Morning Headlines: Farmer Sues Over New Lake Erie Bill of Rights, Akron Zoo Receives $1M Donation

Feb 28, 2019

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, March 28:

  • Farmer sues Lake Erie Bill of Rights;
  • Akron Zoo receives anonymous $1M donation;
  • Cleveland Clinic reports drop in income;
  • Police: No charges in Summit County Fair accident;
  • Ohio gas utility faces $400,000 fine for 2017 fire;
  • Court rules Hoover Co. retirees not entitled to health benefits;
  • AT&T workers call for Ohio Congress members to support investigation;
  • Hard Rock Rocksino to become MGM Northfield Park;
  • Cleveland Public Library to go fine-free;

Farmer sues over new Lake Erie Bill of Rights
A city charter amendment passed Tuesday by Toledo voters that gives residents the right to sue on behalf of Lake Erie has already seen its first legal challenge. A Wood County farmer has filed suit against the so-called Lake Erie Bill of Rights, calling the measure unconstitutional. Mark Drewes is a farmer in Custer, Ohio and on the board of directors for The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. Drewes’ lawyer calls the charter amendment, “an assault on the fundamental rights of family farms in the Lake Erie Watershed.” The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is the first rights-based law in the US that acknowledges the rights of a distinct ecosystem.

Akron Zoo receives anonymous $1M donation
The Akron Zoo has received an anonymous donation of $1.5 million for the largest gift in the institution's history. The zoo said the money it will go toward a fundraising campaign for the facility's current expansion, which has now reached $4.8 million of its $6 million goal. The expansion will include new wildlife areas such as the Pride of Africa and Wild Asia. The Pride of Africa area is scheduled to open June 1. Wild Asia is expected to open in the summer of 2020.

Cleveland Clinic reports drop in income
The Cleveland Clinic saw a steep drop in income last year according to numbers released Wednesday. The systems’ operating income fell by 19 percent in 2018. CEO Tom Milhaljevic in his annual State of the Clinic address Wednesday blamed rising costs and declines in reimbursements. Mihaljevic said he plans to focus on building the system’s operational efficiencies to cut costs. The Clinic last month added two Florida hospitals to the system, and plans to begin building a new hospital this year in Mentor. A new 200-bed Cleveland Clinic hospital in London is scheduled to open in 2021.

Police: No charges in Summit County Fair accident
Police in Tallmadge said no charges will be filed against a motocross racer or organizers of an event that sent three spectators, including a two-year old girl, to the hospital. A police report says 30 year-old racer William Bair lost control of his bike and flew into the stands Saturday at the Summit Indoor MX event at the Summit County Fairgrounds. Bair then slammed into the arena wall. He has been released from the hospital. None of the victims’ injures were life-threatening.

Ohio gas utility faces $400,000 fine for 2017 fire
An Ohio gas utility faces a $400,000 fine for its role in an accidental fire in 2017. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said the gas line fire happened due to a Columbia Gas of Ohio contractor's reliance on incomplete records that did not show an abandoned — but fully pressurized — gas line at an Avon home. Columbia has said it has implemented new measures to identify gas lines and shut down unused service lines. The commission concluded Columbia should have discovered inconsistencies in their records during routine leak tests and meter readings. Columbia says that property owners were responsible for installing gas lines before 2008.

Court rules Hoover retirees not entitled to health benefits
A federal appeals court has ruled that about 1,000 North Canton-based Hoover retirees are not entitled to lifetime health benefits. The retirees sued when Whirlpool notified them in 2011 that it would reduce health care benefits and reserved the right to terminate them. Whirlpool appealed a 2014 judge's ruling in favor of the retirees. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the company in its ruling last week. The next step could be the U.S. Supreme Court.

AT&T workers call for Ohio Congress members to support investigation
AT&T workers are calling for Ohio’s members of congress to support an investigation into the company’s use of tax benefits. Communications Workers of America said the recent layoffs of nearly 12,000 AT&T workers have gone against the company’s claim that the Trump administration's tax overall would create job growth.  AT&T reported a $19 billion profit in the fourth quarter, resulting in $3 billion in extra cash this year. AT&T says despite closing three Midwest call centers, it hired more than 20,000 people last year, including 500 in Ohio.

Hard Rock Rocksino becomes MGM Northfield Park
The Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield Park is getting a new name, along with a whole new look. Cleveland.com reports it will become MGM Northfield Park. MGM Growth Properties paid $1 billion for the Rocksino in July, and the deal is expected to be completed in April. Its logo will change from a guitar to a lion.

Cleveland Public Library to go fine-free
In honor of the Cleveland Public Library’s 150th anniversary, it will be eliminating fines starting mid-summer. There will still be replacement fees for lost books. The decision is a part of a national trend to eliminate fees; Columbus, Dayton and Toledo libraries have all gone fine-free. Currently, 3,000 adults at the Cleveland Public Library are blocked from using their library cards because of an average of $40 in fines.