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by Danny Cross 12.13.2011
 
 
elephant-in-the-room5

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio voter advocates say there was a big elephant in the room during the creation of Ohio's controversial redistricting map, and it was super tan and cried a lot. The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting says John Boehner was central in the process, working with map-making consultants and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here's a link to the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report. From The Enquirer:

"The report found: decisions were not made in public; public input was ignored; there was limited opportunity for the public to review proposed maps; the public was not provided with relevant data for proposed districts; nonpartisan redistricting criteria were not used; and the criteria used to evaluate plans were never publicly identified."

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by Danny Cross 12.05.2011
 
 
occupy-dc-protesters-sit--007

Morning News and Stuff

Occupy D.C. protesters built some type of structure in a park Saturday night, and police on Sunday notified them that they didn't have a permit and took it down, arresting dozens in the process. It was a pretty nice structure, though.

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by German Lopez 02.23.2013
Posted In: Privatization, Prisons, News at 05:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

Inspection Finds Dangerous Conditions at Private Prison

Report echoes concerns raised by privatization critics

A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog.

The CIIC report found the Lake Erie Correctional Institution had a 187.5-percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence between 2010 and 2012, leading to a rate of inmate-on-inmate violence much higher than comparative prisons and slightly below the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) average for all state prisons. Rates of inmate-on-staff violence increased by 305.9-percent between 2010 and 2012 and were much higher than comparative prisons and the ODRC average, according to the report.

Safety and security were major areas of concern, with the report noting “personal safety is at risk.” Fight convictions were up 40 percent, but they weren’t any higher than comparative prisons or the ODRC average, the report found. Disturbances, use of force, access to illegal substances, shakedowns and bunk searches were all in need of improvement, but rounds were acceptable.

How staff handle the use of force and sanctions were particularly problematic, the report said: “Incident reports indicate that staff hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.”

Fair treatment, fiscal accountability and rehabilitation and reentry were all found by the report to be in need of improvement, with many of the problems focusing on inadequate staff — a common concern critics repeatedly voiced after Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to sell the state prison to CCA in 2011. “The above issues are compounded by high staff turnover and low morale,” the report said. “New staff generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their response.”

The troubling findings left CIIC with dozens of recommendations for the private prison, including a thorough review of staff policy and guidelines, stronger cooperation between staff, holding staff and inmates more accountable and the completion of required state audits and evaluations.

The only positive findings were in health and well-being. The report said unit conditions, mental health services and food services were all good, while medical services and recreation were acceptable.

The report echoes many of the concerns raised by private prison critics, which CityBeat previously covered (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). A September audit from ODRC also found the prison was only meeting two-thirds of the state’s standards, and reports from locals near the prison in January warned about a rise in smuggling.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.12.2012
Posted In: News, Economy, Education at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
2012 report

Cincinnati No. 10 out of 12 Similar Cities

Report finds Cincinnati strong on housing opportunities and job growth, weak on migration

A new report has some sobering notes for Cincinnatians. Overall, the city ranked No. 10 out of 12 similar cities in the report’s rankings, with the city doing well in housing opportunities and job growth but not so well in other categories. The No. 10 spot is the same rank Cincinnati held in the 2010 report.

The report, which was put together by Agenda 360 and Vision 2015, compares Cincinnati to other cities in a series of economic indicators. The cities compared were Cincinnati; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland; Columbus; Denver; Indianapolis, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; and St. Louis.

First, the good news: Cincinnati has an unemployment rate lower than the national average, at 7.2 percent. As far as job growth, total jobs, per-person income and average annual wage goes, Cincinnati ranked No. 6. Cincinnati was also No. 5 in poverty ranks — meaning the city had the fifth least people below 200 percent of the federal poverty level among the 12 cities measured. For the most part, Cincinnati moved up in these ranks since 2010.

When it comes to housing opportunities, Cincinnati claimed the No. 2 spot, only losing to Indianapolis. That was a bump up from the No. 3 spot in 2010.

The bad news: Cincinnati didn’t do well in almost every other category. In terms of educational attainment — meaning the percent of the population 25 years or older who have a bachelor’s degree or higher — Cincinnati was No. 9, with 29.3 percent having a bachelor's degree or higher in 2010. That was a slight improvement from the No. 10 rank in the previous report, which found 28.5 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2009.

Cincinnati did poorly in net migration as well. The city was No. 10 in that category, only beating out St. Louis and Cleveland. The silver lining is the city actually gained 1,861 people in 2009 — an improvement from losing 1,526 people in 2008.

Cincinnati also seems to have an age problem. The city tied with Pittsburgh for the No. 10 spot with only 60.2 percent of the 2011 population made up of people between the ages of 20 and 64. The report also says the city has too many old people, an age group that tends to work less, provide less tax revenue and use more government and health services. Cincinnati ranked No. 8 in terms of “Old Age Dependency,” with 20.4 percent of the city made up of people aged 65 and older in 2011.

However, the report does have a positive note through all the numbers: “In fact, our current pace of growth, especially in the people indicators, exceeds many of our competitors and if this pace continues, our rank could be much improved by our next report.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 07.16.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, President Obama, News, LGBT Issues at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obama

Obama Visits Cincinnati For Packed Town Hall Meeting

President touts support for small businesses and LGBT rights

In the first town hall-style event of the 2012 campaign, President Barack Obama fielded questions on Monday about rights for the LGBT community, what he would do for small business during a second term and which was his favorite Girl Scout cookie (Thin Mints).

Obama — the first Democrat to carry Hamilton County since Lyndon Baines Johnson — held a packed town hall meeting at Music Hall. Cincinnati Fire Department Capt. Joseph E. Wolf estimated the crowd at 1,200 people in the ballroom with an additional 421 hosted outside.

The most recent Quinnipiac University poll from June 27 showed that 47 percent of Ohio voters favored the president, while 38 percent were behind his presumed Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Mayor Mark Mallory fired up the crowd before the president spoke, saying Hamilton County is the most important county in Ohio, and Cincinnati the most important city in the county.

“The folks in this room are the most important folks in terms of the re-election of President Barack Obama in the United States of America,” Mallory said.

Attending the town hall was former Cincinnati mayor and daytime TV host Jerry Springer, who said he and about a dozen other folks had a private meeting with the president earlier in the day.

"I think it would be bad for the country," Springer said of an America that saw Obama lose the November election. He says the Republican-controlled house would run away with our country without a Democrat in the Oval Office to issue a veto.

Just an hour before the president spoke and seven blocks away at Fountain Square, dozens of Romney supporters rallied, carrying signs with slogans such as “Obama Bin Lyin’.”

Republican Mike Wilson, who is looking to unseat Montgomery Democrat Rep. Connie Pillich in the Ohio House of Representatives, was among the speakers at the Romney Rally. Pillich defeated Wilson in the 2010 election.

"Ohio seems destined to play a pivotal role. We're used to it," Wilson said.

Wilson criticized the Obama campaign for “playing politics” with Romney’s tenure at the head of investment firm Bain Capital.

The Obama campaign has claimed that Romney invested in businesses that outsourced American jobs.

“We're all interested with what Romney did with his money, but we're not interested with what Obama is doing with our money," Wilson said.

He blamed over-regulation and taxation from the Obama administration for companies moving their operations overseas.

Gerry Molt, who attended the rally with his wife Roxanne, claimed that Obama is at war with America and says the focus on Bain Capital is “clearly a distraction.”

Roxanne Molt said she’s excited about the importance of Hamilton County in this year’s election.

“I think this is the premier election of our lifetime,” she said. “I think Romney’s got a good plan. We need someone who supports capitalism.”

The president did a little bit to support Cincinnati capitalism, making a pit stop at Skyline Chili before the town hall, where he ordered a 4-way and two cheese coneys.

The economy was a big focus of Obama’s speech, but also of questions he received afterward.

Tony White, who owns a barber shop/beauty salon, asked what the president would do for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

In his response, the president touted the possible savings for small businesses under the health care overhaul, saying they could pool together and receive the same rates as larger businesses. As for moving forward, Obama said he would continue to put pressure on banks to lend to small businesses.

“We’ve actually been pushing the banks to say, ‘look, taxpayers pulled your backside out of the fire, it’s now important for you to step up and make sure that small businesses aren’t finding their credit restricted, especially if they’ve been in business for a while,” he said.

The president was also asked by a woman who only identified herself as Anna what he would do to further help the LGBT community. Anna’s son Adam is openly gay and is looking at attending Miami University in Oxford.

Despite earlier teasing that he wouldn’t sing at the town hall, Obama led the crown in singing “Happy Birthday” to Adam, who turned 18 on Monday.

Obama again answered the question by touting his accomplishments so far — ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that forbid homosexuals from serving openly in the military and expanding hospital visitation  rights to same-sex partners — before going on to say that the federal Defense of Marriage Act needs to be repealed.

The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Obama is the first American president to openly support gay marriage.

The theme the president to which continued to return was that America needs to return to being the land of opportunity.

“What really sets us apart has always been that we have the greatest middle class and a basic idea that’s at the heart of this country that says if you work hard then you can get ahead. If you’re responsive, then you can live out your dreams. You’re not confined to the circumstances of your birth.”

German Lopez contributed to this report.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.22.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 04:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Cranley’s Latest Attack on Qualls Deemed Invalid

City solicitor, ethics director: Realty work not a conflict of interest

City Solicitor John Curp and Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said in an Oct. 22 email exchange that it was OK for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to retain her job as a realtor and vote in support of the streetcar project, even though the project could indirectly benefit Qualls by increasing property values — and therefore her compensation as a realtor — along the route.

The email exchange was provided to CityBeat and other media outlets after mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized Qualls, who is also running for mayor, for the alleged conflict of interest at an Oct. 22 press conference.

Curp stated in an email to Nick that Qualls’ potential gains from the streetcar project are too speculative and indirect to present a conflict of interest or ethical violation because the real estate sales are “arms-length transactions between private parties” with a flat 1 to 2 percent fee.

Nick’s emailed response cited two previous Ohio Ethics Commission opinions to support Curp’s analysis.

“It would be unreasonable to hold that lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, and other professionals have an interest in the contracts of their business clients. In general, such professionals are not deemed to be interested in the business dealings of a client, merely because they receive fees for professional services,” according to a February 1986 opinion.

The opinion then clarifies that ethics violations must be directly tied to a project. For example, an insurance agent on City Council would violate ethics law if he or she voted on a construction contract in which his or her insurance agency is charged with handling bond sales for the contract in some way.

Curp also noted that Qualls had asked about the potential conflict of interest on “a minimum of two prior occasions.”

Nick told CityBeat in a phone interview that it’s normal for city officials to go through city solicitors before going to the Ohio Ethics Commission with an ethical question. If the city solicitor and commission agree a formal analysis isn’t necessary, the situation is resolved with brief guidance.

For Cranley, the concerns suggest a contradiction to his previously touted beliefs about the streetcar.

Supporters of the streetcar project, including Qualls, often tout potential property value increases and the economic gains they would bring to Cincinnati as a reason to back the project. The economic gains were supported by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which found the streetcar would produce a three-to-one return on investment in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

Critics, including Cranley, say such property value increases are overblown to falsely justify what they call a “pet project.”

But if the property values never materialize, Qualls isn’t financially benefiting in the way Cranley’s campaign described.

 
 
by 07.11.2009
Posted In: Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Enquirer Layoffs: The Aftermath

CityBeat has held off on posting the names of some people we've heard have been laid off from The Cincinnati Enquirer pending better verification, but we can now confirm two more departures.

 Assistant Business Editor Randy Tucker and Obituaries Writer Rebecca Goodman have left the newspaper's staff. Tucker was a victim of the layoffs; it's unclear whether Goodman was laid off or chose to leave since she recently graduated from law school.

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by German Lopez 10.02.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Courts, News at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
William O'Neill

Candidate to Justices: “Recuse or Refuse”

Former judge demands Ohio Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from FirstEnergy case

In a letter sent today to Ohio Supreme Court justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell, former Judge William O’Neill asked the Republican justices to recuse themselves from a case presenting conflicts of interest or refuse the campaign money that caused the conflicts of interest to begin with.

“The First Energy Family has contributed more than $44,000.00 into re-election campaigns for Justices Cupp and O’Donnell this year alone,” O’Neill, a Democrat who is running for the Ohio Supreme Court, wrote. “It is simply wrong for them to continue sitting on First Energy cases.”

The Ohio Supreme Court, which has seven justices decide the state’s top judicial cases, is currently handling a case involving FirstEnergy, an energy company based in Akron. More than 300,000 customers are suing the company over alleged fraud. The 11th District Court of Appeals previously ruled against FirstEnergy, and the case was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The lawsuit is the fifth Ohio Supreme Court case involving FirstEnergy this year.

O’Neill pointed out the lawsuit “could easily be a billion dollar case” before writing, “And the public has a right to know that the ruling was not purchased by one side or another.”

