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by German Lopez 10.23.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Economy at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

National Report Criticizes JobsOhio, Other Privatized Agencies

Good Jobs First says privatized agencies create scandals, not jobs

JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies have created scandals and potential conflicts of interests instead of jobs, claims an Oct. 23 report from Good Jobs First, a research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between businesses and governments.

The report looked at privatized development agencies in seven states, including Ohio, and found that many of the same problems and scandals appear from state to state.

“These experiments in privatization have, by and large, become costly failures,” the report found. “Privatized development corporations have issued grossly exaggerated job-creation claims. They have created ‘pay to play’ appearances of insider dealing and conflicts of interest. They have paid executives larger salaries than governors. They have resisted basic oversight.”

The report focuses much of its findings on JobsOhio, a privatized development agency that Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators established in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The agency uses tax subsidies and other financial incentives to attract companies to Ohio with the intention of creating jobs.

But the report states JobsOhio “assembled a board of directors whose members included some of (Kasich’s) major campaign contributors and executives from companies that were recipients of large state development subsidies. It received a large transfer of state monies about which the legislature was not informed, intermingled public and private monies, refused to name its private donors, and then won legal exemption (advocated by Gov. Kasich) from review of its finances by the state auditor.”

It found similar issues in privatized development agencies in Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Rhode Island and Michigan. In some cases, the scandals have cost states millions of dollars with little job creation to show for it, according to the report.

The latest report concurred many of the findings in a similar 2011 report from Good Jobs First, which sought to warn states, including Ohio, about the potential risks of privatized development agencies.

For JobsOhio, a major cause for concern in the report is how difficult it is to hold the agency accountable. State legislators have approved multiple measures that shield JobsOhio from public scrutiny, including exemptions that exclude the agency from public records laws, open meeting rules and the possibility of a full public audit.

Some of the controversy also focuses on how the state funds JobsOhio.

“The proposal called for ‘leasing’ the state liquor profits ($228 million the year prior) for up to 25 years to JobsOhio, which would eventually issue $1.4 billion in bonds to pay for the use of the funds,” according to the report. “Critics charged that this was not a fair market price for profits that could potentially amount to $6 billion over the term of the agreement.”

The report laments that the privatized and secretive agency represents a shift for Ohio, which the report claims “was an early practitioner of online subsidy disclosure.”

Good Jobs First concludes privatized development agencies perpetuate an economic environment in which big companies already have too much say.

“The privatization structures we describe here, including the increasing use of corporate seats for sale on governing or advisory boards, absolutely favor large businesses that have the money and executive staff time to pay and play at such levels,” the report concluded. “But small businesses already get short shrift in economic development resource allocation, and they are still suffering the most in the Great Recession’s aftermath.”

The organization also takes issue with the idea that public agencies aren’t “nimble”: “In all of our years tracking development deals, we have yet to hear of a state agency that lost an important deal because it failed to provide labor market or real estate or incentive data in a timely manner.”

Asked about the report, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded in an email, “We don't pay much attention to politically-motivated opponents whose mission is to combat job creation.”

Kasich and other Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized, secretive nature is necessary to secure job-creating development deals with private companies in an economic environment that, through the Internet and globalization, moves more quickly than ever before.

Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, claim the agency is ripe for abuse, difficult to hold accountable and unclear in its results.

State Auditor Dave Yost plans to release an audit of JobsOhio soon, but no specific date or time frame is set for the release. The audit was granted prior to state legislation that barred the state auditor from doing a full sweep of JobsOhio’s financial details.

The full report:


 
 
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 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.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 07.19.2013
Posted In: Equality, LGBT Issues, News at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gay-marriage-rights

Newlywed Gay Couple Sues State of Ohio for Discrimination

Plaintiffs: Out-of-state same-sex marriages must be treated equally

A gay couple living in Ohio has filed a lawsuit today against the state of Ohio for failing to recognize their Maryland-certified same-sex marriage, which they claim is discriminatory because the state is required to recognize any certified heterosexual marriage from another state as valid.

Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive and disabling neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, traveled to Maryland last week to officially tie the knot after remaining as partners for 20 years, reports Cincinnati.com. The trip reportedly cost nearly $13,000 for a chartered, medically-equipped plane, all of which was sourced by donations from friends and family.

Arthur, 47, is a bed-ridden hospice patient and was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. 

In a press release from Gerhardstein & Branch, the legal association representing the couple, Obergefell stated that not recognizing Arthur's marriage on his death certificate, when the time comes, would be unconstitutional. "It is the final record of a citizen's life. It must be accurate. We hope that this can be one small step toward making marriage equality a reality in Ohio and perhaps all 50 states," he noted. 

Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who is representing Arthur and Obergefell, cites the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause, noting that the Supreme Court's historic overturn of DOMA has stripped states of the right to discriminate against couples who seek same-sex marriages.

