Hello all. We’re mere hours away from Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, so I’ll be brief.
Candidates for the two open Hamilton County Commission seats are duking it out today in a debate in Price Hill put on by WCPO. Democrats State Rep. Denise Driehaus and incumbent Todd Portune are battling their respective Republican opponents, interim commissioner Dennis Deters and small businessman Andrew Pappas, over the region’s heroin crisis, what to do with the aging Western Hills Viaduct, the county’s Metropolitan Sewer District and more. In the balance: which party will control the county’s most powerful decision-making body after a long run of Republican leadership. The Democrats represent long-time political savvy and experience — Driehaus comes from a political family and has been a long-time presence in Cincinnati and the county, and Portune has been in city and county politics for decades, from his service as a Cincinnati City Councilman in the 1990s to his current role as a commissioner.
Republican Deters also comes from a political family — his brother Joe is Hamilton County’s high-profile, part-time prosecutor — but he’s had limited political experience, mostly as a Colerain Township Trustee. That was before the Hamilton County GOP appointed him this year to fill a spot vacated by Greg Hartmann, who abruptly resigned his county commission seat. Now, Deters is battling to convince voters to let him keep the seat. He’s kept a mostly low profile up until now, but he recently got some big help — the Ohio GOP will be spending money to support his race. Pappas, meanwhile, is also coming from a place of more limited political experience than his opponent. He runs a dry-cleaning business and has served as Anderson Township Trustee. He, too, has turned up his campaign efforts in recent weeks, releasing this Knight Rider-themed ad that has him zooming around in an ambulance for some reason.
• From time to time, we like to check in with our region’s favorite philosopher-politician and sensitive everyman, he who cries the tears of democracy, former House Speaker John Boehner. And there have been some exciting, tobacco-related developments since last we left our hero as he was piloting an RV across the asphalt prairie (his beautiful words, not mine) on a mission of self-discovery and political shilling for fellow GOP lawmakers. But Boehner contains multitudes, and it seems like he’s ditched the On the Road act for a gig on the board of Reynolds American, Inc., who, you know, make tons and tons of cigarettes. If you didn’t know this, Boehner loves cigarettes and smokes them often. According to a spokesperson, he’ll be working with Reynolds to end underage smoking, perhaps by going to schools and snatching children’s cigarettes and lighting them up himself while telling the youths terrifying stories about being forced to smoke Pall Malls with Tea Party radicals. “You don’t wanna end up like me, kids,” Boehner will tell the nascent tobacco addicts, exhaling a plume of smoke and regret. “You don’t get to be this orange in the tanning bed.”
• Welp, Ohio’s schools aren’t doing so great, according to new Ohio Department of Education scores released yesterday morning. Many public schools across the state scored harsh grades, including a bevy of Ds and Fs — even usually high-performing schools. Cincinnati Public was no exception. It scored two Ds and four Fs on the report cards, which measure everything from student achievement on state tests, graduation rates, college preparedness and so-called “gap closing,” which measures progress in closing divides between students in different socio-economic groups. On that last score, 526 out of 608 school districts received F ratings. Only two received As. Ouch. Districts, and even some conservative groups normally critical of public schools, have decried the report cards, citing new standards, new tests and other changes that make the school ratings all but meaningless. Even if schools are making slow progress, some school leaders say, it wouldn’t show up on the state reports this year due to shifting standards.
• So our public schools could be better. Let’s make more charter schoo… oh, wait, no, hold on. The federal government recently announced that while it won’t pull a $71 million grant it gave to Ohio to boost its charter schools, it is newly labeling that grant as “high risk” and doubling down on oversight to make sure there’s no fraud. That comes after a high-profile data rigging scandal at the Ohio Department of Education. The department's charter data expert, David Hansen, resigned after it was revealed he omitted low-performing online charter performance data from key reports. Oops. The feds first announced that Ohio would receive the grant last year, before they were aware of the concerns with the state’s charter system. Ohio’s charters generally perform about the same, or worse, than the state’s public schools, though they say that’s because they take on more challenging students and point out that there are some high-performing exceptions.
• Finally, news from Columbus, where the police shooting of a 13-year-old with a bb gun has made national news. Columbus Police Officer Bryan Mason shot and killed Tyre King after a reported armed robbery nearby. Mason stopped King and several other teens on suspicion of being involved in that robbery, but says King fled and appeared to pull a pistol out of his waistband when pursued. That pistol looked like a police service handgun, but turned out to be a bb gun, authorities say. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Police Chief Kim Jacobs are imploring the public to stay calm and wait for more facts to come out about the shooting. So far, no video has surfaced of the incident, and it’s unclear if King raised the gun or pointed it at officers. A friend with King when he was shot, 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton, said that King intended to rob someone and that the gun he had looked real. But King’s family has decried the shooting, saying he shouldn’t have died for one mistake. The teen had no past criminal history, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Officer Mason, who is currently on administrative leave, has been involved in several other police shootings in the city in 2010, 2012 and 2013. He was cleared of wrongdoing in all of those incidents.