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by German Lopez 10.11.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Pensions, Drugs at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tea party pensions

Morning News and Stuff

Pension language mostly upheld, Cranley rejects COAST, Ky. group criticizes housing facility

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld most of the controversial ballot language for Issue 4 — the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system — but the court also concluded that the Hamilton County Board of Elections must add language about how much the city can contribute to the new retirement accounts. The amendment would require future city employees to contribute to and manage individual 401k-style retirement accounts, instead of placing them under the current pension system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. Voters will make the final decision on the amendment on Nov. 5, although some already voted early on ballots that included the full controversial language. CityBeat analyzed the amendment — and how it could reduce benefits for city employees and raise costs for the city — in further detail here.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject and doesn’t want an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes. The response came just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported — but not endorsed — Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a “change of direction.” In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, called on all candidates to reject COAST’s support because the conservative group’s most public members previously opposed LGBT rights and backed efforts to make it illegal for the city to deem gays and lesbians a protected class in anti-discrimination statutes.

A historic preservation society in Ludlow, Ky., is attempting to block a transitional housing facility that provides low-cost housing for recovering addicts as they get their lives back in order. Even though the facility’s two buildings aren’t designated as “historic,” the Ludlow Historic Society wrote in an email that it’s “concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.” There’s not much information on the ripple effect transitional housing has on communities, but a 2010 study found residents of transitional housing were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence.

Ohio officials are considering rules that would allow oil and gas drillers to store fracking wastewater in lagoons the size of football fields then recycle the wastewater for further use. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the technique produces potentially toxic wastewater that has to be deposited or recycled somewhere. CityBeat covered fracking and the environmental controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

A state senator proposed a bill that attempts to keep the monthly per-member growth of Medicaid costs at 3 percent or lower, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. But the bill doesn’t specify how it would reach the savings required and instead calls on the legislature and state administration to find a solution. The bill also doesn’t take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade.

A national reporting project will track the accessibility of Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” now that emergency contraception is a court-upheld right for all women of childbearing age.

The death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive and raping them for a decade, may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, not suicide.

Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she got a double mastectomy may have inspired more Cincinnati women to seek a cancer screening.

Scientists discovered an exoplanet whose mass is 26 percent water. In comparison, Earth is only 0.023 percent water, by mass, according to Popular Science.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 10.10.2013
 
 
gty_plan_b_contraseptive_ll_130430_wg

National Reporting Project to Examine Accessibility of Plan B

Crowd-sourced maps will show where and who is illegally limiting emergency contraceptives

The right to obtain emergency contraception is one that was only recently granted to all women of child-bearing age, marking a huge national victory for women's health rights over conservative political agendas.

But now that's it's available over-the-counter, is it really easy to access?

According to the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project, it depends on where and who you are.

The project, a newly-formed coalition comprising a number of alternative news publications under the umbrella of the Association of Alternative News Media (AAN) and the Media Consortium, part of a larger initiative to "study how independent news organizations can work together to create a collective impact," according to AAN.

The newest component of the project — "
Where Is Your Plan B?" — is a website that uses crowd-sourced data to monitor the availability of emergency contraceptives across the country. 

News outlets collaborating on the project include Austin Chronicle, Bitch Magazine, In These Times, LEO Weekly, Making Contact/National Radio Project, Ms. Magazine, People*Power*Media, Portland Mercury, Public News Service and Santa Fe Reporter.

Once the site gets a little more press, it will start publishing detailed maps documenting which pharmacies are readily providing Plan B, where it might be illegally restricted and where it's available but possibly made more difficult to obtain by roadblocks. For now, you can also find a thorough collection of investigative works from the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project from its participating news outlets, chronicling everything from how Native American women are being actively denied fair access to Plan B and women's access to abortion in New Mexico.

Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009 for use without a prescription for women only ages 17 or older; women younger than 17 were previously required to obtain a prescription.

In April, Judge Edward Korman ruled that the age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception were "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." His ruling prompted the FDA to announce Plan B One-Step's availability to women 15 and older without a prescription, which was in June amended to include women of child-bearing age.

Many women's health advocates have expressed concerns about how pharmacies are restricting accessibility to the drug, such as asking for identification even though the FDA doesn't require it or keeping the drug locked up or behind a counter, which could be a daunting barrier for some young girls, making an already unpleasant experience worse.

Commonly known as the "morning-after pill," Plan B is intended to be used when other methods of contraception fail. In extreme cases, it can be a rape victim's only option to prevent becoming pregnant.

