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by German Lopez 05.28.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, LGBT Issues at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ed fitzgerald

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Supports Gay Marriage

LGBT issue could become point of contention in 2014 race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald told Outlook Columbus in a May 17 interview that he supports same-sex marriage, drawing a strong contrast to Republican opponent Gov. John Kasich, who is running for re-election in 2014.

“I believe in full equality for all Ohioans, and that includes the LGBT community, and that includes issues not just related to marriage, but also employment and housing,” FitzGerald told the magazine, which focuses on LGBT issues.

He added, “If it’s on the ballot, I’m going to vote for it. If something comes across my desk when I’m governor, I’m going to sign it.”

FitzGerald's position puts him in opposition to Kasich, who previously reinforced his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions after implying support for same-sex civil unions in an interview with a local TV news station

"The governor’s position is unchanged," wrote Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols in a March 21 email to CityBeat. "He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio’s Constitution to allow for civil unions. He’s opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term ‘civil union’ loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues."

Ohio and the rest of the nation have been moving toward supporting same-sex marriage in the past few years. A poll from The Washington Post in September 2012 found about 52 percent of Ohioans support same-sex marriage, and only 37 percent are against it, with a margin of error of 4.5 points.

FreedomOhio, a group advocating for same-sex marriage, is currently gathering signatures and could place the issue on the Ohio ballot as early as 2013 ("The Evolution of Equality," issue of Nov. 28).

"FreedomOhio thanks Mr. FitzGerald for his support of Marriage Equality and Ohio's Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment. FreedomOhio asks Governor Kasich to join Mr. FitzGerald and the majority of Ohioans who support the amendment that provides Strong Family Security while also Protecting the Religious Freedom of all houses of worship," wrote Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, in an email to CityBeat. "We are pleased to count Mr. FitzGerald as a supporter of this important 46-word amendment."

Update: This story was updated with a comment from Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio.

by Danny Cross 06.27.2012
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

City Council is expected to vote this morning to divert the $4 million for the City Hall atrium project to jumpstart the Music Hall renovation, which has brought the city and arts supporters interested in owning and operating the historic venue closer to a compromise. Council could vote on the renegotiated deal later Wednesday, though details of the lease agreement have yet to be released. 

Council is also expected to approve a property tax increase of $10 per $100,000 in valuation to fund capital projects such as a new West Side police station and additional road paving. 

Today’s Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District meeting will include a presentation about the Brent Spence Bridge that will probably include polls.

Gov. John Kasich today will sign a human trafficking bill that makes the crime a first-degree felony rather than second-degree and includes funding to help victims.   

The ACLU will represent the Ku Klux Klan in a legal fight involving Georgia’s highway cleanup program and a pending First Amendment lawsuit.  

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday will rule on President Obama’s health care law. 

Obama and Biden are still jamming Romney up on his outsourcing history. 

A Walgreens store and other pharmacies in Washington, D.C. are offering free HIV tests to make diagnosing the disease more convenient and to increase awareness. 

College football has approved a four-team playoff to determine its national championship rather than the computer-human two-team plan that has faced scrutiny over the years. The new format will start in the 2014-15 season. 

by German Lopez 01.08.2013
Posted In: Governor, News, Environment, Economy, Government at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Strickland won't run in 2014, county reviewing MSD, freestanding restroom underway

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Hamilton County wants an efficiency review of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.

Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom. If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better access to restrooms throughout the city.

Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.

Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.

On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst. Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C. No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here. State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader. Then again, state education systems are probably more important than Colonial History 101.

The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease. Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial problems.

The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”

One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?

by Kevin Osborne 04.26.2012

Morning News and Stuff

A study by a housing advocacy group found that foreclosures in Hamilton County dropped by 13 percent compared to the previous year. But representatives with Working In Neighborhoods, the group that did the research, said the figures don't necessarily mean that homeowners aren't being affected by the economic downturn. Rather, they note that many large banks were delaying foreclosures due to the so-called “robo-signing” crisis, waiting until they struck a settlement deal with the federal government. In fact, many observers expect foreclosures to increase this year.

