CityBeat Blogs - Republicans http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-91.html <![CDATA[Early Voting Could Move Outside Downtown]]>

The Hamilton County Board of Elections on Monday split along party lines over whether the board should move its offices and early voting from downtown, Cincinnati’s urban core, to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs.

The two Democrats on the board dispute the move. They claim the move would make voting less accessible to voters who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box.

Republicans on the board argue the move would make voting more accessible to suburban voters and provide free parking that’s scarcely available at the current downtown offices. They call the move “good government” because it would consolidate some county services at Mount Airy, where county officials plan to build a crime lab as long as the Board of Elections moves with the coroner’s office and provides the critical mass necessary to financially justify renovations at a former hospital.

Republicans cautioned their proposed motion would keep early voting downtown through the 2016 presidential elections. After that, the board’s offices would move, along with early voting.

Ohios secretary of state — Republican Jon Husted — normally breaks tie votes on county boards of elections. The secretary of state’s office claims Husted will remain undecided on the issue until he reviews documents from the Board of Elections explaining both sides of the tie vote. But spokesperson Matt McClellan says Husted would like to see the Board of Elections reach a compromise before he is forced to intervene.

The board’s vote followed a contentious back-and-forth between public speakers and board members regarding the looming decision. Most speakers spoke against the move and labeled it “voter suppression.” Some dissenters supported the move for its fiscal prudence.

Alex Triantafilou, a Republican on the Board of Elections, accused Democrats of “playing politics” with the move. He claims Democrats just want to keep early voting in a Democratic stronghold like downtown.

Democrats Tim Burke and Caleb Faux countered that, along the same lines, the Mount Airy facility would benefit Republicans by making early voting more accessible to Republican-leaning suburban voters and less accessible to Democrat-leaning urban voters.

State Rep. Alicia Reece, a local Democrat who spoke at the meeting, rebuked accusations of partisan politics and reiterated an argument she made to reporters on Thursday.

“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of elections,” Reece previously said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”

Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, on Thursday offered free space at the Shillito’s building in an attempt to keep early voting downtown.

But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer is not enough to satisfy the county’s occupancy needs at Mount Airy, even if the city moves some police services, such as SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy facility to help fill out the 500,000 square foot building.

“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” Hartmann said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”

County officials expect the crime lab to take up 100,000 square feet at the Mount Airy facility, and the Board of Elections would occupy another 100,000 square feet. So the county needs to fill 300,000 square feet to fully utilize the Mount Airy facility, even if the Board of Elections moves.

This story was updated with comments from the secretary of states office.

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<![CDATA[Modern Republicans Would Oppose Martin Luther King Jr.]]>

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. ]]>
<![CDATA[State Rep. John Becker Is a Sore Loser]]> When my brother and I were little kids, we used to play board games all the time, and because I was older and smarter I usually won. Back in those days, my little bro didn’t really understand the concept of sportsmanship and he would sometimes defiantly flip over the entire Stratego board when I started to win a game and get really close to finding his flag, and then he’d storm off and say I cheated (I didn’t cheat, Dylan!). 

Republican Rep. John Becker is pretty upset that a terminally ill gay man has earned the right to die in peace, and now it’s become a very real possibility that other gay Ohioans might also get to die (and live) in peace. And, just like my brother, he’s kind of trying to ruin the game for everyone just because he’s losing.

In July, Judge Timothy Black heard the case of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, a long-term gay couple who flew to Maryland to marry at the beginning of the month because Arthur is terminally ill, in hospice care, and not expected to live much longer.  

Obergefell and Arthur sued the state of Ohio for discrimination in not recognizing their out-of-state gay marriage, legal and recognized in Maryland, when other gay couples residing in states recognizing same-sex marriages and subsequently moved to Ohio would have their marriages treated as valid. And because Arthur is terminally ill, it's just as much for the emotional connection as it is for any kind of economic benefit.

Here's what Obergefell wrote in his original complaint (grab a tissue):

“Our legacy as a married couple is very important to John and me… in two or more generations our descendants will not know who we are. Married couples, often through research based on death records, have recognition for their special status forever. I want my descendants generations from now who research their history to learn that I loved and married John and that he loved and married me. They will know that they had gay ancestor who was proud and strong and in love.”

In his ruling, Black called the case “not complicated,” explaining that he’d allow the marriage to be legalized on Arthur’s death certificate because it was likely a constitutional violation that the state of Ohio treated lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages differently than lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages. 

In September, he ruled to allow the marriage of another gay couple — David Michener and William Herbert Ives — after Ives unexpectedly passed away in late August. Although these aren't (yet) blanket rulings, they're being interpreted as monumental victories for supporters of marriage equality.

Becker, then, decided to do the political equivalent of my brother running to my mom and accusing me of cheating; he wrote U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup and called for Black to be impeached for “malfeasance and abuse of power,” which apparently made him really concerned about the “federal government’s ever growing propensity to violate state sovereignty.” 

