Less than a month after he was sworn into office as House Speaker, the long-rumored extramarital affairs of John Boehner have landed him on the cover of the National Enquirer.
Boehner is featured on the bottom-right corner of the cover of the issue that's on sale nationwide Thursday. A photo of Boehner's face is featured next to the headline, “Speaker of the House John Boehner Accused in Sex Probe! (Details inside).”
Elhassan worked for P&G through XLC Services, a Cincinnati-based company that provides manufacturing services and warehouse management to other companies, at P&G facilities in Guilford County, N.C.
The lawsuit charges P&G and XLC with religious harassment, religious discrimination, failing to accommodate after religious discrimination in the workplace, national origin discrimination, sexual discrimination, two counts of retaliation, negligence, unfair and deceptive trade practices, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit tells the story that led to the charges as follows: Elhassan, who wears a hijab and wedding ring for religious reasons, was employed at P&G’s facilities through XLC between 2004 and Sept. 16, 2011. During her employment, Elhassan followed P&G rules and regulations and kept “a performance record which was satisfactory or better.”
However, Elhassan was unaware of a company policy that
banned jewelry in the workplace, even jewelry of religious significance.
This policy was mostly not a problem for Elhassan because, as the lawsuit
claims, “Other employees of different religions and national origins
routinely wear jewelry under clothing and/or protective wear and are not
punished or searched.”
That is until a woman named Ernestine Wilson allegedly approached Elhassan, forcibly searched Elhassan for her wedding ring and removed Elhassan’s hijab in front of coworkers, including men, according to the suit. Under Islam’s rules, a woman uses a hijab, which is a religious head and neck wrap, to maintain sexual modesty, and being exposed without a hijab to men who are not family is a major offense and source of humiliation.
Elhassan reported the forced search to higher-ups at XLC. After a few meetings, Wilson provided an apology, according to the lawsuit, but Elhassan claimed the apology was insincere because Wilson kept telling coworkers that she hoped Elhassan was fired. After Elhassan refused to accept the apology, she was suspended then fired, allegedly under the orders of P&G.
The lawsuit suggests that Wilson's actions were potentially connected to another workplace incident. The lawsuit says Elhassan was sexually harassed in the past by George (no last name provided), a man with whom Wilson was allegedly “engaged in a friendly, physical, and/or romantic relationship." Elhassan reported the incident, which got George fired. The lawsuit claims Wilson’s actions were in retaliation to George’s termination.
Since Wilson did work for P&G through XLC, Elhassan blames both P&G and XLC for the damages. The lawsuit claims she was unfairly fired in retaliation for not accepting Wilson’s apology. It also alleges that XLC forced Elhassan to sign a document she did not understand upon her termination without her lawyer present, even though Elhassan asked to have her lawyer read the document. The document, which P&G officials were supposedly aware of, allegedly sought to release P&G and XLC of any wrongdoing related to the termination.
Mary Ralles, spokesperson for P&G, responded to the lawsuit in an email: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation, but I did want to make one correction. The individual was not (or ever) a P&G employee.”
The distinction Ralles made is that Elhassan was not officially employed by P&G, but she did work for P&G through her employment at XLC.
XLC could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.
CityBeat's inauguration page now includes a link to our alt weekly colleagues in D.C., the Washington City Paper, which features a huge inauguration guide for the millions of people already descending on their city. City Paper staffers are sending out constant updates on Twitter and a group blog, Inbloguration, including this multimedia gem from about an hour ago: "Here's a semi-live feed from my basement in Petworth, where whiskey-swilling guests collaborated on an unconscionably patriotic version of 'The Weight.' "
The victims were taken from all around Ohio, including Cincinnati. The report found that 63 percent of the victims had run away from home at least once, 59 percent reported having friends involved in selling, 47 percent were raped more than a year before being trafficked and 44 percent reported to be victims of child abuse.
In Cincinnati, the most common risk factors reported were dropping out of school and having an older boyfriend. Rape was third with 40 percent of Cincinnati victims reporting being raped.
In all of Ohio, the most common buyers for victims were law enforcement. Businessmen and drug dealers were second and third, respectively. In Cincinnati, the most common buyers were drug dealers, followed by factory workers, then truckers.
The report highlights the severity of human trafficking in Ohio. A 2010 report by the same commission found that 1,000 American-born youth had been trafficked in Ohio over the course of the year, and as many as 3,000 American-born youth in Ohio were at risk for trafficking.
Since the 2010 report, Gov. John Kasich has signed H.B. 262 into law, which outlaws human trafficking and enforces tougher rules.
However, the commission does not believe current law is enough, and it’s pushing for more rules against human trafficking. The new rules would identify trafficking as child abuse, place a focus on arresting and convicting buyers and invest in responding to adult sex trafficking. The commission also wants a better response to youth runaways, and it wants to establish better protocols for dealing with at-risk youth, especially in correspondence with school officials.
When contacted by CityBeat, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said they have no suggestions to specifically deal with law enforcement officials, which topped the list of buyers, who are involved in human trafficking.
