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by Andy Brownfield 08.22.2012
Posted In: Democrats, Government, Governor, State Legislature at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Question Time for the Governor?

Group of Democratic state lawmakers wants Ohio governor to face legislative Q&As

Some Democratic lawmakers want answers from Republican Gov. John Kasich.

A group of Democratic state representatives has put forth a bill that would require Kasich — and every governor after him — to come before the Ohio House of Representatives 10 times per year for 45-minute question and answer sessions where the governor would have to take at least five questions from each side of the aisle.

Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, is the bill’s sponsor. He did not return CityBeat’s call for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.

Cincinnati Democratic Rep. Denise Driehaus is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. She said Foley had the idea while visiting Canada, where their parliament has a similar procedure.

“I think it’s a great idea where the governor interacts with the legislature and we have the opportunity to question him and really engage on some of the issues and get his opinion on things,” Driehaus says.

She said the Legislature doesn’t currently have a whole lot of opportunity to interact with the governor, except for the State of the State address, but even then they can’t really engage Ohio’s chief executive.

The Ohio Democratic Party has recently filed suit against Kasich for what it says is a failure to comply with open records laws for redacting parts of his public schedules when responding to a public records request.

The ODP has called Kasich opaque and secretive for failing to respond or only partially responding to records requests.

However, Driehaus said the bill isn’t meant to apply only to Kasich, but would apply to every governor after him. She said she didn’t think it was in reaction to her party’s spat with the governor.

“This is much broader and much more forward thinking than that,” Driehaus says.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Development, Government at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dougpreisse

Morning News and Stuff

The Ohio Republican Party has given an excuse for Franklin County Republican Party Chairman Doug Preisse’s racist comment: Preisse thought he was off the record. The defense solidifies that Preisse, who is also a top adviser to Gov. John Kasich, was being honest — just not public — when he wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” The comment was supposed to defend the Ohio Republican Party’s position against expanding in-person early voting, but it only revealed that racial politics play a pivotal role in the Republican Party’s opposition to expanded voting.

Cincinnati has revealed the first master plan for the city since 1980. The plan seeks to put back an emphasis on urban living with policies that are friendlier to the environment and non-automotive transportation.

President Barack Obama’s campaign will host an open house at the campaign’s new offices at Over-the-Rhine tomorrow. John Legend will be there.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank is facing a class action lawsuit for what the plaintiff calls “payday loans.” The plaintiff alleges that the bank was charging illegally high interest rates.

University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams is stepping down, citing personal reasons. Santa Onos, who previously served as provost, will take over temporarily as interim president.

Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, remained at 7.2 percent in July. The number is lower than the state’s unadjusted rate of 7.4 percent and the federal unadjusted rate of 8.6 percent. Governments typically give numbers that are seasonally adjusted, which is why in July a 7.2 percent unemployment rate was reported for Ohio and an 8.3 percent unemployment rate was reported for the United States.

The Ohio Hospital Association is backing the Medicaid expansion. The expansion is an optional part of Obamacare. The Dispatch blog calls the expansion “costly,” but Medicaid expansions can actually save the state money by eliminating uncompensated hospital visits — on top of possibly saving lives.

The Ohio Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow. The meeting will set the “process and criteria” for the Board’s search for a new superintendent of public instruction.

The Horseshoe Casino will begin hiring today. The casino is looking to fill more than 750 positions.

Forty-one Greater Cincinnati companies made it on the latest Inc. 5000 list.

Obama was in Columbus yesterday. During the trip, the president talked mostly about young people and education in an attempt to rally the youth vote.

U.S. spending on health care is set to rise by 50 percent by 2020, a new report says. As part of Obamacare and other programs, the federal government is trying to bring health-care costs down, which have risen faster than the rate of inflation in recent history.

Scientists have caught a glimpse of a red giant — an expanding star in its final stages — devouring one of its own planets. The same will happen to our galaxy someday, painting a fairly grim future for Earth. Fortunately, humanity has a few billion years to find a solution.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.20.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Government, News, Education at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

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.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.15.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Government at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Secretary of State Moves to Standardize Early Voting Hours

Husted calls for longer hours in last two weeks of early voting

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced today he will direct Ohio’s county boards of election to adopt standardized early voting hours.

In-person early voting begins on Oct. 2. In a directive, Husted said he wants the first three weeks to be kept to standard voting hours, or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. An exception is made for Oct. 9, which will have voting hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., to make up for polls being closed on Oct. 8 in observance of a state holiday. 

For the final two weeks of early voting, Husted said he wants hours extended to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Another exception is made for the final day of early voting — Nov. 2 — that has voting hours last from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. because state law requires all early voting ends at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2.

