Luckie, prosecutor confirm investigation; 2 Democrats say he won't seek re-election

Published: Thursday, August 09, 2012 @ 7:27 PM
Updated: Thursday, August 09, 2012 @ 7:27 PM

State Rep. Clayton Luckie and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien both issued statements Thursday confirming that the Dayton Democrat is under investigation but not for bribery. But the statements didn’t answer questions about what charges, if any, Luckie may face.

Earlier this year, O’Brien brought a criminal case against Columbus-area state lawmaker W. Carlton Weddington that led to Weddington resigning, cooperating with authorities and pleading guilty to bribery and other charges.

Luckie said in a written statement: “I assure my constituents that I have not been involved in any of that conduct, nor am I the target of said investigation. We have, however, discovered errors on some reports that are currently being addressed. I take these matters very seriously and have instructed my team to conduct a full review of the reports in question. Out of respect for the process, I will not be addressing any questions until my team has completed their analysis.”

It is unclear whether Luckie is referring to ethics statements, campaign finance reports or something else. He did not return messages seeking clarification.

Meanwhile, two Democratic sources said Luckie may agree to withdraw from the November ballot as early as today, giving the Montgomery County Democratic Party just enough time to run a substitute candidate. Former Dayton mayor Rhine McLin and former state senator Fred Strahorn are being considered as possible replacements, sources said. Monday is the deadline for political parties to replace candidates who withdraw from a race.

Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens said Luckie did not return his messages on Thursday and top party officials researched state law governing replacing candidates on the ballot. “There are some people that have expressed interest (in replacing Luckie in the race) if that were to happen but I’m not prepared to identify those people,” Owens said.

Initially appointed to the Ohio House, Luckie is seeking his fourth two-year term and is running against Republican Jeff Wellbaum this November.

Wellbaum’s campaign manager Paul Harris said, “We are certainly shocked and surprised by the allegations levied toward Rep. Luckie. Our response is to stick to a positive campaign about what Mr. Wellbaum will do for the citizens of the 39th District. Lower taxes, better veterans’ benefits, protecting the unborn and working with Gov. Kasich to bring people and jobs back to Ohio.”

The 39th District includes most of the city of Dayton.

Before going to the Ohio House, Luckie served on the Dayton School Board from 1996 to 2006. He lives in the Wright-Dunbar Historic District and works part-time for JEC Paper & Related Products where he made less than $10,000 last year, according to his financial disclosure statement filed with the state. His state representative job pays $68,000 a year.

In June 2010, Luckie and his wife Lisa Beth Willis filed for divorce just three months after the birth of their daughter. In the May 2011 divorce agreement, Luckie got a 2005 Cadillac Escalade, half of his wife’s 401(k) account and a house in Wright-Dunbar and one in Springboro. The couple agreed to joint parenting and they split up their $56,000 in consumer credit card debt: $36,000 for him, $20,000 for her.

In January 2012, Luckie got into a verbal altercation with his neighbor, Joseph W. Shaw, who is dating his ex-wife, according to a Dayton police report. Lisa Beth Willis said, “I have no comment on that.”

Ohio Senate OKs transportation budget.

Published: Thursday, March 23, 2017 @ 9:33 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 23, 2017 @ 9:33 AM

By Laura Bischoff

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday voted 33-0 in favor of a $7.86 billion transportation budget bill that includes $5.6 billion for highway construction and maintenance projects.

This leaves the state gas tax at 28-cents per gallon — unchanged since July 2005. But fees Ohioans pay for license plates are likely to increase. The legislation allows counties to ask for local voter approval for an additional $5 plate fee to help fund road and bridge projects.

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Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include changes in driver’s license and plate tag fees collected by deputy registrars who run Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices. The bill also allows the BMV to send electronic notices for vehicle registration renewals, if the owner opts for it, and it lets registrars to add self-service kiosks and vending machines in their locations.

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Here are some other policy changes that the bill would achieve:

* Private entities would be allowed to offer motorcycle safety classes for Ohioans seeking a motorcycle operator’s endorsement.

* Ohioans who leave their cars running unattended would not be ticketed if the car is parked on residential property or if it is locked.

* Snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles would be allowed on roadways on the Lake Erie islands between Nov. 1 and April 30.

* Local jurisdictions would get a larger share of state gas tax revenues for road projects.

* The state transportation director would be allowed to change highway speed limits, based on the time of day, road conditions and other factors.

* Re-define what a bridge is so that fewer spans are subject to government inspections. Spans of more than 20 feet would be inspected, instead of 10-feet or more.

County engineers would be required to inspect bridges at least biennially, instead of annually.

