Guilty until proven innocent? Ohio’s upside down approach to justice in its anti-texting law: Today in Ohio (2024)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A state appeals court ruled it’s up to Ohio drivers accused of violating the state’s new texting-while-driving law to prove at least one of the many exceptions to the law applies to their case.

We’re talking about how that works, when normally you’re innocent until proven guilty, on Today in Ohio.

Listen online here.

Editor Chris Quinn hosts our daily half-hour news podcast, with editorial board member Lisa Garvin, impact editor Leila Atassi and content director Laura Johnston.

You’ve been sending Chris lots of thoughts and suggestions on our from-the-newsroom text account, in which he shares what we’re thinking about at cleveland.com. You can sign up here: https://joinsubtext.com/chrisquinn.

You can now join the conversation. Call 833-648-6329 (833-OHTODAY) if you’d like to leave a message we can play on the podcast.

Here’s what else we’re asking about today:

This is why the texting law was always going to e trouble. How has a court ruled that the onus is on a person accused of texting that they are innocent instead of on the prosecutor to prove guilt? Doesn’t that upend one of the signature principles of our criminal justice system?

What are some key Democrats saying about Joe Biden’s debate performance and how it might affect the Ohio Senate race?

Because of Mike DeWine’s leadership, we know that a Republican and a Democratic presidential candidate will be on the Ohio ballot in November, but is there a possibility we’ll see at least one other party represented?

Tomorrow is Independence Day, and we have a few interesting pieces of news about it. First, after talking about some of the downsides of legal fireworks in Ohio, let’s talk about an upside. How much money has it generated for the state coffers?

Many of us like to fly flags on the holiday, and some lawmakers have thoughts about the flags flown over government buildings. Who are they and what do they want?

Lastly, July 4th can bring out the partier in people. And some people have had raucous parties in rented AirBnB houses, much to the bother of neighbors. What is AirBnB doing about that, and how has it played out in Ohio?

Should people heading to Sandusky Bay for the holiday be concerned by how green it is? Is all that green the blue-green algae that is so dangerous to people and pets?

We’ve talked about hooligans banding together to disrupt or terrorize people, as at local festivals and Edgewater Park. Some hooligans do their disrupting on dirt bikes. What did the arrest of one tell us about dirt bike riders, and what does the Cleveland City Council president say is needed to stop them?

Cleveland has a safety director, who oversees the police and fire departments, EMS and dog warden. Who is it?

Finally, politicians like to say they want to hear from their constituents, but can there be too much of a good thing. How is the Cuyahoga County Council trying to rein in what can be out-of-control comment sessions at its public meetings?

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Read the automated transcript below. Because it’s a computer-generated transcript, it contains many errors and misspellings.

Chris (00:01.773)

We’re at the eve of July 4th with I think a lot of people are turning into a four day holiday or a four and a half day holiday if the traffic predictions are as we see. We’ll be talking about that on Today in Ohio, the news podcast discussion from cleveland .com and The Plain Dealer. I’m Chris Quinton here with Lisa Garvin, Courtney Astolfi and Laura Johnston. This is our last episode of the week. No episodes tomorrow or Friday. We’ll be back Monday.

All right, Laura, this is why the texting law was always going to be trouble. How is a court ruled that the onus is on a person accused of texting to prove that they are innocent instead of on the prosecutors to prove guilt? Doesn’t that upend one of the signature principles of our criminal justice system?

Laura (00:48.722)

Well, this hinges on how the law is written and the idea that the exemptions in the law are affirmative defenses that people can use to prove their innocence, not something that prosecutors have to prove around. And this is from a three judge panel in the Fifth District Court of Appeals. And this is what Judge Andrew King said, that they are affirmative defenses and that defendants can offer them to avoid conviction using information only they would know.

So there’s a whole bunch of exemptions in this law, which makes me wonder how anybody is really going to be found guilty of it. Drivers can still use their phone when they’re engaged in a phone call. If they’re parked or stopped at a traffic light, they can be doing it. Functions that have a single swipe control, like changing a song. You’re still allowed to use your phone while you’re driving. I guess you should not be texting. You should not be emailing. You should not be watching a movie on your phone when you’re driving, which absurdly people do.

you have to prove that you were swiping on Google directions for some example.