The polls will still not be open on weekends throughout the entire process, however.

The news comes amid a state issue that has gained national attention in recent weeks. Democrats have been accusing state Republicans of suppressing Democratic votes by extending in-person early voting hours in predominantly Republican counties and keeping shorter hours in predominantly Democratic counties.

Ohio Democrats are not pleased with the call to uniform rules. Jerid Kurtz, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party, told CityBeat yesterday that the call for uniform rules is “pure silliness.” He said counties have differences, so they need different voting rules. He called on Husted to stop worrying about uniformity and county budgets and instead worry about managing elections and “empowering people to vote.”

Today, Democrats released another statement lashing out at the uniform rules. In a statement released shortly after Husted's press conference, Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said the new directive was limiting voting access by eliminating weekend voting and slashing hours.

However, the directive will actually extend early voting hours in the predominantly Democratic counties of Lucas, Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin that were bound to the old hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the entire early voting process.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.15.2012
Posted In: Government, News, 2012 Election, Economy at 08:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stanheffner

Morning News and Stuff

Former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner, who was forced to resign amid controversy, has cashed out with $160,428.17. The money comes from saved-up vacation time, sick days and personal time. Heffner will get all this money, even though he had to resign in shame after an investigation from the Ohio inspector general found Heffner had been misusing state resources and used his political position to benefit his other employer.

The Horseshoe Casino is kicking off its hiring process for a new batch of employees. In total, the casino is seeking to fill 750 new positions. New employees must be 21 and have a high school diploma or GED, among other requirements. The casino says it’s committed to keeping at least 90 percent of its workforce from the Greater Cincinnati area. It’s currently estimated to open in spring 2013.

The early voting controversy has reached Hamilton County. The Democrats in City Council are pushing for extended in-person early voting hours as Democrats around the state accuse Republicans of voter suppression. The Hamilton County Board of Elections will decide on the voting hours issue tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Four Greater Cincinnati companies ranked in the 2012 Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing businesses nationwide, up from one last year. This year, NorAm International Partners, Tiger Fitness, Graybach and Integrity Express Logistics made the list.

The Brent Spence Bridge passed a major regulatory hurdle Tuesday. The Federal Highway Administration declared that the bridge has no significant environmental impact, which will allow bridge operators to skip filing an environmental impact statement.

Ohio Democrats are suing Gov. John Kasich over his public schedule. Democrats say Kasich is breaking the law by not being more transparent about his public schedule. They also suspect Kasich is campaigning on the behalf of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The Ohio endangered species list has been updated. The bobcat is no longer listed as endangered, although it is still considered threatened. The list’s updates can be seen here.

The Cincinnati Archdiocese debuted a plan to improve Catholic schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. The plan will also make the schools more affordable.

Paul Ryan will be at Miami University today. The visit was organized by the university's campus Republicans. Doors will open at 3:30 p.m., and the event will start at 5:30 p.m. Instructions for tickets can be found on the Miami Republicans' Facebook page.

Much to the dismay one of Romney’s surrogates, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien called out the Romney campaign for propagating an impossible budget and spreading lies about Obamacare. John Sununu, who was on O’Brien’s show on behalf of Romney, did not appreciate the lecture in reality, and he said O’Brien should wear an Obama bumper sticker on her forehead. Unfortunately for Sununu and the rest of the Romney team, it is true that Obamacare does not cut Medicare benefits to seniors, and it’s also true Romney’s plan is impossible without similar cuts to entitlement programs.

It seems like Mother Teresa may have died an atheist. At the very least, her faith in Catholicism was greatly diminished before death.

A new study has found that antibacterial soap could cause muscle function impairment.

Behold, the Pizzabon.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.14.2012
 
 
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Ohio Democrats Sue Kasich Over Public Records

Suit claims governor is intentionally ignoring public records requests

The Ohio Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Gov. John Kasich — who they claim is improperly using his office to campaign for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to get the governor to release his schedule of public events.

The ODP’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, contends that Kasich’s office either ignored or only partially fulfilled the request.

“It’s unfortunate that this Governor is so opposed to transparency and public disclosure that we have to ask the Court to force him to follow the law,” ODP Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement.

“Serious questions remain regarding whether the Governor has improperly used his office for the benefit of Mitt Romney, and it’s deeply disappointing Kasich is so secretive he won’t even tell the public what he’s done or where he’s gone.”

Kasich press secretary Rob Nichols said the administration doesn’t comment on litigation, but dismissed the Ohio Democratic Party’s allegations.

“We release public records in accordance with the law, and in fact have already publicly released the governor’s schedule six times, including a schedule request to the ODP,” Nichols said.

