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by German Lopez 01.17.2013
 
 
nina turner

Morning News and Stuff

Secretary of state race underway, bridge may need private funding, sewer policy dismissed

Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”

Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing. The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.

Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.

Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation, according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.

Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.

In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies. The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program. The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145 million.

The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.

For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.

 
 
by 11.01.2010
Posted In: 2010 Election, County Commission, Republicans at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

County Race Gets Animated

With new computer software programs available to create animated videos, this election cycle has seen several entertaining segments hit the Internet. Perhaps the best known video is one that shows an animated person trying to use reason with a co-worker who is a Tea Partier.

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by Andy Brownfield 11.05.2012
 
 
hartmann1

County Commission President Lays Out Budget Plan

"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases

The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.

Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said. 

He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.

Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000  or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.

Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.

Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.

Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.

Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.

Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.

“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.

The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.

He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.

“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.” 

Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.

Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.

“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.05.2012
 
 
reds

Morning News and Stuff

At the risk of alienating some readers, we have to say it: If you don't know that today is Opening Day, you're not a real Cincinnatian. The 93rd annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade begins at 1 p.m., and the Reds will kick off the 2012 season with a game against the Miami Marlins at 4:05 p.m.

Hamilton County commissioners want to help you enjoy the day if you're heading downtown to catch either or both of the events. They've lowered the parking rates today at the garages in The Banks district near Great American Ball Park. There are now 6,000 parking spaces near the stadium that will cost $10 for the day, down from $12 last year.

Just in time for the season opener, first baseman Joey Votto has agreed to a $251.5 million, 12-year deal with the Reds, the longest guaranteed contract in Major League history. The deal adds $225 million over 10 years to his previous contract and includes a club option for 2024, when the 2010 National League MVP turns 41.

Shortly after an independent assessment criticized her performance in the job, Hamilton County Public Defender Shelia Kyle-Reno has reached a deal to leave the position nearly a year before her contract ends. Until a permanent successor is found, Kyle-Reno will be replaced by W. Kelly Johnson, a former federal public defender who will work for free.

A recount is under way this morning to see which Democrat will challenge Brad Wenstrup for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt's seat in Congress. For now, the winner of the 2nd District Democratic primary is William Smith, a Pike County man that party leaders had never even met before he beat David Krikorian by 60 votes. Because the margin of victory was so small, Ohio's Secretary of State ordered a recount in 13 of Hamilton County's 222 precincts.

In news elsewhere, a new poll finds Google beats out Apple Computer in favorable ratings by 82 to 74 percent. The Washington Post-ABC News poll also found Facebook has a 58 percent favorable rating.

An important historical document has recently been uncovered and released. In 2006 an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice authored a memo opposing the Bush administration’s torture practices. The White House tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but one survived deep in the State Department’s files and was declassified this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive. The memo argues that the Convention Against Torture, and the Constitution’s prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, do indeed apply to the CIA’s use of “waterboard(ing), walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement.”

Syrian troops have launched new assaults on rebels as an envoy of United Nations mediator Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus today to discuss implementing a ceasefire plan. Anti-government activists said several towns, including Homs, Deraa and the Douma suburb of Damascus, have been shelled. U.N. officials report the conflict has cost more than 9,000 lives since it began a year ago. The Syrian government blames violence on "terrorist gangs" and allege about 3,000 members of the security forces have been killed. The U.N. wants a truce deal by April 12.

A major Chinese insurance company said it will stop indemnity coverage for tankers carrying Iranian oil beginning in July, narrowing insurance options for Iran's main export that already are constricted by economic sanctions pushed by the United States. This is the first sign that refiners in China, Iran's top crude oil buyer, may struggle to obtain the shipping and insurance to keep importing from the Middle Eastern nation. Iran's other top customers -- India, Japan and South Korea -- are facing similar problems.

