During an election year, city council and the mayor member profess to care about the most vulnerable in our society, but their actions are speaking much louder than words. Mayor Mark Mallory allowed a city budget proposal to go forward that would have eliminated all human services funding and the meager investment was only restored after groups like the YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter and the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless organized strong and vocal opposition and the money was restored.
School officials in a suburb north of Cincinnati are being warned not to add creationism to their curriculum if they want to avoid a costly legal challenge.
Several groups are teaming up to sponsor a forum on Friday for candidates running for Cincinnati City Council.
So far, seven candidates — including one incumbent — have indicated they will attend the session. They are Councilman Wendell Young, a Democrat; Nicholas Hollan, Jason Riveiro, Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld, also Democrats; and Kevin Flynn and Yvette Simpson, who are Charterites.
When CityBeat profiled the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in May, just after the conservative organization held a private meeting in Cincinnati, some of its members downplayed conspiracy theories about the group and its love of secrecy.
Fueled by corporate donations, ALEC is credited with working quietly behind the scenes to draft legislation that can then be introduced by elected state lawmakers. Among its efforts, ALEC spearheaded the push in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere to introduce bills that limited or abolished collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions.
The membership list that contains the names of the roughly 2,000 state legislators and about 300 private-sector supporters who belong to ALEC is kept confidential.
State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township), who sits on ALEC's board of directors, noted in the CityBeat article that the identity of its sponsors aren't kept secret. They include the American Petroleum Institute, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Coors and the National Rifle Association.
Now with the help of Aliya Rahman, an activist based at Miami University in Oxford who organized the Cincinnati protest, The Nation magazine has obtained more than 800 documents representing decades of ALEC's model legislation. The treasure trove of materials is featured in The Nation's Aug. 1-8 issue, which currently is on sale.
[UPDATE: Read more about Rahman's path to unearthing the documents here.]
In conjunction with the Center for Media and Democracy, The Nation asked policy experts to analyze this never-before-seen archive.
As The Nation's John Nichols writes, “Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to 'develop alternatives to existing policies (and) keep them alive and available,' ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces.”
A full archive of the exposed ALEC legislation is available here.
A ruling that resulted in a temporary halt in Ohio executions last week means there are 148 inmates on Ohio's death row with uncertain futures. Ohio's death penalty is currently under scrutiny, largely due to opposition that's been raised from documented failures to follow protocol in state executions.
In January, Federal District Court Judge Gregory Frost of Newark, Ohio halted condemned murderer Charles Lorraine's Ohio execution because Ohio has allegedly demonstrated problems over the last several months upholding the execution protocol the state put in place itself in 1981. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost's decision, saying that because Ohio had been proven to stray from its own execution policies, it couldn't be trusted to carry out Lorraine's execution or any other death sentences. The next execution in Ohio is scheduled for April.
Frost is one of several advocating for the abandonment on Ohio's death penalty. "For close to eight years, the Court has dealt with inmate challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio’s execution protocol. During that time, the litigation has morphed from focusing primarily on allegations of cruel and unusual punishment to allegations of equal protection violations. Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," said Frost in his written opinion.
He goes on to describe instances in which state agents lied to the Court concerning state executions, expressing frustration about the state's lack of commitment to constitutional execution. "No judge is a micro-manager of executions and no judge wants to find himself mired in the ongoing litigation in which he must continually babysit the parties," said Frost.
That's just a piece of it; there are other judicial bigwigs hoping to have Ohio's death penalty overturned, including Senior Associate Justice for the Ohio Supreme Court Paul Pfiefer, who helped write Ohio's death penalty law when he was a state senator more than 30 years ago. According to Pfeifer, he's changed his mind because he sees the option of life without the possibility of parole more moral and socially beneficial.
Evidently, most of the deviations from the execution regulations were minor paperwork technicalities. Huffington Post reports the errors included switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection and not properly documenting that the inmate's medical records were reviewed.
Those in support of the hold, however, make another point. Controlling life and death is the most important power the state of Ohio holds; if it can't follow minor rules that it set for itself, who's to say there won't be larger, more detrimental errors in the future?
It's difficult to tell whether or not Ohio will just get a slap on the wrist for its slip-ups or if reform will be seriously considered. The death penalty has almost always been a part of Ohio's history, since it became a state in 1803. Ohio ranked third in the U.S. for executions among the 34 states that have the death penalty in 2011.
Listen to Paul Pfeifer and hear more about the controversy on The Sound of Ideas radio program below.
Cincinnati’s solicitor says an anti-tax group is wasting taxpayer money by filing a federal lawsuit against the city without first contacting its Law Department to resolve the alleged violations outside of court.
The new chapters, in Cleveland and Columbus, are part of Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), which Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Captain and astronaut Mark Kelly, launched in January.
“People in the Buckeye State know the terrible toll gun violence takes on communities,” ARS Executive Director Pia Carusone said in a statement. “We’re excited about what the 18,000-plus Ohioans for Responsible Solutions will accomplish because they represent a rich cross-section of the community: gun owners and non-gun owners alike, law enforcement officials, victims of gun violence, faith leaders, moms and voters of all political stripes from every part of the state.”
Giffords’ organization says it is not anti-gun — Giffords and Kelly are both gun owners — instead arguing that the gun lobby’s influence has kept legislators from passing common-sense legislation that most Americans support.
A Gallup poll conducted April 22-25 found 65 percent of Americans believed the U.S. Senate should have passed a measure to expand background checks for gun purchases and ban some semi-automatic weapons, which the Senate failed to pass April 17 because of procedural steps requiring 60 votes to pass. The final vote was 54 in favor and 46 against. Twenty-nine percent of Americans agreed with the Senate’s failure to pass the measure, and 6 percent had no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.
In January — just a month after the shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults — Gallup found 91 percent of Americans support required background checks for all gun sales. The poll asked respondents about each of nine key proposals included in President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence. The two least-supported proposals still had majority support, but these issues turned out to be at the center of the legislation that failed to pass the Senate four months later: reinstating a ban on assault weapons (60-percent support), and limiting the sale of ammunition magazines to those with 10 rounds or less (54-percent support).
Giffords has become one of the nation’s highest-profile gun violence prevention activists since a shooting in 2011 that left her partially paralyzed. Giffords survived the assassination attempt on Jan. 8, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., when a mentally ill man shot her in the head at a political event outside a grocery store. The man then fired on other people, killing six and wounding 12 total.
Giffords and Kelly participated in the Northside Fourth of July parade early this month as part of Americans for Responsible Solutions’ “Rights and Responsibilities” cross-country tour promoting the organization’s goal of advocating for candidates that support responsible gun policies that protect both the public and the rights of gun owners. CityBeat covered the event here.
“Stopping gun violence takes courage. The courage to do right, the courage of new ideas,” Giffords told the Northside crowd during a press event before the parade. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together to be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must do something. Fight, fight, fight.”
Americans for Responsible Solutions announced this week that its super PAC has raised $6.5 million so far this year and more than 500,000 members. At this point it has not announced any plans for a Cincinnati chapter.
No, this isn’t an effort to get men to scrub toilets, women to wash cars or any other such stereotypical complaint about equality in a marriage. It’s about busting up another stereotype – that only heterosexuals can live in a long-term, committed relationship.
Some progressive Democrats share a modest admiration for Ron Paul, a U.S. congressman from Texas and perennial darkhorse contender for the Republican presidential nomination.