The drug, which contains powerful levels of hormones found in some types of birth control pills, is more effective the more quickly it's taken after having unprotected sex, particularly within three days. That means having to obtain a prescription could null the effects of the pill or render it ineffective for a young woman struggling to get a doctor's appointment.

A research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012 found that of several pharmacies called in five different cities, 20 percent did not have emergency contraception in stock on the same day the patient called.

Visit your local pharmacy and fill out the form here.

Where is Your Plan B? from altweeklies on Vimeo.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2013
Posted In: News, COAST, 2013 Election at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Rejects COAST’s Support

Conservative group has history of anti-LGBT causes

Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes.

“I don’t want it. I’m not a member of COAST,” Cranley says.

The response comes just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a “change of direction.” The group later claimed the tweets weren’t endorsements, but not before progressives called on candidates to reject COAST’s support.

Councilman Chris Seelbach responded to COASTs apparent interest in influencing the mayoral and City Council races on his Facebook page: “Regardless of the politics involved, anyone who wants my support should make it clear: COAST is a hate-driven, fringe organization that should not be apart (sic) of any conversation on how to make Cincinnati a better place.

CityBeat couldn’t immediately reach Murray, Smitherman or Winburn for comment on whether they would accept COAST's support for their campaigns. But Smitherman, who is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he’s not campaigning, often teams up with COAST on local issues.

Seelbach, who has been a favorite target of COAST, tells CityBeat there’s no doubt the group’s vitriolic opposition is at least partly based on hate.

“Without question, I believe COAST targets me because I’m gay,” Seelbach says. “In some ways, I’m a symbol of everything that they hate, which is LGBT progress.”

Cranley agrees the group is hateful. He points out that some COAST members have criticized him over the years for supporting LGBT causes, including hate crime legislation in 2003.

In the 1990s, Chris Finney, chief legal crusader for COAST, authored Article XII, the city charter amendment approved by voters in 1993 that barred the city from deeming gays a protected class in anti-discrimination statutes.

In a June 1994 Cincinnati Post article, Finney said landlords should not be legally required to rent to gay or lesbian tenants. Finney explained, “Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.” To critics, the remarks seemed fairly similar to arguments leveled in support of racial segregation in the 1960s.

COAST chairman Tom Brinkman and member Mark Miller were also part of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which defended Article XII in court in 1997.

When City Council passed hate crime legislation protecting gays and lesbians in 2003, Brinkman criticized the Catholic members of City Council at the time — including Cranley, who sponsored the legislation — for sending “the message that you openly approve of homosexuality.”

Back then, Cranley responded, We have a little something in this country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution.

Around the same time, Seelbach prepared and then helped lead the 2004 campaign that did away with Article XII. For Cincinnati, the repeal of the city charter amendment, just 11 years after voters approved it, exemplified the more tolerant, open direction the country was moving in regards to the LGBT community.

But while the country has embraced greater equality for LGBT individuals, Seelbach says COAST hasn’t done the same. Even though Seelbach voted against the parking plan that COAST also opposes, the conservative organization has regularly targeted Seelbach in blog posts and emails criticizing the plan, which leases the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.

In March, COAST sent out a doctored image that compared Seelbach to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ in the Christian religion, for approving an emergency clause on the parking plan that effectively exempted the plan from a voter referendum. Seelbach voted against the parking plan itself when it came to a vote.

“I don’t believe in running our city by referendums,” Seelbach says. “What we currently have is a representative democracy. We elect people that we hold accountable by either re-electing them or not, and we trust the people that we elect to research the policies and make informed decisions. I think that’s the best system.”

Most recently, COAST went after Seelbach for his trip to Washington, D.C., where he received the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his efforts to protect and promote Cincinnati’s LGBT community. The city paid more than $1,200 for the trip, which COAST called into question with legal threats. Even though City Solicitor John Curp, the city’s top lawyer, deemed the allegations frivolous, Seelbach agreed to reimburse the funds to stave off a lawsuit that could have cost the city more than $30,000.

At the same time, media outlets, including WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer, have closely covered COAST’s allegations and commonly turned to the group to get the conservative side of different issues, ranging from the streetcar project to the pension system. Both media outlets have characterized COAST as a government watchdog group, ignoring the organizations history of conservative activism and crafting legislation.

The favorable attention might be turning around. The Enquirer recently scrutinized COAST’s lawsuits against the city, which revealed the group, which frames itself as an anti-tax, anti-spending watchdog, could cost the city more than $500,000 in legal fees. The city solicitor also estimated his office puts the equivalent of one full-time employee on COAST’s cases, with the typical city civil attorney making about $65,000 a year, according to The Enquirer.

