Gone, after just three-and-a-half years, is the “Beautiful Ohio” plate, a bucolic affair that managed to combine green rolling hills, a red barn, a city skyline, trees, a yellow sunburst, the Wright Brothers’ plane and the year of statehood. The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association gave it second place in its Best New License Plate contest in 2009.
The new standard-issue plate, which went on sale April 15, is called “Ohio Pride” (no, not that pride). The word Ohio appears on a wide, red isosceles triangle bleeding from the top of the plate. And behind the plate number is a background of 46 slogans, identifiers and products “describing what makes Ohio a great state.” Such as: “State of Perfect Balance,” “The Heart of it All,” “Newark Earthworks,” “Serpent Mound,” “Polymer Capital of the World,” “Steel City” and “Walleye.” It is devoid of images.
Pity the passing driver who tries to make out any of the 46 words and phrases. Because they are jammed together in light gray lettering, they blur into a hazy backdrop. Don’t take CityBeat’s word for it. Pull up behind a car with one of the new plates. Maybe you’ll be able to make out two of the larger-print items, “Birthplace of Aviation” and “DiscoverOhio.com.”
The cacophony of slogans and products gives the new Ohio plate an edge over the regular plates of many states, said Greg Gibson, president of the ALPCA. But he, too, was confounded by their legibility. “I doubt that the slogans can be read at any distance,” he says.
Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles spokesman Dustyn Fox said no one in the Kasich administration objected to the Beautiful Ohio plate, which was designed with the help of former First Lady Frances Strickland.
“Traditionally, each new administration redesigns the Ohio plate,” Fox says. “A selection committee made up from BMV officials, Ohio Department of Public Safety officials and representatives from the governor’s office choose final designs. The governor and first lady make the final decision.”
The review panel considered five or six designs before settling on one submitted by students at the Columbus College of Art and Design. The selection, however, represents an act of artistic regression in a milieu that has gone wild for visual elements in the past decade. Wyoming, for instance, has a bucking bronco, Oklahoma a Native American archer, Utah a skier and South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore. Elsewhere, we see trees, mountain ranges, peaches, oranges, a cactus, a pelican and a buffalo.Closer to home, Indiana has a blue license plate depicting the state seal, but which looks like a clock face in traffic. Kentucky plates bear the slogan “Unbridled Spirit” and the head of a hurtling race horse. Cleverly, they also show the vehicle owner’s home county, which allows police officers to snag out-of-county drivers for traffic violations.
Six months ago today, 26 children and adults were slaughtered at the hands of Adam Lanza and a semi-automatic Bushmaster XM12 E2S rifle inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one of the deadliest school shooting massacres in U.S. history. As parents, friends, family and gun control advocates around the country mourn and commemorate the loss of life, Ohio gun rights advocates are worried about something else.
Their concern: how to make it easier for Ohio citizens to obtain high-round magazines for their semi-automatic weapons.
A new Ohio House Bill introduced by State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) could, if passed, allow people to purchase high-round magazines for semi-automatic weapons, removing language from the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that currently restricts use of magazines exceeding 31 rounds for semi-automatic weapons.
Specifically, the proposed bill would remove the definition of "automatic firearm" from section 2923.11 from the ORC that currently qualifies a weapon traditionally defined as a semi-automatic firearm (which operated by firing only once for each pull of the trigger) as an automatic firearm under Ohio law when used with a magazine holding greater than 31 rounds of ammunition.
Gun rights advocates are in favor of deleting the line because qualifying a semi-automatic as an automatic weapon under Ohio law (dependent on magazine size) subjects gun owners to greater background checks and stricter purchasing restrictions, which they consider an unlawful hassle and burden.
Jim Irvine, Chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, says that the sentence Becker has proposed to remove is one that inherently conflicts the actual definition of an automatic weapon; he says it doesn't make sense to qualify a semi-automatic weapon under the same umbrella as an automatic weapon when the two are entirely different types of firearms.
