to inducing an abortion, while pregnant patients would be forced to undergo an ultrasound 48 hours before the procedure. But research has found that, barring rare complications, the medical risks listed in the bill are not linked to abortion.Local leaders are beginning a collaborative effort to combat Cincinnati's alarmingly high rate of infant mortality. The effort is bringing together local politicians from both sides of the aisle, nonprofit groups and local hospitals. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6, while the national average is six. In previous comments, Mayor Mark Mallory explained his moral justification for increased efforts against infant mortality: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate."State Rep. Alicia Reece, who heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday criticizing recent efforts to investigate 39 voter fraud cases in Hamilton County. "It is unfortunate that during the past few years, the focus has been on voter suppression instead of voter access and education," Reece said in a statement. "Many of these voters come from African-American and low-income neighborhoods, and they would benefit from a comprehensive voter education program." CityBeat previously covered the 39 "double voter" cases, which mostly involved voters sending an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voting through a provisional ballot on Election Day, here.Mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith squared off at a mayoral forum yesterday. Democrats Qualls and Cranley, who are widely seen as the top contenders, debated the parking plan and streetcar project — both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously covered the streetcar project and how it could relate to the mayor's race here.An audit of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) found Ohio's Medicaid program could save $30 million by avoiding fraudulent billing. State officials responded to the audit by highlighting changes in budget plans that supposedly take steps to reduce Medicaid fraud, including Gov. John Kasich's proposal to add five full-time Medicaid auditors to perform additional on-site monitoring in an effort to reduce overpayments.Ohio lawmakers seem unlikely to approve a federally funded Medicaid expansion, but bipartisan bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate make sweeping changes to the Medicaid program that aim to lower costs and make the government health care program more efficient. Legislators claim the goal is to bring down costs without reducing services, all while providing avenues for Medicaid participants to move out of poverty. Hearings for the bill will begin next week.After giving a speech celebrating the resurfacing of a high-speed test track, Gov. Kasich rode a car at 130 miles per hour in a more literal "victory lap."Scientists are apparently making advancements in helping people regrow limbs.
 
 
by Bill Sloat 11.29.2012
 
 
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Ohio Democrats Push for Puerto Rico Statehood

State Rep. Alicia Reece only local legislator listed as co-sponsor

A group of Ohio House Democrats wants Congress to move quickly and grant statehood to Puerto Rico, which has been a U.S. possession since the Spanish-American War ended in 1898.  The Ohioans do not say where the star should go on a redesigned American flag, but they said statehood would “respect the rights of self-governance through consent of the governed of our fellow United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico.” The chief sponsor of the resolution, H.C.R. 57, is State Rep. Dan Ramos of Lorain, a northern Ohio city where about 25 percent of the 64,000 residents are Hispanic. Lorain is considered the most Hispanic city in Ohio, and nearly 20 percent of its population claims Puerto Rican descent. The resolution urging statehood was introduced this week in the Ohio House where it likely faces an uncertain future. The current term of the legislature is scheduled to end in December, and it has no Republican co-sponsors.  The GOP controls the House, which means that Democratic proposals often get bottled up or receive short shrift.Earlier this month, a slight majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood for the Caribbean Island. It was the first time a statehood referendum has won there, and the non-binding vote was seen as signaling that many Puerto Ricans appear ready to end the island’s status as a U.S. commonwealth. The move by the Ohio House Democrats also appears aimed at cementing the party’s support among Hispanic voters. Some 70 percent of Hispanics backed the Democrats and President Obama on Election Day, and Hispanics are emerging as a key bloc with increasing power at the ballot box.     With the exception of State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, all of the other House Democrats backing the statehood resolution are from Columbus or further north in Ohio. The resolution urges Congress to take swift action “towards admitting the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the Union as a State.” Statehood decisions are up to Congress. The Ohio resolution points out that Puerto Ricans are already U.S. citizens (although they cannot vote in presidential elections), and that many serve in the U.S. military. A 1917 law granted residents U.S. citizenship. There is a historical footnote involving Cincinnati in Puerto Rico’s fate. Former GOP President William Howard Taft, a Cincinnatian who went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the 1920s, delivered a major legal decision in 1922 that helped keep Puerto Rico separate. Taft said the congressional act that conferred citizenship on the islanders did not contemplate that they would be incorporated into the Union. He ruled the U.S. possession had never been designated for statehood. Taft gave the island a unique status that has been described as a commonwealth, or as it is said in Spanish, “Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico.”
 
 

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