"John and James were validly married in Maryland. If they were an opposite sex couple, Ohio would recognize their marriage. Being a same-sex couple is no longer a good enough reason to deny them equal rights.”

As an example, he explains that should two first cousins fall in love in the state of Ohio, they can't be wed in Ohio and have their union recognized; however, should they travel to Georgia, where marrying your first cousin is legal, they could come back to Ohio and have a recognizable union under state law, enjoying the same benefits as any other heterosexual married couple in Ohio. The same rules would follow for other stipulations prohibited under Ohio law, such as getting married underage in another state where the union would be legal.

Defense attorneys Terry Nester and Bridget Koontz were not available for comment. CityBeat will update this story with any changes.

Gerhardstein told CityBeat that the plaintiffs will go before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Monday, July 22, to ask for an expedited ruling in light of Arthur's rapidly deteriorating condition.

"Had the Supreme Court made this decision one year ago, this would have been as simple as us taking a trip because I could still walk. It's the progression for me of the ALS, it's...it's just compounded everything," he told Cincinnati.com camera crews earlier this week.


 
 
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 09.18.2012
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Husted Suggests 'More Strict' ID Law

As other states come under fire, Ohio hints at voter ID law

It seems Ohio may soon get a controversial voter ID law. While speaking at a Tea Party event in Cincinnati on Monday, Secretary of State Jon Husted said the General Assembly is likely to take up a voter ID law after the November election.

“I was listening to a show one night where they talked about these onerous rules, these onerous photo ID rules and the onerous rules in Ohio on photo ID,” he said. “Well, the photo ID law in Ohio is not onerous. As a matter of fact, I suspect the General Assembly will take up a more strict version of what we have after what we’ve been through with this election process.”

Later on, an audience member commented on the issue by pointing out Ohioans can currently identify themselves with 12 different types of ID. In response, Husted clarified his position: “We need to streamline that because it’s really hard for a poll worker to know exactly what they’re supposed to be checking. And I’m quite confident the legislature is going to take that issue up.”

Under current Ohio law, voters can go to the polls with state ID cards, driver’s licenses, military IDs, utility bills, paychecks, bank statements and other forms of ID. Republicans have sometimes criticized the many options, particularly for not being state-issued and not requiring a photo.

Other states have taken up voter ID laws. Pennsylvania’s controversial law requires voters to have state-issued photo ID. A Pennsylvania court recently upheld the law, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the decision today and asked the lower court to reconsider. The ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gives lower courts room to strike down the law.

Democrats criticize ID laws for suppressing voters. A study from researchers at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis found nearly 700,000 young, minority voters will be unable to cast a ballot due to voter ID laws. Both young and minority voters tend to side with Democrats.

Republicans say the laws are necessary to protect elections from voter fraud. However, studies suggest in-person voter fraud is not a serious, widespread issue. A News21 report, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project that looked at national public records, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter fraud since 2000. That’s less than one case a year nationwide.

The audio clips from the event, which was provided by the Ohio Democratic Party, can be heard here and here.

Husted’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.

UPDATE (4:25 P.M.): Matt McClellan, spokesperson for Husted, called CityBeat after this story was published.

"The Tea Party has generally been critical of the secretary's position on voter ID," he said, referring to Husted's past opposition of strict voter ID laws. "The comments he made at the event last night were environmental in general about what the secretary thought had been happening at the statehouse. His position, in general, is unchanged."

When pressed about what Husted meant when he advocated for "streamlining" laws, McClellan said Husted supported "simplification" of the current system. McClellan could not offer more details on what that means, and he said specifics would be up to the legislature to decide.

Chris Redfern, Ohio Democratic Party chairman, responded to Husted’s suggestions in a statement: “As if Secretary of State Husted has not done enough to undermine access to Ohio’s polls, now he’s planning a secret post-Election Day assault on what forms of identification voters can present to cast a ballot. It’s no surprise that after slashing voting access across the state, using his office for partisan advantage, and lying about Issue 2, now Husted is making plans to create obstacles for African Americans and seniors to vote.”

 
 
by German Lopez 08.20.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Media Criticism, News at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hamilton+county+board+of+elections+logo

Early Voting Cost Gets Limited Context from 'Enquirer'

Misleading headline bogs down otherwise accurate story on important issue

In-person early voting in Hamilton County has been given a minimum price tag: $18,676. That’s how much The Cincinnati Enquirer says it will cost to staff polling booths in downtown Cincinnati during the early voting hours directed by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Unfortunately, in an effort to appear as if the early voting issue has two sides, the Enquirer never bothered putting the number in context. The article reads as if that number, which amounts to $406 an hour, is a big expense for Hamilton County. In reality, the additional cost would amount to about 0.009 percent of the 2012 county budget — a rounding error in the $206 million budget.

