“Experts say state needs bail reform” by Julie Hullett

Summary of “Bail Reform” forum held at Cleveland Hts/University Hts Public Library on Thursday December 12, 2019

Experts say state needs bail reform
By JULIE HULLETT
The pdf is here


left to right: Nick Castele- Ideastream, Claire Chevrier ACLU Ohio, Judge Charles L. Patton Jr., Cleveland Municipal Court, Judge John J. Russo, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS — Panelists at a Thursday forum concluded that the state of Ohio is in desperate need of bail reform, a slow yet necessary process to even the scales as defendants stand before the justice system.

The Greater Cleveland Chapter of the League of Women Voters sponsored the event at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library on Dec. 12, in addition to other sponsors such as Case Western Reserve University Siegal Lifelong Learning, Heights Public Library, Ideastream and First Interstate Properties, Ltd.

Nick Castele of WCPN/Ideastream moderated the panel, which consisted of advocacy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Claire Chevrier, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Charles Patton, Jr. and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Administrative and Presiding Judge John Russo.

“In Ohio, we have a two-tier system of justice in which wealthy individuals who were assigned cash bail as a condition of release get to go home to their families,” Ms. Chevrier said. “Those who don’t have deep pockets and can’t pay for their cash bail as a condition of release stay in jail.”

The video from the forum is here:

Pretrial services

Judge Patton said that Cleveland did not have a pretrial services department two years ago. A representative from pretrial services greets people in custody directly after their arrest and gathers information such as their employment and housing status. Judge Patton said that a risk assessment tool is used to determine if the person is a risk to the community and the pretrial services department gathers that information.

He said that there are currently 90 people in Cleveland Municipal Court jail. Several years ago, there was an average 200-300 people in jail on any day, according to Judge Patton.

“During this year, we have reduced our jail population by more than 50 percent by utilizing the pretrial services,” he said.

Risk assessments

Ms. Chevrier said that risk assessments cannot be objective. Although some are better than others, she said, risk assessments are based on underlying biases and criminal policing. For example, some assessments would flag defendants who live in a high crime neighborhood, which Ms. Chevrier said is criminalization of poverty. Other biases include number of former arrests and convictions, which can have racially disparate outcomes, she explained.

“There’s a lot of coercion under cash bail system,” she said. “That is not an objective measure.”

Closing the gap

Judge Russo explained how Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court works in coordination with Cleveland Municipal Court. He said that 60 percent of the felony charges in the common pleas court come from the 13 municipal courts in the county. The county court must manage 15,000 to 17,000 cases per year, he said.

Six years ago, Judge Russo said that defendants waited an average of 30 days in jail between appearing in front of the municipal court and the county court. He said that the gap is now four days because dire consequences come from being stuck in jail.

“We closed that gap for a number of reasons…[like] how it can affect someone’s life in a matter of three days, losing a car, a job, a home, whatever it might be,” Judge Russo said.

Moving forward

Judge Russo was a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio’s task force on bail reform and the group published nine recommendations, including requiring a risk assessment tool and the presence of counsel for an initial appearance, considering alternatives to pretrial detention and use text or email reminders for court dates, according to the report.

Judge Russo said that Ohio needs a “centralized data-based system for criminal justice system” so every region of the state can collect and compare data equally. Judge Patton compared the costs of keeping people in jail or releasing them until their next court date.

“We are spending between $100-150 per night per defendant in jail,” Judge Patton said. “We are spending less than $10 for every night they’re on the street.”

Ms. Chevrier and the ACLU are advocating for “a presumption of release” unless the judge or prosecutor asks for a hearing because they notice something concerning in the facts of the case or the person’s history that could make the person a public safety risk.

Audience members and mental health professionals Dr. Megan Testa and Annette Amistadi said that the forum was informative. Dr. Tetsa of Shaker Heights, a psychiatrist at University Hospitals, said that she often works will patients who are mentally ill and need treatment rather than jail time. Ms. Amistadi of Parma said that she came to the forum to learn more about how the justice system can treat people fairly and work as efficiently as possible.

“Women’s Health in Ohio” a forum on Sept 17, 2019


“Women’s Health in Ohio
Tuesday September 17 6:30pm
The flyer is here
The video is here

with panelists:
Dr. Carla Harwell, University Hospitals
Iris E. Harvey, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio
Dr. Amy Hise,  CWRU School of Medicine
Tracy Carter, VP Government Relations, MetroHealth

Moderated by Marlene Harris Taylor WCPN/Ideastream

We’ll explore the state of women’s health in Ohio and the U.S. today and what can be done to improve it.