The report was issued by the Attorney General’s Human
Trafficking Commission. It was authored by commission member Celia
Williamson, who is also a professor at the University of Toledo. The full report can be found here.
The news comes slightly more than
two weeks after CityBeat published a story looking at the many
problems presented by Ohio’s policy to privatize prisons (“Liberty for
Sale,” issue of Sept. 19).
“It was apparent throughout certain departments that DRC policy and procedure is not being followed,” the audit said. “Staff was interviewed and some stated they are not sure what to do because of the confusion between CCA policy and DRC policy. Some staff expressed safety concerns due to low staffing numbers and not having enough coverage. Other staff stated that there is increased confusion due to all the staffing transitions.”
The report says “there has been a big staff turnover,” and only one staff person was properly trained to meet Ohio Risk Assessment System standards. The audit found that a workplace violence liaison wasn’t appointed or trained. Inmates complained they felt unsafe and that staff “had their hands tied’” and “had little control over some situations.”
The local fire plan had no specific steps to release inmates from locked areas in case of emergency, and local employees said “they had no idea what they should do” in case of a fire emergency.
The audit also found all housing units provided less than the required 25 square feet on unencumbered space per occupant. It found single watch cells held two prisoners with some sleeping on the floor, and some triple-bunked cells had a third inmate sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
Searches in general seemed to be a problem for CCA. Documentation showed that contraband searches were only done 16 days in August. When the searches were done, the contraband was not properly processed to the vault and was sometimes left in desks. The private prison also could not provide documentation that proved executive staff were conducting weekly rounds to informally observe living and working conditions among inmates and staff.
These findings, although major, are only the tip of the iceberg: Inmates claimed laundry and cell cleaning services were not provided and CCA could not prove otherwise, recreation time was not always allowed five times a week in segregation as required, food quality and sanitization was not up to standards, infirmary patients were “not seen timely,” patients’ doctor appointments were often delayed with follow-ups rarely occurring, the facility had no written confined space program, the health care administrator could not explain or show an overall plan and nursing competency evaluations were not completed before the audit was conducted. Many more issues were found as well.
The one bright spot in the report is ODRC found staff to be “very professional, friendly and helpful during the audit.” Inmates were also “dressed appropriately and found to be wearing their identification badges.”
The findings shine some light into why ODRC Director Gary Mohr might have decided to stop privatizing Ohio’s prisons. On Sept. 25 — the same day the audit was mailed to Mohr’s office — Mohr announced his department would focus on sentencing reforms to bring down recidivism instead of saving costs by privatizing more prisons. The news came during the week CityBeat’s cover story on private prisons was in stands.
Mohr is one of many in Gov. John Kasich’s administration to have previous connections to CCA. He advised the private prison company “in areas of staff leadership, and development and implementing unit management,” according to the ODRC website. Donald Thibaut, Kasich’s former chief of staff and close friend, now lobbies for CCA. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also helped CCA reopen its Youngstown facility in 2004 with a federal contract during his term as U.S. senator.
The report confirms a lot of what CityBeat found in its in-depth look at private prisons. The studies cited in CityBeat’s Sept. 17 story — including research by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio — found multiple issues in private prisons’ standards around the country. One study by George Washington University found private prisons have a 50 percent higher rate of inmate-on-staff assault and a 66 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assault. The troubling numbers were attributed to lower standards at private prisons that keep costs low and profits high.
The lower standards are coupled with a private prison’s need to house as many inmates as possible, contrary to public interests of keeping re-entry to prisons low.
“It doesn’t make any difference to them whether or not a person eventually integrates back into society,” said Mike Brickner, communications and public policy director at ACLU. “Looking from a cynical approach, it actually helps them if that person (is convicted again) because they come back into their prison and they get money off them again.”
Poor living and health standards were also found in a Youngstown prison held by CCA in the 1990s. In 1997, the Youngstown prison was opened by CCA to house 1,700 of the nation’s most dangerous criminals. Within one year, 20 prisoners were stabbed, two were murdered and six escaped. The ensuing public outrage led to higher standards at the facility. The more stringent rules were credited for leading to the prison’s eventual closing as the facility was quickly made unprofitable for CCA.
Steve Owen, spokesperson for CCA, responded to the audit in a statement: “CCA is taking concrete corrective steps to ensure that this facility meets not only the ODRC's goals but our own high expectations for our facilities. We are working in partnership with the ODRC on a development plan, which will lay out a road map to meet our goals, and our team will meet bi-weekly with ODRC staff and officials until we have this matter resolved.”
A version of this article was originally published in Morning News and Stuff, but to wrap up this year's overly long election coverage, we figured it would be a good idea to republish the results as a standalone article. You're welcome!
The election is finally over. All election results for Ohio can be viewed at the secretary of state's website.
All results for Hamilton County can be viewed at the Hamilton County Board of Elections website.