Seelbach acknowledges the vast differences between the black and LGBT civil rights movements, but he says a group with a similarly discriminatory past wouldn’t get the kind of media coverage and attention COAST does, at least without the proper context.

“If there was a group that had a history of fighting for segregation, … there is absolutely no way anyone, much less media, would quote or accept support in any form,” Seelbach says.

This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. with more context.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 10.10.2013
Posted In: Neighborhoods, News, Drugs at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
elm men

Building Preservation Group Scrutinizes Transitional House

Anywhere but here.

That's the common response when city residents are asked where group homes for men and women experiencing homelessness and/or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction should be operated.


While most citizens seem to agree that the group recovery facilities like halfway homes and supportive housing are generally a good thing, there's one point everyone seems to disagree on: where to put them.

Most recently, a 100-unit supportive housing development that would house chronically homeless and disabled, low-income individuals became the subject of much ire when residents near the proposed site in Avondale complained the facility would threaten the safety and revival efforts in an area already oversaturated with low-income housing.  

Now, a Ludlow, Ky., branch of a local entity operating transitional housing facilities for recovering addicts across the Greater Cincinnati area is facing scrutiny from the Ludlow Historic Society, a small advocacy group that works to promote and preserve the neighborhood's historic buildings.

In an email to society members obtained by CityBeat, Ludlow Historic Society President Ruth Bamberger wrote:

While we believe that ex-addicts need housing, the city has serious concerns with its ability under current law to control or limit housing to this population. The Ludlow Historic Society is likewise concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.

Bamberger specifically cited concerns about the program’s legitimacy, its proximity to schools and its affect on the Ludlow housing market. 

New Foundations Transitional Living (NFTL), a for-profit, private transitional housing operator founded in 2010, runs seven sober houses across the Greater Cincinnati area for men and women who have successfully completed a detox or rehab program and have been discharged from the court system. 

NFTL also works with treatment centers and probation officers to monitor residents entering the program. The program supports itself completely from rental fees paid by patients in the program; residents are charged $322 per month for housing, amenities and some therapeutic and rehabilitation services. 

Transitional living facilities for drug and alcohol rehabilitation generally provide low-cost housing to people recovering from addiction interested in getting their lives back on track, while "halfway houses" usually cater to people recently released from incarceration that need more rehabilitation to assimilate back into society.

Jason Lee Overbey, director for New Foundations Transitional Living, thinks that Bamberger’s contempt is berthed from misinformation and stereotyping.  “New Foundations is not low-income housing,” he says. “We are not a shelter. We are an organization providing residents a safe place to reside — with structure, observation and assignments — to begin and maintain their journey in recovery."

Overbey says that all applicants go through an extensive screening prior to being accepted. NFTL doesn't accept sex offenders, arsonists or anyone with an open felony or misdemeanor warrant, and prospective residents also have to commit to stay drug- or alcohol-free and maintain employment.

“The people that live in our facilities dress nice, they smell nice, they’re educated,” he says. “A lot of our residents are professionals themselves. They pay taxes, shop, go to church, give back to the community in Ludlow. Who should we be more worried about, them or someone anonymous in the neighborhood who could be violent or actively abusing?”

The Ludlow, Ky., location, Elm Men's House, currently houses 13 patients who have either willingly checked themselves into the program and were accepted following a comprehensive application process or ordered to live in one of the facilities by a court, although those mandated comprise less than half of NFTL's residents.  

The Historical Society held a private meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8 in Ludlow's City Council chambers with City Administrator Brian Richmond. Overbey says the Historical Society has not responded to New Foundations' meeting requests.

Neither of the two buildings encompassing the Ludlow facility are actually designated as "historic."

There’s not much information on the community ripple effects of transitional housing, although one 2010 study found residents were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence, ultimately concluding:

The promising outcomes for SLH residents suggest that sober living houses might play more substantive roles for persons: 1) completing residential treatment, 2) attending outpatient treatment, 3) seeking non-treatment alternatives for recovery, and 4) entering the community after criminal justice incarceration.

