News Headlines 3/20/12 (WKSU)

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News Headlines 3/20/12 (WKSU)

A long-awaited plan to develop 90 acres along Cleveland’s lakefront is moving forward. Cleveland City Council Monday night approved Mayor Frank Jackson’s 25-year development plan, which spans the shoreline from the Port of Cleveland to Burke Lakefront Airport. The blueprint, unveiled last November, calls for a hotel, restaurant, shops and offices linked together with bicycle paths. First, construction will begin on a pedestrian bridge linking the Great Lakes Science Center and the park behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on a new marina.

A Northeast Ohio lawmaker wants to toughen up the law for public officials convicted of corruption. Berea Republican Representative Mike Dovilla’s bill would add extortion and perjury to the list of crimes that could cause those convicted to lose their public pensions. Current law says only those convicted of  bribery, racketeering or theft face that penalty. Dovilla tells the Plain Dealer that the corruption scandal in Cuyahoga County underscores the need for the legislation. He says pensions should not be used as “bargaining chips” in negotiating forfeitures or plea deals.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has attended his first meeting of a board he chairs that handles billions of Ohio’s deposits. The first-term Republican previously had not attended any of the monthly meetings of the group. The Board of Deposit met Monday in Columbus. Sending a designee has been common practice among his modern-day predecessors, but Mandel had been unique for not attending a meeting.

Two funds to aid victims of the Chardon High School shooting have topped $600,000. The Chardon Healing Fund through the United Way has raised more than $500,000, while the Chardon Angels of Hope has raised nearly $100,000. Three students were killed and two injured in the February 27 shooting in the high school cafeteria. An April 3rd hearing will determine whether 17-year old suspect TJ Lane will be tried as an adult.

An Ohio coalition of voter groups has submitted initial paperwork as it pushes for a constitutional amendment that would take away elected officials’ power to draw legislative and congressional districts. The proposal would put district mapmaking in the hands of a 12-person citizen commission intended to reflect Ohio’s geographic, racial, ethnic and political diversity. Lobbyists, donors and elected officials couldn’t apply. The coalition submitted an initial 1,700 signatures and its proposed wording to Ohio’s attorney general on Monday. They need his approval before gathering the nearly 400,000 valid signatures needed by July for the topic to appear on fall ballots.

More federal funds could be available to demolish vacant homes left in the foreclosure crisis’ wake. Northeast Ohio Congress members Steve LaTourette and Marcia Fudge have unveiled a bi-partisan bill that would direct $4 billion in U.S. treasury bonds to states and established land banks, such as the one established in Cuyahoga County in 2009. The existing “Neighborhood Stabilization Act” provides local governments with funds to refurbish and resell vacant homes. But only 10 percent of the money can go toward demolition.

The Summit County Board of Elections will have to manage its budget with less than half of what it was requesting from the county. Summit County Council on Monday approved a $4.7 million annual budget for the elections board. The agency has said for months that it needs more than $9 million to handle this year’s presidential election. The county argues counties of similar size have fewer workers and spend million less each year on elections. The Summit elections board recently voted to cut 18 jobs and reduce the number of voting precincts as a way to save money.

Although Ohio has tried over the years to improve state ethics laws, it hasn’t always played out the way it was intended. The state ranks 35th in the nation with a grade of D in the new State Integrity Investigation released Monday. The study looks at the risk of corruption in 14 categories of state government. One of Ohio’s lowest scores was in the area of lobbying. Reporter Jon Craig gathered the information on Ohio for the nationwide investigation. Craig says redistricting is another area in which Ohio scored poorly, despite efforts by Secretary of State Jon Husted and his predecessor, Jennifer Brunner, to make it a more public, bipartisan process.

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