Portune talks with potential gubernatorial running mate as time runs short
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune may be one step closer to challenging Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald in the race for Ohio Governor. Several media outlets report Portune is in discussions with former Toledo mayor Jack Ford about joining the ticket as his running mate in the Democratic primary. Ford was the first black mayor of Toledo and is now a city councilman. Portune has until Wednesday to collect 1,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. He can’t begin gathering those signatures until he has a running mate.
Ohio State set to name UC-Irvine chancellor as new president
Ohio State University is expected to name its new president today. The Columbus Dispatch reports the Board of Trustees will likely hire University of California-Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake to succeed Gordon Gee. Drake has been UC Irvine chancellor since 2005 and was also vice president for health affairs for the U-C system. He also serves on the board of directors for Division I NCAA. Prior to entering the academic world, Drake worked as an ophthalmologist. The Dispatch reports he still has an interest in medicine and plans to encourage medical students to work in underserved communities.
Police detective facing tax charges
An East Cleveland police detective is facing tax charges linked to his private security business. The Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted 39-year-old Scott Gardner of Ravenna Wednesday on felony and misdemeanor charges. Gardner ran a company called CPACS, which used off-duty officers for private security, and the indictment claims he failed to collect sales taxes for three years and under-reported his income taxes by more than $22,000.
Cleveland Clinic workers take early retirement packages
More than 700 workers at the Cleveland Clinic have accepted early retirement packages. The retirements are part of the Clinic’s plan to cut $330 million from its budget. WKYC reports the Clinic plans to backfill about half of the positions that are deemed clinically necessary. The Cleveland Clinic is the region’s largest employer with about 42,000 workers.
Firefighters gather for memorial service in Toledo
Firefighters from around the nation are expected to be among the mourners at a memorial service for two Toledo firefighters killed in an apartment blaze. The service will take place tonight at Toledo's convention center. City officials expect several thousand people to attend the service. Firefighters Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman died Sunday while fighting a blaze near downtown. Investigators have not released a cause for the fire or details about what led to their deaths.
Bill looks at physical education requirements
An Ohio bill would let school boards decide what athletic club activities would excuse high school students from physical education requirements. Current law gives districts and chartered, nonpublic schools the authority to excuse students who participate in interscholastic athletics, marching band, or cheerleading for at least two full seasons, or Junior ROTC for two full school years. The measure would add participation in a school-sponsored athletic club to the list of waivers. The House passed the bill Wednesday. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. The bill sponsors say high school students participate in various kinds of activities that require a commitment to physical activity, yet they do not meet the current guidelines to exempt them from physical education requirements.
Kasich, others to discus 2014 policy and political plans
Ohio's top leaders are expected to discuss their policy and political plans for the year at a legislative preview session for journalists, organized by The Associated Press. Many of the participants in the forum today are up for re-election this fall, including Republican Gov. John Kasich. Others include Auditor Dave Yost and Secretary of State Jon Husted. The event comes ahead of the governor's annual State of the State address, which is scheduled for Feb. 24.
Stun gun lawsuit settled
The family of a suburban Columbus man who suffered brain damage after police used a Taser stun gun on him has settled their federal civil rights lawsuit for $2.25 million. The settlement is between the Dublin family of Matthew Hook and the Columbus suburb of Perry Township, its board of trustees and a police officer. Hook, then 23, was unarmed and fleeing police over a theft in 2010. He was stunned in the back with a Taser as he climbed a fence, causing him to fall head-first onto the concrete below. The township’s attorney says the settlement is not an admission of liability and that insurance will pay for the settlement.
20,000 approved for Medicaid coverage
Ohio officials say they've received more than 54,000 applications from people seeking Medicaid health coverage through a new state website. Of those submitted, Ohio Medicaid says more than 20,000 applications had been approved as of Jan. 22. Almost 4,000 applications were denied. The online enrollment option became available in December. It’s not known how many applications came from those who are newly eligible under the Medicaid extension
Nine dead from seasonal flu in Cuyahoga
We are now entering what is considered the “peak” of the flu season and Cuyahoga County reports nine deaths tied to the illness so far. WKYC reports five of those victims were between the ages of 45 and 59. The strain of the flu doctors are most concerned about this year is H1N1, the same strain that hit hard four years ago, dubbed the swine flu. Last year, 21 people died of flu in Cuyahoga County.
Blade sues for Coingate report
The Toledo Blade newspaper is suing to get a copy of the official report on Ohio’s “Coingate” scandal. The Blade reports it filed the lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday. The paper wants to the state inspector general to release his report on “Coingate,” nine years after the investigation began. The Inspector General’s office initially said it wouldn’t release the report at all, then reversed that decision in 2012, saying it would release it when it was finished. Toledo-area coin dealer Tom Noe was convicted of stealing $13 million from the rare-coin and collectible funds he ran for the state Bureau of Workers Compensation.
FirstMerit profits up
Profits are up for FirstMerit Corp. The Akron-based bank reported profits of $57 million, up from $38 million in the fourth quarter a year ago. Its yearly profits were up as well: $177 million compared to $134 mllion in 2012. FirstMerit has posted a profit every quarter for nearly 15 years. The company says it had an especially strong year. A highlight was the bank’s acquisition of Citizens Republic Bancorp., making FirstMerit the 26th largest bank in the country.
Bill would keep trucks out of fast lane
Ohio lawmakers are considering legislation that would keep semi-trucks out of the left-hand lanes of the state’s highways. It would require vehicles that weigh more than 10 thousand pounds to stay out of the left-hand lanes on highways that have three or more lanes bound in the same direction. Violators could be fined $100. The bill has stalled out in committee where it’s been since last fall. Opponents say it would endanger truckers, especially when navigating through urban areas.
New effort to find jobs for welfare recipients falls short
A report shows that Ohio's new effort to find jobs for welfare recipients has fallen short. The $66 million effort launched six months ago has so far come up with work for about 250 Ohioans, and three-quarters are earning $10 or less. Of that number, just five were still employed after 90 days. The Columbus Dispatch reports that half of the state's 20 regional workforce boards trying to make placements have found no one a job. The Ohio Works Incentive Program was intended to help people get from welfare to work, but state officials acknowledge that initial results are underwhelming.
State legislators consider data scrubbing scandal
State legislators are discussing what steps they will take to make sure the Columbus schools data-scrubbing scandal doesn’t happen again. Republican House Speaker William Batchelder of Medina, tells the Columbus Dispatch he plans to take a look at the audit, speak with the Columbus mayor and possibly hold hearings. Other legislators say the corruption was cultural and the needed changes can take place without legislation now that many school officials have resigned or been removed. Ohio’s Auditor found Columbus City School administrators removed poor-performing students from the rolls so they wouldn’t count in overall district rankings and criminal charges are likely.
Bill would make adoption cheaper, faster
A bipartisan bill in the Ohio Statehouse aims to make adoption easier and cheaper. The bill passed the House yesterday and now heads to the Senate. It would increase the state tax credit for adopting from $1,500 to $10 thousand. It would also change the amount of time a father has to make a legal claim on the child, and cuts the period in which an adoption can be challenged from a year to 60 days. Those opposed to the bill say it only helps adoptive families and doesn’t make anything better for birth families.