Unfortunately, though, U.S. District Court judges are appointed for life, so since Becker’s claims against Judge Black are totally unfounded, Black is free to continue to anger Becker and other people who don't approve of equality for gay couples.

Alphonse Gerhardstein, the attorney for both couples, calls Becker's response to the rulings "bullying."

"Federal judges are granted tenure for life for a reason. It's their job to enforce core principles even when the majority disagrees," he says. "Look at the Dred Scott case. I think most people would agree that's the worst case decision ever made by a judge, and even he didn't get impeached." (In case you forget, he's talking about Dred Scott v. Sandford, the landmark 1857 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled black people weren't citizens.)

Things that actually can get a judge impeached, says Gerhardstein, are offenses like having sex with a criminal defendant or taking bribes. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the court added licensed funeral director Robert Grunn, who is responsible for registering deaths and providing personal information to the state on what should go on a death certificate, to the list of plaintiffs. Grunn currently serves same-sex couples when he signs death certificates, says the lawsuit, including those with marriages recognized outside the state of Ohio. The lawsuit, if successful, could require all funeral directors to recognize gay clients as married on death certificates if they were legally married in a different state.

Gerhardstein also says since accepting Arthur and Obergefell's case, he and his colleagues have received inquiries from between 30 to 50 other gay couples seeking legal recognitions of their out-of-state marriages. For now, he says, he and his firm are concentrating on cases specifically involving recognizing same-sex marriages on death certificates, although this litigation could (and probably will) lead to other blanket rulings on how same-sex marriages are recognized in Ohio. 

Another hearing with Judge Black is scheduled for Dec. 18.

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<![CDATA[Republicans to Reintroduce Anti-Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’]]>

Ohio legislators today reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, even as questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.

The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

In the past, some of Ohio’s anti-abortion groups, including Ohio Right to Life, raised concerns about the heartbeat bill because they said it could lead to legal challenges that would endanger the anti-abortion movement.

So far, Ohio Right to Lifes concerns might be proving true in North Dakota. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in that state after deeming it unconstitutional.

“The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002.

Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

When contacted earlier today, Ohio Right to Life said it’s not providing comment on the bill yet.

Abortion-rights advocates are already standing against the proposal, which they call “the heartless bill” and an attack on women’s rights.

“Here we go again,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “A month after Gov. Kasich signed one of the worst anti-choice bills in the nation that is already closing abortion facilities, you’ve got this group coming back and saying, ‘No, no, no, that’s not good enough. You have to outlaw abortion before women even know they’re pregnant.’ ”

Forty of 99 legislators in the Ohio House have signed onto the bill, according to The Associated Press. The Ohio Senate majority caucus and Gov. John Kasich have so far declined to comment on the bill when asked by various reporters.

In June, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Kasich passed a two-year state budget that imposes regulatory hurdles that make it more difficult to get an abortion in Ohio and have already forced various abortion clinics to shut down in Ohio.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Plunderbund Ohio reports that Gov. John Kasich has picked up his first endorsement for a presidential bid from Citizens for Community values president and executive director and self-professed former porn addict Phil Burress, following Kasich's signing of some of the country's most archaic and restrictive anti-abortion provisions in the nation. This week’s news story by CityBeat’s most glamorous misanthrope, German Lopez, explains how the recently passed state budget caters to Republicans by lowering taxes for the rich, tries to block health care for the poor and effectively defunds Planned Parenthood and its valuable health services.

Eleven school buses were hijacked from the Petermann Bus Company bus lot in Golf Manor. All but one of the buses has been recovered. Ralph Brown, who supervises the company, speculated some kids just wanted to take a "joy ride."

Columbia Parkway is open again after massive flash flooding and landslides inundated the road, but this weekend's wet forecast could cause it to flood again.

SPCA Cincinnati is adopting out cats and kittens for just $5 through this weekend in honor of Independence Day. Visit the Northside or the Sharonville location. 

"God buried fossil fuels 'because he loves to see us find them.'" No. 5 on Rolling Stone's top 10 list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming comes from Bryan Fischer, director at the American Family Association.

Men can eat a lot more weiners than women. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate 36.75 hot dogs yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Coney Island's 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, earning first place in the women's division, while male title winner Joey Chestnut ate 69 dogs IN 10 MINUTES.

Here's why hot temperatures sometimes can make you cranky

Women in Egypt are at a staggeringly high risk to become victims of sexual assault. More than 80 women were raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted during Wednesday night’s mob celebration of the forced departure of president Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. 

Buttercup, a duck born with his left foot twisted backward, is now on top of the world after his owner used 3D printing to create a brand new foot for Buttercup. Here is a video for good measure.

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<![CDATA[Ohio House Bill Would Increase Abortion Restrictions]]>

An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would add more restrictions to obtaining a legal abortion in Ohio, and some of the requirements may force doctors to provide medically inaccurate information.

With an exception for medical emergencies but not rape or incest, House Bill 200 would increase the waiting period on abortions from 24 to 48 hours.

The bill would also force doctors to give patients, verbally and in writing, a slew of warnings 48 hours before an abortion procedure.

