Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state. The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code, potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes. If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters, but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs, increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion, while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.
Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
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In the letter, the Democrats say they would find voter fraud to be a serious problem if it was happening, but they also note recent studies have found no evidence of widespread voter impersonation fraud. An Oct. 4 Government Accountability Office study could not document a single case of voter impersonation fraud. A similar study by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found a total of 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. That’s less than one case a year.
Tim Burke, chairman of both the Hamilton County Board of Elections and the Hamilton County Democratic Party, says the faulty voter registration forms, which groups like TTV typically cite as examples of in-person voter fraud, never amount to real voter fraud.
“Those nonexistent voters never show up to vote,” he says. “(The forms) were put together by people working on voter registration drives. Frankly, the intent wasn’t to defraud the board of elections; the intent was to defraud their employer into making them think they’re doing more work.”
In other words, people aren't submitting faulty voter registration forms to skew elections; registration drive employees are submitting the forms to try to keep their jobs.
To combat the seemingly nonexistent problem of voter impersonation fraud, TTV is planning on recruiting one million poll watchers — people that will stand by polling places to ensure the voting process is legitimate. The Democrats insist some of the tactics promoted by the group are illegal. The letter claims it’s illegal for anyone but election officials to inhibit the voting process in any way. Most notably, Ohio law prohibits “loiter[ing] in or about a registration or polling place during registration or the casting and counting of ballots so as to hinder, delay, or interfere with the conduct of the registration or election,” according to the letter.
Burke says state law allows both Democrats and Republicans
to hire observers at polling booths. However, the observers can only
watch, and they can’t challenge voters. Even if the appointed observers see suspicious
activity, they have to leave the voting area and report the activity
through other means.
The tactics adopted by TTV have an ugly history in the U.S. Utilizing poll watchers was one way Southern officials pushed away minority voters during the segregation era. By asking questions and being as obstructive as possible, the poll watchers of the segregation era intimidated black voters into not voting. In the post-segregation era, the tactics have continued targeting minority and low-income voters.
The Senate Democrats make note of the ugly history in their letter: “It has traditionally focused on the voter registration lists in minority and low-income precincts, utilizing ‘caging’ techniques to question registrations. It has included encouraging poll watchers to ‘raise a challenge’ when certain voters tried to vote by brandishing cameras at polling sites, asking humiliating questions of voters, and slowing down precinct lines with unnecessary challenges and intimidating tactics. These acts of intimidation undermine protection of the right to vote of all citizens.”
TTV has already faced some failures in Hamilton County. Earlier this year, the group teamed up with the Ohio Voter Integrity Project (VIP), another Tea Party group, to file 380 challenges to the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Of the 380 challenges, only 35 remain. The vast majority were thrown out.
“For the most part, they tried to get a bunch of UC students challenged because they didn’t have their dormitory rooms on their voter registration rolls,” Burke says. “All of those were rejected. We did nothing with those.”
But he said the group did bring up one legitimate
challenge. Some voters were still registered in a now-defunct trailer
park in Harrison, Ohio. Since the trailer park no longer exists,
Burke says no one should be voting from there. The board didn’t purge
those voters from the roll, but the board unanimously agreed to ensure those voters are challenged and sent to the correct polling place if they show up to vote.
Still, TTV insists on hunting down all the phantom impersonators and fraudulent voters. In partnership with VIP, TTV is continuing its mission to stop all the voter impersonation that isn't actually happening.
VIP is brandishing the effort with a program of its own. That organization is now hosting special training programs for poll workers. The organization insists its programs are nonpartisan, but Democrats aren’t buying it.
Burke says it’s normal for Democrats and Republicans to hire poll workers, but if the Voter Integrity Project program puts the organization’s anti-fraud politics into the training, it could go too far.
“The job of the poll worker is to assist voters in getting their ballots cast correctly,” Burke says. “It’s to be helpful. It’s not to be belligerent. It’s not to be making voters feel like they’re doing something evil.”
He added, “If poll workers are coming in and deciding that they’re going to be aggressive police officers making everybody feel like they’re engaged in voter fraud and therefore trying to intimidate voters, that’s absolutely wrong.”
County Commissioner Todd Portune's idea to borrow more money and extend a half-cent sales tax in order to keep up with stadium costs has been shot down by a Bengals lawyer who used 15 bullet points to demonstrate that Portune's plan “proposes to breach one or both leases.”
Duke Energy is asking state regulators if it can bump customers' rates up again. Duke says the increases are to pay for infrastructure investments. The change would increase customer costs of electric service by $86 million and for natural gas by $44 million. A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy that accuses the company of paying kick-backs to corporations opposing a 2004 rate increase.
A rally for “religious freedom” will take place on Fountain Square today in response to federal health care legislation requiring women to have abortions employers to provide insurance that covers birth control. The law includes a religious exemption, which bishops have said isn't enough.
A group pushing to ban dog auctions in Ohio has halted its effort to put the issue on the November ballot due to lack of funding and time. CityBeat in February reported the group's efforts to ban the sale of dogs through auctions or raffles, as well as all trafficking in dogs from out-of-state auctions.
New York City officials, including
Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke, are arguing that the city's
“Stop and Frisk” policy is racist. The policy allows police to
stop an individual and pat him or her down for contraband if they
suspect illegal activity. From USA Today:
Clarke says the program, known as "Stop, Question and Frisk" or "Stop and Frisk," amounts to racial profiling. It is based on a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that police could stop people on the basis of "reasonable suspicion."
