by German Lopez
Conneaut councilman asks state to intervene at CCA facility
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 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).
by Danny Cross
Posted In: TV/Celebrity
at 04:12 PM | Permalink
See Matt Bischoff and his sweet beard in the show's season premiere Feb. 13
Anyone affiliated with BMX in Cincinnati knows Matt
Bischoff. The 38-year-old, bearded BMX warrior and all-around good dude
hosted one of the region’s best sets of BMX trails in his Anderson Township backyard in the late ’90s.
Since that time, he’s gotten married, had two kids, founded a BMX company called Failure Bikes and built
even more backyard trails and ramps. Bischoff has pretty much kept it
real, maintaining his BMX lifestyle while growing up and settling down
in Cincinnati’s stodgy East Side.
(Full disclosure: The author of this blog has known Bischoff for 15 years and used to shred his trails all the time.)
So it only makes sense that his most recent endeavor was
to offer his lifestyle to the rest of the world
via participating in one of TV’s most popular reality shows (right?).
The man who affectionately goes by “Beardo” and “The Beard” is one of 20 contestants on Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs Favorites, which premiers Feb. 13.
Bischoff couldn’t officially speak with the media on Jan. 11, the day CBS announced the cast, but if he could have he probably
would have said something like, “I don’t know, man. Survivor was crazy. It ruuuled.”
CityBeat will ask the appropriate CBS PR person for an opportunity to speak with our friend soon.
This particular Survivor format involves 10 new
contestants in one tribe trying to out-survive 10 people who previously
participated in other seasons of the show but didn’t win. Among
Bischoff’s tribes-people are a former Miss Missouri winner, a female racecar
driver and former United States Marine Corps Sgt. Shamar Thomas, who is
Internet famous for yelling at New York City cops for intimidating
Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Survivor host Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly the weather is a problem during this season and there are
evacuations and things “out of the norm.” Probst also said there’s
some type of love connection (probably just people infatuated with
Bischoff’s massive beard).
Here’s Bischoff’s official bio at cbs.com. He
answered the question of, “If you could have three things on the island,
what would they be and why?” with: “1) My iPod — I
constantly listen to music. It is a huge part of my life. I also would
want to view photos of my wife and kids. 2) A pen and notebook — to work
on song lyrics and keep a daily diary. 3) A video camera — to film myself doing wild stuff!”
And here’s 16 seconds of him doing some BMX stunts:
by German Lopez
State gets C in human trafficking, Kasich funds mental health, mall businesses evicted
An annual human trafficking report released by Attorney General Mike DeWine gave Ohio a C.
The grade, which comes from Shared Hope International, was a step up
from D's in the previous two years. But DeWine says it’s not enough, and
further action will be taken. Ohio has made some
strides on the human trafficking issue, including passage of a new “Safe Harbor” law for sex-trafficking victims, new details for minor
trafficking victims and the training of 24,000 law-enforcement officers to
better detect and help trafficking victims.
Gov. John Kasich is giving $5 million
to mental health services to help curb and prevent violence. The news
comes in the wake of school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary
School on Dec. 14 and a California high school yesterday. Mental health
services are important, but so is gun control, as CityBeat pointed out here. Vice President Joe Biden is currently heading an investigation to make suggestions on gun control to President Barack Obama.
The remaining businesses in Tower Place Mall were told to get out.
Cassidy Turley, the court-appointed receiver of the mall, apparently
filed eviction notices telling businesses to leave by March. The mall
has been struggling for some time now, and the city of Cincinnati is
currently in the process of trying to buy it. City Manager Milton
Dohoney says the city had no part in the evictions.
The city of Mason is apparently becoming a technology corridor.
Since 2011, the city has brought in $110 million in investments and
created 1,400 jobs. The new jobs are related to technology, robotics,
automation, innovation and health care.
Warren and Butler counties are apparently seeing a surge in sales tax revenue. The budgetary boost is being seen by some as a sign of further economic expansion.
Surrounded by dogs, Gov. Kasich signed legislation effectively banning puppy mills.
Previously, animal advocates claimed lax rules and regulations had made
Ohio a breeding ground for abusive practices. The lack of oversight
also helped enable Ohio’s dog auctions, which CityBeat covered here. The new law will go into effect within 30 days.
An Ohio school is apparently arming janitors. Previously, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters made a suggestion to arm school staff, but research shows it doesn’t help deter or stop acts of violence.
Natural gas is being slightly deregulated in Ohio.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is allowing two
companies — Columbia Gas of Ohio and Dominion East Ohio Gas — to
eliminate regulated pricing for businesses, with some conditions.
