Dayton battles state to keep traffic cameras on

Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 @ 7:49 PM
Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 @ 7:49 PM

The city of Dayton squared off against the State of Ohio in a courtroom battle Tuesday to keep Dayton’s red light cameras running.

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The hearing was held in Ohio’s 2nd District Court of Appeals, following an appeal filed by the state to fight a local injunction against a state law requiring a full-time, uniformed officer be present when a red light or speed camera snaps photos of motorists breaking the law.

Dayton’s assistant city attorney John Musto wasted no time attacking the state on a law he said violates the city’s home rule rights to enforce laws that protect its citizens.

“There’s no other way to say it. It’s a sham,” Musto said. “The provisions that are challenged are not general law, they’re nonsensical, they waste police resources and they’re specifically intended to act as a burden as a de facto ban on photo enforcement.”

It’s the second time this year Dayton’s gone to court to fight Ohio Senate Bill 342, which took effect March 23. It requires jurisdictions using automated cameras to issue citations for speeding and running red lights to place an officer at the devices during their operation. The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on April 2 issued an injunction that said the state’s ticket camera restrictions were unenforceable.

Dayton’s cameras stayed on until language in the state’s budget indicated the city would lose state funding in an amount equal to what was billed in traffic tickets from March — an amount likely well beyond how much was collected from those tickets. Now the city only issue tickets when an officer is present, as outlined in SB 342.

State assistant attorney general Halli Watson said the law as written by the general assembly is meant to standardize traffic laws in Ohio, similar to those that pertain to speed limits and stop signs. She also argued the provisions requiring an officer be present merely go a step further than Dayton’s requirement that an officer review footage before a ticket is issued.

“Having a police officer present inserts a level of human involvement and common sense that you can never have when you’re dealing solely with an automated camera enforcement system,” she said.

Dayton is one of three Ohio cities challenging the state law. Similar injunctions were filed on behalf of Akron and Toledo in their respective counties. The three-judge panel for the 2nd district court in Dayton could make a decision as soon as Friday on whether or not to uphold Dayton’s injunction.

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Judge candidate fails to make ballot in Montgomery County and will fight to get in race

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 5:22 PM
Updated: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 6:06 PM

Judge candidate fails to make ballot in Montgomery County
Judge candidate fails to make ballot in Montgomery County

One candidate for judge won’t make the May 8 primary ballot in Montgomery County after the board of elections on Tuesday certified nominating petitions submitted by candidates.

Democrat Alan D. Gabel of Dayton submitted nominating petitions with the wrong commencement date for the Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge-General Division position he sought, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the board.

Failing to put the correct date on the petition is considered a “fatal error” because each common pleas judge position has a specific start date and the correct one must be listed on nominating petitions signed by registered voters, Harsman said..

That means there will be no primary race for the remaining Democrat, Montgomery County Juvenile Court Magistrate Gerald Parker of Centerville, who will face Judge Erik R. Blaine, a Republican, in the November 6 General Election.

Gabel said on Friday that he will fight the decision, first by asking the local board to reconsider and then by appealing in court. He said it was clear which judgeship he was running for and that his petitions should have been accepted even though they had the wrong date.

All other candidates were certified except some seeking political party state central committee spots.

County voters will see contested primary races for U.S. Congress and the Ohio House.

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Contested primaries will also occur in the races for Montgomery County Commission, County Clerk of Courts and two other Common Pleas Court races.

Boards of election in Ohio must certify petitions for the May primary election by Feb. 19.

Other stories by Lynn Hulsey

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Springboro to spend $200,000 on land for new park

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 11:04 AM

5.7 acres on NW corner Crosley Rd, Lytle-Five Points in Clearcreek Twp.

The Springboro City Council authorized the city manager to pay $190,000 for 5.8 acres of residential property on Lytle-Five Points Road and shift $200,000 in city funds to pay for the land.

The votes during Thursday’s council meeting came on two legislative items added to the agenda and approved on first readings.

Supporters say the new park would help serve residents in an area where most of the city’s growth has happened.

MORE: Springboro to unveil Veterans Memorial

The land is at 525 W. Lytle-Five Points Road, at the southwest corner of Lytle-Five Points and Crosley Road, in Clearcreek Twp.

City Manager Chris Pozzuto said the seller was Gary Gibson. Property tax records indicate the owners, Gibson and his wife, live nearby on Crosley Road.

The land is valued at $76,270 by the Warren County Auditor’s Office. A home on the property has been removed and a sign indicated it was still up for sale on Friday.

During Thursday’s council work session before the formal meeting, Councilwoman Janie Ridd asked what would happen if the Clearcreek Twp. Board of Trustees decided not to collaborate with the city on the park.

“We have a lot of options,” Pozzuto said, including leaving the land as green space or reselling it.

MORE: Springboro development could spur $350 million in investment

Previous discussion of the land purchase was in executive session.

On Thursday, the council adjourned into another executive session before returning to approve the purchase during an open meeting.

“While the city has over 400 acres of park land / public open space, most of it lies in the west and southwest parts of the city. There aren’t any public parks in the northeast area of the city, where most of the residential growth has been over the past 10-15 years,” Pozzuto said in a email this morning.

Before the votes, Pozzuto indicated the land could be developed as a park or left as green space.

With Councilman Jim Chmiel absent, the vote on each item was 6-0.