Chris (01:52.333)

Yeah, I still think though that this goes against the way we generally treat people who are charged with things. Generally, I’ve got to prove you did wrong. You don’t have to prove you did right. And it just seems odd. I get it that the police officer has no ability to look at your phone, which would prove what you’re doing. I mean, the history is in there, but that’s an unreasonable search and seizure. But that’s what makes this law problematic. I should not have to prove that

Laura (02:10.226)

Mm -hmm.

Chris (02:21.613)

I didn’t do it. You know, with a speeding ticket, you know, it’s different. The police come in, they have a radar unit, they show you are going so fast. You can try and prove that there’s things wrong with it, but there’s true evidence. In this case, there’s no evidence unless, I guess, the police officer has body cam footage of you touching your phone. But it’s very troubling.

Laura (02:44.53)

But I don’t know how they would have body cam footage of that because they’re not in your car with you. But this texting ban doesn’t allow law enforcement to search the driver’s phones without consent. So that’s why they can’t see if they were using the phone for a permissible activity. So I’m not sure how you’re supposed to prove it using information only you know because it’s your phone and it’s been used for a lot of things. I don’t know. Are you taking a screenshot of what you’re doing at exactly the time you get pulled over? That’s a big question for me.

The way that this law is written, Judge King says that shows the legislature intended the driver to come forward with evidence in support of his or her legal excuse for using the device.

Chris (03:24.653)

Yeah, but that’s not the way it works. That’s the problem. It almost seems like the police officer should be charging you with a traffic infraction and writing on the ticket they were using their phone when I saw them weaving. Because let’s face it, if a police officer is going to key on you for using your phone while you’re driving, it’s probably because you’re driving poorly. We’ve all seen it. We’ve seen people weaving all over the place or slowing down to half the speed limit. And then...

Laura (03:37.778)

Mm -hmm.

Chris (03:51.949)

this could be the extra piece of evidence, but saying, yeah, come prove you’re innocent just goes against everything we know about criminal justice.

Laura (03:53.874)

Mm -hmm.

Laura (04:02.034)

You’re right, like if they wrote you the ticket for crossing the center line, they would have dash cam video of you crossing the line, right? Or driving on the shoulder or whatever it is you’re doing because you’re paying attention to your phone.

Chris (04:14.317)

Yeah, I just don’t know how you this continues, but for now, it’s a precedent. You’re listening to Today in Ohio. What are some key Democrats saying about Joe Biden’s debate performance and how it might affect the Ohio Senate race? We’ll start with Laura, but Lisa, I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to ring in.

Laura (04:30.994)

I feel like everybody’s talking about this this morning. But Andrew Tobias looked at Tim Ryan and John Cranley, who are not currently sitting politicians on the Democratic Party in Ohio. Tim Ryan, of course, is the party’s U .S. Senate nominee in 2022, former U .S. rep. Cranley ran for governor, but didn’t even make it out of the primary. But they think that Biden’s performance is not only going to hurt his chances of becoming or staying president.

but also her shared Brown, who is running for reelection in a could be contentious race. The makeup of the US Senate could hinge on it. And he’s Ohio’s only statewide elected Democrat who’s not a judge. So they are being public. Ryan wrote in Newsweek saying that they should Democrats should nominate Vice President Kamala Harris instead. And Lisa’s Lisa’s jumping in a bit and then crannily post on social media.

Lisa (05:08.466)

sitting politicians on the Democratic Party in Ohio.

Lisa (05:20.329)

Hmm. Hmm.

Laura (05:27.026)

He wants the democratic governors of Michigan, Kentucky, Colorado, and Pennsylvania to consider running instead.

Lisa (05:27.09)

state president.

Chris (05:33.133)

Go ahead, Lisa.

Lisa (05:33.934)

dear Lord. I mean, honestly, the Democrats are weak here. They took one debate performance out of four years of leadership and said, my God, he’s suddenly unfit for office. It’s too late in the game to do that. If they had questions about Biden’s performance or his cognitive abilities, they should have brought it up six months ago. Now we’re a few months away from the election. let’s pick somebody from this basket of Democrats. Who’s it going to be?

