Taking Pride; Neighborhood Safety


THEIR VIEW

By Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther - Guest Columnist



“We were born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race.”— Cicero

Strong, vibrant neighborhoods are critical to the continued success of Columbus, and my administration works hard every day to lift up communities in need to assure every neighborhood has the opportunity to thrive. Sometimes, that means working collaboratively to chart a path for future development, like the neighborhood masterplans being developed with residents in Linden and the Hilltop. Other times, it means bringing neighbors together to focus on the here and now, working together in more targeted ways to improve our community as we do through Neighborhood Pride.

Since its inception in 2000, the Neighborhood Pride Program has served over 100 communities throughout Columbus. Neighborhood Pride strengthens the relationship between the city and residents and empowers neighbors and businesses to work together with the city to improve our neighborhoods.

So far this year, we’ve had three Neighborhood Pride events – one in Schumacher Place, another in Strawberry Farms, and this week in the Beechwood/Pinecrest area on the east side. During “Pride Weeks,” we remove tons of bulk trash, fill potholes, and prune and remove trees that impede paths on our sidewalks and alleyways.

What I love about Neighborhood Pride is that it involves everyone in the community – both kids and adults. Elementary school-age children can participate in a bicycle safety program, and our middle school-age youth can showcase their talents at the Neighborhood Pride talent show held in December.

Adults can attend events and activities held each day during Neighborhood Pride, including Mobility Monday, a Neighborhood Safety Academy on Tuesday and Wellness Wednesday. These events highlight different transportation options, teach residents how to keep their homes and neighborhoods safe, and provide tips on how to live healthier lives through fun activities like cooking demonstrations.

Employees from across all City departments – Neighborhoods, Safety, Public Health, Building and Zoning, Development, Public Service, Public Utilities and Recreation and Parks – working side-by-side with Columbus residents, help to make a huge impact in a very short period of time. And, none of it would be possible without the commitment and dedication of the residents who make up our area commissions, civic associations and block watches.

Columbus is our home. We are many neighborhoods but one Columbus. Working together we can make Columbus America’s Opportunity City.

One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one Nation evermore! -Oliver Wendell Holmes

During the week of July 4th, Columbus offers so much in ways to celebrate our independence from the Red, White and Boom festival to neighborhood events throughout the city.

Each person chooses to acknowledge Independence Day differently but ultimately, we are all celebrating the same thing—freedom.

This week my friend, Dave Kolbe, jumped out of an airplane as a way to celebrate his 50th anniversary of his service to the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is his first free fall in 48 years.

This jump is more than just a remembrance for him; he is also working to raise funds and awareness for Helmets to Hardhats, an organization that helps to find veterans work in the construction and building industry after they come home – Dave is also a retired union ironworker.

He said, “No matter what area the Veteran served in, the military taught them skills such as safety, taking direction and teamwork, that will help them transition smoothly into the construction and building trade. This influential program both positively impacts our Veterans and introduces jobs into the Columbus economy.”

Dave chose this week to do his free fall for another reason: What better way to help celebrate than by supporting those who serve and have served our country?

Dave said, “The Fourth of July is an extremely important day, but most of the time, the focus is on independence and fireworks. This fall can help honor those serving and our Veterans by reminding everyone that we would not be here without them.”

That is how Dave is choosing to celebrate.

In a time that is so divisive, I ask our residents to realize the impactful role we each play as residents of the United States and of Columbus.

Take time to remember all of our men and women who are serving or have served at home and abroad.

I wish all of you a happy and safe Independence Day!

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On one of those particularly hot nights earlier this month, a Columbus police officer was answering a run in the parking lot of a business in the Hilltop. He noticed a car at the end of the lot with its hazard lights on, so he approached it.

A woman driving the car had run out of gas. She was at the center to pick up a friend so they could get to their jobs at a local fast food place. Now they were stuck – no gas, no way to get to their jobs.

The officer drove them to a nearby station where they put $3 worth of gas in a gas can, then back to their car. They were able to make it to their shifts and keep moving forward in trying to turn their lives around.

I know the story because I happened to be doing a ride along that night, seeing first-hand what our officers see every night. Personal interaction with residents is a big part of it, even when it doesn’t involve policing per se.

One of my top priorities since taking office has been to make our neighborhoods safer – the same priority shared by the outstanding public servants who wear the police uniform.

In November, I announced the Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy. We have been implementing its initiatives ever since. We have a long way to go, but we are moving the needle in a positive direction.

We have expanded the Safe Street bike patrol to the Hilltop, Linden and South Side. These police officers have made hundreds of connections with residents – something they say is easier to do on a bike than from a patrol car. Because of that community interaction, Safe Streets officers have received hundreds of tips from residents and made great strides in arrests, drug confiscation and removing guns from the street.

