Have opinions about submeter companies? Columbus plans hearing Thursday

By Dan Gearino  The Columbus Dispatch

For the first time, the city of Columbus is asking the public for opinions about companies that resell utilities in apartments and condominiums.

The City Council's Public Utilities Committee will hold a public hearing at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, convened at the request of Chairman Mike Stinziano.

"At the city level, there's an opportunity to gather information and maybe do something," he said.

That something might be city rules dealing with the utility practices.

Stinziano, a member of the Ohio House from 2011 to 2015, would prefer that the Ohio General Assembly approve rules that would apply statewide, but several proposals have failed to pass. He has been frustrated by the lack of state action.

That inaction also has troubled some Downtown residents. Leaders of the Downtown Residents' Association of Columbus have said they will be more active in pushing for limits on what they call "price gouging" for utilities.

The hearing will be in the City Council chamber, 90 W. Broad St. People who want to testify in the hearing can fill out a speaker's slip at City Hall on Thursday between 8 a.m. and the 2:30 p.m. start.

The Dispatch has written since 2013 about so-called "submeter" companies that resell utilities. Some of those unregulated companies charge a markup plus fees that can make utility bills much more expensive than they are for residents who are paying regulated prices.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ruled in December that it has the authority to regulate submeter pricing in some cases. That investigation remains active as the panel tries to determine how much of a markup should be allowed.


Stinziano to Host Public Utility Hearing on Submetering and Utility Reselling

Councilmember Michael Stinziano
State Representative Mike Duffey

Thursday, March 16

Columbus City Council
Council Chambers
90 W. Broad St.


Councilmember Michael Stinziano, chair of the Public Utilities Committee, will convene a public hearing on submetering and utility reselling. The hearing will provide information on these practices and gather input from City of Columbus residents.

Ohio Representative Mike Duffey will attend the hearing to discuss his efforts to pass legislation to regulate these practices statewide. 

Public testimony will be accepted. Those wishing to address City Council regarding this issue can fill out a speaker slip at City Hall between the hours of 8:00am and 2:30pm on the day of the hearing. 

This hearing will be available to stream live on the CTV website, and broadcasted on Time Warner and WOW on Channel 3 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99. It will also be made available to the public on the Columbus.gov YouTube channel after the event.


Stinziano to Hold "Courthouse to the Community" Resource Fair

Councilmember Michael Stinziano
Columbus Department of Neighborhoods

Tuesday, March 14

Gillie Recreation Center
2100 Morse Road


Judiciary and Court Administration Committee Chair Councilmember Michael Stinziano and the Columbus Department of Neighborhoods are hosting a “Courthouse to the Community” resource fair. This event aims to connect residents with local court services.

"Our local courts contribute to the health and safety of Columbus,” said Stinziano. “As Council continues to invest in our local courts, citizens deserve to the opportunity to understand what services are available to them."


Representatives include:

  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)                                                
  • The American Red Cross
  • Columbus City Prosecutor including the Domestic Violence Unit
  • Franklin County Municipal Clerk of Courts
  • Franklin County Family Drug Court
  • Franklin County Environmental Court        
  • Franklin County Justice Expo and Health and Wellness Fair
  • Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Courts
  • Franklin County Mental Health Court
  • Franklin County Municipal Court Landlord-Tenant Services
  • Franklin County Public Defender Office     
  • Franklin County Probation Department 
  • Franklin County Small Claims Division       
  • Franklin County Veterans Court  
  • The Legal Aid Society of Columbus   
  • Mediation Clinic and Research       
  • The Northland Community Council
  • Office of The Ohio Attorney General
  • Office of Community Mediation Services
  • The Ohio Benefits Bank                                                                                        
  • Resources for New Americans including Immigration Attorneys



Money, resources pouring into Smart Columbus transportation program

By Rick Rouan The Columbus Dispatch 

Turning Columbus into the epicenter of intelligent-transportation testing won't come cheap.

Columbus has gathered an additional $277 million in local matching resources for its Smart Columbus program since winning a federal grant last summer.

When the U.S. Department of Transportation crowned Columbus the winner of the Smart Cities challenge in June, officials said they had gathered about $90 million on top of the $50 million it would receive from the federal government and Vulcan Inc.

Now, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said it can back those grants with even more local commitments from both private organizations and public funds. Between the grants and the local match, Smart Columbus has about $417 million in resources to turn Columbus into the testing ground for intelligent-transportation systems.

Much of that — about $251.1 million — will be in the value of projects from the private sector, local government and others that they will pay for directly. Most of that, $181 million, is from projects funded by American Electric Power. CEO Nick Akins said at a Wednesday news conference that the utility plans to roll out about 894,000 smart meters, which will allow two-way communication between the company and the meters.

