This Week in the Cle - Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019
Gun law proposals, dirtbike marauders, debate commission doubts, Bratenahl’s illegal secrecy, a handcuff controversy and terrorists at both ends of Ohio
Ohio legislators seem ready to require universal background checks for guns, but rural legislators appear to remain dead-set against allowing cities like Cleveland to reduce gun violence.
The debate on guns is where we begin the discussion on the latest episode of This Week in the CLE, the podcast discussion of the news by the state’s hardest-working news team, the reporters and editors at cleveland.com.
Politics editor Jane Kahoun handicaps the gun bills, giving much better odds to a bill mandating the universal background checks than she does for a bill allowing municipal governments to pass their own rules about guns.
Cleveland City Hall reporter Bob Higgs updates the move by city firefighters to get the fire chief fired for campaigning for Mayor Frank Jackson, in violation of the city charter. Bob offers his perspective on why firefighters so dislike their chief.
Bob also talks about the city’s quandary in dealing with dirt bike riders who stormed city streets recently, blocking off intersections and interfering with traffic. The panel wonders, though, whether this is the big deal that Councilman Mike Polensek makes it out to be. Given all of the other issues in Cleveland, does it matter if people are delayed for a moment by people out joyriding? Listen to the podcast for more information.
Soon to join dirt bikes on the streets: rented scooters. Bob explains how the city is finally allowing the return of the scooters, which are popular in other cities, after ordering them removed last year.
We also discuss the efforts by the Ohio Debate Commission to bring order and value to debates by candidates for office, but the panel also wonders whether the effort is worth the trouble. No matter what the rules, candidates always seem to say what they want to say and avoid answering questions that trouble them. Reporter Mary Kilpatrick covered a City Club forum about the issue and has the details.
We wonder whether a ballot initiative might result in the most expensive campaign spending in history. Jane explains how a move to abolish a bailout of the state’s increasingly obsolete nuclear plants – forced upon taxpayers by the Legislature and Gov. Mike DeWine – could show up on the ballot in 2020, as opponents work to abolish the bailout.
Jane, who handled and outsized portion of the week’s big news, also explains what Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wants to do to help ensure that a move to legalize hemp in Ohio does not accidentally legalize marijuana. She also provides details of Statehouse reporter Laura Hancock’s sleuthing to explain why Medicaid enrollment has dropped nearly every month since 2017.
Jane also talks about her favorite story of the week, the Ohio Supreme Court’s smackdown of Bratenahl, where elected leaders have been illegally concealing their votes on issues from the public. They have been meeting in public but holding secret ballots. Amazingly, two lower courts said that was okay. The Supreme Court finally weighed in and told tony Bratenahl to obey the law and do business in the sunshine.
Crime reporter Adam Ferrise talks about what he learned from public records about how a man came to be shot to death by an off-duty cop outside a bowling alley in University Circle last year. Adam also offers up the various explanations he was given for why $17,000 in handcuffs sit unused at the Cuyahoga County Jail, even though jail consultants say those handcuffs should be in the hands of the guards.
Cuyahoga County reporter Courtney Astolfi tells us why the administration of County Executive Armond Budish hired as a jail consultant the very person they fired some years ago, before the jail became an endless source of embarrassing news for Budish. Part of the bad news has been the accidental release of inmates who should have remained behind bars, and Adam tells us the story of a guard who was fired for an accidental release and her defense – supported by the public record – that a good bit of the blame goes to faulty jail computers.
Data expert Rich Exner explains why we should give credibility to a report by Policy Matters Ohio that says that only the richest 5 percent of Ohioans will benefit from a tax cut that the Republican-dominated Legislature boasted about when it adopted the latest state budget.
Rich also has the latest on the Ohio facial recognition database for law enforcement, and it might cause anxiety for people worried about privacy. Despite Gov. Mike DeWine’s statements a few weeks back, which might have lead people to believe that a database of Ohio driver license photos is used sporadically for law enforcement purposes, that database has been used thousands of times. The panel also slaps Attorney General Dave Yost for dismissing the concerns of privacy experts, as Yost’s explanations just don’t pass the sniff test.
Eric Heisig gives Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson a good shot at getting a chance to defend himself in federal court against claims he did not pay people he hired to cut lawns and do other work in his ward. Johnson missed a deadline for responding to a lawsuit, and even though Eric reached out to him for comment when the case was filed, Johnson claims he was unaware of it.
Eric also tells about two people, on opposite ends of Ohio in Warren and Toledo, who federal investigators identify as domestic terrorists, and we wonder what it is that drives people so young to become so radicalized.
And, three months after the county auditor walked away from his position for a lower paying job, Courtney explains why the replacement auditor is leaving Cuyahoga County.
We wrap up the podcast by chatting with cleveland.com’s newest columnist, veteran reporter Leila Atassi, and the heart-wrenching piece she wrote about the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Cleveland. Leila learned that the clubs, headed up by Ron Soeder, are depleting emergency funds to pay for funerals of club kids who have been murdered.
Leila also talks about some of the columns she’s planning in the near future, involving the desperate housing situation faced by people in poverty and youth homelessness.