The battle for Iowa and New Hampshire kicked into high gear at Thursday’s Republican debate, featuring a smaller cast of candidates. Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush took the stage and engaged in one of the debate’s bloodiest battles as the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus looms.
Yes, this election starts in two weeks.
Bromance Between Trump and Cruz Is Over
Some of the debate’s most electrifying moments are when these two went head-to-head exchanging blows to win over the Iowa’s Republican base. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas came out on top in this battle, towering over a seemingly desperate Donald Trump. However, polls indicate Trump might still win the war for the early primary states.
The Texas senator’s citizenship has been in question lately, however this is more of an attempt to resurrect the birther movement than any real questioning of the Constitution. Let's not forget Trump was a major player in the birther movement against President Obama.
Section 1 of Article Two of the U.S. Constitution states:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
Cruz was a Canadian citizen born to an American mother and most interpretations would consider him “natural born.” However, there are some arguments against Cruz’s eligibility. The Constitution does not clearly define what natural born is.
Trump started using this against the Texas senator once he started gaining in early states, positioning himself as a heavyweight. However, to clear the air, the Fox Business moderators started the citizenship topic. This virtually cleared the stage; the only thing that mattered was Trump and Cruz.
“You know, back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there,” Cruz said referring to his Canadian birth. "There was nothing to this birther issue … Now, since September, the Constitution hasn't changed.”
When Trump was asked by a moderator why he was bringing up the citizenship issue now, Trump fired back with the kind of honesty we seldom get: “Because now he's going a little bit better [in polls]. No, I didn't care. Hey look, he never had a chance. Now, he's doing better. He's got probably a four- or five-percent chance.”
The Texas senator continued his fire against the real-estate giant, saying he “embodies New York values,” suggesting Iowa and New Hampshire voters should think twice about the billionaire’s roots.
“Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan,” Sen. Cruz said. He has also suggested Donald Trump is a New York liberal pretending to have conservative values.
Trump defended his hometown, reaching for a very cringe-worthy use of 9/11.
"We took a big hit with the World Trade Center — worst thing ever, worst attack ever in the United States, worse than Pearl Harbor because they attacked civilians," Trump said. "They attacked people having breakfast. And, frankly, if you would've been there, and if you would've lived through that like I did with New York people — the way they handled that attack was one of the most incredible things that anybody has ever seen."
While the bromance might be over going into Iowa, both candidates suggested they might pick the other one to be their vice president if they take the White House. Perhaps a Cruz/Trump is on the table for the future.
Sen. Rand Paul Goes Down Honorably
The Kentucky senator didn’t qualify for the main stage debate. However, he was invited to the undercard debate along with Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Rand Paul refused to be seen as a second-tier candidate and didn’t show up to the lesser debate only to share a stage with reject candidates.
Sen. Paul hasn’t dropped out, but you might have had a better chance of winning the Powerball than getting a President Rand Paul.
This didn’t stop Paul’s fangirls from showing up in the debate’s audience, chanting “WE WANT RAND!” in the middle of the main debate.
Instead, The Daily Show was kind enough to offer the senator his very own “Singles Night” debate. Host Trevor Noah and Sen. Paul drank bourbon for 20 minutes and talked policy.
You can read CityBeat’s profile of Sen. Rand Paul here.
Dr. Ben Carson Is Over
When asked his first question on Thursday night, Carson responded, "I was going to ask you to wake me up," which might have been funny if he wasn’t the candidate known for looking like he is sleeping all the time.
The famous neurosurgeon has been an oddity this entire race. I covered Carson’s visit to Cincinnati last year and even had the privilege of meeting him. However, something felt off about him.
I’m less referring to the man’s politics and more about his mode of thinking. His arguments are typically muddled, and myself and most others covering this election are commonly left scratching our heads wondering what exactly Carson is talking about.
His supporters at the rally weren’t attracted to any specific policies of Carson’s, but literally everyone I interviewed said the same thing: They liked that he wasn’t a politician.
Wanting someone who isn’t a politician is attractive, but sometimes you need a politician to do politician things: like make a good case for why they should be president. Donald Trump isn’t a politician, but he is an excellent communicator and doesn’t fall asleep during debate.
Carson’s campaign has been a disaster. He was a GOP star for part of the summer, but his own staff says he’s difficult to work with and the brain surgeon has had issues with senior-level staff leaving.
During the debate, Carson described an ominous string of threats and fantasized a doomsday scenario of terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb, eliminating our power grid, setting off dirty bombs and unleashing ground attacks in the streets.
While that sounds like a plot to a Michael Bay movie, that scenario is technically possible but sounds a little off-the-rails. Perhaps doomsday scenarios should be debated in the Pentagon, not a mainstream debate.
“The fact of the matter is, [Obama] doesn't realize that we now live in the 21st century, and that war is very different than it used to be before,” Carson said. “Not armies, massively marching on each other and air forces, but now we have dirty bombs and we have cyber attacks and we have people who will be attacking our electrical grid.”
Carson might have had his 15 minutes of fame, and his polling has been in free-fall since the Paris attacks. This candidate isn’t just weak on foreign affairs — he is quickly losing relevance and will fade into political obscurity.
Where is Sen. Marco Rubio?
