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by German Lopez 10.19.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, News, Voting at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
odjfs

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.0 percent in September despite employers cutting 12,800 jobs. The rate is much lower than September's national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. Ohio actually lost jobs in manufacturing, construction, education, health services, government and other sectors, with some gains in professional and business services, information services and trade, transportation and utilities. The new rate is a big improvement from the 8.6 percent unemployment rate in September 2011. This is the last state unemployment rate Ohioans will see before the Nov. 6 election.  

The second debate for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat took place last night. As usual, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel held back no punches. Each candidate mostly focused on attacking his opponent’s integrity and record, but the men also discussed a multitude of issues — the economy, China, Obamacare, foreign policy, gay rights and more. Check out CityBeat’s in-depth coverage of the debate and the policy proposals espoused by the candidates here.

The final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will take place next Monday. The debate will cover foreign policy. Presumably, the debate will focus a lot on Iran, but Foreign Policy has an article focusing on five bigger threats to U.S. national security. Although the debate could be important for substance, political scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.4 points in Ohio and Romney is up one point nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida.

To make the debate more fun, CityBeat will host a party at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine Monday. Come join the CityBeat team to watch the debate and live tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will also show up and talk for a bit. If you can’t show up, feel free to tweet about the debate at home with the hashtag #cbdebate. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Ohio Senate Democrats are demanding an investigation into a voter fraud group. The Democrats say True the Vote (TTV), a conservative group, is unnecessarily intimidating voters. TTV claims it’s just fighting voter impersonation fraud, but the reality is that kind of voter fraud doesn’t seem to exist. A study from the Government Accountability Office found zero cases of voter impersonation fraud in the past 10 years. Another study from News21 found 10 cases since 2000, or less than one case a year.

Meanwhile, a local group is trying to encourage Muslim voters to get educated and vote.

The Cincinnati Police Department is trying to improve relations with the LGBT community. As part of that effort, the city hosted a LGBT public safety forum and named the first LGBT liaison yesterday.

A federal appeals court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids the recognition of same-sex marriage at a federal level. The ruling was praised by Ian James, spokesperson for FreedomOhio, in a statement: “The federal DOMA forbids allowing governmental recognition of civil marriage. The demise of the federal DOMA will not resolve Ohio’s ban on marriage equality. For this reason, we will soldier on, collect our petition signatures and win the right for committed and loving couples to be married so they can better care for and protect their families. That is ultimately why marriage matters and we look to have this issue on the ballot as soon as November 2013.”

With a week left, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati fundraising campaign has only met 70 percent of its goal. The campaign acknowledges it’s been a tough year, but campaign chairman David Joyce says he has been “heartened” by support.

The University of Cincinnati is committing to giving Cintrifuse $5 million initially and $5 million at a later point. Cintrifuse is a “startup accelerator,” meaning a company devoted to helping startup businesses get started.

Ohio health officials urge caution as they monitor a meningitis outbreak.

Ohio’s heating assistance program for low-income households is starting on Nov. 1. Qualifying for the program is dependent on income and the size of the household. For example, one-person households making $5,585 or less in the past three months or $22,340 or less in the past 12 months are eligible, while four-person households must be making $11,525 or less in the past three months or $46,100 or less in the past 12 months. For more information, check out the press release.

Kentucky is pitching into development at the Purple People Bridge. The state is boosting a $100 million hotel and entertainment project on the bridge with a $650,000 grant.

The Boy Scouts’ “perversion files” were released, and some of the sexual molestation cases involve Cincinnati.

Science finally has a breakthrough to care about. Scientists invented a strip that ensures pizza and coffee won't burn a person's mouth.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, Mayor, County commissioners at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Proposes Alternative to Keep Early Voting Downtown

Board of Elections considering move to Mount Airy facility

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday offered the Hamilton County Board of Elections free space at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep their offices and early voting downtown.

The offer comes in the middle of a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether the county should move the board to a former hospital at Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs.

The Board of Elections currently rents its offices from a private landlord. Moving to the Mount Airy facility would place the board on county-owned property and allow the county to avoid paying rent.

Along with the Board of Elections move, the county wants to establish a new crime lab at the Mount Airy location. Consolidating the crime lab and Board of Elections at the Mount Airy facility would provide the critical mass necessary to financially justify the move and the renovations it would require, according to county officials.

