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by German Lopez 10.06.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, City Council at 04:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Council Candidates Agree to Support All Neighborhoods

Eighteen of 21 candidates participated in Oct. 5 forum

Just one month before voters pick nine council members at the ballot box on Nov. 5, 18 of 21 City Council candidates on Oct. 5 participated at a candidate forum that covered issues ranging from better supporting low-income Cincinnatians to expanding downtown's growth to all 52 neighborhoods.

During the event, the candidates agreed Cincinnati is moving forward, but they generally agreed that the city needs to carry its current economic growth from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to all 52 neighborhoods. Participating candidates particularly emphasized public safety and government transparency, while a majority also focused on education partnerships and human services for the poor and homeless, which have been funded below council's goals since 2004.

The three City Council candidates not in attendance were Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn, Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman and Independent challenger Tim Dornbusch. The absences prompted forum moderator Kathy Wilson, who's also a columnist at CityBeat, to remind the audience that "a vote is a precious thing" and candidates should work to earn support by engaging the public.

Councilman Chris Seelbach and challenger David Mann, both Democrats, had surrogates stand in for them. Seelbach was attending a wedding, and Mann was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his family.

The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area.

Here are the highlights from the 18 participating candidates, in order of their appearance:

Wendell Young (Democrat, incumbent): Young said Cincinnati should put basic services and public safety first, but he added that the city should also help address "quality of life issues" such as providing "world-class parks." He also said Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget, which has relied on one-time funding sources since at least 2001, and make further adjustments to the underfunded pension system. Young also explained that the city needs to strengthen its partnerships with local organizations to help combat homelessness, affordable housing, child poverty and infant mortality.

Laure Quinlivan (Democrat, incumbent): Quinlivan proudly pointed out she's the "only elected mom" on City Council. She said her goal is to make Cincinnati "cleaner, greener and smarter" by focusing on population and job growth and thriving neighborhoods. To spur such growth, Quinlivan claimed the city needs the streetcar project and more bike and hike trails, both of which she argued will attract more young adults to Cincinnati. Unlike other candidates, Quinlivan publicly supported potentially "rightsizing" — or cutting — Cincinnati's police and fire departments to structurally balance the budget. She also said the city should provide more options for health insurance to city employees so they don't all get a so-called "Cadillac plan" that's expensive for the city.

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat, incumbent): Sittenfeld touted downtown and Over-the-Rhine's turnaround as a model for economic growth that Cincinnati should expand to all neighborhoods. He argued the model is what attracts companies like Pure Romance to Cincinnati, as the company mentioned the city's recent urban growth as one reason it decided to stay here. (Of course, the nearly $699,000 in tax incentives over 10 years probably help as well.) When asked about his opposition to the current streetcar project, Sittenfeld said the current project is fiscally irresponsible because of its previous budget problems, which City Council fixed in June, and reduction in funding from the state government, which forced the city to pick up more of the funding share. Sittenfeld said his past two years on council were a success, but he added, "I'm not done yet."

Amy Murray (Republican and Charterite, challenger): Murray said her campaign is focused on creating a fiscally sound city by structurally balancing the budget and fixing the underfunded pension system. But she said she would do both without increasing taxes, which could force the city to cut services and retirement benefits. When asked about her opposition in 2011 to extending city employee benefits to LGBT spouses, Murray said she never had a problem with extending the benefits to LGBT individuals — which City Council did in 2012 — but was simply acknowledging that providing the extra benefits requires making cuts elsewhere to balance the budget. (Opponents previously said the issue should be about equality and fairness, not costs.)

Vanessa White (Charterite, challenger): White said her main goals are reducing poverty in Cincinnati, providing more education opportunities to residents and expanding citizen access to city officials. When specifying her goals for education, White said Cincinnati needs to do a better job incentivizing internships for youth at local businesses and touted the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which seeks to expand preschool education opportunities in Cincinnati. To increase transparency and outreach, White said she would assign City Hall staffers to answer citizens' questions after council meetings.

Michelle Dillingham (Democrat, challenger): Dillingham said the role of local government is to spur growth in abandoned areas that have been failed by the private sector. But to successfully do this, she said the city needs to engage and reach out to its citizens more often. As an example, she cited the development of an affordable housing complex in Avondale, which has been snared by sudden public outcry from a neighborhood group. Dillingham said supporting affordable housing is also more than just providing expanded services; she explained that she supports creating more jobs that would provide a living wage, which would then let more locals own or rent a home without exceeding 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs. At the end, Dillingham touted her 10-point plan to give more Cincinnatians "a seat at the table" and make the city government more inclusive.

