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by German Lopez 01.21.2014
Posted In: 2014 election, News, Education, Death Penalty at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role

Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions planned for the year.

David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.

Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the death penalty and reproductive rights.

A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.

The Justice Department is investigating a former chief judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.

Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.

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by German Lopez 01.20.2014
 
 
mlk

Modern Republicans Would Oppose Martin Luther King Jr.

The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes

If his speeches and other comments are any indication, Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.

In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host of other issues.

Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.

On voting rights:

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

King and other civil rights activists saw the right to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination in the voting booth.

“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens,” King said.

More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead, Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in droves.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an email to The Columbus Dispatch.

In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.

Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.

On labor unions and “right to work”:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.

But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective bargaining rights.

Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge political boost to unions and Democrats.

Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.

Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today.

On the death penalty:

“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”

King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and study of criminology.

Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.

In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.

The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected the Republican majority will ignore the bills.

Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.

On health care:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’ opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care system.

To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the “inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.

Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.

On reproductive rights:

“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.”

King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.

Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian, accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.

But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.

In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.

Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.20.2014
Posted In: News, Death Penalty, Governor at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

ACLU Calls For End to Death Penalty

Letter to governor points to new cocktail of drugs as culprit

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Sunday asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.

McGuire’s prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999, was carried out on Jan. 16 with a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. The use of the new drugs came about after Ohio ran out of its previous supplies.

With its letter, the ACLU joined other groups, including Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling for an end or pause to state-sanctioned killing.

“This is not about Dennis McGuire, his terrible crimes, or the crimes of others who await execution on death row,” reads the ACLU letter. “It is about our duty as a society that sits in judgment of those who are convicted of crimes to treat them humanely and ensure their punishment does not violate the Constitution.”

The letter adds, “We are mere months away from new recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce on the Administration of the Death Penalty that could alter our system for the better. On the eve of monumental changes, along with increasing problems with lethal injection, is not now the time to step back and pause?”

McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming his death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Five more people await execution in Ohio this year, according to the ACLU. It’s unclear whether the state will use the same cocktail of drugs following McGuire’s execution.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.20.2014
Posted In: News, 2014 election, Governor, Courts, Mayor at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Morning News and Stuff

FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.

Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail, but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy after controversy since before she won her election.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights” into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and restrict access to the ballot.

A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov. John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane suppliers off the roads on weekends.

State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.

Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.

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by German Lopez 01.17.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, Election at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rep. alicia reece

Ohio Activists Push Voter Bill of Rights

Constitutional amendment could appear on November ballot

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.

If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.

But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.

The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.

A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.

Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.

But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage.

"I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.

The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.

In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.

The Voter's Bill of Rights:


 
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2014
Posted In: News, Mayor, City administration, City Council at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Calls for End to 'Double Dipping'

Incoming assistant city manager eligible to receive pay and pension benefits

Mayor John Cranley told CityBeat Friday that he's still troubled by the practice of "double dipping," but he said the incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.

Bill Moller will be rehired by the city in February to fill in as assistant city manager. Because Moller is a city retiree, he'll be eligible to draw a city salary ($147,000 a year) and pension benefits.

The concern: Allowing city workers to double dip, or tap into both a salary and pension benefits, could encourage the kinds of abuse already seen in other municipalities, where public workers can reach eligibility for maximum pension benefits, retire one day and get rehired the next day to effectively receive both a salary and pension.

The extra cost — effectively a double payout for city retirees who are rehired — could further strain Cincinnati's structurally imbalanced operating budget.

On the campaign trail, Cranley called double dipping "abusive" after City Council repealed a ban on the practice so the administration could hire John Deatrick, a city retiree, to lead the $132.8 million streetcar project.

Cranley said he will sign any legislation reinstating the ban on double dipping. As a council member, Cranley supported the ban when it was originally instated in 2008.

Under the previous ban, city retirees rejoining the administration would need to temporarily forfeit pension benefits or face substantial limits on salaries and health benefits.

Despite his opposition to double dipping, Cranley cautioned that he still supports Moller's hire.

"Obviously I like Bill Moller," he said. "But the city manager is working within current policy."

The city administration on Tuesday justified Moller's hire by pointing to his previous budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.

"At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller has that experience," wrote Interim City Manager Scott Stiles in a memo.

It remains unclear whether a ban on double dipping would influence Moller's decision to return to the city administration.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2014
Posted In: Death Penalty, News, Voting, Preschool at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Troubled execution draws critics, activists push voters' rights, Preschool Promise needs help

A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.

In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.

Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."

Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before noon.

As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.

The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus. But some students and parents say the school should pursue more aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus bookstore.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.

Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.

Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.

More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.

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by German Lopez 01.16.2014
Posted In: News, Preschool, Education at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
preschool promise

Preschool Promise Seeks Volunteers

More than 40 "Promise Ambassadors" trained so far; goal is 100 by Feb. 17

As the campaign to provide universal preschool in Cincinnati kicks into gear, organizations involved in the Preschool Promise are seeking more volunteers to train as “Promise Ambassadors” who will help raise awareness and gather feedback for the proposal.

