Democrats and Republicans gathered in front of the board of elections yesterday scratching their heads and trying to figure out just what went wrong on Election Day when a series of glitches forced Hamilton County polling places to stay open two additional hours. Most of the blame was placed on the new electronic sign in system, which was programmed with the wrong cut-off date for voter registration, excluding as many as 11,000 people. The system's manufacturer Tenex Software Solutions, which created the system for $1.2 million and set the cutoff date as July 6 and not October 5, issued a public apology yesterday. But lucky for them, as voter turnout is generally low across the United States, official estimates put the number of excluded people around 4,000. Other culprits for the Election Day disaster include poor Internet connections, older poll workers unfamiliar with the new technology and problems with the machines reading old, worn down driver's licenses' barcodes.
Is your dream to ride the streetcar in a drunken haze Friday night post-OTR bar hopping and binge drinking? Well, Mayor John Cranley and SORTA are working to make that dream a reality! SORTA is thinking of extending the streetcars' hours before it's even made its debut to the public. Currently, the streetcar is scheduled to operate 6 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every other day of the week. Two plans have been launched that would generally start service a little later in the morning, around 7 a.m., and keep it running until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, which conveniently coordinates with closing time for the bars. Mayor Cranley says he supports the streetcar operating later to support the growing nightlife in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. SORTA will submit the revised schedule to its board and City Council at the beginning of next year.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative by the Federal Housing Finance Agency has selected Cincinnati as one of 18 cities that will let local community organizations get first dibs before the general public on foreclosed properties owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. The project, which hopes to help cities that were hit the hardest by the housing crisis, selected cities that have at least 100 properties valued at less than $75,000. Cincinnati easily hit this mark with between 301 and 700 properties falling into this category. The program will launch Dec. 1 and also be extended to other troubled Ohio cities like Akron, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo.
Gov. John Kasich might still be lagging behind in polls, but at least he's determined to be heard. In the fourth GOP presidential debate last night, Kasich got the second most air time, but obtained most of it by interrupting fellow nominees and moderators. In the process, he managed to get Donald Trump booed then himself booed when he said he would bail out the big banks and launched into an exchange with real estate tycoon Trump over immigration and fracking. The Columbus Dispatch reported that while Kasich's new aggressive tactics and moderate positions may be good in the general election, it might not fare so well for him in the primaries, where he is already the underdog and is easily overshadowed by the more extreme Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Football, America's favorite sport, causes head injuries and concussions. So we should all be signing up little Billy and Jane for soccer, right? Well, turns out soccer also causes head injuries when players heading the ball, which looks impressive, but may actually cause a lot of damage later on. So the United States Soccer Federation, which oversees U.S. soccer youth national teams, has unveiled a new set of regulation, one of which is prohibiting children 10 and under with their precious developing brains from heading the ball. The move comes to resolve a lawsuit was filed by players and parents in August 2014 against FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization for failing to monitor all the head injuries.
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Civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the University of Cincinnati on Tuesday, speaking to students and activists for about 45 minutes on a number of topics related to recent national discussions around race, college activism and voting. Jackson’s remarks drew a packed house of about 100 at the school’s African American Cultural and Resource Center.
UC has been at the center of those conversations both locally and nationally after UC police officer Ray Tensing shot unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose July 19 in neighboring Mount Auburn. The aftermath of that shooting has raised both renewed activism around racial inequities and racial tensions on UC’s campus.
Jackson has been in Cincinnati for the last two days, meeting with local ministers and business leaders before making his impromptu appearance at UC. During his talk, Jackson spoke about another university that has been a focus of the national debate on racial equity. Jackson returned often to recent events at the University of Missouri, where racial tensions in the past few weeks led to the resignations of university president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
Student activists there staged protests and a grad student undertook a week-long hunger strike over racially charged incidents on campus and what they saw a subsequent lack of action by school administrators. The protests culminated in a move by university football players refusing to take the field until the hunger strike ended.
“It really shows the power of one dedicated person, one student who decided to fast to get everybody else’s attention,” Jackson said. “Sacrifice matters.”
Jackson encouraged students at UC to vote, to focus on academics and to be clear in demands for racial equity on campus and beyond.
“The agenda must correspond to the needs,” Jackson said about campus activism at UC, the University of Missouri and elsewhere. “The board of directors hire the president. The C-suites make decisions on a day to day basis. The faculty. The tenured professors whose jobs are secure in the academic world. The supplier contracts on this campus. The university lawyers. The advertising and marketing. All of this should be an agenda for change.”