In lighter fare, an animal rights group is urging a pastor who preaches about the importance of marital sex to teach about how becoming vegan can add extra spark to the faithful's sex lives. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told The Rev. Mike Scruggs that vegans are less prone to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity than meat-eaters, and they often have more stamina, lower body weight, and a reduced risk of sexual dysfunction. People who choose vegan meals are also following God's call to mercy, PETA added, as plant-based meals save animals from immense suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.19.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, Government, News, Taxes at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

County Commissioners Delay Budget Vote

Proposed 'austere' budget would cut $14.4M from 2012 levels

A vote on the 2013 Hamilton County budget is being delayed a week at the request of the sole Democrat on the Board of County Commissioners.

Commissioner Todd Portune asked Board President Greg Hartmann at a Monday staff meeting to push back the vote a week to address funding to juvenile courts and the county’s plan for future financial stability.

Hartmann, who earlier denied Portune’s request to issue securities to raise millions to balance the budget, agreed. He said it was important that all three commissioners agree on the budget.

Portune told reporters he wanted to see more funding for juvenile courts. The proposed budget would cut about $3 million from the juvenile court’s 2012 appropriation. 

He said he also wants to see specific plans on how and where the county will invest in economic development. He and Hartmann disagree about whether that kind of planning belongs in a budget.

Hartmann had the proposal developed after commissioners rejected three plans from County Administrator Christian Sigman, two of which would have raised taxes. The $192 million budget under consideration cuts about $14 million from the 2012 appropriation levels without raising taxes.

The proposed budget makes a number of what Hartman calls “modest cuts” in almost every county department.

All three commissioners have stated that public safety funding is a priority. The Sheriff’s Department would see a small reduction of $27,033, bringing its budget to almost $57.5 million.

However, the department would also face an additional $4.3 million in expenses next year, giving incoming Sheriff Jim Neil an effectively reduced budget.

The Emergency Management Agency would get a nearly 40 percent increase in the proposed budget, up to $400,000.

The Board of Elections would see its budget slashed 36.2 percent to $6.9 million. However, its expenses would also be lower in 2013 because there is no presidential election as there was in 2012.

The proposed budget would bring the Department of Job and Family Services’ appropriation to $832,900 — a reduction of $10,360. However, that funding level is dictated by the State of Ohio and not the county.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor would also see a small increase of $37,597 intended to hold level its funding from 2012, as the department went over-budget. The prosecutor has the ability to sue the county over its budget appropriation, so the department typically maintains level funding.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.03.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, County Commission, Stadiums at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
greg hartmann

Hartmann Considers Reducing Property Tax Rollback

Board president still unsure of how he'll vote; Portune's sales tax increase still on the table

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting today to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund. Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, on Nov. 28 proposed a 0.25-percent sales tax hike. At the meeting, Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, suggested reducing the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he said he was unsure which way he would vote.

Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.

If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two options that none of us like at all.”

Commissioners mostly repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.

Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast, eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in Hamilton County.

The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes that disproportionate burden even larger.

One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a “terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals.

Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund.

The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 05.02.2012
 
 
portune

Morning News and Stuff

If you come from a large family, you might remember when older siblings would always get new clothes when you were a child and you'd get their hand-me downs. That's also been the situation at Paul Brown Stadium in the past, but Hamilton County commissioners are putting a stop to it. Because the county's Riverfront Parking Operations needs two new trucks, the plan had been to move two trucks from Paul Brown to parking services and buy new ones for the stadium. Commissioners balked at the plan Tuesday, saying the new trucks should be bought for Parking Operations. Commissioner Todd Portune estimates the county will save up to $20,000 because Parking Operations doesn't require the same kind of heavy-duty trucks the stadium uses.

Cincinnati City Council is considering restoring $250,000 to the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Council had cut the money from CIRV's budget in late 2010, but statistics show that the number of shootings increased in the city afterward. When CIRV was in full effect, the percentage of shootings linked to gang activity fell from nearly 70 percent in 2007 to around 50 percent in 2008 and 2009, but has bounced up to 60 percent in 2011 and so far this year. Part of the cash allocated to CIRV would pay for a statistical analysis by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, to determine if there is a verifiable link.

Federal prosecutors want the jury in the upcoming insider trading trial of former Procter & Gamble Co. board member Rajat Gupta to hear secretly recorded telephone conversations with another man as evidence of the alleged conspiracy between them. The government said in a pre-trial filing that the conversations showed Gupta, also a former Goldman Sachs director, leaked Goldman board secrets at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded the calls.

