by Nick Swartsell
13 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:01 AM | Permalink
Ohio investigates Cincinnati Charter school; New safety measures in area schools; poverty, drug use down nationally.
All right, let’s do this news thing. Ohio has added a charter school from Cincinnati, as well as another from Columbus, to its investigation into Chicago-based Concept Schools, which runs 17 charter schools in the state. Concept has come under state and federal scrutiny after former teachers at the company’s Horizon Academy in Dayton made accusations about sexual misconduct, records forgery and other alleged crimes. The state has since received similar complaints about the Horizon Science Academies in Cincinnati and Columbus, officials say. This isn’t the first time charter schools in Cincinnati have come under fire. This summer, the Ohio Department of Education shut down VLT Academy in Pendleton due to low performance and lack of a sponsor organization.• Cincinnati Assistant City Manager Bill Moller yesterday told city council’s finance and budget committee that the city shouldn’t have to commit public financial help to any hotel project at The Banks. The proposed location for a hotel is in a top-notch spot next to the ballpark, Moller pointed out, and the new General Electric offices moving in nearby will only make the area more attractive. The city and county are in talks with at least three hotel developers at this point. Financing plans for the project have yet to be proposed, though the hope is that a hotel at The Banks will be finished midway through 2015. Moller’s statements have come after some on council have begun questioning the city’s generosity when it comes to tax incentives and loans to lure businesses to downtown and other parts of the city.• It’s fall, a time when educators’ thoughts turn to school books, lesson plans, shaping young minds and, of course, what to do if a psychotic gunman barges into your school and starts shooting. These are the depressing times we live in. One new defensive solution comes from a northern Ohio company and is called the Bearacade (it’s unclear why it’s called that, just go with it). The device is a metal wedge that can be crammed under a door and pinned to the floor in an emergency situation to keep shooters out of classrooms. Locally, Kings Schools in Warren County has begun installing the Bearacade. Practice for using the device, as described in The Cincinnati Enquirer, sounds slightly crazy:“Unannounced, Goldie will suddenly shout a security emergency to the class, dash to the front of the room and slide baseball-style into the door. Hanging next to the entrance is the new door block, which he hastily installs, making it virtually impossible for any shooter to enter.”However, surprise shouting and a home plate-style slide toward a door to install a metal wedge is probably less disruptive to the educational process than Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones’ suggestion that teachers carry heat in the classroom. • Cincinnati Police say crime is down so far this year in the areas around University of Cincinnati. Though some high-profile cases, including violent burglaries, have brought attention to the area, robberies have decreased by half since a peak in 2009. Other crimes have also decreased. CPD has continued to add patrols in the areas around UC, despite the drop in criminal activity. • Some scummy creeps claiming to be associated with the KKK distributed flyers around Green Township last week, including some with anti-immigration messages. Police there say activities from such groups crop up every few years and then abruptly dissipate. They say they’re keeping an eye on the situation but don’t expect much else from the group, which appears to be from southeastern Indiana. • The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments about one of the state’s most contentious death penalty cases. For 26 years, Gregory Wilson has been on death row, convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder of Deborah Pooley in Covington. But now, after a number of appeals on his behalf, the high court will consider whether or not his defense team did an adequate job and if new DNA evidence should be sought. Wilson’s advocates say the lawyers assigned to argue his case did little on his behalf and that DNA evidence could exonerate him. One of Wilson’s attorneys had never tried a felony, and the other was semi-retired and did not have an office or staff. But those looking to uphold his death sentence, including the Kentucky attorney general, say Wilson was convicted by overwhelming evidence, including the eye-witness testimony of his girlfriend, who is serving a life sentence for her role in the crime, and items he purchased with Pooley’s credit card after she was murdered. The case could set precedent for the way capital murder cases are tried in Kentucky, legal experts say.• Poverty rates inched down slightly in 2013, the Census Bureau reported yesterday. Though that reduction hasn’t matched the reduction in the unemployment rate, the increase in jobs did make a dent in poverty stats. Median household income is still down 8 percent from pre-recession levels, Census data says. The number of children in poverty declined more significantly, from nearly 22 percent in 2012 to not quite 20 percent in 2013. That’s good news. • Also good news — apparently, teen drug and alcohol use is down, according to a new study. Drug abuse in general in the United States has leveled off, according to the report by the Department of Health and Human Services. The study found that teens were turning away from illicit substances in favor of spending hours taking selfies that make them look bored, but in a cool way, and posting them on Tumblr.• Finally, because nothing is more important to tea party types than fair representation in all realms of our modern democratic society, newly chosen Miss America Kira Kazantsev is getting flack for a three-month stint she did as an intern at Planned Parenthood. That revelation has set off a tidal wave of hate from some anti-abortion corners of the Internet, despite the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t solely provide abortions and Kazantsev’s role involved supporting sex education, which, you know, actually reduces the need for abortion services. Bravely undeterred by this reality, Twitter users have taken to calling her “Ms. Abortion America,” “baby killer supporter” and suggesting that “this chick sure doesn’t represent me.” Because yes, Miss America is a publicly elected office whose life choices should represent every single American, no matter what their (completely unrelated) political ideologies may be.