Mike Moroski (Independent, challenger): Moroski said he intends to focus on growing Cincinnati's population, reducing re-entry into the criminal justice system and lowering child poverty. He also touted support for development projects and infrastructure, including the streetcar project. At the same time, Moroski argued some development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown is pricing low-income people out of the city's booming areas — an issue he would like to address. Moroski also said he backs efforts to increase Cincinnati's human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years. When asked about his lack of government experience, Moroski said he sees it as a "gift" and "blessing" that's given him a fresh, outside perspective. "I will be the voice for the voiceless," he said.

Melissa Wegman (Republican, challenger): Wegman opened by showing off her business credentials and neighborhood advocacy. When asked what she means when she says she'll bring a "business perspective" to council, she said she would like to see the city put more support toward small businesses. In particular, Wegman said underserved neighborhoods need more city help and funding. She also told panelists that she opposes Issue 4, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot and would semi-privatize Cincinnati's pension system.

Kevin Flynn (Charterite, challenger): Flynn said Cincinnati's budget problems are by far the most important issues facing the city, but he also trumpeted the local government's lack of transparency and engagement as major issues. He explained he's particularly opposed to the mayor's pocket veto, which allows the mayor to entirely dictate what legislation is voted on by council and potentially block any legislation he or she disagrees with. Flynn said he would like to see more citizen engagement on budget issues and more open debate between council members during public meetings.

Greg Landsman (Democrat and Charterite, challenger): Landsman stated his focus is on population, job and revenue growth, which could help him achieve his goal of a structurally balanced budget. He said the city needs to do more to attract and retain young people. Although Landsman acknowledges the city's progress, he said Cincinnati is undergoing a "tale of two cities" in which some neighborhoods prosper and others flounder. Landsman also suggested increasing human services to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years and improving city management in other areas, including the budget, pension system and roads.

Kevin Johnson (Independent, challenger): Johnson said the role of government should be to balance out the private sector and provide a safety net for those who fall through the system. He said the city needs to do more to tackle income inequality by "investing in people." Johnson said he supports recent efforts to create a land bank system for struggling neighborhoods, which aim to increase homeownership by making it more affordable and accessible. Johnson also claimed that people are tired of party politics and would like to see more transparency in government.

David Mann (Democrat and Charterite, challenger), represented by campaign manager John Juech: Speaking for Mann, Juech said his candidate got into the campaign to address Cincinnati's budget problems. Juech explained Mann will leave "all options on the table," whether it's revenue increases or service cuts, to structurally balance the budget. When asked whether Mann, who previously served 18 years on council, really deserves more time in the local government, Juech explained that Mann's experience makes him a "walking Cincinnati historian." He also argued that Mann has great relationships with county officials, particularly Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, that could make it easier to jointly manage some city services in a way that would drive down costs.

Yvette Simpson (Democrat and Charterite, incumbent): Simpson said she measures progress in Cincinnati by "how well the least of us do," which drove her to start the Cincinnati Youth Commission and other partnerships that help connect the city's youth to jobs. Although Simpson said she supports boosting funding to human services and building better relationships with human services agencies, she said providing more funding is hindered by a "simple math problem" and the city needs to balance its budget before it can provide more and better services. Simpson also said the city could and should do a better job engaging the public with big ideas.

Chris Seelbach (Democrat, incumbent), represented by legislative director Jon Harmon: Reading a statement from Seelbach, Harmon said Cincinnati is on the rise but still needs to improve in various areas. In particular, he said the city needs to do a better job funding all 52 neighborhoods, providing more opportunities for low-income Cincinnatians and eventually increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget. Harmon also touted City Council's progress with infrastructure issues, including increased road paving and bridge funding. By addressing these issues and occasionally making "tough choices," Harmon said Seelbach hopes to continue growing the city.

Pam Thomas (Democrat, incumbent): Thomas claimed she wants local government to be open, honest and transparent. She said the city's progress should be gauged through education metrics, particularly local graduation rates and, starting next year, the city's success in meeting state-mandated third-grade reading proficiency standards. Thomas replaced her husband on council after she was appointed by him and other council members earlier in 2013, but Thomas said that, unlike him, she opposes the current streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to fund development projects and help balance the budget.

Shawn Butler (Democrat, challenger): To Butler, progress means reducing income inequality, creating jobs and growing the city's population. Although Butler, who is Mayor Mark Mallory's director of community affairs, said he's generally supportive of the mayor's policies, he said the city could do a better job selling itself and reaching out to the business community. Butler also touted his experience, particularly how he's gone through eight budget cycles during his time with the mayor. To structurally balance the budget, Butler said he wouldn't increase the earnings tax and would instead pursue other options, such as tapping into money from the parking plan and cutting services.

