A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).
Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110 million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar as a “boondoggle.”
The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in a two-to-one margin.
When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an airport.
Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal. The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while it’s no longer classified as an airport.
At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route, at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing feud.
The reworked deal, which was approved by Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects, and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant.
But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be made for any period no longer than twenty years.”
Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.”
Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all. We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.”
He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the time.
In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other Political Advertisements on CPS Property.”
But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the
lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter
registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and
staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the
emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign
coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows
he was trying to avoid breaking any rules.
In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20 email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.”
COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s
in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue
of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not
necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more
interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy.
The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after
four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going
to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to
bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible —
November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here.
Criticism of CPS levies is also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep some buildings open.
As Mitt Romney gets ready to attend a $2,500 a plate fundraiser at downtown’s Great American Tower, the local Democratic Party chairman says the presidential hopeful’s economic plan “would do nothing to create jobs now.”
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke released a statement this afternoon describing why he believes a Romney presidency would be disastrous for middle-class Americans.
Meanwhile, a group of community leaders led a protest outside of the East Fourth Street office building as attendees arrived for the fundraiser. The protest was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, which represents more than 30,000 health-care and social service workers across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.
“Mitt Romney holding $2,500 per person fundraiser at the Great American Tower is a perfect example of exactly who he is and who he represents,” said Becky Williams, SEIU’s district president, in a prepared statement. “While Romney is hobnobbing on the rooftop with his wealthy donors hosted by American Financial Group, ordinary Ohioans are struggling to find work and provide for their families.”
The co-host for the fundraiser is S. Craig Lindner, co-president and director of American Financial Group Inc., whose total compensation in 2010 totaled $8.3 million, according to Forbes magazine.
“Nothing Mitt Romney says can change the fact that he spent his career as a corporate buyout specialist who put profits over people and lined his pockets by outsourcing jobs, closing down plants and laying off workers,” Burke said.
“His 59-point economic plan would do nothing to create jobs now, fix America’s economy or help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. His tax plan would benefit the ultra-wealthy and do nothing to help middle-class families in Greater Cincinnati,” Burke added.
In preparation for Romney’s visit today, the Democratic National Committee pointed out that the investment firm once led by the candidate, Bain Capital, rejected a government offer to invest in General Motors (GM) during the 2008 financial crisis.
Romney has said on the campaign trail that he opposed the government bailout of U.S. automakers because the private market would have provided loans so GM and Chrysler Corp. could go through managed bankruptcy. But sources told The New York Times that Bain turned down an offer to help GM at the time.
“To go through the bankruptcy process, both companies needed billions of dollars in financing, money that auto executives and government officials who were involved with Mr. Obama’s auto task force say was not available at a time when the credit markets had dried up,” the article stated.
It added, “The only entity that could provide the $80 billion needed, they say, was the federal government. No private companies would come to the industry’s aid, and the only path through bankruptcy would have been Chapter 7 liquidation, not the more orderly Chapter 11 reorganization, these people said.”
I have to pay more attention to The Enquirer's websites. That’s apparently where the fun is.
Former Cincinnatian Peter Heimlich follows our Sole Surviving Daily online and on his blog, The Sidebar, he noted two photos that suggest web posts don't get the same alert editing as those in print.
One photo this week showed a male Rick Santorum critic holding a sign that defined “santorum” as “a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter sometimes resulting as a bi-product of anal sex” and telling readers to “Google it.” That leads to the “definition” by sex advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage.
Heimlich said The Enquirer took down the photo when he asked about it.
Another Enquirer photo faux pas was first caught by The Political Daily Download blog. This one involved another anti-Santorum poster, this one held by a woman. It had the former senator and lobbyist’s smiling face and said, “Doesn’t support products made for women’s reproductive organs” and, in much larger print, “IS A DOUCHEBAG.”
A similar photo replaced it online.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday laid out five steps that he said would have America “roaring back” during his first campaign stop since formally accepting the Republican nomination.
At Cincinnati's Union Terminal, Romney was joined on stage by his wife Anne, who spoke briefly, echoing her convention speech meant to humanize her husband.
He said his plan involved encouraging development in oil and coal, implementing a trade policy that favored American companies and not “cheaters” like China, making sure workers and students had skills to succeed in the coming century, reducing the deficit and encouraging small business growth.