A group at UC called the Irate8 that formed in the aftermath of the DuBose shooting has staged rallies, teach-ins and other peaceful efforts to advocate for black students on campus. The group is named for the 8 percent of the school’s student body that is black. The Irate8 points out Cincinnati’s population is 45 percent black and has pushed the UC administration to articulate a plan to boost diversity on the school’s main campus to better reflect the demographics of the city as a whole.
On Oct. 15, the Irate8 released a list of 10 demands for UC’s administration. In that list, the group asks that for establishment of campus-wide racial awareness training, disinvestment from any companies running private prisons, the hiring of at least 16 black staff and senior faculty members over the next three years and the doubling of the school’s percentage of black students on campus.
The group is also pushing for substantial reform to UC’s police force in the wake of the DuBose shooting, highlighting the large disparity between blacks and whites in stops and arrests by the department in the past year. In 2014, 17 whites and 52 blacks were stopped by the UC police force. Police issued 30 citations to whites that year and 119 to blacks.
Administrators say they’re working to address activist’s points. Meanwhile, racially charged statements similar to those that sparked tensions at the University of Missouri have cropped up on social media at UC, further increasing tensions at the school.
Despite those messages, however, Jackson said collaboration and diversity are the keys to success for activists at UC.
"The dream must include all of us," Jackson said, repeatedly admonishing student activists to build inclusive coalitions with other groups of all races on campus and beyond around student debt, voting access and other issues to achieve their goals. "The more people I include, the bigger my agenda gets."
Hey Cincy. There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on today. Let’s talk about some of it.
• The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning is hosting a series of discussions about transit in the region, and the event has drawn a packed house. The event comes on the heels of a less-than-stellar report about Greater Cincinnati’s transit options. According to that report, only 22 percent of jobs in the city are easily accessible by public transit, and only 58 percent across the region are within a 90-minute transit ride.
The Chamber’s event today features a panel discussion involving local transit officials and experts and a keynote address from former Zipcar head and transit expert Gabe Klein. Among the highlights: Republican Cincinnati City Councilwoman and chair of the Council’s transportation and regional cooperation subcommittee Amy Murray advocating for an expansion of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metro system via a county-wide tax increase. That ask may appear on the ballot next November. Democrat Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, also speaking on the panel, pointed to the fact that the region is dead last among peer cities in terms of transit connectivity, and that this weakness could hamper economic growth.
Klein’s talk focused on the way transit can increase a city’s economic competitiveness, and how high emphasis on highways and lack of transit options can hamper a city’s walkability and its ability to attract young people. Klein also argued in favor of a return to density in city centers, especially density focused on eliminating the need to rely on cars to get to necessities.
“Making cities dense again, a place where people want to be, just makes sense,” Klein told attendees, arguing that increased density with less reliance on cars (and need for parking, for example) changes the equation for developers and residents when it comes to making decisions about where to build and live.
• Speaking of transit, the streetcar is taking its first trips under its own power today around Over-the-Rhine. You may see the shiny new orange and white vehicles, which look a little like space trains or something, making a 1.6 mile loop between the southern edge of Washington Park and Henry Street just north of Findlay Market. There won’t be any street closures along the route as officials seek to test how motorists and pedestrians interact with the new addition to traffic. The cars will travel very slowly most of the time — about three miles an hour — though at times the cars will be bumped up to 10 mph and occasionally all the way up to a top speed of 25 mph. The tests could take up to three days.
• About 20 local fast food, homecare and childcare workers gathered at City Hall this morning to advocate for a boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The demonstration was part of a larger group of events happening across the country today advocating for the wage boost with an eye toward the 2016 elections. According to organizers, walkouts, city hall rallies and other events are planned in more than 270 cities nationwide today. The group gathered at Cincinnati City Hall this morning will also rally in Norwood at noon. In addition to wage increases, the groups, part of the Fight for 15 movement, are also protesting for increased union rights in industries that aren’t friendly to collective bargaining. Organizers say today’s rallies are just the start of a year-long effort to put pressure on candidates and officials to take steps to expand collective bargaining rights and wages for low-income workers. More than 2 million Ohioans make less than $15 an hour.
