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by Kevin Osborne 09.23.2011
 
 
seal_of_cincinnati,_ohio

Candidates On: What to Do About the Tax Rollback

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “What is your stance on the property tax rollback? Do you believe the city's property tax rate should be increased to the maximum 6.1 mills allowed under the charter, or remain at a rate to generate $28.9 million each year, or be decreased? Please explain your answer.”

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by German Lopez 02.21.2013
Posted In: News, Government, Immigration, Governor at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Ohio's Illegal Immigrant Policy Remains Unclear

BMV reviewing driver's license rules for DACA recipients

Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is granting driver’s licenses to some of the children of illegal immigrants, but what qualifies a few and disqualifies others is so far unknown.

When CityBeat last covered the BMV policy (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6), Ever Portillo, a 22-year-old from El Salvador, was unable to get his license even when he was accompanied by his attorney at the West Broad Street BMV office in Columbus. Since then, Portillo returned to the same BMV office with his attorney, a community leader from DreamActivist Ohio and a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch and successfully obtained his license.

At the same time, CityBeat received a tip from an anonymous illegal immigrant after she could not get a driver’s license for her son because, according to what she heard from the BMV, state policy is still being reviewed.

The differences between Portillo and the woman’s experiences are reflected by what seems to be an internal conflict at the BMV, which CityBeat found in a series of internal documents sent by Brian Hoffman, Portillo’s attorney. In emails dating back to January, state officials wrote that “foreign nationals” with C33 Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and I-797 documents with case types I-765D and I-821D cannot qualify for driver’s licenses. The documents are part of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.

But a Feb. 13 memo from the BMV says Ohio has not issued a statewide policy on DACA for driver’s licenses and is currently reviewing the process. A Feb. 19 email echoes the memo, stating “neither the Department (of Public Safety) nor the BMV has yet issued a statewide broadcast to provide direction regarding the DACA issue.” In a Feb. 21 email, Lindsey Borher, spokesperson at the BMV, told CityBeat, “Our legal department is in the process of reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.”

The discrepancy between January and February may be attributable to CityBeat originally breaking the story on the state policy, which was followed by a barrage of statewide media coverage on the issue.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.05.2012
 
 
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Activist Group: Investigate Miners' Appearance at Romney Rally

CREDO Action petitioning Labor Department to investigate Murray Energy

The activist branch of a liberal telecommunications company has filed a petition asking the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate allegations that Murray Energy forced miners in Beallsville, Ohio to attend a rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.

CREDO Action Campaign Manager Josh Nelson told CityBeat that the group emailed the petition with 4,021 signatures to the Department of Labor Wednesday morning.

The petition reads: "Requiring employees to attend a Mitt Romney political rally without pay is totally unacceptable. I urge you to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether Murray Energy violated any federal laws on August 14th, and to hold it fully accountable if it did."

Romney appeared at the event to attack what he called President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.” He was flanked on stage by hundreds of miners with soot-stained faces.

Dozens of those miners told WWVA-AM West Virginia talk show host David Blomquist that they were pulled from the mine before their shift was over and not paid for the full day of work. The miners, who Blomquist did not identify, said they were told that attendance at the rally was mandatory.

Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist on his radio show that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” 

He said that people who did not show up to the event, which organizers say drew 1,500 miners and family members, were not penalized for their absence.

“Forcing Ohio workers to participate in a political rally is unacceptable, so we're joining our friends at SEIU in calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct an investigation to determine whether or not any federal laws were broken,” Nelson wrote in an email to CREDO Action’s Ohio activists on Sept. 1.

A spokeswoman for the Labor Department was not immediately able to confirm whether the department had received the petition or planned to launch an investigation.

This post will be updated with comment from the Labor Department when it becomes available.

 
 
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 10.29.2009
Posted In: 2009 Election, Government at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

You Can Vote No. Just Saying.

I was researching details on the tax levies on Tuesday's ballot and grabbed the millage and property tax costs from the Hamilton County Auditor's web site when I saw this wisdom from Auditor Dusty Rhodes. It's right at the top of his home page next to his photo:

"It has become a fairly common practice on the part of those seeking to pass tax levies to make a point of saying that passage of the levy in question 'will not raise your taxes.' It may indeed be true that the amount of tax you would pay in future years would be no more than in prior years. However, it is also very true that if the levy were to fail, you would be paying less in those same future years than you had previously.

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by Andy Brownfield 09.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Government, News at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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State Legislator Requests Federal Elections Monitors in Ohio

Rep. Alicia Reece says Husted's appeal of two court decisions will confuse voters

A state legislator from Cincinnati wants the U.S. Justice Department to monitor the 2012 election in Ohio to ensure fairness.

Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday asking him to send federal elections monitors to watch over polling in Ohio this November.