Ohio is ranked 32nd in overall health rankings for women (and children), according to a 2018 report published by America’s Health Rankings with: *high drug death among women
*low percentage of infants exclusively breastfed for 6 months
*low percentile of publicly-funded health services needs met

 In Ohio, black women are two to three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women while nationwide, American women are 50% more likely to die in childbirth than 30 years ago.

 And while there has been a shift toward including women in clinical drug trials in the last 25 years, there is still a long way to go in terms of robust representation of women. 

(Good news: for the first time since 2004, more women than men applied to U.S. medical schools. Women were also the majority of matriculants (new enrollees) to medical school for the second year in a row)

The statistics can be alarming, but what can be done to reverse these trends and inequalities? What role do our lawmakers play in our heath?   Where do we go from here?


Marelene Harris Taylor, Ideastream
Lakewood Public Library Main, 15425 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio 44107
Cosponsored by Ideastream, LWV-Greater Cleveland, CWRU Siegal Lifelong Learning and Lakewood Public Library

  

Senior Financial Fraud Town Hall Tues Sept 24, 2019

The flyer is here
Tuesday, September 24 · 2-3 pm
Senior Financial Fraud Town Hall
Montefiore’s Maltz Auditorium, 1 David N. Myers Pkwy 44122

FIGHTING FRAUDSTERS: Keeping your money safe in an age of scams
The preview is here
The user guide is here
The video is here

 

  • Sheryl Harris, Director of Cuyahoga County’s Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Jon Steiger, Regional Director for the East Central Region of the Federal Trade Commission
  • Sue McConnell, President, Cleveland Better Business Bureau
  • Natasha Pietrocola, Deputy Administrator, Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services
  • Mike Kallmeyer, Spectrum News 1 OH In Focus Host (panel moderator)

Cosponsored by Spectrum News Ohio, Montefiore and the League of Women Voters-Greater Cleveland

Attendees must arrive by 1:45pm
To register or for more information, contact Amanda DeCastro at C-Amanda.DeCastro@charter.com
    

Domestic Violence Forum July 25, 2019


Thursday July 25, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.
Domestic Violence Forum
The flyer is here
The forum write-up is here
The forum video is here

Shaker Public Library Main Branch
16500 Van Aken Boulevard Shaker Heights, OH 44120
A devastating and potentially tragic problem, an epidemic that is often ignored

What is domestic violence?
From the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center: “Often referred to as battering, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence; it is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over someone through fear and intimidation. It often includes the threat or use of violence, and can include physical, emotional, verbal, financial/resource, and sexual abuse.”
Find out how you can protect yourself, your loved ones, your friends and colleagues.

Panelists
Rep Janine Boyd (D), District 9, Ohio House of Representatives
Judge K.J. Montgomery Shaker Municipal Court
Alexandria Ruden, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Megen Gergen, Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center
Former student, Shaker Heights High School

Moderated by Rachel Dissell, The Plain Dealer
Sponsored by LWV Shaker Chapter, Shaker Public Library and The Plain Dealer

Domestic Violence Forum, July 26, 2019 by Julie Hullett

Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights, Alexandria Ruden of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Judge K.J. Montgomery of Shaker Heights Municipal Court, Megen Gergen of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center

Rachel Dissell, moderator, The Plain Dealer

Local experts offer strategies for domestic violence victims
By JULIE HULLETT  The pdf is here

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Lethality tests, advocacy and victim support systems are key to ending domestic violence, according to panelists at a Thursday forum. With a combination of support from legislators, law enforcement agencies and organizations that offer services for victims, the panelists said that more men and women in abusive relationships will survive.

“When there are continuums of care, it’s harder for people to fall in the cracks,” state Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights said. “If we can engage them at one point and keep them engaged throughout the continuum, then you have a better chance of effectively helping them.”

Other panelists at the forum included:

  • Judge K.J. Montgomery of Shaker Heights Municipal Court
  • Alexandria Ruden of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
  • Megen Gergen of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center

Rachel Dissell, investigative reporter for The Plain Dealer, moderated the discussion. The event, which drew nearly 60 people, was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Shaker Heights, The Plain Dealer and the Shaker Heights Public Library, where it took place.