Angela Beamon (Independent, challenger): Beamon said she would ensure city services are spread out to all citizens and neighborhoods. She suggested struggling neighborhoods are underserved — not "underperforming," a term she doesn't adhere to — and the city should do more to reach out to them. Beamon also stood firm on her opposition to the streetcar project. Instead of funding the streetcar, she said city resources should go toward promoting business ownership and services that help the underprivileged.

Sam Malone (Republican, challenger): Malone said his goal is to make all of Cincinnati's neighborhoods thrive with more businesses. He said since he lost his re-election to City Council in 2005, he's managed a small business and learned how it feels to be on the other side of the government-business relationship. Malone said his campaign slogan ("I love everybody, I come in peace") best exemplifies how he's led his life. When asked about a 2005 incident in which he disciplined his son with a belt, Malone claimed he's "running on issues" and his parenting tactics were deemed lawful by a court.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.10.2013
Posted In: Voting, News, Government at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
voterfraud

County to Investigate 39 Voter Fraud Cases

Critics warn of potential chilling effect

As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups are pushing back, warning that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls became the latest to speak out in a letter to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“The current legal investigations perpetuate the idea that voter fraud is widespread, when it’s not true,” she wrote. “We need to work together to give citizens the confidence that the election process is fair and accessible to those who have followed the law and pre-determined process. When citizens are confused about the process of voting they are intimidated from exercising their full rights to vote, which erodes confidence in and the integrity of our democracy.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and League of Women Voters of Ohio sent similar letters to Husted in the past few weeks, echoing fears that the investigations will intimidate voters into staying out of future elections.

The controversy surrounds 39 “double voter cases recently sent to the county prosecutor by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. In most of the cases, the voters in question sent in an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voted on Election Day through a provisional ballot, which are given to voters when there’s questions about eligibility. Even though the voters technically voted twice, their votes were only counted once.

The letters from Qualls and the League of Women Voters claim the cases were sent to the county prosecutor based on a narrow interpretation of state law and other sections of election law back the voters’ actions.

The letters reference Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2), which says, “If a registered elector appears to vote in that precinct and that elector has requested an absent voter's ballot for that election and the director has received a sealed identification envelope purporting to contain that elector's voted absent voter's ballots for that election, the elector shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code in that precinct on the day of that election.” The law goes on to clarify only one of the votes should be counted.

Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of Elections on May 31, siding with the Republicans on the board who wanted to send the case to the county prosecutor.

Alex Triantafilou, an elections board member and chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, says Republicans just want an investigation.

“I think anytime a person casts two ballots we ought to ask why,” Triantafilou says. “This is not to prejudge any of these cases as criminal charges. That’s not been our intention. What we want is a qualified investigator to ask the question and then answer it.”

Tim Burke, chairman of the local elections board and the Hamilton County Democratic Party, disagrees: “This is a damn shame. What’s happening to those voters is absolutely wrong.”

Burke claims the law was followed and no further investigation is necessary. He alleges Republicans are trying to suppress voters.

“I fear that what’s going on is that elements of the Republican Party want to create the impression that there is massive voter fraud going on, and they want to scare the hell out of people to intimidate them and discourage them from voting in the future,” Burke says. “I think part of what’s going on here is an effort to identify voter fraud in order to justify more restrictions on voting rights.”

Triantafilou argues Democrats, including Burke, are playing politics: “It’s a continuation of the kind of fear that Democrats try to instill in the electorate, and it’s a political weapon. We’re not trying to do that. They alleged voter suppression in the last election cycle. That was nonsensical. The problem really is fraud.”

 
 
by German Lopez 10.26.2012
Posted In: News, Privatization, Budget at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
milton dohoney

City Manager Suggests Privatizing Parking

Council member says approach seems shortsighted

It’s nearly budget season in Cincinnati again. In a bit of a head start, City Manager Milton Dohoney has unveiled his plan to look into privatizing the city’s parking services.

In a memo to city employees, Dohoney claimed leasing could provide a few benefits to the city: “For example, a third party can invest in technology across the entire system more efficiently, can conduct enforcement and bill scofflaws, and can assume maintenance and facility upgrades to the system. ... Further, leasing the system could allow the City government to focus current staff on other services, and provide a pool of funding that could be paid immediately to support neighborhood investment among other priorities.”

Dohoney also wrote he had met with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) workers that would be affected by the change. He assured any new parking operator would have to interview AFSCME parking workers for jobs.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld responded to the proposal critically in a statement: “I’ll await more details, but it seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to forgo a steady revenue stream for a lump-sum payment. Cincinnati needs a structurally balanced budget, and can’t keep relying on one-time sources. Places like Chicago and Indianapolis have seen their parking rates more than double following privatization — that’s a bad deal for citizens, and something we don’t need while were experiencing an urban renaissance.”