To solve the critical mass issue if the board moves to the former Shillito’s building instead, Cranley, a Democrat, said he’s willing to look into moving some city police services, including SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy facility.

But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer probably won’t satisfy the county’s needs.

“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” he said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”

Hartmann said it’s now up to the Board of Elections to accept or reject the Mount Airy facility. If the board declines to move to Mount Airy, Hartmann explained the county would likely drop the Mount Airy plan and the county coroner would go without a new crime lab.

For the city, Cranley’s offer raises questions about what other potential uses exist for the Shillito’s building, given the high property demand downtown. But Cranley said there’s currently no credible attempt at marketing the facility for other uses.

“The building is vacant, and we spend over $100,000 a year just to maintain a vacant building,” Cranley said. “I believe that getting someone in there that takes a significant amount of space is going to open up the rest of the building, which would be over 200,000 square feet, to make it more marketable. I think long-term it would be better for the city financially.”

He added, “In the short-term I think there are some things more important than money. And I think the symbolism of keeping the Board of Elections and voting downtown is just worth it.”

City Council appears to agree with the mayor. Shortly after Cranley announced his offer, council passed a symbolic resolution opposing the Mount Airy move.

From an electoral perspective, part of the issue is which voting location would favor Democrats or Republicans. Democrats tend to dominate in urban areas like downtown, while Republicans could benefit from a facility in Mount Airy that’s closer to suburban voters.

State Rep. Alicia Reece, who joined Cranley for the announcement, tried to defuse concerns that she, Cranley and other Democrats are trying to keep voting downtown for electoral gains.

“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of elections,” Reece said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”

 
 
by German Lopez 01.30.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Education, Voting, Budget, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Austerity hurts U.S. economy, voter suppression returns, state income tax benefits rich

Between October and December, the U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies, particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending was actually strong.

Some Republicans want another go at reducing voting rights. Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud in the United States between 2000 and 2012. That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were excluded by photo ID laws in 2012.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax hits the poor and middle class a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1 percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least $324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent. Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between $31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.”

Cincinnati is extending its contract with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really much ado about nothing. SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are expecting a net profit in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees, according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S. economy.

The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is driving economic growth in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties.

When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy Matters report found school choice may hurt education standards in the state.

Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is gearing up to run for the governor's race in 2014.

Scientists have taught bacteria to eat electricity. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Voting, Development at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

City and county budgets moving forward, Cincinnati master plan approved, few voted twice

Screw Cyber Monday; it’s budget day! The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on its 2013 budget today. The initial vote was delayed when commissioners couldn’t all agree on the full details. In City Council, a memo revealed the budget should be unveiled today. One part of the Cincinnati proposal has already been hinted at by a previous memo from the city manager: privatized parking.

On Wednesday, City Council approved Plan Cincinnati. The master plan, which is the first the city has undertaken in 32 years, creates short-, medium- and long-term goals. Built largely on public feedback, the plan emphasizes Cincinnati’s urban core with new transportation programs, community health initiatives, new housing options and more. CityBeat previously covered the plan in-depth here.

In Hamilton County, 81 people voted twice. The votes, which involved provisional ballots, only reflects about 0.2 percent of the county’s vote, but it shows some of the confusion and inefficiencies of modern elections. One particular problem is some elderly voters cast absentee ballots before the election and then filed provisional ballots on Election Day.

A California firm is using Alaskan pension dollars to buy hundreds of homes in Greater Cincinnati. The real estate will be used to provide corporate rentals.

Some education advocates are worried state education agencies won't have the proper time and resources to implement HB 555. A few provisions will have to be ready by mid-2013, which some advocates see as too little time; but the president of the Ohio Board of Education remains confident. HB 555 will radically reform the state’s school report card system, which evaluates and grades schools. Some state officials are worried the new standards, which will be measured in part by new standardized tests, will be too tough. An early simulation of the new report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

State Medicaid costs are rising, but more slowly. The slowdown may be partially attributed to Gov. John Kasich’s reforms of the program, which is one of the most prominent costs in state budgets around the country.

Gas prices in Ohio have gone up in the last week. The prices were higher than they were in 2011, and some experts say instability in the Middle East is to blame.

