Local early voting could move from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, following a split, party-line vote from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Democrats oppose the move because they say it will make early voting less accessible to people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans support the move as part of a plan to consolidate some county services, particularly a new crime lab, at the Mount Airy facility. With the board split, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, could step in to break the tie vote.
But Husted's spokesperson said the secretary of state might encourage the Board of Elections to "take another look" at the issue, and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county will not move the Board of Elections without a majority vote.
Gov. John Kasich called for a one-time increase in the number of school calamity days to cope with the unusually severe winter weather this year. Under state law, schools are normally allowed five calamity days before extra days off start chipping into summer break. The state legislature must approve legislation to enact the temporary increase.
Ohio officials found no substantial evidence that a public defender coached convicted killer Dennis McGuire to fake suffocation during his execution. Eye-witness accounts report McGuire visibly struggled, snorted and groaned as he took 26 minutes to die — the longest execution since Ohio restarted using the death penalty in 1999.
Despite what a local state senator says, there are a lot of differences between Ohio's Clean Energy Law and Stalinism.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate continues working on a proposal that would weaken Ohio's renewable energy and efficiency standards. But it's unclear if the new attempt will be any more successful than State Sen. Bill Seitz's failed, years-long crusade against the Clean Energy Law.
Local Democrats endorsed Christie Bryant for an open seat in the Ohio House, even though five interviewed for the position and could run in the Democratic primary. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke previously told CityBeat local Democrats endorse prior to a primary in some special situations. In this case, the party wanted to guarantee a black candidate, and Bryant is the most qualified, according to Burke.
A new report found Ohio's prison population ticked down by nearly 2 percent since 2011, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) says it is now trending back up. To address the recent rise, ODRC Director Gary Mohr says legislators need to provide more opportunities for community-based drug treatment, mental health care and probation programs to help reduce prison re-entry rates.
More than 112,000 Ohio students dropped out of high schools between 2006 and 2010.
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Hamilton County might sell some of its six downtown buildings.
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Councilman Chris Seelbach's vegan chili won the Park+Vine cook-off.
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The Hamilton County Board of Elections on Monday split along party lines over whether the board should move its offices and early voting from downtown, Cincinnati’s urban core, to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs.
The two Democrats on the board dispute the move. They claim the move would make voting less accessible to voters who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box.
Republicans on the board argue the move would make voting more accessible to suburban voters and provide free parking that’s scarcely available at the current downtown offices. They call the move “good government” because it would consolidate some county services at Mount Airy, where county officials plan to build a crime lab as long as the Board of Elections moves with the coroner’s office and provides the critical mass necessary to financially justify renovations at a former hospital.
Republicans cautioned their proposed motion would keep early voting downtown through the 2016 presidential elections. After that, the board’s offices would move, along with early voting.
Ohio’s secretary of state — Republican Jon Husted — normally breaks tie votes on county boards of elections. The secretary of state’s office claims Husted will remain undecided on the issue until he reviews documents from the Board of Elections explaining both sides of the tie vote. But spokesperson Matt McClellan says Husted would like to see the Board of Elections reach a compromise before he is forced to intervene.
The board’s vote followed a contentious back-and-forth between public speakers and board members regarding the looming decision. Most speakers spoke against the move and labeled it “voter suppression.” Some dissenters supported the move for its fiscal prudence.
Alex Triantafilou, a Republican on the Board of Elections, accused Democrats of “playing politics” with the move. He claims Democrats just want to keep early voting in a Democratic stronghold like downtown.
Democrats Tim Burke and Caleb Faux countered that, along the same lines, the Mount Airy facility would benefit Republicans by making early voting more accessible to Republican-leaning suburban voters and less accessible to Democrat-leaning urban voters.
State Rep. Alicia Reece, a local Democrat who spoke at the meeting, rebuked accusations of partisan politics and reiterated an argument she made to reporters on Thursday.
“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of elections,” Reece previously said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”
Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, on Thursday offered free space at the Shillito’s building in an attempt to keep early voting downtown.
But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer is not enough to satisfy the county’s occupancy needs at Mount Airy, even if the city moves some police services, such as SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy facility to help fill out the 500,000 square foot building.