The forum video is here:

The highlights of the panel are below:

Aisha’s Law

Rep. Boyd spoke on the importance of House Bill 3, known as “Aisha’s Law” that she introduced in the state house in May. The bill is named after Aisha Fraser, who was murdered in Shaker Heights in November by her ex-husband, who was a former state representative, state senator and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge.

This bill would offer additional protections to domestic violence victims, including requiring courts to make restraining orders available at all times and requiring law enforcement to create a separate track for high-risk domestic violence cases.

“Law enforcement has been one of the most supportive groups around the bill because domestic violence calls are among the most lethal for law enforcement,” she said. “They know the people and it’s a revolving door.”

Rep. Boyd said that Gov. Mike DeWine has shown support for this legislation. In the state budget for FY 2020-21, she said that there is a line-tem for statewide domestic violence programs for $1 million per year.

Lethality tests

One of the most important aspects of Aisha’s Law is the lethality test, a method to determine the lethality of a domestic situation. According to Ms. Ruden, the lethality test asks detailed questions so law enforcement can fully understand if a victim’s life is in danger and how to handle the people involved.

The lethality questionnaire asks the victim if his or her abuser is obsessive or has access to weapons. One vital question on the lethality test is whether or not the victim has been strangled. Panelists said that strangulation is a known precursor to more violence. Ms. Ruden said that Aisha’s Law also has a provision that makes strangulation a crime.

“The thing that we’re most excited about is that there is a piece in there on strangulation, finally, working with strangulation and making it a crime—and calling it what it is,” Ms. Ruden said. “It’s not attempted murder, it’s not attempted assault. It’s near-fatal strangulation.”

Victim support

The panelists stressed the importance of offering support and resources for the victims of domestic violence. When Ms. Gergen meets with clients at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, she said that she helps them make a plan, such as where to live and how to support themselves.

Judge Montgomery also said that the advocates are instrumental in keeping the victims safe. She said that victims need to have a code word, so if the victim calls a friend or family member and uses that word, the other person will know to call 911. She also noted that in some cases it is necessary to keep a packed bag when it is time to leave the household.

“If somebody wants to kill you, they’re going to do it,” Ms. Ruden said. “[We need to] educate our victims, and the best way to do that is the lethality assessment because you educate not just the victim, but the community.”

Education to end the stigma

According to the panelists, another challenge with domestic violence situations is overcoming the stigma toward them. Judge Montgomery said that this crime knows no boundaries.

“One of the first things you realize is this is a crime that knows no economic constraints, no ethnicity, no neighborhood,” she said. “It comes from all five of our communities that come into the Shaker court, whether they be the most affluent or the most poor.”

Ms. Gergen said that victims are still stigmatized because their stories are questioned and some may blame the victim. She said that society sometimes asks what the victim did to make her husband hit her, or why she chose to be in a violent relationship.

“There has been an increase in conversations, but it’s still uncomfortable for folks,” she said.

Ms. Gergen explained that education and empowerment are key to overcoming the stigma. She said that it can be easy to identify domestic violence on TV, when a professional athlete is caught in the act on video. But it can be harder to admit that domestic violence is occurring if the suspected abuser is an acquaintance, such as a neighbor or a co-worker.

What can I do?

The panelists offered many opportunities for everyday citizens to get involved to help stop domestic violence. Ms. Gergen advised citizens to get to know their neighbors and check in to see how things are going.

Judge Montgomery said that parents must educate themselves and their children on how to handle difficult situations. Ms. Ruden said that people should be supportive to the victims, and suggested not to get upset with the victim if he or she returns to the abuser.

“It takes a victim of domestic violence seven to 10 times to get out of a battery situation,” Ms. Ruden said. “If you are that support system, don’t turn them away when they go back. At some point, they will get out.”

Rep. Boyd advised citizens to advocate for funding for domestic violence programs and resources at the federal level by calling their congressperson and senator and asking for matching funds and grants in states that are implementing the lethality protocol.

An audience member, Eileen Burkhart of Cleveland Heights, said that the presentation was information but is still waiting for more progress.

“This was a good education piece about what the law is, but we need to come up with a way where domestic violence situations are addressed way earlier than letting them get into court and the legal system,” Ms. Burkhart said. “We don’t catch it soon enough, there’s not enough support out there for victims to get the help they need.”