I mean, this didn’t work out in 1968 when LBJ didn’t run for office again. We got Nixon instead.

Laura (06:10.994)

I disagree with you here. I think I’m not saying that Biden is not fit to be president. He surrounded himself by with good people. He had a bad debate, but I think there are huge repercussions here. And I think what it could do is really tamp down the turnout. And if you’re a young person, you’re like, I’m not voting for either one of those guys. Like they’re 80 years old and I don’t want them as president. I think if you found a young, energetic person.

who really ignited fire in people to get out and vote, it can make a big difference.

Chris (06:43.309)

Yeah, I love Gretchen Whitmer here. Lisa, the question I have, though, apart from his competence, put that aside. If it’s become clear that he’s going to lose, that Donald Trump is very likely to be president, which we all acknowledge would be the worst thing that could happen in America. The guy is the single worst human being to ever hold that office. He’s vile in every way you can define the word vile.

If that’s the case, if we’re pretty much guaranteed four years of him and maybe the end of democracy, wouldn’t it be smarter to try something else?

Lisa (07:18.702)

We don’t know the success rate. And several of the candidates being mentioned are women. We’ve never elected a woman of any color to hire office. I don’t know that this is the time to try that. I really don’t, we’re facing an existential crisis here and the Democratic party is running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I’m sorry.

Laura (07:27.601)

That’s a huge question. You’re right.

Chris (07:37.805)

Yeah, I mean, the Trump 2025 plan where they’re going to wipe out huge numbers of federal workers who are skilled at their jobs, and put in toadies that whose only qualification is their fealty to Trump ends the efficiency of government. This is how you said you’d reread Animal Farm recently, Lisa, and this, that’s exactly what this is. I mean, this is a coming disaster. And yet it

Lisa (07:59.374)

Mm -hmm.

Chris (08:06.765)

very likely will happen because of the way things are skewing right now.

Lisa (08:10.318)

And Democrats are playing right into the script.

Chris (08:13.389)

All right, you’re listening to Today in Ohio. Because of Mike DeWine’s leadership, we know that a Republican and a Democratic presidential candidate will be on the Ohio ballot in November. But Lisa, is there a possibility we’ll see at least one other party represented?

Lisa (08:29.358)

The Libertarian Party of Ohio has submitted 88 ‚000 signatures to the Secretary of State to regain their status as a recognized minor party. They do need about 42 ,000 valid signatures to get on the November ballot. And Libertarian Party Chair Dustin Nanna says they plan to run several candidates if they get their status back, but so far they only have one. It’s presidential nominee Chase Oliver.

So Dustin says that we hope to provide more choices and more voices for voters. They have a platform of limited government and free market principles. They haven’t been in the Ohio ballot since 2020 when their presidential candidate got 1 .1 % of the vote. They did lose their state recognition before the 2014 general election. Their gubernatorial candidate was disqualified due to invalid petitions. That was Charlie Earl.

If their status is granted, the libertarians will keep that status through 2026. If no libertarian candidates get at least 3 % of the vote, if they are on the ballot, they must refile petitions to stay on the ballot through 2028.

Chris (09:38.989)

The danger of this, of course, is with the conversation we just had where Laura said young people are disgusted with the two candidates, giving people the alternative as none of the above is very likely to help Donald Trump because the Trump voter is not going to be dissuaded. It’s the Democrats who will say, I just can’t vote for Biden. So this is kind of an ugly moment. It might be better off for everybody if that weren’t the case.

Lisa (10:05.166)

Well, in 1 .1 % of the vote, going to libertarians could affect the balance of the Democrat and Republican race. So yeah, there could be some vote stealing or vote shifting, whatever you want to call it.

Chris (10:17.773)

And you’d hate to see that effect the Senate race, because then we could have the car dealer get in who has absolutely no integrity and has never stood for anything in his entire life. Very dangerous, dangerous development in Ohio. You are listening to Today in Ohio. Tomorrow is Independence Day, as we said, and we have a few interesting pieces of news about it. First, after talking about some of the downsides of legal fireworks in Ohio over the past week, let’s talk about one upside.

Courtney, how much money has fireworks generated for state coffers?

