Next Ohio inmate set to die wants court to halt his March execution
A condemned Ohio killer is suing to stop his March execution, alleging the state's capital punishment policy leaves open the chance an inmate could remain clinically alive after being pronounced dead. Attorneys for death row prisoner Gregory Lott say inmates also run the risk of experiencing unnecessary pain under the state's current execution system. The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court asks a judge to halt Lott's execution, declare the state's new policy unconstitutional, and determine that Ohio is violating state and federal drug laws by its use of drugs without a prescription. Lott was sentenced to die for killing an 82-year-old East Cleveland man in 1986. Courts halted plans to execute the 51-year-old Lott ten years ago.
Unemployment numbers released
This morning, Ohio officials released last month's unemployment rate, along with updated jobs data. Ohio's rate dropped in December to 7.2 percent, down slightly from the November rate of 7.4 percent. The number of unemployed workers in December was 416,000, down 11,000 from 427,000 in November. There are 31,000 more people unemployed now than there were a year go.
Cleveland teams unveil wish list
We now have a better idea of how Cleveland’s sports teams would spend a portion of the $135 million dollars they want voters to approve in May.
Cuyahoga County Council got updated figures Thursday, and The Plain Dealer reports the Cavs and Indians would spend nearly $24 million to upgrade scoreboards and related systems over the next 10 years. Council is considering whether to ask voters to extend the county’s sin tax on alcohol and cigarettes to pay for the upgrades. The tax expires next year. Other big ticket items requested include $8.5 million for new seating at Progressive Field and more than $6 million to replace the roof at Quicken Loans Arena. If the sin tax ends, the city and county will have to find another way to pay for any upgrades to the stadiums.
Meanwhile, one Cuyahoga County council member says that if the Indians want voters to extend the sin tax in May, the team should consider changing its mascot. Democrat Sunny Simon tells the Plain Dealer that some voters are offended by Chief Wahoo and believes the mascot could hurt the tax’s chances of passing. The team says it is doing research on the issue but has maintained Chief Wahoo will remain part of the club’s branding.
Maintenance projects take priority at universities
Ohio higher education leaders instructed by Republican Gov. John Kasich to cooperate when requesting state dollars have identified maintenance and repairs as far higher priorities than new construction. A coalition led by presidents of Ohio public colleges and universities said Thursday it will ask for nearly $170 million in combined funding for unglamorous but important maintenance projects across the state, refurbishing and upgrading existing buildings. The Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission's additional priority for state capital funding is about $72 million in money-saving upgrades. Examples include energy efficiency enhancements, mechanical system improvements and shared service arrangements that Kasich praised as innovative.
Traffic cameras struck down in court
An appellate court has ruled that the way the city of Cleveland handles traffic tickets from its camera system is unconstitutional. The ruling from the 8th District Court of Appeals Thursday says the dozens of cameras the city has been using to catch people speeding and running red lights do not meet a requirement that traffic tickets come under the jurisdiction of the municipal court. The city categorizes tickets as parking infractions that are heard by a city hearing officer instead of the court. Cleveland and other Ohio cities that use the cameras have been facing constitutional challenges. The city has maintained they increase safety.
Home sales up
Home sales are up in our region last year, as well as in the state and nationwide. The Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors tells the Beacon Journal home sales in Summit County were up nearly 10 percent in 2013. For the entire region, the numbers are even better: Up nearly 12 percent. Prices were up, too. The median sale price in Summit County was $119 thousand, 4 percent higher than in 2012. Homes sold an average of 22 days more quickly. Nationally, sales were at their highest level since 2006: up 9.1 percent from 2012.
Thousands lose food stamps
Thousands of poor Ohio residents have lost food stamp benefits for not fulfilling work requirements, and the number is expected to rise in the coming months. The Columbus Dispatch reports over 10,000 people lost the benefits this month as Ohio began enforcing work requirements that were waived in recent years. The state says about 140,000 adults who don't have dependent children now can get the assistance only if they spend at least 20 hours working, attending class or job training, or volunteering each week. Thousands more food-stamp recipients are expected to lose the benefits soon because they haven't gone through an assessment of whether the work rules apply to them. For some, caseworkers with large caseloads haven't finished the assessments. Other recipients haven't showed up for assessments as requested.
Still no permit for racino
A new racino set to begin live horse racing this fall near Youngstown is still waiting for a permit from the Ohio Racing Commission. The commission denied the request Thursday, saying Penn National Gaming still has not committed to building the required number of horse racing stalls. The Vindicator newspaper reports Penn still has not finalized an agreement with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to build nearly a thousand horse stalls at the Austintown site. The commission said it won’t approve a permit until that agreement is signed. Penn Gaming has been at odds with the commission for the past year about racing regulations, including adequate seating. The commission has been concerned that the racino will favor slot machines over racing.
Unionization vote fails
Workers at a steel tube plant in Youngstown have overwhelmingly voted down a bid to unionize, just as the company is planning an $80 million expansion. The year-long organizing effort at Vallourec Star failed by more than 200 votes. Workers who were in favor of unionizing told the Vindicator the campaign was not a failure because the company has now responded to some of the workers’ concerns. Union representatives blamed the loss on—quote—“An aggressive anti-union” campaign that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others say higher costs tied to the unionization could’ve put the $80 million dollar project in jeopardy.
Columbus schools launch ethics hotline
Columbus City Schools are launching an “ethics hotline” as a result of the state auditor’s investigation into data-scrubbing. The district, along with seven others in the state, have been investigated for removing poor-performing students and re-enrolling them to avoid counting their test scores in overall performance rankings. The Columbus Dispatch reports the hotline will allow employees to anonymously report wrongdoing. The state auditor’s report on the investigation in Columbus has not yet been released, but the Dispatch has reported criminal charges are likely.
Irving, James named to team USA
Cavs’ point guard Kyrie Irving had a big day yesterday. He was named a starter in next month’s NBA All-Star game and named to the USA Basketball men’s national team. Irving is just the third All-Star starter in Cavs history, behind Shawn Kemp and LeBron James. Irving will likely play on the U.S. World Cup team this summer and could play in the 2016 Olympics. He’ll join Akron-native LeBron James on the USA Basketball men’s national team. If James plays in the 2016 Olympics, he’ll be the only USA men’s basketball player in history to compete in four Olympics.