CityBeat's coverage of Election Night results and reactions is now up on our web site. Go to our Election Central section for stories from Kevin Osborne and Stephanie Dunlap on the unofficial results for Cincinnati mayor and city council, Cincinnati School Board and the various statewide, Hamilton County and city ballot issues as well as reactions from the winners and losers.
Almost a full decade after Cincinnati voters passed a charter amendment that changed the way police chiefs are selected, it's being used for the first time.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced this morning that he's selected a candidate from outside the current police ranks to head the Cincinnati Police Department. James E. Craig, who currently is the chief in Portland, Maine, will take the top spot here beginning in about a month, a city spokeswoman said.
UPDATE: Some courthouse officials are saying CityBeat's sources are wrong, and that no decision has been made on who will fill Clancy's former job. The officials say applications were being accepted until Jan. 5, and the judges will decide later. One option would be to keep the position vacant, at least temporarily, to save money. Other sources, however, are saying the selection of Jodie Leis-George and Casey DeNoma to share the job is a "done deal" and courthouse officials are seeking political cover for the choice. We shall see in the weeks to come.
“In democracy, the role of government is to represent all of us and show us how we work together,” said Sister Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun and executive director of Catholic lobbying group NETWORK.
“So that when some politicians want to tell us that there is no role for government, that government is only there to let individuals take care of their individualistic selves, I want to say, ‘that’s not democracy. That’s not our Constitution, and that’s not our faith.'”
The “Nuns on the Bus” tour started Wednesday in Cincinnati and will travel through Dayton, Lima, Columbus, Toledo, Fremont, Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, Athens and Marietta before ending back in Cincinnati on Oct. 15.
The trip features Catholic nuns from across Ohio who will be urging Ohio voters to examine what the Bible says about caring for the poor. Dominican Sister of Hope Monica McGloin said voters should choose the candidate who would best embody those teachings.
McGloin said the tour would not support any political party or candidate.
“We certainly don’t want to be partisan, because that’s not what we’re about,” she said. “The fact is, neither candidate is talking about the poor.”
While the bus tour kickoff was nonpartisan – speakers avoided mentioning either candidate by name – a number of attendees had their jackets or cars adorned with buttons or bumper stickers supporting president Barack Obama.
McGloin said she had a list of things she’d like to see from the next president: access to health care for all Americans, more jobs, a focus on education and programs that help people meet their basic needs, like housing.
This isn’t the first bus tour for Campbell, who planned on heading to work in Washington, D.C. after the first Cincinnati stop. She organized the original nine-state “Nuns on the Bus” tour over the summer. The earlier tour was in protest over the budget proposed by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, himself a Catholic. Ryan’s budget would gut many social programs relied on by the poor.
On Wednesday the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio unanimously ruled that Akron, Ohio-based energy supplier FirstEnergy Corp. must credit its Ohio customers $43.3 million for overcharging for renewable energy credits (RECs) from 2009-2011 that it purchased from its affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions.
RECs are tradable, non-tangible energy credits that represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sourced from an eligible renewable energy resource. First Energy Solutions is an energy generator and supplier, while First Energy Corp. is an electricity distributor, which means that it sources its electricity from elsewhere, which requires them to issue bids seeking the most competitively priced energy from a supplier such as First Energy Solutions.
According to the First Energy Corp. website, First Energy Solutions is the competitive subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. Both suppliers are based in Akron. An audit conducted by Exeter Associates Inc. revealed that FirstEnergy Corp. paid 15 times more than any other company in the country to purchase the RECs from FirstEnergy Solutions, and FirstEnergy Corp. passed that overcharge onto consumers.
In a copy of the order issued yesterday by the PUC obtained by CityBeat, it states that, "The Companies contend that, given the nascent market, lack of market information available to the Companies, and uncertainty regarding future supply and prices, the Companies' decisions to purchase in-state RECs were reasonable and prudent."
In summary, FirstEnergy contends that because it was scrambling to find a way to meet the state's Clean Energy Law requirements, it had to buy these RECs no matter the cost, and that there are no legal specifications within the Clean Energy Law that requires RECs be purchased or sold at market price; and that the costs issued to them, and subsequently, customers, weren't unreasonable.