Yeah, the opening up of Ohio’s fireworks laws in 2022 has generated about $3 million for the state and they’re looking to use that on firefighter training. So next week, a state board is expected to sign off on transferring this money to the state fire marshal’s office. And it’s the product of that 4 % tax on gross receipts on fireworks sales that was kind of ushered through when Ohio’s fireworks laws were liberalized back in 2022.

Now we know Ohioans have always been able to buy fireworks here. You had to promise to shoot them off out of state with these changes in 2022. You can now set them off here legally on holidays, but only if your local city hasn’t banned them. We know a lot of people aren’t necessarily following those rules perfectly, right? But the result is, you know, we’ve got these sales and these tax revenues and the ability to spend them on.

fire marshal training or firefighter training from the state fire marshal’s office. And you know, we’re being told from a spokesman from the fire marshal’s office that this money isn’t necessarily or probably not, it sounds like going to be used to pay for firework response training, like training specifically tied to fireworks usage. But you know, it is going to go towards that kind of broader training need.

Lisa (14:29.582)

And, you know, we’re being told.

Courtney (14:50.351)

that all firefighters in different departments across the state must go through. A lot of that, you know, kind of flows through the state fire marshal’s office. Interestingly, as part of this reporting, we learned that fireworks caused 128 fires last year and 22 of those were residential fires, the total nearly 700 grand in damages. So far this year in 2024, there’s been 10 fires from fireworks. So things have definitely changed. We’re seeing

both the positive and perhaps negative effects of this law change.

Chris (15:24.173)

Yeah, I wonder how that number of fires this year compares to fires caused by Tesla batteries in people’s garages. You’re listening to Today in Ohio. Many of us like to fly flags on the holiday, but some lawmakers have some thoughts about the flags flown over government buildings. Laura, who are they and what do they want?

Lisa (15:28.082)

Interesting, as part of this reporting, we learned that fireworks are 120 hours.

You

Courtney (15:29.967)

Hehehehe

Laura (15:43.25)

They want to buy only flags made in the USA, and this has big support in the Ohio House. So this is House Bill 87 would prohibit the state and local governments from purchasing any Ohio or US flag that not made in the USA. I guess if you wanted to buy a different kind of flag, it doesn’t have to be. But it passed the Ohio House last week, 95 to one. The only state representative who didn’t approve it was Bill Dean, a Xenia Republican.

So what they’re saying is that 95 % of the US flags are manufactured in the United States, but they want it to be 100 % when it comes to what they’re supporting anyway. And some of the testimony, and this is kind of, it seems a little over the top, but the idea is to put in a state law to say, if you’re in a taxpayer funded building or government building and you’re flying a flag that’s not married in America, that is illegal.

Lisa (16:36.613)

So, and they, you know, they used to have the big issues too. Just bear it to China and say they don’t want the communist countries making their free choice.

Laura (16:37.714)

So, and they, you know, they use this opportunity to disparage China and say they don’t want communist countries making their great U .S. you know, stars and stripes.

Chris (16:47.949)

Do we think that there are government buildings in Ohio that are flying flags made in China? I think that that would be controversial on its face and the people who are elected would run for cover if they were doing that.

Laura (16:53.618)

I think.

Laura (17:00.114)

Yeah, I feel like most flags, like 95 % of flags, right, are made in the USA. So I don’t know if it’s maybe some of those little mini ones that you get out at Memorial Day or Veterans Day to put on graves or just around the perimeter of something. But I feel like it’s pretty, obviously the stat shows it, it probably is hard to buy a flag that’s not made in the United States.

Chris (17:20.493)

Seems like outrage in search of a reason. You’re listening to Today in Ohio. Lastly, July 4th can bring out the party and people and some people have had raucous parties in the rented Airbnb houses, much to the bother of neighbors. Lisa, what is Airbnb doing about that? And how has the policy played out in Ohio?

Lisa (17:42.19)

So Airbnb is cracking down on large parties over holiday weekends and short -term rentals. They piloted an anti -party program back on Memorial Day in 2022, and it was so successful they made it official that July 4th. So this is designed to identify high -risk one and two night bookings of entire homes.