“America is going to come roaring back,” Romney told the crowd of thousands packed inside Union Terminal.
Not everyone was so impressed with the GOP nominee’s promises.
About an hour after the Romney campaign event, Cincinnati Democratic leaders held a news conference to rebut the Republican’s speech.
“Much of his (Romney’s) speech was like his speech in Tampa, which is where Romney gave Cincinnatians nothing more than vague platitudes, false and misleading attacks without one single tangible idea on how to move forward,” said Democratic/Charterite Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.
Simpson, along with Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas and Bishop Bobby Hilton, attacked the tax plan put forward by Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. They said it would cut taxes for the richest Americans while raising taxes on the middle class by about $2,000 per household, citing an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
“Mitt Romney’s plan would take Ohio and Cincinnati backwards, and we don’t have time to go backwards,” Hilton said.
Hilton credited Cincinnati’s revitalization and urban development in part on federal money obtained from Obama’s stimulus plan.
“We deserve better than this. We deserve better than Romney/Ryan,” he said.
Romney would have disagreed with Hilton’s assessment of Cincinnati’s growth. During his speech he praised Ohio Gov. John Kasich, crediting him with bringing jobs and businesses to the state.
Romney also took time to attack President Barack Obama’s record in office. The GOP nominee said in preparation for his convention speech he read many past convention speeches — including Obama’s.
“He was not one of the ones that I wanted to draw from, except I could not resist a couple of things he said, because he made a lot of promises,” Romney said. “And I noted that he didn't keep a lot of promises.”
Romney also criticized what he called the bitterness and divisiveness of Obama’s campaign, saying as president he would bring the country together. He mentioned the “patriotism and courage” of the late Neil Armstrong, who was honored in a private service in Cincinnati on Friday.
“I will do everything in my power to bring us together, because, united, America built the strongest economy in the history of the earth. United, we put Neil Armstrong on the moon. United, we faced down unspeakable darkness,” Romney said.
“United, our men and women in uniform continue to defend freedom today. I love those people who serve our great nation. This is a time for us to come together as a nation.”
The candidate’s remarks ignited the crowd of thousands, many of whom wore shirts with slogans like “Mr. President, I did build my business,” in response to a remark made by Obama about businesses being helped to grow by government contracts and infrastructure, and “Mitt 2012: At least he never ate dog meat,” referring to a passage in Obama’s 2008 memoir during which he recalls being fed dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
Steve Heckman, a 62-year-old environmental consultant from Springfield, Ohio, said he voted for Obama in 2008 but will likely vote for Romney in this election.
He said he’d written “some pretty ugly stuff” about Romney in the past but felt jobs was the No. 1 issue and thought the Obama administration’s policies were sending them out of the country.
“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has, to me, become a little too almost like a fringe group, putting so much pressure on businesses that they are moving to Canada,” Heckman said. “Things like air permits, the EPA is taking too long to issue them. It’s not just power plants they’re affecting, but all manufacturing.”
Heckman said he didn’t blame the president personally but thinks whoever he put in charge of the agency is being too strict.
“I grew up when the EPA was first put in place in the '70s, and they were, in my opinion, doing God’s work,” he said, citing the cleaning up of rivers such as the Cuyahoga near Cleveland, which famously caught fire because of pollution in 1969.
“I support the EPA, but it’s driving businesses out of here.”
Speaking ahead of Romney were U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio treasurer and GOP senatorial candidate Josh Mandel and Republican U.S. House candidate for Ohio’s 2nd District, Brad Wenstrup.
“This election is all about changing Washington,” Mandel said. “The only way to change Washington is to change the people we send there.”
The Ohio Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Gov. John Kasich — who they claim is improperly using his office to campaign for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to get the governor to release his schedule of public events.
The ODP’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, contends that Kasich’s office either ignored or only partially fulfilled the request.
“It’s unfortunate that this Governor is so opposed to transparency and public disclosure that we have to ask the Court to force him to follow the law,” ODP Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement.
“Serious questions remain regarding whether the Governor has improperly used his office for the benefit of Mitt Romney, and it’s deeply disappointing Kasich is so secretive he won’t even tell the public what he’s done or where he’s gone.”