by German Lopez
Early voting agreement sought, downtown project scrutinized, drug abuse reportedly drops
Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise
over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016
general election, as some Republicans in the county government
have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board
of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim
Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou,
Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss
alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early
voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a
discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of
state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the
existing disagreement.”With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried
Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower
project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier:
The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of
any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would
replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery
store downtown in decades.A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40
percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for
the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But
because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on
painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s
possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine
downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to
verify the trend.Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in
January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both
rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch
McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action
Conference.The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat.
After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new
journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat
Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and
my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read
my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:16 AM | Permalink
Ohioans overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, plurality backs same-sex marriage
Ohioans are moving left on marijuana and same-sex marriage, according to a poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University.The poll found an overwhelming majority — 87 percent — of
Ohioans support legalizing marijuana for medical uses. About 51 percent support allowing adults to legally possess a small amount of the drug. And 83 percent agree
marijuana is equally or less dangerous than alcohol.At the same time, 50 percent of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who do not.A plurality of voters — 34 percent versus 26 percent —
also disapproved of Gov. John Kasich’s handling of abortion. (In the
latest state budget, Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio
legislature imposed new restrictions on abortions and abortion
providers.)Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,370 registered Ohio
voters from Feb. 12 to Feb. 17 for the poll, producing a 2.7 percent
margin of error.The findings indicate the state is moving left on the biggest social issues of the day.In 2004, Ohioans approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.Last year, a Saperstein Associates poll conducted for The Columbus Dispatch
found 63 percent of Ohioans favor legalizing medical marijuana, but 59
percent said they oppose full-on legalization. (Given the different
methodologies, it’s unclear how Saperstein Associates’ results compare
to Quinnipiac University’s poll.)Whether the liberal shift applies to ballot initiatives
remains to be seen. This year, two groups aim to get medical marijuana
and same-sex marriage on the Ohio ballot.Contrary to what polling numbers might imply, it
currently seems more likely same-sex marriage will end up on the ballot
this year. FreedomOhio, which is leading the effort, says it already has
the petition signatures required to get the issue on the ballot in
November, even though other LGBT groups, including Equality Ohio, say
the effort should wait until 2016.Meanwhile, the Ohio Rights Group admits it doesn’t yet
have the signatures required to get medical marijuana on the ballot. The
organization has until July to gather 385,247 petition signatures,
which in large part must come from at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties.
In the very unlikely scenario the Ohio Rights Group gets all the petitions in circulation back with 36 legitimate signatures filled out on each, the organization would
have about 246,000 signatures.Still, with support seemingly growing, it seems unlikely
medical marijuana and same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Ohio for
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana effort underway, MSD battle continues, FitzGerald challenger questioned
The Ohio Rights Group could get medical marijuana
legalization on the ballot this November, but the group first must gather enough petition signatures. Although the campaign has
medical research and polling in its favor, it’s also struggled to raise a
significant amount of cash to support a statewide campaign. At the same
time, many entrepreneurs see the legalization of medical marijuana as
inevitable; over the past weekend, Comfy Tree Cannabis Collective held a
seminar to advise potential businesses on the inner workings of selling
legalized marijuana.Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county
is willing to go to court to fight Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder”
rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The county says
the rules are illegal, burden businesses and favor unions. But city officials, particularly
Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the rules help train workers and create
local jobs. The rules impose stricter job training requirements on MSD
contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that
would help train new workers in different crafts.Larry Ealy, a Dayton-area man, could challenge
gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, but the
chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party cautions that Ealy
consistently fails to gather enough signatures for his election bids. In
the past, Ealy attempted to run for various offices in Dayton.City officials and the Cincinnati Public Schools Board plan to
announce a new collaboration today. The initiative intends to align and
better implement the city and school district’s shared policy goals.
“We want to establish the framework and make sure the right culture is
there,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who announced the collaboration,
previously told CityBeat. “Then people can do what elected officials are supposed to do: roll up your sleeves and come up with smart, viable policies.”Following the demolition of the University of Cincinnati’s
Wilson Auditorium, it’s unclear what, if anything, will replace the
building.The Ohio Supreme Court reminds state judges that the conditions for jailing people over unpaid fines are limited.As people turned up the heat to deal with the polar vortex, they also drove gas prices — and future bills — up.LED lights make cities look cooler on camera.A new mind-controlled robotic hand comes with a sense of touch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pro-medical marijuana organization targets the 2014 Ohio ballot; entrepreneurs prepare for eventual legalization
6 Comments · Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Ohioans could soon legally toke up if the
Ohio Rights Group succeeds in its efforts to legalize medical marijuana
and industrial hemp across the state.
