Two prominent Democratic congress members say a $3 million settlement between Cintas Corp. and federal workplace safety regulators is insufficient because it downgrades the severity of the company’s violations and gives it two years to install new safety equipment.
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.
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
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Democrats managed to get enough petition signatures to put the early voting issue on the November ballot, Republicans repealed H.B. 194.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.
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.
“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.”
As expected, the ax fell quickly at The Cincinnati Enquirer this week as its parent company demands mass layoffs before year’s end.
Here's a bit of news that should spoil the day for Sarah Palin, Mike Wilson, Dusty Rhodes and their ilk: A comparison of two polls suggests that socialism is more popular among Americans than the Tea Party movement.
A new, wide-ranging Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals that 35 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the Tea Party, compared to 36 percent that likes socialism in an earlier Gallup poll. Fifty-two percent of Americans now hold unfavorable views of the Tea Party, which is an all-time high.
Butler County Sheriff
Richard K. Jones announced that he is in favor of altering Ohio’s
law to make cruelty to animals a felony offense rather than a second degree
misdemeanor. As it stands, animal cruelty in Ohio is punishable by 90 days in
jail at most.
Jones took over the official duties of dog warden on Sept. 29, when the Butler County Dog warden’s office and the sheriff’s office joined together. A recent case involving an emaciated and abandoned white pit bull in Middletown pushed Jones to call for tougher animal cruelty laws.
Demonstrators outside of the courtroom displayed their discontent toward the leniency of the current law. Jones agrees that the maximum of 90 days in jail is not enough of a penalty for those who abuse and neglect pets dependent on them.
The sheriff is supporting
HB 274, currently under consideration. If HB 274 passes, it will make animal
cruelty a fifth-degree felony to torture, injure or kill a companion animal or
deprive it of water, food or shelter. Those convicted could receive six months
to a year in jail, bringing Ohio’s law up to par with that of other states.
A letter about the issue was sent on Tuesday to Ohio legislators, with copies to the Buckeye
State Sheriffs’ Association and the Public Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
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.
U.S. Rep. Tom Massie, the congressman who represents the Kentucky side of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, used his first day in Congress to file a bill that would erase a 23-year-old federal ban that makes it a crime to carry guns near schools.
At the moment, Massie does not have any co-sponsors signed up. Details are sparse because the government printing office says it does not yet have the full text of the measure to put online.
The existing Gun-Free School Act of 1990, which was adopted when former president George H.W. Bush, a Republican, was in the White House is viewable here. The bill was amended in 1995. As late as 1999, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was testifying in support of the measure, a position it seems to have dropped after the Sandy Hook massacre.
Under the existing law, so-called “school zones” include but are not limited to parks, sidewalks, roads and highways within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public or private elementary, middle or high school. The law makes it practically impossible to travel in populated areas without entering a "gun-free school zone." People with state-issued licenses or permits to carry guns are exempted by the federal law, but the exemption is only good in the state that issued the permit.
The law doesn’t exempt out-of-state travelers who have permits, nor does it allow off-duty police officers to pack a weapon in a school. And it is a violation for anyone other than an on-duty police officer or a school security guard to discharge a firearm in a school zone for any reason. A state permit does not exempt a person from the discharge prohibition.
is a copy of the bill that retired U.S. Rep. Ron Paul introduced while
the Texan was campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination. He called
his repeal measure the Citizen Protection Act, and he got no support from
co-sponsors. Paul’s bill died when the new Congress was sworn in
yesterday, but Massie is now resurrecting it.
Massie is a tea party adherent — elected last fall to replace Geoff Davis — who largely shares the political philosophies of Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul, who is also from Kentucky. Massie voted against John Boehner for speaker on the opening day of the 113th Congress, an act of open defiance against the Republican House leadership.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is exiting stage left. Praise the lord.
In a surprise announcement today, Palin said she not only wouldn't run for reelection as governor next year, but also won't even finish her first gubernatorial term. Palin will resign her office in the next few weeks.
It started with a couple of greasy hot dogs.
When solar energy expert and Cincinnati native Patrick Sherwin was charged with removing some solar collectors from a client's roof, he got to thinking.
Those solar collector tubes, he realized, were collecting such a great deal of heat that he thought it just might be enough to cook food. So he took a few of them home and did just that.
Today, he and one of his business partners are grilling fajita peppers on a cloud-free September day in the backyard of a Spring Grove Village home. Soon, he hopes, Cincinnatians — and the rest of the world — will have access to a new form of solar technology he's developed based on that same solar collector that cooked his first hot dog.
In the 10 years since Sherwin removed those solar collectors from a client's rooftop, he's been working on perfecting the art of solar cooking; on Sept. 5, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to mass-produce his GoSun Stove, a compact, $279 solar cooker that he hopes could not just change the way Western civilization uses and looks at sources of renewable energy, but also impact the entire world. His interest in solar energy originally stems from his desire to shift away from dependency on harmful fossil fuels, but it's branched out into something greater. Cooking, a cultural exercise shared and loved across the globe, seemed like the perfect place to start.