They look at the guest history, their lack of positive reviews, last minute bookings are a red flag, and guests must attest that they understand that there’s a party ban and violating that party ban could cause suspension or removal from the Airbnb platform. They also have a 24 -hour safety lines for people to report big parties at Airbnb rentals.

hosts are being provided with noise sensors and a list of tips to avoid parties at their listings. So Airbnb says this policy has prevented 1300 bookings of entire homes in Ohio since 2022. And we had reports last year, Richmond Heights had a huge problem. Apparently there are several homes that are Airbnb rentals. They got a lot of complaints about disruptive parties last summer. Many of the people...

that came to these parties in Richmond Heights, Airbnbs were from out of state and they left behind trash. There was a lot of noise and the house was trashed as well.

Chris (19:02.669)

You got to give Airbnb some credit for trying to clamp down on this. It seems like an effective policy to try and keep the peace. But of course, if they don’t keep the peace, then communities start passing laws banning what they do. So I guess it’s partly to keep a good relationship in the cities where they operate. You are listening to Today in Ohio. Courtney, should people heading to Sandusky Bay for the holiday be concerned about how green it is?

Is all that green in the water the blue green algae that is so dangerous to people and their pets?

Courtney (19:36.751)

Sandusky Bay it sounds like it’s looking a little gross right now but the good news is is that this is not as harmful and this is not as bad of a situation as we’ve seen in recent years in the Western Basin by Toledo. And this story is just absolutely fascinating on how the science works and how Sandusky Bay is operating a little differently even though it may look to the naked eye pretty dang similar it is quite a different situation.

We talked to an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who told us that Sandusky Bay really operates as its own little world and is different from the Western Basin. Now the algae in the Bay and in the Western Basin, you know, the root of the problem is the same. Algae blooms form after phosphorus and nitrogen from far farm field runoff make their way north into the lake.

And these conditions with the extra phosphorus and nitrogen create, you know, a good environment for something called cyanobacteria. Now in the Western basin, this bacteria is called microcystis. And this really creates that harmful blue green toxin that’s harmful to humans and animals and has caused all the uproar in recent years. Right. But in Sandusky Bay in recent years, there’s been a few different kinds of cyanobacteria.

bacteria, but they’re different than what’s out by Toledo. The bay is cooler, it’s murkier, and the farm runoff fuels growth of those different kinds of bacteria. And the good news is they’re likely not as harmful as what’s out by Toledo.

Chris (21:16.333)

It’s just gross.

Courtney (21:16.847)

Yeah, it looks a little nasty, right? And, you know, the good news here is even though aesthetically it’s not too pleasing, it’ll be swapped out in the next few weeks. The experts tell us with a more benign kind of bacteria. So even, even the slight risk that is there now that’s expected to go away. I’d say the good news is there isn’t a lot of swimming opportunities in the Bay. So folks probably, you know, at least from the Cleveland area wouldn’t be seeking to go swim in the Bay.

Chris (21:48.141)

All right, you’re listening to Today in Ohio. We’ve talked about hooligans banding together to disrupt or terrorize people as at local festivals in Edgewater Park. Some hooligans do their disrupting on dirt bikes. Laura, what did the arrest of one tell us about the dirt bike riders and what does the Cleveland City Council president say is needed to stop them?

Laura (22:10.194)

So these are not just local hooligans. The one who was arrested is from Ashtabula. So they are coming from far away just to what feels like wreak havoc. And city council president Blaine Griffin says, we need to do the reconnaissance on social media to figure out where they’re going before they get there rather than chasing them around on the streets, because obviously that’s dangerous and not that effective. So this

What happened is an officer was injured in Ohio City at West 25th Street in Detroit. That’s a pretty busy intersection. And a bunch of dirt bike riders approached the intersection behind police cruisers. The officers put on their emergency lights and the dirt bike riders ignored them, drove around the cruisers right onto the Detroit Superior Bridge. Two of the bikes collided. One of them fell and a driver of the fallen bike attempted to drive away before striking this police cruiser.

A second dirt bike also struck the car and an officer ended up sent to the hospital with injuries. He was treated and released. Seems to be fine, but this is a 29 year old from Ashtabula. I would have expected if I had to guess that we’re talking about kids like young adults a lot younger than 29 and from the immediate area.

