Morning News and Stuff

Leelah Alcorn remembered; Ohio legislature not representative of state; Kasich sees upswing in New Hampshire

click to enlarge Attendees mourned Leelah Alcorn at a Jan. 3 vigil at Kings Mills High School.
Attendees mourned Leelah Alcorn at a Jan. 3 vigil at Kings Mills High School.

Good morning all. Hope your holidays have been good and, if you’re into the giving and receiving gifts thing, that you got and gave some good ones. So what’s up with news?

Greater Cincinnati’s transgender community will gather this morning at 10 a.m. at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine to remember Leelah Alcorn, the teen who took her own life one year ago today by stepping into traffic on I-71 near Mason. An online note auto-published after her death described the isolation and depression Alcorn felt over her treatment by her parents and peers because of her transgender status. That note challenged others to “fix society” and make it a more accepting place for people with non-binary gender identities. Cincinnati has made some progress toward that end: Cincinnati City Council passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors. That therapy seeks to turn LGBT people straight and is usually religiously based. Councilors in Cincinnati who practice that therapy on minors will receive a $200 fine. Cincinnati is the first city in the country to pass such a ban. Many transgender activists in the city say that’s a good start, but isn’t enough. They’re calling for increased help and protection for transgender people, especially the most vulnerable trans groups — people of color and minors who have become homeless because of their status. A number of trans people across the country in those vulnerable groups have been murdered in recent years.

• Local news is a little slow this week, but plenty is happening statewide. Let’s zoom out for a minute. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld continues to make the rounds in Ohio as he seeks to become the Democratic party’s nominee in the race for Republican Rob Portman’s U.S. Senate seat. Meanwhile, former Ohio governor and Dem frontrunner Ted Strickland has played a quieter waiting game, appearing at a few small events and releasing little in the way of policy statements or other missives aimed at wading into the political fray. That’s probably strategic: Polling shows Strickland, a well-known political force throughout Ohio, has carried a lead over incumbent Portman even as Sittenfeld trails both. Still, some statewide political figures are saying Strickland needs to start bringing substantive ideas to his campaign as Sittenfeld hits him with criticisms on gun control, climate change and other progressive issues. The Democratic underdog has also challenged Strickland to debates, but the frontrunner has so far been mum about facing off. Political experts believe Strickland will continue to ignore Sittenfeld unless he makes inroads with prospective voters.

• Is the Ohio legislature truly representative of the state? If you break it down demographically, it would seem not. Among those least represented in the state house: women, who make up 51 percent of Ohio’s population but hold just 25 percent of its legislative seats. Other groups, including Hispanics, are also under-represented, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News. It’s more than just a numbers game — the lack of representation means that public policy doesn’t take into account Ohio’s various populations and perspectives.

“With someone not in the room, a group not in the room representing different genders, sexual orientations, races — it’s a bunch of people guessing what that must be like,” state Rep. Dan Ramos told the paper. Ramos, a Democrat from Loraine, is one of just three Hispanic members to ever serve in the Ohio General Assembly. Though the state house has slowly become more representative over time, there is still a long way to go, some lawmakers say. That will take big social changes. Women are just as likely to win elections as men, some studies suggest, but are less likely to be in a position to run for office in the first place due to societal gender roles, parenting responsibilities and other factors.

• A grand jury decision could come any day in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann last November, the Associated Press reports. But the Rice family believes Loehmann won’t be charged in the shooting, according to their attorney, who has accused Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty of using the grand jury proceedings to “engineer denying justice” to the family. It’s been well over a year since the shooting, which was sparked by a 911 call from a man waiting for a bus. That call stipulated that the gun Rice had was probably fake, but a dispatcher didn’t relay that information to officers. The cruiser Loehmann was riding in stopped just feet from Rice. Loehmann jumped out and shot the boy within seconds of exiting the vehicle. The grand jury has heard testimony from experts convened by McGinty, who say the shooting was reasonable given what Loehmann knew about the situation, and other experts gathered by the Rice family who say Loehmann should be charged with the child’s death. The case has received national attention as police shootings of black citizens continue to rouse protests and calls for change.

• Will Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich’s fortunes turn around in the wild world of the Republican presidential primary? At least one poll suggests there might be a glimmer of hope yet for the perpetual presidential underdog. A new Quinnipiac poll out of New Hampshire has Kasich third only to Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the state, which holds the country’s second primary Feb. 9. That’s a big step up for Kasich — he was running sixth in New Hampshire earlier this month. In the past weeks, Kasich has stepped up his ground game in the state with more campaign staff and appearances there. The Kasich campaign has gone all-in on New Hampshire, indicating if the candidate doesn’t do well there, he may well pack it in and call it a day. But even as Kasich makes some progress in the Granite State, he’s still struggling in Iowa, another vital state hold its primary Feb. 1.

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