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Eclipse chasers blaze trail to Oregon for view of a lifetime

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 3:57 AM
Updated: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 3:55 AM

Just before sunrise, there's typically nothing atop Round Butte but the whistle of the wind and a panoramic view of Oregon's second-highest peak glowing pink in the faint light.

But on Aug. 21, local officials expect this lookout point just outside the small town of Madras to be crammed with people from around the world, all hoping for the first glimpse of the moon's shadow as it crosses Mount Jefferson's snow fields. Then, a solar eclipse will throw the entire region into complete darkness for two minutes.

The first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States in 99 years will first be visible in Oregon, and Madras is predicted to be among the country's best viewing spots because of its clear, high-desert skies, flat landscape and stunning mountain views.

Up to 1 million eclipse chasers will descend on Oregon for the celestial event, and officials are bracing for as many as 100,000 of them in and around Madras.

In this vast expanse of ranches and farms, rural, two-lane roads could mean traffic jams of cosmic proportions. Every hotel in Madras is booked, some residents are renting their homes for $3,000 a night, and campers are expected to flood the national forests and grasslands during peak wildfire season.

The state's emergency coordination center will gear up, and first responders will prepare to respond to any trouble as they would for an earthquake or other natural disaster. Cell towers could be overwhelmed, traffic will be gridlocked, and police and fire stretched to the max managing the crowds.

"Bring extra water, bring food. You need to be prepared to be able to survive on your own for 24 to 48 to 72 hours, just like you would in any sort of emergency," said Dave Thompson, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. "This is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it's really worth seeing. But you've got to be prepared or you won't enjoy it."

When the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, the path of totality — meaning total darkness — from the moon's shadow will begin on Oregon's coast, then cross the north-central part of the state from west to east.

But as the hype builds, authorities are increasingly worried that people who planned to watch from the notoriously foggy coast could move east at the last minute if the forecast sours. And Oregonians who live outside the path of totality could decide to drive to one of the prime viewing spots at the spur of the moment, creating havoc on the roads, said Cory Grogan, spokesman for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

In addition, many tourists will be camping in hot, tinder-dry conditions, or even sleeping in their cars. First responders have been planning for months for a worst-case scenario: evacuating tens of thousands of people while trying to get fire engines through gridlocked roads. Cellular towers also may be crippled by the volume of people texting, calling and posting photos, making it difficult for fire crews to communicate.

Federal and local officials will stage engines and other resources at key locations, and firefighters from other agencies and private companies will send extra crews. But it's impossible to plan for everything, and tourists frustrated with traffic may use forest access roads as shortcuts, further raising fire risk, said Kent Koeller, a recreation planner with U.S. Forest Service outside Madras.

"Just driving off-road - having that contact with a hot muffler or a catalytic converter - could start an ignition," he said. "And in these fine fuels, it could spread very quickly."

Lysa Vattimo was hired two years ago to coordinate the town's planning efforts with more than 50 local, state and federal agencies. She spends her days trying to think of every possible consequence of having tens of thousands of people in a town of just 6,500 — and her nights worrying she missed something.

The town and surrounding campsites have rented nearly 700 portable toilets, including some from as far as Idaho, to meet demand. Sanitation trucks will run almost around the clock, transporting trash to 50-yard-long (46-meter-long) dumpsters before it rots in triple-digit temperatures.

Gas stations are filling their underground tanks in advance, and businesses are being told to use cash only, to avoid bringing down the wireless network. Banks are stocking their ATMs, local hospitals have canceled vacations, and pregnant women close to their due dates are being told to leave to avoid getting stuck.

"What we've asked our residents to do is get prepared ahead of time. About a week out, fuel up on propane, gas, whatever fuels they need, get their prescriptions, go to the doctor, do what you need to do," she said. "And then stay home."

In Madras, hotels were booked years ago, and spots at 25 campgrounds in and around the town are going fast. Farmers are renting out their land for pop-up campgrounds, and thousands of parking spaces for day trippers are getting snapped up.

The Black Bear Diner, one of the town's most popular restaurants, expects to serve 1,000 people a day during the week leading up to the eclipse. Owner Joe Davis has ordered five weeks of food for one week of business and will have an abbreviated menu of 10 items to speed service.