Although there’s no major resistance to universal preschool at a local level, the big question is how the city will fund it. Will it take a hike in property or income taxes? Will city and school funds be involved? Will it rely on philanthropic channels? What about a mix of all the options?

As an ambassador, volunteers will gather feedback on the big questions facing the campaign and raise awareness on the study-backed benefits of preschool.

“As an ambassador you can engage however you feel comfortable: hosting house parties, speaking at meetings and events, organizing community forums or simply helping generate awareness about the importance of quality preschool for every child in our city,” the campaign said in a release.

Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, said on Facebook that more than 40 ambassadors have been trained so far. The goal is to train 100 by President’s Day, Feb. 17.

The policy would mirror a program in Denver that provides tuition credits to families on an income-based sliding scale, so low-income parents would get the most help while the wealthiest would get the least.

Among other benefits, a study from consulting firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates found the Denver program gives low- and middle-income families more opportunities to climb the economic ladder.

Landsman previously told CityBeat the measure should end up on the November ballot.

The campaign is offering several training sessions, which can be attended with an RVSP to BooneS@strivepartnership.org:

• Jan. 22, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Ave., Cincinnati.
• Jan. 28, 2:30–4 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana
Ave, Cincinnati.
• Jan. 29, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 5, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 6, 2:30–4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 7, 9-10:30 a.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.-noon at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 11, 2:30-4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.

CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.16.2014
 
 
news1_puppymills

Morning News and Stuff

New puppy mill laws, Democrats guide council, county proposes sewer compromise

Ohio now bans abusive dog breeding practices that previously earned the state a reputation as one of the laxest for dog breeding rules in the nation. With the new rules, dog breeders must maintain improved living conditions for the dogs, including standards for cage size, regular grooming, veterinary examinations and socialization. The rules earned praise from many animal activists as a step forward, but some say the bill should act as a start that leads to even stronger regulations.

City Council advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion. Specifically, the Democratic majority on council acted as the foundation in keeping controversial contracting rules for sewer contracts, continuing support for a permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale and approving a new study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts. With the Democratic coalition seemingly established on most issues facing the city, it’s now much clearer what direction council will take the city over the next four years.

Hamilton County commissioners yesterday proposed a compromise with the city over controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Although both sides agree the issue must be resolved soon to avoid a costly legal battle and allow MSD to carry on with work on a federally mandated overhaul of the local sewer system, the Democratic-controlled city and Republican-controlled county have failed to reach a resolution. Since the county put MSD projects on hold in protest of the city’s rules, $152 million worth of sewer projects and 649 potential jobs have been put on hold, according to data from Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the rules.

Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach questioned whether recent personnel changes at City Hall violated the city charter. The concern is whether Mayor John Cranley pushed Interim City Manager Scott Stiles to move John Curp from his previous role as city solicitor to chief counsel of the city’s utilities. Sittenfeld and Seelbach noted the charter prevents the mayor and council members from interfering with personnel decisions. But Stiles declined to answer and sidestepped Seelbach and Sittenfeld’s questions.

Commentary: “Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot.”

Cincy Bike Share still needs more funds to launch.

Cincinnati has the most unhappy employees in the country, according to an analysis by CareerBliss.

Ohio Democrats and Republicans have begun a push for a May 6 ballot initiative that would expand state spending on road, bridge, water, sewer and other local public works projects.

Micah Kamrass yesterday filed petition signatures with the Hamilton County Board of Elections, making him the likely Democratic candidate to replace State Rep. Connie Pillich, a Democrat, as she runs for state treasurer. Kamrass will likely face off against Republican Rick Bryan.

A condemned Ohio killer will be executed with a new, never-tried lethal injection method adopted after the state’s previous drug supplies dried up.

Ohio high-school students could receive some school credit for off-campus religious education attended during regular school hours, thanks to a new bill passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives.

If damage related to potholes is $10,000 or less, drivers can file a complaint at the little-known Ohio Court of Claims and get their money back. In the past five years, reimbursements for more than 1,300 Ohioans cost the state nearly half a million dollars.

The secretary of state’s office announced early voting hours for the upcoming primary election here. If Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune decides to stay in the gubernatorial race and challenge Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the primary election would decide which Democrat will face off against Republican Gov. Kasich in November.

Most Americans avoided vaccinations during the previous flu season — a trend experts attribute to increased complacency toward the virus.

University of Cincinnati researchers say they wants to dispel the belief that drones are only used to kill.

For example, a collapsible, camera-toting drone currently in development could be used just to spy on people.

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by German Lopez 01.15.2014
 
 
city hall

City Council Tackles Progressive Agenda

Democratic majority pushes initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion

City Council on Wednesday advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion.

The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project.

The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years.

Responsible bidder

Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.

The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system.

The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training.

But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules.

The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives.

“We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.”

The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose.

“Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.

If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully continues.

Supportive housing project in Avondale

A supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.

Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.

Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.

Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.

National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.

“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.

Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.

Disparity study

City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts.

The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support.

But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced doubts that the studys findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses.

Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete.

“I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city.

Other notable actions

• Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials.

• Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth.

• Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities.

• Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the mayor and council originally established to look into halting the project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.

 
 

 

 

 
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