The Ludlow Historic Society could not be reached for comment.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Streetcar, Health care at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar's cancellation unlikely, parking payment shrinks, Kasich could expand Medicaid

By the time a new mayor and City Council candidates take office in December, the city will have laid out roughly half a mile of track and spent or contractually obligated at least $117 million for the streetcar project. The contractual obligations mean it could cost more to cancel the project than to finish it, which will cost the city an estimated total of $88 million after deducting $45 million in federal grants. Still, mayoral candidate John Cranley and several council candidates insist they will try to cancel the project upon taking office. Check out CityBeat’s full in-depth story here.

The parking plan’s upfront payment has been reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city, as opposed to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, could be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets, according to an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney. The city manager claims the lump sum payment dropped as a result of rising interest rates and the Port Authority’s decision to relax parking meter hours outside Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District. The parking plan leases Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which plans to hire private companies to operate the assets. CityBeat covered the plan in greater detail here and the controversy surrounding it here.

Gov. John Kasich is considering using an executive order to expand the state’s Medicaid program with federal funds. The executive order would expand eligibility for the government-run health insurance program so it includes anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $15,900 in annual income for an individual. Kasich would then on Oct. 21 ask Ohio’s seven-member legislative-spending oversight panel to approve federal funds for the expansion. Kasich, a Republican, has aggressively pursued the Medicaid expansion, which the federal government promises under Obamacare to completely fund through 2016 then phase down and indefinitely hold its payments at 90 percent of the expansion’s total costs. But Republican legislators claim the federal government might not be able sustain the payments, even though the federal government has met its payments for the much larger overall Medicaid program since it was created in 1965.

At its final full session before the November election, City Council approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits for Pure Romance to bring the company to downtown Cincinnati for at least 20 years. Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on council, was the only one to vote against the tax incentives. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Gov. John Kasich’s administration was originally supposed to provide some tax incentives to the company, but it ultimately reneged after supposedly deciding that the company isn’t part of an industry the state typically supports. Critics say Kasich’s administration is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio yesterday announced it’s suing Ohio over anti-abortion restrictions passed in the 2014-2015 state budget. The ACLU claims the restrictions are unrelated to the budget and therefore violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language. CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.

Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says he’s monitoring the impact of the federal government shutdown with some concerns. “I’m more concerned if this goes more than four weeks or so, when we start talking about reimbursement programs for our larger social programs such as food stamps and cash assistance to the needy and those types of things. We just don’t have the money to front that type of thing,” he said. CityBeat covered the shutdown in further detail here.

Hamilton County’s government shrunk by more than one-third in the past decade.

City Council yesterday passed a resolution condemning State Sen. Bill Seitz’s attempts to weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. A study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend $3.65 billion more on their electricity bills over the next 12 years if the mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.

Early voting turnout is so far “anemic,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Ohio has the No. 12 worst tax environment among states, according to a report from the Tax Foundation. The rank is unchanged from the previous year’s report.

A central Ohio school might ban Halloween.

Bill Nye explains Jupiter’s big red spot:

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Privatization at 08:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_parkingmeters

Port Authority Cuts Parking Plan Payment

City to get $85 million lump sum, down from $92 million

The parking plan’s lump sum payment is being reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city could be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage, according an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney to council members and the mayor.

Dohoney wrote that the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which is leasing Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages under the 30-plus-year deal, reduced its lump sum payment because of rising interest rates and its decision to reduce parking meter enforcement hours outside of Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District.

Under the reviewed deal, the Port Authority also handed the responsibility of building a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets to the city of Cincinnati. Dohoney recommends using the parking plan’s upfront payment to fund the garage, which will cost between $14 million and $15 million, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding.

If City Council approves the allocation, the upfront funds would be effectively left at $70 million to $71 million.

The city still estimates it will get at least $3 million in annual installments from the lease.

Supporters of the parking plan claim it’s necessary to fully leverage Cincinnati’s parking assets to fund development projects and help balance the operating budget.

The plan also requires private operators, which will be hired by the Port Authority, to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking assets. The upgrades should allow parking meters to accept remote payments through smartphones, among other new features.

Critics claim the plan gives up too much local control over the city’s parking assets. They say the city and Port Authority could easily be pressured by private operators to hike parking rates far beyond the 3-percent-a-year increase currently called for under the plan.

The plan has also been mired in controversy, notably because the city administration withheld a consultant’s memo from the public and council members that claimed the plan is a bad deal for the city. The city administration says the memo was based on outdated information, but opponents still criticized the lack of transparency behind the deal.