Ohio is looking good for a revival of the pharmaceutical industry. That’s good news since the industry could be on the cusp of a “golden era of renewed productivity and prosperity,” according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Unfortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, the next generation of water pollution could be flushed drugs.

Here is the pope made out of condoms.

Science has been hard at work in 2012. Here is a list of the seven greatest engineering innovations of the year. The list includes the world’s largest semi-submersible vessel, which can be used as an offshore dock, and a carbon-neutral office building, which is arguably the most sustainable workplace ever.

The greatest public service announcement ever made:


 
 
by German Lopez 06.11.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget, Voting at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying $12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed.

The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should contribute to the pension fund continues to go up. The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102 million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.

As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2), which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an investigation.

Following a report that found Ohios juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region.

Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008.

The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.

An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light.

Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2012
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Husted to Appeal Early Vote Ruling

U.S. Supreme Court could be next stop for early voting during final three days before election

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will appeal a ruling that expanded voting during the three days before Election Day to all Ohioans. If the appeal is approved, the early voting issue will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with President Barack Obama's campaign and the Democrats when it said voting during the weekend and Monday before Election Day must include all Ohioans. Previously, the three early voting days only applied to military personnel and their families.

The appeals court ruling passed the final decision behind the three voting days to the county boards of elections and Husted. Unless Husted enacts uniform rules like he has done in the past, boards of elections will decide whether voting will still take place on those days. If there is a tie vote, Husted will be the tie breaker.

In a statement, Husted hinted at setting uniform rules if the appeal is unsuccessful: “Since some boards of elections have already started to take action on hours of operation for the three days before Election Day, I am going to take time to consult with all 88 counties before crafting a directive to set uniform hours should the state not be successful upon appeal.”

In the past, Husted argued voting procedures should ideally be “locked down” months before Election Day. But with this appeal to the Supreme Court, the rules will remain up in the air.

Ohio Republicans have repeatedly blocked any expansion of in-person early voting, citing racial politics and costs. Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. John Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, said in an email to The Columbus Dispatch on Aug. 19, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Black voters tend to favor Democrats by big margins.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.14.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Health, News, Voting at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill restricts abortions, locals to combat infant deaths, Reece criticizes voter investigations

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is also looking to talk to anyone who’s been incarcerated for a drug-related offense in Ohio. If you know someone or are someone interested in talking to us, email glopez@citybeat.com.

An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would impose harsher restrictions on legal abortions, and some of the requirements may coerce doctors into giving medically inaccurate information. Among other requirements, the bill would force doctors to explain fetal development and supposed risks to inducing an abortion, while pregnant patients would be forced to undergo an ultrasound 48 hours before the procedure. But research has found that, barring rare complications, the medical risks listed in the bill are not linked to abortion.

Local leaders are beginning a collaborative effort to combat Cincinnati's alarmingly high rate of infant mortality. The effort is bringing together local politicians from both sides of the aisle, nonprofit groups and local hospitals. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6, while the national average is six. In previous comments, Mayor Mark Mallory explained his moral justification for increased efforts against infant mortality: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate."

State Rep. Alicia Reece, who heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday criticizing recent efforts to investigate 39 voter fraud cases in Hamilton County. "It is unfortunate that during the past few years, the focus has been on voter suppression instead of voter access and education," Reece said in a statement. "Many of these voters come from African-American and low-income neighborhoods, and they would benefit from a comprehensive voter education program." CityBeat previously covered the 39 "double voter" cases, which mostly involved voters sending an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voting through a provisional ballot on Election Day, here.

Mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith squared off at a mayoral forum yesterday. Democrats Qualls and Cranley, who are widely seen as the top contenders, debated the parking plan and streetcar project — both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously covered the streetcar project and how it could relate to the mayor's race here.

An audit of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) found Ohio's Medicaid program could save $30 million by avoiding fraudulent billing. State officials responded to the audit by highlighting changes in budget plans that supposedly take steps to reduce Medicaid fraud, including Gov. John Kasich's proposal to add five full-time Medicaid auditors to perform additional on-site monitoring in an effort to reduce overpayments.