“This will allow the city to develop a park close to many of the newer neighborhoods that have been developed recently. The hope is to create a passive park that would contain open space, picnic shelter(s), playground(s), a small paved walking trail, etc.,” Pozzuto added Friday.

The city’s North Park is 2.4 miles away, across Ohio 741, Main Street in Springboro.

MORE: Developer withdraws plan for development of historic farm

The property sale price is $190,000, with $10,000 for a title search and other work done in anticipation of the sale, according to Pozzuto.

We were unable to reach Clearcreek Twp. officials about the proposed park.

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The new Hamilton fire chief has many to thank for his career, including his mother-in-law

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 12:47 PM

            New Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer was sworn in on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. MIKE RUTLEDGE / STAFF
New Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer was sworn in on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. MIKE RUTLEDGE / STAFF

Some people, when they’re sworn in to a new city government position, bring a few family members with them.

When new Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer was sworn in on Wednesday, he brought a few … and a few more.

They all gathered at the front of Hamilton City Council Chambers for the swearing-in ceremony. There was even one from New York, and Mercer’s mother-in-law, Treva Wyatt, who herself worked 31 years in the city’s tax department.

After the new chief was sworn in, Wyatt announced that she was the one who set him on the path of firefighting for Hamilton 29 years ago.

RELATED: New Hamilton fire chief promoted from within

“Because of me, he is a fireman,” she said. After he married her daughter, “I said, ‘Here’s your application.’ I got it when personnel brought it to me. ‘Fill this out.’”

“We’re lucky and happy to have you as our fire chief,” Mayor Pat Moeller told him. “He’s obviously a family guy.”

The graduate of Badin High School and the University of Cincinnati “knows a lot about technology,” Moeller said. “I think he’s going to advance our fire and (emergency services) in the technology area…. He’s also very responsive to my very stupid telephone questions.”

Mercer displayed his wit during the ceremony. When Moeller asked if any family members wanted to say something, Mercer quipped: “There are a few that probably we want to not.”

At least two kiddingly raised their hands, indicating they were ones who probably should not.

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NRA spent millions to keep Ohio Sen. Portman in office

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 2:48 PM

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(J. Scott Applewhite)

During the 2016 election, the National Rifle Association and its donors gave Sen. Rob Portman’s campaign $9,900 — a drop in the bucket of the $25 million Portman raised and an argument against the notion that the gun rights group had “bought” the support of the state’s junior senator.

But three other numbers are also worth considering: $242,708; $1.55 million and $3.06 million.

RELATED: 5 Ohio school shootings that shocked local communities

The first represents the amount that the NRA spent on independent expenditures such as ads supporting Portman in 2016. The second represents the amount spent opposing Democrat Ted Strickland, who Portman defeated in 2016.

The third is what the organization has spent on Portman since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The oft–repeated refrain from gun control advocates after mass shootings is that gun rights groups used political donations in order to influence lawmakers to oppose gun control measures.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. Instead, say those who monitor the NRA and other gun rights groups, the goal is to make sure that the seats are never held by anyone who might support new restrictions in the first place.

Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, said “it’s mostly hyperbole that campaign contributions can directly buy votes in Congress.”

Instead, he said, the issue falls on strictly ideological grounds: Republicans rarely stray from the party’s stance of opposing new gun restrictions while Democrats — once far more divided on the issue – have dug in on the notion of additional restrictions.

“The debate is on clear party and ideological lines,” he said.

And while Democrats have become more vocal on the issue, it’s episodic. No one is shutting down the government over gun control.

“It’s not like it’s the number one issue in the Democratic Party,” he said.

» MUST-READ COVERAGE: Loaded guns showing up in younger hands at area schools

While money may not change hearts and minds, it does, however, help win seats. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that tracks money in politics, gun rights groups spent some $54 million in outside spending on the 2016 elections. Gun control groups, by contrast, spent about $3 million.

Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles and the author of the book “Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” said while “money helps,” it’s how that money is spent that matters.

“The NRA is strong today not simply because it doles out independent expenditures,” he said. “The NRA is strong today because voters listen to the NRA.”

He also dismisses the frequent notion that pro–gun rights lawmakers vote that way solely because of campaign contributions.

“If you think elected officials are for sale to the highest bidder, then Michael Bloomberg (who founded Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group) should just spend more than the NRA does on the exact same candidates,” he said. “I would assure you that all the Republican candidates who got a huge contribution from Michael Bloomberg are not going to change their positions on guns…the NRA’s power comes from the fact that they can swing voters on Election Day and politicians know that.”

While polls taken as late as November 2017 indicate that 94 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers, for example, Winkler said, the gun rights advocates often have more power because they are more vocal.

“In a democracy, a mobilized and vocal minority can often win over a diffuse majority,” he said. “And that’s how it is on gun control. A lot of people support federal gun control laws but are not single issue pro-gun control voters, whereas people are often single-issue pro-gun voters.”

Asked about NRA contributions to her boss, Portman spokeswoman Emily Benavides said Portman supports Second Amendment rights but believes in strengthening the national background check system and working to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

“Rob’s priority is doing what’s right for the people of the Ohio and that’s what guides his legislative decisions in Washington,” she said.

She called the most recent mass shooting at a Florida high school — which killed at least 17 — “an unspeakable tragedy.”

“Senator Portman and his wife, Jane, send their prayers to the victims, their families, and the entire school community,” she said.



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