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The dust approaches: when to wear your goggles

Julian Foglietti

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Well, it just keeps getting more interesting.

2020 has proven to be a year for the history books in more ways than one, and for those of you wondering what was next in the pandora’s box we’ve apparently opened, look no further than a Saharan dust storm crossing the Atlantic now. 

In Columbus, be prepared for the dust to hit around noon on Saturday and not let up until around 5 p.m. on Monday, according to a report from NBC4.

The “plume” known as the Saharan Air Layer is a weather event that occurs every year off the coast of Africa. This year, a particularly large plume of dust has continued its way westward, sweeping across islands throughout the Caribbean, and is projected to make landfall within the United States this weekend in Texas. 

One upside of the event is the dry air pulled in with the dust neutralizes risks of hurricanes, which require hot and humid environments to form. Images taken from satellites have shown the massive size of the dust storm as it makes its way across the Atlantic. 

One additional effect of the dust storm is the effect it has on the sky. Because of the high altitude of much of the dust it changes the blue skies to brown, and creates incredibly dramatic sunsets and sunrises.  

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Crime

Increase in gun violence this past weekend causes city alarm

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After eight shootings this weekend Mayor Andrew J. Ginther gathered with city officials at the Point of Pride building on Monday afternoon to discuss the alarming uptick in neighborhood violence and how the city is going to address it.

The eight shootings over the weekend involved 10 people. Three people all under the age of 26 were murdered in the shootings, the youngest being 15-year-old Marcus Peters.

Since June 1, five teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 have been killed due to gun violence, while 14 others were critically injured.

The surge in gun violence includes a 77 percent increase in shots being blindly fired into residences, 78 percent of homicides due to firearms, and 67 homicides and 469 felonious assaults, which is a 125-percent increase in felonious assaults from 2019, in 2020.

“This problem belongs to each and every one of us, and we must bring all of our resources together to address what is happening in our community,” said Ginther.

Some of the suggestions that Ginther mentioned to solving gun violence issues in Columbus included finding productive opportunities for youth during this time and taking illegal guns off the streets.

Those in attendance at the press conference were Public Safety Director Ned Pettus; Police Chief Tom Quinlan; President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League Stephanie Hightower; Interim Director of Recreation and Parks Paul Rakosky; My Brother’s Keeper Program Manager and Department of Neighborhoods member Chris Suel; and Senior Pastor of City of Grace Church Michael Young. 

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More parking meters to get technological upgrades

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The traditional parking meter will soon be nothing more than a historical relic in Columbus.

While parking payment kiosks and mobile pay parking spaces have become the new normal in parts of our city, now Goodale Park and additional downtown areas will join areas enjoying those technological upgrades. 

The new kiosks and mobile pay spaces will take the place of nearly 700 parking meters starting today. The kiosks accept credit and debit cards as well as coins for payment. The ParkColumbus mobile app is available for contactless payment–one of the reasons for the continued replacement of the old parking meters, according to a press release from the Department of Public Service.

Below you can find the specifics of when and where the parking meters will be replaced:

  • Week of July 13 – three payment kiosks will replace 247 meters on Goodale and Park streets, one kiosk will replace 57 meters in the Greenwood Ave. parking lot, and one kiosk will replace 24 meters in the Eden Alley lot
  • Week of July 20 – one kiosk will replace 86 meters between Broad and Long streets
  • Week of July 27 – mobile payment will replace 188 meters around Columbus State Community College on Long, Spring, 6th, Groves, and McCoy streets and Grant Ave.
  • Week of August 3 – mobile payment will replace 103 meters on Rich St. between 5th St. and Washington Ave.
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Crime

Empty halls make School Resource Officers nonessential

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One of the loudest demands from protestors over the recent months has been for Columbus City Schools to cut ties with the Columbus Division of Police.

While the contracts of 20 resource officers and two sergeants were not renewed by Columbus City Schools when they ended last week, it was not because of pressure from protestors. 

As the Columbus City Schools plans around COVID-19 mandates, the current need is for high school students to learn virtually from home. If that is still the case in the fall, there is no need for resource officers in the high schools.

Sgt. Joe Albert stated that they would be ready to work on a new contract if Columbus City Schools welcomes high school students back to its buildings, however, there is currently no work for resource officers when high schools are empty.

The collective bargaining agreement that the police union has with CPD states that officers must have 70 days notice before employment termination. The officers whose contracts were not renewed will be repositioned within the CPD and will have an opportunity to take other jobs within the division.

CPD is ready to re-position resource officers in high schools if the opportunity arises before the 2020-21 school year. With the increase in school violence, especially violence involving guns, resource officers have been a very important presence in schools in deterring violence.

Their presence is also extremely important in building police-community relationships.

"Making relationships with the students there (in school) provides a face to a police officer, and I know in the past many students have later on seen that police officer out on the street and they're more willing to go up and talk to that officer because they have a relationship from knowing them inside their high school."

Sgt. Joe Albert, Columbus Division of Police


While there are those who oppose students going back to school in-person due to health concerns, there are also many reasons supporting in-person classes this upcoming school year.

According to Albert, the CPD had a “tremendous uptick in gun violence involving juveniles” since the pandemic closed schools down, a major concern for the police department right now. 

Another issue is enforcing truancy. While police officers could physically visit the homes of students missing school, Albert says that there has “not been any communication on how we would enforce [truancy].”

Recreation centers and pools opening have not been enough to keep the Columbus student population out of trouble, so the school district will be faced with a tough decision about reopening schools this fall.

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