Marco Rubio has virtually forgotten he is a senator of Florida and debate viewers may have forgotten he was a contender.
Rubio wasn’t talking policy and was largely overshadowed by the boxing match between Cruz and Trump. However, the junior senator tried to bring attention his way with attacking Obama.
“I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV. But I think we have to get back to what this election has to be about. OK? Listen, this is the greatest country in the history of mankind. But in 2008, we elected a president that didn’t want to fix America. He wants to change America. We elected a president that doesn’t believe in the Constitution. He undermines it. We elected a president that is weakening America on the global stage. We elected a president that doesn’t believe in the free enterprise system.”
As the debate came to its conclusion, Rubio engaged his competition on tax plans. As both Cruz and Rubio got lost in the weeds, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reminded the senators the topic was about entitlements.
Sen. Rubio said he would be happy to talk about entitlements.
“You already had your chance Marco,” Christie responded. “You blew it.”
The Florida senator had a quick rise in the fall, but has lost all of the polling support he gained. He is almost back where he was at the end of the summer coming in at a distant third with 12 percent average among national polling.
Last night’s sixth GOP presidential primary debate was crunch time for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is looking to bolster his chances in early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire in a last-ditch effort to keep his campaign viable. Reviews of his performance from pundits were mixed, though he did have a few good moments in which he was able to balance the quieter, more reserved performance we saw in the first few debates with the louder, more boisterous interruptions that marked his most-recent appearance on the debate stage. We’ll know more in the coming days how primary voters reacted to Kasich ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa primary and the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at a few claims Kasich made during the debate. You can follow along with the full debate transcript here.
1. “… I was in Washington when we had a balanced budget; had four years of balanced budgets; paid down a half-trillion of debt. And our economy was growing like crazy.”
He was there, but some experts say he can't take much of the credit for it.
Kasich was, in fact, in Congress from 1997 to 2001, the years when the budget was balanced under President Bill Clinton. Though Kasich was head of the House Budget Committee and thus can claim much credit for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, many economists argue that act actually did little to balance the budget. Budget deficits had been falling for years by that point, a consequence of massive economic growth that had already begun, coupled with tax increases in 1993 that Kasich opposed. Further, the act mostly set limits on the federal government’s discretionary spending that weren’t put into place anyway.
Even fiscally conservative economists concede this.
“We have a balanced budget today that is mostly a result of 1) an exceptionally strong economy that is creating gobs of new tax revenues, and 2) a shrinking military budget," libertarian economist Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute wrote then.
Kasich also argued during the debate that deficit reduction and economic growth "require tax cuts, because that sends a message to the job creators that things are headed the right way,” he said during last night’s debate. “...If you cut taxes for corporations, and you cut taxes for individuals, you’re going to make things move…”
Ironically, the surplus that came in the late 1990s would not have existed if House members like Kasich had gotten their way. Most, including Kasich, supported moves cutting taxes on corporations and high earners, legislation that Clinton vetoed. Those looking for such tax cuts would have to wait until the George W. Bush presidency, an era of big budget deficits, high unemployment and economic uncertainty. Despite this, Kasich still believes those kinds of tax cuts are the way to go and credits them with more economic benefits than history seems to show they deliver.
2. “Our wages are growing faster than the national average. We’re running surpluses. And we can take that message and that formula to Washington to lift every single American to a better life.”
“And now in Ohio, with the same formula, wages higher than the — than the national average. A growth of 385,000 jobs.”
Kasich likes to tout Ohio’s economic record. But throughout much of his tenure, the state’s economic growth has lagged behind other states. In 2015, for instance, wages in all but three of Ohio’s 88 counties were below the national average of $1,048, and 63 of those counties had wages below $800 a week. While Columbus, the state capital, recently made news because wages there were growing faster than anywhere else in the country, that's a unique situation and many other places in Ohio are seeing stagnating wages.
Kasich also likes to tout his record of job growth. But Ohio lags behind other states in job creation, currently ranking 31st out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and has been near the middle or below it for most of Kasich’s tenure. If Ohio has job growth, it's because the economy is trending better across the country. Some studies show that the state has yet to replace all the jobs it lost in the Great Recession and that wages still haven't recovered.
Finally, while the state is running surpluses, Kasich has been aided by that same national economic wind at his back and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money given to the state for its Medicaid expansion, education, transportation and other expenditures the state would have otherwise had to make. Kasich’s plan for the country? Cut deeply into those federal funds.
3. “I served on the Defense Committee for 18 years, and, by the way, one of the members of that committee was Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina.”
True, but there’s something you should know.
This calls less for a fact check than a needed historical note. Kasich did indeed serve on the House Defense Committee and worked with Sen. Strom Thurmond. He mentions this to play to the hometown crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, but in doing so, he associates himself with a very troubling character. Thurmond, who also served as governor in South Carolina, was one of the loudest opponents of integration in the South in the 1950s and 1960s. Thurmond delivered a record-breaking filibuster against Civil Rights legislation in 1957, though he maintained throughout his long career that he wasn’t racist and simply opposed federal control of state affairs. Despite those assertions, he was known to make racially charged statements, including these remarks during a 1948 run for president:
“On the question of social intermingling of the races, our people draw the line,” he said during a campaign speech. “The laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.''