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin approved class-action status for a lawsuit that alleges the practice subjects people to race-based illegal searches.
President Obama's health care law helped
6.6 million young adults stay on their parents' plans during the
first year and a half.
Rick Santorum has formed a new conservative organization aiming to recruit 1 million supporters to help get Barack Obama out of the While House. No word on how Santorum's “Patriot Voices” group will differ from the tea party patriots.
NASA says it has spotted the universe's first objects.
Black members of the Netherlands soccer team were subjected to
racist chants at their Euro 2012 practice facility in Krakow, Poland.
The team says fans were making monkey chants at the players.
LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics last night, forcing a deciding Game 7 for the Eastern Conference championship. The Oklahoma Thunder await in the NBA Finals.
Conservative presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is busy today trying to clarify a comment he made Thursday that indicated reelecting President Barack Obama would be better than electing Santorum’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney.
Santorum’s comment, made in San Antonio, Texas, at the USAA insurance company, drew criticism from Romney, Newt Gingrich and other Republicans.
"You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who's just going to be a little different than the person in there," Santorum said in San Antonio. "If you're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future."
Romney quickly fired back about Santorum’s comment.
“I am in this race to defeat Barack Obama and restore America's promise,” Romney said. “I was disappointed to hear that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican. This election is more important than any one person. It is about the future of America. Any of the Republicans running would be better than President Obama and his record of failure.”
Not to be left out, Gingrich took to Twitter to join in the symbolic thrashing.
"Rick Santorum is dead wrong. Any GOP nominee will be better than Obama.” Gingrich tweeted.
This morning Santorum’s campaign released a statement that sought to clarify what the candidate meant. (How many times has that phrase had to be used in relation to Santorum in the past few months?)
"I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous,” Santorum said in the prepared statement. “This is just another attempt by the Romney campaign to distort and distract the media and voters from the unshakeable fact that many of Romney's policies mirror Barack Obama's.”
Santorum added, “I was simply making the point that there is a huge enthusiasm gap around Mitt Romney and it's easy to see why — Romney has sided with Obama on health-care mandates, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailouts. Voters have to be excited enough to actually go vote, and my campaign's movement to restore freedom is exciting this nation. If this election is about Obama versus the Obama-Lite candidate, we have a tough time rallying this nation."
Santorum might be correct about the enthusiasm gap over Romney.
A new poll found that more people offer negative than positive assessments of Romney. But, tellingly, this also is the case for Romney’s rivals — Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul.
When Americans were asked what one word comes to mind when thinking about Romney, the top responses were “no” or “no way,” and “rich.” After those, the most frequently used words were “flip-flopper,” “idiot” and “arrogant.”
Roughly twice as many respondents gave negative one-word descriptions of Romney rather than positive terms, 30 percent versus 14 percent; just 29 percent used neutral terms.
The most frequently used terms for Santorum, with the exception of “no,” were “crazy,” “too conservative,” “extreme” and “idiot.”
A mere 13 percent of respondents used positive words for Santorum, while 30 percent used negative words and 22 percent used neutral terms.
Words most frequently offered about Gingrich were “old,” “no,” “no way,” “idiot” and “untrustworthy.”
Thirty-nine percent of respondents used negative terms about Gingrich, compared to 10 percent that used positive terms, and 23 percent that used neutral terms.
The most frequent descriptions used for Paul were slightly better, but not by much: “no,” “old,” “Libertarian,” “honest” and “crazy.”
Twenty-seven percent of respondents used negative terms to describe Paul, compared to 15 percent that used positive terms, and 23 percent that used neutral terms.
The national survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post. It surveyed 1,009 adults March 15-18.
Of the respondents, 605 were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 404 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 176 who had no landline telephone.
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.
His father might be busy trying to score the GOP’s presidential nomination, but U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is taking the time to speak at a Town Hall-style meeting in Northern Kentucky next week.
Paul is scheduled to attend an event organized by the Northern Kentucky Tea Party on Feb. 24. It will be held at the Calvin Perry Community Center, 8536 W. Main St., in Alexandria.
The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 2 p.m. and last for about an hour. Paul will speak first, then answer questions from the audience.
In the Tea Party’s announcement of the event, Paul is described as “a true champion of freedom” who has “worked to stop the EPA's war on coal.”
Paul, 49, is the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) who is seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Elected to the Senate in November 2010, the younger Paul is also a practicing ophthalmologist in Bowling Green, Ky.
Paul made headlines during his campaign when he said he disliked portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.
A restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate, he said. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Paul added.
This week’s ruling by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that a Greater Cincinnati landlady violated a girl’s civil rights by posting a “whites only” sign at an apartment complex’s swimming pool is a decision that most rational people would say is just.
The Jan. 12 ruling means the commission, if it cannot reach a settlement with landlady Jamie Hein, could issue a complaint against her with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office would then represent the complainant, Michael Gunn, before an administrative law judge, who could impose penalties and punitive damages.
Some progressive Democrats share a modest admiration for Ron Paul, a U.S. congressman from Texas and perennial darkhorse contender for the Republican presidential nomination.
The state-level political turmoil caused by the Tea Party and its financial backers, the Koch brothers, got its start in Wisconsin under rookie Gov. Scott Walker. Today, Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to oust six Republican state senators in unprecedented recall elections.
Follow the action via a live blog set up by Isthmus, the alt weekly paper in Madison, Wisc. Polls are open until 8 p.m. Central time, so there won't be a lot of action until later.