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by 02.10.2009
Posted In: 2010 Election, Government at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gov. Sebelius Could Join Obama's Cabinet

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, born and raised in Cincinnati, appears to be the frontrunner for Secretary of Health and Human Services. She supported Barack Obama's presidential run early on and campaigned for him, including in Cincinnati.

This position was originally to be filled by former Sen. Tom Daschle, who dropped out when it was revealed he hadn't paid all of his taxes. Stupid taxes! There's no word yet on how good Sebelius' CPA is.

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by 04.16.2009
Posted In: Government, President Obama, News at 08:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Worst President in 100 Years?

Those of us who consistently listen to left-wing, anti-American, pro-socialism media like NPR weren't surprised that the Somali pirates finally captured one of our own. International media have been reporting on the African piracy issue for close to a year.

But they did finally screw with us. People really shouldn't do that, as our Marine Corps are full of Jason Bournes.

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by Hannah McCartney 03.22.2013
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, Women's Health, Government, News at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
anna louise inn

W&S Accuses City Officials of Lying, Discrimination

Threat of lawsuit next phase in Anna Louise Inn dispute

Financial giant and Lytle Park bully Western & Southern has accused city officials and other Anna Louise Inn advocates of repeatedly deceiving the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to obtain federal funds for the long-awaited, $13 million renovations to the Inn.

Those renovations are the same ones that have been blocked over and over by a series of legal entanglements initiated by Western & Southern, which tried to purchase the Inn back in 2009 for $1.8 million, refusing to buffer the Inn's $3 million price tag. In 2011, the Hamilton County Auditor valued the plot at $4 million. 

Now, the corporate giant, which owns a number of other plots of land in Lytle Park, wants to buy the Inn and convert it into an upscale hotel. 

Western & Southern’s lawyer, Glenn Whitaker, sent a letter obtained by CityBeat dated March 19 to City Solicitor John Curp accusing city officials of knowingly violating the federal Fair Housing Act by allowing the owner of the Inn, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), to pursue federal funding for renovations while providing services to exclusively women in need, which the letter alleges would “discriminate on the basis of gender” and “expose the City to liability under both the federal False Claims Act and the FHA.” 

“We share this with you because — no matter where one stands on whether ALI’s renovations comply with Cincinnati Zoning Code — it is in the public interest for the City to avoid a lawsuit that could lead to a significant payout in today’s budget environment,” reads the letter.  

Of course, that lawsuit is one that would be entirely fabricated and launched by Western & Southern, on top of years worth of zoning violation allegations that, so far, have failed to gather much merit.

Some women-only shelters are deemed permissible due to safety issues, but in the letter, Whitaker alleges that the renovation plans expose ALI to discrimination liability by, in theory, making the safety issue moot by providing clear, separated spaces for men and women. The renovation plans include converting what are now dormitory-style units with shared bathrooms into private residences with private bathrooms and kitchens, according to the letter.

Curp, who received the letter, says the city’s relationship with HUD is one that hinges on constant communication, and though Western & Southern's allegations were unexpected, they'll be taken seriously.

“We work with them closely, we have a great relationship with HUD. They were the first organization we contacted when we got this letter, ... so they understood the nature of the allegations and because they’re one of our development partners. We have lots of development partners in the city, frankly, including Western & Southern. ... We're disappointed that the city has been pulled into what is otherwise a third-party dispute."  

The letter also accuses a number of community members, including 3CDC, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Model Group, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and the YMCA of conspiring to move low-income residents from the Metropole to the Anna Louise Inn in order to ease litigation with the Homeless Coalition and make way for the new, upscale 21c Museum Hotel.

John Barrett, Western & Southern’s CEO, is also on the board of 3CDC, which adds an extra element of mystery to the lodged accusations; at best, it seems extreme they'd be willing to accuse ally 3CDC of wrongdoing or conspiracy for the sake of a discrimination lawsuit against a nonprofit social services agency whose stated goal for more than 100 years has been to provide a haven for women in need.