The Reds postponed Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs due to high water on the field at Great American Ball Park. Heavy rains on Tuesday afternoon and evening saturated the area, and the stadium was no exception. A makeup date hasn't been announced. The action marks only the sixth time that the Reds have postponed a game since Great American opened in 2003.

Cincinnati Public Schools will make energy-saving renovations at 28 schools using a nearly $27 million low-interest loan. The school board approved the plan Monday, despite some board members' concerns about moving ahead with the projects while the district cuts jobs and faces an estimated $43 million deficit.

In news elsewhere, the rumors were true: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was hiding at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since escaping house arrest last month. Chen's presence was revealed today when he left the diplomatic compound to seek medical treatment after receiving assurances from China’s government that he would be treated humanely. Chinese leaders agreed that Chen would be reunited with his family, moved to a safe place and allowed to enroll in a university, U.S. officials said. (Well, that's one international crisis averted, and only about 50 more to go.)

One of Willard Mitt Romney's top campaign spokesmen is leaving his job less than two weeks after his appointment. Richard Grenell, Romney's national security spokesman, resigned after some hardcore conservatives complained about the hiring of the openly gay man. Others, however, say it also was because Grenell was coming under fire “for numerous sexist and impolitic statements he had made about prominent women and members of the media.” After the complaints, he scrubbed over 800 tweets from his Twitter feed and deleted his personal website. Some reporters who dealt with Grenell while he was a spokesman for the United Nations years ago called him the "most dishonest and deceptive press person" they had ever encountered.

An eyewitness to the 1968 assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy says she heard two guns firing during the shooting and authorities altered her account of the crime. Nina Rhodes-Hughes, who is now 78, is coming forward as a federal court prepares to rule on a challenge to Sirhan Sirhan's conviction in the assassination. Sirhan, who is now 68, wants to be released, retried or granted a hearing on new evidence.

President Obama made a surprise visit Tuesday to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just before today's first anniversary of the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney has been criticizing the president's recent comments about bin Laden's death, but the Obama campaign questions whether Romney would've made the same decision, given his past statements. While in Afghanistan, Obama signed a security pact that means the United States will maintain a military presence there through 2024 – despite supposedly ending combat operations at the end of 2014. (For those keeping track, the deal means the United States will stay in Afghanistan for 23 years; let's just end the suspense and declare it our 51st state.)

Tuesday was May Day, which traditionally is a day to celebrate workers' rights around the globe — or protest the lack of same. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its various off-shoots held demonstrations in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and elsewhere across the United States to commemorate the occasion.
 
 
by 11.03.2010
 
 

Elections: The Day After

After a seemingly interminable campaign season filled with bizarre antics and toxic TV commercials, Election 2010 is finally over. Some people are recovering from partying on Tuesday night, while others might be beginning therapy to deal with what lies ahead for our county, state and nation.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012
 
 
heritage1

Conservative Group Hires Beckett

Longtime City Hall staffer joins Heritage Action

A local conservative activist has found another job in politics.

Brad Beckett recently was appointed as Heritage Action for America’s first regional coordinator for the Cincinnati area. Beckett served for years as chief of staff for City Councilman Chris Monzel, until Monzel left that group in January 2011 to become a Hamilton County commissioner.

In his new role, Beckett will be responsible for growing Heritage Action’s grassroots infrastructure in Cincinnati and nearby areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

“Brad brings a wealth of experience in and knowledge of Cincinnati politics,” said Michael Needham, Heritage Action’s CEO, in a prepared statement.

“His knowledge of Cincinnati and the surrounding region will be essential to ensuring that the American people’s voices cut through the big-government noise in Washington as we fight to save the America dream,” Needham added.

Prior to his latest gig, Beckett almost had the top job in Butler County government. When Monzel was elected to the Hamilton County commission, Beckett discreetly lined up another job as Butler County administrator. Two commissioners there hatched the plan privately but one abruptly changed his mind a day before Beckett’s employment was to have begun, leaving him without a job.

