Two far-reaching ideas by Cincinnati's fly-by-the-seats-of-their-pants City Council is being sharply criticized by people with extensive experience in policing issues.
As City Council acts surprised about a $58 million deficit that's loomed on the horizon for months, an amount that's only fluctuated slightly due to changing revenues, members last week proposed abolishing the Cincinnati Police Department's patrol bureau and contracting those services to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
Digging Ohio's primary election today. Everyone's expecting low turn-out, which only makes your vote even more valuable. If you're not sure what's on the ballot, check out CityBeat's roundup of election coverage for background on the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, the Democratic and Republican primaries for Hamilton County Commissioner, Issue 1 and more.
Dogging David Krikorian, running today in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District against Surya Yalamanchili and Jim Parker for the right to face incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt in the fall. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann named Krikorian his "Worst Person in the World" a few days ago for suggesting that Indian-American Yalamanchili's name is too foreign-sounding to win an election.
The good news first: Most of HB 194 is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal of HB 194 earlier this year.The bad news: Some new limits on voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might be unconstitutional.
While it’s good to see HB 194 repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.For Democrats, this poses a bit of a problem. Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295 passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed because Republicans will think they have done enough.
Even the Obama team spoke on this issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on our voting rights.”The other problem is the repeal could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot. So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.
Between tweeting happily about U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s death and gloating over Cincinnati losing out on federal funding for its proposed streetcar project, an anti-tax group has also posted on its blog about something more substantive: A legal victory against an Ohio law it said was unconstitutional.
The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a utility to relocate its structures.
The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.
Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole “no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.
Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles Winburn voted against.
“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal opponents of the streetcar.
“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”
The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the move.
Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues
that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being
built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of
utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure
clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not
recoup the $15 million.
The second proposal switches the source of funding for
streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern
downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect
service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.
That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as
expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown
district — which includes the Banks and the casino — rebounds.
Some major decisions are expected in the next few days, and we're not referring to how the dithering, ineffectual Cincinnati City Council will finally close a $54 million deficit.
Rather, the decisions coming soon are who will replace Republican Chris Monzel on City Council, and who will replace Tom Callinan as editor at The Enquirer.
Three activists associated with The Cincinnati Beacon blog have lodged a formal complaint with the city's attorneys today, alleging some City Council members “behaved secretly and in contradiction of the charter” during a recent budget dispute.
Also, other critics are researching whether the council members' action violated state law.
Update: This blog incorrectly said Doug Preisse is the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. He is the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch in an email over the weekend. The admission to outright racism came at the height of a controversy regarding weekend voting in Montgomery County. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is trying to enforce uniform in-person early voting hours with no weekend voting across the state to avoid any discrepancies that caused a previous controversy, but county Democrats in Dayton wanted to have weekend voting anyway. When county Democrats refused to back down in a Board of Elections meeting, Husted, the state official who is supposed to empower voters as much as possible, suspended them from the Board. The move sparked criticism from state Democrats, which eventually led to Preisse’s admission to playing racial politics.
The Ohio Board of Education is meeting today and is expected to discuss its search for a new superintendent of public instruction. Former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner had to leave after an investigation found he had been misusing state resources and encouraging legislation that benefited an employer.Taxpayers could be paying $300,000 so county officials can avoid a tough decision. The move would preserve the property tax rollback and let the county hold off on making a payment on the stadiums this fiscal year. Two out of three county commissioners told the Enquirer they like the idea.
Schools in the Greater Cincinnati area seem to be using different grading scales. The disparity could put some students in a worse spot when applying to college.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing a Cincinnati man over a Craigslist scam.The Greater Cincinnati area could soon host more film, television and video game production thanks to new tax incentives.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland could be making an appearance at the Democratic national convention. The convention is a time for parties to show off their new candidates and party platforms.Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin of Missouri told KTVI-TV, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The extremely offensive, factually incorrect comment was quickly picked up by media outlets, and the senatorial candidate is now saying he “misspoke.” But misspeaking typically means messing up one or two words. Misspeaking does not mean making a clearly spoken argument with a very clear point.
Lack of funding could be hurting national parks.Here is a spider with claws.
In light of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, a City Council member wants metal detectors put back in City Hall.
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas says he’s always been concerned about security, and he hopes recent bouts of gun violence will make it clear more protective steps are necessary.
Thomas argues City Hall should not be an exception to a practice that’s carried out in other government buildings. He points to federal and county buildings and other city halls around the nation, which tend to use metal detectors.
Thomas, who was a police officer until 2000, acknowledges metal detectors are a “little bit of an inconvenience” to visitors, but he adds, “These are times when a little bit more inconvenience can go a long way to possibly save a lot of lives.”
So City Hall could get more security, but what about the city as a whole? Earlier today, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced City Council will work on a resolution to encourage Congress to pass new gun regulations at a federal level. Beyond that, Thomas says not much is likely.
The problem is state law trumps local law when it comes to gun regulations, so City Council’s hands are tied on the issue. “I would like to see us be able to control our own destiny as it relates to gun laws, but, obviously, I have no control over that,” Thomas says.
Metal detectors were in place at City Hall until 2006, when Mayor Mark Mallory had them taken down to make City Hall more open to the public.