He says that the issue is one of convenience for most semi-automatic gun owners, including himself. "Loading up magazines can take time," he says. "When I go to the shooting range I want to use my time up shooting, not reloading."
That extra time, though, is exactly the point of the wording in the ORC, explains Toby Hoover, executive director for the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Limited magazines were what eventually stopped the Arizona gunman who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because a bystander was able to attack the shooter when he dropped a magazine while trying to reload.
Hoover asserts that gun rights advocates like Irvine are being subversive in their reasons for wanting to change the changed law.
She says the legal issue is not that the ORC is trying to directly equate semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons — they clearly operate differently — but that grouping them together using that magazine restriction is a common-sense way to define them both as dangerous, unnecessary forms of firearms that simply shouldn't be readily accessible to the average gun owner. Semi-automatic weapons are extremely easy to purchase in Ohio, she says, while purchasing automatic weapons involves many more complicated restrictions and regulations.
"I'm just really upset with the way they [Ohio Republicans and gun lobbyists] are ignoring the fact that people in Ohio want gun restrictions. They're just going the opposite direction," she says. "If they're really concerned about the wording of the law, just have them maybe separate the definitions but keep the restrictions the same."
Ohio is one of several states monitor magazine limits on semi-automatic weapons, she explains, so it's not unusual at all that the ORC does so.
Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook's shooter, had several 30-round magazines on him and was also carrying two handguns. It's estimated he used somewhere between four and 10 magazines during the shootings, which took place over a matter of minutes.
The bill has been assigned to the House's Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security committee, where it currently awaits hearing
As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups are pushing back, warning that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls became the latest to speak out in a letter to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
“The current legal investigations perpetuate the idea that voter fraud is widespread, when it’s not true,” she wrote. “We need to work together to give citizens the confidence that the election process is fair and accessible to those who have followed the law and pre-determined process. When citizens are confused about the process of voting they are intimidated from exercising their full rights to vote, which erodes confidence in and the integrity of our democracy.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and League of Women Voters of Ohio sent similar letters to Husted in the past few weeks, echoing fears that the investigations will intimidate voters into staying out of future elections.
The controversy surrounds 39 “double voter” cases recently sent to the county prosecutor by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. In most of the cases, the voters in question sent in an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voted on Election Day through a provisional ballot, which are given to voters when there’s questions about eligibility. Even though the voters technically voted twice, their votes were only counted once.
The letters from Qualls and the League of Women Voters claim the cases were sent to the county prosecutor based on a narrow interpretation of state law and other sections of election law back the voters’ actions.
The letters reference Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2),
which says, “If a registered elector appears to vote in that precinct
and that elector has requested an absent voter's ballot for that
election and the director has received a sealed identification envelope
purporting to contain that elector's voted absent voter's ballots for
that election, the elector shall be permitted to cast a provisional
ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code in that precinct on the day of that election.” The law goes on to clarify only one of the votes should be counted.
Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of Elections on May 31, siding with the Republicans on the board who wanted to send the case to the county prosecutor.
Alex Triantafilou, an elections board member and chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, says Republicans just want an investigation.
“I think anytime a person casts two ballots we ought to ask why,” Triantafilou says. “This is not to prejudge any of these cases as criminal charges. That’s not been our intention. What we want is a qualified investigator to ask the question and then answer it.”
Tim Burke, chairman of the local elections board and the Hamilton County Democratic Party, disagrees: “This is a damn shame. What’s happening to those voters is absolutely wrong.”
Burke claims the law was followed and no further investigation is necessary. He alleges Republicans are trying to suppress voters.
“I fear that what’s going on is that elements of the Republican Party want to create the impression that there is massive voter fraud going on, and they want to scare the hell out of people to intimidate them and discourage them from voting in the future,” Burke says. “I think part of what’s going on here is an effort to identify voter fraud in order to justify more restrictions on voting rights.”
Triantafilou argues Democrats, including Burke, are playing politics: “It’s a continuation of the kind of fear that Democrats try to instill in the electorate, and it’s a political weapon. We’re not trying to do that. They alleged voter suppression in the last election cycle. That was nonsensical. The problem really is fraud.”
