Pot for GOP Health, Gas for West Side Liberals

The University of Cincinnati College Republicans lucked out last week. The cancellation of a speech by William Bennett -- former U.S. Education Secretary, former national drug czar and ongoing rad

Feb 1, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Matt Borgerding

The new voting machines for Hamilton County are on display and available for testing.

The University of Cincinnati College Republicans lucked out last week. The cancellation of a speech by William Bennett — former U.S. Education Secretary, former national drug czar and ongoing radio talk-show demagogue — left the floor open for a more thoughtful presentation. Rob Ryan, regional director of Republicans for Compassionate Access, addressed the group on the political impact of marijuana, especially medical marijuana. While some might be surprised to hear about Republicans organizing in support of medical marijuana, Ryan held out the example of Bob Ehrlich's successful race for governor of Maryland. While in Congress, Ehrlich supported a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Ryan blasted Ohio Democrats, calling them "spineless" for not more aggressively pushing for passage of Senate Bill 74, which would allow doctors in Ohio to prescribe marijuana. He also recalled an event earlier this year when, he said, the Ohio Democratic Party attempted to have him banned from a meeting at a Columbus hotel when he raised the issue of medical marijuana. After what Ryan called "an embarrassing standoff" for the Democrats, then-State Sen. Mark Mallory came to his aid and Ryan was allowed back into the event.

Thanks to the conservative American Family Association (AFA), many people are learning about an oil company that progressives can love: Citgo. The AFA is urging people not to patronize Citgo because it's wholly owned by Venezuela's state petroleum company.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an ardent critic of U.S. foreign policy, but that's not the only reason to gas up at Citgo. The company set up an aid program in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina and has promised to set aside up to 10 percent of its refined oil products to be sold at discounted rates to hospitals, nursing homes and schools in the United States. In Greater Cincinnati, Citgo has stations in Monfort Heights and Westwood.

Protecting the Vote and Mentoring Bulldogs
This is an opportunity for grassroots supporters who have been demanding fair elections ever since the U.S. Supreme Court nullified the recount in Florida in 2000 and appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is putting its new voting equipment on display and urging the public to test it.

"We are encouraging anyone interested in the new system to stop by and try it out," says Pamela Swafford, deputy director of the board of elections.

The system is called e-Scan, and it provides a measure of assurance long demanded by many election-reform advocates, according to John Williams, director of the board of elections.

"Hamilton County Board of Elections board members and staff selected the eScan after an intensive search of voting systems with a variety of technologies and felt the eScan was the most reliable and secure because it provides a paper trail that can be audited," he says.

The e-Scan will be used for the first time Tuesday during a special election in the St. Bernard-Elmwood Place City School District. The voting machines will be open to public inspection from noon-6 p.m. Wednesday at IGA in Elmwood Place, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday at U.S. Bank in Elmwood Place and 1-5 p.m. Friday at St. Bernard City Hall.

Mentors make a difference in the lives of kids whose educational progress is shaped by disadvantages outside their control. The need is especially great in Covington, according to Warner Allen, resource development director for the Covington School District. He points to the fact that 30 percent of the district's students are transient, 10 percent are homeless, 10 percent live in public housing, 22 percent receive special education, 73 percent receive free and reduced-price lunches and only 28 percent of Covington's graduates go to college.

Fortunately, the school district has a well-developed mentoring program designed to maximize the limited time many people have for volunteering.

"Many adults express the wish to act as mentors but cite difficulty in finding time," Allen says.

Covington's six mentoring programs include "Playground Pals," who engage in positive play with individuals or small groups during indoor or outdoor recess; "Lunch Buddies," who engage in positive dialogue during lunch at school; "Celebrity Readers," who read a storybook to a kindergarten or first grade class and donate the book to the classroom library; "Arts Partners," taking students to cultural and educational events; "Across Ages Mentors," building relationships between middle-school students and adults age 55 and older; and "Bulldog Connection Mentors," meeting for an hour a week with students at Holmes Junior/Senior High School.

To become a mentor, contact Renata Watts at 859-655-9545, ext. 6413 or [email protected].

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