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The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.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:
Last weekend I drove out through Mariemont to the Walton Creek Playhouse where Mariemont Players has assembled a thoroughly enjoyable production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, a show once described as "whipped cream with knives." The theater, an old schoolhouse, has an intimate performing space, a perfect setting for this tale of mixed-up couples in early-20th-century Sweden. The show, simply and effectively staged by Skip Fenker, revolves around a free-spirited but aging actress who eventually sings "Send in the Clowns," Sondheim's best-known tune. The Sunday matinee I attended was all but sold out, so you should call in advance for a reservation: 513-684-1236. Onstage through Jan. 26.
If you're looking for some outstanding acting, you should definitely head to Cincinnati Shakespeare and watch Brent Vimtrup play the title role in Hamlet. He plays the role of the indecisive Prince of Denmark, pointed toward vengeance but filled with doubt. Vimtrup uses an expressive physicality and natural insight that makes long-familiar speeches ("To be or not to be," "What a rogue and peasant slave am I" and more) feel fresh and new. He's onstage for most of the three-and-a-half hour production, a highly watchable marathon. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x 1. Through Jan. 26.
Saturday at Bogart’s you’ll have a chance to see 10 of Greater Cincinnati’s finest up-and-comers as CityBeat presents the first “Best New Bands” showcase. The event coincides with our “Best New Bands” cover story, featuring profiles and info on all of the performers — grab a copy if you haven’t.
Below is the lineup, which includes all six of the local acts nominated in the “New Artist of the Year” category and four other favorites, plus some audio/video previews to whet your appetite. Click the artists’ name to read CityBeat’s stories (and some great original photography) about each. The stories include links to the acts’ websites and more music.
The doors open at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bogart’s and admission is just $5. Performers will be featured on two stages, so it will be non-stop music all night.
7:30 p.m. Pop Goes the Evil
8 p.m. Molly Sullivan
8:30 p.m. Injecting Strangers
9 p.m. ADM
9:30 p.m. Mardou
10 p.m. Austin Livingood
10:30 p.m. Archer's Paradox
11 p.m. Little Lights
11:30 p.m. Tweens
12:15 a.m. Electric Citizen
Mayor John Cranley told CityBeat Friday that he's still troubled by the practice of "double dipping," but he said the incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.
Bill Moller will be rehired by the city in February to fill in as assistant city manager. Because Moller is a city retiree, he'll be eligible to draw a city salary ($147,000 a year) and pension benefits.
The concern: Allowing city workers to double dip, or tap into both a
salary and pension benefits, could encourage the kinds of abuse
already seen in other municipalities, where public workers can reach eligibility for
maximum pension benefits, retire one day and get rehired the next day to effectively receive both a salary and pension.
On the campaign trail, Cranley called double dipping "abusive" after City Council repealed a ban on the practice so the administration could hire John Deatrick, a city retiree, to lead the $132.8 million streetcar project.
Cranley said he will sign any legislation reinstating the ban on double dipping. As a council member, Cranley supported the ban when it was originally instated in 2008.
Under the previous ban, city retirees rejoining the administration would need to temporarily forfeit pension benefits or face substantial limits on salaries and health benefits.
Despite his opposition to double dipping, Cranley cautioned that he still supports Moller's hire.
"Obviously I like Bill Moller," he said. "But the city manager is working within current policy."
The city administration on Tuesday justified Moller's hire by pointing to his previous budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.
"At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone
who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the
aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller
has that experience," wrote Interim City Manager Scott Stiles in a memo.
It remains unclear whether a ban on double dipping would influence Moller's decision to return to the city administration.
Word has been trickling out over the past few weeks about a new Country music festival in Cincinnati, organized by Bunbury Music Festival founder Bill Donabedian. Today, the first four artists slated to appear at the inaugural Buckle Up Music Festival were announced. The festival is set for the weekend after Bunbury — July 18-20 — and will use the same grounds at Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River. (Think of it as Bunbury’s version of Coachella’s Stagecoach fest.)
The lineup will feature “upwards of 80 performers” and include both modern, commercial Country acts and variations on the Country theme — “folk, bluegrass, Americana, roots rock and more,” according to the press materials — something the initial lineup announcement reflects.
Legendary Country act Alabama (which for many years used the controversial Confederate Flag in its artwork, years before Kanye decided to reclaim it) and current Country hitmakers the Eli Young Band will be joined by up-and-comers J.T. Hodges (whose music has been described as “Country Soul with some Rock N’ Roll”) and eclectic Brooklyn-based Americana trio The Lone Bellow, which performed last November at Cincinnati’s 20th Century Theater (read CityBeat’s preview here).
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.
As the campaign to provide universal preschool in
Cincinnati kicks into gear, organizations involved in the Preschool
Promise are seeking more volunteers to train as “Promise Ambassadors” who will help raise awareness and gather feedback for the proposal.