"Everyone's well aware of the fact that fossil fuels are creating a lot of issues," he says. "Not to mention that they're dwindling, getting more expensive...but, you know, there are also also other resources — natural gases, gasoline, electricity...it's all coming from these giant, multinational corporations that we don't appreciate in our lives, so why not power stuff ourselves?"
The Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than one-quarter of its $40,000 goal within the first 10 hours of its launch, is being used as means for Sherwin and his team to raise funds for marketing, equipment and manufacturing and other programs to bring the invention to developing countries in need of less dangerous and time consuming ways to cook food.
Sherwin hopes to eventually mass produce his solar cooker to both promote less dependency on fossil fuels across the the world and make a dent in smoke-inhalation deaths around the world, which account for the No. 1 cause of indoor ire-related deaths around the world.
His current prototype, which he says is the culmination of about 30 different models he's tinkered with over the past years, is a 3.5-pound, sleek, shiny-looking pop-up contraption that looks more like a play spaceship than a gadget you'd see at a modern-day grillout. He and his partners claim they've created a solar cooker that uses the most efficient and advanced technology available in the green market today.
Solar power technology, Sherwin concedes, is a field that's been subject to innovation and research for decades, particularly in Eastern countries such as China, where solar panels are commonly used for everyday activities like heating tea kettles.
It's been a long journey to come to model Sherwin and his team are working on now, which he says is markedly different from other modern-day solar cooker models.
He cites another Kickstarter launched earlier this summer for a different solar cooker model, which garnered around $140,000 to meet its goal. He says GoSun Stove's model is particularly innovative because it possesses the unique ability to insulate its products in a safe and more efficient way; the GoSun Stove, he says, isn't hot to the touch, is portable and easy to clean, retains heat and cooks food much more quickly than other solar cookers on the market today.
"I was frying ants with a magnifying glass on the sidewalk when I was a kid. It's nothing really that new," he laughs. "The reality of those [other models] is that they're not really safe, because what happens is you have so much intensity of sunlight on a particular spot in ends up creating like a...it could burn your eyes or hands."
Still, like most successful inventions, the venture has involved a good bit of trial and error.
"It was pretty messy what I was doing originally. I'd take like, eight hot dogs, and I found a stainless steel skewer. So I had like eight hot dogs on this giant skewer and I remember hitting the brakes in my car too hard one day after an event and I didn't realize there was a bunch of grease and the grease shot off and hit my windshield with hot dog grease. So that was a wake-up call. It was really a pain to clean up. Every once in a while you would lose a hot dog in the skewer and it'd get stuck at the bottom," Sherwin laughs.
Once they earn more capital, Sherwin and his team hope to develop more versatile models, including those with larger insulator tubes to accommodate larger quantities of food. Currently, the GoSun Stove prototype accommodates up to 3 pounds of food and can reach up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
The current model uses a compact, easy-to-clean tray, but his first hot dog-based models have evolved a great deal to what his KickStarter campaign advertises today. Those first prototypes used large, cumbersome solar collector trays, until Sherwin had what he calls his "A-ha!" moment at a solar expo two or three years ago.
"The thing I was cooking with was about six feet long, it was cumbersome..and I was at a solar expo at a conference and there was a tabletop thing that was demonstrating what a solar hot water heater would look like, and it was tubes about two feet long. And I saw that and I went, 'A-ha.' "
That took the GoSun Stove from simply an idea to something tangible and marketable to everyone from survivalists and campers, green life enthusiasts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) interested in improving the lives of populations in developing countries, although he and his partners say there's a lot of planning and research to be done before they try to take the GoSun across the world.
"These models we're showing on KickStarter are not
what we're intending to take to the developing world. Far more
affordable stoves that'll use the human and natural resources of the
areas we're trying to empower to make it a real solution that'll stick.
And we realize that we don't know what they need. We're conscious of our
ignorance," says Matt Gillespie, an industrial designer on the GoSun team.
Sherwin adds, "We've got to come up with
accessories that make it easier to eat things like rice and beans, which
is what, like, 90 percent of the world eats."
Today, just three days into their KickStarter campaign, they've raised almost $30,000 of their $40,000 goal. Sherwin's hopeful it will be well-received once he and his team are ready to officially launch and that the GoSun will actually change the landscape of solar energy technology and its presence in our everyday lives.
"Most users, when they open their packages, they're going to be like, 'Ohmigosh,' a little bit, and then they might also get a little sunburned as far as they'll want to take it out on any day because they think it's going to work just like a microwave. It's not a microwave and you can't just hit a button. But it is the microwave of solar ovens."