"The Black Bear Diner has been here in Madras 18 years, and I'm sure this will be by far the busiest week - and probably double the busiest week - that we've seen," he said.

But amid all the hubbub and anxiety, most residents have kept sight of the wonder.

Darlene Hoffman is one of the few here who watched the last total solar eclipse to touch Madras 38 years ago. Hoffman, 80, recalls how the birds stopped singing and the horses prepared to sleep as the sky gradually darkened and a hush fell over the land.

"It was really something to see. It really was," she said. "That amazed me more than anything."

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Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

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Miami Twp. officer struck on I-75 identified

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:19 AM

TYLER SIMPSON
TYLER SIMPSON

The name of the Miami Twp. police officer struck Saturday by pickup truck on Interstate 75 while responding to a crash scene has been released.

Officer Tyler Simpson has been identified as the officer injured after being struck about 9 p.m. on southbound I-75 near the Ohio 725 interchange, according to the township.

RELATED: Police: Miami Twp. officer struck by suspected drunk driver on SB I-75 expected to be okay

Simpson, 28, started his career with the Miami Township Police Department in September 2012, according to the township.

He was removed to Kettering Medical Center by the Miami Valley Fire District for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. He is now resting at home for what is expected to be a lengthy recovery.

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Teens stop basketball game to take knees, pay respect during funeral procession

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 7:19 AM

Teens Stop Basketball Game, Kneel During Funeral Procession

A group of teens hitting the hoops near Baton Rouge are going viral for a simple gesture of respect.

They stopped their basketball game in Franklinton, Louisiana, on Friday to take a knee, paying respects to the recently departed during a funeral procession, WAFB reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Lynn Bienvenu and Johannah Stroud attended the funeral for their cousin, Velma Kay Crowe.

They were the ones who saw the teens stop their game and pause as the cars went past, WAFB reported

Bienvenu posted the photo to Facebook where it is getting noticed.

Bienvenu said of the teens, “They took a knee not out of disrespect but honor. There was not an adult in sight to tell them to stop playing. This meant a great deal to our family. May God bless each one as I feel they will achieve greatness.”

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

She told WAFB that one teen contacted her on social media to give his condolences for the loss of Crowe, whom the teens did not know personally.

They were identified to WAFB as Shimar Davis, Shimon Davis, Edward James, Brandon Burton, Qundon Burris, Stacy Ard, James Bickman, Avant Money, Malachi Martin and Kalarrian Dillon.

This is not the first time the teens have paused their game. Others have told Bienvenu that they have been seen doing the same thing for other funeral processions.

Many residents told WAFB that coaches and teachers at Franklinton Junior High School have repeatedly told students that they should show respect when a funeral procession drives by.

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Guns, minimum wage top issues in Democratic governor primary

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:05 AM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:12 AM

Bill O’Neill, Richard Cordray, Dennis Kucinich and Joe Schiavoni
Bill O’Neill, Richard Cordray, Dennis Kucinich and Joe Schiavoni

Four years ago, Ohio Democrats pushed hard for a gubernatorial candidate who looked good on paper and found one: Ed FitzGerald.

The campaign was soon run aground by scandal — including news reports that he had been questioned by police after they found him in a parked car in the early morning hours with a woman who was not his wife — and the Democrats lost a landslide election to Republican Gov. John Kasich.

This time around voters have half a dozen Democrats on the May 8 primary ballot and the Ohio Democratic Party is officially neutral.

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Democratic candidates on the issues

Only four of the six appear to be serious contenders, and most observers see it as a two-person race between Richard Cordray, who has been on the statewide ballot five times; and Dennis Kucinich, a former Congressman turned FoxNews commentator.

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Republican candidates on the issues

In many ways Cordray and Kucinich are polar opposites. Cordray is known for his professorial style while Kucinich has a reputation for fiery rhetoric.

The sleeper candidate could be state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, an attorney and a former boxing champ who is currently sponsoring gun control bills in the Ohio Senate. But Schiavoni is barely known outside his Youngstown area district, and he’s running out of time to boost his name recognition before the May primary.

Also running is former Ohio Supreme Court justice Bill O’Neill, who is still trying to live down his November 2017 Facebook post when he boasted of sleeping with 50 beautiful women and brushed off the seriousness of the #MeToo movement. He has admitted he made a mistake.