President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in what can only be called an electoral college landslide. He won every single “battleground state” on CNN’s electoral map with the current exception of Florida, although the current lead and remaining demographics to be counted will likely tilt Florida to Obama. Despite the insistence of conservatives and mainstream media pundits, models like FiveThirtyEight that predicted a big Obama win were entirely accurate.
In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown also handily beat Republican challenger Josh Mandel. CityBeat covered the policy and campaign differences between the two candidates in coverage of the first, second and third debate and a cover story.
For the First U.S. Congressional District, Republican incumbent Steve Chabot beat Democratic challenger Jeff Sinnard.
The big takeaway from election night at a federal level: Billions of dollars spent on campaigns later, the U.S. House of Representatives remains in Republican hands, the U.S. Senate remains in Democratic hands and the White House remains in Democratic hands. In other words, billions of dollars were spent to change almost nothing.
At the state level, Issue 1, which called for a constitutional convention, lost. But Issue 2, which was an attempt at redistricting reform, lost as well. CityBeat covered the rise and details of Issue 2 in a story and commentary.
In the state’s legislature races, incumbents swept. Republican Bill Seitz beat Democrat Richard Luken for the eighth district of the Ohio Senate. Republican Peter Stautberg beat Democrat Nathan Wissman for the 27th district of the Ohio House. Democrat Connie Pillich beat Republican Mike Wilson for the 28th district of the Ohio House. Republican Louis Blessing beat Democrat Hubert Brown for the 29th district of the Ohio House. Republican Lou Terhar beat Democrat Steven Newsome for the 30th district of the Ohio House. Democrat Denise Driehaus beat Republican Michael Gabbard for the 31st district of the Ohio House. Democrat Dale Mallory beat Republican Ron Mosby for the 32nd district of the Ohio House. Democrat Alicia Reece beat Republican Tom Bryan for the 33rd district of the Ohio House.
For the Ohio Supreme Court, Republican Terrence O’Donnell kept his seat against Mike Skindell. But Democrat William O’Neill beat Republican incumbent Robert Cupp, and Republican Sharon Kennedy beat Democratic incumbent Yvette Brown.
At the local level, Issue 4, which gives City Council four-year terms, was approved. Issue 42, which renewed a tax levy for Cincinnati Public Schools, passed. Issue 50, a tax levy for senior health services, was approved. Issue 51, a tax levy for mental health services, was approved.
In Hamilton County offices, things got a bit more blue overall. Republican incumbent Joe Deters beat Democrat Janaya Trotter for the prosecutor attorney’s office. Democrat Pam Thomas beat Republican incumbent Tracy Winkler for the office of the clerk of the court of common pleas. Democrat Jim Neil beat Republican Sean Donovan for the sheriff's office. Democratic incumbent Wayne Coates beat Republican Wayne Lippert for the county recorder's office. Republican incumbent Robert Goering barely beat Democrat Jeff Cramerding for the county treasurer's office. Democratic incumbent Lakshmi Sammarco beat Republican Pete Kambelos for the county coroner's office.
In the lower courts, Republican incumbent Pat Fischer beat Democrat Martha Good and Republican Pat DeWine beat Democrat Bruce Whitman
for the First District Court of Appeals. Democratic incumbent Nadine
Allen and Republican Leslie Ghiz beat Democrat Stephen Black and
Republican Heather Russel for the court of common pleas.
In other states, gay marriage and marijuana were legalized. Minnesota voted against a same-sex marriage ban. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin also became the first openly gay candidate to win election for the U.S. Senate. Overall, the night was a big win for progressives all around the country.
University of Cincinnati President Greg
Williams stepped down yesterday. According to reports, Williams
walked into a UC Board of Trustees meeting, announced he was resigning effective
immediately and left.
Greg Hand, spokesperson for UC, said Williams resigned for “personal reasons.” No further explanation was provided by Williams.
Santa Ono, UC provost, is taking over temporarily as interim president. In a tweet, he promised to give the university 150 percent.
Williams was at UC since 2009. A year after arriving, he introduced his UC2019 plan. The plan seeks to make the university into a top school by 2019. The plan also implied Williams had long-term plans for UC, making his abrupt resignation even stranger.
The Board of Trustees seemed happy with Williams — at least happy enough to give him a raise. On Sept. 20, 2011, the Board gave Williams a $41,000 raise, bringing his salary up to $451,000. He also got a $102,500 bonus.
The news took UC students by surprise. Lane Hart, student body president at UC, told the school's independent student newspaper, The News Record, he was “shocked” when he heard the news.
To give credit where credit is due, when The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported the story, the newspaper mentioned that Margaret Buchanan, president and publisher at The Enquirer, is on the UC Board of Trustees. However, The Enquirer did not mention asking Buchanan about the resignation — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. Since then, The Enquirer emailed Romenesko saying Buchanan did not know any extra information.