• What’s the difference between jail and a cozy stay in a place you found on Air B&B? Here’s a hint: it’s not the price. Jail stays in some parts of the state can cost you an average of more than $70 a day, a report from the American Civil Liberties Union found recently. Those fees can add up. One man who has been booked multiple times on non-violent drug charges now owes the state more than $21,000 for his time in county jails. Not all jails charge booking or daily fees, but at least 16 in the state do. Generally, county commissioners decide whether or not to charge the one-time booking fees (which Hamilton and Butler Counties do) and the recurring daily fees (which they do not). The ACLU is asking the state legislature to create rules against those charges.
• Finally, is a dynamic duo of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the cards for the 2016 presidential election? Pundits have been opining on the possible dream team (or nightmare scenario/comedic and bumbling buddy movie in the making, depending on your political leanings) after noticing the two contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have been notably less than hostile to each other during debates and in the press. Kasich brings experience and well, one of the nation’s biggest swing states. Rubio brings youth and… one of the other big swing states. Of course, neither one wants to play Robin to the other’s Batman just yet and take the VP spot, but time could change that, especially if Kasich doesn’t take a big upswing in the polls in places like New Hampshire, the early primary state where the Ohio gov has said he must do well to continue his campaign.
Good morning Cincy. Let’s talk about what’s been going on in the news the past few days.
The University of Cincinnati and city officials continue to work on a revised memorandum of understanding in regard to the university’s police force, officials for both organizations told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee today. Following the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing, the city is working to fold UC’s police officers into Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement. That agreement, which establishes guidelines for training, community engagement and accountability for Cincinnati police officers, sprang up in the wake of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting death of unarmed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas. Officials with UC and the city have said they hope to have a renewed memorandum of understanding by spring 2016. Until that time, UC officers are limited in their off-campus patrolling abilities. Following the DuBose shooting, campus activists have called for further actions to ensure racial equity within the university’s police force and the UC campus as a whole, many of which go beyond the city’s work to establish a new set of working agreements with the UC police department.
• It’s been a rough couple weeks for Wasson Way, the proposed bike path that would stretch 7.6 miles from Xavier University to Newtown, but there’s some good news ahead in the form of a state grant. Late last month, the federal government announced the project wouldn’t be receiving millions in Transit Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants that could have gone a long way toward funding the $7 million to $11 million effort. Bike path advocates got more bad news last week when voters passed on Issue 22, a property tax increase charter amendment that Mayor John Cranley proposed to fund Wasson Way and a number of other projects. But late last week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved a $500,000 grant to fund a portion of the path stretching two-thirds of a mile between Madison Road and Dana Avenue on the city’s East Side. Both Cincinnati City Council and private philanthropy groups are working to find additional funding for the path, which boosters tout as a way to spur economic development in the area.
• One project that won’t feel a negative impact from the Issue 22’s ballot failure is a proposed Ziegler Park redevelopment. That project passed another hurdle Friday when the Cincinnati Planning Commission approved plans for the park, which include a new pool, an extensive green space, a water feature and updates to basketball courts. Officials with 3CDC and the city say efforts to change up the park, located on Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine across from the former SCPA building, are going forward with federal tax credits and other funds and weren’t dependent on a possible $5 million windfall had the parks tax increase passed.
• City of Cincinnati officials have asked a county judge to declare vacant buildings owned by an out-of-town developer public nuisances and to hand control over the crumbling structures to a group who can fix them. Washington, D.C.-based 2414 Morgan Development, LLC owns 10 buildings in OTR and another in Avondale, all of which have significant code violations. The development group says it is working on the buildings and could have them up to code in as little as a month and a half. But the city says it’s been pressuring the group for months to fix the properties and that the buildings are serious hazards to the public and could mean injury or death for firefighters should one burst into flames.
• If you’re a fan of natural grocer and hipster joke punch line Whole Foods but you’re not a fan of spending half your paycheck on organic kale and a $50 juice cleanse kit, you’re gonna love this. According to Whole Foods financial reports, Cincinnati will be one of the first cities in the country to get a new, more value-priced concept called 365 by Whole Foods Market. The store, which will occupy an as-yet-unannounced location, will be smaller than the sprawling market at Rookwood Commons and will have lower-priced organic produce and other items. Other cities getting the new stores include Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Bellevue, Wash., and Santa Monica, Calif. Cincinnati’s location is expected to open in 2017.