This is essentially the third version of the bill — one from the governor, the House and the Senate. The House rejected the Senate changes, so the measure will now go to a conference committee to iron out the differences. A compromise bill is expected next week.

The bill won bipartisan support in the Senate, despite criticism from Democrats that the transportation budget doesn’t invest enough in public transit and it fails to look at ways to apply fees to alternative fuel vehicles that use Ohio roads but pay less or no gasoline tax.

In a separate matter, state Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., is pushing a bill to increase plate tag fees to $140 per year for passenger cars and eliminate the state gasoline tax for vehicles registered in Ohio. It is unclear whether the bill will gain the necessary support to make it into law.

‘Crisis’ in trucking industry spurs flurry of bills

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 6:12 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 6:12 PM


            ‘Crisis’ in trucking industry spurs flurry of bills

State lawmakers launched a four-part plan Wednesday to help trucking companies fill thousands of job openings.

A series of bills were introduced addressing various problems that have put the industry in crisis, according to state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, the author of one of the bills.

Lawmakers say there aren’t enough people interested in the profession and changes are needed to help the industry attract new talent.

“The trucking industry is in crisis and because they are in crisis our economy is in crisis,” Antani said. “Every single good moves on a truck. When you buy a car, a desk, chair or pencil, it came on a truck to the store where you are buying it from the manufacturer.”

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Antani’s bill would explore ways to help companies obtain insurance for younger drivers. He said insurance for drivers under age 25 is either too costly or not available.

“Typically if you have a trucking company of 100 drivers, they will insure five to 10 at age 21 to 24. Right now if you are 18 to 20 you just cannot get insurance,” Antani said.

Other proposals are also aimed at putting more people behind the wheel of a big rig. They include providing scholarships and loans — $2,500 scholarships for up to 1,000 students and a loan of the same amount — to those who want to attend truck-driver schools, and tax credits of up to $25,000 to companies that provide on-the-job training programs for drivers.

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Tom Balzer, president and CEO of the Ohio Trucking Association, said the industry has about 50,000 job openings for drivers across the country. He pointed to the scholarships and tax credits as a way to attract new talent.

“These are jobs that pay very well, have great benefits and are never going to be off-shored,” he said. “They are always going to be there, always going to be available.”

The changes backed by the industry would be a particular benefit to the Miami Valley, according to Balzer.

“You have I-70 and I-75 and the crossroads,” he said. “That area has such an immense amount of commerce that goes through there that people are always looking for truck drivers in that particular region.”

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Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, eases the way for veterans to transfer their truck driving experience into a civilian job when they return to the states. “When men and women separate from the military they bring a lot of different skills to the table and one of them is being a truck driver,” LaRose said.

LaRose, who served as a Green Beret, said he drove a truck and other heavy equipment while in the Army.

“I can tell you driving on the narrow and winding roads of Kosovo in a flatbed tractor-trailer is certainly great training and it certainly prepared me to safely operate a vehicle here.” LaRose said.

“The trucking industry is in crisis and because they are in crisis our economy is in crisis.”

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg.

Could Cincinnati land a Trump hotel?

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 4:08 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 4:36 PM


            Could Cincinnati land a Trump hotel?

By Bernard Condon and David Koenig

Associated Press.

Cincinnati may soon be home to a Trump family hotel.

Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger, said cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville and Milwaukee could be home to a new line of hotels called Scion, but he won’t name the developers.

“The list of places Scion can go,” he said, “is virtually limitless.”

You might have expected the Trump Organization to tap the brakes on expansion plans given all the criticism over potential conflicts of interest while its owner sits in the Oval Office.

It’s hitting the accelerator instead.

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The company owned by President Donald Trump is launching a chain of new hotels with plans to open in cities large and small across the country. Scion, will be the first Trump-run hotels not to bear the family’s name. The hotels will feature modern, sleek interiors and communal areas, and offer rooms at $200 to $300 a night, about half what it costs at some hotels in Trump’s luxury chain.

The company has signed letters of intent with more than 20 developers to build the hotels, said Danziger. The last three were signed in just one week earlier this month.

“It’s full steam ahead. It’s in our DNA. It’s in the Trump boys’ DNA,” said Danziger. The “boys” are Eric and Donald Jr., who are running their father’s company while he is president.

The bold expansion plan raises some thorny ethical questions.

The Trump family won’t be putting up any money to build the hotels. Instead, it plans to get local real estate developers and their investors to foot the bill, as do most major hotel chains.

One of the first going up could be in Dallas. A development company there originally planned to raise money from unnamed investors in Kazakhstan, Turkey and Qatar, but recently told the Dallas Morning News that it now will tap only the company’s U.S. partners.

