News

Healthcare.gov fixed well enough, but bugs remain

By , December 7, 2013 | 6:54 pm | 0 Comment

Healthcare.gov fixed well enough, but bugs remain

OBAMA3ONUMBA.COM – By now, everyone is probably copiously aware that the Obamacare website rollout has been nothing but an epic disaster, a chaotic blend of a lousy website, a fumbled rollout and a daisy-chain of missteps responding to the whole mess.

The bug plagued blastoff of the healthcare.gov website, which many see as the signature achievement of the Obama presidency, has betrayed the promise of a great start to a new era in health care coverage due to a plethora of crippling hiccups among which are glitches, crashes, delays, frozen screens and all sorts of headache just accessing the website.

And then there’s the more serious issue concerning consumer privacy to cap it all off.

In short, it all summed up to a extraordinarily woeful month for the president, a disaster of monumental zenith.  But through it all, an often petered-out looking Obama remained optimistic, mixing that with a humbling apology for the mess on which the media has been feasting.

“I am sorry,” the president told the American people followed by a seemingly gutsy assurance, after implementing a “tech surge,” that the beleaguered website will be rectified and ready to go by the end of the November.

“I’m confident that it will be even better by November 30th and that the majority of people are going to be able to get on there,” said Obama, who, of course, is not a website designer.

The president’s words:  “They’re going to be able to enroll.  They’re going to be able to apply.  And they’re going to get a good deal – a better deal than they’ve got right now when it comes time to buying health insurance.”

So now, the central question becomes:  has the troubled website been fixed as promised?

Well, for the most part, yes, said officials of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The “for the most part’ part of that response largely holds the true meaning of the federal official’s explanation for where the website is at this time in terms of ridding it of hundreds of niggling software bugs.

Federal officials, feeling immense pressure to fix the website, said during a recent press conference with reporters, that while the site is much better than when it first went online months ago, they readily concede that the bug riddled website is not out of the woods yet and still has “hundreds” of software bugs that could get in the way of a trouble-free access, smooth shopping experience and ultimately successful purchase of coverage by users.  What that says in short is that it works, but there are still problems.

Their words:  “The bottom line — HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1,” said Jeff Zients, an official of the Obama administration, who reported that about “400″ bugs and technical problems were fixed in the system, but did not disclose how many were left to go as they continue to work out the kinks.

Of course, no matter what anyone says, the ultimate test for the supposed fix will come when users start to troop back to the website to shop for coverage in order to beat the Dec. 23 deadline which is required for coverage to start first of the year.  Federal officials expect consumer stampede back to the site to start happening soon. 

For observers, expectation for how it all will play out could, overall, be described as a cautious mix of confidence and proverbial crossing of fingers, which some might simply call a ‘wait and see’ moment.  But for confident federal officials, the expectation, though fused with a modicum of uncertainty, is that when shoppers return to the website in droves, they will have a much smoother experience than before, citing particularly that the problem of previously being unable to process large number of applications at a time has been resolved.  According to them, the website is now able to accommodate more than 50,000 users login in at the same time, which tallies up to about 800,000 people being able to shop and purchase coverage in a single day.

If that happens, President Obama will be hugely relieved because not getting this thing right may start to define his entire presidency with three years left to go.  The past month has been hellacious and tormenting for him, with the president catching it on the chin from both Republicans and Democrats, while seeing his approval rating tumbling down to a concerning level.

On the one hand, Republicans are cavorting around cockahoop, pillorying Obamacare while relishing the entire healthcare pantomime as a tinderbox they now hope would fuel a cascading effect with future implications for Democrats.

On the other hand, Congressional Democrats who strongly backed the president during the fight against Republicans over the passage of the law, are getting worried, especially those who are facing reelection in a couple of years and fearing that the sloppy rollout of Obamacare could become a campaign issue against them.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com /

Copyright 2013 Onumba.com.   The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

Featured , News

Fitzgerald set to take on Kasich, but who is going to take him on?

By , April 27, 2013 | 1:02 am | 0 Comment

Fitzgerald set to take on Kasich, but who is going to take him on?
Ed Fitz

Candidate for Ohio Governor Ed Fitzgerald

ONUMBA.COM – For quite some time now, speculations have been rife about who is going to take on Republican Governor John Kasich in the next gubernatorial showdown.

Some Democratic names have been dangled around as likely candidates, but no one has categorically declared an interest in running for governor of Ohio until now.