“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” Hartmann said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”
County officials expect the crime lab to take up 100,000 square feet at the Mount Airy facility, and the Board of Elections would occupy another 100,000 square feet. So the county needs to fill 300,000 square feet to fully utilize the Mount Airy facility, even if the Board of Elections moves.
This story was updated with comments from the secretary of state’s office.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections plans to decide today whether it will move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board argue moving the offices would push early voting away from public transportation options and the city’s core, while the two Republicans claim it’s “good government” because the Mount Airy site consolidates county services with the coroner’s office and includes free parking. In the event of a tie between Democrats and Republicans, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, will break the tie. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, proposed an alternative site downtown on Thursday, but at least one Republican county official said it wasn’t enough to meet the county’s needs.
One of the Republicans on the board resigned as the city’s lobbyist to avoid a conflict of interest prior to today’s vote.
The Republican-controlled Ohio House last week approved a bill that would allow school boards to designate school employees to carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the names of those employees. Republicans argue the proposal will help make schools safer against would-be shooters. But several studies indicate more guns lead to more gun-related violence. A 2009 ABC News special also found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a shooting.
Fracking waste could soon move through barges on the Ohio River, depending on an incoming decision from the U.S. Coast Guard. During the fracking process, drillers pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. But some of that water returns to the surface, and that wastewater needs to be dumped somewhere. Oil and gas companies support the allowance of river barges as a potentially cheaper transportation option for the wastewater. But environmentalists, emergency response experts and other critics argue a spill on the Ohio River could cause widespread damage as toxic wastewater flows down a river many communities tap into for drinking water.
Citing research from Pennsylvania fracking sites, some advocates argue Ohio officials should take another look at whether radiation from Ohio’s fracking operations is affecting surrounding landfills and aquifers.
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Ohio gas prices remained relatively steady at the start of the week.
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Mayor John Cranley yesterday offered free space to the Hamilton County Board of Elections at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep the board’s offices and early voting downtown. The idea comes in the middle of a debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether they should move their offices — and early voting — to a Mount Airy facility, where only one bus line runs, to consolidate county services and avoid the cost of rent. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann said there won’t be enough occupancy at the Mount Airy location if the Board of Elections decides not to move there. For the county, a certain amount of occupancy must be filled at Mount Airy to financially justify the move and the renovations it would require. Without the move, the county will need to find another location or means to build a new county crime lab.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune yesterday refused to announce whether he will actually run against gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, even though he told The Cincinnati Enquirer the day before that he already made a decision. At this point, Portune’s lack of organization and name recognition means his chances of beating FitzGerald are slim to none.
Ohio’s December unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent from 7.4 percent the month before. The amount of employed and unemployed both increased compared to the previous year. The state of the economy could decide this year’s statewide elections, even if state officials aren’t to credit or blame for economic conditions, as CityBeat covered here.
It is perfectly legal to forgive back taxes in Hamilton County. Supporters argue the practice removes a tax burden that likely wasn’t going to get paid anyway, but opponents worry it could be misused and take away revenue from schools and other public services that rely on property taxes.
A Hamilton County court ruled against the legality of automated traffic cameras in Elmwood Place. Officials plan to appeal the ruling.
More than 10,000 Ohioans lost food stamps this month after Gov. John Kasich declined to request a federal waiver for work requirements. Hamilton County officials estimate Kasich’s decision could affect 18,000 food stamp recipients across the county.
A new Ohio House bill delays the transition from the Ohio Graduation Test to new end-of-course exams. The delay aims to provide more time to vet the tests and allow schools to better prepare for the changes.
Local home sales improved by nearly 21 percent during 2013, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport reported 3 percent more passengers and 9 percent more cargo traffic in 2013.
Ohioans spent 5.8 percent more on liquor in 2013 compared to the year before, reaching a new record in yearly purchases of liquor across the state.
The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards return this Sunday.
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Mayor John Cranley on Thursday offered the Hamilton County Board of Elections free space at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep their offices and early voting downtown.
The offer comes in the middle of a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether the county should move the board to a former hospital at Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs.
The Board of Elections currently rents its offices from a private landlord. Moving to the Mount Airy facility would place the board on county-owned property and allow the county to avoid paying rent.
