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by German Lopez 08.02.2012
Posted In: News, Governor, Government, Education at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stanheffner

State Superintendent Abused Position

Inspector General finds misuse of state resources, conflict of interest

Another day, another corrupt politician. Ohio's Inspector General released a report today stating that Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner was found to be in a conflict of interest when he testified to a legislative committee in favor of increased educator testing.

Heffner had secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS) prior to the testimony. ETS is a Texas-based company that provides testing services to schools. The report found the bill Heffner testified for "ultimately did benefit" ETS.

In other words, Heffner, as the head of the Department of Education, testified in front of the Ohio legislature to secure a deal that benefited a company he was working for.

As if that wasn't enough, the investigation also found that Heffner was using state resources to negotiate his employment with ETS. According to the report, Heffner told John Oswald, vice president of K-12 Assessment Solutions for ETS, to contact him through his office email and state-issued cell phone.

So not only did Heffner testify in the Ohio legislature to benefit ETS, he also used taxpayer resources for employment negotiations with ETS.

The offices of Gov. John Kasich did not seem pleased with the development.

“He is doing a very good job as superintendent, but using official resources the way he did and demonstrating that kind of bad judgment is unacceptable," says Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Kasich. "The governor is confident that the State Board of Education understands that and will take the right steps.”

Debe Terhar, president of the State Board of Education of Ohio, released a statement in reaction to the investigation.

“I appreciate the Inspector General’s thorough report and am disturbed by its findings," Tehrar said. "State Superintendent Stan Heffner is a dedicated educator who is committed to the education reforms Ohio needs for our children, but in this matter he demonstrated a woeful lack of judgment."

In a different statement, Heffner apologized for his "lack of judgment."

The State Board of Education will discuss the results of the investigation in its scheduled Sept. 10 and 11 meetings.

 
 
by 07.07.2011
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Protests, Religion, Human Rights at 11:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Westboro Comes to Town

A small group of protestors from the controversial “God hates fags” church in Kansas marched outside downtown's Duke Energy Convention Center this morning to oppose another religious group holding its nationwide meeting there.

The group from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., picketed the North American Christian Convention, the annual meeting of churches, colleges, institutions and missions programs associated with the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ organization. About 10,000 people are expected to attend.

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by 12.22.2011
Posted In: News, Business at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
chiquita

Why Chiquita Left

Chiquita Brands International decided to move its headquarters from Cincinnati primarily due to logistical reasons involving limited flights at the region's airport, said CEO Fernando Aguirre in a recent interview.

The company first considered moving its headquarters five years ago, he added.

Aguirre's comments are from an interview he gave to the Charlotte Business Journal, a sister newspaper to Cincinnati's Business Courier.

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by Danny Cross 09.20.2012
 
 
anna louise inn

Anna Louise Inn Wins Zoning Appeal

Western & Southern expected to appeal something else next week

In the ongoing saga of Western & Southern vs. the Anna Louise Inn, there have been several court cases and zoning rulings, most of which have been appealed by one side or the other. Today it was the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals’ turn to rule on something that’s already been ruled on, and it went in favor of the Anna Louise Inn. 

The Board upheld a certificate of appropriateness for the Anna Louise Inn’s planned renovation, which essentially also upholds the Historic Conservation Board’s right to issue a conditional use permit — at least for now. Western & Southern is expected to appeal that permit, granted by the Conservation Board Aug. 27, before its 30-day window to do so expires. 

Before this series of appeals can play out, the 1st District Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Anna Louise Inn’s appeal of Judge Norbert Nadel’s May 27 ruling, which set in motion the Inn’s attempts to secure zoning approval from the Historical Conservation Board in the first place. 

(All of this could have been avoided if Western & Southern would have purchased the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance. CityBeat previously reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Inn and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood here.)

About 40 people attended today’s hearing, including City Councilman Wendell Young, who said he supports the Anna Louise Inn but was not there to testify on its behalf. 

By upholding the certificate of appropriateness, the ruling keeps alive a conditional use permit that could allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a $13 million renovation of its historic building, once the expected appeals process plays out. (CityBeat covered the Aug. 27 Historical Conservation Board hearing here.)

The Board heard brief arguments from lawyers for both Western & Southern and Cincinnati Union Bethel and then entered executive session for about 15 minutes before ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn. 

Western & Southern lawyer Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett and a member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, told CityBeat after the meeting that he disagreed with the board’s finding because a designed expansion of the building’s fifth floor has not yet had its use approved. 

“With this case, the Historical Conservation Board is basically approving for the certificate of appropriateness the design of the building,” Barrett said. “But the design included an expansion of the fifth floor, and until that use issue is resolved the code reads, in my opinion, you can’t approve the design because the use hasn’t been approved.”