Supporters say the move will create more competition and lower prices,
but the deregulation gives a substantial advantage to two big energy
Congress is apparently less popular than head lice,
but it’s more popular than Lindsay Lohan. Damn. Does that mean people
prefer head lice to Lindsay Lohan? Even Nickelback and Ghengis Khan beat
Congress. Poor Lindsay.
Science has now found that animal grunts can act similarly to Morse code. Is this yet another warning of the impending animal takeover?
by German Lopez
Posted In: Education
at 12:18 PM | Permalink
State maintains B-, falls to No. 12 spot
For the third year in a row, Ohio has dropped in Education
Week’s annual ranks. The news comes despite the state slightly bumping
up its grade from 79.5 percent to 79.6 percent. The state was ranked No. 12, down from No. 11 in 2012 and No. 10 in 2011.
Ohio did best in standards, assessments and
accountability, where it got a 96.1 percent, or an A. It did worst in
K-12 achievement, which measures student progress and equality,
with a 71.2 percent, or a C-.
The only major category in which Ohio performed below the
U.S. average was transitions and alignment, which gauges state standards
for preparing Ohio students for moving from kindergarten to elementary
school to middle school to high school to college. In the category, Ohio
got a 78.6 percent, or C+, while the national average is 81.1 percent.
Maryland was ranked No. 1 for the fifth year in a row with an 87.5 percent, or a B.
“We’re pleased to be rated No. 12 in the nation … but our
overall score of a B- reassures us what we already know: We can do a
better job of educating Ohio’s children and preparing them for future
success,” said John Charlton, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of
Charlton says the state is taking steps to make
improvements, particularly in the transitions and alignment category.
Ohio has already adopted the Common Core standards and is replacing the state’s standardized tests with new assessments, which CityBeat covered here.
Ohio colleges and universities have also adopted uniform
remediation-free standards, which Charlton says will make it easier to
prepare students for college. Remedial courses are classes
that don’t count toward college credit; they’re typically required for
students who are under-prepared in certain subjects, particularly
English, math and science.
But some have pushed back toward the Republican-supported
education initiatives. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which forces
schools to hold back third-grade students who are not proficient in
reading, has faced a lot of criticism from Democrats and education
experts. Research shows holding kids back hurts more than helps. After
reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School
Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.
Gov. John Kasich vowed to rework Ohio’s school funding
formula in the 2014-2015 budget. In a previous interview, Rob Nichols,
spokesperson to Kasich, said it was a big undertaking: “Many governors
have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s
something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”
by German Lopez
Husted moves to middle, Republicans love early voting, loos coming to Cincinnati
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is pushing local election officials
to begin investigating legitimate cases of voter fraud or suppression.
He also vowed to continue pushing for uniform voting hours and
redistricting. During election season, Husted developed a bad reputation
around the nation for suppressive tactics, which CityBeat covered here, but it seems he’s now taking a more moderate tone.
It looks like in-person early voting didn’t rev up the
“African-American … voter turnout machine,” as Franklin County GOP
Chairman Doug Preisse claimed, after all. New numbers show in-person
early voting was a lot more popular in heavily Republican counties.
The loos are coming. A majority of City Council is on-board
with Councilman Chris Seelbach’s plan to install outdoor bathrooms,
much like the ones found in Portland, Ore. Seelbach promises the loos
will not cost $130,000, a potential price tag critics brought up to criticize the plan.
Hamilton County commissioners are not happy
with a city-approved Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) policy. The MSD
“responsible bidder” policy has been criticized by businesses for making
it impossible to win a contract. Joe Prus of Prus Construction is one
such critic: “We were listed as number one in the nation for our safety
program. Oddly enough, we are not responsible enough under the current
regulations that MSD have in their contracts.”
Cincinnati Public Schools are satisfied with their security, but they’re developing a new lockdown plan.
It started with a flier condoning rape, and now it’s
looking to end with some abuse in the justice system. The Miami rape
flier case just keeps getting more controversial. The case was
originally sealed, sparking some controversy; now, it’s been dropped altogether despite a guilty plea.
A new report found charter schools are evading state closure laws.
The Cincinnati Speech and Reading Intervention Center (CSR), formerly
W.E.B. Dubois Academy, was among the eight suspicious schools looked at
by Policy Matters Ohio.
Cincinnati’s central riverfront plan is winning an award
from the American Planning Association. The National Planning
Excellence Award for Implementation is for Cincinnati’s “success in
converting 195 acres of vast wasteland — between the Ohio River and
Cincinnati’s Central Business District — into an economically successful
and vital, mixed-use development with a dramatic new park,” according
to a press release.