Shaker Candidates Forum, Thursday, September 26, 2019  7:00pm

The City Council video is here

The School Board video is here

The Mayoral video is here
The flyer is here
Shaker Candidates Forum
Thursday, September 26, 2019  7:00-9:00 PM
Shaker Middle School Auditorium
20600 Shaker Boulevard
Free to the public.
Get to know the candidates and ask questions at this moderated forum.
City Council Candidates (vote for 4)
Tom Cicarella
Sean P. Malone
Nancy R. Moore
Carmella Williams
Earl Williams Jr
School Board Candidates (vote for 2)
Ted Auch (not available-will provide written statement)
Jeff Isaacs
Emmitt R. Jolly
Kathleen Sauline (write-in candidate)
Mayor Candidate
David E. Weiss
Cosponsored by Shaker Heights Public Library and
The League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland-Shaker Chapter

2020 U.S. CENSUS FORUM: Accurate census vital to Ohio’s future by Julie Hullett 9/12/19

Photo: left to right: Michele Pomerantz, Daniel Ortiz, Lisa Neidert, Rich Exner, mod.Accurate census vital to Ohio’s future
By JULIE HULLETT
SEPTEMBER 12, 2019
The pdf is here
The video is here

BEACHWOOD — Local government officials and activists are doing everything they can to get an accurate count for the 2020 census, which will affect redistricting and funding for various programs and projects, according to a panel of experts.

Lisa Neidert of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, Daniel Ortiz of Policy Matters Ohio and Michele Pomerantz, director of regional collaboration for Cuyahoga County spoke on the importance of the census and how they are working to count every individual, in addition to brief comments from county Executive Armond Budish. Rich Exner, data analyst editor for cleveland.com, moderated the panel discussion, which drew a crowd of more than 50 people at the Beachwood Landmark Centre on Sept. 12.

“The county has been putting a lot of resources into this effort because it is so important. We need everyone to be counted,” Executive Budish said, who is also co-chairman of the Cuyahoga County Complete Count Committee.

“So many of the things we do depend on a complete census. We provide Medicaid, SNAP, Head Start, foster care and the resources that come through those programs to people who need it depend on the census.”

The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, The Siegal Lifelong Learning Center at Case Western Reserve University and cleveland.com.

Self-reporting for 2020 census

Ms. Pomerantz noted an important change for the census. The 2020 census is the first one that will offer the option to self-report online or on the phone. In the past, a U.S. Census Bureau employee, known as an enumerator, came door-to-door to gather information or the census was mailed for residents to fill out and return.

“Self-response is the first and preferred way that we ask of those to respond,” according to Susan Licate, partnership specialist at the Philadelphia Regional Census Center.

She explained the process for reporting census information this year. There are four “touch points.” In early March, households will receive the invitation in the mail to respond to the census online or by phone. One week after the first notification arrives, the household will receive a reminder in the mail. If a household still does not respond, it will receive another reminder. The fourth reminder comes as a paper census page in the mail to fill out. After that, an enumerator will come to the door to gather census information, including name, age, race, sex, relation to the head of the household and whether the person rents or owns the home.

Protecting underreported populations

Mr. Ortiz serves as the chairman of the county subcommittee on Hard to Count Communities, including minorities, homeless people and those living in poverty. He said that although the technical process has improved over time, the U.S. still has a history of undercounting certain populations.

“It’s something that’s always been political. There’s a history of people not being fully counted,” he said of the census, which has occurred every 10 years since 1790.

He noted that black Americans were not fully counted until after slavery, Native Americans were not counted until 1870 and Hispanic and Latinx individuals were counted as Mexican in 1930 and then counted with the term Hispanic in 1970. The census committee is looking at ways to target hard-to-count communities to ensure that they are informed and prepared for the census.

Ms. Pomerantz added that after the census is over for regular households, enumerators will spend several days in communities to count homeless people, whether they are on the street or in a shelter.

Earning trust for the census

Ms. Neidert said that it will prove to be a challenge to gain the trust of individuals filling out the census and convince them that the information is necessary for leaders to efficiently govern. Mr. Exner noted that there will not be a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

“Even when the president decides to create havoc about the citizenship question…[committees] are put together with those individuals who already have the relationship so that this continues to be an outpouring of a message that the census is safe to take,” Ms. Pomerantz said.

The panelists said that the challenges arise in finding every person to count and convincing each one that their information is private and will not be misused. Ms. Neidert also noted that following WWII, census data was used for Japanese internment.

