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Morning Headlines: Democratic Race for Governor Shifts; Bill Seeks More Time for Affinity Closure

photo of Ohio Statehouse cupola

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, Jan. 12:

  • Lawmakers seek to buy time ahead of Affinity hospital closure;
  • Cleveland Museum of Natural History appoints interim CEO;
  • Laid off Union Metal workers can get career help from state jobs agency;
  • Browns Perfect Season Parade raises $17,157 for Greater Cleveland Food Bank;
  • Flag burner sues Cleveland, police and InfoWars host Alex Jones;
  • Judge overseeing big pharma lawsuit asks state prosecutors to weigh in;
  • Democratic race for Ohio governor shifts with departure of Whaley, entry of Kucinich;
  • Akron man posing as police officer pleads guilty to assault charges;
  • Akron-Canton Airport CEO announces retirement;
  • Pilot who crash landed in Wadsworth escapes unscathed;

Lawmakers seek to buy time ahead of Affinity hospital closure
Two state representatives from Stark County have introduced a bill that would extend the timeline to close Affinity Medical Center in Massillon. Republican Rep. Kirk Schuring and Democratic Rep. Thomas West introduced House Bill 462 on Thursday. The bill would give employees and patients up to nine months to weigh in on closures of certain for-profit hospitals. Qualifying hospitals would need to be owned by an out-of-state corporation. The bill needs to be fast-tracked to get a General Assembly vote and a signature from Gov. John Kasich by the end of the month. Affinity plans to close on Feb. 4.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History appoints interim CEO
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has appointed an interim CEO following the departure of its previous chief executive. Evalyn Gates left the museum last month because of disagreements over a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation project. Cleveland lawyer and fundraiser Sonia Winner will take her place as acting director, effective immediately. Cleveland.com reports Winner plans to reassess the scope and budget for the museum’s ongoing expansion and renovation. The museum has raised about half of the $150 million it needs for the project. Winner has previously worked at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State and Columbia in New York. The museum is forming a search committee to find a permanent CEO.

Laid off Union Metal workers can get career help from state jobs agency
The state’s jobs agency is providing help for people left unemployed by the closure of Union Metal. OhioMeansJobs will hold informational sessions next week at its offices in Canton and New Philadelphia. Workers can get advice on their job search and see if they qualify for unemployment compensation. More than 300 people were laid off in December. A few dozen salaried and union employees are still working at the Canton plant, which is set to close sometime this year. Union Metal is also facing a lawsuit over unpaid services from a Tennessee galvanizing company.

Browns Perfect Season Parade raises $17,157 for Greater Cleveland Food Bank
Organizers of last week’s Browns Perfect Season Parade in Cleveland will be dropping off a sizeable donation to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank this morning. A GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the parade said excess funds would be donated to the food bank. Organizers Kevin Beard and Chris McNeil will deliver the $17,157 check along with 2,000 nonperishable food items. The money will provide almost 70,000 meals for those in need.

Flag burner sues Cleveland, police and InfoWars host Alex Jones
A man whose 1989 Supreme Court case affirmed flag burning as protected speech is suing the city of Cleveland, along with police officers and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The lawsuit claims Cleveland police officers immediately used fire extinguishers and took Gregory Lee Johnson, 61, to the ground after officers broke through a "safety circle" of fellow protesters when he set fire to the American flag at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.  Johnson was jailed and charged after two associates of Jones, host of the InfoWars radio program, told police they were burned after the flag was set on fire, a claim the lawsuit says was never proven. Prosecutors withdrew the charge against Johnson, of San Francisco, last January.

Judge overseeing big pharma lawsuit asks state prosecutors to weigh in
A federal judge who's overseeing lawsuits from around the country against the pharmaceutical industry has invited state attorneys general to participate in the case. Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland is overseeing a consolidated case involving dozens of suits filed by local communities against drugmakers and drug distributors. Polster says he’s invited representatives from two groups of attorneys general to attend a hearing later this month. One group, represented by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, has filed its own lawsuits over fallout from the opioid epidemic. A second group has joined a multistate investigation of the industry. Polster says it's clear any settlement with drugmakers must be "a global one" and include the states.

Democratic race for Ohio governor shifts with departure of Whaley, entry of Kucinich
Choices for Ohio Democrats in the governor’s race this spring are coming into focus. Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich will formally enter the race next week and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is expected to drop her campaign today. Connie Pillich, a former Cincinnati-area state representative, plans to remain in the race and fight on through the May 7 primary. That leaves the combined ticket of Richard Cordray and Betty Sutton, plus former justice Bill O’Neill, and state Senator Joe Schiavoni remaining in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Akron man posing as police officer pleads guilty to assault charges
An Akron man whom authorities say handcuffed and assaulted students while claiming to be a police officer conducting "scared straight" programs has pleaded guilty. Christopher Hendon, 26, wore law enforcement gear including a badge, firearm and stun gun when he falsely told officials at two Akron-area schools in March and April that he was an officer for a program meant to frighten children into avoiding bad behavior.

Akron-Canton Airport CEO announces retirement
The head of the Akron-Canton Airport says it’s time to retire. Rick McQueen will step down in December after 36 years at the airport, the last 10 years as president and CEO. Akron-Canton has seen continued changes under McQueen with upgrades to the terminal and a runway extension as part of an ongoing $118-million capital improvement plan. Currently, four airlines fly from CAK to 14 destinations. United Airlines recently announced it’s adding a new Houston route from Akron-Canton.

Pilot who crash landed in Wadsworth escapes unscathed
No one was injured when a single-engine plane crashed Thursday during a landing at Wadsworth Municipal Airport. Pilot Roger Keene, 73, of Litchfield said the plane lost power about a mile outside the airport, so he chose the safest place he could find to land. The plane crash-landed in the backyard of a house.

Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. After serving as WKSU's Morning Edition host for a dozen years, she moved to afternoons in March of 2022 to become the local host of All Things Considered. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.