He is Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald, the former Mayor of Lakewood, who last week kicked off his campaign with planned clambakes in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Fitzgerald is the first Democrat to jump into the race for governor. But it came as little surprise given that the 44-year old former FBI agent had been talking up his interest for months. He made his most revealing move toward that pursuit in March after forming a gubernatorial campaign committee to officially start raising money for the race.

Also, in many ways, Fitzgerald interest in running for governor grew a lot after former Governor Ted Strickland decided against mounting a comeback effort in what would have been a bruising rematch of a race he lost to Kasich by 2 percentage points cliffhanger in 2008. A recent survey by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute indicated that the 71-year old Strickland would have encountered little opposition had he decided to run again, holding a nine percentage point lead over Fitzgerald.

Now, if Fitzgerald is the man to take on Kasich, who is going to take him on?

Currently, it is surprisingly not a crowded field. Today, Fitzgerald is the only declared candidate.

Former Ohio Attorney-General Richard Cordray, who now serves as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency in the Obama administration, has long been rumored as a likely candidate. But he hasn’t responded to these speculations. One thing that’s for sure however is that Cordray has before expressed an interest in being Ohio’s chief executive.

Congressman Tim Ryan has also expressed interest in running for governor in the past.

As yet, no Black politician has shown visible interest in being a candidate for governor. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who remains popular in the city, has the best chance of succeeding. A formidable force in the Ohio Democratic Party, he once briefly, unsuccessfully contested for governor. Still, he remains a potentially potent force if he decides to try again.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com /

Copyright 2013 Onumba.com.   The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

Featured , News

Africans hope Obama’s second term will usher in deeper engagement with homeland

By , April 27, 2013 | 12:11 am | 0 Comment

ONUMBA.COM –President Obama’s only visit to Africa during his first term was his brief trip to Ghana shortly after he took office in January 2009.

Some folks are startled by the fact that it was his only visit to the ancestral homeland in his first term, to say the very least.  When White House Director of African-American and Minority Business Outreach Michael Blake visited Columbus a couple of years ago, it was one of the questions posed to him by the Onumba.com during an interview at the State House, Downtown.

Blake, who was in Columbus to trumpet the president’s accomplishments for the African-American community, was asked if the president was planning a major trip to Africa.

“It is not finalized,” he replied, but quickly veered off matters of African visit, saying, “We have shown a very sincere and continued engagement with Africa,” particularly in the area of economic aid and support for elections to shore up Democratic governments there.

“Finalized,” or not, it never happened in the president’s first term.

It is often an issue of discussion among Africans, with opinions on the matter running the gamut, from outright brickbat of the president to a more lenient tone excusing him for being too busy with domestic matters, even though he somehow found time to visit other places.

But all of that is now water under the bridge.  With his recent reelection to a second term, Africans everywhere are now hoping that the president, whose father hailed from the East African nation of Kenya, would now embark on a major visit to the continent.  He has inspired and instilled pride in Africans and Black people all over the world.

In 2008, when Obama was elected the first Black President of the United States, the entire continent, from Cape to Cairo,  erupted in jubilation and embraced him as a favorite son of Africa.

It’s no different with his recent reelection.  However, many are encouraging the president to pay closer attention to Africa in his second term than he did during his first term.

From my conversations with folks on this matter, they feel a major visit is needed, not a pass-through, and definitely not a swing-by.

Meanwhile, news of Obama’s reelection was greeted with rabid joy and intense celebration throughout Africa, with the epicenter of the shindig understandably being Kenya where bands of agog folks danced, cheered and chanted his name, while banging on drums, woods and waving tree branches.

Obama, whose father Barack Obama, Sr., was a student in the United States, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4th 1961, to a White mother from Kansas, Ann Dunhan.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com /

Copyright 2013 Onumba.com.   The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

News

After hedging, board agreed to allow Coleman’s panel in

By , February 6, 2013 | 8:21 pm | 0 Comment

After hedging, board agreed to allow Coleman’s panel in

ONUMBA.COM –After months of grappling with an immensely embarrassing probe involving student attendance record skullduggery, which is still playing out, it would be safe to assume that members of the Columbus Board of Education and school district officials are now busy cleaning up the mess from this massive catastrophe by installing adequate measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But there’s no assuming what role Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman is playing as part of his effort to help improve the district. Recently, he and City Council President Andrew Ginther formed a panel of 25 members to recommend ways to do that. It is called Columbus Education Commission (CEC).