Funding the effort

According to Ms. Pomerantz, Ohio legislators did not appropriate additional funds in the biennial budget for the 2020 census.

“If the state of Ohio was to put extra funding in for the census, even just for promotional materials, it would go a long way,” she said. “But we have not seen that funding and we were pretty surprised about that.”

Ms. Neidert said that the state has been “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and that the money will not be useful if it comes too late. According to Ms. Pomerantz, the county census team has relied on the Cleveland Foundation and the George Gund Foundation for their philanthropic efforts.

How to get involved

Armed with knowledge by the end of the discussion, attendees asked how they can get involved in the 2020 census. Panelists advised them to spread the word with their family, friends and community neighbors about the importance of the census. The bureau is still seeking enumerators and those interested can gather more information at cuyahogacounty.us/2020census.

Melanie Biché of Cleveland Heights said that she came to the discussion to learn more about the census and gerrymandering.

“I’m very concerned about gerrymandering and I want to understand how the census will impact us,” she said. “I didn’t realize the amount of money that is involved in this. I wasn’t sure what the purpose of the census was. Right now I have more questions than answers.”

As for the census itself, committee members and census bureau employees are working to make it as clear and straightforward as possible. They are hoping that the process will be easier to complete with the option of sharing information online or on the phone, according to the panelists. Nada Martinovic, who represents Cuyahoga County at the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, said that people can respond in 12 languages online and 59 languages on the phone, in addition to English online or by phone.

 

Cleveland Heights Charter Amendment Forum Video Oct 10, 2019 7pm

BALLOT ISSUE 26 FORUM
Cleveland Heights
Charter Amendment  
Thursday, October 10, 7 pm
Here’s the video

Cleveland Heights High School Cafeteria

13263 Cedar Road

Featuring representatives of

Citizens for an Elected Mayor and
Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government

Panel will present statements and
answer questions from the audience.

Presented by the LWV of Greater Cleveland Heights Chapter

Cuyahoga County Votes to Expand Resources for Community College-Spectrum News Nov 5, 2019

Cuyahoga County Votes to Expand Resources for Community College

By Ryan Schmelz Cleveland – Spectrum News Ohio

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio– The passage of Issue 3 renews a tax levy in Cuyahoga County that will help expand resources for its community college district.

53 Year-old father of three, Steven Brooks has spent many hours with IT hardware and walking the halls of Cuyahoga County Community College, or Tri-C, as it’s known, Brooks balances work and fatherhood.

“It’s very challenging, I’m kind of always tired but, you know, it keeps you going, it keeps you striving, it keeps you wanting to be better, “says Steven Brooks, Tri-C student.

And, with ten years in the IT field, he’s taking advantage of the resources to stay employable, and hopefully, even earn a promotion in his industry.

“It’s always changing, and I either go and learn something else or get left behind in old technology, which I’m not willing to do,” says Brooks.

The Tri-C Tax levy renews 1.9 million dollars and adds 400,000 dollars in funding to the school’s programs for students seeking an affordable higher education option and job training.  With the property tax increase, the owner of a 100,000 dollar home would pay an extra 14 dollars a year.

That tax increase is worth it for the non-partisan League of Women Voters. “Having a skilled, trained labor force is so important to this region. We’re a rust belt area, we need new technologies, health care center, and so many people can get their start in community college,” says Janice Patterson, League of Women Voters.

One of those students getting their start is 20-year-old student Balquise Alshafei, who lives on her own while managing life as a full-time student.

“It’s challenging, you know, it gets lonely sometimes,” says Alshafei.

But the tax levy will allow Tri-C, the lowest costing school in Ohio, to keep tuition affordable, so students like her can have more opportunity to reach their educational ceiling.

The Future of Political Debates City Club of Cleveland Aug 12, 2019

No Debate About It: The Future of Political Debates

Monday, August 12, 2019 at The City Club of Cleveland

Elizabeth Bennion, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science & American Democracy Project Director, Indiana University South Bend, and Host of WNIT’s “Politically Speaking”

Harry Boomer​
Anchor Reporter, 19News/CW43, and Immediate Past President and Member, Greater Cleveland National Association of Black Journalists

Richard Davis, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science and Director of the Office of Civic Engagement, Brigham Young University

John C. Green, Ph.D.
Interim President, University of Akron; Director, Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics; Distinguished Professor of Political Science

Moderator
Dan Moulthrop
CEO, The City Club of Cleveland

Read about it here: