Cincinnati officials today released an updated list of City Hall employees who have unpaid parking tickets, and the list includes members of the Police and Fire departments.
A total of 311 municipal employees have delinquent parking tickets, totaling $30,662 in unpaid fines, as of May 4th. That amounts to about 0.25 percent of the total amount of delinquent tickets, said a city spokeswoman.
Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.
The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”
“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.
“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”
Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.
Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.
“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.
The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.
“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”
The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.
The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.
In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.
The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.
It’s official: Cincinnati’s budget proposal will arrive Nov. 26. The budget will seek to close a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million. Part of the budget plan was revealed when the city manager’s office suggested privatizing parking.
Despite the deficit the city is facing, City Council pushed forward a $21,000 raise and a one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney in a 6-3 vote. It’s the first raise Dohoney is getting since 2007, but some are unhappy with the decision in light of the deficit, which could lead to job cuts. “The city manager is a good man, he is a hard worker, but to me this just feels out of touch with the economic reality that we are in right now,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told Fox 19. “You don't give the highest paid employee in the city a raise, a significant raise, when you're facing a potentially huge budget deficit. Plus, you know, there's a very real possibility of layoffs.”
Ohio Republicans are pushing forward with HB 298, a bill that cuts funds to Planned Parenthood. The organization has become a popular target for Republicans because it provides abortions, but abortion services only make up 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood offers. The move is just one of many recent moves in the Republican agenda against abortion rights. They recently advocated renewing the heartbeat bill, and Gov. John Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government positions.
The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill that will put large-scale puppy mills under more scrutiny with new state standards and yearly inspections. Animal rights activists have argued Ohio has become a haven for bad breeding practices due to lax laws and regulations. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mills issue and how it enables Ohio’s dog auctions.
But that’s not all the Ohio legislature got done. The Ohio House passed a bill that further regulates “pill mills” — doctors, pharmacies or clinics that distribute narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons — and a bill that cracks down on “cyber stalking.” The Ohio Senate passed a bill that essentially lowers taxes for companies that increase payroll by 10 percent.
A new study highlighted the success of some Ohio schools, including Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati. The research found the schools succeeded despite high poverty and tight budgets. The study indicated some key attributes of success: principals play pivotal roles, teachers and administrators are obviously engaged and invested, school leaders provide major incentives to teachers, data is used to measure progress and teachers and administrators do not see a lack of parent or community engagement as an insurmountable barrier to success. The report also made some recommendations: establish clear transitional protocols in case a principal leaves, engage teachers, hire teachers that are on-board with the school’s goals, leverage great reputations and celebrate success.
Hamilton County could issue securities to raise revenue. County commissioners are currently working on ways to close a $20 million deficit. The securities idea comes from Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the Board of Commissioners.
The investigation into U Square worker payments is ongoing. A City Council committee wants to see if the workers are being paid what they are supposed to be paid. Under Ohio law, workers on city-funded projects must get a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. But City Solicitor John Curp argues developers do not have to pay prevailing wages for parts of the project that aren’t getting public funding. City Manager Dohoney also argued that overzealous requirements could drive businesses out of Cincinnati.
Despite the pleas of more than 500,000, it does not look like Cincinnati-based Macy’s will dump Donald Trump. The billionaire has gained recognition as a big-name Republican and “birther” — someone who ignores all facts to call into question President Barack Obama’s country of origin. Brian Williams, news anchor at NBC News, described Trump aptly during election night: “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading a new efforts to stop the use of synthetic drugs, including bath salts.
To fill a vacancy, a new interim chair has been named at the Ohio Board of Regents: Regent Vinny Gupta. He will be replacing James Tuschman, who successfully pushed a ban on smoking in Ohio’s college campuses. Gupta’s term will run through March 2013.
Meet the loneliest planet of them all. It’s an orphan that drifted away from its parent star.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus held a conference call with Ohio reporters Wednesday morning in response to Tuesday comments by Democratic Vice President Joe Biden that the middle class had been “buried” in the last four years.
“Obama and Biden have buried the middle class, and now they want to bury them some more,” Priebus told reporters.
“I mean, just imagine what Barack Obama would do. He buried us economically in this country knowing that he would have to face re-election. Just imagine what he would do with nothing but daylight in front of him. Just imagine where this economy would go.”
Biden made his comments before an audience of about 1,000 in Charlotte on Tuesday. He said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax cuts for millionaires would raise taxes for the middle class.
“How can they justify raising classes on a middle class that has been buried the last four years?” Biden said.
Biden tried to clarify that he meant they had been buried by policies supported by Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.
Republicans, however, jumped on the comment immediately, with Romney tweeting, “the middle class has been buried the last 4 years, which is why we need a change in November.”
Priebus said despite polling showing Obama pulling ahead of Romney in Ohio that the state would be very close. He said Republicans have a better ground game and would “crush” Democrats.
“I think we’re going to crush the Democrats on the ground,” Priebus said.
“I just don’t think they’ve got a very good ground game. I’ve looked through it, I’ve seen it. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”
Priebus said if Romney were to lose Ohio, he was still optimistic about Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
“We’ve got it all on the table. Ohio is, of course, extremely important. It’s nothing new, but I also see avenues to 270 (electoral votes) opening up for Mitt Romney in places that weren’t there in ’08.”
Financial giant and Lytle Park bully Western & Southern has accused city officials and other Anna Louise Inn advocates of repeatedly deceiving the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to obtain federal funds for the long-awaited, $13 million renovations to the Inn.
Those renovations are the same ones that have been blocked over and over by a series of legal entanglements initiated by Western & Southern, which tried to purchase the Inn back in 2009 for $1.8 million, refusing to buffer the Inn's $3 million price tag. In 2011, the Hamilton County Auditor valued the plot at $4 million.
Now, the corporate giant, which owns a number of other plots of land in Lytle Park, wants to buy the Inn and convert it into an upscale hotel.
Western & Southern’s lawyer, Glenn Whitaker, sent a letter obtained by CityBeat dated March 19 to City Solicitor John Curp accusing city officials of knowingly violating the federal Fair Housing Act by allowing the owner of the Inn, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), to pursue federal funding for renovations while providing services to exclusively women in need, which the letter alleges would “discriminate on the basis of gender” and “expose the City to liability under both the federal False Claims Act and the FHA.”
“We share this with you because — no matter where one stands on whether ALI’s renovations comply with Cincinnati Zoning Code — it is in the public interest for the City to avoid a lawsuit that could lead to a significant payout in today’s budget environment,” reads the letter.
Of course, that lawsuit is one that would be entirely fabricated and launched by Western & Southern, on top of years worth of zoning violation allegations that, so far, have failed to gather much merit.
Some women-only shelters are deemed permissible due to safety issues, but in the letter, Whitaker alleges that the renovation plans expose ALI to discrimination liability by, in theory, making the safety issue moot by providing clear, separated spaces for men and women. The renovation plans include converting what are now dormitory-style units with shared bathrooms into private residences with private bathrooms and kitchens, according to the letter.
Curp, who received the letter, says the city’s relationship with HUD is one that hinges on constant communication, and though Western & Southern's allegations were unexpected, they'll be taken seriously.
“We work with them closely, we have a great relationship with HUD. They were the first organization we contacted when we got this letter, ... so they understood the nature of the allegations and because they’re one of our development partners. We have lots of development partners in the city, frankly, including Western & Southern. ... We're disappointed that the city has been pulled into what is otherwise a third-party dispute."
The letter also accuses a number of community members, including 3CDC, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Model Group, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and the YMCA of conspiring to move low-income residents from the Metropole to the Anna Louise Inn in order to ease litigation with the Homeless Coalition and make way for the new, upscale 21c Museum Hotel.
John Barrett, Western & Southern’s CEO, is also on the board of 3CDC, which adds an extra element of mystery to the lodged accusations; at best, it seems extreme they'd be willing to accuse ally 3CDC of wrongdoing or conspiracy for the sake of a discrimination lawsuit against a nonprofit social services agency whose stated goal for more than 100 years has been to provide a haven for women in need.
Ideally, explains Curp, HUD will respond equipped with some sort of past precedent that would absolve the city and the Inn of alleged discrimination and make the lawsuit irrelevant.
"I think a lawsuit would be very much premature. ... Like I said, our first step is to talk to HUD and to make sure that between the both of us, we don’t see any discrimination or compliance issues. If there’s any chance of that ... after our review and a review by HUD, we will fix it to bring it into compliance," he says.
"As I sit here today, I can't imagine this situation hasn't been dealt with in the past. I'd be shocked if HUD hasn't dealt with this in another community and come up with a set of guidelines for us to follow."
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has been reviewing its driver’s license policy for the children of illegal immigrants for nearly two months now, but if it was up to Attorney General Mike DeWine, those people would already be eligible for driver’s licenses.
In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission dated to March 19, DeWine wrote, “It appears that the BMV would have to accept driver’s license applications from individuals that fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative because they can provide all of the information necessary.”
DACA is an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for a social security number and work permit. According to DeWine, that should be enough to qualify for an Ohio driver’s license: “With these documents and any other documents normally required by the BMV, an individual can provide the BMV with the information necessary to receive a driver’s license.”
The BMV has been reviewing its driver’s license policy for DACA recipients for nearly two months. A previous CityBeat report found the BMV is granting driver’s licenses to some of the children of illegal immigrants, but what qualifies a few and disqualifies others is unclear.
DeWine’s letter is not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal adviser, it could put pressure on the BMV’s legal team as it continues reviewing the Ohio’s driver’s license policy.
“I encourage any citizen who is concerned about a law or policy to contact their legislators and voice that concern,” DeWine wrote. “As Attorney General, I do not have the authority to introduce or vote on legislation.”
CityBeat originally broke the story regarding the BMV policy through the story of Ever Portillo, who was not able to receive a driver’s license despite being a DACA recipient (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6).
CityBeat later heard stories and received documents showing what seemed to be internal confusion and conflict about the policy at the BMV. Between January and February, there was a
noticeable shift in the BMV’s messaging from flat-out barring DACA
recipients from obtaining driver’s licenses to reviewing the entire
process — a change that might be attributable to the barrage of statewide media coverage on the issue after CityBeat's coverage.
Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is granting driver’s licenses to some of the children of illegal immigrants, but what qualifies a few and disqualifies others is so far unknown.
When CityBeat last covered the BMV policy (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6), Ever Portillo, a 22-year-old from El Salvador, was unable to get his license even when he was accompanied by his attorney at the West Broad Street BMV office in Columbus. Since then, Portillo returned to the same BMV office with his attorney, a community leader from DreamActivist Ohio and a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch and successfully obtained his license.
At the same time, CityBeat received a tip from an anonymous illegal immigrant after she could not get a driver’s license for her son because, according to what she heard from the BMV, state policy is still being reviewed.
The differences between Portillo and the woman’s experiences are reflected by what seems to be an internal conflict at the BMV, which CityBeat found in a series of internal documents sent by Brian Hoffman, Portillo’s attorney. In emails dating back to January, state officials wrote that “foreign nationals” with C33 Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and I-797 documents with case types I-765D and I-821D cannot qualify for driver’s licenses. The documents are part of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.
But a Feb. 13 memo from the BMV says Ohio has not issued a statewide policy on DACA for driver’s licenses and is currently reviewing the process. A Feb. 19 email echoes the memo, stating “neither the Department (of Public Safety) nor the BMV has yet issued a statewide broadcast to provide direction regarding the DACA issue.” In a Feb. 21 email, Lindsey Borher, spokesperson at the BMV, told CityBeat, “Our legal department is in the process of reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.”
The discrepancy between January and February may be attributable to CityBeat originally breaking the story on the state policy, which was followed by a barrage of statewide media coverage on the issue.
DAYTON – Vice President Joe Biden took time at the beginning of his Wednesday campaign stop in Dayton to condemn an overnight attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, while praising the work and courage of American diplomats and promising to bring to justice those who carried out the attack.
“(This) brave — and it’s not hyperbole to say brave –— ambassador was in Benghazi while the war was going on. Our ambassador risked his life repeatedly while the war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on,” Biden said.
“These men are as brave and as courageous as any of our warriors.”
The Tuesday attack took place during a protest against an amateur short film made in the United States that protesters say insulted the Prophet Muhammad. U.S Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff members were killed.
“Let me be clear — we are resolved to bring to justice their killers,” Biden said.
The vice president made no mention of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which he characterized as “akin to an apology” and a “severe miscalculation,” but the vice president quickly segued into politics, alluding to Romney’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy.
“The task of a president is not only to defend our interests and causes and the cause of freedom abroad, it is also to build a nation here at home, to which the entire world can look and aspire to be like,” Biden said. “Whether we do that and how we do that, that is literally the essence of the choice we face in this presidential election. It really is that basic, and foreign policy is not some sideline to all of this.”
The Romney campaign in Ohio was quick to respond, calling Biden’s remarks “hypocritical” in an emailed statement.
“Vice President Biden’s appearance in Dayton only served further damage to his credibility as he reprised hypocritical and widely debunked attacks against Mitt Romney. Not only did the Vice President mislead Ohioans, but he attacked Mitt Romney for supporting the same tax policy the Obama Administration supported just last year,” Romney Ohio spokesman Christopher Maloney wrote.
“With today’s Census report showing nearly 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty and incomes continuing to decline, it appears that misleading attacks are all the Obama campaign has left to offer 400,000 Ohioans looking for work.”
Maloney’s email also fact-checked a claim made by Biden during his speech. Biden said that he opposed the so-called “territorial tax,” which he said would allow American companies that invested abroad to avoid paying taxes in the United States.
The email included links to an Associated Press fact checking article that concludes that Romney’s proposal was aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S. rather than overseas.
Biden spoke to a packed house at Wright State University in Dayton, with overflow crowds estimated in the hundreds viewing in separate rooms in the Student Union.
The vice president reiterated many of his usual stump speech points — the Romney tax plan’s negative effects on the middle class, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration’s commitment to manufacturing — but much of Biden’s speech focused on education. He said a president Romney would cut funding for Pell Grants, meaning many students in the audience would have to leave school. He also lauded President Barack Obama’s administration’s enactment of a tax break of $2,500 for every family that sends a child to college.
The usually bombastic Biden wasn’t without his gaffes. Twice he referred to Wright State as “Wayne State,” which is in Detroit, despite a large Wright State University banner displayed in the conference room where he gave his speech.
The crowd was quick to correct him after the second time he misspoke.
“Wright State, which also includes Wayne State,” Biden said after he was corrected, eliciting laughs from the audience.
Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.
Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016.
In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a
challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of
meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and
effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and
allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain
Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.”
At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs.
CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.