4. “In terms of Saudi Arabia, look, my biggest problem with them is they’re funding radical clerics through their madrasses.”
This one is complicated. Kasich is fairly nuanced in his wording here, using the term “radical clerics” instead of simply saying Saudi Arabia is training terrorists or something more alarmist.
As a sovereign state, Saudi Arabia is officially opposed to ISIS and has jailed radical Islamists. But many have pointed out the Islamic theocracy’s ideological similarities to the Islamic State, citing the fact that the country is a place of origin for the Wahhabi belief system. Wahhabism is a sect of Islam that calls for very strict adherence to restrictive, fundamental interpretations of the Koran similar to ISIS. Wahhabism is taught in some Saudi schools, or Maddrasas. Some ISIS members are Wahhabi but not all Wahhabi are ISIS supporters.
Experts have mixed views on the role Saudis play in funding and encouraging ISIS, and there’s little consensus on how to approach America’s uneasy ally about its links to radical Islam.
5. “I’ve been for pausing on admitting the Syrian refugees. And the reasons why I’ve done is I don’t believe we have a good process of being able to vet them.”
The process is more exhaustive and effective than it is often portrayed to be.
Though Kasich's main point in this part of the debate was that we should seek moderation and bridge-building with allies in the Arab world, his assertion that there isn’t a good vetting process already in place for Syrian refugees isn’t accurate. The U.S. Department of State undertakes a process that lasts 18 months or longer to vet refugees. That process includes extensive background checks and admits mostly women and children anyway — not the young male conservatives like Kasich say are most likely to be radicalized terrorists streaming into the country.
6. “I believe in the PTT…”
A minor note, maybe a slip of the tongue, but it’s actually the TPP, or the Trans Pacific Partnership. It governs trade agreements between countries around the Pacific with a stated objective of working toward increasing American exports.
7. “Well, I created a task force well over a year ago and the purpose was to bring law enforcement, community people, clergy and the person that I named as one of the co-chair was a lady by the name of Nina Turner, a former State Senator, a liberal Democrat. She actually ran against one of my friends and our head of public safety.”
Mostly true, but there’s more.
It’s true that Kasich created a statewide task force made up of bipartisan lawmakers and community leaders and that the task force has made recommendations about ways to make incremental reform the justice system in Ohio. Those reforms include statewide use of force protocols for officers and increases in officer training.
The question is whether that’s a credit to Kasich that makes him a more appealing presidential choice or whether it was simply the very least he could do.
Many of those reforms recommended by the task force have yet to be implemented, and it’s unclear when they will be. Some of them also build on steps taken years before Kasich was governor, including Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement in the wake of its 2001 unrest. More, some activists would say the panel is weak for someone as powerful as Kasich, whose administration hasn’t stepped into controversial county grand jury cases like the one around the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Rice was shot in Cleveland while playing with a toy gun on a playground. Appeals were made to take that case out of the hands of Cuyahoga County Prosecutors, who work closely with the Cleveland Police Department. CPD has been heavily criticized by the Department of Justice for excessive use of force in the past, though it has not been held accountable by the prosecutor's office for those actions. Despite that, no action was taken by state officials in the Rice case. A grand jury decided not to indict officers in the boy’s death. Finally, the Kasich administration has done little to address the economic and social root causes of justice system inequalities, including pervasive poverty in black communities. Indeed, those communities lag far behind the Kasich's boasts bout job and wage gains.
• Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
• Ohio released the first part of its state report card Thursday, and so far not so good for Cincinnati Public Schools. CPS earned two Fs for its graduation rates and a D in kindergarten through third grade literacy. This is the second year in a row that CPS has earned an F for graduation. Officials say the even though the mark is still low, the overall trend indicates an increase in graduation rates, rising from 60.2 percent in 2010 to 71 percent listed on this year's report card. Results for schools across the entire Greater Cincinnati area were mixed, with schools located in Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties getting grades across the spectrum. But there's still time for CPS to hit the books and start cramming. State legislators like Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and chair of the Senate education committee warned parents not to take these marks too seriously as the state's full report card won't be released until 2018. For now, there are no consequences for the low marks.
• Good news for Avondale--it's getting a grocery store. The neighborhood, one of the most heavily populated in the city, has lacked access to fresh produce and is known as a food desert. But Missouri-based chain Sav-A-Lot has recently signed a deal to build a 15,000-square-foot store on the corner of Reading Road and Forest Avenue early this year as part of the redevelopment of Avondale Town Center. Boston-based real estate developer The Community Builders is in charge of developing the nine-acre plot and plans to demolish most of the remaining strip mall there and build a health clinic and laundromat along with the grocery store. This year could be an exciting one for Avondale as The Community Builders will be overseeing more development in the neighborhood in form of medical office space and apartments with some targeted at low-income families.
• Recently retired Campbell County Superintendent Glen Miller has been sentenced to a six-month program with anger management after pleading guilty to assaulting his wife last year. On September 23, Miller's daughter called Erlanger police saying he struck her mother. The then-superintendent claimed his wife's injuries were accidental, but the police report indicated that officers thought otherwise. Miller retired from his position a week later. The search for a new superintendent by the school board is ongoing.