Reece’s letter points to what she calls potential voter confusion resulting from two federal court decisions over provisional ballots and in-person early voting — decisions that have been appealed by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“We need to ensure that Ohio has a smooth and fair election this November,” Reece wrote in an emailed statement.

“These two federal court decisions are a step in the right direction for voters in Ohio, but the appeals processes are confusing for voters. The presence of federal elections monitors will help restore the integrity of the voting process. The entire country is looking at Ohio.”

The first court decision ruled that county boards of elections must count certain defective ballots if the mistakes were caused by poll worker error. U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley ordered Husted to issue provisional ballot envelopes with a checklist for poll workers to follow. 

Husted has argued that allowing those ballots to be counted conflicts with existing Ohio law that does not allow defective provisional ballots to be counted.

The second court decision required Husted to allow in-person early voting for the three days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

Husted had issued a directive to all 88 Ohio counties to not allow voting on those days, and then ordered county boards to suspend in-person early voting while he appealed the court’s ruling. He rescinded that order after the judge ordered him to appear in court in regards to the directive.

Reece was joined by area clergy and community leaders to announce the letter in a Wednesday morning news conference.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.01.2013
 
 
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Court to Decide Dispute over Streetcar Utility Lines

Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion

Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines.

Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.

The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined.

The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted.
 
"The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney.

Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016.

In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.”

At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs.

CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.


 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.14.2012
 
 
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Council Passes Budget Reliant on Parking Lease

Council also approves 2014 property tax increase

Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a budget that relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34 million budget deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.

Mayor Mark Mallory opened up the council meeting with a moment of silent prayer for the 27 students and adults killed at an elementary school in Connecticut.

“I want us all to take a moment and put into perspective what we’re doing today,” he said.

Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24 percent, from 4.6 mills (a mill is equal to one-tenth of a cent) to 5.71 mills. That means Cincinnatians would pay an additional $34 for every $100,000 of their home’s value.

The vote reverses a move made last year by conservatives on council, who reduced property taxes.

Council also passed a budget that relies on $21 million from a proposed lease of the city’s parking facilities — a deal that is expected to be voted on in March. Of the proposals submitted to the city so far, Cincinnati stands to gain $100 million to $150 million in an upfront payment and a share of the profits over the 30-year lease.

“My concern about balancing this budget with a onetime revenue source by selling our parking system seems to be ill advised,” said Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman. “We don’t know how council will vote in March … but we have tied not only the budget to this one time revenue source, but we have also tied reciprocity.”

Council nixed a plan to eliminate tax reciprocity for people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both cities. 

Though the budget doesn’t mention parking privatization, council hasn’t mentioned other options to close the budget deficit.

If opponents of parking privatization want to keep facilities under city control, they would have to come up with $21 million in revenue elsewhere or make $21 million in cuts. 

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld suggested using casino revenue, cutting travel expenses, downsizing the ratio of managers to workers, sharing services with nearby jurisdictions and downsizing the city’s fleet as ways to cut down the budget.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, long an advocate of downsizing the police and fire departments, voted against the property tax increase in protest of what she said was bloated spending on departments that were outpacing population growth.

The budget also requires Cincinnati to accept police and fire recruit classes in 2014, regardless of whether the city gets a federal grant to fund the classes. 

The budget also restores the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol, which patrols downtown on horseback. The city will use $105,000 from off-duty detail fees from businesses that hire off-duty officers. Council also voted to start charging those businesses an extra $1.64 on top of the off-duty pay.

Council also voted to shift $50,000 for repairs and upgrades to the Contemporary Arts Center to pay for maintenance and beautification at Washington Park, which is operated by 3CDC.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.12.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Turnpike could remain public, asbestos bill passes, $150 million bid for parking services

The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his full plans Thursday and Friday.

The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed. The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.

City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees. But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue, and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement, and more parking tickets.”

LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group. In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252 companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent, American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a 0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.

The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects. In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on transportation projects every year.

University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.

The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees have been determined to be infected.

Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.

Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform, but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.

Ohio employers are more aware of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found. Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.

However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.

Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.

Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business. State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them as a breeding ground for criminal activity.

The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.

Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow. State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue, but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a right-to-work law.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.

In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.

Dogs are now capable of driving, and parrots now have vehicles too. But can our new animal overlords shoot magic foam into the body to stop major bleeding? Because we can.

 
 
by 04.20.2011
Posted In: Governor, 2010 Election, Republicans, Government at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Kasich Gets an 'F' Across the State

If three unscientific, online polls are any indication, Ohio Gov. John Kasich probably shouldn't make plans for a second term.

The Columbus Dispatch, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Dayton's WRGT-TV (Channel 45) have each had polls asking people to rate Kasich's performance during his first 100 days in office and the results are overwhelming and the same: Most disapprove of his performance or give him an “F.”

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