From green slime to making gang crime pay
Here are 10 possible trends emerging from the stories that made The Press in 2013.
1) Green Slime: The progress seems painfully slow. The threat to our multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industry is real. So real it has spurred bipartisan support in the Ohio legislature. Sen. Randy Gardner (R) and Rep. Chris Redfern (D) will provide leadership roles in the newly-formed Lake Erie Caucus. The caucus will address open-lake dumping of dredge material and phosphorous run-off from farm fields, two practices that, coupled with aging sewer systems, are the likely culprits contributing to toxic-algal blooms (green slime). In 2011 the slime covered some 2,000 square miles. It can be as toxic as cobra venom.
Creation of a pilot wetland system at the mouth of Wolf Creek in Oregon is one new effort to reduce contaminants heading for Lake Erie. More strategies are needed and soon.
2) The Digital Revolution: Kindergarten teachers at Eastwood are using iPads to help struggling students catch up while challenging the gifted. Oregon has provided junior high students with personal iPads and next year Clay students will get laptops. Both districts received state grants to develop on-line content with the goal of eliminating expensive textbooks. Genoa installed a new Wi-Fi system to help teachers modify learning programs to include innovative technology. Cardinal Stritch freshmen received iPads in 2012. The Digital Revolution is here.
3) Making gang crime pay: According to the FBI, there are 33,000 gangs with 1.4 million members operating in the U.S. To combat that growth, some police departments and prosecutors in Ohio are dusting off a little-used bill drafted in 1998 by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and sponsored by John Garcia, a state representative from East Toledo. The bill classifies participation in a criminal gang as a felony and tacks on two to eight years to any crime committed by a gang member. Hamilton County, Lorain and Toledo have resurrected the bill and used it effectively. It may be difficult to implement, but it’s a needed tool.
4) Opportunity in the trades: A group of local manufacturers donated $65,000 to Oregon schools for the purchase of a Computer Numerical Controlled milling center to train prospective employees. In Ottawa County, the community improvement corporation took high school officials on a tour of four manufacturers to give them a better understanding of career paths in the skilled trades.
Rising labor costs overseas and higher transportation costs have led to a rebirth in manufacturing in the U.S. and that has opened up good paying jobs in the skilled trades.
5) Gun raffles: Volunteer groups are finding it increasingly difficult to field the manpower needed to raise funds through community festivals. For nearly 40 years, The Millbury Fire Department counted on the annual Ox Roast to fund equipment purchases, but in 2013, due to a lack of volunteers and increasing fees, the department cancelled the roast and instead auctioned off a .223 caliber tactical rifle. Other groups which hold feather parties, Monte Carlo nights and reverse raffles will also look for easier ways to fund their good deeds.
6) Ready, aim, stop: Lake Township officials have fielded a number of complaints from residents about shooting ranges near their homes. As more subdivisions are platted in what was farm country and as small arms weapons become more powerful, more townships will update zoning regulations to mirror their municipal neighbors.
7) Gluten-free: An estimated three million Americans suffer from celiac disease, an allergic reaction to gluten, an ingredient found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. There is no pharmacological cure so a gluten-free diet is the best option. Hirzel Canning Company & Farms of Northwood announced it is now offering a gluten-free condensed tomato soup in its Dei Fratelli line. More will follow.
8) Tougher DUI laws: The National Traffic Safety Transportation Board has called for a reduction in the blood alcohol content for a DUI charge from .08 to .05 percent. This move comes despite the fact that alcohol-related deaths have plummeted from 26,173 in 1982 to 9,878 in 2011. The proposed limit is opposed by the restaurant and bar industry which contends having a drink or two with dinner would put most people over the limit. Ironically, it’s not the social drinker, but rather the chronic drinker that causes the most carnage on our roads. While this particular change in the law may be one step too far, look for other initiatives to come.
9) Read or else: Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee states third graders who don’t score a certain level on the state reading test cannot advance to fourth grade unless they are given special instructional aid to get them up to speed.
This is a much needed change. Reading is the most indispensible skill for a successful career.
10) Solid home, bargain price: In 2007, the average realtor-listed home in East Toledo sold for $33,944. Today, the average home sells for $15,159. These depressed values have left many homeowners owing more than their home is worth and without any equity to secure a loan for improvements. There is a bright side, however. Some young people have relocated to East Toledo to capitalize on the bargain prices. You can still get a solid home with a lot of character for a price that would be the envy of urban dwellers in many other cities.