State Rep. Connie Pillich announced today that she will run for state treasurer, putting the Greater Cincinnati Democrat on a collision course with current Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican who ran for U.S. Senate last year. Before becoming state representative, Pillich was in the Air Force, a lawyer and a small business owner. “Whether as a captain in the Air Force, a lawyer and owner of a small business, or a representative in the legislature, I’ve dedicated my career to listening to concerns, creating a plan of action, and working hard to deliver real results,” she said in a statement.
Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the ballot language for an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, opening the possibility that the issue will be on the ballot in 2013 or 2014. CityBeat wrote more about the amendment and the group behind it here.
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion are hosting a public meeting and presentation today at 10 a.m. at the Red Cross headquarters at 2111 Dana Ave. CityBeat previously covered the Medicaid expansion, which supporters claim will save the state money and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, here.
Ohio is one of many states preparing to adopt Common Core standards and other reforms in schools, but a recent survey by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute of the state’s superintendents declared that the state is not ready for all the changes being proposed. Terry Ryan of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute says Ohio should consider slowing down to give legislators and educators more time to work through the new requirements.
A new Ohio bill would require only one license plate per vehicle, potentially saving the state $1 million a year. But critics say the bill would limit the amount of tools available to law enforcement to fight and prevent crime.
Nearly two-thirds more suburban residents live below the poverty line in comparison to 2000, according to “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” a book by two Brookings Institution fellows. The book uses U.S. Census Bureau data to form a clearer picture on U.S. poverty trends. Previous analyses have correlated the U.S. rise in poverty with welfare reform, which former President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.
Ohio and U.S. gas prices are spiking this week.
It’s going to be hot today.
A study found a correlation between fiscal conservatives and big biceps.
The first American mission to sample an asteroid is moving forward.
The city manager unveiled his budget plan to solve the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit yesterday. The plan includes less layoffs than expected — particularly to cops and firefighters — but it proposes an increase to property taxes. The plan also includes a series of other cuts, including to all arts funding and subsidies that go to parades, and new fees. The release for the budget plan says many of the cuts could have been avoided if the city obtained revenue from the proposed parking plan, which is currently being held up by a referendum effort and court challenges. The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which uses capital funds that can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of limits established in state law.
The budget plan still has to be approved by Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council to become law, and City Council will hear the public’s opinion before a vote at three public hearings: May 16 at the Duke Convention Center, May 20 at College Hill Recreation Center and May 22 at Madisonville Recreation Center. All the hearings will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he hopes the Constitutional Modernization Commission will produce a ballot initiative for redistricting reform in 2014. Politicized redistricting — also known as “gerrymandering” — has been traditionally used by politicians in power to redraw congressional district borders in a way that favors the political party in charge, but reform could change that. Gerrymandering was used by national and state Republicans to blunt losses in the 2012 election, as CityBeat detailed here.
As Ohio struggles to expand Medicaid, our more conservative neighbor to the south is moving forward. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million people and save millions of dollars by 2022, here.
While some Democrats want to attach party labels to Ohio Supreme Court elections, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants to do away with party primaries for judicial elections.
Former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger, the second longest-serving president at UC, died at 76 yesterday.
New York City could soon become the first major city to let non-citizens vote in local elections. The legislation would allow non-citizens to vote if they are lawfully present in the United States, have lived in New York City for six months or more on the date of a given election and meet other requirements necessary to vote in New York state.
When one simple question makes a huge difference: “When Did You Choose to Be Straight?”
Blood may be the key to seeing how long brain tumor patients have to live and whether their treatment is working.
A new study found oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sickened fish for at least a year.
Here is a compilation of adorable animals trying to stay awake.
• HuffingtonPost.com quickly repeated this potential calumny: “Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national — in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The (New York) Post has learned. Law enforcement sources said the 20-year-old suspect was under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.”
About the same time, Massachusetts and Boston officials were telling journalists they had no suspects.
I recall how authorities initially sought someone who looked like an Arab after the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed in 1995. How do I know? It was all over the news media. As the current FBI website puts it, “Coming on the heels of the (first) World Trade Center bombing in New York two years earlier, the media and many Americans immediately assumed that the attack was the handiwork of Middle Eastern terrorists.”
Two white non-Arab Americans were convicted of the bombing. The only “Arab” link was murderer Timothy McVeigh’s military service in the first Iraq invasion, Desert Storm, where he won a Bronze Star. Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists continued to weave elaborate links between the Oklahoma City bombers and Arabs.
• Everyone with a microphone seems to be telling us the investigation of the Boston bombings will be complex and unhurried. Many recall how long it took to abandon suspicion of security guard Richard Jewell as the Atlanta Olympics bomber. It took two years to identify Eric Rudolph as the bomber and another five to arrest him. False leads will abound and forensic evidence will be sought, collected and analyzed. Some will be helpful, some will be misleading. With so many journalists present, initial coverage largely was self-correcting. The rumor of seven more bombs or a bomb at the JFK library was quickly spiked. The story that local officials blew up a third bomb lasted a little longer. That was half-correct: They blew up a package/backpack but it was not a bomb. There were only two bombs as of this writing.
Everyone with a microphone seems to be saying the Boston bombing investigation will be complex and unhurried. Many recall how long it took to abandon suspicion of security guard Richard Jewell as the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber. False leads will abound and forensic evidence will be sought, collected and analyzed. Some will be helpful, some will be misleading.
• If bombers hoped to create terror, the Boston Marathon was a smart choice: there would be lots of images from cell phones and the news media. It fits my theory of 9/11: the initial 2001 attack on the World Trade Center tower was timed to assure the news media would get full coverage of the jetliner flying into the second tower.
• Moving on from bloodshed, Rachel Richardson’s Enquirer story about dogs in the workplace was a smart story, especially part about socialization being vital to a dog fitting in.
And she pushed my nostalgia button. My first job out of college was night editing a daily paper in Italy. I bought a Belgian Shepherd (Groenendael) pup and named him Loki for the Norse trickster. His mother was a part-wolf/mountain shepherd's companion and father was an Italian ex-Army K9. With long, silky black coat, a plume of a tail, alert eyes and ears, Loki was an unbeatable chick magnet.
His socialization comprised strolling Rome, riding and waiting in my car, joining me in bars and restaurants, and lying under my desk at the Rome Daily American at night when I was the only journalist. I didn't know the breed is famous/infamous for one-person loyalty and instinct to protect: person, possessions, etc.
Loki didn’t approve of anyone approaching my desk when I was in the back shop where type was set, pages were composed and the press run. Anyone else would bring him to his feet, ears back, shoulder blades up, teeth bared . . . but silent. Even as a pup, he could be menacing. “Lupo siberiano,” or Siberian wolf, was the Roman nickname for the breed.
Night messengers who brought engraved zinc plates — photos for every edition in that ancient era of hot type and flatbed press — quickly learned to avoid the newsroom and come directly into the back shop. Loki was a force to be accommodated.
Away from the office, he’d curl up on my Sunbeam Alpine’s passenger seat and bite anyone who was silly enough to reach into the car in hopes of a quick theft.
He rarely let go before I returned and that could create Roman opera buffa. Loki’s victim typically threatened to call police about my vicious dog and — without telling Loki to let go — I offered to help by shouting for police. We never did call for police. When released, the would-be thief unfailingly walked away, cursing me for enticing him with an open sports car into what he hoped was a crime of opportunity.
When I worked days, Loki stayed home nearby. His socialization didn’t accommodate the chaos of a small, crowded newsroom with strangers coming and going.
Again, thanks for the reminder: fun, smart and god help us, mindful of Enquirer watchdog obligations.
• As anticipated here, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is following other Newhouse dailies by reducing home deliveries to three days a week: Sunday and two days to be named later. The PD says it will print seven days a week for street sales. It also plans to fire about a third of its newsroom staff. It’s a sad demise of what long was Ohio’s best daily.
