Chris Keppler

Chris Keppler

Chris is the regular news anchor on WQMX's Wynn and Wilson in the Morning and WONE's Tim and Christi in the Morning programs. He first opened a microphone at WZIP-FM at The University of Akron in 1990 but got his first paid radio job delivering weekend news on WZKL-FM & WDPN-AM in Alliance. Chris then moved to WJER AM & FM in Dover where he reported on Tuscarawas County, including stories that made national headlines. Chris has been honored by his peers with first place awards from the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters including Best Reporter, Best Feature Story, and Best Broadcast Writing among others. In addition to his work as a broadcast journalist Chris has also worked in public relations and as an instructor at the University of Akron teaching Broadcast News Writing. Chris enjoys volunteer work, and has served on the boards of the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters, Public Relations Society of America (Akron Area Chapter), American Cancer Society Hope Gala Committee and currently serves on the Green Baseball/Softball Federation Board. Contact Chris through the newsroom 330-864-6397 or email at ckeppler@rcrg.net

Monday, 16 June 2014 11:03

Summer Months Deadly For Teen Drivers

The summer months are more likely than other times of year to be deadly for teen drivers.  Akron AAA  President Kevin Thomas says there is a 26% increase in teen deaths during the summer.

"Most of it is inexperience and distraction," said Thomas.  "I don't have a number for you related to alcohol but we do know for a fact that when there's more than one other teen in the car with the driver, your risk goes up exponentially."

For example, if there are three or more passengers under 21 years old, the risk of a serious or fatal accident is four times higher, according to Thomas.

"It's a much more challenging time for us other drivers to make sure that we're watching out for notice, inexperienced drivers and as parents that we do everything that we can to make sure that our younger, inexperienced drivers are following the rules," said Thomas.

He says the best advice is to not allow teens to have other young people in the car with them and not allow them to drive at night - both of those are factors that increase the likelihood of a crash.

 

It may be easier to obtain public documents than it was a decade ago. That's the overall finding of a statewide audit to help determine if public documents are as accessible as they are required by state law.  The compliance in Summit County aligned with the statewide results.

The Ohio Coalition for Open Government recruited journalists from media organizations across the state, including AkronNewsNow, who then asked to inspect specific documents in person and made email requests for other specific documents; however, all requests were made anonymously so the requests would simulate those of non-journalists, who are experienced in record requests and often have existing relationships with the people who provide the access. A similar audit was conducted in 2004 without the electronic requests.  Auditors were told to request the most recent documents as follows:

    • County commissioners/council meeting minutes
    • Restaurant inspection and citation report
    • Birth records for the most recent full week
    • County and city and school district public records policy and records retention schedule
    • Budget document that lists the salary of the police chief
    • Most recent expense report of the mayor
    • Police department incident reports
    • School district budget document that lists the superintendent's salary
    • Expense reimbursement report of school district treasurer/CFO

Dashboard 1

Data collected from the recent audit suggest that requests were granted either immediately, within a reasonable amount of time or with some conditions 90% of the time. The previous audit produced a 70% compliance rate.

The response in Summit County was mainly positive.  All records were provided with immediately or within a couple of days, which was considered a reasonable time frame.  An Akron Beacon Journal reporter who conducted audit requests in Summit County made particular note of the cooperation by Akron Public Schools.

"Treasurer Jack Pierson provided me the contract showing the superintendent's salary.  One of his assistants sked for my name and he told her that Ohio law said I did not have to give my name.

It was a different story when an ABJ employee attempted to inspect documents regarding the salary of the police chief and the mayor's most recent expense report in the city of Akron.

"I went to the fifth floor at municipal hall and had to use a hallway telephone to call the finance office to get "buzzed" in to look at the records," said Jim Mackinnon.  "A woman who did not identify herself said I needed to make a public records request. I said I was making the records request in person as allowed under Ohio law. She hung up on me. When I redialed the finance office number no one picked up. I was not "buzzed" in to go to the office."

