Another Notch on Ohio's Syringe

It must have been a moment of pride for all Ohioans last week -- and especially for the new Democratic governor -- when Christopher Newton was slowly executed at the state prison in Lucasville. Th

Graham Lienhart

But is it art? Mentos makes Diet Coke surge skyward on Fountain Square.

It must have been a moment of pride for all Ohioans last week — and especially for the new Democratic governor — when Christopher Newton was slowly executed at the state prison in Lucasville. The poison didn't take effect until one hour and 53 minutes after the procedure began; the executioners reportedly had difficulty finding an effective vein.

The condemned man was stuck with a needle 10 times before success was achieved. But the accomplishment seemed lost on Sister Alice Gerdeman of Cincinnati, who protested outside the prison as Newton, a convicted murderer, lay dying.

"The inhumanity of the execution process, while cruel and unusual to the one being executed, must also affect those persons involved in carrying out the procedure," she said.

Newton's slaying was the second execution in Gov. Ted Strickland's first five months in office. He earlier approved a third one, but the U.S. Supreme Court got in the way and postponed it.

Now that Democrats are in the ascendancy, some progressives are chafing at the early results: Strickland signing death warrants, Congress backing off a confrontation with President Bush over the war in Iraq. That's one reason to welcome new rules providing small political parties easier access to the Ohio ballot.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner last week cut in half the number of signatures required for a "third" party to have its name accompany its candidates' names on the ballot.

The change came in response to a ruling last year by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Acting on a lawsuit filed by the Libertarian Party of Ohio, the judges ruled that Ohio law unconstitutionally restricts small parties. The old rules required parties to submit more than 40,000 signatures a full year before a general election.

"We still need to submit over 20,000 valid signatures by late November, but this new directive is only a temporary step in the right direction," said Libertarian Party Chair Robert Butler. "We hope that the Ohio General Assembly will write a new law that meets the Sixth Circuit's requirements to be constitutional."

Common Cause Ohio, long a champion of open and fair elections, has a new chair, William Woods, president of Applied Information Resources in Cincinnati. Woods became involved with Common Cause in 2001 when it joined the coalition he was leading in a successful campaign for a campaign-finance reform initiative in Cincinnati. Now he hopes to take reform to another level.

"After surviving one of the most expensive state and federal elections of all time last November, we reformers need to build citizen support for the public financing of elections at all levels," Woods says. 'The current presidential derby is a case in point. The candidates of both parties act like they are running to be top fundraisers rather than to be leaders of 'We the People.' "

Teachers' Salaries and Other Kid Stuff
What's it like to lose a game of chess to a kid? Visitors to Fountain Square Thursday can find out. That's when 25 of the 100 members of the Fairview Elementary Chess Club take on challengers. Starting at 12:30 p.m. anyone making a donation to support the arts, music and gifted programs at the school can play.

"This is a way to show the enthusiasm for these programs," says Amy Weyand-Geise, a self-titled "concerned and excited parent" helping to organize the event. "They're so fantastic."

The chess matches, weaving demonstrations by art students and a performance by the school's choir are part of a campaign to raise $111,800 by July 1 to fund art and music teachers' salaries at Fairview. The Cincinnati School Board recently enacted cuts and layoffs averaging $500 per child.

Weyand-Geise says they've already raised $60,000, and all donations will go toward funding teachers.

The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp., which manages Fountain Square for the city of Cincinnati, waived liability insurance and other fees so the parents and kids can use the square for free.

If you put Mentos candy into a bottle of Diet Coke, you get a sticky eruption. More amazing still, if you line up a whole bunch of bottles and do it, people will show up to participate. It happened May 24 on Fountain Square.

The event was staged by, with support from the candy company, setting a world record of 504 simultaneous Mentos geysers. Scolds might say it was a waste of food, but it helps put to rest the old canard about nothing exciting happening downtown.

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