As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.
Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.
During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.
Today’s question is, “Do you consider the operation of health clinics to be an acceptable function of municipal government?”
Faced with the choice of raising property taxes or funding senior and mental health services at their current levels, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve a ballot measure that would effectively cut tens of millions of dollars from those services if passed by voters.
“It seems wrongheaded for us to ask citizens to pay more in taxes when their homes are worth less, when costs have gone up in their households and when in many cases their paychecks are down,” said Board President Greg Hartmann. “So we need to hold the line on those property taxes.”
The tax rate would be held at the levels passed by voters in 2008, which would be an effective reduction due to declining property values. If Hamilton County voters approve the levies in November, senior services would see a $7 million reduction in funding over the next five years — down to $97 million from $104 million — while funding for mental health services would fall $17 million from $187 million to $170 million, Hartmann said.
The money funds services such as meals on wheels, in-home care for seniors, counseling and drug and alcohol addiction and treatment services.
The board’s sole Democrat — Commissioner Todd Portune — made the symbolic gesture of submitting an alternate proposal which would have funded services at the levels providers had requested, but it failed without support from either of the board’s two Republican members.
Portune’s resolution would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 the property was worth. He said voters should be given the option to shoulder the additional tax burden. He later voted in favor of Hartmann’s resolution, saying the worst thing that could happen would be for voters to approve no levy.
Commissioners also approved a resolution to formally review all healthcare services provided by the county in hopes of saving money by eliminating any that were duplicated at the federal level under the healthcare overhaul.
Hartmann said he didn’t come to the decision to keep the levies at the current rate lightly and pledged to work with the recipients to manage the reduction.
Many of those providers appeared at three public hearings held in the last month and with near unanimity asked commissioners to approve the increased rates — which would have kept funding even by countering the money lost from decreased property values.
Patrick Tribbe, president and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, didn’t outline specific cuts the agency would undertake, but told reporters after the commissioners’ vote that he would spend the next six months planning for the start of the next fiscal year, when the cuts would take effect.
The Tax Levy Review Committee had recommended that the property tax rate remain flat instead of increasing. It suggested that service providers reduce their administrative costs and find areas to increase efficiency.
Many of the providers who spoke at the public hearings said they had already cut administrative costs about as deeply as they could and had very little room for to cut further.
People who want to apply for the state of Ohio's new high-risk medical insurance pool can get free help at two upcoming events.
As part of recent health-care reforms, the state launched the high-risk insurance pool Aug. 1. The program is designed to offer affordable coverage to individuals who have been denied coverage in the past because of pre-existing medical conditions.
A major effort is underway today to urge Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) to buck his GOP colleagues and vote against repealing the health-care reform law.
A national group, Catholics United, is placing about 6,000 telephone calls to Catholics who live in Ohio's 1st Congressional District, that contains a recorded message asking them to have Chabot vote “no” on repealing health-care reform. The GOP leadership is expected to bring up the repeal bill, H.R. 2, on Wednesday for a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.
During a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado last night, a gunman walked into a theater, threw tear gas, and opened fire. Police identified James Holmes as the suspect in the shooting. Twelve were killed and at least 50 were wounded. On Twitter, one witness lamented that “there is no dark knight, no hero, that could save us from anything like this.”
Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will learn later this summer if he'll be required to undergo additional training and take the state police exam. Craig and his attorneys yesterday told the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission about his 36 years of policing experience.
This summer, Ohio families will receive health insurance rebates as part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The average family will receive $139. In total, Ohioans will be getting back $11.3 million.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent in June, down from 7.3 percent in May. That’s the lowest unemployment has been since 2008.
An Ohio Supreme Court task force approved changes that will help prevent racial bias in death penalty cases.
Gov. John Kasich can’t get even his own people to agree with him on his tax plan. An Ohio Tea Party group came out against the plan yesterday.
Speaker of the House John Boehner called the issue of Mitt Romney’s tax returns a “sideshow” and said that Americans don’t care about it. But Romney apparently disagreed with Boehner’s perspective in 1994 when he asked then-Senator Ted Kennedy to release his tax returns.
First giant mirrors, then volcanoes. Now, scientists want to use plankton to help fight global warming.
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.
Northern Ohio counties are starting to receive $19 million from Cleveland casino tax revenue. Cincinnati and Hamilton can expect a similar revenue boon next year when the Horseshoe Casino opens on Feb. 2013. Of course, the casino (and its revenue) could have been coming this year, but Gov. John Kasich blocked construction last year to protect his tax plan.
The Enquirer over the weekend did an investigative piece on ER “superusers” — individuals who can sometimes cost the health-care system as much as $1.3 million due to a lack of health insurance. Hospitals have said that this "charity care" could be curtailed by Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and save the state money, but Kasich claims the Medicaid expansion is too costly for the state.
The Ohio Board of Regents is considering banning smoking on all public
campuses. Smoking is already banned in buildings, but health concerns
may lead to a bigger ban.
Toledo Public Schools used “scrubbing” to improve report card scores. The Board of Education claimed such cheating could be a “state-level problem.”
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and his Republican opponent Josh Mandel have settled on a day to debate: Oct. 15.
Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday. Here’s CityBeat’s C. Trent Rosecrans’ column offering current players’ thoughts on Larkin.
The Great Ohio River Swim was postponed Saturday because of high bacteria levels. Not very surprising.
In science news, a European agency became the first in the Western world Friday to approve a gene therapy treatment for a rare genetic disease.