That's not the way Assistant Law Director Tammy Kalail sees it.  She says the finance director told him over the intercom to go to the law department.  Kalail says that the reason Mackinnon was unable to call back was because the finance director was on the line to tell the law department that the man would be on his way to that office.

Kalail says that people are welcome to call or stop by Akron City Hall for public documents but says that a lot of the records are available through the city's website.  Kalail also says the law department sifts through each document that has been requested to make sure social security numbers or other personal information is removed.

Dr. Bill Reader, an associate professor at Ohio University, wrote the methodology, crunched the numbers and otherwise coordinated the audit.  He seems pleased with the results and believes that even unfulfilled requests were not linked to malice.

"I don't think in this audit we found any of that, to be honest," said Reader.  "I think the obstructions were more based on ignorance and laziness than they were on an intent to obstruct.

Reader, who says that obtaining a public document "should be as easy as ordering a cheeseburger," wants people to understand that maintaining access to public documents is a way to monitor government.  He says some people don't realize that they don't have to give a name or a purpose for their request.

"In a democracy, the people are the government, not the officials, and so let's make sure the power oversight rests with the people and not with those who hold public positions," said Reader.

Use the interactive tool (left) for more specific results and take a quiz to see how much you know about your rights to Ohio's public records:

Southwest Airlines is further defining its commitment to Akron-Canton Airport with the announcement that it's converting more AirTran flights to Southwest Airlines and adding a new one as well. 

Southwest bought AirTrain in 2011 and the companies have been slowly merging since then.  There were some questions about how the merger would impact the frequency and variety of flights from Akron-Canton.  Now Southwest Airlines Vice President of Airport Affairs Bob Montgomery says they'll fly to Boston, New York City and Orlando, plus add a flight to Denver.

"This is the second big wave and it's the biggest of the waves of conversting AirTran flights to Southwest Airlines, so instead of being on the white planes, they'll be on the blue 737's," said Montgomery.

Montgomery says the decision was based on the operation of Akron-Canton Airport and customer demand.

"Customers have just reacted very, very well to our service here and it told us that we needed to add more and we have," said Montgomery.  "We're up to, in this schedule, 13 daily operations."

Montgomery says there will be another "wave of conversions" announced next month.  He says there are no announcement on the horizon regarding new destinations but he doesn't rule out that there could be some in the future.

Monday, 09 June 2014 11:37

North Cluster: Melting Pot

Akron school officials are responding to the growing number of Asian immigrants settling in North Hill.  Up to 51% of the student population at North High School is comprised of Asian-Americans, making North, along with Jennings and Findley CLC's the melting pot schools of Akron.

"I remember visiting Findley last year and they were telling me that it was either 11 or 17 different languages or dialects that students speak," said Superintendent David James.

James says administrators have set up mentoring programs among students to help make everyone feel welcome and also to assist other students who may have language barriers.  It's also been educational for teachers.

"Many of our staff will pick up some of the words," said James.  We actually have some of our students who have been here awhile help mentor and help some of the newcomers adjust to life here in the United States."

James says the diversity within the North cluster is beneficial to the entire community.

Monday, 09 June 2014 11:28

Fatal Crash In Akron

Police in Akron say alcohol may be to blame for a single-vehicle crash that killed a passenger early Sunday morning.

The department's Traffic Accident Reconstruction Unit it trying to piece together the details. Police say the car crashed into a tree near the intersection of Peckham Street and Wildwood Avenue. The front seat passenger was partially thrown out of the 2006 Mini Cooper, which then rolled over onto him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police and the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office have not yet released the identity of the victim.

No charges have been filed. The crash is still under investigation.

Monday, 09 June 2014 11:12

Summit Democratic Chair Sets Goals

Summit County's new Democratic leader is forming his agenda as he takes over at a time when Democrats are actively pursuing the governor's office and seats at the statehouse.

"Funrdraising is always going to be an issue and that's something we're going to work hard on and focus on as well as candidate recruitment," said Jeff Fusco.  "And that communication piece and bring together all those organizations so that we can all be working together and pulling in the same direction."