The Ohio Consumers Counsel, however, says that there were cheaper alternatives available and that FirstEnergy should have checked with the PUC prior to paying 15 times more for RECs than any other country had in the past. If they'd rejected the exorbitant bids, says OCC, and instead consulted with PUC and OCC, they could have come up with a solution to prevent from charging customers excessively high rates.
In June 2012, FirstEnergy Solutions was the winning bidder in Cincinnati's energy aggregation program, which is supposed to allow us to receive lower "aggregate" rates for buying in bulk. At the time, FirstEnergy touted the merits of its "100 percent green" energy supply, sourced from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable resources. The bid was expected to save homeowners around $133 annually.
What enabled FirstEnergy to provide the "clean" energy was its use of a system with non-tangible renewable energy credit (RECs) that each represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sources from a renewable energy resource.
Purchasing the credits from its subsidiary allows FirstEnergy Corp. to meet the state's renewable energy standard, which requires that by 2025 all Ohio utility companies provide at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable resources.
Because the lawsuit issued by the PUC examines only the amount paid for RECs during compliance periods between 2009 and 2011, Cincinnati customers who switched to FirstEnergy Solutions last June should not be affected, although the FirstEnergy arms' ambiguous behavior, says Dan Sawmiller, a Sierra Club member who manages Ohio's Beyond Coal campaign, is a likely indicator that the company may be engaging in other unethical practices related to consumer transparency.
The company has not been devoid of controversy in the past. In March, CityBeat reported on state environmental groups' concerns with the movement to lower requirements for defining renewable energy and energy efficiency; FirstEnergy was part of the bloc working to weaken Ohio's Clean Energy Law in hopes of keeping corporation costs low. FirstEnergy was also chastised by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2009 for distributing and charging customers for energy-efficient light bulbs without receiving customers' authorization.
Sawmiller commended the PUC for fining First Energy, although he suggests the fine is likely modest for the actual damages. He still expresses concern about the need for corporate separation between the two FirstEnergy arms. "The commission left much to be desired in terms of transparency, leaving customers in the dark about what types of renewables are being provided, where are they coming from and at what cost," says Sawmiller in Sierra Club's press release.
In the ongoing saga of Western & Southern vs. the Anna Louise Inn, there have been several court cases and zoning rulings, most of which have been appealed by one side or the other. Today it was the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals’ turn to rule on something that’s already been ruled on, and it went in favor of the Anna Louise Inn.
The Board upheld a certificate of appropriateness for the Anna Louise Inn’s planned renovation, which essentially also upholds the Historic Conservation Board’s right to issue a conditional use permit — at least for now. Western & Southern is expected to appeal that permit, granted by the Conservation Board Aug. 27, before its 30-day window to do so expires.
Before this series of appeals can play out, the 1st District Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Anna Louise Inn’s appeal of Judge Norbert Nadel’s May 27 ruling, which set in motion the Inn’s attempts to secure zoning approval from the Historical Conservation Board in the first place.
(All of this could have been avoided if Western & Southern would have purchased the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance. CityBeat previously reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Inn and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood here.)
About 40 people attended today’s hearing, including City Councilman Wendell Young, who said he supports the Anna Louise Inn but was not there to testify on its behalf.
By upholding the certificate of appropriateness, the ruling keeps alive a conditional use permit that could allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a $13 million renovation of its historic building, once the expected appeals process plays out. (CityBeat covered the Aug. 27 Historical Conservation Board hearing here.)
The Board heard brief arguments from lawyers for both Western & Southern and Cincinnati Union Bethel and then entered executive session for about 15 minutes before ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn.
Western & Southern lawyer Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett and a member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, told CityBeat after the meeting that he disagreed with the board’s finding because a designed expansion of the building’s fifth floor has not yet had its use approved.
“With this case, the Historical Conservation Board is basically approving for the certificate of appropriateness the design of the building,” Barrett said. “But the design included an expansion of the fifth floor, and until that use issue is resolved the code reads, in my opinion, you can’t approve the design because the use hasn’t been approved.”
Barrett during the hearing read a written statement to the board arguing two main points: that the Historic Conservation Board didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the certificate of appropriateness; and even if it did, Barrett argued, the physical expansion planned makes it a non-conforming use which wouldn’t qualify for the building permit.