Statewide group asks Ohio voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp
2 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
While two states have successfully
legalized marijuana, Ohio is beginning to move forward with ballot
initiatives that could legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes and to
produce industrial hemp.
by German Lopez
City to add more cops, bill enables needle exchanges, Portune drops gubernatorial bid
Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and several other local leaders expect to announce a $1 million plan to add more cops, including a new recruit class, to help fight a local rise in homicides and violent crime. Besides the additional officers, the plan will also restart a unit focused on gangs and put more emphasis on "hot spots" of potential crime. The announcement follows a rough start to the year that's already experienced higher-than-normal levels of violence. CityBeat will cover the announcement in further detail as the news breaks.A bill in the Ohio legislature could enable more clean needle exchanges. The bill wouldn't supply state or federal funding, but it would let any local health authority establish a syringe-exchange program without declaring a health emergency. Although some conservatives take issue with providing needles to drug users, officials say the program in Portsmouth, Ohio, cut countywide hepatitis C rates, nearly eliminated the number of needles found in parks and on sidewalks, and provided addicts a legally safe resource for help. CityBeat previously covered attempts to establish a local needle-exchange program in further detail here.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Friday officially dropped his long-shot bid for governor. Although Portune received a lot of attention from local media, he never mounted a credible campaign and drew harsh criticisms from fellow Democrats, who accused Portune of complicating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald's campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.While some in the media focus on the horse race and fundraising goals, political scientists say partisan ties, national politics and the state of the economy play a much bigger role in deciding elections.Southwestern Ohio should expect light snow today and a winter storm tomorrow.Young women who take the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex or take part in unsafe sexual practices, a study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.Denver Broncos fans yesterday got a taste of what it's like to support the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose.January birthed a few cute zoo animals.A study found 1,300 airborne microbes in Beijing's smog.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:40 PM | Permalink
UC professor suggests different approach to addressing opiate epidemic
Rises in heroin and prescription
painkiller abuse have languished lawmakers in Ohio and across the
country in the past year, with some calling it an epidemic and others blaming it for an increase in crimes and deaths.The issue has taken particular root in Ohio, where lawmakers have joined a chorus of advocates to prevent more drug abuse. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich announced an initiative that
encourages parents and schools to talk with their children about the
dangers of drug abuse. In the Ohio legislature, lawmakers are hashing
out harsher penalties and regulations in an attempt to prevent
prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.But many of these ideas, while genuine in their effort to
address the problem, fall under the same framework of the war on drugs, a
policy that has largely failed in reducing the demand or supply of illicit drugs over the past few decades.Isaac Campos, a drug history professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, is highly critical of the war on drugs. He talked to CityBeat over the phone Friday. The interview, below, is edited for length and clarity.
CityBeat: What do you make of the ongoing discussion about an opiate epidemic?
Isaac Campos: From what I’ve read, there’s been a big
increase in overdoses throughout the Midwest. The most interesting and
plausible thing is that the Mexican distributors started distributing
much higher-potency heroin as the crackdowns of cocaine and other
things have had some effect. They moved into the heroin business and started
distributing higher potency of heroin, which allows the people along
the supply chain to make higher profits by cutting the heroin so they
can get a lot more bang for their buck, basically. It also means users
can get heroin for much cheaper than OxyContin or whatever they normally
use. That’s No. 1.
No. 2 is they can not only get it cheaper, but it tends to
be much higher potency than what they got before and maybe what they’re
used to. That’s the No. 1 cause of heroin doses: the lack of knowledge
about the potency of the particular drug that somebody’s taking. So if
the potencies are substantially higher, you’re very likely to get tons
CB: The governor unveiled an initiative
essentially asking parents and schools to more openly discuss drug use
with students. And then the state legislature is considering
strengthening rules on prescription painkillers. Based on what you know,
do these kind of solutions work?
IC: The thing about it is clearly the problem is a
mini-balloon effect that always happens. In this case, you put pressure
on prescription opiates, and that has led to being harder to get them.
They’ve also changed the formula to make OxyContin less pleasurable for
users. And so they made it less desirable to take the stuff that people
were taking before, so what people have done is started taking something
They’ve also made it more difficult for the drug
distributors to make a profit with what they were distributing before,
so they’ve changed to something else.