Buchanan's ties to local groups the newspaper frequently covers have failed to be disclosed in the past. Previously, CityBeat found in stories related to 3CDC, which Buchanan is also involved in as a member of the executive committee, The Enquirer overwhelmingly failed to report the possible conflict of interest. The newspaper only reported the connection one out of 32 times, although the number could be inflated due to The Enquirer’s system of posting duplicate articles. In one particular story, The Enquirer praised 3CDC but failed to bring up Buchanan’s role overseeing publicity and marketing there.
Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.
The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of
Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.
With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati
performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse
than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46
percent), which rounded out the top five.
The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.
“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”
With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnati’s disturbing levels of poverty.
Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.
Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.
Since 2006, the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act has banned indoor smoking at public establishments and places of employment, making Ohio the first Midwestern state to enact a state-wide ban. Despite controversy and contestment, that ban will continue to be enforced statewide.
The owner of Zeno's Victorian Village in Columbus who attempted to combat the law was shut down by a unanimous 7-0 vote in the Ohio Supreme Court today, which ruled that the state's six-year smoking ban is constitutional.
Ohio's ban affects some 280,000 establishments across the state of Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
According to the Supreme Court of Ohio's case summary, Zeno's was cited 10 times for violations of the ban from July 2007 and September 2009, receiving multiple fines, none of which were paid. In protest of the violations, the director of the ODH filed a complaint against Bartec Inc., the corporate entity that owns Zeno's, requesting the bar to pay all outstanding fines.
Bartec and legal representative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a nonprofit legal center, asserted that the smoking ban was unconstitutional, a violation of the state's policing powers and that prohibiting smoking in an adults-only liquor-licensed establishment such as Zeno’s is "unduly oppressive," according to the case summary.
The ban and its enforcement, argued Bartec, constitutes an unlawful taking of property, meaning an improper confiscation of the owner’s control of the indoor air.
"The goal of this legislation is to protect the health of the workers and other citizens of Ohio. ... It does so by regulating proprietors of public places and places of employment in a minimally invasive way. We therefore hold that the Smoke Free Act does not constitute a taking,” wrote Justice Lanzinger in her opinion.
In her written opinion, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger also cited 2002 Supreme Court decision, D.A.B.E., Inc. v. Toledo-Lucas Cty. Bd. of Health:
"We have previously stated that the General Assembly has the authority to enact a public-smoking ban. ... Although the Smoke Free Act was ultimately passed pursuant to a ballot initiative, the voters of Ohio also have a legitimate purpose in protecting the general welfare and health of Ohio citizens and workforce from the dangers of secondhand smoke in enclosed public places. By requiring that proprietors of public places and places of employment take reasonable steps to prevent smoking on their premises by posting ‘no smoking’ signs, removing ashtrays, and requesting patrons to stop smoking, the act is rationally related to its stated objective.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the bar owes the state approximately $33,00 in violation fines, and the state has threatened to seize and foreclose the bar if the fines aren't paid.
See how Ohio's public smoking laws compare to those in other states across the U.S. here.
Former President Bill Clinton urged a group of more than 200 people in Clifton today to support his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Clinton called his wife a “changemaker” who held the expertise and experience to become the next president.
Much of his speech touched on the need to grow the country’s economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis through lowering the country’s high student loan debt and increasing the number of jobs.
“We suffered a terrible wound in that financial mess,” Clinton said.
Clinton also addressed the sixth Democratic debate that took place last night between Clinton and her competitor for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, without ever mentioning Sanders’ name. He recapped Hillary’s points from the debate on refinancing student loans and avoiding another financial crisis.
“I love the closing of the debate last night when Hillary said, ‘Look I agree we’ve got to do something to make sure the economy doesn’t crash again. You have your solution. I have mine. Most experts say my plan is stronger, and it’s more likely to prevent the financial crisis,’ ” he said.
Bill Clinton has been touring the country in support of his wife’s bid for the Democratic nomination in the wake of disappointing outcomes for Hillary in the last two weeks. She came in neck and neck with Sanders in the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1 and lost significantly in New Hampshire Democratic primary on Feb. 9.
At the rally, the former president expressed disappointment at the current Supreme Court for upholding the Voting Right Act and the “Citizens United" decision, which allows unlimited spending on political campaigns by corporations and unions.
He emphasized how such issues could change with the next president, as he or she will likely appoint two Supreme Court judges.
“She’ll give you judges who will stick up for your rights,” he said.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and former mayor Mark Mallory introduced Clinton. Vice mayor David Mann and council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson were also at the event.
Christie Malaer of Green Hills says she attended the rally because she believes Hillary, along with her husband Bill, will make a good team together again in the White House.
“Hillary and Bill have stuck together through everything they’ve been through,” Malaer said. “That says a lot.”
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing is expected to testify at his trial, which has been set for Oct. 24. Tensing is charged with the murder of motorist Samuel Dubose during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn last July. Tensing's attorney indicated in a pre-trial motion that Tensing would be on the list of more than 20 witnesses scheduled to testify. Other listed witnesses include Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and UC President Santa Ono.
• Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Clifton today. Clinton will speak at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center at 3 p.m. at a Get Out the Vote event. The event could mark the beginning of the aggressive campaigning from presidential candidates in Ohio in the coming months. Not surprisingly, Clinton is expected to urge people to vote for his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president as well as discuss the current election. Doors open at 2 p.m., and you can RSVP here.
• Grocery giant Kroger announced today that it will start selling Narcan, the heroin overdose antidote, without a prescription at its pharmacies in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. The drug, which is often carried by emergency personnel, is currently only available in 27 state pharmacies without a prescription. Kroger's announcement follows the one made earlier this month by drug store CVS, which said it would begin selling Narcan in its Ohio stores next month. The corporations' decisions come as more attention has been brought to a recent spike in the number of heroin-related deaths sweeping the region.
• Weed and redistricting are several issues on the minds of legislators. At the Associated Press Legislative Preview Session on Thursday, House and Senate leaders said they were each holding their own separate hearings on medical marijuana. Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said while thinks there's support for it in the legislature, if marijuana is legalized it will probably be not be available in smoking form in order to keep from creating a loophole for those who just want to get high legally. Leaders also said they were kind of, sort of working on redistricting reform, which was approved by voters last November. Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) said the proposals received so far are going to a seven-member commission, which includes four lawmakers.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
A trial date has been set for former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, who fatally shot unarmed motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn in July. Tensing will face murder and manslaughter charges brought against him by Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters on Oct. 24, a year and three months after he shot DuBose during a traffic stop. Tensing pulled DuBose over for a missing license plate. DuBose refused to exit his car, and after a brief struggle where Tensing reached into the ca and DuBose started his vehicle, the officer shot him. Tensing's next pre-trial hearing will be in April.
• Forty people marched downtown yesterday stopping in front of the John Weld Peck Federal Building on Main Street to protest the U.S. immigration policy. The protest, which was coordinated with the Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday, was specifically calling on the feds' recent decision to start deporting women with young children and unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The march also comes a week after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided an East Price Hill apartment complex with a large number of Central Americans for unknown reasons.
• Park Chili in Northside has new owners. The Cincinnati chili staple, which has been in operation since 1937, was bought by Steven and Susan Thompson to be operated by their daughter and son-in-law Allie Thompson and Kevin Pogo Curtis as The Park. Curtis previously operated Tacocracy on Hamilton Avenue. Curtis says they plan to keep it a cozy diner, and they even have the chili recipe from former owner Norm Bazoff, which they bought along with the restaurant.
• U.S. Senate candidate and city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld may have gotten his biggest endorsement yet. Former Democratic Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste has come out in support of Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld is currently running against another former Ohio Gov., Ted Strickland, for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the March primary will face the Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman.
• A bill that would defund Planned Parenthood of Ohio is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. Yesterday, while Kasich was celebrating his second place victory in the New Hampshire GOP primary, the House voted to approve the bill with the amendments added by the Senate. Some political analysts are asking if these two things were strategically planned. The House happened to vote on the legislation the day after the New Hampshire primary where the state's moderate Republicans are likely to be less supportive of defunding Planned Parenthood. But it could help Kasich at his next stop in South Carolina where the state's republicans are more stoked on the idea. Republican Senate President Keith Faber denied on Wednesday the vote was timed to boost Kasich's shot at the presidential nomination, but said he does think the bill will please South Carolina Republicans.
The Ohio House of Representatives today passed HB-294 with amendments added by the state Senate that would ban the Ohio Department of Health from distributing state and federal funds to centers that perform non-therapeutic abortions.
Health organizations are already prohibited from using state and federal funds toward abortion services. The bill will take this a step further by prohibiting federal funding for non-therapeautic abortions, meaning organizations that perform abortions as a result of rape or incest or those that are not medically necessary are banned as well. Along with non-therapeautic abortions, organizations like Planned Parenthood also use such funding for things like services that help prevent infant mortality, breast and cervical cancer, infertility, minority AIDS and HIV infection and teen STDs and pregnancy. The bill also bars the state from contracting or affiliating with any such organization.
It would redirect the funding into other community health organizations like Women, Infant and Children (WIC) clinics.
If Kasich signs the bill into law, it will strip Planned Parenthood of Ohio, the largest abortion provider in the state, of the nearly $1.4 million it receives in government funds.
The added amendments would direct $250,000 toward infant mortality prevention efforts and allow pregnant women to go to government-sponsored medical programs while they are applying for Medicaid, instead of waiting until after they are approved.
Ohio ranks 45th highest in the U.S. for infant mortality, with 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, according the 2013 Centers for Disease Control's National Vital Statistics Reports.
On the House floor, Democrats argued that even though the bill's amendments were directing more resources toward an issue like infant mortality prevention, the bill overall is causing greater harm by stripping an organization like Planned Parenthood of funding it already uses for that purpose.
Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) said the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state tackle educational issues like this and do not perform abortions.
"You are not defunding abortions with this bill," she said.
Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Akron) said she believes the two items are mutually exclusive.
"The rate of infant mortality rate for aborted babies is 100 percent," said Roegner.
The legislation is the latest move in a long string of new requirements lawmakers have passed for abortion providers.