The other two candidates on the ballot — Paul Ray of Alliance and Larry Ealy of Dayton — don’t appear to be actively campaigning.

The field doesn’t include a single woman. The three women who originally filed to run — Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and former Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich — all dropped out and are supporting Cordray. Sutton is Cordray’s running mate.

Although no single issue has dominated the campaign so far, Cordray and Kucinich appear furthest apart on the issue of guns, with Kucinich calling for far stricter limits on gunownership and touting his F rating from the National Rifle Association.

Early voting in the primary is already underway. To ensure that voters have the background they need on each of the candidates, we profiled the Republican candidates last Sunday and are doing the Democrats today. The winner in November will replace Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited.

Related: O’Neill’s boasts bring calls for his resignation

Richard Cordray

Cordray, 58, is a familiar name to Ohioans, having won his first election — for a seat in the Ohio House — in 1990. He won statewide elections for Ohio treasurer and Ohio attorney general before losing to Mike DeWine in the 2010 AG’s race. Cordray was then selected to head the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a post he left nine months early so he could run for governor.

Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill, Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni and former congressman Dennis Kucinich were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

“(My running mate) Betty Sutton and I are focused on the kitchen table issues that affect families and are top of mind for them: how they’re struggling to secure their futures, access to affordable health care, better education and training, getting access to more and better jobs, and we have a track record that shows we can make a difference on those issues,” Cordray said. “We can get things done.”

Cordray says he doesn’t see a need for tax increases but wants to re-prioritize where the state spends money — less for failing charter schools and more for local government to deal with issues such as the opioid crisis, he said.To combat the crisis, Cordray supports education and prevention, a drug take-back strategy, efforts to get illicit drugs off the streets and adding treatment and recovery programs.

Cordray said he wants to continue Kasich’s reforms, such as clamping down on over-prescribing of painkillers, and continuing Medicaid expansion, which extended health care coverage to 725,000 low-income Ohioans, many of whom suffer from mental health and addiction issues.

“Medicaid expansion is going to be key,” he said. “If we don’t keep Medicaid expansion, we’re going to have an even worse problem.”

He pledged to enforce the 10-year-old federal mental health parity law, which requires insurance plans to cover mental and drug abuse issues on par with physical ailments.

Related: State’s record enforcing insurance mandate is questioned

Cordray opposes efforts to make Ohio a right-to-work state where union contracts cannot mandate membership as a condition of employment and he supports boosting the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over time — a move that he says may require a statewide ballot vote.

When it comes to gun control, Cordray favors universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines and bump stocks but he stops short of calling for an assault weapons ban or measures to remove guns from those who appear at risk of harming themselves or others.

“You know that I have always respected people’s 2nd Amendment rights and I’ve defended those rights in court,” he said. As attorney general, Cordray defended a state law that blocks local governments from adopting gun restrictions.

Cordray said he supports cracking down on abusive payday lending practices. “They’re high everywhere but it’s almost 600 percent (APR) in Ohio. Nobody can think that’s a responsible way to lend money to people or that it’s going to help them succeed in their lives,” he said.

Related: Payday lending bill comes to life as House speaker faces probe

Dennis Kucinich

Kucinich, 71, is the oldest candidate in the field, having started his political career in 1970 on the Cleveland City Council, and bills himself as the most progressive.

“I’m the real Democrat in this race. I’m a true-blue Democrat,” he said. “I think people want a governor who drives real change, positive change and not just be into incrementalism. Our campaign has been dynamic, energetic, passionate, forward looking, visionary — showing Ohioans what kind of state they could have. They could have education for all and health care for all and jobs for all and safe communities and where women’s rights are protected in an uncompromising way.”

Former congressman Dennis Kucinich answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio attorney General Richard Cordray, Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

Kucinich pledges to veto bills the erode access to abortion, oppose right-to-work efforts and block executions on his watch. He also promises to issue executive orders in his first week on the job to mandate a $15 an hour minimum wage for all state employees and state contractors and to use the bully pulpit to push for it statewide.

When it comes to tax policies, Kucinich said he wants to eliminate the new provision that allows Limited Liability Companies, or LLCs, to pay no state income taxes on the first $250,000 in earnings. He said he supports a bond issue to raise money for infrastructure projects, such as rebuilding roads and bridges.

