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Uncontested local elections a growing norm in Butler County

Published: Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 11:20 AM

            There are fewer local races to decide by voters this local-year election than in past local elections years. FILE PHOTO
There are fewer local races to decide by voters this local-year election than in past local elections years. FILE PHOTO

There are 23 potential contested local races in Butler County this November, pending certification of candidates later this month. A nearly 10-race decline from the 2009 local election year.

The downward trend of contested national and local races have been evident in the past several years, said University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven.

RELATED: Butler County shaping up to have fewer contested races in November

“The frightening part is it’s a pretty difficult hurdle for democracy,” Niven said of the lack of contested races.

The question of how to make elections more competitive has been asked year after year, and some of that involves voter apathy.

A Pew Research Center study in 2006 indicated politicians and political experts had “concern” over the lack of competitiveness in U.S. elections, but that concern was not shared by the public. Some experts believe the lack of political competition is due to low voter turnout.

Voter turnout in local elections in Butler County typically is sub-30 percent unless there’s a statewide issue — which there are two this year — driving turnout.

Wednesday was the filing deadline for local races within the county, except for Hamilton mayor and Hamilton and Middletown city councils, which have an Aug. 24 filing deadline. Candidates yet to be certified will have their petitions reviewed and the board of elections will vote to certify candidates for November’s ballot on Aug. 21. The Hamilton and Middletown city council races will be certified at the Aug. 28 board meeting.

RELATED: Democrats have plan to make Butler County blue again

In this election cycle, the local election following a presidential election, there are just more than 40 Butler County offices to be elected.

There’s been a steady decline in contested local elections since 2009. In 2009, there were 31 contested races out of 61 total offices up for election.

Niven said there are really two ways to look at the lack of contested races: either there was no one upset enough to run, or people feel they can’t win so why bother.

The latter school of thought, he said, especially at the local level, is pretty far from the truth but that’s not an uncommon thought.

“A lot of folks have no idea how easy it is to get on the ballot and to win one of these races,” Niven said. “The number one that keeps people from running is they are of the conclusion that they couldn’t possibly win.”

RELATED: Hamilton term limits and wards: Petitioners short on signatures

So when voters show up at the polls, or vote early at home or at the board of elections, and sees no competition, the choice is being taken out of the voters’ hands and that can be frustrating, Niven said. It’s also “worrisome because it means there can’t be a healthy debate because there’s no one to have it,” he said.

Miami University Regionals political science professor John Forren, who pays close attention to local politics, says seeing 50 percent of local races contested may not necessarily be a decline in local democracy.

Depending on which races are being contested, there may be more choice than the numbers show.

“In a place like Butler County, which has been difficult terrain for Democrats for decades, I’d say that the idea that half of the races are going to be contested is actually a sign of increasing competition rather than a sign of decline,” he said.

Forren said it’s a sign of a healthy democracy when there are contested races because competition between candidates means the voters will more often have a real choice when it comes to who will govern “and by extension, what policies will be carried out by government.”

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Winter Storm Watch issued for system that could bring snow to area this weekend

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 10:08 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 6:35 AM

Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini looks at the current track and forecast for another spring storm.

Those ready for spring weather likely won’t like this forecast.

Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Darke, Preble, Montgomery, Wayne, Randolph, Butler, Warren and Clinton counties from 2 a.m. Saturday through 2 a.m.Sunday. A Winter Storm Watch means conditions are favorable for impactful snow, sleet or ice that can make travel difficult. 

>> Winter Weather Awareness: What are the different types of Winter Weather Alerts?

>> Whio Weather App

A quick-moving low pressure system will spread moisture back into the Miami Valley Saturday and Saturday night, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. A band of snow will be possible that, at times, might mix with rain. The system currently is favoring the southern and western half of the Miami Valley where the watch was issued. This means areas such as Logan, Shelby, Auglaize and Mercer counties could see a sharp cut-off from moisture and possibly very little, if any, snow. 

>> Winter Weather Awareness: What to have in your car kit

The track and intensity of this system is still in question, and fine-tuning will come together during the end of the work week. Counties under the Winter Storm Watch have the best chance to see sticking snow that will could be more than two inches. 

>> Severe Weather Alert Sign-up

A few factors that could limit impact in the Miami Valley: Warm road temperatures allowing for snow melt, snow falling during the day allowing for a mix with rain, the track shifting and pulling the accumulating snow further south.

A few factors that could increase impact in the Miami Valley: Staying colder than expected, a shift further north could spread more snow across the entire area and the intensity of the system. 

Stay with Storm Center 7 for the latest updates to this spring snow storm.

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2 charged after woman found being eaten alive by maggots, police say

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 4:03 AM

Terry Sorrells (left) and Christian Sorrells (right) have been charged with neglect of a disabled or elderly person. (Photos via Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office)
Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office
Terry Sorrells (left) and Christian Sorrells (right) have been charged with neglect of a disabled or elderly person. (Photos via Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office)(Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office)

A Georgia woman was found covered in cockroaches and maggots, bedridden on a sheet smeared in feces, a police report says. 

Her caretakers and family members, 54-year-old Terry Ward Sorrells and 18-year-old Christian Alexander Sorrells, have both been charged with neglect of a disabled adult or elder person

>> On Cops: Home invaders tie up woman and son, steal jewelry

Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services responded to the Sugar Hill home where the woman lived with Terry Sorrells and Christian Sorrells on March 15 after receiving a call for medical assistance. The woman was unresponsive but still alive, the report says.

The AJC is not identifying the woman because she is an alleged victim of neglect.