Proponents of the requirements say the laws are intended to improve safety standards at abortion providers. Opponents say they are bureaucratic red tape aimed at reducing the number of clinics performing abortions.
A 2009 law requires that abortion clinics have a patient-transfer agreement with a public hospital but can request a variance, or exception, if they are unable to do so.
Planned Parenthood in Mount Auburn and the Women's Med Clinic, the last two abortion providers in southwest Ohio, nearly lost their licenses to perform the procedure earlier this year when the Department of Health denied the clinics' request for a variance.
Planned Parenthood sued the state, and a judge ruled in October that the clinics are allowed to operate during the lawsuit.
If the clinics lose their licenses, Cincinnati would be the largest metropolitan area in the country without access to abortion services.
Stephanie Kight, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, told the Enquirer that its health education programs will see the most funding cuts under HB-294.
Erin Smiley, a health educator at Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, told CityBeat last October the organization stands to lose a $300,000 federal grant for a sex education class for adjudicated and foster care youth it teaches across 18 Ohio counties.
"I would welcome anyone, the legislature, Senators, whomever, if anyone ever wanted to come and see what our messages are really like and see the impacts that we have and how these young people are empowered by this information," Smiley said. "I really believe it would be hard for those folks to think that what they're doing right now is the best for young people."
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Recently-released federal airfare data says that flying out of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport is no longer cheaper than flying out of Dayton. The average ticket price is $427 for both. As someone who frequently flies out of every Tri-State area airport but CVG, I'm skeptical, but hopeful. But if CVG can strike a deal with Southwest Airlines, then I'm there.• Rhinegeist's Cidergeist is all grown up and is heading out east. The company announced its taking its hard cider to Boston by the end of this month followed by New York at some point. Co-founder Bryant Goulding said the Cincinnati-based microbrewery chose to debut its cider over its beer because market for craft cider market is currently stronger than one for the craft brewing.
• The Ohio House is expected to vote on today on the bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of $1.3 million it receives in state funding. HB 294 would bar health organizations who perform non-therapeutic abortions from receiving state and federal funding. The Senate, which passed the bill on Jan. 27, added minor amendments to the legislation requiring the House's approval before it can go to Gov. Kasich's desk.
• Public health officials have reported the first two cases of the Zika virus in Ohio and one in Indiana. The Ohio Department of Health confirmed yesterday that a Cleveland woman who had recently returned from Haiti and a Stark County man who also just been to Haiti tested positive for the virus. The virus, which is transmitted through mosquitoes, is most concerning for pregnant women as it has been linked to birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the unusual precaution of recommending U.S. travelers avoid 22 countries in South and Central America.
On the other side, Democratic candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders crushed opponent Hillary Clinton even more than expected. Sanders
grabbed 60 percent of the vote as compared to 34 percent for
Clinton--the largest gap in New Hampshire's history. Political analysis, however, are predicting a rockier road ahead for Sanders as the candidates head to South Carolina and Nevada. The two states have higher Hispanic and African-American populations, which have shown stronger support for Clinton.
The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes State Sen. Cecil Thomas and president State Rep. Alicia Reece from Cincinnati, has pushed for grand jury reform in the state in the aftermath of police shooting deaths of unarmed black citizens, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and 21-year-old John Crawford III in Beavercreek. Grand juries declined to indict officers involved in either of those shootings.
State Sens. Sandra Williams of Cleveland and Edna Brown of Toledo also attended the meeting with O’Connor.
“Many of our constituents around the state are calling for action after the year-long grand jury process that culminated in the decision to bring zero charges against the officers that shot and killed 12 year-old Tamir Rice, and the lack of charges in the police shooting of John Crawford,” Reece said in a statement. “We look forward to working with both the Supreme Court chief justice and our colleagues in the legislature to enact meaningful justice reforms that keep us safe, treat citizens fairly and restore faith and transparency in our justice system.”
Late last month, O’Connor announced she would convene an 18-member panel to review the state’s grand jury process, which has been in Ohio’s constitution since it was written in 1802. Currently, grand juries meet in secret to consider evidence presented by law enforcement authorities and prosecutors, then decide whether or not to indict a suspect. That has led many to question whether the proceedings, and the decisions grand juries reach, are just and impartial.
The panel will consider changes to the system but will not look at a full removal of the grand jury system as some activists have called for. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen McIntosh will chair the group, which has its first meeting Feb. 17. O’Connor has asked for a report on suggested changes from the group by June.
Rice was on a playground playing with a toy pistol in November 2014 when a neighbor called police to say someone was pointing a gun at passersby. That caller stipulated the gun was “probably fake” and that the person was a minor. That information wasn’t relayed to officers, however, who pulled a police cruiser within feet of Rice. Officer Timothy Loehmann exited the cruiser and shot Rice within seconds, video footage of the incident shows. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to press charges against him.