Along with the Board of Elections move, the county wants to establish a new crime lab at the Mount Airy location. Consolidating the crime lab and Board of Elections at the Mount Airy facility would provide the critical mass necessary to financially justify the move and the renovations it would require, according to county officials.
To solve the critical mass issue if the board moves to the former Shillito’s building instead, Cranley, a Democrat, said he’s willing to look into moving some city police services, including SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy facility.
But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer probably won’t satisfy the county’s needs.
“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” he said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”
Hartmann said it’s now up to the Board of Elections to accept or reject the Mount Airy facility. If the board declines to move to Mount Airy, Hartmann explained the county would likely drop the Mount Airy plan and the county coroner would go without a new crime lab.
For the city, Cranley’s offer raises questions about what other potential uses exist for the Shillito’s building, given the high property demand downtown. But Cranley said there’s currently no credible attempt at marketing the facility for other uses.
“The building is vacant, and we spend over $100,000 a year just to maintain a vacant building,” Cranley said. “I believe that getting someone in there that takes a significant amount of space is going to open up the rest of the building, which would be over 200,000 square feet, to make it more marketable. I think long-term it would be better for the city financially.”
He added, “In the short-term I think there are some things more important than money. And I think the symbolism of keeping the Board of Elections and voting downtown is just worth it.”
City Council appears to agree with the mayor. Shortly after Cranley announced his offer, council passed a symbolic resolution opposing the Mount Airy move.
From an electoral perspective, part of the issue is which voting location would favor Democrats or Republicans. Democrats tend to dominate in urban areas like downtown, while Republicans could benefit from a facility in Mount Airy that’s closer to suburban voters.
State Rep. Alicia Reece, who joined Cranley for the announcement, tried to defuse concerns that she, Cranley and other Democrats are trying to keep voting downtown for electoral gains.
“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of elections,” Reece said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections remains split on whether to move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board oppose the move because it could make voting more difficult for Over-the-Rhine and downtown residents. The two Republicans on the board support the plan because it will consolidate operations with the county, which plans to move the county crime lab to the Mount Airy site, and add free parking. If the board remains split, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will break the tie.
Councilman Charlie Winburn shelved his idea to sell the city-owned
Southern Railway to help shore up Cincinnati’s underfunded pension
system. It’s unlikely the idea would have made it through City Council
or Mayor John Cranley. The proposal seemed a bit hypocritical coming
from Winburn, who criticized the previous city administration for
attempting to sell off or lease long-term revenue sources, such as the
city’s parking system, for lump sums. Still, the pension issue remains a major concern for local officials; Winburn asked council members to help find a solution to the problem this year.
The Ohio Department of Health ordered a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic to close after it failed to reach a patient transfer agreement with a local hospital, as required by law. The clinic, located in Sharonville, plans to appeal the ruling. The facility has failed to establish a patient transfer agreement since 2010, but previous Democratic administrations exempted the clinic from the regulations. At the current rate of closures, Ohio could soon fall below 10 available abortion clinics for the first time in decades. For several clinics, part of the issue stems from anti-abortion restrictions in the 2014-2015 state budget approved by Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature.
Council last week approved form-based code for a third neighborhood, Walnut Hills. The regulation allows neighborhoods to bring in new development while hopefully keeping the historic charm and character of the city.
The Cincinnati Bengals asked Hamilton County to hand over sole ownership of naming rights for Paul Brown Stadium, but county commissioners don’t seem keen on the idea.
Over-the-Rhine residents have mobilized to save two old buildings that the Freestore Foodbank originally planned to tear down. Ryan Messer, who is leading the charge to save the buildings, said on Facebook today that the Freestore Foodbank agreed to hold off on the demolitions while both parties meet with residents willing to buy and renovate the buildings.
Federal authorities questioned an Ohio man wearing Google Glass at a movie theater over fears he was attempting to record the film. No action was taken after the man confirmed the Google Glass is also a pair of prescription glasses and the recording function was turned off.
Robots could replace one-fourth of U.S. combat soldiers by 2030, according to a general.
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.
If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.
But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.
The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.