Kasich press secretary Rob Nichols said the administration doesn’t comment on litigation, but dismissed the Ohio Democratic Party’s allegations.
“We release public records in accordance with the law, and in fact have already publicly released the governor’s schedule six times, including a schedule request to the ODP,” Nichols said.
“This is predictable election year politics from the same people who were just rebuked for using public records demands to interfere with the Auditor of State’s investigation into possible data manipulation in some school districts.”
Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said Kasich’s office did respond to one of the seven requests for the schedule, but some of the information in the records was redacted — including an entire week that was blacked out with no explanation.
“Ohio law is very clear, and it states you have to give a specific excuse when you redact something,” Kurtz said.
According to the lawsuit and court documents, the ODP requested on July 2 Kasich’s public schedule from that date through Aug. 27.
According to a letter to the Ohio Democratic Party from Mehek M. Cook — assistant chief counsel to Kasich — the information about the governor's future plans was blacked out because that information could put him at risk.
“The governor and his office receive threats on any given day and the release of his whereabouts increases security issues surrounding the governor’s safety,” Cook wrote.
Cook wrote that any information in the records used by the Executive Protection Unit assigned to guard Kasich constitutes a security record and was redacted.
He also wrote that some information that would reveal confidential business meetings and trade secrets that would harm Ohio efforts to court businesses was blacked out. Additionally, information not relevant to the request was redacted.
Kurtz said it’s important that the public have access those schedules because voters have a right to know what their governor is doing on the public dime.
The schedules include where the governor is and with whom he meets, but they also show scheduled phone calls and media interviews.
The Ohio Democratic Party worries that Kasich is improperly campaigning for Romney while receiving a taxpayer-funded paycheck, or using public money to have his staff do so.
The concerns stem from statements made by Kasich both in public and on his Twitter account either praising the presumed Republican presidential nominee or slamming President Obama.
For instance, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that when Obama visited Ohio on Aug. 1 the governor tweeted “On the occasion of the President's latest visit to Ohio, we have a question for him,” with a link to a graphic asking “If the President's policies are behind Ohio's success, why is the rest of the country trailing us?”
Democrats claim that Ohio’s success relative to the rest of the country are due to efforts by President Obama, while Republicans say Governor Kasich is behind Ohio’s faster-than-average recovery.
While the Ohio Democratic Party is suing to have Kasich release his public schedule (Kurtz says Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost complied with similar requests in a timely manner) the state Republican Party has also submitted similar requests to Democrats throughout Ohio.
Kurtz characterized the GOP requests as being sent by Kasich’s “hand-picked lieutenants in the Ohio Republican Party,” though Nichols told The Plain Dealer that the governor had no involvement.
Ohio GOP executive director Matt Borges told the newspaper that the requests were routine.
Still, Kurtz called Kasich’s refusal to release his own schedule “hypocritical.”
“He’s a bully and the only way you can deal with a bully is fighting back.”
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.
Local subscribers to Time Warner and Insight cable woke up today without access to WLWT-TV (Channel 5) after the station and companies failed to reach a new retransmission agreement. Instead, the cable companies offered Channel 2 from NBC affiliate Terre Haute, Ind. The Enquirer is all over the story, reporting that Todd Dykes and Lisa Cooney in the morning were replaced by someone named Dada Winklepleck in Wabash Valley, Ind. Don’t worry: 30 Rock will still be on your new local Indiana station. Visit mywabashvalley.com for further details about additional programming. Or you can just hook up an antennae and get WLWT in hi-def for free.
Anyone in the market for a school building? Cincinnati Public Schools is adding four closed buildings to a for-sale list in an attempt to raise the capital necessary to complete an overhaul of its in-use buildings as part of its Facilities Master Plan. The new buildings on the list are Central Fairmount, Kirby Road, North Fairmount and Old Shroder schools.
Ohio brought in $23.5 million during the first seven weeks of legalized gambling in the state.
Mitt Romney says he’s not hiding anything in his offshore accounts. The proof: He doesn’t even know where they are, so they’re technically hidden from him, too.
Barack Obama is in Iowa apparently setting up an issue on which to debate Romney later this fall. Obama is pitching an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000, while Romney wants to extend them for rich people, too.
The FDA went against the advice of an expert panel, deciding not to require mandatory training for doctors prescribing long-acting narcotic painkillers that can lead to addiction.