Those organizations that Fusco, also a member of Akron City Council, refers to are smaller clubs of Democrats in various parts of Summit County that he thinks could probably collaborate more among themselves and with the county party. 

Fusco was elected by precinct committee members last week to become the new party chairman.

"I'v e got a great start here because Wayne Jones and the Summit County Democratic Party have done an outstanding job," said Fusco.  "Over the past several years, we have captured a number of offices."

Jones was the party chairman the last six years.

2:00 PM update: The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as Wesley Avenue resident 36 year-old Morris Gaffney. The Medical Examiner's office says the death was a homicide, from a gunshot wound to the head.

9:00 Update:  The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office says the 36-year old victim was shot while answering the door around 1:15 A.M.  He was pronounced dead within 15 minutes.

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Akron police detectives are investigating an early morning homicide at an apartment near the downtown area. 

The man's body was found on the floor of his Channelwood Village apartment around 1:00 A.M.  Police were in the area on another call and spotted bullet holes in the front door of the apartment on Wesley Place, then saw the body through a window. 

Detectives say they're in the early stages of the investigation and do not know why he was shot or who did it.  The vicitm's name hasn't been released.

 

Friday, 06 June 2014 05:08

AUDIO Women's Shelter Moves, Expands

The Battered Women's Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties is launching a capital campaign to pay for renovations at its new, larger facility.  Executive Director Terri Heckman says they're setting up at the former  Middlebury Manor Nursing Home.

"The nursing home layout was perfect," said Heckman.  "Every  single room is a perfect size for a set of bunk beds and a single bed.  They each have their own bathroom.  I don't need a Hilton.  I need a Holiday Inn."

Speaking of beds, the organization will have more of them, which are needed.  The shelter recorded about 24,000 protective bed nights last year.  The two shelters currently offer a combined 68 beds.  The new shelter will have 115 beds.

The former nursing home also offers two other big advantages to Heckman.  First, it is equipped to handle people with disabilities, the elderly and can accommodate men as well.  Second, the building already has a large kitchen, gardens, a beauty shop and other amenities that Heckman wants to use for job training.

The shelter board was given a building that was then traded with the city of Akron for Middlebury.  Heckman then sold two offices for enough money to renovate office space in the new facility.  Money is now being raised to help pay for renovations to the other 40,000 square feet. 

Some people might wonder why the location of the shelter is being disclosed - it's not the norm.  Heckman says average citizens may not know but abusers usually do, regardless of how hard you work to keep the secret.

"Canton's been doing it for a long time and there are other people who have had open locations for a long time and they actually are saying that they think they're safer because the whole neighborhood rallies behind knowing who you are and keeping it safe for the people who are there."

 

Thursday, 05 June 2014 12:15

Gun Shop Break In

Police in Jackson Township are trying to figure out who broke into a gun shop  ... and how many firearms may have been stolen. 

Police say somebody used a stolen car from Massillon to bust through the front door of Dobranky Firearms around 3:30 this morning.  Police say they were there within two minutes of getting the call but the criminals were gone.  

The owner of the Wales Avenue firearms shop is taking inventory to determine if anything was stolen.  

Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:02

AUDIO Akron Public Schools: Summer Break

It's the last day of school for students in Akron Public Schools.

"It was a very busy year and it seems like it's gone by in a flash," said Superintendent David James.

What will people remember the most by this school year? 

"A harsh winter with a lot of days off and the creation of Blizzard Bags to help kids make up days that were missed."

 

Despite some negatives, James says there are plenty of positives that make him proud of the school district, including commencement exercises last night at Buchtel Community Learning Center.

"They've earned over - I think it's like a million and a half dollars in scholarships," said James.  "One student won $200,000 in sholarships for four years of college.  That's just amazing."

Of course, most administrators will not be on vacation for the next couple of months,  and James says they'll be spending some of that time tweaking security and discipline policies.