The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) has threatened to block a move that would allow Cincinnati to use $37.5 million from the 2007 sale of the Blue Ash Airport for projects other than aviation, $11 million of which would go to the Cincinnati streetcar.
The Blue Ash City Council voted Thursday to re-do the sale of 130 acres at the Blue Ash Airport to the City of Cincinnati. COAST says it wants to put the matter before voters in a 2013 referendum, which would halt the sale and re-instate the original agreement made in 2007 when Cincinnati made the sale.
The two cities decided to re-work the $37.5 million sale because a federal rule requires proceeds from the sale of an operating airport to be used for other aviation projects. The money would be returned, airport shut down and then the property re-sold to Blue Ash for the original amount.
“When they originally sold it they were stupid, which is typical of the City of Cincinnati, and did not realize that the proceeds on the sale of the airport have to go to other aviation-type things,” says COAST Chairman Tom Brinkman. “Now that they want to get the streetcar, they want to crack that money.”
Brinkman openly admits he doesn’t want the money to go to the streetcar (“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that boondoggle doesn’t occur”) but says COAST is working with a group of local pilots who want money from the sale to go to Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport.
Blue Ash is confident that the ordinance they passed approving the re-sale isn’t subject to referendum.
“Blue Ash believes everything enacted was lawful and would survive any challenge,” says City Solicitor Brian Pachenco. He declined to discuss specifics
The city wants the airport land to build a park.
Pachenco said the ordinance wasn’t written specifically to exempt it from referendum attempts, but nevertheless it falls under a section of the city’s charter that makes voters unable to recall it.
COAST isn’t so sure.
Chris Finney, legal counsel for COAST, said the buying and selling of land under the Blue Ash charter is subject to referendum. He said the ordinance was written to avoid using that language, but what was happening was in reality a sale.
For its part, Cincinnati doesn’t seem too concerned with the threatened referendum.
“We’re not going to talk 'what ifs' at this point,” city spokeswoman Meg Olberding said. “The streetcar has had two previous referendums that have been shot down.”
She pointed out that only $11 million of the sale was going toward the streetcar, and the remaining money would be available for other projects.
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach was also unconcerned.
“COAST and groups like COAST have tried to put up every obstacle possible to prevent the streetcar from happening and we have overcome all of them,” Seelbach said. “I am 100 percent positive if this comes to a vote we will overcome it again and the streetcar will be built.”
Perhaps hoping to mimic the suspenseful aspects of an Alfred Hitchcock film or a Thomas Harris novel, an ultra-conservative group has been issuing press releases announcing its endorsements for Cincinnati City Council one at a time.
Oh, the anticipation!
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes.
“I don’t want it. I’m not a member of COAST,” Cranley says.
The response comes just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a “change of direction.” The group later claimed the tweets weren’t endorsements, but not before progressives called on candidates to reject COAST’s support.
Councilman Chris Seelbach responded to COAST’s apparent interest in influencing the mayoral and City Council races on his Facebook page: “Regardless of the politics involved, anyone who wants my support should make it clear: COAST is a hate-driven, fringe organization that should not be apart (sic) of any conversation on how to make Cincinnati a better place.”
CityBeat couldn’t immediately reach
Murray, Smitherman or Winburn for comment on whether they would accept
COAST's support for their campaigns. But Smitherman, who is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he’s not campaigning, often teams up with COAST on local issues.
Seelbach, who has been a favorite target of COAST, tells CityBeat there’s no doubt the group’s vitriolic opposition is at least partly based on hate.
“Without question, I believe COAST targets me because I’m gay,” Seelbach says. “In some ways, I’m a symbol of everything that they hate, which is LGBT progress.”
Cranley agrees the group is hateful. He points out that some COAST members have criticized him over the years for supporting LGBT causes, including hate crime legislation in 2003.
In the 1990s, Chris Finney, chief legal crusader for COAST, authored Article XII, the city charter amendment approved by voters in 1993 that barred the city from deeming gays a protected class in anti-discrimination statutes.
In a June 1994 Cincinnati Post article, Finney said landlords should not be legally required to rent to gay or lesbian tenants. Finney explained, “Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.” To critics, the remarks seemed fairly similar to arguments leveled in support of racial segregation in the 1960s.
COAST chairman Tom Brinkman and member Mark Miller were also part of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which defended Article XII in court in 1997.
When City Council passed hate crime legislation protecting gays and lesbians in 2003, Brinkman criticized the Catholic members of City Council at the time — including Cranley, who sponsored the legislation — for sending “the message that you openly approve of homosexuality.”
Back then, Cranley responded, “We have a little something in this country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution.”
Around the same time, Seelbach prepared and then helped lead the 2004 campaign that did away with Article XII. For Cincinnati, the repeal of the city charter amendment, just 11 years after voters approved it, exemplified the more tolerant, open direction the country was moving in regards to the LGBT community.
But while the country has embraced greater equality for LGBT individuals, Seelbach says COAST hasn’t done the same. Even though Seelbach voted against the parking plan that COAST also opposes, the conservative organization has regularly targeted Seelbach in blog posts and emails criticizing the plan, which leases the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
In March, COAST sent out a doctored image that compared Seelbach to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ in the Christian religion, for approving an emergency clause on the parking plan that effectively exempted the plan from a voter referendum. Seelbach voted against the parking plan itself when it came to a vote.
“I don’t believe in running our city by referendums,” Seelbach says. “What we currently have is a representative democracy. We elect people that we hold accountable by either re-electing them or not, and we trust the people that we elect to research the policies and make informed decisions. I think that’s the best system.”
Most recently, COAST went after Seelbach for his trip to Washington, D.C., where he received the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his efforts to protect and promote Cincinnati’s LGBT community. The city paid more than $1,200 for the trip, which COAST called into question with legal threats. Even though City Solicitor John Curp, the city’s top lawyer, deemed the allegations frivolous, Seelbach agreed to reimburse the funds to stave off a lawsuit that could have cost the city more than $30,000.
At the same time, media outlets, including WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer,
have closely covered COAST’s allegations and commonly turned to the
group to get the conservative side of different issues, ranging from the
streetcar project to the pension system. Both media outlets have
characterized COAST as a “government watchdog group,” ignoring the organization’s history of conservative activism and crafting legislation.
The favorable attention might be turning around. The Enquirer recently scrutinized COAST’s lawsuits against the city, which revealed the group, which frames itself as an anti-tax, anti-spending watchdog, could cost the city more than $500,000 in legal fees. The city solicitor also estimated his office puts the equivalent of one full-time employee on COAST’s cases, with the typical city civil attorney making about $65,000 a year, according to The Enquirer.
Seelbach acknowledges the vast differences between the black and LGBT civil rights movements, but he says a group with a similarly discriminatory past wouldn’t get the kind of media coverage and attention COAST does, at least without the proper context.
“If there was a group that had a history of fighting for segregation, … there is absolutely no way anyone, much less media, would quote or accept support in any form,” Seelbach says.
This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. with more context.
A group working to defeat Issue 48 filed a complaint today against a conservative group with the Ohio Elections Commission.
Cincinnatians for Progress, which is urging a "no" vote on Issue 48, filed the complaint against the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). It alleges COAST knowingly and repeatedly has made false statements in its campaign in support of the ballot initiative.
The complaint cites 20 instances in the past two months in which COAST allegedly made false statements in violation of Ohio Revised Code Section 3517.22. Most involve allegations the city has taken funds away from fire services to fund the streetcar project.
A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the local voter rolls.
The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after the board of elections ruled that Simes is eligible to vote in Cincinnati.
The case has been mired in politics since it was
first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting.
Hartman is spearheading the lawsuit. He regularly represents the Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group that opposes the streetcar project and Qualls.
The lawsuit claims Simes isn’t legally able to vote in
Cincinnati because he currently resides in South Korea and lived in Chicago
prior to the move overseas.
Ohio election law requires a place of residency to vote, but someone can remain on the voter rolls if he or she intends to return to the city or state while in another part of the country or overseas.
Simes’ supporters, who the board of elections sided with
on Oct. 14, claim Simes has every intention of returning to Cincinnati
when he’s done with his work in South Korea. Simes’ contract
with his employer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, states he’ll return to
Cincinnati in two years.
Until then, Simes is registered to vote at a condominium owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell.
According to Estell’s testimony to the board of election, Simes kept a key and sometimes stayed for a week when he came and went from the residence throughout the spring and summer. Simes also has credit card and bank mail sent to the address, and he attempted to change his registered driver’s license address to match the residence, Estell said.
But Hartman says the evidence, which was gathered largely through Simes’ social media activities, shows Simes was a visitor, not a resident. He cites Estell’s testimony that Simes lived out of a suitcase and didn’t pay rent when he stayed in Cincinnati.
Tim Burke, chairman of the board of elections and Hamilton County Democratic Party, says there’s a reason three out of four members of the board, including one Republican, agreed Simes should remain on the voter rolls.
“The facts that were presented didn’t rise to the legal standard of clear and convincing evidence to justify depriving the voter of his right to vote,” Burke says.
Burke likens the arrangement to a Procter & Gamble employee who spends a year or two overseas but still keeps the right to vote in Cincinnati. Burke says someone could even sell his home in Cincinnati and keep his right to vote from the sold residence.
Hartman says the comparison doesn’t work because a Procter & Gamble employee would live in and keep ties to Cincinnati prior to moving overseas. He claims Simes’ decision to register to vote from Chicago in 2012 effectively broke his electoral ties with Cincinnati and Ohio.
But the argument could be rendered moot. Burke, who is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit, says the legal challenge might not make it to court because two different people filed the lawsuit to the court of appeals and complaint to the board of elections. That could render the lawsuit procedurally defective and lead to a dismissal, according to Burke.
The lawsuit currently has no scheduled hearing or judge, but Hartman says he hopes to expedite hearings in time for the Nov. 5 election.
Gov. John Kasich has something to say to anyone waiting on federal funding to help fix their bridges (and while we're at it, any local governments who need funding for something other than food and water): Forget about it. During an interview with Enquirer editors and reporters yesterday,* Kasich said tolls are the best means for funding a new Brent Spence Bridge.
“I do not believe that a white charger is going to come galloping (from Washington) into Cincinnati with $2 billion in the saddlebags,” Kasich said. “So if that isn’t going to happen and all we do is delay, delay, delay and we push this thing out until 2036 ... holy cow!”
* CityBeat had a similar meeting scheduled but we forgot about it and weren't here at the time — sorry Kasich, we'll get ya next time!
Things are about to get weird in a Clermont County courtroom if David Krikorian and Chris Finney get their wish — to have Jean Schmidt on the witness stand on May 17. Finney, the attorney for Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), has been representing Krikorian, a former Democratic and independent candidate who unsuccessfully ran against Schmidt for Ohio's 2nd congressional district seat, has served Schmidt with a subpoena as part of Krikorian's lawsuit claiming a Schmidt lawsuit against Krikorian was frivolous. COAST's ghost-written blog posted commentary in February in response to accusations from Brad Wenstrup that Schmidt was using campaign funds to pay off legal fund debt from earlier campaign nonsense against Krikorian. Eastsiders mad.
Some high-level Procter & Gamble executives are getting the Bearcat Bounce out of Cincinnati, heading to Singapore where the company believes growth opportunities for its beauty care products are the highest. About 20 positions will be moved to the Singapore office during the next two years.
Does it matter that Mitt Romney might
have led a group of teenagers in a “pin that dude down and cut his
hair” prank during the '60s? The Nation says Obama's gay-marriage
announcement caught Romney off guard.
As expected, Obama's fundraiser at George Clooney's house raked in the dough, raising $15 million in one night.
British Prime Minister David Cameron only recently learned what LOL means in text-speak. The explanation occurred during witness testimony from Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's the now-defunct News of the World. Brooks was forced to resign last year amid a phone-hacking scandal.
"He would sign them off 'DC' in the main," Brooks said, referring to Cameron's initials. "Occasionally he would sign them off 'LOL' — 'lots of love' — until I told him it meant 'laugh out loud,' and then he didn't sign them off [that way] anymore."
It was certainly an LOL moment during Brooks' testimony in a London courtroom Friday as part of a judicial inquiry into media ethics. But the disclosure also underscored the warm personal ties between the prime minister and Brooks, the former head of media baron Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers who was forced to resign in disgrace last summer.
Someone found a really old Mayan calendar, and it offers good news: It goes way beyond Dec, 12, 2012.