• Former leader of the Lebanon Chamber of Commence Sara Arseneau has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $20,000 from the chamber by writing herself 13 additional paychecks from November 2012 to June 2015. She was charged with grand theft and tampering with evidence and will be sentenced on March 8.
• Ohio may take another shot at legalizing medicinal marijuana. House Speaker Cliff Rosenburger, a Republican, announced Thursday that Ohio House leaders are putting together a group to study medicinal marijuana. The group will include lawmakers, business leaders and law enforcement officials. Twenty-four states have legalized marijuana to some degree, most of them solely for medical purposes. The plant remains illegal under federal law. ResponsibleOhio, the group behind the last election's failed effort to legalize the plant in Ohio, also withdrew a proposal that would call for the review and expungement of criminal records for those with marijuana-related offenses if their offense is rendered legal by a change in the state's marijuana laws.
Good morning all. Here’s what I have today in terms of news.
Let’s start with Cincinnati City Council, where a lot of things went down yesterday.
Perhaps one of the more interesting moments yesterday involved a brief comment by Vice Mayor David Mann, who remarked on a recently-uncovered letter regarding police body cameras City Manager Harry Black penned to State Sens. Bill Sietz and Cecil Thomas back in November. That letter implored the lawmakers to work toward amending state laws governing that footage so that it would not be public record. The letter’s content drew rebuke from Mann, Mayor John Cranley and others on Council, who said it violated the spirit of the city’s 2001 collaborative agreement that rose from the police shooting death of unarmed teen Timothy Thomas and put the city at risk of another incident like the unrest and controversy that have recently gripped Chicago. Black apologized to Council and Cranley for the letter, stating that it was drawn up by a city lobbyist and that he did not read it as carefully as he should have. Mann has asked Black to send another letter to the senators stating that the city supports full transparency when it comes to body camera footage and that it should remain public record. The issue is especially relevant because Cincinnati police will soon launch widespread use of body cameras among officers. The July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose in Mount Auburn by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was captured on Tensing’s body cam, leading to murder charges for the officer.
• Also in Council news: It was one step forward, one step back for the long-running debate about a parking plan in Over-the-Rhine. Vice Mayor Mann reintroduced a plan calling for 450 of the 1,200 parking spots in the neighborhood to be permitted for residents. Most of those would go for $108 a year, but some would be set aside for low-income residents at a cost of $18 a year. Cranley vetoed that plan back in May, but Mann thought he had a sixth vote to break that veto in Councilman Charlie Winburn. Winburn approached Mann and signed a statement supporting the plan after visiting with OTR residents living on Republic Street late last year. However, Winburn balked yesterday, saying he would not go against the mayor and accusing Mann and others on Council of trying to trick him. Puzzlingly, Winburn said he thought he was signing a statement of support for parking permits restricted to residents of Republic Street. The plan again passed Council with five votes and was again promptly vetoed by Cranley. Winburn and Cranley revealed they have their own proposal in the works to offer low-income residents parking opportunities in the neighborhood.
• Cincinnati City Council yesterday also voted to commission a study on moving a series of famous mosaics that once occupied the now-demolished Union Terminal concourse to a location indoors and away from sunlight at the Cincinnati Convention Center. Currently, the 1933 Winold Reiss mosaics are at CVG Airport. But alas, the concourse they occupy is also about to be torn down. The city brokered a deal with the airport and Hamilton County to fund their $3 million move to the convention center, where the current plan is to display them in a glass-encased display on the west side of the building at an additional cost of $750,000. But some worry that exposure to sunlight through those windows could damage the artwork. There are also criticisms about the location, which is in a rarely-visited part of downtown near I-75. The study will determine costs associated with moving the murals indoors at the center.
• Low-income workers are losing ground in Cincinnati and other major cities, a new study from the Brookings Institute finds. The bottom 20 percent of wage earners in the city made just over $10,000 a year in 2014 — 3 percent less than they made the year before and a huge 25 percent less than they made in the years preceding the 2008 great recession. That’s created a big income gap in the city: The top 5 percent of earners in the city make nearly 16 times the bottom 20 percent of earners. Nationally, the gap is only 9 times greater for top earners. That makes Cincinnati the fourth-worst city in the country for wage inequity. These numbers come even as the economy continues to add jobs, suggesting that increasing employment alone won’t help working poor residents here and in other cities like Boston, where the gap is highest. New Orleans and Atlanta had the second and third highest gaps, respectively.
• Cincinnati’s Music Hall is a little bit closer to its fundraising goal for renovations currently being undertaken on the historic landmark. And by “a little bit” I mean $3 million closer after a donation from the estate of the late Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett. That’s a lot of money, but also a small piece of the renovation’s $129 million overall price tag. The gift will go toward maintaining Corbett Tower, a banquet hall on the building’s third floor. So far, fundraisers for the renovation effort have received a $10 million from the city, $25 million in Ohio historic conservation tax credits, and millions in private philanthropic dollars. Restoration is currently underway, and is expected to kick into high gear in June, when the building will close entirely until fall 2017.