Ohio lawmakers seem unlikely to approve a federally funded Medicaid expansion, but bipartisan bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate make sweeping changes to the Medicaid program that aim to lower costs and make the government health care program more efficient. Legislators claim the goal is to bring down costs without reducing services, all while providing avenues for Medicaid participants to move out of poverty. Hearings for the bill will begin next week.

After giving a speech celebrating the resurfacing of a high-speed test track, Gov. Kasich rode a car at 130 miles per hour in a more literal "victory lap."

Scientists are apparently making advancements in helping people regrow limbs.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.17.2012
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took place last night. The general consensus from the media is Obama won. Although the victory will likely inspire an Obama comeback narrative for some political pundits, keep in mind political scientists say debates typically have little electoral impact. But debates can reveal substance, and The Washington Post has an article “footnoting” the policy specifics from the debate. As of today, aggregate polling shows Obama up in Ohio by 2.2 points and Romney up nationally by 0.4 points. Ohio is widely considered a must-win for Romney. Obama and Romney will have their final debate next Monday. CityBeat will be hosting an event at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine during the debate. More info can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

The Ohio Department of Education released its remaining school report card data today. The data is meant to give Ohioans a clear picture as to whether schools are improving. The data was delayed due to an ongoing investigation into attendance rigging at Ohio schools. In the new report card data, Cincinnati Public Schools was downgraded from “Effective” in the 2010-2011 school year to “Continuous Improvement” in the 2011-2012 school year. The new mark is still positive, but it is a downgrade.

Down goes Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s early voting appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court refusing to take up Husted’s appeal, Ohio must allow all voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Husted also sent out a directive enforcing uniform voting hours for the three days. On Saturday, booths will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

It seems City Council action was not enough to get Duke Energy to budge on the streetcar. The local energy company says it wants an operating agreement before it starts construction work. On Sept. 24, City Council passed a funding deal that shifted $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal to the streetcar and established $14 million through a new financing plan. The city says it will get the $15 million back if it wins in the dispute with Duke. The city claims it’s Duke’s responsibility to pay for moving utility pipes and lines to accommodate for the streetcar, but Duke insists it’s the city’s responsibility. 

The University Board of Trustees is expected to approve Santa Ono as UC’s new president. Ono has been serving as interim president ever since Greg Williams abruptly resigned, citing personal reasons.

The Horseshoe Casino is really coming along. Casino owners are already booking meetings and events for spring 2013.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital announced a big breakthrough in combating muscular dystrophy. The hospital claims it successfully installed a device in a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that allows the patient’s heart to pump blood to the body in the long term.

With Gov. John Kasich's recommendation, Ohio universities will have cheaper, quicker options for students. A new provision will require 10 percent of bachelor’s degrees from public universities to be completable in three years instead of four.

Ohio’s attorney general wants help in solving an unsolved double homicide in Cincinnati. Attorney General Mike DeWine has recently fixated on cold cases — previously unsolved cases that could be solved with new information and tools.

Scientists found an earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest to our solar system.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.29.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, County commissioners at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
county administration building

County Accepts Mount Airy Facility for Crime Lab

New crime lab moves forward, but Board of Elections decision remains in limbo

Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday announced they will accept a Mount Airy facility offered to the county as a gift by Catholic Health Partners, opening the door to a new county crime lab at the location.

The acceptance comes despite lingering uncertainties about whether the Board of Elections will also move to the former hospital in Mount Airy. County commissioners previously warned the Board of Elections must move with the crime lab to provide the occupancy necessary to financially justify renovations at the 500,000-square-foot facility.

The decision also comes despite remaining questions about how exactly the cash-strapped county government will fund the move and the renovations it entails.

Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco and Sheriff Jim Neil both lobbied for the new crime lab. Citing expert opinions, they argue the current crime lab lacks space and needs to be modernized, which could put criminal evidence and trials at risk.

Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel called the gift a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” — a sentiment both other commissioners seemed to follow.

“This is a home run for law enforcement in Hamilton County,” Commissioner Greg Hartmann said.

Commissioners explained they will seek various opportunities to fill out remaining space in the facility.

Mayor John Cranley on Jan. 23 offered to move some city police services to the facility, but Hartmann told CityBeat the offer wouldn’t be enough to replace the Board of Elections.