More recently Beckett has been working at the Apple Store in Kenwood Towne Center and launched The Political Daily Download, a right-leaning blog. Also, he assisted in Tom Brinkman’s unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican nomination to run for the Ohio House 27th District seat.

Founded in 2010, Heritage Action for America is the sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The newer group’s motto is “we hold Congress accountable to conservative principles,” and it was formed mostly because the foundation isn’t allowed to back pieces of legislation due to its tax-exempt status.

One of Heritage Action’s first projects was to organize opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law pushed by President Obama.

Among Heritage Foundation’s primary donors is Charles Koch, one half of the infamous Koch Brothers duo. They’re the industrialists who helped form the Tea Party movement, which advocates for corporate interests that benefit the brothers and harm the working class.

Also, the Kochs led the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.03.2012
 
 
xu

Morning News and Stuff

Even though it has provided it for years, Xavier University will stop including contraceptives in its health insurance coverage for faculty and staff beginning July 1. The Jesuit university employs about 950 people. In a letter posted on the university website, Xavier President Michael J. Graham wrote, “it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures which the church opposes.” Of course, some Catholic bishops, including Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, are raising a stink about a new federal rule that requires most religiously-affiliated schools and hospitals to begin offering birth control as part of health-care reforms. Either Mr. Graham got a sudden bout of conscience or he's politicizing an item that caused no controversy for years, until the church hierarchy decided it was time to flex its collective muscle.

Stores and other businesses that want to use off-duty Cincinnati police officers for security might soon have to pay more for the privilege. City Hall staffers are recommending the city start charging an hourly fee when they use the off-duty cops. Officials said they need the funds to cover the administrative costs of the program.

If you like stopping by Findlay Market to pick up some sushi, gelato or fresh produce, you might want to consider riding your bike there or taking the bus starting later this month, if you need to save money. That's because the market's three main parking lots will become pay lots for the first time since 1999, beginning April 23. The new fees are 50 cents an hour Monday-Friday, and $1 an hour on weekends with a $2 maximum, although motorists will get the first hour free. Also, monthly parking permits will cost $45.

Joey Votto, the talented Cincinnati Reds first baseman, is close to signing a new deal that likely would make him one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball. According to the website MLBtraderumors.com, Votto is close to reaching a long-term deal with the Reds. Details haven't been disclosed, but the website speculated it would have to be near the $200 million that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder got last year.

Hamilton County commissioners have rejected a request to place a property tax levy on the November ballot that would've raised $150 million to pay for repairs at the historic Union Terminal. It's the second consecutive year that commissioners rejected the request, citing the bad economy. Also, they said taxpayers shouldn't pay for the entire cost and that private donations should be sought.

In news elsewhere, there are primary elections held today in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is trailing rival Mitt Romney in delegates won so far, and polls suggest Romney will score some crucial victories tonight. In fact, President Obama has begun treating Romney as though he's already won the Republican nomination. Obama's reelection campaign is running a new TV ad in five swing states attacking Romney by name for the first time.

The U.S. Justice Department is offering a $10 million bounty for the arrest of of Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The reward is intended to increase the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups.

Two forensic voice experts have concluded it wasn't shooter George Zimmerman that is heard crying for help on a disputed 911 call before an unarmed teenager was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. The experts, hired by The Orlando Sentinel, reviewed the tape using state-of-the-art voice identification software, and said the cries weren't from Zimmerman and instead were from Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who died that night. “You can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman,” one of the experts said.

The notorious Koch brothers, the ultra-conservative industrialists that discreetly bankroll various far-Right causes, are having a bad time recently. The FBI announced it was investigating two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political organization they founded and fund. Then, a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain nonprofit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list.

Researchers at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies have compiled the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as U.S. military actions in Pakistan. PBS commentator Bill Moyers recently summarized the findings which include 224,475 lives lost, 365,383 people wounded and 7.8 million refugees and internally displaced people, along with $1.3 trillion in Congressional War Appropriations, between $3.7-$4.4 trillion estimated total costs to American taxpayers and $1 trillion more in interest payments through 2020 on money the United States borrowed for war (mostly from China). Was it all worth it?
 
 

 

 

 
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