“This is predictable election year politics from the same people who were just rebuked for using public records demands to interfere with the Auditor of State’s investigation into possible data manipulation in some school districts.”

Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said Kasich’s office did respond to one of the seven requests for the schedule, but some of the information in the records was redacted — including an entire week that was blacked out with no explanation.

“Ohio law is very clear, and it states you have to give a specific excuse when you redact something,” Kurtz said. 

According to the lawsuit and court documents, the ODP requested on July 2 Kasich’s public schedule from that date through Aug. 27. 

According to a letter to the Ohio Democratic Party from Mehek M. Cook — assistant chief counsel to Kasich — the information about the governor's future plans was blacked out because that information could put him at risk.

“The governor and his office receive threats on any given day and the release of his whereabouts increases security issues surrounding the governor’s safety,” Cook wrote.

Cook wrote that any information in the records used by the Executive Protection Unit assigned to guard Kasich constitutes a security record and was redacted.

He also wrote that some information that would reveal confidential business meetings and trade secrets that would harm Ohio efforts to court businesses was blacked out. Additionally, information not relevant to the request was redacted.

Kurtz said it’s important that the public have access those schedules because voters have a right to know what their governor is doing on the public dime.

The schedules include where the governor is and with whom he meets, but they also show scheduled phone calls and media interviews.

The Ohio Democratic Party worries that Kasich is improperly campaigning for Romney while receiving a taxpayer-funded paycheck, or using public money to have his staff do so.

The concerns stem from statements made by Kasich both in public and on his Twitter account either praising the presumed Republican presidential nominee or slamming President Obama. 

For instance, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that when Obama visited Ohio on Aug. 1 the governor tweeted “On the occasion of the President's latest visit to Ohio, we have a question for him,” with a link to a graphic asking “If the President's policies are behind Ohio's success, why is the rest of the country trailing us?”

Democrats claim that Ohio’s success relative to the rest of the country are due to efforts by President Obama, while Republicans say Governor Kasich is behind Ohio’s faster-than-average recovery.

While the Ohio Democratic Party is suing to have Kasich release his public schedule (Kurtz says Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost complied with similar requests in a timely manner) the state Republican Party has also submitted similar requests to Democrats throughout Ohio.

Kurtz characterized the GOP requests as being sent by Kasich’s “hand-picked lieutenants in the Ohio Republican Party,” though Nichols told The Plain Dealer that the governor had no involvement.

Ohio GOP executive director Matt Borges told the newspaper that the requests were routine.

Still, Kurtz called Kasich’s refusal to release his own schedule “hypocritical.”

“He’s a bully and the only way you can deal with a bully is fighting back.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.14.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Government, News, President Obama at 08:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Obama Campaign to Open Oxford Office Before Ryan Visit

Presumed GOP VP nominee to visit alma mater Miami Wednesday

Preempting the Wednesday homecoming of presumed Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to his alma mater Miami University, the Obama campaign is opening an office in Oxford Tuesday evening.

The guest speaker at the office opening will be Butler County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro who, according to a news release, will contrast the competing visions of President Barack Obama and his presumptive Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

“The Romney-Ryan budget would devastate the security of senior citizens — ending Medicare as we know it by turning the program into a voucher system and privatizing Social Security,” the release read.

Along with a Milford office which is also opening Tuesday, the Oxford office with contribute to the total of nine campaign offices in the region. The Obama campaign has offices in East Walnut Hills, College Hill, Forest Park, Cheviot, Middletown, Springboro and Mason.

Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Ryan will speak Wednesday evening at Miami University’s Engineering Quad, according to the Miami College Republicans’ Facebook page. 

Ryan graduated from Miami in 1992 and was asked back as the commencement speaker in 2009.

Romney is planning a bus tour with three Ohio stops on Tuesday.

Updates to include the opening of a Milford office on Tuesday.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.09.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Government, News at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Online Address Change Approved for Ohio Voters

New system will save taxpayer money and combat voter fraud

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced today that there is a new way for registered voters to change their voting address: the Internet.

If the state had done this in 2008, about 130,000 provisional ballots could have been cast as regular ballots, according to Husted. Provisional ballots are ballots used to record a vote when there are questions surrounding a voter's eligibility. Provisional ballots are sometimes discounted if a person fails to prove his/her eligibility to vote.

“This added convenience for voters is also a powerful tool against voter fraud as current and accurate voter rolls leave less room for abuse,” Husted said in a press release.

Husted said the new system will also save tax dollars. For each registration done online instead of by mail or in-person, the state saves money.