• The Enquirer business section headline was “Survey: Downtown seen as more positive.” That’s also what the story said, based on what Downtown Cincinnati Inc. told the paper. The accompanying photo showed people playing in Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. People feeling positive downtown just weren’t photogenic.
• Read Gina Kolata’s April 7 New York Times story on a new understanding of the role of red meat in heart trouble. It’s among the best story telling in a long time. It’s a complicated subject but she draws us in with researchers sitting down to sizzling sirloin breakfast “for the sake of science.” It gets even better as she explains that the science involves “a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria . . . “ Talk about imagery. Send photos.
• NPR is killing its Monday-Thursday afternoon call-in show, Talk of the Nation, and we’ll all be poorer for it. Talk of the Nation involves civil, lengthy discussion of timely topics. NPR is working with Boston’s WBUR to create a program for Talk’s 2-4 p.m. time slot. NPR says member stations wanted a program more like Morning Edition and All Things Considered in the afternoon and evening. Too bad. Expect lots of canned (and cheaply produced) interviews that seem to be the promise of the new show.
• Journalists should refuse to name sources to whom they’ve promised confidentiality. The corollary, of course, is to ask first whether we’re willing to serve time for contempt of court if we reject a judge's demands that we break our word and name our source(s). In that sense, we probably don’t think it will happen to us and almost mindlessly promise confidentiality to encourage sources to talk to us.
So when there is a court confrontation, the refusenik journalist typically is cast as the hero and the judge as a mindless apparatchik and/or tool of the prosecutor. That’s too simple. Reporters are free to ask their sources to release them from their promise of confidentiality. Judges should compel testimony only when prosecutors have used every other way to identify reporters’ sources and silence could pervert justice. Judges are on the hot seat as much as reporters.
The latest unresolved contest involves Jana Winter who quoted unnamed law enforcement personnel when she reported that Aurora, Colo., gunman James Holmes sent an incriminating notebook to his psychiatrist before massacring moviegoers. FoxNews.com’s Winter said the notebook was filled with violent notes and drawings. Now that the apparently accurate information is out, I don’t see how the sources’ identities matter to a fair trial if there ever is one.
Rather, I like what Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, told the New York Times: “If you required reporters to disclose their sources every time there was a minor leak in a high profile criminal case, the jails would be filled in America with journalists.”
• London’s Daily Mail reports the auction of a log book kept by the RAF navigator whose “bouncing bomb” breached a vital German dam during World War II. The raid was portrayed in the film, The Dambusters. The Daily Mail’s story was spoiled only by a photo of the unique bomb being dropped by a twin-engine plane; Dambusters flew four-engine Lancaster heavy bombers.
• Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is loathed to degrees that W and Obama cannot imagine. Her death last week sparked national demonstrations of joy even as the government and palace hoped that her almost-state funeral in London could be protected from demonstrators. Haters danced in the street, daubed “Rust in Hell” about the Iron Lady, and sang “Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead.” That forced BBC to decide whether to play that song from the Wizard of Oz movie on BBC radio shows dedicated to hit songs or on news programs about Thatcher’s life and death. The song reportedly became No. 1 on iTunes before the funeral and it was headed for the top of the pop charts, pushed by Thatcher haters. At last report, BBC’s director general said only a 5-second snippet would be allowed on the main radio channel. New to his job, he pissed off everyone.
• Patrice Lumumba was the Congo’s first prime minister after Belgium granted independence to the huge, potentially wealthy and criminally unprepared colony. He was murdered not long before I began working on the Congo border in Northern Rhodesia. He already was a martyr-hero of the Left when I studied African anthropology in London.
Lumumba’s abduction, torture and murder were popularly assumed to be a CIA operation, working with Belgians, rebels in copper-rich Katanga province, and others who coveted the Congo’s mineral wealth and mines.
Now, a curious news story in London’s Telegraph says Britain’s worldwide Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) engineered Lumumba’s death. More curious is the weight it gives to a second-hand source. It quotes Lord Lea of Crondall quoting Baroness (Daphne) Park of Monmouth, who was the senior MI6 officer in the Congo then, as saying she "organised it.”