Ideally, explains Curp, HUD will respond equipped with some sort of past precedent that would absolve the city and the Inn of alleged discrimination and make the lawsuit irrelevant.

"I think a lawsuit would be very much premature. ... Like I said, our first step is to talk to HUD and to make sure that between the both of us, we don’t see any discrimination or compliance issues. If there’s any chance of that ... after our review and a review by HUD, we will fix it to bring it into compliance," he says. 

"As I sit here today, I can't imagine this situation hasn't been dealt with in the past. I'd be shocked if HUD hasn't dealt with this in another community and come up with a set of guidelines for us to follow."

by 07.15.2010
Posted In: Government, Public Policy at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hearing Set on Water Works Change

Many Cincinnati residents got a glossy flyer in the mail this week informing them of a public meeting about a possible change in their water service.

City officials will hold a hearing July 28 to solicit public input about a proposal to switch the Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) from a city-managed department into a public regional water district.

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by 01.14.2010
Posted In: News, Government, Police at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yates: Historic DNA Bill Progresses

A groundbreaking piece of legislation that would update investigative practices used by law enforcement agencies statewide has passed out of committee and is headed for a vote by the full Ohio House. State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D-Walnut Hills), chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, announced today that Substitute Senate Bill 77 was approved. The committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill.

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by Andy Brownfield 12.11.2012
solidarity with michigan photo 121112  01

Ohio in No Hurry to Pass Right-to-Work

Ohio Dems wear carnations in solidarity with Michigan workers

In light of Michigan’s progress in passing a so-called “right-to-work” law, Ohioans are both worried about and pushing for a similar law allowing workers to opt-out of paying union dues at businesses where workers are represented by a union.

Tea party activists are working to gather the 380,000 signatures needed to get the Ohio Workplace Freedom Act on the ballot. They have until July 3.

The Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the first of two right-to-work bills, both of which were passed by the state Senate last week. Gov. Rick Snyder has told multiple media outlets that he could sign the bills as early as Wednesday.

Michigan would be the 24th right-to-work state in the nation and the second in the Midwest. Indiana passed a similar law earlier this year.

Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus wore red carnations — Ohio’s state flower and a symbol of the labor movement — at the Statehouse Tuesday to show support for Michigan workers.

“Put simply, so called ‘right to work’ is wrong. Statistics show states with this anti-working family legislation have lower wages and higher poverty rates,” Ohio state Rep. Connie Pillich, D-Montgomery, wrote in an emailed statement. 

“We will continue to stand together and fight against these unfair attacks on workers in Ohio, Michigan and across the country.”

Despite the effort to put a right-to-work law on the ballot next year — a similar effort was unsuccessful in 2012 — it doesn’t seem like Ohio is in any rush to join Michigan and Indiana.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has higher priorities than passing a right-to-work law. The newspaper reports that Ohio added 127,000 jobs in the past two years and ranks fourth nationally and first in the Midwest in terms of job creation. 

Kasich said the agenda for the last two years of his first term include tax cuts, an education overhaul and infrastructure improvement to keep the state competitive.

“I have an agenda that I think is going to benefit the state of Ohio,” Kasich told the newspaper. “We’re doing very well vis-a-vis the rest of the country now, and I think if we continue to pursue the agenda I have and the legislature has, I think we’ll continue to be successful.”

FUN FACT: Michigan's right-to-work bill will be signed into law in the Romney Building. George Romney, former Michigan governor and father of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was an opponent of right-to-work laws.

by German Lopez 04.25.2012
Posted In: Republicans, Democrats, News, Public Policy, Government at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Republicans Back Down on Voting Restrictions

Ohio GOP to repeal parts of its own passed legislation

This week, Republicans are moving forward with a partial repeal of HB 194, a bill that was blasted by voting rights groups for eliminating opportunities to vote early and disallowing pollworkers to guide voters to the correct precinct. The bill was also criticized by Democrats for curtailing voting rights in a way that made it harder for mostly Democratic constituents to vote.