Crawford was in a Beavercreek Walmart with a toy rifle over his shoulder when another shopper called police, reporting he was pointing it at customers. Security footage of the incident doesn’t show Crawford pointing the toy at others, and when police arrived, he had it slung over his shoulder. Crawford was shot by officers and died shortly afterward. A Greene County grand jury did not indict officers in that case.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
Will Cincinnati and Hamilton County opt to stop working together on the Metropolitan Sewer District? Recent statements by Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel suggest that the two governments are more CeeLo Green than Al Green right now and that the idea is at least on the table. Since 2014, the two governments have cooperated on MSD, which is owned by the county but run by the city. But things between the city and county haven’t been all that cozy lately, and recent revelations that MSD may have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on contracts without competitive bids haven’t helped matters.
Now officials are at least floating the idea of splitting up — perhaps even dividing MSD’s assets and letting the two governments run separate systems. There are, of course, complications, not the least of which would be the enormous complexity of divvying up one of the county’s largest infrastructure systems serving 800,000 residents. The city says it should be the one solely in charge of MSD, while the county makes a similar claim. Meanwhile, the two governments will have to continue to cooperate on a federal court-ordered $3 billion renovation of the sewer district, no matter what they decide.
• While the above-mentioned $680 million sketchy procurement process was taking place at MSD under former director Tony Parrott, an oversight board that could have put checks on the potential improper spending was fading into the background, The Enquirer reports. That independent oversight board hasn’t operated since 2008, and no records exist of any audits of MSD’s activity from that group. Cincinnati City Councilman Kevin Flynn has been calling for funds and support to beef up that board over the past few months and has renewed his calls for increased oversight ahead of an audit of MSD by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. The city’s administrative code calls for such an oversight board, though cities aren’t required by law to maintain them. It’s unclear why Cincinnati abandoned its board in 2008 under Mayor Mark Mallory. City officials, including City Manager Harry Black, have said they’re in the process of reviving the board, but that it currently has five vacancies and can’t operate until they’re filled.
• Two neighborhood councils are pushing the city to keep, and expand, the controversial Central Parkway Bikeway, memos to the city reveal. Both Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council passed resolutions late last month and sent letters to the city administration and City Council asking that the lane be expanded for safety and economic development purposes. You can read more about that in our blog post here.
• Ohio has 10 times the number of failing charter schools as it has previously reported, according to a letter from the state to the federal government. The Department of Education says 57 Ohio charter schools are failing, not six, as the state originally stated. The state also has about half the number of high-performing charters it has recently touted, according to the letter, which was sent as Ohio works to regain access to a $71 million federal school choice grant that the DOE awarded last year and subsequently suspended last November following a charter school data rigging scandal here.
• It’s the big day for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. New Hampshire primary voters head out to the polls today for the country’s first primary (yes, candidates were vying for voter attention in Iowa last week, but that state has a caucus, which is a different system). Kasich has indicated he will drop out of the GOP presidential primary if he doesn’t do well in the state, so we could be talking about the last day of morning news updates on the big queso’s campaign. Heartbreaking.
Kasich is polling well in the state, however, and might finish as high as second place, especially after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, his main rival there, did pretty poorly in this weekend’s GOP debate. Kasich has spent a lot of time focusing on the Granite State, holding more than 100 town hall appearances there. He even beat Trump 3 votes to 2 in tiny Dixville, N.H. Side note: If you want to know how New Hampshire became the first voters in the primary process, this article has all the interesting political history you need.
• Finally, how much has all of Kasich’s traveling around the country with a security entourage cost Ohio taxpayers? Probably a lot. The Associated Press reports that non-highway security expenditures for the Ohio Highway Patrol have gone from $17,000 a year during Kasich’s first year in office to more than $350,000 in 2015. While that segment of highway patrol funding is primarily used for the governor’s security detail, officials with the patrol say other out of state costs are also involved in that number. They also point out that spending categories changed in 2011, so the two numbers might not be an apples to apples comparison. Still, it’s clear that expenditures have gone up during Kasich’s time in office and that taxpayers have footed some of the bill for the extensive traveling he’s done as he runs for the nation’s highest office.
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The Cincinnati Planning Commission has approved plans for a 131-unit apartment complex downtown. The $52 million complex will be at Eighth and Sycamore streets pending the approval of City Council as early as next week. The parking garage and apartments are part of a larger development plan for the city-owned site, which will also feature up to 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp., or 3CDC, will build a 500-car parking garage, while Cincy-based North American Properties is in charge of constructing the actual units. If plans are approved, the parking complex could be ready as early as June, but the apartments won't be completed until the second half of 2017 at least.
• Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine is calling on community support to help keep its winter shelter open to the homeless through Feb. 29. Rev. John Suguitan says the church is short the funds necessary to keep its doors open through one of the coldest months of the year. The church, which is located on Race Street, has focused on community outreach since 1969 and currently has 45 spots available for homeless individuals to stay overnight.