Chris (23:20.461)

When Frank Jackson was pushing his plan to create a dirt bike track in Cleveland, he would show reporters and people the websites that were organized for these folks because this is an expensive hobby and it draws a lot of people. I guess that that’s how this is happening. I’m a little bit surprised that the intelligence failures by law enforcement in Northeast Ohio

They’re not spotting the call outs for what’s happened at the festivals or what happened at Edgewater Park or with the dirt bike riders. Clearly they are doing call outs. Clearly they’re somewhere on social media that says, okay, we’re going to be a Cleveland meetup here. I mean, for a guy from Ashtabula to be part of that, that’s not word of mouth. There’s got to be some way that’s getting out.

It’s very telling. Where’s the intelligence? It wouldn’t be that hard, I would think, to tap into the social media channels where this is all being planned.

Laura (24:16.498)

I would hope that they are better at social media than I am right like I hope that they know how to search where people are looking and what they’re on and what they’re commenting on each other’s posts but.

Chris (24:26.509)

We did talk to a bunch of police chiefs this week to ask, are you doing anything extra given what’s been going on to make sure your fireworks don’t turn into one of these hooligan episodes? I was surprised that all of them said, no, we got a good plan. We’re doing what we always do.

Laura (24:39.026)

Well, Lakewood was the one that I thought was the most on top of this. They were going to close their kids playground in Lakewood Park all day, which made me question that because there’s a parade and there’s gonna be a lot of kids and that’s an amazing playground. But I think they said they would search anybody that came into the park. Well, they could search anyone that came into the park after 5 p So they seemed to have more of a plan and they were closing the parking lots.

Lisa (24:42.926)

Lakewood was the one that I thought was the most important. They were the most interesting playground in Lakewood Park all day. It was amazing to see that. Just great. And the sheer location of an amazing playground. But I think they said they would search anybody that came into the park. Well, they could search anyone that came into the park after 5 PM. They seemed to have more of a plan. They were closing the park a lot.

Laura (25:06.77)

But everyone else kind of said, we’ve done this, we know what to expect, and we’re prepared.

Chris (25:11.949)

Well, maybe they do because of what happened in Shaker Heights 10 years ago. Shaker Heights ended up canceling its fireworks after a hooligan incident a decade ago or more. And maybe they all learned from that. I just, based on what we’ve seen, we know there are groups of kids out there that just want to go mess around and create a stir because they’re bored. We don’t have enough jobs for them. We haven’t done much to provide things to occupy kids in the summer. And yet,

Lisa (25:35.442)

to.

Chris (25:40.909)

You don’t get that sense of worry at all. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow night. Hopefully things will all go off without a hitch. You know, listening to today in Ohio, Lisa Cleveland has a new safety director who oversees the police and fire departments, EMS and the dog warden. Who is it?

Lisa (25:56.398)

It’s former Cleveland police chief, Wayne Drummond. He was named the permanent chief safety director by Mayor Bibb earlier this week. He’s been in that position in an interim basis since February after the resignation of Kerry Howard. So Bibb is happy. He says this is that Drummond is fair, transparent and forward thinking. Drummond says he’s going to focus on modernizing operations, data -driven investments, maybe a little bit of social media surveillance as well.

and forging influential partnerships. And he said, he’s not sugarcoating it. Drummond said, we have an arduous journey ahead of us, but he’s ready for it. He has 35 years in Cleveland law enforcement, including as police chief back in 2022. So yeah, I think it’s a good pick.

Chris (26:43.437)

I was surprised to see him take it because he’s put his time in and I’m sure he could retire. This is complicated. This is a challenging job. He has a very good reputation through the years when he was a district commander. He was one of the best the city had, but I didn’t think he’d be up for it. When he was doing it interim, I thought, yeah, he said, okay, I’ll do it interim, go find somebody, but he’s the guy. So good luck to him.

Listening to Today in Ohio, finally, politicians like to say they want to hear from their constituents, but can there be too much of a good thing? Courtney, how is Cuyahoga County Council trying to rein in what can be out of control comment sessions at its public meetings?