Lord Lea told the Telegraph, "It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park – we were colleagues from opposite sides of the Lords – a few months before she died in March 2010. She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, from 1959 to 1961, which in practice (this was subsequently acknowledged) meant head of MI6 there. I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba's abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. 'We did,' she replied, 'I organised it.'"
The Telegraph said Lord Lea claimed Baroness Park reasonably was concerned that Lumumba might be a communist siding with Soviet Russia. After all, African and Asian independence leaders like Lumumba, South Africa’s Mandela and others often found their most active Cold War support mainly in Moscow and the wider Communist movement.
Initially blaming the CIA wasn’t irrational. By Lumumba’s death in 1961, the CIA had engineered the overthrow of elected governments in Iran and Guatemala and botched the Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
Belgium apologized in 2002 for failing to prevent
Lumumba’s death. In 2006, the Telegraph said, “documents showed the CIA
had plotted to assassinate him but the plot was abandoned.”
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas’ last City Council meeting will be Wednesday, after which he will be replaced by his wife of 32 years, Pam Thomas.
“Her qualifications are impeccable,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “She will give this city a good representation.”
Thomas’ wife ran for Hamilton County clerk of courts last year, ultimately losing to Tracy Winkler. But Thomas said she won 70 percent of the vote in Cincinnati, making her an obviously strong contender as a local candidate.
Thomas’ recommendation has raised questions among critics about how council members are replaced upon resignation. Incumbents can only make recommendations to successor designees, who make the final decision, but as Councilman Wendell Young, one of Thomas’ designees, noted at the meeting, the designees typically give great weight to the incumbent’s recommendation.
When asked whether council members should have so much power in recommending appointees, Thomas said, “I just follow the rules.” He said if City Council wants to change the rules, it can.Thomas said he will now run for the State Senate seat being left vacant by State Sen. Eric Kearney, who is term limited. He acknowledged the State Senate may be a more difficult place for Democrats, which are in the minority at the state level, but he said he hopes to “bridge divides” if he serves.
Until then, Thomas said he is looking forward to his time off, although he will miss having a role in local politics: “It's going to be tough to not be able to have that direct hands-on.”
Thomas said he wanted to step down earlier in the year, but he decided to stay in office to see if the city could avoid laying off cops and firefighters by balancing the fiscal year 2014 budget through the parking plan (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), which Thomas strongly supports. With the parking plan now in legal limbo and the layoffs going through, Thomas is stepping down.
Cincinnati’s Youth Jobs Fair will be held today at the Duke Energy Convention Center between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The fair provides an opportunity for young people, typically aged between 16 and 24, to look for work from a variety of participating employers. Mayor Mark Mallory says attendees should “dress for success,” as if they were going to their first day on the job.
State environmental groups and an Akron-based energy company are at odds over a 2008 law that tasks the state and utility companies with meeting stringent requirements for renewable energy and energy efficiency. State Sen. Bill Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican who heads the Senate Public Utilities Committee, has agreed to review Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, while FirstEnergy, an Akron-based energy company, protests the requirements as too expensive for the company and consumers around the state. But Seitz’s decision has alarmed environmental groups who largely see the law as effective three years later.
Republicans in the General Assembly are considering an incremental approach to elections reform after their comprehensive efforts in 2011 and 2012 were received with widespread accusations of voter suppression. The details aren’t worked out yet, but Seitz is planning on introducing bills that he says will cut down on provisional ballot voting and provide clearer rules for poll workers collecting provisional ballots, and other Republicans are looking to set uniform statewide early voting hours. Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner says she wants to see a more comprehensive approach to elections reform, including a more relaxed approach to provisional ballots.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners are considering raises for county employees, but they first have to find a way to pay for the increases. Board President Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he would like to wait to see how Gov. John Kasich’s budget turns out to institute a merit-based raise system. Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat, says he wants to guarantee all employees a 1-percent increase.