The good news first: Most of HB 194 is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal of HB 194 earlier this year.

The bad news: Some new limits on voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might be unconstitutional.

While it’s good to see HB 194 repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.

For Democrats, this poses a bit of a problem. Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295 passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed because Republicans will think they have done enough.

Even the Obama team spoke on this issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on our voting rights.”

The other problem is the repeal could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot. So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.

But a lot of that opposition may be pure political posturing. After all, Democrats were sure they were going to win the referendum on HB 194, and they were sure they could use it to get more supporters out to vote. With SB 295, the referendum of HB 194 could potentially be taken off the ballot, and state Democrats will lose one issue to hammer Republicans with in an election year.

In a sense, Democrats aren’t just upset about a “change of rules in the middle of an election year,” as Schultz put it in his email. They’re upset about a change in politics in the middle of an election year.

Regardless, SB 295 does have some legitimate problems. It’s good to see most of the draconian restrictions on voting repealed, but if Republicans really want to admit their mistake, they’ll repeal the rest of the restrictions as well.
by Andy Brownfield 09.26.2012
Posted In: City Council, Economy, Government, Mayor, News, Streetcar at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Council Approves Measures Shifting $29 Million for Streetcar

Measures front Duke $15 million, add utility responsibility to move lines to city code

Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved a set of measures to alter funding of the $110 million streetcar project in order avoid further delaying its 2015 opening.

The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a utility to relocate its structures.

The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.

Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole “no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.

Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles Winburn voted against.

“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal opponents of the streetcar. 

“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”

The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the move. 

Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not recoup the $15 million.

The second proposal switches the source of funding for streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.

That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown district — which includes the Banks and the casino —  rebounds.

by Kevin Osborne 09.21.2011

Candidates On: Balancing the City's Budget

As CityBeat did in the 2007 and 2009 election cycles, 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, “With the city facing a potential $33 million deficit next year, what specific cuts and/or revenue enhancements would you propose or support to eliminate the shortfall?”

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by Andy Brownfield 09.07.2012
josh_mandel headshot

Investigation: Secret Ohio Group Supporting Mandel

Investigation finds Super PAC headed by Columbus lobbyist running ads attacking Brown

An investigation by nonprofit journalism group ProPublica has uncovered the identity of one of the secret super PACs funding advertisements attacking U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and promoting his challenger, Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel.

The group is the Government Integrity Fund and is headed by Columbus lobbyist Tom Norris. Norris’ lobbying firm Cap Square Solutions employs former Mandel aide Joe Ritter.

Ritter declined to comment to ProPublica about his role with Norris’ lobbying firm or whether he is involved with the Government Integrity Fund.

The race between Brown and Mandel is considered vital to Republicans who want to take control of the Senate and Democrats who want to hold on to their majority. It has turned into Ohio’s — and the nation’s — most expensive race.

The Associated Press reported in August that outside groups — like the Government Integrity Fund — have spent $15 million supporting Mandel, while similar groups have spent $3 million for Brown.

It’s unknown where the money is coming from because federal regulations and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case allow the groups to spend unlimited amounts of cash on political ads without disclosing their donors.

Such groups are classified as non-profit “social welfare” groups, which don’t have to release donor information or register with the Federal Election Commission. They’re supposed to be “primarily” engaged in promoting social welfare.

Super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with campaigns, but it is common for them to hire politicians’ former aides.

According to ProPublica, Ritter was first hired by Mandel as an aide when the candidate was in the Ohio Legislature. He was then the field director for Mandel’s state treasurer campaign and then became a constituent and executive agency liaison when Mandel won that race. He left the treasurer’s office after six months to work for Norris’ lobbying firm.

Ritter was part of an ethics complaint filed after a Dayton Daily News investigation into Mandel’s practice of hiring former campaign workers for state jobs. Ritter has contested the charges.

Norris' ties to the Government Integrity Fund was discovered by ProPublica through documents filed with Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT. The Federal Communication Commission requires TV stations to keep detailed records about political advertisers.