Although there’s no major resistance to universal preschool at a local level, the big question is how the city will fund it. Will it take a hike in property or income taxes? Will city and school funds be involved? Will it rely on philanthropic channels? What about a mix of all the options?
As an ambassador, volunteers will gather feedback on the big questions facing the campaign and raise awareness on the study-backed benefits of preschool.
“As an ambassador you can engage however you feel comfortable: hosting house parties, speaking at meetings and events, organizing community forums or simply helping generate awareness about the importance of quality preschool for every child in our city,” the campaign said in a release.
Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, said on Facebook that more than 40 ambassadors have been trained so far. The goal is to train 100 by President’s Day, Feb. 17.
The policy would mirror a program in Denver that provides tuition credits to families on an income-based sliding scale, so low-income parents would get the most help while the wealthiest would get the least.
Among other benefits, a study from consulting firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates found the Denver program gives low- and middle-income families more opportunities to climb the economic ladder.
Landsman previously told CityBeat the measure should end up on the November ballot.
The campaign is offering several training sessions, which can be attended with an RVSP to BooneS@strivepartnership.org:
• Jan. 22, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Ave., Cincinnati.
• Jan. 28, 2:30–4 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Ave, Cincinnati.
• Jan. 29, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 5, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 6, 2:30–4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 7, 9-10:30 a.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.-noon at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 11, 2:30-4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.
Ohio now bans abusive dog breeding practices that previously earned the state a reputation as one of the laxest for dog breeding rules in the nation. With the new rules, dog breeders must maintain improved living conditions for the dogs, including standards for cage size, regular grooming, veterinary examinations and socialization. The rules earned praise from many animal activists as a step forward, but some say the bill should act as a start that leads to even stronger regulations.
City Council advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion. Specifically, the Democratic majority on council acted as the foundation in keeping controversial contracting rules for sewer contracts, continuing support for a permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale and approving a new study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts. With the Democratic coalition seemingly established on most issues facing the city, it’s now much clearer what direction council will take the city over the next four years.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday proposed a compromise with the city over controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Although both sides agree the issue must be resolved soon to avoid a costly legal battle and allow MSD to carry on with work on a federally mandated overhaul of the local sewer system, the Democratic-controlled city and Republican-controlled county have failed to reach a resolution. Since the county put MSD projects on hold in protest of the city’s rules, $152 million worth of sewer projects and 649 potential jobs have been put on hold, according to data from Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the rules.
Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach questioned whether recent personnel changes at City Hall violated the city charter. The concern is whether Mayor John Cranley pushed Interim City Manager Scott Stiles to move John Curp from his previous role as city solicitor to chief counsel of the city’s utilities. Sittenfeld and Seelbach noted the charter prevents the mayor and council members from interfering with personnel decisions. But Stiles declined to answer and sidestepped Seelbach and Sittenfeld’s questions.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot.”
Cincy Bike Share still needs more funds to launch.Cincinnati has the most unhappy employees in the country, according to an analysis by CareerBliss.
Ohio Democrats and Republicans have begun a push for a May 6 ballot initiative that would expand state spending on road, bridge, water, sewer and other local public works projects.Micah Kamrass yesterday filed petition signatures with the Hamilton County Board of Elections, making him the likely Democratic candidate to replace State Rep. Connie Pillich, a Democrat, as she runs for state treasurer. Kamrass will likely face off against Republican Rick Bryan.
A condemned Ohio killer will be executed with a new, never-tried lethal injection method adopted after the state’s previous drug supplies dried up.Ohio high-school students could receive some school credit for off-campus religious education attended during regular school hours, thanks to a new bill passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives.
If damage related to potholes is $10,000 or less, drivers can file a complaint at the little-known Ohio Court of Claims and get their money back. In the past five years, reimbursements for more than 1,300 Ohioans cost the state nearly half a million dollars.
The secretary of state’s office announced early voting hours for the upcoming primary election here. If Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune decides to stay in the gubernatorial race and challenge Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the primary election would decide which Democrat will face off against Republican Gov. Kasich in November.Most Americans avoided vaccinations during the previous flu season — a trend experts attribute to increased complacency toward the virus.
University of Cincinnati researchers say they wants to dispel the belief that drones are only used to kill.
For example, a collapsible, camera-toting drone currently in development could be used just to spy on people.
The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project.
The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years.
Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.
The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system.
The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training.
But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules.
The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.
With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives.
“We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.
Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.”
The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose.
“Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.
If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the
federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully
Supportive housing project in Avondale
A supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.
Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim
their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many
public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous
crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.
Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.
Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.
National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.
Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.
“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.
Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.
City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts.
The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support.
But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced
doubts that the study’s findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses.
Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete.
“I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city.
Other notable actions
• Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials.
• Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth.
• Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities.
• Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the
mayor and council originally established to look into halting the
project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.