Cleveland reportedly shaking up safety forces leadership
The city of Cleveland is getting some new top safety officials today. Mayor Frank Jackson will swear in the city’s new safety director, chief of police and two commanders. The Plain Dealer reports that Martin Flask is expected to retire from his role as Cleveland’s safety director, and he will likely be replaced by current Chief of Police Michael McGrath. The department’s deputy chief of field operations is expected to be named the new chief. The changes come ahead of the fallout from a massive investigation into a 2012 police chase that left two people dead. A grand jury will decide whether any criminal charges will be filed against 13 police officers who fired 137 shots at the suspects. The U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into whether excessive force is routinely used by the department.
Marriage equality group seeks 1 million signatures for ballot initiative
A group that wants to overturn Ohio’s gay marriage ban says it plans to collect one million signatures to put the issue on the statewide ballot. FreedomOhio needs 385,000 valid signatures to get the issue before voters, but tells the Columbus Dispatch it has collected 650,000 signatures already. Organizers hope to reach their goal by the filing deadline for the November election, which is this summer. FreedomOhio says it’s still weighing whether to try for this year’s ballot or wait until 2016.
Ohio college student freezes to death
Authorities say a central Ohio college student died from hypothermia over the weekend. Twenty-one-year-old David Hallman’s body was found Saturday night outside a garage on the Denison University campus. Investigators say he had fallen asleep after leaving a bar and died from exposure. Temperatures that day ranged from 4 to 22 degrees.
Senators push for meeting with energy secretary over uranium enrichment project
Ohio's senators want to meet with the U.S. energy secretary to promote a uranium enrichment project in southern Ohio. Senators Rob Portman, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, and Cleveland Democrat Sherrod Brown have written letters that say they'd like to get a project progress update, discuss its future, and ask how they can help the Department of Energy. They have for years supported funding for the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, saying the enriched uranium project is needed for national security and energy supplies. They also say the plant is important to revitalizing an economically struggling region. Congress has funded continued research and development. The senators want to hear the long-term plans for the project, saying in their letter that it's "too important to fail now."
More firefighters, overtime spending should end fire department brownouts
A southwest Ohio city says more firefighters and continued spending for overtime should end frequent brownouts, or temporary reductions of service. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Mayor John Cranley and other city officials detailed plans Sunday to essentially end the practice in which fire units are taken out of service to stretch resources. The department has been averaging five brownouts a day. City officials say the brownouts can add to response times for fires and medical emergencies. A recruit class that graduated Friday added 14 firefighters a shift. The city is also spending $2.5 million a year on overtime.
Ohio State to offer veteran, military scholarships through Tillman Foundation
Ohio State University will offer scholarships for veterans, active military service members and their spouses through a partnership with the Pat Tillman Foundation, established in honor of former NFL player Pat Tillman. The Arizona Cardinals player left the team to join the Army after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. Ohio State is one of four universities named this year as a partner in the foundation's Tillman Military Scholars program. Ohio State's Undergraduate Fellowship Office will help recruit and advise applicants.
Wildlife officials propose changes to deer bag limits
Ohio wildlife officials have proposed hunting policies that would reduce the bag limit for deer for most of the state's counties. The Department of Natural Resources says its Division of Wildlife has proposed reducing the bag limit in 44 counties, keeping it the same in 39 and increasing it in five counties. A department release says the proposals reflect the reduced deer population in many counties. The public can comment on the Division of Wildlife proposals at public meetings March 1 and online at wildohio.com through March 2. The Ohio Wildlife Council will vote on the proposed policies in April after considering public input.
Department of Insurance recovers $23.5 million for Ohioans
Ohio's Department of Insurance says its toll-free hotlines, community outreach and counseling helped Ohioans save or recover about $23.5 million last year. Consumer complaints to the department led to some of the savings. The department's Office of Consumer Affairs says it received almost 5,400 consumer complaints in 2013, slightly lower when compared to 2012. The majority dealt with insurance claim denial, claim delay or unsatisfactory settlement offers. The office recovered $7.1 million for consumers while the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program saved $16.4 million. The department recommends that to avoid problems consumers should know what their policy says and to file claims as soon as possible. In 2012, the agency helped save or recover just over $24 million.
Trial date set for Youngstown businessman in alleged Clean Water Act violations
The owner of an oil and natural gas drilling company in Youngstown charged with violating the federal Clean Water Act goes on trial April 8. 62-year-old Ben Lupo and his company Hardrock Excavating have pleaded not guilty. Authorities allege Lupo ordered an employee to repeatedly dump gas-drilling wastewater intended for an injection well into a storm sewer that empties into the Mahoning River. The employee, 34-year-old Michael Guesman pleaded guilty last August and will be sentenced in March. His written plea agreement states Lupo asked him to dump brine and drilling mud from 20,000-gallon storage tanks down a storm drain on 24 nights beginning in December 2012.
New fund offers $7 million for tech businesses
A new fund will bring more than $7 million dollars to Ohio-based tech businesses. The Columbus Dispatch reports it’s the fourth fund of its kind from Ohio TechAngels. The fund raised nearly $4 million from nearly 100 investors, and that money was matched by Ohio Third Frontier—a state development initiative that provides funding for tech companies and products. Ohio TechAngels’ fund will invest up to a half million dollars in 14 new ventures over the next three years.
Prosecutors call for changes in GPS tracking law
Two central Ohio prosecutors are calling on the Ohio Supreme Court to clarify Ohio’s law about the use of vehicle GPS devices by police. The Columbus Dispatch reports their push comes after an appeals court ruled that evidence against two burglary suspects had to be suppressed because a Franklin County sheriff’s detective tracked the suspects with GPS units without a warrant. Changes have also been proposed in court rules that cover search warrants to secretly install tracking devices on vehicles. Right now, there is no distinction between search warrants and warrants used to track vehicles. Police and prosecutors say warrants shouldn’t be required in every tracking case, because law already allows searches without warrants if there is probable cause. Criminal defense lawyers call the tracking devices unconstitutional.
Gas prices on the rise
Prices at the pump in Ohio are creeping back up. The cost for a gallon of regular gas in Ohio is averaging $3.40 in today’s survey from auto club AAA and its partners. That's 9 cents higher than last Monday and up 14 cents from the price two weeks ago. Ohioans are paying 11 cents more a gallon than the national average.
Life-size memorial for Lima Company on display at Ohio Statehouse
A life-size memorial for the 23 members of Lima Company who were killed in Iraq back in 2005 is on display at the Statehouse in Columbus. The paintings of each of the fallen members of the Brook Park-based Lima 3/25 are displayed at museums and events around the country. They will be on display at the Statehouse rotunda through February 14th.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveils iconic Lennon guitar
Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has put another piece of Beatles history on display. The Plain Dealer reports the Rock Hall has the guitar John Lennon used on the Ed Sullivan show, which just marked its 50th anniversary. The famous black Rickenbacker is on loan directly from Yoko Ono in New York.