He’s made gun control a big part of his campaign, and favors banning assault weapons, bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and expanding background checks, school safety measures and safe storage of guns from children.

Related: Where do candidates for Ohio governor stand on gun issues?

When asked about Medicaid expansion, Kucinich said he favors a state-level single-payer health care plan that would cover all Ohioans, and he wants to legalize marijuana and treat drug addiction as a medical crisis, not a criminal crisis.

Kucinich agreed with Cordray that payday lending reforms are needed but he criticized his opponent for leaving his federal job early, where he had the chance to protect consumers in all 50 states.

“He walked off his post at a time when he was needed the most,” he said.

Kucinich’s opponents criticize his willingness to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people. Kucinich has met with Assad multiple times.

“I defend peace, I don’t defend people. I stand for peace,” Kucinich said of his meetings with Assad.

Bill O’Neill

O’Neill, 70, resigned from the Ohio Supreme Court in January — up until then he was one of just two Democrats holding statewide elected office in Ohio. (Sen. Sherrod Brown is the other one). His platform has one main theme: legalize marijuana and use the pot tax money to re-open state mental health hospitals to serve people with drug addiction.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio attorney General Richard Cordray, Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni and former congressman Dennis Kucinich were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

When it comes to gun control, O’Neill supports banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines and instituting a “red-flag” law that would allow families to petition the court to remove guns from loved ones who appear to be at risk of self-harm or hurting others. He favors increasing the purchase age for assault weapons to 21 and requiring that they be registered with local police on an annual basis.

O’Neill opposes abortion, capital punishment and right-to-work. He favors increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour through legislation. And while he supports reforming payday lending practices, he maintains that the services are needed in Ohio.

When it comes to education, O’Neill said the school funding system has been illegal for 20 years because it relies too heavily on property taxes and results in inequities. He wants to outlaw for-profit charter schools and mandate a 40-percent cost reduction for students attending public colleges and universities over the next four years.

O’Neill points to administrative bloat and expensive athletic programs areas where universities could cut costs.

“I’m experienced. I’m a retired Army officer with a Bronze Star. I’m a registered nurse and I’m a former Supreme Court justice who brings focus to the race,” O’Neill said. “We need to do something real about the heroin crisis. We need to do something real about the for-profit prisons, like put them out of business. And we need to legalize marijuana to create jobs and save lives.”

Joe Schiavoni

At age 38, Schiavoni is decades younger than the other candidates, and the only Democrat in the field currently holding elected office.

Former Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio attorney General Richard Cordray, congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

He opposes right to work and favors increasing the minimum wage over a decade to $15 an hour, starting with a bump next year to $12 an hour. He supports abortion rights and believes the death penalty should be used in more limited circumstances. And he favors full legalization of marijuana if it passes a statewide vote and tax revenues from it are earmarked for a specific, worthy purpose, he said.

Although he has a B-plus NRA rating, Schiavoni is sponsoring a “red-flag” bill in the Ohio Senate to allow families and police to remove guns from people who appear to be a danger to themselves or others. And he says he is for banning bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

Schiavoni supports expanded Medicaid, and has long pushed to earmark 10-percent of the state’s rainy day fund for local governments struggling to deal with the opiate crisis. He said local authorities could use the money for education programs, first responders, foster care services, job retraining programs and recovery programs.

He supports efforts to crack down on payday lending. “We’ve reached a level where it’s a scam,” Schiavoni said. “It’s a rip off and it’s hurting our most vulnerable people.”

When it comes to education and job creation, Schiavoni is calling for universal pre-kindergarten for 3-year-olds, changing the school funding formula so Ohio is less reliant on property taxes, clamping down on for-profit charter schools and tying college loan forgiveness to home purchases as a way to get Ohio’s brightest and best young people to stay in the state.

No fan of massive tax cuts pushed by the GOP over the past 15 years, Schiavoni said the recent tax break given to LLCs needs to be rolled back. And Ohio needs to increase its severance tax on oil and gas extracted from the ground and boost the state gas tax by up to 5-cents per gallon to help fund infrastructure improvements, he argued. He pledged to push for renewable energy and clean water projects.

“I think we’re giving people something they’ve been clamoring for for years — somebody who is real, who is authentic, somebody who is willing to work,” Schiavoni said. “People are sick of both parties. All they want is somebody real, somebody who is going to deliver on their promises. That’s the stuff that I’ve been talking about.”

