Strong storms batter Ohio
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are working with state officials and relief workers to determine the biggest needs in Ohio two days after severe storms swept through the state. The storms knocked out power to 1 million customers Friday evening. By late Sunday the customers without power numbered 450,000. President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency in Ohio. His action followed a request by Gov. John Kasich, who had declared a state emergency and called out the National Guard. American Electric Power has about 435,000 customers without power and Duke Energy has about 12,789 in Ohio without electricity. First Energy in northern Ohio reports scattered outages throughout its coverage area. Around 2,200 homes are without power near Bowling Green in Wood County
Kasich to sign Cleveland schools overhaul today
Governor Kasich is set to sign a blueprint for improving Cleveland schools today. He’ll be at John F. Kennedy High School to sign the bill. It lays out changes to layoff rules and allows the district to share money with charter schools while giving it more of a voice in deciding what charter schools can open in the city. Kasich helped build support for the bill among state legislators, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and the Cleveland Teacher’s Union.
Hikers rescued in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Several stranded hikers are safe after being rescued from cliffs near a waterfall where they got stuck while climbing in northeast Ohio. Officials at Cuyahoga Valley National Park say a group of hikers decided to climb a rocky area near Brandywine Falls on Sunday. They got stuck along the way and called for help. Two children were able to reach the top safely by themselves. Park rangers and fire department crews used ropes to safely rescue three more children and two adults. Park officials say rock climbing is prohibited in the area near the falls. No major injuries were reported.
Redistricting change supporters face key deadline
Supporters of a ballot issue that would end generations of legislative gerrymandering face a deadline this week to get enough signatures to put the issue on the fall ballot. Voters First is a coalition of groups pushing to create a 12-member citizen panel to change the way Ohio draws its legislative districts every 10 years. The lines would consider competitiveness, compactness, keeping communities in the same district and having districts that reflect how Ohioans vote. The group needs 385,000 signatures by Wednesday to get it on the ballot. Secretary of State Jon Husted tells The Plain Dealer the Ohio Democratic Party and Sherrod Brown’s Senate campaign registered to pay signature collectors. Husted and other top Republicans are against the plan.
August early voting begins tomorrow
Early in-person voting gets under way tomorrow for the August 10th special election. Secretary of State Jon Husted says voters in 35 Ohio counties will vote on 60 local issues, including school and local levies and charter amendments. All non-military and overseas voters can begin voting at designated sites tomorrow.
PUCO to rule in FirstEnergy/AEP battle
An end is in sight for an unusually public battle over electric costs in Ohio. State utility regulators at the Public Utilities Commission are scheduled to rule today on rate increases proposed by Columbus-based American Electric Power that have concerned consumers and competitors. The company says the proposal will allow it to stay on solid financial footing and retain jobs as it transitions to competition. An earlier rate proposal was rejected after criticism from schools, churches and small businesses that higher rates were too burdensome, given the weak economy and cuts to budgets. AEP submitted a new proposal in March that discarded several charges while retaining a request to collect fees when customers switch to competitors. Competitor FirstEnergy Solutions has sparred with AEP over its plan in television ads.
Ohio loses most of its Homeland Security funding
Ohio is trying to cope with the loss of most of its funding from the Department of Homeland Security. The state will receive 5.6 million dollars this year, down from nearly 41 million dollars in 2010. That means some counties may not receive any Homeland Security funding for the first time. Cleveland and Cincinnati were dropped from a federal grant program for urban areas this year after Toledo and Columbus were dropped last year. Franklin County Office of Homeland Security and Justice Programs director Kathy Crandall tells The Columbus Dispatch the state is focusing on programs that serve entire regions and not just individual counties.
Gas prices drop sharply
A dive in Ohio gas prices has some drivers cheering, though weekend storms have closed some gas stations and left others running slowly.The average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.25 in today's AAA survey. That's down 18 cents from a week ago.
Ohio WWII soldier’s dog tags found
The identification tag of an Ohio soldier who fought in Italy during World War II has been found there and returned to his 95-year-old widow. The dog tag of Mike Baranek of Akron was spotted in April in a suburb southeast of Rome by a gardener and her friend. The gardeners searched the Internet for clues about Baranek and connected with the historian for his 509th Parachute Infantry unit. Records show he received a Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross and Bronze Stars. Baranek died at age 64 in 1980. He was living in Cuyahoga Falls. The Beacon Journal says his widow plans to send the dog tag to a granddaughter as a treasured family memento to have as she gets breast cancer treatment in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Three nights of fireworks in Cleveland
It will be a fireworks triple play this July Fourth holiday in Cleveland. The annual Cleveland Orchestra concert kicks things off tonight in Public Square downtown, ending with the 1812 Overture and fireworks. The Cleveland Indians have a three-game home series against the Los Angeles Angels, with fireworks tomorrow night. And on July 4th, the city will hold its big aerial display along the Lake Erie waterfront.