To be sure, it wasn’t clear at first just how both independently concieved orbs, that is, the districts internal housecleaning efforts and Coleman’s moves, would coalesce or at the very least work in choriamb in pursuit of a common mission. That lack of clarity in large part played into why the Call & Post published a recent story titled, ‘Future of Columbus School District, who is in charge of shaping it unclear.’

Even with recent expressions of desire to work together on this, it’s still largely unclear just how the labyrinths of this herculean and multilayered mess will be resolved in the end. The good news however is that both sides, clearly frosty about each other, have at least expressed commitment to coexist in favor of advancing a common agenda. But that dovetailing spirit only came after somewhat a corrosive start, a brief hedging on the part of the Columbus Board of Education that easily underscored the undercurrent feelings of turf tiff among some involved in the matter. The board, after stiffening its resolve not to allow Coleman’s panel members to conduct a management review of the district operation, eventually agreed to invite them in, even deciding to abandon its initial demand requiring the group to submit its request in writing.

Seemingly, both sides, after a well-managed acrimonious posturing possibly rooted in distrust as well, have agreed to work out a plan for proceeding with the management review.

Eric Fingerhut, the commission’s executive director, in a letter to the school board, called for both sides to assign individuals who would meet to discuss the way forward in terms of the “scope and timeline for the review.”

Fingerhut’s plan was approved by the school board. President Carol Perkins is the board’s representative who would meet with Mary Jo Hudson representing the panel.

For all involved in these efforts, it is probably refreshing and encouraging to see a once caviling and battleax Perkins involved at any level of collaboration with the mayor’s panel. Weeks ago, she wasn’t optimistic about any of this, even going as far as almost declaring the Sultanhood of the board concerning matters of education in the district.

“They’re fast-tracking with possible conclusions,” said Perkins at a recent board meeting, declaring, “Bottom line, whatever comes down, this board will make the final decision.”

That was her daggers-drawn feelings at that time.  But recently, she offered a more conciliatory tone.

“Now, I imagine, as we get further, if there’s some points that come up, I’m sure we can work it out, said Perkins, who also noted, “We have no objections to this, and again, this could be information that could be meaningful to the next superintendent.”

The current superintendent, who along with Perkins, presided over this whole mess, will retire at the end of the year. While Harris is on the verge of departure, Perkins on the other hand is staying as board leader after she received a vote of 6 to 1 to continue serving as president.

But Harris will hang around long enough to see and possibly react to the recommendations of CEC due in April, according to Fingerhut, who also noted that the panel would offer proposals for revamping the district’s practices.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2013 Onumba.com.   The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

City of Columbus , Columbus School District , Featured , News

Mayor’s small business conference lauded by small business owners

By , October 27, 2012 | 5:22 pm | 0 Comment

Mayor’s small business conference lauded by small business owners

ONUMBA.COM – It wasn’t the first time the city of Columbus has organized a city-wide clambake for small businesses, but it could be the finest and the biggest ever.

That was how a very satisfied Thomas H. Stephens, Assistant Director of the Mayor’s Equal Business Opportunity Office, described the 10th Mayor’s Small Business Conference & Expo that played out recently at the Hyatt at the Columbus Convention Center, Downtown. The theme of the gathering was “Go Forward: Driving Local Economic Growth through Small Business Inclusion and Sustainability.” 

“This is outstanding. People loved it,” said Stephens, adding, “It was more than what we planned it to be. This year’s conference was a full day, previous ones were half a day. We brought in national speakers. It’s been great,” he said.

Stephens told Onumba.com that the main reason for holding the gathering was “to help small businesses move forward, that was the whole key, providing access to capital” and “helping small businesses link up with large businesses, that’s the whole point, helping them move forward through these rough economic times.”

But it was also to introduce the city’s small business community to the process of securing contracts with the city, which according to Mayor Michael Coleman, summed up to“more than $300,000 in contracting opportunities” in 2011.

In his greetings, Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman said that “Columbus is committed to providing education, support and opportunity to these businesses as they continue to enhance our city’s image as a great place to start and grow a business.”

The event was well attended. Actually, many who sought to register for the conference were unable to do so because registration was closed days before the event.  But for those who attended, it was all worth it.