• Finally, for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, tonight is the night. It’s the sixth GOP presidential primary debate. We’re just a few weeks out from the make-or-break early primaries that could sink the GOP presidential hopeful’s campaign or give him a boost into the big leagues. I picture a Kasich training montage right now, with him in some weird sweatpants and sweatshirt combo jumping rope, shadow boxing, running up some stairs somewhere in South Carolina pre-debate and listening to “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat. He’ll need a strong performance against frontrunner Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been rising in the polls of late. Kasich has had his own rise recently as well, of course, tying with Cruz for second in many polls of GOP voters in New Hampshire. Kasich has set his sights on that early primary state, which goes to the polls Feb. 9, as his big proving ground. But he’ll need to do well tonight to do well there, and so the pressure is on.
Hey hey all. Here’s what’s happening in Cincinnati and elsewhere today.
It’ll be a busy couple days at City Hall. Cincinnati City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee has a special meeting scheduled at noon to discuss the city’s tax budget, which has been a point of contention between some members of Council and Mayor John Cranley. Last week, Cranley vetoed the tax budget Council passed because of the millage rate on property taxes Council approved. Cranley called the proposed 5.6-mill rate a “tax hike.” Even though the millage rate is the same as last year’s, it is projected to bring in more tax dollars for the city. That violates an ordinance the city has had in effect since the late 1990s that keeps the property tax collections at $28.9 million a year. You can read all about that argument here. Cranley has also called special Council sessions for Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue.
• Council today will also vote on a proposed Over-the-Rhine parking plan that would allow the city to issue residential permits for parking in the neighborhood. That subject, which would set aside metered spots, residential spots and spots for workers, has also been contentious. You can read the details and the history of the plan here.
• Former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken could soon take the reins of the city’s economic development agency. Luken has been tapped as the new head of the 10-member joint city/county board that runs the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Agency. That board is expected to vote today on his appointment, which it looks likely to approve. Luken is a close ally, even a mentor, to Mayor John Cranley, and his appointment could make relations much cozier between the agency and city administration. When he was mayor, Luken was instrumental in starting the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, which has spent more than $1 billion redeveloping Over-the-Rhine and downtown since it was founded in 2003.
• A tragic Cincinnati shooting is making national headlines today. Yesterday morning, a father in Price Hill mistakenly shot his son in the family’s basement. The son had returned home from waiting for the bus, and his father, thinking he was at school, thought an intruder was in the home. He then panicked and shot the 14-year-old in the neck. The son later died at Children’s Hospital. Cincinnati Police say the father is cooperating with their investigation. No charges have been filed at this point.
• So we all know that Saturday’s Bengals loss was painful, that certain behavior by a small percentage of fans and, yes, players as well, was somewhat embarrassing and that we’d love to put the whole thing behind us. But… will the rest of the country forget? Or has Cincinnati again embarrassed itself on the national stage? Have we added to the bad sports-related impressions and memories people have of Cincinnati, including Crosstown Shootout brawls, Marge Schott, the errant gambling of Pete Rose and on and on? Thankfully, most experts say no. They argue that goodwill generated by Cincinnati’s sterling MLB All-Star Game turn, as well as a general hype around the city’s energy and upswing outweigh any momentary negative associations a few rowdy fans or players may have caused. Let’s hope.
• Plaintiffs suing the Internal Revenue Service over delays in granting conservative groups nonprofit status can now file a class-action lawsuit together. The alleged delays came out of the IRS’ office in downtown Cincinnati, which handles nonprofit tax documents. Tea party groups from across the country allege that the tax agency was deliberately targeting them when it stalled on granting them tax-exempt status. IRS officials and the Obama administration say that the delay was caused by questions around rules prohibiting political groups from getting tax exemption. They point to liberal groups that also received extra scrutiny. In October, investigators announced that no criminal charges would be filed against IRS workers or officials in the case. The recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott allowing class action status pertains to a separate civil suit filed three years ago by the NorCal Tea Party Patriots.
• Mystery solved. Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a tea party favorite from Ohio, is the person who gave a ticket to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to controversial Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Speculation had been floating around about who gave Davis the invite during the days leading up to yesterday’s big annual speech. Davis is best known as the Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended same-sex marriage rights to couples across the country. Davis spent a brief time in jail for her refusal to follow a court order to resume issuing the licenses. She attended the speech to serve as a "visible reminder of religious liberty," according to a spokesperson.
• In that speech, his final as president, Obama extolled the virtues of progress, tweaking somewhat those who have stood in the way of same-sex marriage rights, rights for immigrants and refugees, efforts to raise the minimum wage and fight climate change, among other agendas Obama has tried to advance during his time in office. But the tone of the speech was decidedly non-combative and seemed most aimed at setting the stage for the president’s legacy and future efforts by the Democratic Party.
Obama structured the talk around four points: Increasing economic opportunity, harnessing technology, defining America’s role in the world as it relates to security and moving on from the divisiveness of contemporary American politics toward something more positive. As you might expect, Obama touted the country’s economic recovery, calling America “the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” Conservatives have, of course, taken issue with that, given that economics will likely play a large role in the coming presidential election. They point out low workforce participation rates and the number of people on government assistance where Obama cites new job creation.