The website requires four identification keys: a last name, an Ohio driver's license number, the last four digits of a Social Security number and a date of birth. Registered voters that supply this information will be able to submit an application for an address change.

Applications will be reviewed by county election boards. If the address change is accepted, the election board will send an acceptance letter by mail to the new address.

The state is working heavily with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to share voter data. At this time, more than 6 million of Ohio's registered voters will be able to change their addresses online.

To change an address online, voters can visit the Ohio Secretary of State page at MyOhioVote.com. Anyone who registers between now and October will also be put in a line to receive an application to vote by mail for the November elections.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.08.2012
Posted In: County Commission, Religion, Government at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
 
 
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Jehovah's Witnesses, Harrison Twp. Duke It Out Before County

Zoning, religion at heart of spat over industrial park

The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners heard both sides Wednesday in an appeal that pits the Jehovah’s Witnesses against Harrison Township.

The dispute stems from a plot of land that, through some legal wrangling and a Joint Economic Development Agreement, Harrison Township officials say can only be used for industrial purposes that create jobs.

The Southwest Ohio Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to build a massive assembly hall that they say would be a draw to the 28,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region and create jobs in surrounding service sector businesses. 

The Hamilton County Rural Zoning Commission denied permission to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, citing fear over the impact to local businesses and traffic, causing the religious group to appeal the decision to the Board of County Commissioners.

Board President Greg Hartmann said commissioners would set a date in the coming weeks to arrive at a decision. 

Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes lawyer Chris Finney represented the Witnesses before the board. 

Finney argued that the Zoning Commission was wrong to deny permission to build the assembly hall. He pointed to the positive economic impact such halls have had in other states and brought witnesses to testify about the potential impact it could have on Cincinnati.

According to a slide show presented before the board, the hall could result in $1.19 million in annual tax revenue and create 421 jobs in the service industry surrounding the site.

Being a religious institution, the hall would be tax-exempt and would be staffed by volunteers.

Harrison Township officials argued that the area was created under a special agreement that requires industrial use and that any businesses located there create jobs and enhance economic development. 

Mayor Joel McGuire said the township had offered up other locations for the assembly hall, but the Witnesses were fixated on the one.

“That’s why we’re in the all-or-nothing situation we’re in because they insist on this particular spot as opposed to the many other locations where there’d be no problems at all,” McGuire said.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.08.2012
 
 
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Commissioners Vote to Keep Senior, Mental Health Levies Flat

Tax levies will stay at 2008 levels, representing millions in reduced funding for services

Faced with the choice of raising property taxes or funding senior and mental health services at their current levels, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve a ballot measure that would effectively cut tens of millions of dollars from those services if passed by voters.

“It seems wrongheaded for us to ask citizens to pay more in taxes when their homes are worth less, when costs have gone up in their households and when in many cases their paychecks are down,” said Board President Greg Hartmann. “So we need to hold the line on those property taxes.”

The tax rate would be held at the levels passed by voters in 2008, which would be an effective reduction due to declining property values. If Hamilton County voters approve the levies in November, senior services would see a $7 million reduction in funding over the next five years — down to $97 million from $104 million — while funding for mental health services would fall $17 million from $187 million to $170 million, Hartmann said.

The money funds services such as meals on wheels, in-home care for seniors, counseling and drug and alcohol addiction and treatment services.

The board’s sole Democrat — Commissioner Todd Portune — made the symbolic gesture of submitting an alternate proposal which would have funded services at the levels providers had requested, but it failed without support from either of the board’s two Republican members.

Portune’s resolution would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 the property was worth. He said voters should be given the option to shoulder the additional tax burden. He later voted in favor of Hartmann’s resolution, saying the worst thing that could happen would be for voters to approve no levy.

Commissioners also approved a resolution to formally review all healthcare services provided by the county in hopes of saving money by eliminating any that were duplicated at the federal level under the healthcare overhaul.

Hartmann said he didn’t come to the decision to keep the levies at the current rate lightly and pledged to work with the recipients to manage the reduction.

Many of those providers appeared at three public hearings held in the last month and with near unanimity asked commissioners to approve the increased rates — which would have kept funding even by countering the money lost from decreased property values.

Patrick Tribbe, president and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, didn’t outline specific cuts the agency would undertake, but told reporters after the commissioners’ vote that he would spend the next six months planning for the start of the next fiscal year, when the cuts would take effect.

The Tax Levy Review Committee had recommended that the property tax rate remain flat instead of increasing. It suggested that service providers reduce their administrative costs and find areas to increase efficiency. 

Many of the providers who spoke at the public hearings said they had already cut administrative costs about as deeply as they could and had very little room for to cut further.

 
 

 

 

 
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