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by Kevin Osborne 01.03.2012
Posted In: News, Democrats, Community at 05:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Entine to Speak at Dem Club

A best-selling author and Emmy Award-winning TV producer will discuss humanity’s common origins at an upcoming political meeting.

Jon Entine, author of Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People, will speak Jan. 17 at the Blue Ash Northeast Democratic Club. The topic of his speech will be “Our DNA – Why bigotry and prejudice should be a thing of the past.”

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by Andy Brownfield 12.05.2012
greg hartmann

County Commissioners Reduce Property Tax Rollback

Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit

Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums.

The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every $100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value.

The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.

“The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same thing we are doing today,” Portune said.

Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to 6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10 years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the first five. 

Portune said his proposal was more equitable. He said reducing the property tax rollback was going to affect only Hamilton County residential property owners, whereas a sales tax increase would affect everyone who spends money in the county, including visitors from neighboring Kentucky and Indiana.

Portune billed the tax increase as a long-term solution that would raise more than was needed currently but would keep the fund stable in years to come.

Board President Greg Hartmann, who authored the rollback reduction proposal, called Portune’s plan “a bridge too far.” He said it was too large of a tax increase and not a targeted approach to solve the deficit problem. He said he didn’t trust future commissions to allow the tax increase to expire.

Hartmann called the property tax rollback reduction flexible, scalable, clean, immediate and certain.

Commissioner Chris Monzel, who provided the deciding vote, said he didn’t like either and had to go against his principles with either choice.

“No way I walk out of this without breaking a promise. No way I walk out of this winning,” he said.

Monzel said he hopes that savings from the Affordable Care Act would allow the county to lower its property tax rates to make up for the rollback reduction.

Monzel also introduced a successful proposal that will include an annual review of the tax budget to make sure property taxes don’t change, a provision requiring parking revenue from The Banks to be used to develop The Banks and a directive for the county administrator to work with Cincinnati’s professional sports teams on concessions they can make to help out with the stadium funding burden.

by German Lopez 04.10.2012

Republican 'War on Women' Marches Forward

Election year causes GOP candidates to downplay rhetoric, but legislation remains

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.

by Andy Brownfield 10.02.2012
Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Visits Cincinnati on First Early Voting Day

First lady urges Ohioans to vote early; Romney campaign launches Ohio early voting bus tour

While the presidential candidates prepared for Wednesday’s debate, Michelle Obama urged Cincinnatians on Tuesday to take advantage of the first day of early voting, before leading a group to the board of elections to cast their ballots.

“I’ve got news for you: Here in Ohio it’s already Election Day. Early voting starts today,” Obama told a crowd of 6,800 inside the Duke Energy Convention Center. She urged everyone to reach out and encourage their friends to vote after they had cast their own ballots.

“Twitter them. Tweet them. What do you do? It’s tweeting, right? Tweet them,” she joked to the crowd.

Earlier in the morning, the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kicked off its “Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express” statewide bus tour in downtown Cincinnati. 

The tour started in Hamilton County before moving through Butler County and is scheduled to end the day in Preble County.

The bus is scheduled to make its way through every region of Ohio during the early voting period and will serve as a mobile campaign headquarters, dispensing voter contact materials and featuring Romney campaign surrogates, according to a news release.

At the convention center, Michelle Obama avoided some of the direct attacks employed by her husband or the Romney campaign, but used her 30-minute speech to counter some of the criticisms from the GOP nominee, recapping some of her convention speech.

“Our families weren’t asking for much,” Michelle said of her own and Barack’s families. “They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success, you know, they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did, in fact they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to succeed.”

Her comment seemed to come in response to an attack that the Romney campaign levied against Barack Obama after his infamous “you didn’t build that” comment, where the GOP candidate argues that Obama and Democrats are fostering enmity among the middle class by stoking jealousy of rich, successful Americans like Mitt Romney.

“Our families believed also that when you work hard and have done well and finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” Michelle Obama continued. 

“No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. You see, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. … We learned that the truth matters – you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules.”

She went on to say that Americans are part of something bigger than themselves and obligated to give back to others, counter to the Republicans’ narrative of the individual pulled up by his or her own bootstraps.