Obama also cited policy victories in terms of health care and education, basically going down the list of his policy actions during his time in office and outlining optimistic if vague ways they could be expanded over the coming years.
Though the future was the explicit theme of the speech, it was hard not to hear it as a summation of Obama’s time in office and, by extension, of the tumultuous times the Obama presidency has overseen. Surprising omissions to this zeitgeist-citing, however, were the president’s only passing nods to recent struggles with racial and justice system issues, which have dominated headlines and social media chatter for well over a year and a half now. Despite this and several other omissions, however, the president’s speech is as good a prelude to the coming year as you’re likely to find. As a kind of goodbye, it’s also the note — along with coming primary elections — that will start the 2016 elections in earnest. Hope you’re ready for that.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the news today.
Cincinnati Public Schools will open a new school for talented and gifted students on the city’s West Side, officials have announced. The Cincinnati Gifted Academy, CPS’ other talented and gifted school, has been incredibly popular, generating waiting lists for students hoping to attend its Hyde Park campus. Now, the district will open another campus on Harrison Avenue. The elementary schools teach advanced classes in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, along with other specialty courses like Latin.
• Hamilton County Sheriff deputies will get body cameras by spring after Sheriff Jim Neil presented county commissioners with a plan to bring the devices to the department this week. The $1.3 million, five-year deal between the county and Taser International would include 230 body cameras, cloud storage for the data recorded by them and Tasers for the department. That last bit sweetens the deal for the county considerably, officials say — the department was faced with replacing its current supply of Tasers in the next year at a cost of $1.6 million. Neil says the measure is a way to increase transparency in the department, which does not currently use body or dashboard cameras.
• Speaking of the sheriff’s office, a Republican contender to challenge Neil in the November election will be able to stay on the county's primary ballot despite questions about the paperwork he filed for the election. The Hamilton County Board of Elections voted 4-0 yesterday to allow candidate Gary Lee to appear on the March primary ballot against Rich Vande Ryt. A Ryt supporter challenged Lee’s election filings, saying that he didn’t fill out all the necessary background check paperwork. The BOE, however, concluded that Lee had filed enough of the paperwork to qualify for the primary. The winner of that primary will face off against incumbent Neil in the general election this year.
• A pending U.S. Supreme Court decision could have big implications for Ohio unions, effectively turning the state into a right-to-work state. The court is considering arguments in a case out of California about compulsory union dues. If it decides unions are not allowed to require workers to pay so-called “fair share” dues in workplaces with collective bargaining, it could mean a huge loss of cohesiveness and clout for organized labor. In Ohio, that could mean the court undoing part of a decision made by Ohio voters in a 2011 referendum overturning SB5, a law that restricted public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Supporters of so-called “right to work” laws say they’re only fair for employees of union shops who don’t want to join up with organized labor. Opponents, however, say it will incentivize people to quit paying their dues, enjoying the benefits of collective bargaining without supporting it financially.
• Don’t look now, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich is rebounding in New Hampshire, a make-or-break state for the Republican presidential primary hopeful. Kasich is tied for second there behind Donald Trump, who has a commanding lead over the rest of the field. But Kasich’s second-place slot is an achievement in and of itself: It was not long ago that the big queso was running seventh. It’s a big deal for Kasich because both his campaign and the Republican party have identified the early primary state as a final chance for the veteran politician to prove himself viable as a primary contender. Meanwhile, his swing upward in the polls has secured Kasich a spot at the next GOP primary debate main stage, a lifeline for his candidacy. As recently as last week, there were questions about whether Kasich would make it to the main event, where participants are decided by their standing in the polls.
• Finally, President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address is tonight, and history-making Cincinnati resident Jim Obergefell will have a front-row seat. Obergefell is the Over-the-Rhine resident who is named in the case the Supreme Court heard when extending same-sex marriage rights across the country. Obergefell married John Arthur, his partner of 20 years, in 2013 as the latter was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He sued Ohio over the right to be listed as Arthur’s spouse on his death certificate, challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The Supreme Court found that ban, and similar bans in other states, unconstitutional. Obergefell will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama and about 20 other White House guests at Obama’s address.
Good morning Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines to get your minds off the Bengals for a few minutes.
What does development have in store for Cincinnati this year? The Enquirer has listed 10 of the bigger projects that could kick off in 2016. Some of the projects including the expansion of the Findlay Market district, the creation of a financial district around Lytle Park and the REACH project, which will continue to renovate homes for single families in Evanston. Some of these projects appear to have lengths to go, like northern Kentucky's Ovation project, the $1 billion plan to develop its riverfront property, and not all projects pulled through last year, so whether some will get off the ground is yet to be seen.
• A Texas-based company is planning to put more than $100 million in renovations into the three-building complex at Fourth and Walnut Centre. NewcrestImage LLC recently bought the complex downtown and plans to turn the buildings into up to three hotels with room for office space, retail and restaurants. CEO Mehul Patel says he aims to go high-end to attract a major hotel brand like Hilton or Hyatt. Patel hopes to put other fancy establishments to the complex like a "celebrity chef restaurant,' fitness center and a grocery store.
• Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman has endorsed GOP presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president. Portman originally said last summer he was planning to stay out of the race and is close to Bush family, having worked in under George H. W. Bush during his time as president. It is still unclear why the Republican Senator choose to endorse Kasich over Jeb Bush, although it's possible the connection could give both a fundraising boost as Portman runs for Senate re-election this year, most likely against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland.
• Cincinnati's Preschool Promise will hold a Town Hall meeting in Avondale 6 p.m. tonight at the Church of the Living God. Anyone interesting in learning more about the group's initiative to hatch a plan to make two years of quality preschool for every Cincinnati child affordable and get it on next year's ballot is welcome to come and ask questions.
• It was a bitter cold this morning as Cincinnatians learned of the death of rock star and icon David Bowie. The cold spell will continue, as will our mourning, with up to two inches of snow and below freezing temperatures predicted for tonight and for tomorrow morning's commute, so stay warm out there!
Mayor John Cranley today vetoed a tax budget passed by Cincinnati City Council Jan. 6.
That budget set the rate for property taxes in the city at 5.6 mills. Though the rate is the same as last year's, it could bring in more property tax revenue this year due to new development and other economic activity, violating a policy passed more than 15 years ago that requires the city to hold the amount of property taxes it collects at a preset level. However, there is some uncertainty about how much the rate would actually collect due to the number of tax abatements and special tax districts the city has given to developers in the past year.
In a statement released today, Cranley called the tax budget Council passed a "tax hike."
"In November, Cincinnati voters sent an unambiguous message that they oppose having their property taxes raised," Cranley said in the statement, referring to the decisive defeat of a ballot initiative he spearheaded aimed at funding major parks projects in the city through a property tax increase. "It is a message that I heard loudly and clearly, and it is a message that I have a duty to heed."
In some ways, the issue around the tax rate springs from the unusual way in which the city collects property taxes, which this Cincinnati Business Courier story explores. A boost in the amount of tax revenues the city collects would violate the aim of Cincinnati's property tax rollback, passed amid pressure from conservative groups in 1999. The measure stipulates that the city must collect the same dollar amount of property taxes each year — $28.9 million — regardless of inflation or other changes. As inflation inches up, that means the city is actually collecting less property tax each year. No other major Ohio city has a similar measure.
Critics say that has unnecessarily constrained the city's budget and made it more difficult to provide basic services for a now-growing (if only slightly) population. But proponents say it has saved taxpayers money. Some on City Council, including Vice Mayor David Mann, have suggested reevaluating the policy.
Mann blasted Cranley's veto today.
Since its passage, the rollback has meant nearly $95 million less going into the city's coffers. While that saves average homeowners some cash, the biggest benefit goes to larger, commercial property owners with higher land values, many of whom have also received large tax abatements from the city in recent years.
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes projected a .71 percent increase in property tax receipts to by the city this year and proposed a 5.52 mill rate. None of that boost comes from higher appraisal values. The last property tax appraisal happened in 2011, with an update in 2014. The next reappraisal of property values won't start until 2017.
But some on Cincinnati City Council say that doesn't take into account those tax abatements and tax increment financing districts many new developments and property improvements in the city received. Thus, setting the millage at 5.52 could cause the city to undershoot its $28.9 million goal.
Last year, the 5.6 mill rate brought in about $29.4 million.
A mill is 1/1000th of a dollar. Property taxes are calculated by taking the assessed value of a home (which is 35 percent of the home's market value), multiplying it by the millage rate, and factoring in any exemptions or abatements. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $196 in property taxes next year under the 5.6 mill rate and $193.20 under the 5.52 rate.
Overall, the higher rate will bring in a few hundred thousand dollars more next year. What is as yet unknown is what that exact number will be.
Council passed the budget 6-3, enough votes to override the mayor's veto. Council independent Christopher Smitherman and Republicans Amy Murray and Wendell Young voted against it. Charterite Kevin Flynn voted for the measure, citing the question of abatements, but is generally against tax increases and could swing back.
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said that in trying fiscal times, the city would be better off setting the rate slightly higher so it doesn't end up with a hole in its budget, citing a Cincinnati City Administration-forecast $14 million gap between expenditures and tax revenues next year.
Other Democrats on Council echoed that sentiment and challenged the notion that the tax budget they passed represented a "stealth tax increase." Councilman Chris Seelbach took to social media to dispute that characterization, which was echoed by a headline in The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Good morning all. Here’s your news for this morning.
First, let's go to something we’ve been talking about here at CityBeat HQ for a little bit now: Who might oppose Mayor John Cranley in 2017? One of the top names on a lot of people's lips (and someone we’ve speculated might launch a campaign) over the past few months has been Democrat Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. This is kind of a non-news story, but Simpson has said she hasn’t ruled out that possibility. She gave the standard “I’m still focused on my current job” answer when asked by The Cincinnati Enquirer about the possibility but also said she would consider running against her fellow Democrat. Simpson and Cranley have vastly different styles and, at times, very different policy ideas. The two have butted heads often in Council, including over provisions for human services funding in the city’s budget process and former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell’s firing last year.