After a lengthy trial, former Bengals player Nathaniel “Nate” Webster was convicted Wednesday of having sex with an underage girl. A jury acquitted Webster on three charges, but found him guilty on four others. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler ordered Webster jailed until his June 6 sentencing, when he could be sent to prison for up to 20 years. Webster signed a five-year, $11.3 million contract with the Bengals in 2004, but played only in a few games.

City commissioners in Dayton are considering an ordinance to establish a domestic partnership registry which could be used by unmarried, same-sex couples. The registry is voluntary, and a couple doesn't need to live within the city. The ordinance says the registry will assist “businesses and universities in the recruitment of a talented and diverse workforce.” The registry would help area businesses that extend benefits to the partners of employees, straight or gay, by having a formal registry of such committed relationships. Local bloggers and others have been pushing for such a registry in Cincinnati for the past few years, but groups like Equality Cincinnati have said the time is not right.

What were the odds of that happening? A Columbus police officer who investigated a four-vehicle accident Tuesday that involved Gov. John Kasich is the same person that the governor had called “an idiot” in an earlier encounter. Officer Robert Barrett responded to the mishap on Interstate 71 in downtown Columbus that happened in stop-and-go traffic and did not result in any serious injuries. Shortly after taking office last year, Kasich recalled the citation he received from Barrett in 2008 for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, calling Barrett an idiot during a meeting with state employees.

State lawmakers removed a proposal this week to enact a priority funding system for federal family planning dollars that would've essentially blocked funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates across Ohio. The Republican-controlled House Finance and Appropriations Committee pulled an amendment to Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review that was inserted last week. A committee chairman said the amendment mirrored that of House Bill No. 298, which is being worked in the House Health and Aging Committee. About $1.6 million of the $4.3 million in federal family planning money the state received last year went to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is lowering expectations that the GOP will retain control of the House after this fall's elections. At a closed door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans, Boehner reiterated his concerns the party could lose seats in the House in November, according to The Los Angeles Times. "We’ve got a fight on our hands," Boehner said. Some observers wonder if Boehner believes the gloomy forecast or if it's a scare tactic to get unruly Tea Partiers to toe the party line.

After he scored victories in five primary elections this week, the Republican National Committee formally embraced Willard Mitt Romney as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee on Wednesday. Reince Priebus, the RNC's chairman, said in a statement that the party organization and its resources were now at the disposal of Romney’s campaign. Also, the campaign staffs of the RNC and Romney will merge and begin coordinating their efforts. Game on.

George Zimmerman received firearms training and bought a gun on the advice of an animal control warden, as a method for dealing with a belligerent neighborhood dog. That's one of many revelations in interviews with Zimmerman's relatives and neighbors conducted by Reuters News Service. Zimmerman is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla.

It's beginning to look like Israel's military isn't in as big of a rush to start a war as the nation's politicians. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief, said Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the statements of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Gantz said international sanctions have begun to show results and could relieve pressure on the Obama administration, undercutting efforts by Israeli political leaders to urge the United States to consider a potential military strike on Iran.

International judges have found former Liberian leader Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague, the BBC reports. Taylor has been on trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years. He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
by Danny Cross 05.25.2012
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation into 21 donors who had no record of giving to federal campaigns and many appearing to have low incomes. Mandel, a Republican, is running against incombent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel's campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler sent a letter to donors explaining that any contributions appearing to be under investigation would be refunded.

From The Toledo Blade:

Although the campaign provided a copy of the letter to The Blade, it would not explain the timing of the decision or how long it has been aware of the federal probe.

The Blade revealed the unusual pattern of contributions in August.

The company's owner, Benjamin Suarez, and 16 of his employees (plus some of their spouses) gave about $200,000 to Mr. Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) last year. Each of those donors gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount, to one or both candidates.

The Ohio Senate yesterday passed new fracking regulations, and the final version caused some environmental organizations to change their stance on the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club had both been neutral on the legislation until changes were made forcing anyone suing over chemical trade secrets to show current or potential harm, according to The Enquirer. The regulations are part of Kasich's new energy bill and easily passed both the Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Kasich soon.

Cincinnati Public Schools says it will apply for the latest available federal education grants, which amount to nearly $700 million. The grants are geared toward helping schools proceed with reform and innovation.