Dohoney wrote in the Oct. 9 memo that the Port Authority’s board plans to meet on Oct. 19 to finalize contracts with private operators. If all goes as planned, the Port Authority estimates the new parking system will be in place by April 2014.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Economy at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council Approves Pure Romance Tax Credits

City administration estimates deal will net nearly $2.6 million in tax revenues over 20 years

Oct. 10 update: At its final full session before the Nov. 5 election, City Council on Wednesday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits for Pure Romance that city officials say will bring the company to downtown Cincinnati for at least 20 years.

Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on council, was the only council member to vote against the deal.

Oct. 9 story: City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20 years.

The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades.

If the company fails to keep at least 126 jobs after three years or remain in Cincinnati for 20 years, the city will claw back some of the tax credits depending on how egregiously the terms are failed.

Cincinnati in 2011 clawed back tax benefits on its so-called “megadeal” with Convergys after the company failed to keep its total downtown employment at 1,450 or higher.

Pure Romance is a $100-million-plus company that hosts private adult parties and sells sex toys, lotions and other “relationship enhancement” products.

The company was originally planning on moving to Cincinnati with support from both the state and city. But Gov. John Kasich’s administration ultimately declined to provide tax credits, which forced the city to ratchet up its offer from $353,000 to prevent Pure Romance from moving to Covington, Ky., instead of Cincinnati.

Kasich’s administration says the company didn’t fall into an industry the state normally supports, but state Democrats and local officials claim the state government resisted the tax credits because of a “prudish” attitude toward a company that sells sex toys.

“We welcome Pure Romance to the city of Cincinnati,” Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said at the committee meeting. “We are glad that the city administration and Pure Romance were able to work out an arrangement that actually welcomed them to the city.”

Pure Romance previously told CityBeat that it hopes to move its headquarters from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati by the end of the year, but the move hinges on whether the company can quickly finalize a lease agreement.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Abortion at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

ACLU Sues Ohio Over Anti-Abortion Restrictions

Civil liberties group says rules violate state constitution

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Wednesday announced it is suing the state of Ohio over anti-abortion restrictions enacted as part of the 2014-2015 state budget.

“To put it simply, none of these amendments have any place in the state budget bill,” said Susan Scheutzow, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the law firm of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, in a statement. “This massive bill is not intended to deal with new policy; the single subject of the budget should be the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations.”

The lawsuit claims the restrictions violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language. In the case of the budget, the ACLU argues that the law shouldn’t go beyond appropriating state funds and tax collection.

The three anti-abortion budget amendments in question ban public hospitals and abortion clinics from making transfer agreements that are required to keep clinics open; order clinics to take government-outlined steps, including showing a patient if a fetal heartbeat is detected, before carrying out an abortion procedure; and create a new “parenting and pregnancy” program that shifts state funds into private organizations that are barred from mentioning abortion services.

“The first two amendments have nothing at all to do with budget appropriations,” said Jessie Hill, ACLU cooperating attorney and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, in a statement. “The third is also unconstitutional because it creates and funds an entirely new government program, something that requires stand-alone legislation.”

The ACLU says the lawsuit is about promoting good government that follows the rules, regardless of where any individual stands on the issue of abortion.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Preterm, a women’s health clinic in Cleveland that provides contraception, family planning and abortion services.

One anti-abortion restriction that’s not being sued over: The state budget effectively defunded clinics like Planned Parenthood by deeming their non-abortion services less competitive.

Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved the anti-abortion restrictions with the state budget in June. But Democratic critics say the new rules harshly restrict access to legal abortions protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Governor, Parking at 08:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill restricts minor parties, parking contracts released, Pure Romance to get tax credits

A bill enacting new regulations on minor political party participation in state elections yesterday passed through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate despite objections from the Libertarian Party and other critics that the bill will shut out minor parties in future elections. The bill now needs approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich, who would likely benefit from the bill because it would help stave off tea party challengers in the gubernatorial election. The proposal was sponsored by State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority yesterday released drafts for contracts with operators who will manage Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages under the city’s parking plan, which leases the parking assets to the Port Authority for at least 30 years. Xerox will be paid about $4.5 million in its first year operating Cincinnati’s parking meters, and it will be separately paid $4.7 million over 10 years to upgrade meters to, among other features, allow customers to pay through a smartphone. Xerox’s contract will last 10 years, but it can be renewed for up to 30 years. The city administration says the parking plan will raise millions in upfront money then annual installments that will help finance development projects and balance the budget, but critics say the plan gives up too much control of Cincinnati’s parking assets.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20 years. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Pure Romance is a $100 million-plus company that originally planned to move from Loveland to Cincinnati with support from the state and city, but Gov. John Kasich’s administration ultimately rejected state tax credits for the company. Kasich’s administration says Pure Romance didn’t fit into an industry traditionally supported by the state, but critics argue the state government is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), Cincinnati’s vitriolic tea party group, yesterday appeared to endorse John Cranley, who’s running for mayor against Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

Ohio conservatives are defending their proposal to weaken the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates, which environmentalists and businesses credit with spurring a boom of clean energy production in the state and billions in savings on Ohioans’ electricity bills. State Sen. Seitz compared the mandates to “central planning” measures taken in “Soviet Russia.” A study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years if the mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.