An apartment developer may replace part of an Over-the-Rhine park with parking spaces. The move has sparked some pushback from locals.
Rumpke is building a new recycling facility. It will replace a former facility in St. Bernard that was destroyed by a fire.Audi is showing off its self-driving car. But what will humans do if the cars become self-aware?
by James McNair
Judge allows convicted student to withdraw his plea, then seals case again
The case of a
former Miami University student who pleaded guilty to disorderly
conduct for posting a “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier in a
dormitory bathroom just keeps getting more controversial.The
controversy began Nov. 8, when Butler County Area 1 Court Judge Robert
Lyons took the guilty plea and ordered all record of the case —
including the defendant’s name — sealed from public view. The MU police
chief says he is bound by Lyons’ order and can’t release the name. The
Butler County Prosecuting Attorney’s office did not object to the
sealing of the file.The Cincinnati Enquirer
entered the picture six days later. It sued Lyons in the Ohio Supreme
Court, saying he sealed the file without giving the newspaper a chance
to argue for public access. In his answer — filed by the Prosecuting
Attorney’s office on Dec. 13 — Lyons stood by his actions. Furthermore,
he wrote that “there was no plea” in the case.Now we know
where that came from. On that very same day, the case was back in Lyons
court for reconsideration. This time, prosecutors agreed to drop the
charge, and Lyons ruled it so. And, once again, he sealed the file, and
no one present objected. The Enquirer reported on the dismissal Wednesday.Prosecuting
Attorney Mike Gmoser won’t say why he agreed to dropping the charge
until the Supreme Court case is over. “Save that question, and I will
give you a full and detailed statement,” he told CityBeat. “I don’t try cases in the press.”Gmoser said he is asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the Enquirer’s suit because the issue at hand is “moot.”
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:55 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati facility closed down, reopened under new name
When an Ohio charter school consistently fails to meet
academic standards, the state automatically shuts it down. It’s an
aspect of Ohio law that’s touted as one of the toughest standards for
charter schools in the nation, but a report from Policy Matters Ohio
found some charter schools may be evading the rule altogether.
In Cincinnati, the W.E.B. DuBois Academy was put on the
Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) closure list in 2009. According to
the Policy Matters report, the same school and some of the staff remain, but under a
different name: Cincinnati Speech and Reading Intervention Center
Before 2009, Dubois Academy was CSR's sister school. Dubois Academy focused on grades four to eight, and CSR took up kindergarten through third grade. But when Dubois Academy was asked to shut down, CSR suddenly decided to expand to
teach kindergarten through eighth grade, and it conveniently moved to
the Dubois Academy building in the process.
The report also found some staff remained at the former
DuBois Academy facility. Out of eight teachers from Dubois Academy,
three still work at CSR.
Still, the school did change its sponsor from Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio to Richland Academy — a sign of some institutional changes.Before it was placed on ODE’s closure list,
Dubois Academy gained three straight “Academic Emergency” ratings.
Between 2007 and 2010, it received more than $3.6 million in state
funds. In the preliminary 2011-2012 report card, CSR gained a rating of
“Continuous Improvement” after receiving an “Academic Emergency”
rating in the 2010-2011 report card.
The story of Dubois Academy and CSR is apparently being
replicated around the state. Six other facilities reopened under new
names shortly after state-mandated closure. Some schools, including the
Eagle Heights Academy in Youngstown that reopened as Southside
Academy, even kept the same sponsors.
An eighth school in Cleveland — Hope Academy Broadway —
shut down one year before the state mandate kicked in,
citing an inability to find a sponsor. A year later, it reopened under a
new name — Broadway Academy. In the process, the school retained 11 Hope Academy Broadway staff members.
In a statement, Piet van Lier, the report’s co-author, called the loophole
a “systemic flaw” that undermines Ohio’s education system: “Until Ohio strengthens its charter-closure law, the state
will continue to fall short of the goal of improving public education
for all Ohio’s children.”
The report suggests legislators revamp charter school
closure laws and strengthen ODE’s oversight of charter schools. It also
wants legislators to direct ODE to refuse the kind of expansions and mergers that
keep closed facilities open and hold charter school companies more
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
With 2012 in the past, it’s time to start
preparing for a brand new year of politics and policy. From what’s been
hinted at so far, progressives could have another big year in 2013, but
only if they work for it.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Is Dalton the quarterback who can lead
the Bengals to a Super Bowl? For now, at least, his coach is sticking by
him, so that’s about all that matters.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Cincinnati’s largest cable provider
announced Jan. 3 that it will drop Current TV after its sale to Pan-Arab
news network Al Jazeera.