“I think this has been a phenomenal event,” said Jessica Figgins, owner of Down Home Soul Catering. The conference, said Figgins, “has been an event where you feel comfortable coming in, small business or large business, you are not afraid to ask questions. They provided a lot of resources that I didn’t know were out there.”

Asked about the networking opportunities, Figgins replied: “It has been over the top. I got what I expected and more. So, I’m glad to be here.”

Luke Estice agreed.

“It’s really successful because I found a lot of different avenues that I can reach out to other businesses so I can expand my business,” said Estice, who owns two businesses, Luke’s Huy Road Barber, Beauty & Nail Shop and L&E Soul Food, along with a Food Truck.

“It’s really helpful,” he said.

Raymonia M. Lacy took the same view.

“It has been very helpful, the networking has been great,” said Lacy, who owns IJN Enterprises, LLC, a venture that is involved with business development and
training.

Beside learning “a lot about how to maneuver through the city and the canals we should go through in order to obtain city contracts, Lacy said that she appreciated making connections with the city and other businesses.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.   The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

Business , Featured , News

Ginther poured cold water on charter reform plan

By , August 11, 2012 | 4:48 pm | 1 Comments

Ginther poured cold water on charter reform plan

ONUMBA.COM – Initially, Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther was taciturn over the raging debate concerning the proposal to amend the City charter and swap the current ‘at-large’ method of electing members of the City Council with a blended system that would incorporate elements of ‘at-large and ward’ systems.

But recently, he weighed in with a bray and caviling posture about the simmering hubbub. 

Simply put, there would be no changes to the charter, he declared.

The “petition” is “over.”

But the bad news for the leaders of Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, the cabal rabidly seeking to reform the city charter, is not really that Ginther is fiercely opposed to their plan.

Rather, their official waterloo is that not enough petitions were submitted to advance their cause, meaning that they failed to meet a cardinal requirement for amending the city charter.

Ginther, whose opposition to the plan certainly doesn’t help, elaborated further in a letter he sent to the citizens of Columbus last week.

“In short, the petition failed to meet the minimum requirements for a charter amendment to be placed on the ballot, which is 19,164 valid signatures, representing 10 percent of the electors in the last preceding municipal election,” said Ginther, adding, “Upon review, the Franklin County Board of Elections determined the petitions contained only 8,471 valid signatures.  Therefore, City Council concluded the process by voting unanimously not to place the proposed charter amendment on the November ballot.”

The cabal of reformists is seeking to place the issue on the November ballot for residents to decide. In a June 16th letter to Ginther, the group proposed a radical overhaul to the process of electing members of the city council, decrying the status quo as startlingly “archaic” and staggeringly “inadequate.”

Currently, the city maintains an at-large system where council members are elected to serve, represent and be accountable to the entire city. The coalition is pushing to change a system it describes as antediluvian that doesn’t serve the city well. It argues that the current system, which was crafted in 1914 when the city had a population of 181,000, is no longer adequate for a sprawling metropolis of 787,000 ethnically-diverse populations.

In their eyes, it all sum up to a need for change.

And their clarion call for reform embraces an approach that would combine the current at-large method and ward/district system for the city. That plan would expand the council membership from seven to eleven, to consist of four at large members and seven ward/district members.

But it is plan that would be implemented over the dead body of another group ferociously opposing it.  That group, ‘Keep Columbus Strong,’ was recently formed for the sole purpose of undermining and ultimately kiboshing this plan.

Leaders of ‘Keep Columbus Strong’ simply like things the way they are, meaning they favor retaining the current at-large system of electing city council members, arguing that it works because they represent the entire city of Columbus and are accountable to all residents.

Opponents of the plan argue that the coalition’s proposal would create a bifurcated city and encourage a detrimental culture of “horse-trading” pitting one section of the city against another.  They fear it could lead to dangerous intra-city tiff over resources and city projects. They also maintain that the current system has served the city well, and therefore see absolutely no reason to mess with it.

Ginther agreed.

In his view, the coalition’s plan will be bad for the city on a number of fronts, including, his argument that the “proposed charter amendment would limit the power of our citizens, disenfranchise our diverse community, and create a dysfunctional form of local government while pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.”

He concluded: “If enacted, it simply would devastate our collective ability as a community to keep Columbus moving forward.”

Ginther lauded the city’s economic growth, affordable living, and safe, strong and healthy communities, and credited the current government, its charter and structure for the exemplary status and ranking it now enjoys among other major cities in the country.

