Mahoning County Tea Party activist may challenge Kasich in primary
Republican Governor John Kasich may face a challenger in Ohio’s gubernatorial primary after all. The Plain Dealer reports that a veterinarian from Mahoning County is collecting signatures to run against Kasich. Donald Allen is backed by the Tea Party, and would run alongside Warren County Tea Party leader Kelly Kohls. A final decision is not expected for a few weeks. The filing deadline is February 5th. About a week ago, Cincinnati-area Tea Party activist Ted Stevenot decided not to run.
Ohio health insurance enrollment up
Nearly 40,000 Ohio residents have successfully picked health insurance plans through the new online marketplace created by President Barack Obama's law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says latest enrollment numbers show a significant spike in sign-ups compared with October, when the troubled website wasn't working properly. Just about 1,100 Ohioans had managed to select a plan then, compared with about 34,000 last month.
Cleveland political strategist dies
Cleveland political strategist and civil rights activist Arnold Pinkney, who helped elect Ohio's first black congressman and managed Democrat Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign, has died. Pinkney died Monday at the Hospice of the Western Reserve after a recent hospitalization. He turned 84 last week. Pinkney had a long career in political campaigns, including the 1968 campaign of Louis Stokes, who became Ohio's first black member of Congress. He also advised Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, Democratic Gov. Richard Celeste and Jackson. He was special adviser to the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which plans a special recognition Feb. 19.
Cincinnati shuts down water intake
Cincinnati plans to shut down intake valves along the Ohio River to protect the city's drinking water from a chemical spill in West Virginia. Mayor John Cranley announced Monday that the valves will be shut down for at least 20 hours beginning tonight. On Thursday, a chemical used in coal processing leaked from a plant into the nearby Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., which feeds into the Ohio River.
Oldest recorded male hippo dies at zoo
The oldest hippo in North America has died at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Blackie was about 59-years-old—an age that is nearly double what he would have been expected to reach in the wild. Experts believe Blackie set the record for the oldest male Nile hippo ever recorded. He was brought to Cleveland from the east African nation of Tanzania back in 1955. The zoo tells the Plain Dealer it has no immediate plans to replace Blackie.
FirstEnergy nuclear power plant idled
Akron-based First Energy’s Beaver Valley nuclear power plant is still idled while crews install a new main transformer. The Pittsburgh-area plant had a transformer fail during last week’s deep freeze. The subzero temperatures led to a new winter record for power demand. The Plain Dealer reports there is no word yet on whether the cold weather actually caused the transformer failure. FirstEnergy has not said when the plant will reopen.
New indictment in massive credit union fraud case
There’s been another indictment in a massive Cleveland credit union fraud scheme that led to the agency’s collapse. John Struna, of Concord Township, is charged with embezzling $2.5 million from the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union. He had several credit union accounts and is accused of conspiring with former CEO Alex Spirikaitis to overdraw those accounts. Spirikaitis and a former teller are also charged for their roles in the $10 million dollar embezzlement, which makes it one of the largest fraud cases in credit union history.
Kasich to deliver State of the State in Medina
Gov. John Kasich says he'll deliver his annual State of the State speech Feb. 24 in the city of Medina. Medina is hometown of GOP House Speaker Bill Batchelder. It's the third time the Republican governor has moved the traditional joint legislative session outside of Columbus.Kasich made history in 2012 when he moved the speech from Columbus to the eastern Ohio industrial city of Steubenville. He delivered last year's speech in Lima.
Watchdog group reaches agreement with elections chief
A conservative watchdog group has reached an agreement with Ohio's elections chief in a lawsuit that claimed the state was failing to maintain accurate voter registration lists. The complaint from the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch had alleged that certain Ohio counties had more registered voters than their total voting-age populations. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Columbus in 2012 also claimed Secretary of State Jon Husted failed to take reasonable steps to maintain clean voter rolls as required by federal law. A spokesman for Husted says the settlement formalizes the office's current practices. For instance, under the terms, Ohio agrees to let voters change their addresses online and encourages updated registration information. The agreement will expire in 2018.
Stadium makeover underway in Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns may not have a head coach, but their stadium makeover is moving along. Heavy equipment is expected to be brought in later this week to begin demolition for the renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium. The $120 million in upgrades include two new scoreboards, wider and faster escalators, and a new sound system. The Browns are covering half the cost through loans and the city of Cleveland is pitching in $30 million.
Pilot Flying J racketeering claims dismissed
Racketeering claims against Pilot Flying J and its owner Jimmy Haslam have been dismissed by a federal judge in Alabama. The Plain Dealer reports that Haslam—who also owns the Cleveland Browns—was accused of taking part in a systematic scheme to defraud customers. Several Pilot executives have entered guilty pleas to fraud charges for withholding fuel rebates and discounts from trucking companies. Pilot agreed in November to pay victims $85 million. Haslam has said he had no knowledge of the scheme and launched an internal investigation when he found out. Mobile Alabama’s Wright Transportation Incorporated, though, claimed Haslam did know and that the scheme rose to the level of racketeering. U.S. District Judge William Steele disagreed.
Underwater mortgages down in Ohio
Fewer people in Ohio are underwater on their mortgages than they were in the third quarter of 2013. Realty Trac says just over a half million homes were considered deeply underwater at the end of the year—which means the owner owes more than the home was worth. That number accounts for about 28 percent of all Ohio homes with a mortgage, down 3 percent from September. Ohio ranks sixth nationally when it comes to underwater mortgages.
Schools receive more casino tax money
Ohio’s casino tax is bringing in more money for the state’s schools. The Columbus Dispatch reports that $47.3 million will be distributed among Ohio’s school districts. The last payout came in August of last year, for $45.4 million. This distribution is 4 percent more than the previous disbursement.
Lottery rolls out new instant ticket
The Ohio Lottery is rolling out a new instant lottery ticket to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The new ticket is the most expensive in Ohio Lottery history—but it will also offer the largest instant prize. Tickets will cost $30. Five, $10 million prizes and 35, $1 million dollar prizes will be awarded.