Meanwhile, the Enquirer downplayed a new $300,000 cost to county taxpayers in the top story for today's paper. The article pointed out the unnecessary cost is due to county commissioners refusing to make a tough decision, but the headline made it seem like the county is getting away with little-to-no trouble.

The number is important because costs are the top non-racist concern Republicans bring up when opposing more early voting hours. The other concerns are empowering military voters above normal citizens, which contradicts the entire point of civilian control of the military and ignores mail-in absentee ballots, and voter fraud, which is completely overblown by Republicans.

Over the weekend, Ohio’s early voting battle caught national headlines again when Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch in an email, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” The statement echoed earlier statements from former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, who told MSNBC that voting restrictions are an attempt to limit voting from minorities and younger voters.

The admission to racial politics confirmed suspicions from Democrats that limiting early voting hours is at least partly about suppressing the vote among demographics that typically vote Democrat.

The estimate comes in the middle of an ongoing controversy regarding in-person early voting hours. Husted said Wednesday that counties must all follow the same early voting hours. But the hours excluded early voting during the weekend, much to the dismay of state Democrats. In response, Democrats in Montgomery County, which is where Dayton is, decided to try having weekend voting anyway, and Husted suspended and threatened to fire the Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Democrats were not happy with the threats.

“It's outrageous and borderline criminal,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, in a statement.

Ohio Democrats held a rally in Columbus this morning in support of Montgomery County Democrats. The Dayton-area Democrats appeared in a hearing with Husted today to see if they will be fired from the Montgomery County Board of Elections. A decision will be given later in the week.

At the hearing, Dennis Lieberman, one of the Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said he “was not put on the board of elections to be a puppet.” Lieberman also pointed out that Montgomery County saved $200,000 in the 2008 elections by lowering the amount of precincts required with weekend voting.

The controversy is following up an earlier controversy about county-by-county discrepancies in early voting hours — an issue Hamilton County barely avoided when Husted directed county boards to invoke uniform in-person early voting hours across the state a day before Hamilton County Board of Election hearings.

 
 
by 02.11.2011
Posted In: News, City Council, Police, Neighborhoods at 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
-

Berding, in Black and White

It took awhile due to some miscommunication about police terminology, but CityBeat managed to get a copy of the incident report that Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding filed late last month against a one-time political ally.

Berding filed a report with Cincinnati Police Officer Jay D. Barnes on Jan. 27, the same day that Berding announced his impending resignation from City Council.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Energy at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bill seitz

National Conservative Groups Attack State Energy Standards

State senator pushing new bill is on group’s board of directors

State Sen. Bill Seitz says he’s working on a bill that would cap how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and solar power. But the proposal isn’t completely unique to Ohio, which is just one of many states in which national conservative groups are working to weaken state energy standards.

Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, told Gongwer that his bill will keep requirements for utilities to provide 25 percent of their electricity from alternative sources and reduce customers’ consumption by 22 percent by 2025.

But the other measures will likely weaken renewable energy and efficiency standards set by Ohio’s Clean Energy Law in 2008.

The bill is presumably the result of Seitz’s review of Ohio’s energy rules, which the state senator announced earlier in the year.

FirstEnergy, an Akron-based utility company, says the review is necessary because the regulations impose too many costs. But there’s another major group involved: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Seitz is on the board of directors of ALEC, a conservative group that’s gone from state to state to push legislation that typically favors corporate interests.

Some state officials, including Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, reportedly attended ALECs 40th annual meeting in Chicago Aug. 7-9.

Just a couple weeks after that meeting, Seitz announced he still intends to rework Ohio’s energy standards.

ALEC previously teamed up with the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that gets much of its funding from oil companies, to write the standard for legislation that pulls back state energy rules. Many of the effort’s backers, particularly at the Heartland Institute, deny man-made global warming, even though scientists are 95 percent certain climate change is influenced by human actions.

ALEC’s efforts have so far failed in every state in which legislation has been proposed, as shown in this map from ThinkProgress:

But Ohio may be the first state to buck that trend if Seitz insists on pushing his review.

A report from advocacy group Environment Ohio found the current energy standards, which require Ohio utility companies get 12.5 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, have successfully spurred clean energy projects all around the state, particularly in Cincinnati.

One local example: The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2011 installed solar panels in its parking lot that will generate enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the zoos electricity needs and reduce pollution associated with global warming by 1,775 tons annually, according to the report.

But the standards are written in a way that favors in-state sources, which was supposed to ensure that at least half of the renewable energy development spurred by the Clean Energy Law happened in Ohio. A June 2013 ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals indicated that the in-state preference is an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause.

Seitz will introduce his bill in the next two weeks.

 
 
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.

 
 

 

 

 
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