Gun violence continues to be one of the major challenges in keeping our neighbors safe. More than half of all homicides are committed with firearms and hundreds more people are injured through gun violence. To further address this unacceptable violence, we are entering into an agreement with ShotSpotter for a neighborhood gunfire detection system.

We are engaging ShotSpotter for a gunfire detection system as a demonstration program in the Hilltop, Linden and the South Side. Agencies that have adopted ShotSpotter Technology as part of a comprehensive crime-reduction strategy have reported reductions in urban gunfire by up to 80 percent and related violent crime by as much as 40 percent. This will help our law enforcement respond to incidents of gunfire, speed aid to victims, assist in investigations and the collection of evidence, and ultimately, the apprehension of dangerous offenders.

Some of the initiatives of the safety strategy involve more of our city departments than just Public Safety. Our Department of Neighborhoods has been hard at work coordinating our first investments into our target neighborhoods. In conjunction with our Safe Routes to School program, they have identified areas for additional sidewalk investments. In addition, they have identified streets for additional lighting and tree canopy reduction … because one of the first steps in providing a safer neighborhood is bringing it out of the shadows.

And the Recreation and Parks Department are rock stars, providing safe places for our youth as well as job training and job opportunities. This year alone, nearly 75% of Recreation and Parks part-time and seasonal hires includes young people, ages 15-24. More than 100 of those youth are part of the APPS job readiness program which provides training, mentorship and job placement. In addition, Recreation and Parks hosts Cap City Nights Festivals throughout Columbus, including the next one in Wedgewood on August 4.

The goal of the Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy has always been to keep our communities safe — and involved. I am thankful for the cooperation and help from all of our departments, law enforcement officers and community members in making Columbus a safe, wonderful place to live.

Ohio News Media Association

08/03/2018

In Ohio, you can fight public records battles with one click and $25

By Dennis Hetzel

Ohio’s state and local governments likely hold hundreds of records that might be important to you or your family.

However, it’s not something you’ll ponder until you urgently need access to documents like birth records, police reports, property records, the minutes of your school board’s last meeting, or any of countless other records in the government’s possession.

Most government officials are honorable and try to fulfill requests, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes there are legitimate differences of opinion. Sometimes, officials are obstinate and don’t want to supply a record for any number of reasons, including often spurious claims of attorney-client privilege or protecting trade secrets.

Until 2016, the playing field in Ohio tilted heavily in the government’s direction. It was easy for officials to say “no” – even when they should’ve said “yes.” That’s because they knew that most citizens did not have the financial resources to file a lawsuit and go to court. That was the only available path in contrast to many other states that had developed easy, affordable ways to appeal a records denial.

Actually, the playing field tilted even more than you might think. If you tried to represent yourself to save money, you were at a huge disadvantage versus government attorneys, many of them quite experienced and crafty in the nuances of Ohio’s public records laws. If you sued a state agency, it was you vs. the attorney general’s office.

On top of that, it remains extremely difficult under Ohio law, even when you’re right and you win, to get attorney fees reimbursed, so your battle was a crusade that required a fat checkbook.

In the old days, media outlets willingly took up a lot of battles. Today, with resources stretched thin, dollars are lacking for all but the most critical cases. Our Ohio Coalition for Open Government, of which I’m president, helps organizations and individuals in major cases, but OCOG’s total resources are less than $80,000. One or two protracted court battles would drain us to zero.

The Ohio News Media Association spent several years telling legislators that it was time to do something. Keith Faber, then president of the Ohio Senate, drew on his background as a mediator to suggest a unique-in-America process that just might be the best appeals process in the country.

Now, for $25 and the time to fill out an online form on the Ohio Court of Claims website, you can appeal a denial. Some cases get resolved with a phone call. Mediation comes next, which can be done remotely so you don’t have to make a trip to Columbus. If mediation fails, you’ll get a ruling that has legal authority. Both sides still have appeal rights.

The process – nearly two years old now – has worked beyond our expectations. I have a few favorite cases already.

The top of my hit parade is Shaffer v. Budish, a case in which Cuyahoga County tried to block a reporter’s access to body camera footage in a jail incident by arguing, in part, that the camera revealed confidential “security and infrastructure” imagery.

The reporter pointed out that the county had let a documentary crew into the jail to film the same allegedly secret area. The court said you can’t have it both ways, and most of what was requested had to be released.

In Chernin v. Geauga County Park District, the park district tried to make the absurd argument that a letter with complaints and recommendations was not a “public record” under Ohio law even though the document was cited in a public meeting. The citizen got the record.