A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote
and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.
Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.
But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage.
"I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.
The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.
In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.
The Voter's Bill of Rights:
A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.
Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."
Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.
The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before noon.
As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.
The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus. But some students and parents say the school should pursue more aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus bookstore.
Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.
Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.
Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.
More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.
Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday said only 11 streetcar workers are expected to lose their jobs following City Council’s pause of the $132.8 million project, far below the original estimate of 200 city officials gave on Monday. The remaining workers will be moved by contractors to other jobs or kept under ongoing utility work, which utility companies agreed to continue despite no longer qualifying for reimbursements from the city, according to Deatrick. He also said it’s “a wild guess” whether the number of layoffs will grow in the future.
Cincinnati should expect to return up to $44.9 million in federal grants funding nearly one-third of the streetcar project even though the project is only on “pause” as local officials weigh the costs of cancellation and completion, according to transportation experts who talked to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Without the federal grants, the project is effectively dead. The two swing votes on council — David Mann and Kevin Flynn — say they want to evaluate whether it would make financial sense to cancel the project this far into construction. Deatrick previously estimated the costs of cancellation could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for $32.8 million in sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grants. But Mann and Flynn voiced distrust over the projections and called for an independent review.
Democrats and voter advocates claim Republican legislators are slowly rebuilding “voter suppression” laws that were the subject of referendum in 2012 before Republicans backed down. Democrats called on Gov. John Kasich to veto the bills. Among other measures, the bills would reduce the amount of in-person early voting days and restrict elected officials’ ability to to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Democrats claim the bills are meant to suppress voters. Republicans argue the measures help reduce “cheaters,” even though in-person voter fraud is very rare.
Chris Finney, a high-profile lawyer who is critical of local tax breaks for businesses, apologized for denying that he sought tax breaks for his law firm. Finney sought the tax breaks shortly after criticizing Cincinnati for granting a tax incentive package to convince Pure Romance to move from Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati. Finney is the top legal crusader for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group with a history of anti-gay causes.
Tea party group One Percent for Liberty nominated Mayor John Cranley as a “Defender of Liberty for 2013” for his work against the streetcar project and parking privatization plan. The group previously nominated various conservative politicians and activists from around the region. The award will be presented at COAST’s Christmas party.
Hundreds of schools and businesses in the Cincinnati area today closed in response to the developing winter storm.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth, two of the areas’ largest health systems, yesterday announced they’re teaming up to reduce costs, improve the patient experience and generate better health outcomes.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced he will crack down on electronic raffle operations.
Nelson Mandela, a South African icon of peace, died yesterday. Mandela was a peaceful leader of the anti-apartheid movement who went on to become South Africa’s first black president. His consistent devotion to peace inspired similar peaceful protests around the world. The New York Times put together a great interactive featuring several correspondents who witnessed Mandela first-hand here.
U.S. unemployment fell to 7 percent in November, the lowest rate in five years.
Popular Science explains how to get rid of animal testing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days and repeal a five-day period in which Ohioans can simultaneously register to vote and vote in person.
“The five-day window offers major benefits to many voters, including those with disabilities or inflexible work schedules, and there is little evidence that it has created any major problems,” said ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner in a statement. “S.B. 238 throws away these critical, nonpartisan benefits for no good reason.”
The bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Nov. 13 by Republican State Sen. Frank Larose. It’s co-sponsored by six Republicans, including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati.
The bill’s introduction follows a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urging legislators to trim in-person early voting days.
The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims uniform voting hours are necessary to avoid legal challenges in case some counties set longer voting periods than others, which courts could deem unfair under equal protection grounds. The uniform voting periods reduce early voting days in some counties without their approval, the organization acknowledges, but it’s necessary to keep the standards uniform without placing an unfair burden on smaller counties.
Democrats, including State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, say the real reason behind such proposals is to suppress voters.
“The Secretary of State’s voter suppression agenda is extremely disappointing. As the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary Husted is tasked with the duty of ensuring that Ohio’s elections are fair and accessible to all citizens,” Reece said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the proposed changes are aimed at restricting voters’ access to the ballot box in 2014.”
Democrats have some evidence to their claims. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch in an email regarding early voting, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”