Danielle Henderson, 40, a teacher’s assistant from Cincinnati, said she was a fan of the first lady’s and joked that she wanted to know if Michelle was running for president in 2016.

“Behind every good man is a good woman,” Henderson said. “Honestly, a woman is a backbone of the family.”

She said she thought the first family was a good model for the rest of the country.

Henderson’s mother-in-law Barbara joked that she was excited to see what the first lady was going to wear.

“I see trends she sets trickle down to other politicians’ wives,” she joked.

by 10.26.2010
Posted In: 2010 Election, Congress, Republicans, Democrats at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boehner in D.C. on Election Night

Some critics have alleged Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) doesn't pay enough attention to the needs of his district, a charge he flatly denies. But come Election Night, Boehner won't be celebrating (or drowning his sorrows) in Southwest Ohio.

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by German Lopez 01.20.2014

Modern Republicans Would Oppose Martin Luther King Jr.

The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes

If his speeches and other comments are any indication, Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.

In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host of other issues.

Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.

On voting rights:

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

King and other civil rights activists saw the right to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination in the voting booth.

“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens,” King said.

More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead, Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in droves.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an email to The Columbus Dispatch.

In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.

Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.

On labor unions and “right to work”:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.

But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective bargaining rights.

Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge political boost to unions and Democrats.

Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.

Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today.

On the death penalty:

“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”

King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and study of criminology.

Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.

In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.

The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected the Republican majority will ignore the bills.

Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.

On health care:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’ opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care system.

To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the “inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.

Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.

On reproductive rights:

“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.”

King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.

Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian, accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.

But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.

In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.

Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
by 03.24.2011
Posted In: News, 2011 Election, Republicans, Democrats at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

More on Brinkman and Burke

As it turns out, Tom Brinkman Jr. plans on running for statewide office. He just doesn't know which one yet.

That's the explanation being offered for Brinkman's recent claim on a mass e-mail invitation that the $50 cost to attend an anti-Obama event could be deducted from taxes as a campaign donation.

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by German Lopez 11.14.2012

Planned Parenthood Defunding Bill Moves Forward

Committee hearing filled with protesters, chants

One week after the major Democratic victories of Election Day, Ohio’s Republican legislators are pushing HB 298, a bill that will keep federal funds from Planned Parenthood. In a Health and Aging Committee hearing at today, Ohio Republicans voted to push the bill through committee and into the Ohio House of Representatives floor.

If the bill passes the Republican-controlled General Assembly and is signed by Gov. John Kasich, it will block $2 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood and prioritize other family services. In the past few years, Planned Parenthood has become a popular target for Republicans because the organization provides abortion services. But that’s not all Planned Parenthood offers; a chart released by the organization in February demonstrated abortions only make up 3 percent of its services.

Another criticism leveled by Planned Parenthood supporters is the federal funding is legally barred from being used for abortions. Instead, the funding would go to other health services within Planned Parenthood, which provides general women’s health services to poor and rural women.

Some Democratic lawmakers say the bill shows an out-of-touch Republican Party.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand why Republicans are so intent on taking away from women the right to make their own choices about their bodies,” said Ohio Sen. Nina Turner in a statement. “Voters soundly rejected the foolishness of the radical right on Election Day in favor of the dignity of American women, but some lawmakers must not have heard.”

She added, “While Republicans rail against women making their own choices, they are cutting funding for education and critical social services that children need after they are born. They want small government, all right — small enough to fit into a woman’s womb.”

The strong words showcase what was a loud, feisty exchange between Planned Parenthood supporters and Republican lawmakers. At the committee hearings, supporters and opponents of HB 298 testified. Some opponents cited their personal experience, including an emotional account from one woman regarding her own rape at age 13. She said she was glad young women like her can turn to Planned Parenthood for help.

Ohio Rep. John Carney, a Columbus Democrat, pointed out that throughout the hearings, no health care provider testified in favor of HB 298. One doctor testified against the bill. Carney also pointed out that no tax dollars that go to Planned Parenthood pay for abortions. 

