Nick Castele

The state of Ohio has reached a $16.5 million partial settlement in its lawsuit against the operators of an illegal East Cleveland dump — but collecting that money will be a difficult task.

Earlier this year, as health officials began tallying coronavirus cases across the United States, Janitorial Services Inc. in Cleveland was stocking up on hospital-grade disinfectant.

“I bought about a year’s worth in a month and a half,” owner Ronald Martinez told ideastream. “And believe it or not, we’re probably down to 20 percent of what I bought, because we’ve been putting it out in the buildings, even though it’s not part of their normal daily disinfecting.”

Dozens of cities and 73 of Ohio’s 88 counties have signed on to a statewide opioid plan for potential settlements with drug companies, Gov. Mike DeWine’s office announced Wednesday.

The OneOhio plan would direct 30 percent of total settlement dollars to local governments. A statewide foundation would handle 55 percent and the remaining 15 would go to the attorney general’s office.

The foundation’s board would include members representing state officials and local jurisdictions.

Updated: 7:15 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden canceled Tuesday campaign events in Cleveland out of an abundance of coronavirus caution.

The abrupt cancellations from the Democratic presidential hopefuls came after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine advised avoiding large public events as a health precaution.

Northeast Ohio local governments are weighing whether to join Attorney General Dave Yost’s One Ohio plan for dividing state opioid settlement money from drug companies.

The proposal would create a statewide foundation, run by both state and local appointees, to distribute 55 percent of any settlement dollars. Another 30 percent would go directly to local governments. The attorney general’s office would receive 15 percent.

Cuyahoga County Council took a deeper look Monday into the $23 million plan to fund drug treatment, a new drug court, a jail diversion center and other with the first wave of money paid out by drug companies to settle lawsuits over the opioid crisis.

The federal government estimates nearly 1 million children under the age of 5 went uncounted in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Advocates of bail reform protest Cuyahoga County Jail conditions in January 2019.
Nick Castele / Ideastream

Columbus recently moved to stop requesting cash bonds for most people charged with non-violent crimes, instead letting them out of jail as they await trial. It’s the latest in a statewide effort to reform cash bail, which tends to keep poor people behind bars.

Michele Rout is an assistant law director in the city of Chillicothe, one of the places in Ohio hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

But her experience with the human toll of the crisis goes beyond the courtroom.

Rout and her husband are raising two grandchildren who were exposed to opioids before birth and experienced symptoms of withdrawal afterward — a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Cuyahoga County may make it easier for employees to report whistleblower complaints within county government.

County council gave a first reading to revised reporting safeguards Monday evening.

Councilman Dale Miller, a Democrat who introduced the measure, said it grew out of talks with county Inspector General Mark Griffin. The changes are intended to give potential whistleblowers more comfort in coming forward with complaints, Miller said.

Northeast Ohio communities hope no one goes uncounted in the 2020 Census.

Complete count committees, local groups made up of area government and community leaders, will spend the next few months promoting the decennial count.

Legal battles over the opioid crisis will carry on into 2020, as several more cases begin to move toward trial in federal courts around the country.

After overseeing thousands of opioid lawsuits from his Cleveland courtroom for the past two years, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster has begun sending cases to other federal judges. Polster has recommended that suits brought by the Cherokee Nation, city of Chicago and San Francisco be moved to federal courts in Oklahoma, Illinois and California.

Experts say local governments and entrepreneurs still have to answer many questions about proposed Hyperloops that promise to whiz passengers hundreds of miles in a matter of minutes though vacuum tubes.

The foremost of those questions: Will Hyperloop actually work?

“There’s a big difference between theory and reality,” said Harvey Miller, the director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Ohio State University. “Even if it works on a test track in Nevada, will it scale to inter-city distances?”

Cuyahoga County’s ban on plastic bags could go forward next year without the county’s largest city on board.

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley introduced legislation Monday night that would delay the ban in the city while a working group discusses prohibitions on disposable bags. The working group would propose a city-wide ban by 2021, with plans to implement it by 2022.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster has added a new opioid trial to the calendar, this one litigating Cuyahoga and Summit counties’ claims against pharmacy chains.

Polster, who is overseeing the thousands of opioid-related lawsuits, set a trial date of Oct. 13, 2020 in an order issued Tuesday.

The two counties are amending their lawsuits to accuse pharmacies of failing to look out for suspicious prescriptions for opioid painkillers, with the judge’s approval.

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