• It’s official: The Hamilton County GOP has tapped Dennis Deters to fill the Hamilton County Commission seat vacated by outgoing commission head Greg Hartmann. The move has been widely expected since Deters, brother to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, filed to run for that slot in the 2016 election. The county GOP named Deters as a temporary fill-in after Hartmann abruptly announced he would not seek reelection and then that he would step down early. The temporary gig gives Deters a better chance at landing the full-time job: He’ll have almost a year of incumbency when he faces off against Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus, who looks to be a formidable opponent.
• Well, how do you like that? This is the third day in a row I’ve written a blurb about Ken Griffey, Jr., who will be wearing a Seattle Mariners hat in his Hall of Fame plaque. Yes, yes, he spent more of his professional years there, I guess. And scored way more home runs and by every other statistic had his best years there. But come on. Dude went to high school in Cincinnati and played for years with the Reds — as did his dad Ken Griffey, Sr. The Griffey name is a Cincinnati name. Wait, his dad played for the Mariners, too? Ugh. Fine. Take him, Seattle. We have a bunch of Hall of Famers of our own, and we invented professional baseball anyway.
• So, extending the theme of surprisingly famous Cincinnatians I’ve drawn out over the past few days, let’s get one more in there before the weekend. Did you know that a Cincy attorney made the cover of the New York Times Magazine recently? And that Rob Bilot, who works for a law firm usually tasked with defending big corporations, is on that cover for aggressively pursuing one of the world’s largest, DuPont, over environmental damage its caused in West Virginia? The story is a very good read and worth a look.
• Here’s something kind of unusual: the Ohio Republican Party has voted to endorse Gov. John Kasich’s bid in the GOP presidential primary. That may seem like a no-brainer — Kasich is governor of the state, after all, and one of the state party’s most powerful members — but state-level parties usually stay neutral in primaries so they can support party voters’ choice of candidate better in the general election. Party officials say they’ve made the move because Kasich is popular in the state and has a strong conservative record. The nod could be a big boost for Kasich: Republicans desperately need Ohio to win the presidential election.
• Finally, this is the same story nearly every month, but here it is again: the U.S. economy added nearly 300,000 jobs in December. Things are going pretty well, employment level-wise, unless you’re a miner, in which case things are probably not going so well on a number of levels. Mining jobs were one of the few categories that saw losses. But it’s not all good news. Like past positive job gains, this one comes with the caveat that wages remain flat for U.S. workers. There were zero wage gains in the month of December, and pay for employees across the country rose just 2.5 percent in 2015 overall.
Annnnd I’m out. E-mail or tweet me story tips or the best gear/tricks for cold-weather bicycling. Also, give me a shout if you have thoughts about the Netflix docu-drama Making a Murderer. I have so many half-baked thoughts about that show.
Good morning all. Here’s a very brief rundown of some big stories in the news today.
As we told you about yesterday, a law enforcement roundtable convened by Mayor John Cranley met in Bond Hill to discuss ways to reduce violence, especially gun violence, in Cincinnati neighborhoods. There were a few key takeaways from community leaders like Rev. Damon Lynch, Ozie Davis III, State Sen. Cecil Thomas and others. Some stressed the need to build off the city’s historic 2001 collaborative agreement, which sets community policing expectations and police accountability measures. Others pushed for juvenile justice reform, citing huge racial disparities in juvenile warrants issued by Hamilton County. Poverty was also highlighted as a key issue. There will be five community discussions around the issue of neighborhood violence throughout January and February.
• Yesterday, Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame with a record-setting percentage of voter in the process giving him the nod. Griffey received 99.3 percent of the votes from those responsible for choosing inductees, the highest of any player ever.
• Local beer purveyor MadTree brewery is expanding, moving into an $18 million brewery and taproom it is constructing in Oakley. That brewery will be at the old RockTenn Co. paper mill on Madison Road. On top of the 4,500-square-foot bar, they’ll also have a pizza restaurant on site. Omg. I wonder if they’ll let me live there.
• By now, you’ve probably heard of the militiamen who have taken over a wildlife refuge in Oregon in protest of the federal government and two ranchers who have been imprisoned for arson. But did you know there’s a Cincinnatian among the two dozen or so armed men involved in the standoff? Pete Santilli hosts a conservative online radio show here. Well, usually he does. These days he’s hunkered down with the group in Oregon and acting as a sort of spokesman for them. He recently posted a nearly hour-and-a-half-long video of the scene at the wildlife refuge. Cincinnati always finds its way into national news somehow, I guess.
• More Cincinnatians in national news: Bill Sloat, a Hamilton County resident, former newspaper reporter (including freelance for CityBeat), has asked the Hamilton County Board of Elections to verify that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is eligible to run for president. The constitution stipulates that presidents must be naturalized U.S. citizens. Cruz was born in Canada, though his parents were citizens of the U.S. at the time, giving Cruz dual citizenship. Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship before announcing he was running for president. But Sloat, who says he thinks Cruz probably is qualified to run for the top job, has asked Hamilton County to wade into the question before it puts him on the March 15 GOP primary ballot.
• Finally, well, there’s no good way to say this, so let’s just come out with it. Schools in Ohio plummeted in national rankings last year, going from fifth in the country to 23rd. Driving a lot of that drop? The state’s skyrocketing achievement gap between rich and poor students. Ohio ranks 43rd in the nation by that measure. Massachusetts ranked highest in the country in the rankings. Nevada was last.