• Finally, we’re still talking about the Brent Spence Bridge and probably will be for some time. A proposed alternative to the antiquated bridge’s needed $2.6 billion revamp has been shrugged off as unrealistic by many officials, but it might still be on the table with the election of tea party Republican Matt Bevin as Kentucky governor. Basically, some Northern Kentucky business leaders opposed to the possibility of tolling on the Brent Spence to fund the multi-billion project have proposed… uh, another multi-billion-dollar project, the construction of a 68-mile bypass highway leaving I-75 in Springboro, Ohio and returning to the highway in Grant County, Kentucky. That project would require its own $100 million bridge over the Ohio River in addition to the high costs of building the highway itself.
Transportation policy experts say the construction of that bypass could take decades and cost billions, but Bevin has signaled he’s open to considering it as an option to reduce stress on the overcrowded and somewhat crumbling Brent Spence. That bridge was built in 1963 and, as a vital link in one of the country’s busiest shipping routes, currently carries double the daily traffic it was designed to accommodate.
Good morning Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.
• A new study released Thursday by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center found that 75,000 Cincinnati jobs are unreachable by public transit. The study found that while 70 percent of businesses are within a quarter mile of a bus stop, Metro's services sometimes isn't good enough for commuters. Metro is considering asking Hamilton County voters to approve a hike in sales tax to raise $25 million for the bus system. And SORTA points out that the good news from this study is that it found Cincinnati it's second lowest in commuter costs per person in the U.S. So at least it's efficient!
• The newly arrived streetcar will undergo its first test this Sunday. The car will be parading down the entire 3.6 mile route in Over-The-Rhine and the Banks from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and will be escorted by the police. As it will still be a long time before the streetcar will make it's debut to the general public, if you so fancy, you can pick and spot and wait to see it slowly pass by. The car will be going south on Race Street to Central Parkway to Walnut in the Central Business District to Second Street at the Banks then up Main to 12th then Elm then finally to Henry Street.
• Cincinnati State Technical and Community College's interim president has named an interim provost. President Monica Posey, the school's former provost, named Robbin as temporary provost. has been the dean of humanities and sciences since 2012, and previously worked at Sinclair Community College. Cincinnati State is currently looking for a permanent president after the resignation of Owens in September.
• Cincy State also announced yesterday an anonymous donor has given the school its biggest gift ever, $2.2 million. The school says it plans to use the money toward scholarships in the Business Technologies division starting fall 2016, and it will hand out $110,000 in scholarships yearly. Many Cincinnati State students are the first in their families to attend college, and the average student age is 28.
• Voters shot down attempt at legalizing marijuana on Tuesday, but what will happen to the campaign's mascot Buddie? The mascot was an attempt to appeal to college students, but was criticized by opponents for potentially appealing to younger kids and trivializing a serious issue for some. Ian James, president of , said he's not sure what will happen to the costume yet, but as some investors have hinted at making another attempt at legalization next November, we may not have seen the last of Buddie.
• Meanwhile in Washington, Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that would take the plant off the federal government's list of the "most dangerous" substances lists. Sanders' plan would not legalize the drug, but instead would make it easier for states to decide on their own whether they wanted to legalize it. Currently federal law clashes with state laws in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. In response to this, the Obama administration has basically just stopped enforcing the federal law in those states.
• Do you think your commute to work is hard? Well, next time you're stuck in traffic on I-71, be grateful that the only border you're possibly crossing is the Kentucky-Ohio one. Public Radio International reported on a story of a 19-year-old Juarez, Mexico, woman who crosses the complicated U.S.-Mexico border nearly every day to go to high school in El Paso. You can check out her full day here.
I'm off to enjoy the last of the wonderful weather! Email me story tips at email@example.com!
One of the most important questions to come out of last night’s election isn’t about the results of any specific ballot issue, but instead about the process by which voters cast, or, in some cases, had a hard time casting, their ballots.
Many are wondering why voting was so arduous in Hamilton County yesterday, with technical glitches forcing some voters to cast provisional ballots and imprecise information given by poll workers sending other voters scrambling.
While the entire state of Ohio, and really, much of the country, waited to see if voters would legalize marijuana here, Hamilton County fumbled with errors. Now, some are wondering whether these stumbles are related to a new electronic voting system, and if the difficulties could spell trouble during next year’s sure-to-be-contentious presidential election, where Ohio will play a central role.