Another $93.7 million is in the form of research, more than half of which will come from Ohio State University.

About $27.7 million is in cash, including about $10 million from the Columbus Partnership, $2 million from Ohio State and $9 million from the city and county.

Officials have said Smart Columbus will bring the city more electric-vehicle charging stations; street lights that act as wireless Internet hubs; emergency vehicles that interact with traffic signals; and driverless shuttles at Easton, among other advancements in the next four years. The city has to execute its proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation and relay data and lessons learned by 2020.

The first of those advancements should start rolling out later this year.

Ginther said he wants to raise $1 billion in local resources for Smart Columbus by the end of 2020.

"Smart Columbus is just the start," he said at the news conference. "There is a lot to this program no one has ever done before."

Ginther also announced that the city has hired its former deputy director of economic development, Mike Stevens, as chief innovation officer to oversee the project. The city's eight-person Smart Columbus team will work out of the Idea Foundry on West State Street in Franklinton, a space where entrepreneurs, designers and inventors work on their projects.

The Columbus Partnership also has appointed a vice president who will oversee the private investment in the program.

"When you look at what other cities have done, the innovation officers have shown the ability, given the right resources, to take current practices and enhance them," Councilman Michael Stinziano said.

City Council President Zach Klein said the fast-changing technology that will come through the Smart Columbus initiative will help the city set up residents for jobs that don't exist yet.

"These are the jobs of the 21st century," he said.

Jobs were central to the questions that Linden residents had when the city held public forums there earlier this month, Councilman Shannon G. Hardin said. For example, creating a universal transportation access card that residents can load with cash and use for bus, taxi and ride-sharing transportation will make it easier for people there to get to work, he said.

"Technology will shape and improve the way people are connected to their basic needs," Hardin said.

AEP also plans to build about 1,200 charging stations around the state.

"Transportation is a logical extension to the work we do," he said. "We want to make it possible for everyone to drive an electric vehicle. Electric vehicles are good for AEP, obviously."

Student Trustees May Receive Voting Rigts

Anastasia Nicholas The Post

Ohio University’s student trustees, Brooke Mauro and Patrick Roden, could gain voting rights within the Board of Trustees in the future.

OU Student Senate voted to support student trustee voting rights at its meeting Feb. 15.

Student Senate President Hannah Clouser said senate has been pursuing student trustee voting rights since her freshman year. Now she is a senior.“Students bring a different perspective than regular board members and bring student voices to the table,” Clouser said. “Voting rights would actually validate those student voices.”

Last year, Rep. Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus, pushed his bill for the third time to give student trustees across the state voting rights.

“Every board member you talk to is very supportive that (student trustees) do a great job and have a voice,” Stinziano said. “That’s been my back and forth with some of them: Why don’t you have them vote?”

In 2010, 50.3 percent of student trustees in the U.S. had voting rights, according to an article by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

Stinziano said Ohio is in the minority of states with universities whose student trustees can’t vote. Student trustees in surrounding statesIndiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all have voting rights.

“We should expect better,” Stinziano said.

Mauro, a junior in her first year on the Board, said she agrees with members of the Board of Trustees that student trustee voting rights are necessary.

She added that the board already includes the student trustees as if they had voting privileges, but giving them official voting rights adds validity to their position.

“We, as students, feel the consequences and effects of the decision made by the Board so we should naturally be able to formally vote on them,” Mauro said.

However, Roden, the senior trustee who is serving his second year on the Board, feels differently.

He said he does not feel voting rights are necessary for OU student trustees because every vote he’s been a part of was unanimous and would not have been changed by two additional votes.

Additionally, he said he has more power with his voice being able to change multiple votes than he would with one official vote.

“Our board does a fantastic job not only listening to me when I want to talk but actually calling on me to give my opinion on certain issues, especially things directly affecting campus,” Roden said. “They really value both mine and the other student trustee’s opinion in my past couple years.”

Roden said he is not against the concept of student trustee voting rights, but he does not feel they are necessary.

Mauro and Roden both said, if student trustees are granted voting rights, it is not likely to happen soon. Mauro said this could be because OU is transitioning between presidents.

“There’s a good chance, but it’s not going to happen any time soon,” Roden said. “I don’t think there’s a giant push for it.”

Clouser said she hopes senate will continue to advocate for student trustee voting rights if they are not granted this year.

“If it doesn’t happen this year, I would imagine other senates will continue to work on it,” Clouser said. “But I can’t speak for them.”