He said that “Columbus works because we work together.”

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.

The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

Community , Editor's Choice , News

Two major investigations launched into allegations of record fudging

By , July 14, 2012 | 3:37 pm | 0 Comment

Two major investigations launched into allegations of record fudging

ONUMBA.COM – In the fast moving investigations into whether Columbus City Schools tinkered with student attendance record to improve its report card, School Chief Gene Harris was recently ordered to turn over documents involving the case to the State Department of Education, one of a trifecta of entities now looking into the possible skullduggery. 

Accordingly, Harris was notified of the state’s investigation of the potential tinderbox a couple of weeks ago in a letter from Stan W. Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction.

“ODE will continue to expect that you and your staff, including your internal auditor, will be readily available to provide any necessary information or access to permit this special audit to occur,” wrote Heffner. 

Heffner’s agency has the authority to conduct the investigation to see if there was academic finagling involved.  Documents being requested include district policies for recording student attendance, email and handwritten correspondences by district officials involved in the matter as well as policies describing how and why students are removed and re-enrolled into the system. 

Harris, in response to Heffner, agreed to make all documents available to him and his staff.

But those documents would also be turned over to the Auditor of States’s office where David Yost is preparing to plunge into the allegations of euchre with his own investigation.  Spokeswoman for Yost’s office Carrie Bartunek said that her office is now assembling a cabal of investigators, attorneys and accountants for the project, for a gavel to gavel look into the labyrinth of matter.

Apparently, both investigations would run parallel with the one currently being conducted internally by the district’s audit office under Carolyn Smith.

So, with up to three separate investigations looking into the incident, it remains unclear how it all plays out. 

Apparently, Harris, in a heads-up June 15 letter, had notified Heffner of a potential problem with the district’s attendance record.  At the same time, when the story broke last week, she noted that she was not quite sure how serious the matter was and whether there was an intention to “cheat.”

“We don’t know what we have here — a big issue, a medium issue or a small issue.”

Seemingly, the big question for the investigating teams, and the nexus of the matter, is whether district officials often intentionally fudged attendance records of students for the purpose of boosting the district’s state report card. 

Several current and former district employees, some of them data analysts and principals have expressed the view that some data manipulations and calculated Kafkaesque occurred in the district, with some recalling having wondered for years why a dizzying shoal of students with poor attendance records would suddenly be erased from the system and then later reappear.

But, who could be doing that, and for what? 

They explained that the purpose of doing that would be to erase the records of students with poor attendance record from the system, that way they would be excluded from score tabulation for state report, which ultimately improves the district’s total student attendance score.  The students would then be re-enrolled later. 

Obviously, that’s their story and they are seemingly sticking to it.  But the ongoing investigations will ultimately determine exactly what happened, and why. 

Data submitted by school districts to the state are used for scoring district performances, especially student attendance rates which has direct and profound impact on student performances.  If these reports of shuck and data manipulation are true, it certainly casts a scandalous pall of uncertainty over the performance of the Columbus School district the past several years.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.

The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

Columbus School District , Editor's Choice , Featured , News

Harris defends integrity in wake of allegations of fudging records

By , July 1, 2012 | 6:38 am | 0 Comment

Harris defends integrity in wake of allegations of fudging records

ONUMBA.COM – Columbus School Chief Gene Harris, in response to the recent allegations involving falsified student’s attendance records in her district, wanted to make one thing abundantly clear about her integrity: 

“I will not tolerate a situation where there is anyone knowingly or willingly manipulating the data,” she said. “We don’t know what we have here — a big issue, a medium issue or a small issue.”

But at the very least, we do know that it is an “issue” and that it potentially looks pretty bad for the district where almost all its schools maintain near sterling scores in attendance.  Now, some may start to question that record.

This mess bubbled up after media reports exposed disturbing instances over several years where attendance records of students were altered, usually in June, just before the data is sent to the State Department of Education for analysis, compilation and reporting. 

Harris explained that the allegations reached the media after several students who were documented in the system as truants were told by the courts that they were not.

Data submitted by school districts to the Ohio Department of Education are used for scoring district performances, especially attendance rates which has direct and profound impact on student performances.  If these knavery reports of shuck and shenanigans are true, it certainly casts a combustible and scandalous pall of uncertainty over the performance of the Columbus School district the past several years.