Voters reported problems with the county’s new voting system in the West End, Madisonville, Evanston, Northside, Clifton, Coryville, Mount Lookout, Roselawn, Hyde Park, Northside and other areas. The system, which relies on tablet computers to scan IDs and check in voters, hasn’t been used before.
Secretary of State Jon Husted put the entire state’s election results on hold so the county could extend voting times until 9 pm. The order for polls to stay open an extra two hours came from a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman in response to injunctions from Issue 3-backers ResponsibleOhio and former State Sen. Eric Kerney, who cited long lines at some polling stations.
The appeals to the court came after voters in a number of precincts throughout the county reported that, though they had registered to vote months prior, the new electronic voting system employed by the county did not recognize their names and would not allow them to cast electronic ballots, even if their registration was confirmed by written voter logs. Some were asked to cast provisional ballots, or to head to the Hamilton County Board of Elections office downtown.
Jane Pendergrast of Delhi Township reported on Twitter that she had to cast a provisional ballot after her name didn’t show up in the e-poll books. Pendergrast said a poll worker told her the same difficulties had happened to about 50 other voters at the polling location.
Meanwhile, other poll workers were confused by ID requirements and asked voters to cast provisional ballots unnecessarily, some voters say.
The provisional ballots are only counted if elections are close, leading some voters to feel like their votes didn’t matter.
Kevin LeMasters voted at one of the county’s largest polling locations, the Coryville Recreation Center. That voting location serves more than 1,700 voters. He says poll workers there were requiring voters to fill out provisional ballots if the address on their IDs did not match information in the Board of Election’s electronic system, despite the fact that’s not what BOE rules stipulate.
“What concerns me is the following, this particular location is the 2nd largest polling location out of 557 in Hamilton and should be staffed appropriately,” LeMasters said in an e-mail. “It is situated close to UC's campus where the large majority of students do not have an ID with the same address considering the fluid nature of their housing. Was this an accident, something nefarious? Whether malice or ignorance, it is unacceptable either way.”
Secretary of State Husted visited Hamilton County polling locations earlier in the day, when difficulties voting were already being reported. Husted blamed poll worker error for the problems, despite the fact many seemed to be technical in nature and had much to do with the new electronic system used to gather votes.
“"By and large, it's working great," Husted said yesterday. "Any time you have a massive technology change, you're going to have some problems."
Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson pushed back at Husted’s assertion via social media, saying constituents were reporting that tablets used in vote gathering were freezing or not connecting to the internet; technical problems that aren’t necessarily due to poll worker error.
Meanwhile, other, non-technical difficulties popped up. In Northside, some voters found themselves
locked out of a polling location around 7:30 pm, even though it was
ordered to stay open until 9. Eventually, voters there were able to gain
entry to the location, which poll workers said had been locked by
The voting difficulties are the latest chapter in Ohio's fraught struggle over voting access. Voting rights advocates have fought state efforts to reduce voting hours in recent elections, especially in urban areas.
Hamilton County Board of Elections members said no voters appear to have lost the opportunity to vote due to the difficulties and that they don't represent any sort of disenfranchisement, either accidental or purposeful.
But the rocky questions linger about the electronic system, which is set to go state-wide next year, just as the country focuses on Ohio and its pivotal role in deciding an especially heated presidential election.
If you already miss the excitement of following local ballot issues, there are a couple that look likely for next year. Supporters of the Preschool Promise, an initiative that looks to extend preschool to more Cincinnati children, are holding an introductory event tonight at Rhinegeist brewery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. With 44 percent of the city's children living in poverty, that initiative looks to be a big one for 2016.
• Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Republicans handed Democrats a beating. Bevin's election as governor is something of an upset, as polls had Conway up by as much as five points heading into voting. Bevin is only the second GOP
governor in the last 40 years in Kentucky. The race was also a walloping down-ticket, with Republicans taking most major statewide offices except
attorney general, won by Democrat Andy Beshear, and secretary of state,
which Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes hung onto. Not good news for
Good morning all. Hope your Halloween was really rad. I spent mine dancing like an idiot while marginally dressed up like Waldo of Where’s Waldo fame. That’s right. I chose a literary themed costume because I’m classy. Some friends and I also had a pretty great picnic in Spring Grove Cemetery, which I highly recommend.