Three-hundred-square-foot apartments in New York City? Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked developers yesterday to try to make them work.
City planners envision a future in which the young, the cash-poor and empty nesters flock to such small dwellings — each not much bigger than a dorm room. In a pricey real estate market where about one-third of renter households spend more than half their income on rent, it could make housing more affordable.
Droughts in 18 states have made the price of corn go up, and the soybeans are hurting a little bit, too.
Sitting less adds two years to U.S. life expectancy.
A new study found that babies are healthier when there are dogs in their homes.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place tonight in Kansas City. The Reds’ Joey Votto is a starter, while Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman are also likely to play.
A new study has found high levels of arsenic in fruit juices that millions of kids are drinking because there's pictures of actual food on the label. Too bad government regulation is just a big waste of money that hurts the economy.
A full 10 percent of the juices tested by the magazine had arsenic levels higher than what is allowed in water by the Food and Drug Administration.
“What we’re talking about here is not acute affects,” Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, told TODAY. “We’re talking about chronic effects. We’re talking about cancer risk. And so, the fact that 10 percent of our samples exceeded the drinking water standard underscores the need for a standard to be set in juices.”
Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple and grape juices sold around the country. Included among those tested were popular juices like Minute Maid, Welch’s and Tropicana.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what Republican House Speaker John Boehner said would be priority No. 1 for Republicans after sweeping the House of Representatives and many state legislatures in 2010. This, Republicans said, was why they were elected: People wanted to see changes in the economy fast.
But, apparently, there was one other priority.
Almost immediately after coming into office in 2011, Virginia Republicans set the national stage for vital women’s health issues. House Bill 1 — the first bill Virginia Republicans chose to take on — was a personhood bill, a bill that define life beginning at conception. Not only would the bill have banned abortion, it would also have banned the birth control pill, which sometimes prevents birth by stopping the implantation of a fertilized egg.
An impartial observer might wonder why a personhood bill would be a top Republican priority. After all, the same election that put all these Republicans in power also had a personhood bill overwhelmingly rejected in Mississippi — a state so socially conservative that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to make interracial marriage illegal, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.
Nonetheless, this was the issue Virginia Republicans decided to give serious attention. In an economy with a 9 percent unemployment rate at the time, this was the most important issue to Virginia Republicans.
Ohio wasn’t much luckier with its crop of Republicans. Five months after inauguration, the Ohio House passed its “heartbeat” bill, or H.B. 125. To this day, it’s the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Not only would it ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.
Ohio and Virginia were not alone. Republicans were pushing anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills all around the nation. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas all made national headlines with their own bills. In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortions, according to ABC News. At the federal level, Republicans have made funding for Planned Parenthood a top issue time and time again, and insurance companies covering contraception recently became such a big issue that the White House had to step in.
So much for keeping the government out of health care. The same political party that clamored for small government now couldn’t wait to regulate women’s health care. Apparently, the economy is too much for the government to handle, but every woman’s uterus is fair game.
There has been some backlash. After Virginia tried to pass a bill that would force doctors to give patients seeking abortion a transvaginal ultrasound, women’s health advocates in states across the nation organized protests, leading to governors and state legislatures beginning to back down in their rhetoric. Even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who originally supported the transvaginal ultrasound bill, has been downplaying his involvement in Virginia’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills.
Now, Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, is facing some of the backlash. In a recent Gallup poll, women came out severely against Romney. In the category of women under 50, Obama held 60 percent of voters, while Romney held only 30 percent. That’s right, Obama now leads with women under 50 by a two-to-one margin.
But while that may stop some rhetoric, the bills and laws are still coming forward. The Ohio heartbeat bill is still being pushed by some Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and a personhood initiative could show up in Ohio’s 2012 ballot after a stamp of approval from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mississippi also plans to reintroduce its personhood initiative in the 2012 ballot, and other states are beginning to pass around petitions for their own initiatives as well.
In the end, one is left to wonder what could stop social conservatives. Public backlash and poor polling don’t seem to be enough to stop the Republican war on women, and in some cases it might have actually emboldened them.
On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President Mitt Romney.
“On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness.
A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.
Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make medical decisions.
He said the next president would also likely have the opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage.
"If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early."
The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people.
The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in that state.
In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama.
“We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls said.