Some have cited the experience in Chicago as a failure of privatization. When New York City moved to privatize its parking meters, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone criticized New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for his plan: “These deals involve a sitting executive selling off a valuable piece of city property at a steep discount to private financial interests (often, to friends or campaign contributors), in order to solve a current cash flow problem that, surprise, surprise, will still be there the year after you finish spending the proceeds of your sale.”

But New York City’s plan for privatized parking meters kept pricing in public hands. It’s possible Cincinnati could take a similar approach and keep meter rates at the same level.

City officials could not be reached to elaborate on the proposal. This story will be updated if more information becomes available.

The full budget proposal typically comes out in late November. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council will have to approve the proposal.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.23.2012
Posted In: Homelessness, News, LGBT Issues at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
lighthouse youth services

State Grant Helps LGBT Homeless Youth

Cincinnati organization gets grant money to combat homelessness

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today that grant money will go to a local organization to help homeless youth. Some of the money, which is taken from the State Victims Assistance Act, will go to Cincinnati-based Lighthouse Youth Services (LYS) to help victims of domestic violence, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, between the ages of 18 and 24.

"These kids don't have to live on the streets and wonder every day where they'll be getting their next meal,” DeWine said in a statement.

The grant money, which totals $430,000, will be shared between the Cincinnati organization and The Next Step, another homeless aid organization based in Geauga and Portage counties.

LYS, which helps about 2,200 people in the Greater Cincinnati area each day, will get $137,500 year per year for two years. The money will primarily go to the Lighthouse on Highland facility, which is located in Clifton. Bob Mecum, CEO of LYS, says the facility helps youth between the ages of 16 and 24 that are typically victims of violence.

During the day, Lighthouse on Highland provides nursing, showering, washing, food, shelter, computer and case-management services. At night, the organization acts as a 28-bed shelter. On the average day, the facility helps 10 to 30 people with its street outreach services and 40 to 60 people with its on-site services. On the typical night, 27 out of 28 beds are filled.

“Through this grant from the attorney general offices, the services out of the Highland location will be funded,” Mecum says.

On average, LGBT youth face greater homelessness rates. Even though LGBT youth makes up only about 10 percent of the general youth population, LGBT youth makes up about 20 percent of the homeless youth population, according to the National Coalition of Homelessness. LGBT youth are also twice as likely to experience sexual abuse by the age of 12, and they’re about 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual youth.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.06.2013
Posted In: News, Mayor, Streetcar at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
john cranley

Mayor-Elect Explains Vision for First Term

Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities

Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as mayor of Cincinnati.

Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins his term on Dec. 1.

Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent starting in December.

One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133 million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing construction for the project.

“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,” Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going in a different direction.”

But in response to recent reports that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.

Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.

Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation.

Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.

On the current city administration’s plan to lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a way to cancel the deal.

But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.

Cranley also promises to make various development projects his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were canceled.

Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation).

“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square developed.”

He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”

Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in line, but no specifics on a plan were given.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.13.2012
Posted In: Government, News, 2012 Election, Courts, Economy at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

More bad news for Secretary of State Jon Husted. The Ohio Supreme Court told Husted his approved ballot language for Issue 2 contains “factual inaccuracies” and must be rewritten by the Ballot Board. Voters First previously contested the language as misleading to voters. If approved by voters, Issue 2 will put an independent citizens commission in charge of redistricting. Under the current system, state officials redraw borders, sometimes using the process for political advantage. In Cincinnati’s district, the Republican-controlled process redrew the district to include Warren County, giving the district more rural voters that tend to side with Republicans instead of urban voters that tend to side with Democrats. Voters First mocked the process with a graph showing how redistricting decisions can sometimes be made in 13 minutes with no questions asked. CityBeat covered the redistricting process here when Issue 2 was still in the petition process.

Ohio’s median income dropped last year, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. But rates of poverty and uninsured rates remained the same. Nationwide, uninsured rates dropped from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011, meaning 1.4 million people gained health coverage. Some of that is attributable to health-care reform passed by President Barack Obama.

Former University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams is getting a pretty nice going-away present. The Board of Trustees approved a package for Williams that adds up to more than $1.2 million. It includes a bonus, retirement benefits, consulting fees, a year’s salary and a contract buyout. Williams abruptly left UC on Aug. 21, citing personal reasons.

Homeless shelters will cost more than expected, says 3CDC. The nonprofit group said it will cost about $40 million to build three homeless shelters and help finance others.