Anyway. News. You already knew this, but Cincinnati’s first streetcar showed up on Friday, accompanied by the kind of hoopla usually reserved for astronauts who have been to the moon or people who have saved a bunch of puppies from burning buildings or puppy-saving astronauts, even. A local TV news station broke out the news copter and gave real-time updates of the car’s progress down I-71 and Reading Road into Over-the-Rhine. Every blogger in the city blogged about the blog-worthiest event in the local blogosphere. (Btw, Microsoft Word recognizes “blogosphere” as a legitimate word because we live in the worst era ever). My Instagram account was damn near unusable for hours afterward because it was just pictures of a single streetcar not on its tracks and a bunch of people looking at it. Yes, yes. It was a historic day and streetcars haven’t run in this city since the 1950s. Personally, I’ll start partying the minute I can step on a streetcar in Mount Auburn, feel it glide down the old tracks I walk past every day poking up out of Highland Ave., and step off at work. That’d be the day. Until then, woo hoo.
• Meanwhile, OTR is getting more $500,000-plus homes, all right along the streetcar route. Recently-founded Cincinnati based development company Karvoto has announced plans for nine townhomes in the neighborhood, all with three bedrooms and between 2,000 and 2,700 square feet of space. The $4 million development will renovate four buildings along Wade Street and Kemp Alley and also construct five new buildings in the same area.
• A series of e-mails between city officials and Cincinnati-based corporation Western & Southern reveal the two have been collaborating on plans for the overhaul of Lytle Park downtown near W&S headquarters and the conversion of a nearby former women’s shelter, the Anna Louise Inn, into a luxury hotel. That renovation has been controversial; the building’s former occupant, Cincinnati Union Bethel, had used the building for its women’s shelter for more than a century before a legal battle eventually forced it to sell to W&S. The e-mails also show that the city is mulling the sale or lease of two streets near those locations to Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of W&S. In addition to collaboration, the messages reveal conflict between the city’s Park Board and Eagle over the sale of the streets, dumpsters associated with the Anna Louise Inn renovation and other issues. Critics of charter amendment Issue 22, a park-oriented tax increase on tomorrow’s ballot, released the e-mails recently after gaining access to them through an open records request. Issue 22 seeks to fund a number of proposed projects, including the remake of Lytle Park, through a permanent property tax increase.
• As folks tear their hair out and obsess over a 1 mill property tax increase for the city’s parks, Hamilton County Commissioners are on the way to passing a $209 million spending package that is drawing about as much attention as Jim Webb’s presidential campaign. In what can only be described as a reverse Parks and Recreation scenario, four scheduled public hearings about the budget garnered exactly zero public attendees to give input on the plan. Part of that is because the budget doesn’t exactly depart wildly from the status quo — there are few if any dramatic cuts or spending swells. It’s not that there aren’t big issues: Hamilton County’s morgue needs a huge update, and commissioners aren’t sure how to pay for it, for example. But for now, the big money fights are elsewhere, and that’s left commissioners feeling a little lonely, calling for someone, anyone, to comment on their handiwork. Democrat Commissioner Todd Portune had an aptly spooky quote about the ghostly public.
“It’s almost like the county is the Sleepy Hollow of local government,” he said. “You typically don’t get the same kind of public involvement that you see at the city or other local municipalities.”
• Ohio will have to wait a while to vote on a replacement for former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who represented the West Chester area in Congress. It’ll be a hot day in June when his District 8 congressional seat goes up for a special election, and I for one can’t wait to see what kind of A-plus candidates run for the spot. Boehner bailed on the top spot in Congress last month after tea party Republican machinations in the House nearly brought the government to a shutdown again, this time over Planned Parenthood. Boehner, tired of trying to shepherd his unruly flock of hardcore anti-government conservatives peaced out of the fray, leaving the GOP to fumble and fidget until finally roping U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin into the leadership role. Now the House has a head again, but Ohio’s 8th District is still without representation. Thanks Boehner.
• Finally, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill today that would create more oversight for the state’s private charter schools, which have become something of a boondoggle for his administration and the Ohio Department of Education. Numerous investigations have taken place around the schools, which use public money to create private alternative to public school districts. Earlier this year, one of those investigations revealed that ODE officials neglected to include scores from particularly low-performing online charter schools in performance evaluations for charters. Other scandals have befallen charters in the recent past, including revelations of financial mismanagement, staff misbehavior and attendance irregularities at charters throughout the state, including in Cincinnati.
Annnnnd I’m out. Go vote tomorrow.