Government agencies win their share of cases, too, and that’s appropriate. What’s important is that citizens now have a fighting chance – no matter their resources or standing.

To check it out, go to https://ohiocourtofclaims.gov/ and click on the “public records” tab. If the information on that website doesn’t answer your questions, OCOG and the ACLU of Ohio both offer online resources to citizens. OCOG also has a legal hotline service for its supporters. (Go to www.ohioopengov.com.)

Don’t be shy. Just the act of following through when government says “no” helps keep public officials on their toes.

Dennis Hetzel is executive director of the Ohio News Media Association and president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government.

Follow these five steps before breaking ground

COLUMBUS (Aug. 9, 2018) – With 8-1-1 day (Aug. 11) right around the corner, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) reminds Ohioans to practice safe digging procedures. Follow these five steps before beginning any digging project. It’s the law!

Call 8-1-1 at least 48 hours, but not more than 10 days, before you plan to dig. OHIO811 will notify the utility operators in your area that you are planning to dig.

Wait 48 hours before beginning your project. This gives utility operators a chance to mark any underground lines.

Confirm that all lines in the area have been marked. In addition to seeing flags or paint marking the lines, most companies will use OHIO811 Positive Response, which allows line or facility owners to communicate the status of their one call ticket to the excavator. You can check the status on your own by calling (800) 445-3894.

Respect the markings. For your safety and those around you, steer clear of marked lines. Each utility type uses different colored flags or paint to mark their lines. To find out what kind of lines are marked in your yard, visit the color code guide on the OHIO811 website.

Dig carefully. Hitting an underground utility line while digging can cause damage to the environment and even injury or death.

If you hit a line, leave the area immediately to protect yourself and crew. If a substance starts releasing into the air, call 9-1-1. For any damaged underground facility, contact the utility company listed on the nearest marker.

Together with the Oil & Gas Producers Underground Protection Service (OGPUPS) and OHIO811, the PUCO reminds you to take the careful steps to ensure your safety before beginning any digging project.

For more information, visit the OHIO811’s website at www.OHIO811.org, the Oil and Gas Producers Underground Protection Service’s website at www.ogpups.org, or call 8-1-1 or 1-800-362-2764.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.

GAHANNA, Ohio, August 10, 2018 – AEP Ohio, an American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) company, is using the 8/11 date to remind the public to stay safe by calling 811 before they dig to have underground utility lines marked.

Electric, gas, water, sewer and cable utilities rely on underground lines to deliver services to customers. Hitting one of these lines while digging can cause serious or fatal injuries, outages and costly repairs.

“Following these simple steps will help ensure your next home improvement project is a success while keeping you, your family and your neighbors safe throughout the process,” said Jim Goodnite, manager of safety and health for AEP Ohio.

From building a deck to planting a tree, every project that involves digging warrants a call to 811 at least two days before breaking ground. After you call, a professional will come to your home and mark the location of any utility lines — free of charge.

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, uneven surfaces and previous digging projects. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging just a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

Always know what’s below by calling 811 before you dig. For more safety tips and resources, visit AEPOhio.com/Safety and Call811.com.

About AEP Ohio

AEP Ohio delivers electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers of AEP’s subsidiary Ohio Power Co. in Ohio. AEP Ohio is based in Gahanna, Ohio, and is a unit of American Electric Power. News and information about AEP Ohio can be found at AEPOhio.com.

American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a more than 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP also operates 224,000 miles of distribution lines. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning approximately 26,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP supplies 3,200 megawatts of renewable energy to customers. AEP’s utility units operate as AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east Texas). AEP’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.

Delaware County Genealogical Society Program Meeting

August 7, 2018

Riverboats On The Ohio River

At the August 7 meeting of the Delaware County Genealogical Society Jeff Spear, President of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, presented the history of Marietta, the Ohio River, and the steamboats that plied the waters. The presentation covers the riverboats that worked the Ohio River from the mid 19th century through the later 20th century. Spear will discuss facts about the boats and the people that worked on them – yesterday and today.

Jeff has traveled many rivers, lakes and seas on a variety of vessels and will share his experiences and “tales.” He has been a major driving force in amassing the collection at the Ohio River Museum. He also proudly takes an active role in the annual convention of the Sons and Daughters to be held in Marietta, September 14 – 15th. They will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the building of the W. P. Snyder, Jr. steam sternwheel towboat.

The program is open to the public and free of charge. It was held at 7:30pm on Tuesday, August 7th in the Community Room of the Delaware County District Library, 84 East Winter Street, Delaware.

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THEIR VIEW

By Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther

Guest Columnist