With the support of Democrats and Republicans, the Ohio legislature approved pension reforms yesterday. The reforms lower benefits, raise contributions requirements, increase the retirement eligibility age, establish new cost-of-living guidelines and set a new formula to calculate benefits, all for future retirees. For the most part, current retirees are not affected. Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, said, “We know the changes are not popular, but they are necessary.” Before the changes, the system was losing $1 million a day, according to a statement from Rep. Robert Hagan, a Democrat.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is pushing against banks that take advantage of college students. In a letter to Higher One, Brown told the bank to rework its contracts with universities. Brown wrote in the letter, “Federal student aid programs should help students prepare for the future, not extract fee income from them.” He went on to ask the bank to redo its contracts so they are “consumer-friendly and consistent with reforms that Congress enacted for the credit card market.”

Ohio’s inspector general found ODJFS wrongly reimbursed organizations in central Ohio with federal stimulus funds when the organizations did not follow rules.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Dayton yesterday. During his speech, he spoke about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Biden vowed justice will be served.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney unleashed a big foreign policy gaffe yesterday when he politicized the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. The attack was revealed to cause the death of Stevens after Romney made his comments.

Math shows homeopathy, a trend in medicine, is implausible.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.07.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Republicans, President Obama at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
mikewilsonHD

Republicans Wrong About Obama Lawsuit

Local state representative candidate Mike Wilson clarifies press release

The campaign manager of Mike Wilson, the Republican candidate for state representative in Ohio’s 28th district, sent out a press release late afternoon Monday. Its headline read: “Wilson stands with military voters: Opposed Obama effort to attack military voting rights.”

The accusation localized a national issue that had been driven through networks all weekend. It started with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. On Saturday, after Romney was asked a question about a lawsuit President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party had filed against state officials to restore all early voting in Ohio, the Romney camp posted a statement on Romney’s Facebook page:
"President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage." The message went on to say Romney stands by the "fifteen military groups" opposing the lawsuit.

To be clear, the lawsuit Obama and the Democratic Party filed on July 17 is not meant to diminish or take away anyone’s voting rights. On the contrary, it is meant to give early voting rights to everyone, including military personnel. Right now, in-person early voting begins on Oct. 2, but it is cut off three days before Election Day for everyone except military personnel and their families, who keep the right to vote in-person on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day. If the lawsuit is successful, those three days of in-person early voting will be extended to the rest of Ohio’s voting population.

So any accusation that Obama and the Democrats are trying to take away or attack anyone’s voting rights is false.

But that has not deterred Republicans from using the attack. They used it in press releases and statements all day Monday. The Wilson campaign invoked the attack in its own press release when it said it opposed the “Obama effort to attack military voting rights.” But Wilson’s opposition is a bit more nuanced than the political spin Republicans have wrongfully put on Obama’s lawsuit.

“I think there are a few potential outcomes out of the lawsuit: One is the three days are extended to everyone, another is the court strikes down the three days altogether,” Wilson says.

Wilson is worried a court could agree with the premise of the lawsuit — that it is unconstitutional to give one group of people, meaning military personnel, extra voting rights — but not the goal of the lawsuit: that all in-person early voting rights should be extended to all Ohio citizens. The result of that ruling could be the repeal of the three extra in-person voting days. That would ensure everyone’s rights are treated equally because then no one would have the extra right of voting in-person one, two or three days early.

However, this outcome is not desirable by the Obama team or the Democrats. On the contrary, Ohio Democrats have repeatedly pushed for legislation that restores early voting rights Republican legislators did away with in H.B. 194 and H.B. 224 in 2011. Before those two laws, Ohio allowed everyone to vote in-person a full five weeks before Election Day. So if Obama and the Democrats had their way, this lawsuit would not be necessary because all in-person early voting days would still be available to all Ohio voters, just like they were in 2008 and 2010.

If the Obama lawsuit reaches its goal and voting rights are extended to all citizens, Wilson still has some concerns. Under that scenario, Wilson is worried military personnel would have longer lines when they go out to vote, which he says would be harder on military personnel that have restrictions on travel and free time due to their jobs.

But those restrictions on travel and free time are why absentee ballots exist in the first place, and absentee ballots would be unaffected by the Obama lawsuit. Absentee ballots allow voters — traditionally military voters — to mail in ballots without showing up to a polling station. Military personnel can start mailing in absentee ballots starting on Oct. 2, regardless of the lawsuit.

The two scenarios Wilson presented are similar to the reasons given by military organizations for opposing the lawsuit.

Even if either scenario came true, all Ohioans — including military personnel — will still be able to vote early starting Oct. 2. The lawsuit only deals with in-person voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 06.07.2013
Posted In: News at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_solarpanels_cincinnatizoo

Cincinnati Zoo's Cafe is the Greenest Restaurant in America

Accolade adds to zoo's arsenal of sustainability accomplishments

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden added to its ever-expanding list of green accolades this week when its Base Camp Cafe was named the "greenest restaurant in America" by the Green Restaurant Association, a welcome but not-so-surprising accomplishment from the same locale that calls itself the "greenest zoo in America." 