“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” Hartmann said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”

But with Wednesday’s development, county commissioners appear ready to take up the Mount Airy facility and new county crime lab even if the Board of Elections doesn’t move.

On Monday, the Board of Elections split along party lines over whether the board should move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs. Democrats say the move would reduce voting access for people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans argue the potential of free parking at the facility outweighs the lack of public transportation.

Of course, part of the issue is political: Democrats benefit from a downtown voting location that’s easily accessible to Democrat-leaning urban voters, and Republicans benefit from a location closer to Republican-leaning suburban voters.

With the board’s tie vote, the issue now goes to the secretary of state — Republican Jon Husted — to potentially decide. The secretary of state’s office says Husted will make a decision after he reviews documents from the Board of Elections explaining both sides of the tie vote, but spokesperson Matt McClellan says Husted would like to see the issue resolved locally before he is forced to intervene.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.25.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, Prisons, Privatization, Voting at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Few local contributions to Issue 4, private prison mired in violence, Ohio could limit voting

Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups, according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 24. Of the more than $231,000 raised for Issue 4 by Cincinnati for Pension Reform, $229,500 came from groups in West Chester, Ohio, and Virginia. Chris Littleton, a leading consultant for Issue 4 and a long-time tea party activist involved in a few of the listed groups, is also based in West Chester. City leaders unanimously oppose Issue 4 because they argue it would force the city to cut services and city employees’ retirement benefits — two claims that have been backed by studies on Issue 4. Supporters say Issue 4 is necessary to help fix the pension system’s $862 unfunded liability. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that City Council will take up further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election, assuming voters reject Issue 4 on Nov. 5.

A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LECI) found that, while the private prison has made some improvements in rehabilitation, health services and staffing, it remains on pace in 2013 to match the previous year’s increased levels of violence. Various state reports found the facility quickly deteriorated after it became the first state prison to be sold to a private company, Corrections Corporation of America, in 2011, under the urging of Gov. John Kasich. In particular, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults rapidly rose between 2010 and 2012 and appear to remain at similar increased levels in 2013, according to an audit conducted on Sept. 9 and 10 by Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio’s independent prison watchdog. CityBeat previously covered the deteriorating conditions at LECI in further detail here.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated trimming the amount of early voting days in a letter to the state legislature yesterday. Husted says he wants the rules passed to establish uniformity across all Ohio counties. But Democrats — including State Sen. Nina Turner, who is set to run against Husted in 2014 for secretary of state — say the measures attempt to limit voting opportunities and suppress voters. In 2012, Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, explained similar measures that limit early voting in an email to The Columbus Dispatch: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Husted’s suggestions also included measures that would allow online voter registration and limit ballot access for candidates in minor political parties.

A Hamilton County judge yesterday dismissed another legal challenge against the city’s parking plan, but the conservative group behind the legal dispute plans to appeal. The plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which would then use private operators to manage the assets. Supporters say the lease is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets for an $85 million upfront payment that would help pay for development projects. Opponents argue it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets to private entities.

Several Medicaid overhaul bills began moving in the Ohio House yesterday, following months of work and promises from Republican legislators. The bills increase penalties for defrauding the state, require the Department of Medicaid to implement reforms that seek to improve outcomes and emphasize personal responsibility, and make specific tweaks on minors obtaining prescriptions, hospitals reporting of neonatal abstinence syndrome, behavioral health services and other smaller categories. The overhaul bills follow Gov. Kasich’s decision to bypass the Ohio legislature and expand Medicaid eligibility for at least two years with federal funds approved by the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative panel.

Ohio’s controversial facial-recognition program can be used by some federal and out-of-state officials, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search state databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. Shortly after the program was revealed, Gov. Kasich compared it to privacy-breaching national intelligence agencies.

Ohio students aren’t as good at math and science as students in China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, among other countries.

A bipartisan “open container” bill would allow cities, including Cincinnati, to legalize drinking alcohol in the streets. In the case of Cincinnati, the city could allow public drinking in up to two districts if the bill passed. Supporters of the bill say it would boost economic activity in certain areas, but some are concerned the bill will enable “trash and rowdiness.”

Cincinnati leads the way on Twitter.

Vitamin B2, which is commonly found in cottage cheese, green veggies and meat, could be used to 3-D print medical implants.

Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

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