The bill isn’t the only action Republicans have recently taken against women’s health rights. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer about the possibility of a renewed heartbeat bill on Nov. 8. In October, Kasich appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government positions. In this week’s news commentary (“Ohio Republicans Continue Anti-Abortion Agenda,” issue of Nov. 14), CityBeat covered the ensuing Republican campaign against abortion rights.

by German Lopez 04.19.2012

Rebuilding Cincinnati: City vs. Kasich

Cincinnati is moving forward, despite the better attempts of state Republicans

In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Mark Mallory called on Cincinnati to continue pushing for improvements. After years of stalling, projects like Washington Park’s renovation, the Horseshoe Casino and the streetcar are finally moving forward, and Mallory wants to make sure that work continues.

Politically and economically, it makes sense. Not only have voters approved of both the casino and the streetcar, but the projects will create jobs. Casino developers have already begun to fill what they promise will be 1,700 permanent jobs, and city estimates show the first segment of the streetcar will create 300 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs.

But while voters and local politicians may approve, some state Republicans are doing their very best to tear the projects down. Gov. John Kasich, who dismantled Ohio’s passenger rail project, tried his hardest to continue his anti-transit rampage by railing against the streetcar in public speeches last year. He even ripped away more than $50 million in state funds from the project.

The casino has been a little luckier, but not by much. Kasich has claimed both neutrality and approval of casinos, but he has made building the Horseshoe Casino more difficult. Despite the fact Ohio has the highest casino tax in the nation, Kasich pushed for renegotiations for higher taxes and fees last year, ultimately delaying the casino’s opening from late 2012 to spring 2013.

For the governor, such actions probably make sense. Kasich has been an ardent supporter of tax cuts — sneaking them into every single budget even when Ohio had a reported $8 billion deficit. When he found massive education and health care cuts weren’t enough to close the gap he helped create, he moved onto casinos and transit projects.

Still, the projects move forward. Kasich and other state Republicans have not been successful in killing them off, largely thanks to local voters and local politicians pushing back.

Last year, voters rejected Issue 48, which tried to ban all investments in rail transportation for the next decade. Last week, Mallory announced CAF USA was already drawing up designs for the streetcar, and the first car could be finished as soon as 18 months from now.

Meanwhile, the casino’s construction is 35 to 40 percent complete, according to developers. This is despite an accident in January that resulted in the injury of 20 workers after a steel beam fell and caused a floor to partially collapse.

But what needs to be clear is that these developments are in spite of state Republicans like Kasich. When these job-creating projects are said and done, it’s important credit goes where credit is due — straight to local voters and local politicians.
by 04.02.2010

GOP Leaders Viewed Poorly

The weekly “State of the Nation” poll by Research 2000 found that President Obama is viewed favorably by 56 percent of respondents, compared to 39 percent who hold an unfavorable opinion about him. Five percent had no opinion.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester) had a whopping 64 percent unfavorable rating, with just 17 percent viewing him favorably. Nineteen percent had no opinion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Louisville) also had a 64 percent unfavorable rating, compared to 20 percent who view him favorably. Sixteen percent had no opinion.

The poll was conducted for The Daily Kos Web site.

A total of 1,200 registered voters nationwide were interviewed by telephone from March 22-25.

The margin of error is 2.8 percent, meaning there is a 95 percent probability that the “true” figure would fall within that range if the entire adult population were sampled.

Boehner and McConnell can take some solace: Democratic Congressional leaders fared poorly too.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had a 54 percent unfavorable rating, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) had a 66 percent unfavorable rating, according to the poll.

Still, Congressional Democrats fare better overall than their Republican counterparts.

Congressional Democrats had a 56 percent unfavorable rating, compared to 40 percent who view them favorably. Four percent had no opinion.

By comparison, Congressional Republicans had a 71 percent unfavorable rating, with 21 percent viewing them favorably. Eight percent had no opinion.

That’s an increase of 3 percent who view Democrats favorably from a week earlier, compared to a decrease of 7 percent for Republicans.

Also, the Democratic Party had a 40 percent favorable rating, compared to the Republican Party’s 28 percent.

There’s still seven months until the general election so anything could happen but, if those numbers persist, it might be time for GOP leaders to scale back their talk of a Republican landslide in Congressional races.