Courtney (27:25.487)

Yeah, they’re looking to put a hard limit on their public comment period at their Tuesday night meetings and at their, you know, at their committee meetings throughout the week. And we know why at recent meetings of Cuyahoga County council, there have been at times nearly 70 speakers at night. That stretches meetings like three, four hours long late into the evening. And it just seems like they’re, they’re a little bit over that kind of lengthy setup.

So what council is proposing and what they’ve temporarily imposed while they debate doing this formally is they’re looking to limit it to 20 speakers per meeting. So if everyone’s capped at three minutes each, that’s, you know, about an hour long public comment session. And that would drastically reduce the length of these, these long meetings. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of public commenters come to county council.

to really kind of debate this question of whether the county should divest from its $16 million in Israel bonds. You know, we’ve had speakers supporting Palestine, we’ve had speakers supporting Israel, and they’ve just spent these hours arguing their positions to counsel. And apparently at their last meeting in June, the public comment period hit what appears to be a new record of nearly four hours.

Chris (28:44.365)

I’m so glad I’m not a reporter covering this. I’d stick needles in my eyes. What I don’t get is, and look, we should point out that the council is there to conduct the county’s business. That’s their main goal, role is to look at legislation, look at budgeting and conduct the county’s business. It is a forum for people to air what they have to say. I’m just surprised that what they don’t do is have a written comment form.

for anybody that wants to submit a comment on the record to council, which they could then publish in their minutes and randomly select 20 or something for people to get up and talk. But to close it off means that people won’t be able to make themselves heard. There’s a way to do this, I think, where everybody gets heard without being so onerous. It’s not right to make the council sit there for four hours listening to people rant rave. That’s getting in the way of county business. I feel for them.

Lisa (29:37.646)

No.

Chris (29:43.373)

And I feel for our reporter that has to cover that.

Courtney (29:44.559)

You know, it is worth noting that submitting written comments is allowed, that would continue to be allowed so people can do it that way. I think when folks come downtown though to speak at these meetings, they want their moment, you know, they’ve gone out of their way, they’ve taken time out of their day, they want to get up and take that mic and say it to their faces, you know. So I think that’s probably why that’s more popular than the written comment option. We don’t really know how this is going to unfold as council, you know, potentially takes this step.

I will see if it’s like a first come first serve basis where the first 20 people to put in their names are the ones allowed to speak. That’s how it works at Cleveland city council. I guess there’s a chance council could cherry pick, but I can’t see them really making that decision and going that way. We’ll have to see if it’s officially a first come first serve thing.

Chris (30:35.629)

But government meetings were never intended to be open mic nights. I mean, we elect municipal and other councils to run government. And I just, this idea that the point of the meeting now is open mic, that’s not what it’s been traditionally. And it is completely out of hand. So I get what they’re trying to do. They’re gonna get hammered for it. They’re gonna get criticized saying, you’re shutting down the public.

Lisa (30:39.758)

No.

Chris (31:04.429)

But the way the public speaks about council is at the ballot box.

Lisa (31:08.622)

Yeah, and it’s annoying. I mean, Harris County Commissioner’s Court ran their public comment period like a military drill. I mean, they were in and out. And I wonder, because if you have 20 people talking about Gaza, does that really affect county business and county operations? It doesn’t. I mean, I just feel like maybe they could say, can you limit it to just things that are on the agenda or county business?

Chris (31:31.757)

Yeah. Right. Right. That’s exactly what it should be. This is the business we’re conducting tonight. If you have a thought about the business we’re conducting, we’d like to hear from you. But we’re here to conduct business. It’s not, let’s talk about any subject that’s on your mind. That’s never what it was. And the fact that some people believe that’s what it should be is how things have changed dramatically.

Courtney (31:54.927)

in

Chris (31:57.421)

And I suspect it would discourage some competent people from running for office because if you’re hiring competent people, they don’t have four hours to sit and listen to somebody spout off about Gaza. You’re exactly right, Lisa.

Courtney (32:07.567)

The pickle in this situation, I’d say is that Cuyahoga County is debating what to do with its Israel bond. So they are talking about county business.

Chris (32:19.373)

Okay, you’re listening to Today in Ohio. That’s it for the week. Thanks Lisa. Thanks Courtney. Thanks Laura. Thank you for listening. We’ll be back Monday.

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