Ohioans renewing their driver’s licenses or state ID cards will no longer be asked whether they want to remain on the list of willing organ donors. The move is supposed to increase the amount of participants in the state’s organ donation registry by giving people less chances to opt out.

An Ohio Senate bill would ban red-light cameras. Supporters of the traffic cameras say they deter reckless driving, but opponents argue the cameras make it too easy to collect fines for the most minor infractions.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded $17 million in grants to crime victims services around Ohio, including more than $49,000 to the Salvation Army in Hamilton County.

President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, which would make her the first woman to lead the nation’s central bank.

Lost in their smartphones and tablets, San Francisco train passengers didn’t notice a gunman until he pulled the trigger.

Scientists are bad at identifying important science, a new study found.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.08.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Budget, Privacy at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar renderings unveiled, county won't raise taxes, facial recognition scrutinized

CAF USA yesterday unveiled new renderings for Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project. The city has hired CAF to supply five cars, which will have four doors on each side and be capable of moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also completely low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and moving around the streetcar easier. John Deatrick, the streetcar project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in August, and he expects to really test out the cars once the Over-the-Rhine loop is completed in June 2015.

Hamilton County commissioners unanimously agreed the 2014 budget won’t include tax increases. It’s also the first budget in six years that won’t require major cuts. Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman’s budget proposal doesn’t explicitly suggest a tax hike, but it does explain how a sales tax hike could be used to offset other expenditures, such as a cut in property taxes. But commissioners all said they’re opposed to a sales tax hike. Commissioners will likely retool the budget and pass the final version in November.

Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper called on Ohio to restrict access of the state’s facial recognition system to a small group of a couple dozen specially trained law enforcement officers, which would take calls for the system 24/7. Under Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio in June secretly launched a facial recognition program that allows law enforcement to use a photo to search state databases and connect suspects with contact information; previously, searching the databases required a name or address. In his defense, DeWine claimed the system is vital for law enforcement and widely used across the country. But an investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer found Ohio’s system grants access to thousands more officials than other states’ systems.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections began a hearing yesterday on whether Randy Simes, owner of UrbanCincy.com, can vote in Cincinnati after living in Chicago and moving to South Korea. Simes registered to vote in the mayoral primary election through Travis Estell’s address, where Simes says he stays when he’s in town. Simes’ supporters say the conservative groups behind the hearing are attacking him for political purposes because he supports the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls for mayor, both of which the groups oppose. The attorney for the conservative groups said that he doesn’t want voting “treated as a game.” Some members of the board of elections said they were disturbed by the political undertones of the hearing and a request for emails between Simes and Estell.

Gov. John Kasich yesterday announced voluntary guidelines urging doctors to use caution when prescribing high levels of opioid painkillers for long-term use to patients. The restrictions are in response to a rise in prescription drug abuse and overdoses across the country. Some members of the medical community say they’re concerned the guidelines will lead to temporary disruption in pain care, but others say the kinks should work themselves out in the long term.

Letters from State Treasurer Josh Mandel show he lobbied for Suarez Corp. to seek relief from litigation for the company. The two letters were obtained on Jan. 2 by a federal grand jury that later indicted Benjamin Suarez, owner of Suarez Corp., and Michael Giorgo, chief financial officer of the company, on charges of illegally funneling about $200,000 to Mandel and a Republican congressman’s campaigns in 2011.

Among states and the District of Columbia, WalletHub estimates Ohio is No. 32 most affected by the federal government shutdown. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in greater detail here.

Ohio gave 23 communities $8 million for local infrastructure improvements, but Cincinnati and Hamilton County were not among the recipients.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino held its spot as Ohio’s top-earning casino in September.

Enrollment to Cincinnati State increased despite a statewide decline. The university also received a $2.75 million manufacturing training grant.

Science confirmed that political extremists think they’re always right and everyone else is wrong.

Watch coffee shop customers freak out at a real-life Carrie:

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

 
 

 

 

 
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