According to the zoo's website, its sustainability push kicked off in 2006, and since then they've been in the news almost constantly for different initiatives, innovative ideas and successes in the world of green. Makes perfect sense particularly in a zoo, where the main mission is already, you know, dependent upon preservation, conservation and respecting nature.


The Base Camp Cafe apparently earned the highest sustainability score the Green Restaurant Association has ever given out, which makes us wonder what else the zoo possibly has in store to keep up prized No. 1 title. Right now, the cafe is fueled partly by solar power, offers a full recycling (and composting!) program, uses some local produce and most of the tableware is compostable, including plates, bowls, cups and utensils. The zoo also recycles chip bags and candy wrappers (normally landfill material) through upcycler TerraCycle.

Today, you can find the zoo's obsession with sustainability lurking around pretty much every corner. By resource saved, here are some of their other greatest hits, by no means a comprehensive rundown:  

Water

  • Since 2006, the zoo's water consumption has been reduced by one-third, thanks to fixed leaks, low-flow water pumps and behavioral changes. Pervious pavement cuts down on water pollution and flooding green roofs (roofs covered with live plants) and raingardens make use out of rainwater and cut down on runoff, which can cause erosion and pollution.
Solid Waste
  • In 2012, the zoo made a commitment to work toward becoming an zero landfill facility, which would mean that less than one percent of their total waste stream would be sent to the landfill. Almost every area composts in some way — old food, bedding, animal waste — around eight tons of material every week. Recycling bins are paired up with every trash can.
Energy
  • The solar energy panels at the zoo are perhaps its most recognizable green achievement, having garnered national attention particularly for the panel canopy structure over the Vine Street parking lot, which is the largest urban, publicly accessible panel in the U.S. The zoo also uses wind turbines, geothermal wells that help naturally regulate the temps inside zoo buildings, and, potentially, an anaerobic digester that would use elephant poop to produce power.


Congrats, Cincinnati Zoo! We can't wait to see what you have in store next.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.21.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, LGBT Issues at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Governor Opposes Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions

Kasich's spokesperson walks back earlier comments that supported civil unions

Earlier today, Gov. John Kasich seemed to come out in support of same-sex civil unions, but Kasichs spokesperson says the governor was using the term civil union loosely and the governor is still against changing the Ohio Constitution to legalize same-sex civil unions and gay marriage.

“The governor’s position is unchanged,” wrote Rob Nichols, Kasichs spokesperson, in an email. “He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio’s Constitution to allow for civil unions. He’s opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term ‘civil union’ loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues.”

The clarification walked back earlier comments from Kasich, who told Scripps Media, “I’ve got friends that are gay and I’ve told them ‘Look, (same-sex marriage) is just not something I agree with,’ and I’m not doing it out of a sense of anger or judgment; it’s just my opinion on this issue. He added, “I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to have a civil union, that's fine with me.”

The comments to Scripps Media prompted a response from Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, which is pushing an amendment that would legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio.

“I hope Gov. Kasich understands civil unions are banned by the Ohio Constitution as well and they are a cruel substitute for legal marriage,” he said in a statement. “We need equal rights and family security in Ohio for same-gender couples. That's why more and more Republicans are making the right choice and stepping up to support marriage equality.”

The comments from Kasich, who will run for his second term as governor in 2014 and is seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, come during a period of renewed soul-searching within the Republican Party. Most recently, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman announced his support of same-sex marriage two years after his son came out as gay. The change means both Ohio senators now support same-sex marriage.

A recent report from the Republican National Committee acknowledged a generational divide on the same-sex marriage issue: “Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”

Not all Republicans agreed with the report, which sought to establish a new blueprint for Republicans in response to 2012’s electoral losses. In a recent blog post, Republican Rep. Steve Chabot wrote, “To me that (the report) sounds a whole lot like accepting things like gay marriage, and being more liberal on abortion. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a great way to alienate a lot of our base who are still with us. Big mistake.”

Still, the report’s findings are supported by recent polling. A poll from The Washington Post in September 2012 found about 52 percent of Ohioans support same-sex marriage, and only 37 percent are against it, with a margin of error of 4.5 points.

Another poll from Pew Research Center found support for same-sex marriage is growing, particularly because of the younger generations. Among U.S. adults, about 49 percent responded in support of same-sex marriage, and 44 percent were in opposition.

The Pew survey found a stark generational divide: Millenials — adults born after 1980 — had particularly pronounced support for same-sex marriage at 70 percent, and about 49 percent of Generation X individuals, meaning those born between 1965 and 1980, were also in support. But only 38 percent of baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — supported same-sex marriage, and only 31 percent of those born between 1928 and 1945 claimed support.

