After seven month legal battle, Eye on Ohio wins public records lawsuit over hospital capacity numbers

Court of Claims Rules that the Ohio Department of Health must disclose the number of beds and other equipment available

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. As the ongoing pandemic continues to surge, the Ohio Court of Claims ruled last week that the Department of Health must share public records with Eye on Ohio, showing the number of beds and ventilators available for COVID-19 patients at individual hospitals throughout the state. 

The ruling comes seven months after Eye on Ohio initially sought the records. 

“In times of crisis transparency is paramount,” said Rebekah Crawford, who has her Ph.D. in Health Communication, Relating & Organizing from Ohio University. People want credibility and clear lines around what is known and what is uncertain. “When risk communicators are at their best,” Crawford said, “they remain credible by showing what is known and what is not known and by being clear about why we don’t know, and what we’re going to do to find out.” 

When Eye on Ohio first requested records, at the end of March, the state had only about 2,200 confirmed cases and 55 deaths, according to the online Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

FirstEnergy fights against disclosing more details about alleged HB 6 bribery cases

Case filings and delay of possible nuclear bailout combine to block Ohioans from learning more before voting. This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. var divElement = document.getElementById('viz1604006918434'); var vizElement = divElement.getElementsByTagName('object')[0]; if ( divElement.offsetWidth > 800 ) { vizElement.style.width='100%';vizElement.style.height='1007px';} else if ( divElement.offsetWidth > 500 ) { vizElement.style.width='100%';vizElement.style.height='971px';} else { vizElement.style.width='100%';vizElement.style.height='427px';} var scriptElement = document.createElement('script'); scriptElement.src = 'https://public.tableau.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js'; vizElement.parentNode.insertBefore(scriptElement, vizElement);

Consumer advocates, industry organizations and environmental groups continue efforts to learn more about claims that FirstEnergy and current or former subsidiaries may have financed an alleged $60-million conspiracy to make sure Ohio’s nuclear bailout bill became law and withstood a referendum attempt. Yet opposition by FirstEnergy in two regulatory cases and in state court has combined with the legislative recess to prevent those groups and voters from learning more before Election Day.

Red tape remains a high hurdle, but Cleveland still able to provide rental assistance to pandemic-stricken tenants

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism . Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Tenants facing eviction in Cleveland Housing Court can access a temporary measure of relief through the current federal moratorium on evictions, and through the city and county’s rental aid programs. But, they’re no silver bullet. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium, started on Sept. 1, was meant to pause pandemic-related eviction cases against tenants, to provide a measure of relief during these challenging times.

Latest challenge raises question of reopening FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy ruling

Questions about the transparency of FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor and others are central to proceedings in multiple cases. This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Environmental groups have filed a motion asking a federal appeals court to tell FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy court judge to take action in light of the alleged corruption cases in federal and state court. The Environmental Law & Policy Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Ohio Citizen Action, and the Ohio Environmental Council want the judge to consider suspending execution of the reorganization plan that was confirmed earlier this year.

Sidebar: A look inside Ohio’s first majority mail-in Primary

This article provided by Stanford University’s Big Local News program and  Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Over the six weeks of Ohio’s historic mail-in primary, Clermont County Board of Elections Director Julia Carney and her small team of staffers spent hours processing over 1,000 absentee ballot applications per day, the papers piling up in four stacks on the counter in their office. 

Armed with hand sanitizer and masks, and social distancing as much as they could, the team processed over 40,000 applications by Election Day. In each of Ohio’s 88 counties, boards of elections were working around the clock to do the same: Even with a low percentage of registered voters showing up to the polls, primary voters submitted absentee ballots in numbers that exceeded those of a higher turnout general election. 

Big Local News requested primary cost summaries from Ohio’s 88 counties, which detail expenses paid toward the primary after March 27, 2020. Twenty six provided records in a standardized format used by Ohio’s Secretary of State.

Inconsistent Ballot Application Data Leads to Undercount of Disenfranchised Voters

Haley Belisle, a recent graduate of Ohio Northern University, was baffled this spring when the Hardin County Board of elections rejected her application to vote absentee in the state’s presidential primary. 

The problem was her signature on the application: It didn’t match her voter registration signature. “When I originally registered, I was just out of high school and I apparently signed my name in a very curly cursive, which I don’t do any more,” she said. The 24-year-old got a new application and replicated the original style, she said, effectively “forging my own signature.” 

Belisle was able to cast her ballot. 

That wasn’t the case for all potential voters in Ohio’s presidential primary. 

This summer, Eye on Ohio set out to examine how many absentee ballot applications were rejected, why, and how voters could avoid those mistakes. The analysis of millions of Ohio applications from the state’s 88 counties revealed a patchwork and unreliable system for tracking the requests that makes it near-impossible to accurately know how many voters, if any, were disenfranchised. It also called into question the accuracy of information collected by state election officials on rejected applications. 

With only weeks until the 2020 presidential election, and lingering concerns about the novel coronavirus, voters are applying for absentee ballots at a record pace. 

That, along with President Donald Trump’s attacks on the use of mail-in ballots,  though not supported by research, could bring magnified attention to the process, especially in a swing state like Ohio where Trump and Sen. Joe Biden are swapping narrow leads in the polls. 

Applications for mail-in ballots received relatively little attention in the past, as most fair election advocates concentrated efforts on whether absentee and provisional ballots were counted.

Ohio regulators decline to force FirstEnergy to hire an independent auditor

The order agrees that spending should be open to review but first requires the company to review itself. This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Regulators are requiring FirstEnergy to show that its Ohio utility ratepayers didn’t foot the bill, “directly or indirectly,” for political or charitable spending in support of the state’s nuclear and coal bailout bill. Yet that order is much more lenient than the state’s official consumer advocate had sought.

How can students learn at home if they have multiple homes or no home at all?

One group succeeds with holistic approach; demand still exceeds supply

Sylvia Rucker has been a caretaker most of her life. As the head cook at Hannah Gibbons Elementary School in Collinwood, she prepares meals for approximately 250 students daily, and has four adult children of her own. But when her oldest daughter died unexpectedly in the summer of 2019, Rucker was suddenly thrust into the role of parent once again. “My daughter went into the hospital with a toothache. She passed away a week later, and left behind three kids,” says Rucker.