Harris, limpidly grappling with an uncomfortable matter of a gossamer ilk, said she does not know if this was an error or whether there was an intention to “cheat.”  Well, that’s precisely what the district internal audit investigation will soon uncover and let everyone know.

The big question for the investigators is whether district officials often intentionally tinker with attendance records of students for the purpose of skewing the district overall scores.  It appears when more of students who maintain good attendance record and less of the truants are included in compiled test scores for statewide report, it improves the performance of school districts.  It then means that when the attendance records of students who are performing poorly are manipulated and excluded from data analysis and score tabulation, which is exactly the allegations facing the Columbus School district, it potentially could be for the purpose of skewing performance in state report. 

However, it is all speculation at this cusp.

At the same time, one former school official, among many who have known for years about problems involving the district’s attendance data, recalled instances of possible data Kafkaesque, having wondered for years why students with poor attendance records would suddenly be erased from the system and before you knew it, they would re-appear there.

 At this cusp, everyone is embracing a “wait and see” posture not knowing the scope and gravity of this potential tinderbox until more is uncovered.

School board member Mike Wiles has nothing to say for now.

“As far as what exactly is going on, I don’t know.  There is an internal audit report imminent,” he said.

Apparently, he and the rest of Columbus are ardently awaiting that report to get to the bottom of a snowballing saga that could be a big mess for the district.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2012 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

Columbus School District , Columbus Talking , Editor's Choice , News

Councilmember Mills urges senate to pass texting ban bill

By , October 9, 2011 | 4:16 am | 0 Comment

Councilmember Mills urges senate to pass texting ban bill

ONUMBA.COM – In July, the Ohio House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to ban ‘texting while driving’ in Ohio.

It is now up to the Ohio Senate to do the same and make it happen. Will the senate go along?

Columbus City Councilmember Michelle Mills is certainly hoping so. She released a statement last week expressing support for the ban, and hoping that the senate would “say yes” to House Bill 99.

Mills, who was one of the speakers at a rally held last week in front of the Statehouse to support the passage of the ban, is urging Senate lawmakers to pass the bill and “help us save lives.”

“Text and driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because it takes the driver’s hands off the wheel, eyes off the road and mind off the task at hand, safely operating a motor vehicle,” said Mills.

And safely operating a motor vehicle was precisely why State Representatives Nancy Garland and Rex Damshroder sponsored the bill, which was approved by a House vote of 88 to 10, garnering bipartisan support.

Ohio is trying to pass a law which is already in place in Columbus and in “at least 20 other municipalities” in the state.  Mills spoke about why it was important for Columbus to move forward and pass the law.

“Knowing that the lives of our residents could be at risk, the Columbus City Council did not wait for the state to put a ‘texting while driving’ ban in place,” said Mills.

And she was right. In 2010, Council President Andrew Ginther, then a Councilmember, led the effort to ban “texting while driving” in the city.  At the time, he expressed interest in working with the state to craft a uniform legislation, but state officials said they were not ready.

So Columbus moved forward and passed its own “texting while driving” ban. Now Ohio is pushing to have one too and join 34 other states that have banned the dangerous practice.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Highway and Transportation Committee and now awaits hearing.  Bill’s sponsor Garland, a speaker at the rally, called it “a no-brainer.”

“Texting while driving is a major safety hazard that makes our roads unsafe for drivers, bikers and walkers,” said Garland. “The numbers tell us this high-risk practice drastically increases the chance of accident, injury and death for drivers who text and those around them.”

And those numbers came from the National Transportation Safety Administration, a group that tracks and monitors road accidents across the country. It said that “texting while driving” is two times more dangerous than drinking and driving. And that the reaction time of drivers involved with “texting while driving” is “35 percent” slower than it is for someone who smoked marijuana and “12 percent” slower than it is for drunk drivers.

A more graphic illustration from the AAA foundation, whose spokesperson Kimberly Schwind was also at the rally, further underscores the perils of this.

The group reported that drivers who text and drive look away from the road by an average of 5 seconds, representing the time they spend typing, sending or reading text messages. That adds up to about the time it would take to travel the length of a football field.

If approved, violation of the law would be a minor misdemeanor to carry a maximum fine of $150. But it would be a primary offense, which would give cops the authority to stop and cite drivers just for that.

The law would not ban texting while in the car. The violation would be “texting while driving.” Drivers who wish to text while driving should pull off the road and text all they want.