Supporting same-sex civil unions would have made Kasich a moderate by Republican standards. In the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, only former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman supported civil unions, and the rest of the candidates stood against same-sex marriage and civil unions.

In contrast, Democrats are now widely in favor of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality was embraced in the official Democratic platform in September 2012, and President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to support gay marriage in May 2012.

FreedomOhio’s amendment could be on the ballot as early as this year. CityBeat previously covered the amendment’s potential benefits and challenges, including some opposition from Equality Ohio, another LGBT group (“Evolution of Equality,” issue of Nov. 28).

Beyond giving equal rights to same-sex couples, gay marriage could also bring economic benefits to Ohio. A study from Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics LLC, found that legalizing gay marriage would grow Ohio’s gross domestic product, which measures economic worth, by $100 million to $126 million within three years. Statewide, that would sustain 740 to 930 jobs within the first year of legalization, 250 to 310 jobs within the second year and 170 to 210 within the third year. In Hamilton County alone, legalization would produce $8.2 million in growth, according to the study.

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up same-sex marriage in two high-profile cases next week. The cases will deal with Californias Proposition 8 law, which made same-sex marriage illegal in the Golden State, and the Defense of Marriage Act, a law signed by former President Bill Clinton that made same-sex marriage illegal on a federal level.

Update (4:45 p.m.): This story was updated to reflect comments from Rob Nichols, Gov. John Kasich's spokesperson.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.21.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Mayor, News at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
john cranley

Q&A: John Cranley

Mayoral candidate speaks on campaign, parking deal, streetcar

For better or worse, Cincinnati will have to deal with another major election cycle for City Council and the mayor’s office in 2013. With four-year terms for City Council recently approved by voters, the 2013 election could play one of the most pivotal, long-term roles in Cincinnati’s electoral history. 

But what most people know about the candidates and issues is typically given through small fragments of information provided by media outlets. At CityBeat, we do our best to give the full context of every story, but just once, we decided to give the candidates a chance to speak for themselves through a question-and-answer format. (Update: Since this article was published, CityBeat interviewed Democratic mayoral candidate Roxanne Qualls for another Q&A here.)

First up, mayoral candidate John Cranley, a former Democratic council member, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the recently announced parking plan (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20) and the Cincinnati streetcar (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23) in his mayoral campaign against fellow Democrat Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. CityBeat talked with Cranley about these issues and how they relate to the campaign to get his full take, all in his own words. The conversation (with some edits for readability) is below.

CityBeat: I know your campaign kick-off was last night. How did that go? Did it have good turnout?

John Cranley: It was awesome. We had over 300 people there. Very diverse crowd. It was just great.

CB: How do you feel about the campaign in general? It’s pretty early, but how do you feel about the local support you’ve been getting?

JC: It’s been overwhelming. People are rallying behind my progressive vision, and trying to stop privatization of parking meters to Wall Street. And trying to get focus back on neighborhoods, balance, equity, basic services for everyone, special attention to those in need and broad opportunities for the working poor. I think people are very excited for that message, and I’m finding support in every neighborhood of town.

CB: I noticed that a theme of your campaign is helping out neighborhoods by spreading the funding not just to downtown, but neighborhoods as well. Are you hoping to build support from those areas?

JC: I’m for fairness. I think that right now you have a disproportionate amount of money — $26 million over budget on the streetcar, yet they’re still proceeding with it — and the neighborhoods are forgotten about. But I want to see downtown flourish too, so it’s not like I’m one or the other. I want the whole city to do better. But I think there needs to be equity and balance.

CB: You just think the playing field isn’t leveled right now?

JC: Absolutely not. Right now they’re trying to raise parking meters in neighborhoods to build luxury apartments in downtown. If that doesn’t show you their values are out of whack, I don’t know what does.

CB: Speaking on that, the latest news is the city manager’s parking proposal, which he calls a “public-public partnership” that will boost economic development. What are your thoughts on it?

JC: The PR campaign that they’ve been putting out is very deceptive and willfully so. This is not a public plan; this is privatization to a Wall Street company. The only elements that matter to city control are control over rates and control over enforcement. The city has said repeatedly, dishonestly, that the city will maintain control over rates and enforcement, but neither one of those statements is true.

The rates are guaranteed to go up 3 percent a year for 30 years on a compounded basis. Prior to the recent increases in parking rates, the city hadn’t raised rates in 10 or 15 years. Right now, the elected officials — we live in a democracy, for now. Right now, City Council decides to raise rates, lower rates, maintain rates. If there’s a recession in the future, City Council can choose to reduce parking rates. There might be certain neighborhoods where you want to charge different rates over others depending on economic demographics of those areas. Right now, we have complete flexibility to change those rates. This plan gives Wall Street the right to raise rates by 3 percent every single year for 30 years.