>> MORE NEWS: 55 hours of terror, and a final blast in Austin serial bombings

When the fire crew arrived, they said they saw that maggots and roaches were eating the woman’s flesh and her legs were “completely black and showing signs of decomposition.” They had transported her a month earlier with a “mega mover” — a tarp-like object used by emergency medical technicians to move obese patients — and she was sitting on the same mega mover, now “completely brown and black” and covered in feces. The fire crew called police because “they did not believe she would live much longer and felt a moral obligation to report this,” the report says.

The living conditions inside the home on Pine Tree Circle were “deplorable,” the responding officer said in his report. The officer was “overwhelmed with the smell of human feces and garbage” when he walked into the house, and roaches were crawling on the walls and ceiling of “every single room,” the report says. Garbage lined the floor from the entryway to the kitchen, and covered the floor of the bathroom. In Terry Sorrells’ bedroom, there was a two-foot-high pile of empty Monster energy drink cans, with garbage piled in a closet and covering a dresser, the report says. 

>> Read more trending news 

Terry Sorrells had gone with the woman in an ambulance before the officer arrived, but Christian Sorrells remained at the house. He told the officer that the woman had been bedridden for one or two years and had been progressively getting worse; she had been admitted into a long-term care facility, but returned home after Medicaid would not cover the cost, the report says. Christian Sorrells also told the officer that no one in the house worked. 

Christian Sorrells was transported to Gwinnett County police headquarters and Terry Sorrells was arrested later that day. Both were booked into the Gwinnett County Detention Center after 10 p.m. March 15. They remain in jail, each held on a $22,200 bond. 


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Man says he was kicked off flight over business logo on his shirt

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:13 AM

Professional skateboarder Justin Mallory says his logo got him kicked off of a recent flight.
Professional skateboarder Justin Mallory says his logo got him kicked off of a recent flight.(

He makes a living with his skateboard and his brand, but this month Justin Mallory said that’s exactly what got him in trouble. 

Mallory claims he was kicked off a flight out of Atlanta because of his business logo on his shirt which features guns. 

“I was flabbergasted. I was taken aback,” Mallory said. 

The professional skateboarder said he was kicked off a Frontier Airlines flight because of the logo.

“The shirt is just a graphic,” Mallory told Wilfon. 

>> Read more trending news 

He said the airline said the shirt made another passenger uncomfortable.

Mallory’s lawyer, Mawuli Davis, calls it discrimination.

“The shirt, some would say he’s dressed in a hip-hop fashion, and he’s African-American. Those three things may have all contributed to the discrimination and profiling against him,” Davis said. 

Frontier Airlines tells a much different story.

In a statement to WSB, the airline indicated Mallory’s shirt and race had nothing to do with it.

Frontier said Mallory “became argumentative prior to boarding when asked to check a skateboard. The passenger boarded the aircraft and continued to exhibit disruptive behavior.”

“That’s totally false,” Mallory told Wilfon. 

Because he was kicked off the flight, Mallory said he missed a skateboarding trade show where he planned to promote his brand.

Instead, he said it got him in trouble.

“It was a terrible situation. It was embarrassing. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone else. I wouldn’t wish it on someone,” Mallory said. 

Mallory and his lawyer told Wilfon they are considering a lawsuit.

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Dayton’s Fire Blocks faces deadline, could lose $4.5M in funds

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:10 AM

            Workers replace street lights near the Elks Building near the intersection of South Jefferson and East Third Street in the Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Workers replace street lights near the Elks Building near the intersection of South Jefferson and East Third Street in the Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The state of Ohio has told the group that wants to redevelop the Fire Blocks District that it has until June 30 to prove it has financing for the project or its tax credits may be rescinded.

The Ellway Group won nearly $4.5 million in state historic preservation tax credits in June 2016 to help fund the restoration of the Elks Building and the Huffman Block building on the 100 block of East Third Street.

RELATED: Photos: A look inside downtown Dayton’s Fire Blocks District

The development group’s $23 million plan was to create new housing and first-floor retail and restaurant spaces in the mostly vacant buildings.

But this month, the Ohio Development Services Agency sent a letter to Ellway Group CEO Winfield Scott Gibson saying his project has not demonstrated “sufficient evidence of reviewable progress” because the has not closed on financing, according to a copy of the letter obtained by this newspaper through a public records request.

Tax credit recipients risk losing their awards if they fail to show after 18 months that they have secured financing for their proposed rehab projects and have not commenced construction. It’s been about 21 months since the project received its award.

RELATED: Fire Blocks plan to reshape downtown Dayton faces growing pains

Last month, Gibson sent the state a letter asking to push back the project’s end date until March 31, 2019, saying there were delays related to finding a tax credit investor and securing financing, according to records obtained by this newspaper.

Tax credit recipients must file a 12- or 18-month progress report on their projects with the state.

In the letter, Gibson said project construction financing is expected to close in June and construction should begin on May 1. The state agreed to a short time extension to allow the Ellway Group to secure financing and start construction.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Fire Blocks’ $100 million proposal

But if that does not happen by the end of June, the Ohio Development Services Agency said it may rescind the approved tax credits and give them away to other projects in upcoming funding rounds.

Gibson told this newspaper that it’s “going to be tight” but he believes his group will close on financing in time to meet the deadline. He also said he has a back-up plan if the project were to lose its state historic tax credits and had to be scrapped — but he says he really hopes it does not come to that.

“The plan is the plan and we’re moving forward,” he said.

The district covers multiple blocks but centers around the 100 block of East Third Street. Companies controlled by Gibson or the Ellway Group own about nine buildings in and around downtown Dayton.

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