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MORE ABOUT THE CANDIDATES

Richard Cordray

Age: 58

Hometown: Grove City

Family: Married, two children.

Education: Michigan State University, B.A.; University of Oxford, M.A.; University of Chicago, J.D

Experience: Former director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Ohio attorney general, Ohio treasurer.

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Dennis Kucinich

Age: 71

Hometown: Cleveland

Family: Married, one grown child.

Education: Case Western Reserve University, bachelor’s and master’s degrees

Experience: Former Cleveland mayor, member of Congress and FoxNews contributor.

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Bill O’Neill

Age: 70

Hometown: Chagrin Falls

Family: Widowed, four grown children.

Education: Ohio University, bachelor’s degree; Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, JD; Huron School of Nursing, RN.

Experience: U.S. Army veteran, pediatric emergency room nurse, civil rights attorney and former Ohio Supreme Court justice.

---

Joe Schiavoni

Age: 38

Hometown: Boardman

Family: Married, two children.

Education: Ohio University, bachelor’s degree; Capital University, JD.

Experience: Attorney for injured workers; state senator and former Senate Minority Leader.

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Key Issues: Where do they stand?

Abortion: Cordray, Kucinich and Schiavoni favor abortion rights. O’Neill opposes abortion.

Death penalty: Cordray supports, Kucinich and O’Neill oppose; Schiavoni says its use should be more limited.

Guns: Schiavoni favors allowing removal of guns through court order from those who seem a danger to themselves and others and he wants to ban bump stocks, close background check loopholes and limit high-capacity magazines. He also says he would sign an assault weapons ban. Cordray wants to increase school safety, institute universal background checks and ban bumpstocks and high-capacity magazines. Kucinich favors a swath of gun controls, including ban on assault-style weapons. O’Neill wants to require registration of assault weapons.

Marijuana: Schiavoni and Cordray say Ohio should move to full legalization only through a statewide vote. Kucinich and O’Neill support full legalization.

Minimum wage increase: All four favor increasing it to $15 an hour.

Right-to-work: All four oppose it.

Medicaid expansion: Schiavoni, Cordray and O’Neill favor keeping it in place. Kucinich favors a state-level single payer health care program.

Taxes: Cordray calls for a halt on further tax cuts and pledges to re-prioritize state spending; Kucinich and Schiavoni favors eliminating the small business tax cut and increasing severance taxes. Schiavoni also favors increasing the state gas tax by up to 5 cents per gallon for road improvements. O’Neill wants to tax marijuana but doesn’t favor other hikes.

Wright-Patterson AFB: All four candidates say they’ll work to project jobs and programs at the base.

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Fairfield considers plan to demolish historic home

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:06 AM


            City Council will consider demolishing the Cooper House, a historic home on the property known as the Muskopf property. The property is part of the Marsh Park expansion project. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
City Council will consider demolishing the Cooper House, a historic home on the property known as the Muskopf property. The property is part of the Marsh Park expansion project. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

The city of Fairfield Parks and Recreation Board unanimously recommended the city tear down a historic home a group of residents were trying to save — and city council will consider a vote to demolish the home tonight, April 23..

The Save the Cooper House committee had requested the city not raze the 19th-century home and convert it to an educational facility. The city purchased the 3.3-acre property in 2016 with an Ohio Public Works Commission grant.

RELATED: Residents are trying to save this 1820s home, but its future is uncertain

The purchase included the 1824-built Cooper House and a barn, which has since been razed, with the intent provide leverage of the Marsh Park expansion project.

Dean Breuwer, who has led the Save the Cooper House committee, wants the house saved because it was owned by Thomas Cooper, one of the first inhabitants of what is now the city of Fairfield.

“This is critical to the areas to preserve the cultural heritage of Fairfield,” he told this news outlet in December. “This actually was more than likely the first inception of the first settlement within (what is now known as) Fairfield.”

Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller has repeatedly said the city doesn’t need to subsidize another historic building.

The city already subsidizes the Elisha Morgan Mansion, a historic home on Ross Road, at a cost of about $40,000 a year.

Miller said for him to support saving the Cooper House the committee needed to develop a plan that included a funding option.

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