Others at the rally were Bexley Police Chief Larry Rinehart; Captain Guy Turner, City of Westlake Police Department, and Tina Yanssens, whose pedestrian father was killed by a texting driver.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

 

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Coleman defends officer in fatal shooting

By , October 9, 2011 | 4:02 am | 1 Comments

Coleman defends officer in fatal shooting

ONUMBA.COM – A visibly livid Mayor Michael Coleman is preaching the same sermon he has frustratingly preached for years. His face is starting to turn purple from speaking out against gun violence and decrying the avalanche of guns littering the streets of Columbus.

But still, some young folks are just not getting it.

The message, for what it’s worth, is iron-clad clear: Pulling a gun at cops, even without firing it, is as good as committing suicide.

Dude – there’s no better way to put it. It’s a dumb thing to do.

For Obbie Shepard, an African-American 21-year old, who was killed by the police weeks ago after he pulled and fired a gun at them, that blunt message is obviously ‘too little, too late. But for other young folks out there, there are plenty of lessons to learn from Shepard’s tragedy.

The incident occurred on the South side of the city, where Shepard, after being caught riding a stolen bicycle, jumped down and ran as he fired shots at approaching cops. The cops returned fire, killing him instantly.

As always, shootings involving the police and a member of the Black community make headline news often with racial undertones. This was no different. The incident riled Black folks who pointed the finger of blame at the police for often disrespecting African-American residents. But Coleman, last week, begged to differ, at least concerning this particular case. And he wasn’t mushy about it, either. The mayor did not shy away from saying what he felt needed to be said.

“To any parent who loses a child, it’s a terrible thing,” said Coleman during a press conference held at the police headquarters downtown. “But if you’re going to shoot at police or anybody else, you’re writing your own death sentence.”

Counting the Shepard incident, there were six shootings in the month of August involving the police. In four of the shootings, armed men opened fire at cops who fired back killing the four shooters. That was just in that month. But so far in 2011, there have been 12 police involved shootings in Columbus resulting in five deaths.

Coleman, warning that life is “not a video game” and that officers will “meet deadly force with deadly force,” expressed the view that these deaths are preventable.

“When you have an encounter with police, you don’t pull out a gun – ever. If you do… you will probably be shot. That’s a fact of life,” said Coleman, pretty much calling‘a spade a spade,’ and some would say, rightly so.

The mayor urged parents to do more to protect their children.

“If you know or even suspect that your child is carrying a gun or is engaged in criminal activity, you need to intervene now to save their life.”

In the wake of the Shepard shooting incident, pastors belonging to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Columbus and vicinity huddled up in a news conference to decry gun violence in the city. That’s really nice. But such populist parleys, though sincere and helpful in its own way, often appear to be more reactionary than anything else, when actually the solution is a sustained effort at intervening, mentoring and changing the lives of young African-Americans dangling dangerously and aimlessly. And parents, most would agree, have a leading role to play in that effort.

Coleman, who has been at the forefront of this battle, wants gun violence to “stop now.”

But while he has been outspoken about this, his main proposal for stemming its tide frustratingly remains a long way from being realized. Coleman has kvetched repeatedly about the torrent of guns flowing into the streets of Columbus and has complained that his “hands are tied” about addressing it.

And he faults the enabling role that government plays in indirectly fostering it.

Years ago, assault weapons were banned in the city and carrying concealed weapons in city parks was illegal. That was when cities could enact their own gun rules.

But that was then. In 2007, the laws changed, preventing cities from being able to enact their own local gun rules. That was because the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that local laws should not supplant state laws on this, and that only the state government should have the authority to regulate weapons in all cities and localities.

That pretty much left Coleman with the same thing: back to preaching the same sermon.

“There are too many damn guns in the streets, and now they are being pointed at police,” said Coleman, at that press conference. It was the same concern he expressed repeatedly last summer when the city was being clobbered by a wave of deadly gun violence. Coleman has long held the view that Ohio is “a gun state”because“ we allow concealed weapons by law.”

His words: “We’re a gun state,” he decried.“We allow the proliferation of guns in all of our communities.”

State Representative Tracy Heard expressed similar concerns.

Not long ago, she introduced a legislation to close a loophole through which she complained illegal guns flow into the community. Coleman praised that effort, calling it an “important piece of legislation” that would require background check before gun purchase.

But still, there are just too many guns in the wrong hands. Coleman’s message is simple, loud and clear: ‘parents shield your children from being around such peril.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

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