Barrett during the hearing read a written statement to the board arguing two main points: that the Historic Conservation Board didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the certificate of appropriateness; and even if it did, Barrett argued, the physical expansion planned makes it a non-conforming use which wouldn’t qualify for the building permit. 

Cincinnati Union Bethel attorney Tim Burke told the Board that the Anna Louise Inn is not seeking a permit for non-conforming use because it already received a conditional use permit from the Historic Conservation Board. 

“Western & Southern is doing everything it can to block this renovation from happening,” Burke told the Board.

At the Historic Conservation Board hearing last month Western & Southern tried paint a picture of the Anna Louise Inn’s residents contributing to crime in the area because a condition of the conditional use permit is that the building’s use will not be detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property values in the neighborhood. But the Board granted the permit, stating that the Anna Louise Inn will not be detrimental to public health and safety or harmful to nearby properties in the neighborhood and that the Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood. Western & Southern has until next week to appeal that ruling.

 
 
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 10.23.2008
Posted In: 2008 Election, News at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

ACLU, Others Blast Voting Probe

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and several voting rights groups are asking that a special prosecutor drop his investigation into vague, unspecified allegations of voter registration fraud. If the probe isn’t ended, the groups hint that they may file a lawsuit against the Prosecutor’s Office.

This week’s issue of CityBeat features a Porkopolis column detailing the investigation, which was launched by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Deters also is Sen. John McCain’s Southwest Ohio campaign chairman, and many people have viewed Deters’ action as a partisan tactic designed to suppress the surge in new voters on the Democratic side.

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by German Lopez 06.28.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Budget at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding

Cincinnati Public Schools getting $15 million less than it did in 2009

Compared to the previous budget, the two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly Thursday increased school funding by $700 million. But the funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools received in 2009.

The result: Cincinnati Public Schools will receive $15 million less in state funding than it did in 2009, joining three in four school districts who have a net loss to funding between 2009 and 2015.

Still, Republicans are calling the funding boost the largest increase to education spending in more than 10 years.

“No school district in the state of Ohio will receive less funding than current levels,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans. “Eighty percent of Ohio’s students … are in one of the school districts that is receiving an increase.”

Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says the claim is dishonest because it ignores longer-term trends in funding.

“It’s like they cut off both of your legs, give you back one of them and say, 'You should thank us,'” he says.

Republicans defend the cuts by citing an $8 billion deficit in 2011, which had to be eliminated under state law. Some of the cuts from that previous budget directly impacted school funding, but the decreases also eliminated subsidies that previously benefited schools, such as tangible personal property reimbursements.

Dyer says the state budget situation has changed since then. Instead of focusing on tax cuts, he argues state legislators should have prioritized education funding.

Another problem, according to Dyer, is how the increased funding is distributed. Although Dyer acknowledges the plan is more equitable than the governor’s original proposal, he says some of the most impoverished schools districts, particularly the poor and rural, will get the smallest increases.

Even if there was full equity, Dyer claims there’s not enough money going into education as a result of years of cuts. To illustrate his point, he gives an example: “If I’m going to go see Superman with three of my friends and it costs $10 each to get in, I’ve got $36 and I give everybody $9, none of us are getting in. Even though I perfectly distributed the money equally, … the fact is none of us are getting in.”

The budget’s tax changes could also impact future local funding to schools. As part of the changes, the state will not subsidize 12.5 percent of future property tax levies — something the state does for current levies. For local taxpayers, that means new school levies will be 12.5 percent more expensive.

That, Dyer argues, will make it more difficult to pass future school levies, and that could force schools to ask for less money if they want levies to get voter approval.

“The legislature and legislators are doing a real disservice to people to tell everybody that they’re getting an increase and no one is getting cut,” Dyer says. “They need to be honest with people.”

The budget also increases funding to “school choice” options, including the addition of 2,000 vouchers for private schooling that will be available to kindergarten students in households making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Republicans argue the vouchers give lower-income children access to schools and options in education that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

But a January report from Policy Matters Ohio found the extra mobility enabled by school choice options hurts student performance and strains teachers and staff by forcing them to more often accommodate new students.

The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it this weekend.

Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy
State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
 
 
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 02.20.2009
Posted In: Media, News at 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 

Enquirer Reorganizes Staff

Some might call it a savvy reinvention to compete in the digital age, and others would say it just amounts to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

In a continuing effort to refocus its dwindling resources on the Internet and away from the print edition, The Cincinnati Enquirer is restructuring its news-gathering operation and giving new assignments to key staffers.

Read More

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

State Grant Helps LGBT Homeless Youth

Cincinnati organization gets grant money to combat homelessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

 

 

 
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