Ohio Sen. Mike Skindell, a Democrat who is also running for the Ohio Supreme Court, endorsed O’Neill’s letter. In the past, he also criticized Cupp and O’Donnell for potential conflicts of interest.

The offices of Cupp and O'Donnell did not immediately respond to CityBeat's requests for comment on the letter. This story will be updated if responses become available.

UPDATE OCT. 4, 4:12 P.M.: Mark Weaver, spokesperson for Cupp, responded: Mr. O'Neill previously raised this argument with disciplinary authorities by filing a complaint. It was reviewed by disciplinary authorities, and they unanimously dismissed it as having no merit.

 
 
by 06.19.2009
Posted In: 2009 Election, Mayor, Republicans at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)
 
 

Wenstrup Questions Mayor's Travel, Bodyguard

This week’s issue of CityBeat features an interview with Dr. Brad Wenstrup, the physician who’s the Hamilton County Republican Party’s mayoral candidate.

Wenstrup, who turned 51 on Wednesday, is an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Columbia Tusculum and is an Iraq War veteran. This is his first run for political office.

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by German Lopez 08.14.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Democrats, Republicans at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Early Voting Controversy Reaches Hamilton County

Democratic council members call for extended early voting

In a letter to the Hamilton County Board of Elections, City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld today asked the Board to extend in-person early voting hours in the county. Council members Roxanne Qualls, Chris Seelbach, Cecil Thomas, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young also signed the letter. Council members Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, and Charlie Winburn, a Republican, were notified of the letter Thursday, but they did not agree to sign.

In-person early voting will begin on Oct. 2 and run until Nov. 2. If hours are not extended, polls in Hamilton County will only be open on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. If the Board agrees to Sittenfeld's recommendations, early voting will be extended to 8 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday mornings.

The letter brings home a political controversy that has recently gained national attention. In recent weeks, Democrats have accused state Republicans of extending in-person early voting in predominantly Republican counties and keeping shorter in-person early voting hours in predominantly Democratic counties.

Democrats typically point to Warren County and Butler County — two predominantly Republican counties with extended in-person early voting — and the recent actions of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. In the predominantly Democratic counties of Lucas, Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin, Husted had to break ties in Boards of Election on the issue of in-person early voting hours. In every case, Husted voted against extending in-person early voting hours.

Jerid Kurtz, spokesperson for Ohio Democratic Party, says the move follows a clear Republican trend: "Every opportunity that presents itself, Republicans take away the right to vote."

Kurtz is referring to Republicans' initial push to end in-person early voting in Ohio. In 2011, Republicans passed two laws — H.B. 194 and H.B. 224 — that ended in-person early voting in the state. After Democrats managed to get enough petition signatures to put the early voting issue on the November ballot, Republicans repealed H.B. 194. However, by not repealing H.B. 224, Republicans have made it so all non-military voters are still disallowed to vote the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day. Democrats and President Barack Obama have filed a lawsuit to restore those early voting days for all voters, including military personnel and families.

Democrats like Kurtz argue that in-person early voting is necessary to maintain reliable, efficient elections. In 2004, Ohio did not have in-person early voting in place, and the state drew national attention when its long voting lines forced some people to wait as long as 10 hours to vote. After the debacle, a Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Bob Taft, also a Republican, passed laws allowing in-person early voting.

But now Republicans seem skeptical of their own laws. Republicans say the measures are meant to cut costs and stop voter fraud, but Democrats say the measures are all about suppressing the vote. In a moment of honesty, former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer told MSNBC that the measures are about disenfranchising demographics that typically side with Democrats. Even Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has stepped in to criticize Republicans for what he sees as disenfranchisement.

Husted told reporters at Cleveland's The Plain Dealer that he is considering establishing uniform rules. With such rules, every county would have the same in-person early voting hours.

But Kurtz says the talk about a uniform rule is "pure silliness." He says counties have differences, so they need different voting times. Instead of worrying about uniformity or what counties can afford, Kurtz says Husted should worry managing elections and "empowering people to vote."

The calls for extended early voting come a time when Hamilton County is facing budget issues. With a $20 million budget shortfall projected for next year, affording more early voting hours might be difficult. No official estimate has been released on how much the extended hours would cost.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections will meet Thursday at 9 a.m. to discuss extending in-person early voting hours.

 
 

 

 

 
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