ETHICS CONCERNS

Government ethics experts say turning to outside money, whether foreign or American, raises the specter of people trying to use their investment to gain favor with the new administration — like contributing to a political campaign, but with no dollar limits or public disclosure.

“This is the new version of pay-to-play, ‘Get in there and do business with the Trump Organization,’” said Richard Painter, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush.

The Trump family will have to overcome some political obstacles, too. Already, politicians in a few cities mentioned as possible sites have vowed to fight the first family, raising the prospect of a struggle to get zoning and other permits to start building.

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The son of German and Polish refugees from World War II, CEO Danziger is no stranger to long odds. He never went to college, instead taking a job as a bellman at a San Francisco hotel at 17. He worked himself up over the decades to CEO spots at several major hospitality companies.

When Danziger led Starwood Hotels and Resorts in the 1990s, he expanded the number of hotels from 20 to nearly 600.

The 62-year-old executive has similar ambitions for the Trump family. He said he hopes to open 50 to 100 Scions in three years, and is planning to add to Trump’s existing line of luxury hotels.

Danziger took over Trump’s hotel business in August 2015 with hopes of adding to the company’s string of properties abroad. A review of trademark databases by The Associated Press shows the Trump family has applied for rights to use the Scion name in several countries, including China, Indonesia, Canada and 28 nations in Europe. An application for trademark rights in the Dominican Republic was approved as late as December.

Then President Trump held a news conference the next month and basically killed the international plans. A week before he took office, he pledged that his company would strike “no new foreign deals” while he was president to allay concerns that foreigners might try to influence U.S. policy by helping his business abroad.

PROJECTS GET NEW LIFE

Critics note that hasn’t stopped his company from expanding one of its Scottish resorts, pursuing two Indonesian projects that are largely unbuilt and looking to revive an old deal for a beachfront Dominican Republic resort that appeared dead years ago. The company has said these were already in the works, so they don’t fall under the president’s pledge.

At a panel discussion at a recent hotel industry conference, Danziger said the U.S. offers plenty of opportunity for expansion. As possible cities for new hotels, he mentioned Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Dallas.

That didn’t go down well with some local power brokers.

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Mark Farrell, a San Francisco supervisor who heads the land use committee, scoffed at the idea of a Trump hotel getting permission to build in his city, telling a CBS affiliate “Good luck with that.”

In Seattle, councilmember Rob Johnson told the AP he’d be “shocked” if any Trump hotels got built, calling his city “ground zero” for Trump resisters. In January, thousands took to the streets there to protest the president’s first attempt at a travel ban and the city council passed a unanimous resolution denouncing it.

St. Louis, another possible Scion target, may prove a tough sell, too. A few days after the presidential election, protesters marched in front of a building that had been rumored as the site of a new Trump hotel as they chanted “No to Trump Tower.”

The developer of the St. Louis project, Alterra Worldwide, is also the company behind the possible Scion hotel in Dallas. It announced soon after the St. Louis protest that it would use the building there to open a hotel under the Marriott name.

Despite the St. Louis trouble, Alterra President Mukemmel “Mike” Sarimsakci said, he expects no trouble with his Dallas project.

For starters, he appears to have much of the local approval needed to move forward. Both Sarimsakci and a Dallas city hall spokeswoman said Alterra is not seeking rezoning or tax incentives, which will avoid any need for a vote of the city council to approve the hotel.

Sarimsakci doesn’t think anti-Trump sentiment will hurt the Scion chain.

“I think it’s passed. I think people had really strong feelings prior to the election,” he said. “I don’t see that as being an issue moving forward.”

Sarimsakci spoke to the AP last month. He did not respond to requests to confirm that he no longer plans to use foreign investors.

THE LURE OF TAX REVENUE, JOBS

Danziger also shrugs off the danger from anti-Trump folks. Stopping a Scion from opening would hurt a city, he said, just as surely as it would hurt the Trumps.

“Why would a city because of political views, a city councilman’s views, prohibit tax revenue from coming to the city and employment to the people?” Danziger said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

He also expressed confidence Scion will avoid ethical trouble. He said any new investors in Scion go through an “exhaustive, thorough” review to make sure, for instance, they’re not offering sweetheart deals to the Trump family to curry favor with the president.

Before Trump took office, he hired an outside lawyer to vet his deals for conflicts. Critics say his company shouldn’t be striking any new deals at all and that he should follow the precedent of modern presidents by selling his interest in the company. He has refused to do so.

Politics aside, Trump’s new chain faces stiff business challenges.