I think the idea that students don’t know that heroin is
dangerous is utterly preposterous. … I suppose it’s a good thing to tell
students — if they are actually going to tell them the truth — that
these potencies are unpredictable and could kill them. But I imagine
they might not tell them that; they might just tell them, “Heroin is
dangerous for you.” You’d have to be living under a rock to not know
CB: As you alluded to, one study
found cracking down on prescription painkillers might push people to use
heroin. We’ve talked about the hydra effect before, in which one drug
or dealer inevitably replaces a suppressed drug or dealer. Do you think this situation shows the same cause-and-effect?IC: Absolutely. The hydra effect is usually used in
respect to dealers, but we’ve seen this before back in the 1930s. A lot
of people were smoking opium. It was the fashionable thing to do —
and smoking opium really isn’t that bad for you — but there was a
crackdown on that.
Also, when the Italian mafia took over the business, they
decided to make it more profitable and squeeze out the smoking opium. So
all these smoking opium users switched to morphine or heroin, which are
more dangerous and harder to predict. So you end up getting more deaths
because the really dangerous thing about heroin is you just don’t know
what the dosage is.
CB: Based on your research, what kind of
solutions do you think would work? I know before we talked about
Switzerland and the success they’ve had there with a maintenance-dose
program.IC: I always thought the much smarter course of action is
to allow opiate addicts to have safe doses of opiates while trying to
get them help to stop using opiates if that’s what they want to do. Most
of these addicts I’m sure would love to stop using at one point, but
maybe they’re not ready yet. But they would be much better off knowing
what they’re taking while they’re not ready yet than overdosing on the
street and buying from black-market dealers.
CB: Another aspect is how rarely officials go
after the root of drug habits. It’s mostly more penalties,
criminalization, imprisonment and attempts to cut supply. But there are
huge socioeconomic problems surrounding drug use. What do you think they
could be doing better in this regard?
IC: One of the big problems is people don’t realize drug
problems are complex, so addiction is not simply a biological issue. The
disease model does not explain what addiction really is. Addiction is a
social, cultural and psychological problem; it’s not simply a disease
of the brain.
I think that’s a big problem because that suggests the
root of the problem is these drugs that hijack your brain, as some like
to say, when really the problem is a much broader one that involves
what’s going on in your life when you become a drug addict.
Of course, that’s way too complicated for politicians to utter. …
But addiction problems are real problems. People really do
become addicted to drugs and it ends up being bad for their lives. But
most of the bad things that happen to them are because the drugs are
We can’t really expect the government to figure out all
these issues. But we could hope that the government would have a more
rational policy, like, for example, what’s going on in Colorado and
Washington, where they’re dealing with marijuana in a more rational way.
CB: Switching subjects a bit, in the past year,
Cincinnati saw a rise in local homicides and gun violence. Police say
gang-related activity and drug trafficking is to blame. We’ve talked
about this before, but do you think decriminalization or legalization
could help put an end to this kind of violence?
IC: Oh, yeah. I don’t know what percent of shootings and
that sort of thing in Cincinnati are related to drugs, but they’re
related to illicit drugs, not people taking drugs.
Changing policy would have a big impact. You wouldn’t have
these people fighting out this black-market turf over these drugs that
are incredibly profitable because they’re illegal.
It would also have a huge effect in not sending so many
people to prison, which are essentially schools of crime that totally
screw people up psychologically and are places where you’re breeding
CB: Do you think that creates a vicious cycle in which people are moving in and out of prisons?
IC: Absolutely. And not only the people who are actually
going in and out of prison, but all the kids of the parents who are in
prison who are growing out without their parents. I think it has a
massive effect. There’s so many pernicious effects to this policy. It’s
CB: Last time you and I talked about this, I
mentioned that some war on drug supporters say gangs would just resort
to selling other contraband if drugs were legalized. But
you said, “How much easier is it to move two kilos of cocaine, which are
worth $50,000 or so, across the U.S. border than it is to move $50,000
worth of assault rifles?” That stuck with me. Could you elaborate on that?
IC: There’s no doubt that even if we legalized all drugs
tomorrow, you’d still have these big criminal organizations that have
been making a lot of money off them. But over the long-term — or medium-
or short-term, even — they’d start feeling a really strong pinch from
losing all this drug revenue. They’ll still try to make money, but
they’re not going to sustain their operations without the incredible
revenue stream that they’re getting from drugs. Ultimately, all those
organization will be weakened.
I mean, they’re so strong today because they can afford to
arm themselves like an army and they can afford the kind of technology
to thwart the high technology being directed at them. …
Right now, they’re legitimate security threats to states.
But they would never be that on just arms running, prostitution or that
sort of thing.
4 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Bill Nye to debate anti-science creationist, Chris Finney gets kicked out of law firm and more in the worst week ever.
Malfunctioning police cameras raise more questions than answers
2 Comments · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Multiple cases of malfunctioning or disabled police cameras have raised questions about police accountability.