Cincinnati Union Bethel attorney Tim Burke told the Board that the Anna Louise Inn is not seeking a permit for non-conforming use because it already received a conditional use permit from the Historic Conservation Board.
“Western & Southern is doing everything it can to block this renovation from happening,” Burke told the Board.
At the Historic Conservation Board hearing last month
Western & Southern tried paint a picture of the Anna Louise Inn’s
residents contributing to crime in the area because a condition of the
conditional use permit is that the building’s use will not be
detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property
values in the neighborhood. But the Board granted the permit, stating
that the Anna Louise Inn will not be detrimental to public health and
safety or harmful to nearby properties in the neighborhood and that the
Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise
Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood. Western & Southern has until next week to appeal that ruling.
Based on the latest comments on his Facebook page, it appears Christopher Smitherman either doesn't understand the wording of Issue 48 or is deliberately trying to mislead voters.
On Wednesday, Smitherman wrote on his Facebook page: “Remember Issue 48 DOES not STOP light rail but it does force City Council to ask the citizens (sic) permission before spending $144 million. City Council does not want to ask the people (for) permission.”
As several legal experts have agreed, Issue 48's net effect will be to stop the planning and construction of any type of passenger rail project within Cincinnati city limits until Dec. 31, 2020 — even if the project is privately financed.
The state of Ohio has approved funds to help a Cincinnati brewery expand its operations, as well as assisting two other local companies with projects.
The state will spend $663,000 to assist the Samuel Adams Brewery Co. in expanding operations on Poplar Street in the West End. The money will go toward buying the property needed for the expansion, which is located next to the existing brewery.
If President Obama hopes to rely on all the socialists who in 2008 elected him with hopes of seeing all of America’s wealth get spread around, he better come up with something even more radical this year.
Something called the Freedom Socialist Party announced in December that it is running two candidates in a national write-in campaign — New Yorker Stephen Durham for president and Christina López, of Seattle, for vice president. And today the duo sent out a press release demonstrating that America’s real socialists are none too pleased with Obama’s first three years in office.
In a memo titled, “Recognize healthcare as a human right — make it universal and free,” Durham and López refer to Obama’s healthcare reform as one of the biggest disappointments of his presidency.
“Instead of stepping up to the plate and acknowledging that public healthcare is a need as great as public education,” the release states, “Obama made one concession after another to the pharmaceutical and insurance mega-corporations. As he restated in his February State of the Union address, his Affordable Care Act does not give the government the role of guaranteeing universal care; instead, it relies on a reformed private market.”
López goes even further, calling the healthcare program just another one of Obama’s “sellouts of the human rights of women and immigrants under corporate and right-wing pressure.”
Durham, according to the FSP website, says Obama and the other jokers in Washington have furthered the struggle of America’s working class and poor during their bipartisan attempts at correcting the recession.
“The Democratic and Republican parties have done nothing but cooperate in forcing workers and the poor to pay the costs of the Great Recession caused by the banks and Wall Street,” the site says. “President Obama may play to the crowd by criticizing ‘bad apple’ corporations, as he did in his State of the Union address. But the facts show that the program of corporate coddling, which creates austerity for the masses, is completely bipartisan.”
Durham and López are also offended by Obama’s recent compromise with religious institutions over providing birth control coverage.
Durham says the only way to provide quality health care is to get private insurers out of the picture altogether. For-profit insurance companies, according to a Baltimore-area neurologist Dr. Steven Strauss, are a fundamental problem.
“No one should be making a profit from providing — or, more to the point, denying — the medical care that should be treated as a basic human right,” Strauss says, according to the release. “But insurance and drug companies are among the biggest money-makers in the nation, amassing billions each year from people's suffering.”
The Freedom Socialist Party believes that a single-payer option such as Medicare, if it were to be offered to everyone, would be a reasonable first step but that all for-profit entities must be removed from the pharmaceutical, medical supply and hospitals industries.
also suggests taxing corporations and the very wealthy — something
that’s not going to take away any of Obama’s votes because he’s
trying to do that, too. And the duo’s ideas for redirecting
military spending to the nation’s human needs probably won’t cost
the president too many reelection votes, either.
Obama could not be reached for comment before the publishing of this