• A report from Disability Rights Ohio found major issues with the enforcement a 2013 Ohio law limiting the seclusion and restraint of students for the convenience of staff members.The rule requires schools to report such incidents to Ohio's Department of Education. But, according to the report, many instances still go unreported. Under the law, the DOE lacks the authority to force schools to do so and the schools face no punishment for not complying. It also found many schools were also not notifying parents if their child had been restrained or secluded, which is also a requirement of the law.
• Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, who fatally shot a 19-year-old black man and unarmed bystander in December, is suing the teenager's estate for more than $10 million. The officer claims the Dec. 26 confrontation that lead to the death of teen Quintonio LeGrier, who was holding a baseball bat, and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, caused him "extreme emotional trauma." The shooting is still under investigation.
That investigation didn't find any fetal tissue sales at the organization's Ohio clinics, but DeWine did announce that it appeared as if Planned Parenthood was violating state law by contracting with a company that autoclaved, or steam-treated, fetal tissue and then dumped it in landfills.
However, in an investigation published yesterday by Columbus WBNS-10TV, Lanny Brannock, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, says intact fetuses were not disposed of in landfills there. What's more, Brannock says Ohio investigators never spoke to anyone at the facilities nor visited them during the course of their investigation.
“It is illegal to landfill any human tissue in Kentucky, and by law it’s required to be incinerated," Brannock said. "We have no knowledge of any human tissue going into Kentucky landfills."
The investigation also shows that the state contracts with the same disposal company, Kentucky-based Accu Medical Waste Services, Inc., to dispose of medical waste. That contract includes state prisons, where inmates occasionally suffer miscarriages.
Morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive commission last night voted not to censure Ben Lindy, a candidate to replace Denise Driehaus as state representative. But the party also had strong words about a paper Lindy authored that is currently in being used in a legal attack against teachers’ unions. Controversy erupted last week when party leaders found out that the paper, which Lindy wrote while studying at Yale University, is currently being used by anti-union groups in a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that could endanger collective bargaining arrangements for labor groups. Lindy says he supports unions and doesn’t agree with the suit. He’s facing other Democrats, including fellow Hyde Park resident Brigid Kelly, in the party’s primary to run for Ohio's District 31 state representative seat.
• I love going to Findlay Market, but like a lot of people, one of the big challenges I have is that I can’t get quite everything I need there. But that could change soon. Owners of current Findlay vendors Fresh Table are planning a new micro-grocery just across from the historic market. In addition to having a lunch counter, the store will feature hygiene items and other products that will help round out Findlay’s offerings. The store aims to serve people of all incomes and should be open by September, according to owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden.
• A recent study shows that Cincinnati ranks favorably among the country’s biggest 100 cities when it comes to prosperity, but that it lags well behind when it comes to extending that prosperity beyond whites. The city ranked 18th in a Brookings Institution study released last week when it came to prosperity, but 81st in racial economic inclusion. We've checked out that study in-depth here.
• A men’s rights group whose leader has in the past advocated for rape legalization has cancelled plans for rallies around the world, including one near Cincinnati. Return of Kings, which was founded by 36-year-old Roosh Valizadeh, had planned numerous get-togethers for its so-called “tribesmen” this Saturday at 8 p.m. across the United States and as far away as Australia. Valizadeh has authored blog posts on the group’s website calling for women to be stripped of the right to vote and for rape to be legalized on private property. Valizadeh cited safety concerns for the cancellations. Feminist activists in Cincinnati called that “ironic,” saying that ROK represented the only threat to peoples’ safety in the area and that the group perpetuates rape culture.
• In the wake of its second student suicide in as many months, Cincinnati Public Schools is expanding its anti-suicide efforts. The push comes as community leaders highlight a crisis in teen suicide in the region, especially in its black communities. CPS has sent home suicide prevention guidelines and resources for parents. Meanwhile, faith leaders and others in those communities are working on long-term strategies to address that crisis.
• Finally, another night, another presidential primary debate. This time it was Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who tussled. Their past debates have been markedly civil compared to the Republican primary debates’ circus-like atmosphere, but the gloves have finally come off.
That meant lengthy (and annoying) semantic debates about the words “progressive” and “establishment” that mirror similar ideological pissing contests within the Republican Party. Unencumbered by flagging third candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton were able to really go at it. But sandwiched in between the jabs traded back and forth there was some substance to the discussion.
Clinton came out well ahead on foreign policy, her home turf issue — she was U.S. Secretary of State, after all — with Sanders tripping over whether North Korea had one or multiple dictators. Seriously, man? Sanders, however, seemed to gain an upper hand on domestic issues around the economy, which is really the core of his campaign. He was able to land some substantive blows against Clinton when it came to her support from financial industry bigwigs, calling her out for donations and $100,000 speaking fees she’s received from big banks and other financial institutions. Sanders says should be more regulated by government.
Clinton called those questions an “artful smear” of her campaign, though she balked at promising to release transcripts of paid speeches she gave to those financial institutions, saying only that she would “look into it.” I say “I’ll look into it” when there is no chance in the world I’m going to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be looking into, but that’s just me.
And I’m out. Hit me on Twitter or via email.