Major League Baseball phenom Bryce Harper is in town for a three-game series with his Washington Nationals. The 19-year-old was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and is the first superstar-caliber player to make it to the big leagues this quickly prompting comparisons to Ken Griffey, Jr. at that age. Here's the local spin about on freak outfielder coming to town for a weekend series against the Reds.
Today's an expensive day for Councilman Chris Seelbach.
That's because Seelbach is writing a check today for $1,218.59 to the city of Cincinnati to get local hyper-conservative "watchdog" group COAST to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., to accept an award for instigating positive change was an unlawful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
As a refresher, we're talking about the trip when Seelbach was one of 10 community leaders around the nation selected to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his accomplishments in protecting the city's LGBT community — particularly through his efforts to extend equal partner health insurance to all city employees, create an LGBT liaison in the city's fire and police departments and requiring anyone accepting city funding to follow a non-discrimination policy — a national recognition of championing Cincinnati's progression toward social justice in the past few years.
In an email from his campaign, he says that the city's law department wants to move forward with the lawsuit because the allegations are so frivolous, but Seelbach decided to just use his own personal money to prevent the city from having to spend close to $30,000 of the same taxpayer money COAST is complaining about to prove that they're wrong.
On Aug. 28, Chris Finney, chief crusader at COAST, sent a letter to the office of the city solicitor alleging that the city had committed a "misapplication of corporate funds" by sponsoring Chris Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., complaining that Seelbach and his staffers "upgraded" their hotel rooms.
Curp says that the rooms weren't only never upgraded — Seelbach and his staffers shared rooms — but that the councilman didn't even request reimbursement for several other eligible expense, like parking, meals and taxi fares — and flew out of Louisville, Ky., to take advantage of cheaper airfare.
City Solicitor John Curp's five-page response to Finney, he refutes every claim made by COAST and ends the letter by citing an Ohio Supreme Court case that effectively ruled that private citizens (like Chris Finney and all the other COASTers) constantly contesting official acts and expenditures doesn't benefit the city and should only be allowed when it could cause serious public injury if ignored. Here's Curp's full response:
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
If there’s a Democrat-led war on coal in Ohio, it’s not showing in
the numbers. PolitiFact checked Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s claim that coal
jobs and production have gone up in the state since five years ago, and it turns out he’s right. Brown’s remark was in response to Republican challenger Josh Mandel’s claim that Democrats are leading a war on coal. Brown and Mandel are fighting for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, which CityBeat covered in-depth here. Currently, Brown leads by 5.5 points in aggregate polling.
The presidential campaigns are turning it up in Ohio. Ann Romney was in Greater Cincinnati yesterday to campaign for her husband, echoing past visits from Michelle Obama. President Barack Obama will be in Cincinnati Sunday. Mitt Romney will hold a big rally in West Chester on Friday. Ohio could be the state to decide whether Romney or Obama is the next president. Due to Ohio’s importance, lawyers from around the county will be keeping a close eye on the state. With six days of voting left, aggregate polling shows Obama up 2.3 points in Ohio and the race tied nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ forecasting model, says Obama has a 79.9 percent chance of winning Ohio and a 79 percent chance of winning the election.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is suing Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) for allegedly using city resources to campaign for Issue 42,
which will renew a CPS levy from 2008. In the emails, school officials
discuss voter registration drives, signing up to support the levy and
contributing to the levy campaign. But in a few emails, Jens Sutmoller, campaign coordinator for Issue 42, asks for personal emails to properly respond. COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. CityBeat covered Issue 42 and the problems facing CPS here. CityBeat also endorsed a “Yes” vote on Issue 42 here.
Dropping enrollment in urban district schools, including CPS, has caused some schools to revise building programs downward, saving the state money. In CPS in particular, the school’s project has dropped down to 50 buildings from 66 partly in response to a decline in about 10,000 students since 2002 to about 32,687 enrolled students today. The shift apparently has less to do with students moving to the suburbs and more to do with the greater availability of charter and private schools.
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner laid out the Port Authority’s strategic plan yesterday. The Port Authority seeks to fight poverty, attract residents and increase jobs by expanding inland port operations, developing land, stabilizing targeted communities, upgrading its public financing plan and transparently communicating progress, according to Brunner.