According to a new poll, President Obama leads Mitt Romney in Ohio by six percentage points. Wonder if Obama's “cow pie of distortion” speech had anything to do with his lead.

The John Edwards trial has entered day six of deliberations.

United Nations inspectors have reportedly found uranium in Iran enriched beyond the highest levels previously reported. One diplomat said the measure could actually be a measurement error, though the reading could also mean that Iran is closer to producing bomb-grade uranium than previously thought.

Scientists might be one step closer to creating birth control for men after U.K. scientists found a gene used to enable sperm to mature.

From USA Today: “Profits at big U.S. companies broke records last year, and so did pay for CEOs.

Facebook's initial public offering didn't go entirely as expected, and some investors are getting refunds after technical problems and other issues marred the company's first week of trading.

The Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night, winning their sixth in a row and overtaking the St. Louis Cardinal for first place in the NL Central.

by Danny Cross 09.30.2011
Posted In: News, COAST, Public Policy, Governor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Opponents of Ohio's new restrictive election law have gotten it postponed until next year at the earliest, with a potential repeal of House Bill 194 in November ending it before it begins.

Read More

by Danny Cross 11.28.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Headline: "Stadium tax rebate favors wealthy." Analysis: "No shit." Owners of the county's most-expensive homes reportedly receive more savings from the property tax rollback than they pay in the sales tax increase that was supposed to pay for the sports stadiums. An Enquirer analysis of last year's property tax payout found that the half-cent sales tax increase amounts to a maximum of $192 annually, while some high-value homeowners received tax rebates of $1,175 or more.

• Million-dollar homes account for less than 1 percent of households, yet they received nearly 5 percent of the total rebates — or one out of every $20 paid out.

• One out of four homeowners - those with a home worth $200,000 or more - got $8.8 million in rebates - more than half the total rollback.

• The median Hamilton County homeowner with a property worth $106,700 is eligible to get a $50.15 rebate under the rollback.

• The 132 Hamilton County homeowners with houses worth $2.5 million or more get at least $1,175 apiece.

• Property owners with homes worth $150,000 or less account for nearly six out of 10 households, but collectively they received less than 23 percent of the benefits.

County commissioners have four days to tell the auditor to go ahead and tax homeowners at the previous rate, but Chris Monzel and Todd Portune are up for reelection this year and won't dare change take it away from the powerful rich people.

[Correction: Monzel is not up for reelection.]

Said former commissioner David Pepper:"At its core, the property tax rollback creates a reverse-Robin Hood scheme, where middle-class homeowners and renters are not only the ones paying for the stadium, but also footing the bill for a tax break for high-value property owners. Those high-end property owners are not paying for the stadium at all."

Read More

by Andy Brownfield 10.08.2012

ODP Asks State, Feds to Investigate Coal Company

Letters allege Murray Energy coercing employees to donate to Republican candidates

The Ohio Democratic Party is asking both state and federal prosecutors to look into allegations that a major coal company is coercing its employees to donate to political causes against their will.

The ODP on Monday sent letters to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach and Acting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty asking them to launch a criminal investigation into Ohio-based Murray Energy Corporation.

The letters allege that Murray Energy “may have engaged in a pattern of illegal activity, extorting millions in financial contributions from employees and vendors for Republican candidates running for public office.”

Murray Energy fired back in a Monday statement, saying the allegations “are simply an attempt to silence Murray Energy and its owners from supporting their coal mining employees and families by speaking out against President Barack Obama’s well known and documented War on Coal.”

The allegations stem from an Oct. 4 investigation by left-leaning magazine The New Republic.

The article is based on the accounts of two anonymous former Murray managers and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees. It suggests that employees are pressured into making donations to Republican candidates and contributing to the company’s Political Action Committee. 

“There’s a lot of coercion,” one of the sources told the magazine. “I just want to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake.”

ODP Chairman Chris Redfern told reporters during a conference call that party research found that Ohio political candidates — including all current statewide officeholders — had received almost $750,000 from Murray Energy, its subsidiaries and employees.

Neither Dettelbach or McGinty returned CityBeat calls for comment on any pending investigations.