The second thing is enforcement. I’m old-school where I believe that the government should be the one that has the potential of putting you in jail. Because if you don’t pay your parking tickets, you can be indicted and go to jail. Here, we’re giving away the power to issue tickets to a Wall Street company for 30 years. 

Not to mention due process concerns. What happens if you don’t believe you were late back to your meter? Who do you appeal to? You appeal to this company from Wall Street, who has a financial incentive to make you pay.

[Editor's Note: Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, told CityBeat the rate increase cap could be circumvented, but the decision would have to be unanimously approved by a board with four members appointed by the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and one selected by the city manager, then affirmed by the city manager, then get a final nod from the Port Authority. The 3-percent rate increase is also not automatic, and the Port Authority could decide to not take it up every year.

She also said Xerox, which is not a Wall Street company, would manage enforcement based on standards set by a contract with the Port Authority. Guggenheim, a Wall Street financial firm, is acting as underwriter and capital provider for the parking plan.]

On that point, how is it that there are public hearings next week and they haven’t released any of the contracts or documents for this transaction? They are going on a Power Point presentation, which is their talking points. Everyone is writing it as if it’s fact, yet the contract and the details haven’t even been released.

Roxanne is calling public hearings and expecting people to weigh in on a 30-year decision before the details are released to the public. How cynical is that?

CB: We might not know the details right now, but you think that shows a lack of transparency?

JC: Of course. I hope you guys will editorialize about that and stand up against privatizing and outsourcing the city to Wall Street.

CB: In the past, you and I talked about the next phase of the Smale Riverfront Park not having funding, which you pinned on the streetcar taking tax revenue that could be used for it. I couldn’t help but notice that it’s one of the things funded in the city manager’s parking proposal. Do you see that as evidence to your claim?

JC: Well, of course. They don’t have funding for the Riverfront Park. That’s why they’re selling the city’s parking meters. 

The bigger issue is it’s just fundamentally wrong to take an asset that is a recurring revenue stream for 30 years and try to monetize it today at the expense of the future generations. It’s giving Roxanne the ability to try to buy votes by playing Santa Claus before the election at the expense of the next generation.

CB: Another part of the plan is it’s expanding hours. Do you think that might hurt nightlife in Downtown? 

JC: Of course it’s going to hurt restaurants, nightlife and the Cincinnati Reds, not to mention the neighborhoods — Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, Clifton. They’re going to pay higher meters so they can pay off their friends to build luxury apartments in downtown. The equity of this is awful.

CB: Would you be willing to bring up a referendum on this deal?

JC: Absolutely. It’s such a selling-out of the city on a long-term basis, but I think the people should have the final say.

CB: I want to move onto the streetcar. Even for supporters of the streetcar, the delays are unnerving. The latest news is these construction requests came way over budget and they might cause more delays. How do you feel about it?

JC: It’s what we’ve been saying for a long time. A lot of people’s reputations have been attacked for having said that this thing would be over budget. I think a lot of people, including Roxanne, need to fess up that they’ve been misleading the public about this deal for years.

But the real issue is it’s $26 million over budget, it’s the tip of the iceberg, and it’s going to get worse. And Roxanne is continuing to spend money on the streetcar. She’s continuing to move forward. She still says she wants to get it done by the (2015 Major League Baseball) All-Star Game. She still says that she wants to pay for future phases. So it doesn’t really matter, from Roxanne’s standpoint, if it’s $26 million over budget. I think it’s too expensive, we can’t afford it, we shouldn’t be raising property taxes, etc. We should stop now and we should try to get our money back.

CB: One of the issues you’ve told me you have with the streetcar before is a lack of transparency. Do you think that’s catching up to the city in these budget surprises?

JC: Of course the lack of transparency is catching up to them. Not only is it the right thing to do what you’re doing with their money and government; it’s always the right way to manage money. When you hide problems, it always leads to greater expense later.

CB: We’ve thoroughly covered what you’re against. What positive visions do you have for the city and neighborhoods?

JC: I have lots. On my website, JohnCranley.com, I have my 10-point plan, which goes in great deal over my positive plan for the city. We need to focus on jobs and opportunities for the future. We need to partner with the venture capital and university entrepreneurship efforts in the city, and I’ll do everything in my power to help that. We need to work to improve our schools; what we need to do is get communities involved to adopt under-performing inner-city schools to improve the standards and opportunities. Third, we need to adopt my plan to reprogram existing federal dollars into job training and job opportunities to put people to work in building city’s infrastructure projects now. Those are probably the three major ones.

The good thing about Cincinnati is we have momentum, which is great. But we’re not getting better fast enough.

Update: This story was updated with comment from the city manager’s office to clarify how the parking plan’s rate cap will work and Guggenheim's role.

 
 

 

 

 
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