A small fraction of absentee ballots might have been rejected due to a state data glitch. The glitch caused Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to deliver 33,000 updated registration records to local elections issues. Tim Burke, chairman of the county Democratic Party and county Board of Elections, expressed mixed feelings about the error: “Obviously, you hate like hell to have the secretary of state’s office, which had promised to have a very efficient election, popping something like that on us seven days out. … Having said that, I’m glad at least once they recognized that these names are out there they moved to get them to us so that we can do our best to ensure that these folks are not disenfranchised because of some administrative glitch.”
In related news, Husted got the emergency stay he asked for on a recent voting ruling. Husted said he was happy with the decision in a statement: “With six days to go before Election Day, I am pleased that the Court has granted a stay in this case so that I can give the 88 county boards of elections the clear direction they need on the rules for processing provisional ballots.”
There are a few teachers campaigning for office in Ohio, and NPR says the campaigns could give Democrats and Obama a boost. The surge of teachers is largely attributed to Senate Bill 5, which tried to limit collective bargaining among public employees. The teachers figure the only way to prevent another Senate Bill 5 is by holding office.
There are also Ohio Board of Education candidates on this year’s ballot. StateImpact Ohio has a look into some of those candidates here.
found small firms are doing very little to prepare for Obamacare. Most
don’t know what the national health care plan will even do for them.
About 70 percent were unsure or incorrectly believed Obamacare will make
them pay a tax.
Ever want to play Tetris with a pumpkin? Well, apparently someone has.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast last night. At least 16 people are believed to have died from the storm, and as many as 7.5 million were left without power. Areas of New York and New Jersey also faced major flooding. It took until 4:30 a.m. for Sandy to go from hurricane to tropical storm.
The Anna Louise Inn will be in court at 9 a.m. today arguing in front of the First District Court of Appeals, which could overturn a May ruling and allow the Inn to move forward with its renovation. CityBeat will have online coverage for the hearing later today.
Hamilton County’s probation department is facing sexual harassment charges. The charges are coming from a county worker who said her promotion was denied due to her actions “for opposing discrimination and encouraging others to exercise their right to be free from acts of discrimination.”
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to reverse the August reworking of the Blue Ash airport deal. For COAST, the lawsuit is mostly to stall or stop the financing for the $110 million Cincinnati streetcar.
City Council will vote next week to decide whether the city should borrow $37 million to fund development projects and a portion of the Homeless to Homes program. But Homeless to Homes is generating some concern due to its requirement to move three shelters.
Three Cincinnati charity groups are coming together to help veterans with disabling injuries. The organizations will pool available resources to hopefully find jobs for veterans.
Mitt Romney is running a new ad against President Barack Obama in Ohio that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China. The ad, which Chrysler says is false, warranted a snarky response from the car company: “Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.” The Obama team also responded with its own ad. It is somewhat understandable Romney would be getting a bit desperate at this point in the race. Ohio is widely considered the most important swing state, but aggregate polling has Romney down 1.9 points in the state. Romney is up 0.9 points nationally.
State Republicans are refusing to pull an ad that accuses William O’Neill, Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, of expressing “sympathy for rapists.” This is despite the fact that Justice Robert Cupp, O’Neill’s Republican opponent, has distanced himself from the ad. At this point, even the most nonpartisan, objectives watchers have to wonder why the Republican Party can’t keep rape out of its messaging. In comments aired first on Aug. 19, U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri said on pregnancy after rape, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” On Oct. 23, Richard Mourdock, the Senate candidate for Indiana, said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Ohio is getting closer to the health exchange deadline with no plan in sight. Obamacare asks states to take up health exchanges that act as competitive markets for different health insurance plans. States are allowed to either accept, let the federal government run the exchanges or take a hybrid approach. As part of the health exchanges, the federal government will also sponsor a heavily regulated nonprofit plan that sounds fairly similar to the public option liberals originally wanted in Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Ohio and other states still haven’t decided whether they will be expanding their Medicaid programs. In the past, state officials have cited costs as a big hurdle, but one study from Arkansas found Medicaid expansions actually saved money by reducing the amount of uncompensated care. Some states that expanded Medicaid also found health improvements afterward.
An inspector at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was caught not doing her job. The inspector was supposed to do 128 site visits for in-person safety inspections, but she apparently never showed up to some of the schools and filed fraudulent reports.
Peter Cremer North America could add 50 jobs in Cincinnati over three years in an expansion.
A San Francisco firm bought a major stake in Cincinnati Bell.