City Council held a special meeting last night to discuss the city’s pension system, which many are worried is costing the city too much in the long term. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says the city needs to take more steps to stabilize the system: “More money in, figuring out where that more money will come from, looking at the current picture of the benefits themselves, and some way of financing it short of putting lump sums of cash in.”
The U.S. Supreme Court showed doubts over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which effectively banned same-sex marriage at a federal level, at hearings yesterday.
President Barack Obama’s administration released a proposal that will help deal with the effects of global warming on wildlife, including arctic foxes.
Watch a nine-year-old discuss the meaning of life and the universe:
Financial giant and Lytle Park bully Western & Southern has accused city officials and other Anna Louise Inn advocates of repeatedly deceiving the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to obtain federal funds for the long-awaited, $13 million renovations to the Inn.
Those renovations are the same ones that have been blocked over and over by a series of legal entanglements initiated by Western & Southern, which tried to purchase the Inn back in 2009 for $1.8 million, refusing to buffer the Inn's $3 million price tag. In 2011, the Hamilton County Auditor valued the plot at $4 million.
Now, the corporate giant, which owns a number of other plots of land in Lytle Park, wants to buy the Inn and convert it into an upscale hotel.
Western & Southern’s lawyer, Glenn Whitaker, sent a letter obtained by CityBeat dated March 19 to City Solicitor John Curp accusing city officials of knowingly violating the federal Fair Housing Act by allowing the owner of the Inn, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), to pursue federal funding for renovations while providing services to exclusively women in need, which the letter alleges would “discriminate on the basis of gender” and “expose the City to liability under both the federal False Claims Act and the FHA.”
“We share this with you because — no matter where one stands on whether ALI’s renovations comply with Cincinnati Zoning Code — it is in the public interest for the City to avoid a lawsuit that could lead to a significant payout in today’s budget environment,” reads the letter.
Of course, that lawsuit is one that would be entirely fabricated and launched by Western & Southern, on top of years worth of zoning violation allegations that, so far, have failed to gather much merit.
Some women-only shelters are deemed permissible due to safety issues, but in the letter, Whitaker alleges that the renovation plans expose ALI to discrimination liability by, in theory, making the safety issue moot by providing clear, separated spaces for men and women. The renovation plans include converting what are now dormitory-style units with shared bathrooms into private residences with private bathrooms and kitchens, according to the letter.
Curp, who received the letter, says the city’s relationship with HUD is one that hinges on constant communication, and though Western & Southern's allegations were unexpected, they'll be taken seriously.
“We work with them closely, we have a great relationship with HUD. They were the first organization we contacted when we got this letter, ... so they understood the nature of the allegations and because they’re one of our development partners. We have lots of development partners in the city, frankly, including Western & Southern. ... We're disappointed that the city has been pulled into what is otherwise a third-party dispute."
The letter also accuses a number of community members, including 3CDC, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Model Group, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and the YMCA of conspiring to move low-income residents from the Metropole to the Anna Louise Inn in order to ease litigation with the Homeless Coalition and make way for the new, upscale 21c Museum Hotel.
John Barrett, Western & Southern’s CEO, is also on the board of 3CDC, which adds an extra element of mystery to the lodged accusations; at best, it seems extreme they'd be willing to accuse ally 3CDC of wrongdoing or conspiracy for the sake of a discrimination lawsuit against a nonprofit social services agency whose stated goal for more than 100 years has been to provide a haven for women in need.
Ideally, explains Curp, HUD will respond equipped with some sort of past precedent that would absolve the city and the Inn of alleged discrimination and make the lawsuit irrelevant.
"I think a lawsuit would be very much premature. ... Like I said, our first step is to talk to HUD and to make sure that between the both of us, we don’t see any discrimination or compliance issues. If there’s any chance of that ... after our review and a review by HUD, we will fix it to bring it into compliance," he says.
"As I sit here today, I can't imagine this situation hasn't been dealt with in the past. I'd be shocked if HUD hasn't dealt with this in another community and come up with a set of guidelines for us to follow."