The U.S. president is a tiny hotel operator, with just 14 properties that he either owns or licenses his name to or manages for others, according to his company’s website. This puts it at a disadvantage compared with, say, Marriott International, which has more than 6,000 hotels and can get deeper discounts when purchasing insurance and food and linens. The bigger companies have powerful loyalty programs to lure travelers, too.

“Why do people stay at Marriotts all the time?” said Bjorn Hanson, professor of hospitality and tourism management at New York University. “They’re earning points.”

Trump’s Scion chain also faces a fight for customers against an array of new chic “lifestyle” chains from Marriott, Hilton and other rivals. Furniture retailers West Elm and Restoration Hardware are opening hotels to appeal to young travelers. Even the gym chain Equinox recently announced plans to enter the crowded field.

Danziger said he’s not worried. “Every industry on the planet is crowded.”

___

Koenig reported from Dallas. Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.

More jobs coming to Wright-Patterson, officials say

Published: Thursday, February 02, 2017 @ 5:33 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 02, 2017 @ 5:33 PM

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center will bolster its ranks with “a few hundred” more personnel at Wright-Patterson in upcoming years, the intelligence unit’s commander said.

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Cyber experts and data scientists are two key demand areas NASIC at its Wright-Patterson headquarters will be needed to meet national security demands to assess air, space and cyber threats to the Air Force, according to Col. Sean P. Larkin, agency commander.

“The NASIC workforce is absolutely growing,” he said in a rare interview.

More intel jobs

He declined to comment specifically how many more personnel might be added, but they will in part focus on “emerging and disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons “because it’s those things that are coming down the pike that are changing the way our adversaries fight.”

“It goes without saying that there’s a very significant cyber threat from a large number of our adversaries and, of course, that’s the thing about this being a very diffuse threat is you don’t have to be a nation-state to pose a cyber threat,” he added.

Among key intelligence areas, the secretive agency assesses potential ballistic missile threats from nations such as North Korea and Iran.

NASIC intelligence data is in strong demand among the nation’s top political and military leaders, from the White House and the Pentagon to troops on the front lines, agency officials have said. The agency provides predictive intelligence – a process that observes, assesses, models and predicts.

“They want to talk to somebody who’s been doing this for maybe 10, 20, 30 years because that’s the kind of deep expertise we have here,” Larkin said.

“I’ll tell you that’s one of the best things I get to do as the NASIC commander is to see a deep expert talk to a four-star general or talk to a national policy maker or a congressman and really see how the analysis that we do here in Dayton, Ohio influences strategy policy and gives our leadership a decision advantage,” he said.

The intelligence agency with about a $350 million budget has a workforce of 3,100 military service members and civilian employees at Wright-Patterson. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, NASIC has grown by about half, the agency has said.

“We’ve seen significant growth since 2000 and we do have projected out additional growth,” he said.

China, Russia ‘making significant advances’

A growing number of sophisticated threats in air and space and the cyber domain has pushed up demand for intelligence data, according to Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“China and Russia are making significant advances in these areas, and the barrier-to-entry for some of these technologies is lower, which allows lesser powers to also pose a more significant threat,” he wrote in an email.

More nations are fielding space-based capabilities as the price tag of satellites and the cost to launch them into orbit drops. “We are also seeing the proliferation of technologies that can disrupt or degrade our capabilities in space and cyber, such as jammers and more sophisticated hacking tools,” Harrison said.

NASIC is in the midst of a $29.5 million building a new 58,000-square-foot Foreign Materials Exploitation facility, doubling lab space, to further understand adversaries capabilities, Larkin said.

Historically, the facility has dissected captured foreign technology, from missiles to MiGs, to understand an adversary’s capabilities.

“Foreign material exploitation is a capability we have had our entire history and through a variety of means our nation has been able to recover adversary equipment,” he said.

This year marks the agency’s centennial since its predecessor, the foreign data section of the aircraft engineering division, opened at McCook Field in Dayton in 1917.

“We’ve been looking at airplanes almost as long as there’s been airplanes,” he said. “As our adversaries have developed additional capabilities, as they’ve moved into space and into long-range ballistic missiles and into cyber, we’ve adapted and innovated and gone forward to understand and characterize those threats.”

Larkin marks his third tour within the walls of the agency he started at as a young lieutenant. After he finished a fellowship with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he took the reins as NASIC leader in May.

“I was just really heartened to see how much progress we had made,” he said. “But at the same time, we realize how much farther we had to go because the threats that we strive to understand, the capabilities that our adversaries develop, they’re constantly changing and the technology that’s driving all that, a lot of that is in the private sector, a lot of it is getting widely proliferated, and so we have to continually adapt to overcome and to understand those threats. It’s a never-ending struggle.”

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