Murray Energy in its statement called The New Republic biased and radically liberal. The company’s characterization in the article is incorrect and untruthful, according to the statement. 

Murray had previously come under fire when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a campaign event at one of its mines. Some workers claim they were pulled out of the mine early when it closed for the event and forced to attend without pay.

by Andy Brownfield 08.22.2012
Posted In: Democrats, Government, Governor, State Legislature at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Question Time for the Governor?

Group of Democratic state lawmakers wants Ohio governor to face legislative Q&As

Some Democratic lawmakers want answers from Republican Gov. John Kasich.

A group of Democratic state representatives has put forth a bill that would require Kasich — and every governor after him — to come before the Ohio House of Representatives 10 times per year for 45-minute question and answer sessions where the governor would have to take at least five questions from each side of the aisle.

Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, is the bill’s sponsor. He did not return CityBeat’s call for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.

Cincinnati Democratic Rep. Denise Driehaus is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. She said Foley had the idea while visiting Canada, where their parliament has a similar procedure.

“I think it’s a great idea where the governor interacts with the legislature and we have the opportunity to question him and really engage on some of the issues and get his opinion on things,” Driehaus says.

She said the Legislature doesn’t currently have a whole lot of opportunity to interact with the governor, except for the State of the State address, but even then they can’t really engage Ohio’s chief executive.

The Ohio Democratic Party has recently filed suit against Kasich for what it says is a failure to comply with open records laws for redacting parts of his public schedules when responding to a public records request.

The ODP has called Kasich opaque and secretive for failing to respond or only partially responding to records requests.

However, Driehaus said the bill isn’t meant to apply only to Kasich, but would apply to every governor after him. She said she didn’t think it was in reaction to her party’s spat with the governor.

“This is much broader and much more forward thinking than that,” Driehaus says.

by Andy Brownfield 09.26.2012
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News And Stuff

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was in Cincinnati on Monday where he compared the Obama administration to the replacement NFL referees whose bungled call cost Ryan’s home-state Green Bay Packers a win. Ryan joined GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Dayton where the two attacked Obama’s economic record and characterized the president as someone who believes government should tell people how to live. Both Obama and Romney plan to campaign around Ohio on Wednesday.

Meanwhile unemployment in Cincinnati dropped to 7.5 percent in August, down from 8.2 percent in July. Unemployment in Hamilton County dropped to 6.8 percent in August, down from 7.3 percent. The Greater Cincinnati’s jobless rate for the month was 6.7 percent, putting it below that of the state (7.2 percent) and the nation (8.1 percent).

Speaking of numbers, a new poll released today shows Obama leading Romney in Ohio – the third such poll in the last four days. The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll shows Obama leading Romney 53 to 43 percent in Ohio, and by similar large margins in the battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The typically media-shy Republican Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel proposed three new rules for members of the U.S. Congress in a rare Tuesday news conference. He said he wants members of Congress to lose their pensions if they became lobbyists, be limited to 12 years in the House and Senate and not be paid if they failed to pass a budget. Mandel says his opponent, sitting Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, broke his promise to voters that he would only serve 12 years in Congress. Mandel himself promised to fill his entire term as state treasurer, but would leave halfway through if he wins the Senate race.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky continue to move toward jointly supporting a financing study for a replacement of the functionally-obsolete Brent Spence Bridge, and both governors favor a bridge toll to fund construction. The Kentucky Legislature would have to approve a measure to allow tolling on the bridge.

Forty percent of Hamilton County’s septic systems are failing, and homeowners and utilities are arguing over who should foot the $242 million bill. The Enquirer has an analysis of the ongoing battle.

The Associated Press reports that Andy Williams, Emmy-winning TV host and “Moon River” crooner, has died.

The Enquirer is still doing all it can to keep the Lacheys relevant instead of letting them die off like all bad 90s trends like Furby and Hammer pants. The paper blogged that Lachey finished in the bottom three in the first week of the new Dancing with the Stars: All Stars.

Speaking of those replacement NFL refs, apparently some of them were fired by the Lingerie Football League for incompetence. Yes, there are totally unrelated pictures of women playing football.