Among the requirements, doctors would have to explain medical risks that the legislation claims are associated with abortion, including infection, hemorrhage, cervical or uterine perforation, infertility, risks to subsequent pregnancies and the increased risk of breast cancer.

The bill would also require doctors to provide a description of fetal development with colored photographs and “the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the embryo or fetus at that age.”

As part of the bill, pregnant women seeking an abortion would be forced to get an ultrasound two days before a procedure. During the process, doctors would have to provide a verbal description of the ultrasound, including whether there’s an audible heartbeat, and a written and verbal description of whether the pregnancy is viable. If the pregnancy is not viable, doctors would be required to tell patients that a miscarriage is likely even if the patient doesn’t get an abortion.

The most extensive research has found that, barring rare complications, induced abortions are not linked to the medical risks listed in the bill.

Regarding infertility, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cited four studies, concluding that, “Published studies strongly suggest that infertility is not a consequence of uncomplicated induced abortion. There are small discrepancies among studies, but none of these studies was of sufficient power to detect a small association."

The American Cancer Society has a page on its website dedicated to abortion and breast cancer, which claims, “The largest, and probably the most reliable, study on this topic was done during the 1990s in Denmark, a country with very detailed medical records on all its citizens. … After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found that induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. The size of this study and the manner in which it was done provide good evidence that induced abortion does not affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.”

House Bill 200 must first work through committee before it gets a full vote from the House. Its chances of passing the 99-person chamber are so far are unclear.

The bill was introduced by State Rep. Ron Hood, a Republican from Ashville, and co-sponsored by 34 of his Republican colleagues. Among them are several state representatives from the Cincinnati area: Louis Terhar, Louis Blessing, Ron Maag, Wes Retherford and Peter Stautberg.

Both chambers of the General Assembly recently passed budget bills that include anti-abortion policies. On April 18, the Republican-controlled Ohio House passed a budget bill that defunds Planned Parenthood and funds pro-abstinence, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

On June 6, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed another budget bill that includes the Ohio House measures. The Ohio Senate also added provisions that ban abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals and allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics that don’t have transfer agreements.

Both chambers are currently reconciling their budget bills through a conference committee, which should produce a final version of the budget for the governor. Gov. John Kasich must approve a budget before a June 30 deadline.

Correction: This story originally said there are no exceptions for medical emergencies, but there is an exception for medical emergencies in the bill. The story has been updated and corrected.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before — except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.

It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit, despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously, Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a turnaround.

Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here, and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the 2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.

In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:

A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over Republicans.

Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called “right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5 was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.

Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.

Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.

Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.

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<![CDATA[Rob Portman Doesn’t Think Gayness Is Gross Anymore]]> Terrace Park isn’t the likeliest of neighborhoods for Cincinnatians to mingle with diverse groups of people, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if Sen. Rob Portman maybe didn’t have much experience interacting with gay people before his son came out two years ago.

But boy what a difference a gay son and two years of reflection make.

Portman had to prepare his own coming out speech yesterday, this one to his GOP senatorial brothers and sisters, none of which support same-sex marriage. Imagine how nervous he must have been, sleeves rolled up, flag pin hanging slightly askew as he spoke to reporters in response to the op-ed he published supporting gay marriage. If he stuttered at all it’s not because he wasn’t earnest — he just really loves his son.

Two years ago Portman’s son, Will, was a freshman at Yale when he came home and explained that being gay “was not a choice,” which seems to have resonated with Dad. Portman consulted with religious leaders and other men who have been anti-gay even though they have close family members who are homosexual, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who probably said something like, “Dude, it doesn’t matter anymore now that Obama is talking about queers in the State of the Union and shit. Roll Tide.”

Portman explained his new found interest in respecting millions of fellow humans this way: "[I want] him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years.”

Portman says he would like to see congress overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a redundant and discriminatory piece of legislation banning federal recognition of gay marriage, which he helped pass in 1996. But he still doesn’t think the federal government should tread on the states and make them recognize it if they don’t want to.

Meanwhile, in Washington Harbor, Md., Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday discussed their bigotry during a panel called "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition." The featured speaker was Jimmy LaSalvia, whose Republican gay-rights organization GOProud wasn’t allowed to sponsor the conference.

While gay-rights leaders celebrate the support and the possibility of other powerful Republicans realizing that they know and care about someone who is different, the announcement brings attention to other conservatives trying to remove yuckiness from the party’s official stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.

NBC News today recapped a few other Republicans who have recently come out in support of gay-marriage:

Jon Huntsman, a GOP presidential candidate in 2012 who had endorsed civil unions, said this year that he supports marriage rights. Furthermore, he framed it in conservative terms. 

"There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love," he wrote. 

And Theodore Olson, a former solicitor general for President George W. Bush, has been one of the lead attorneys challenging California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage in that state. (Portman fretted in his op-ed that a court decision might hamper the political movement toward legalizing gay and lesbian weddings.) 

And Fred Malek, a Republican power-broker, told NBC News this week that conservatives shouldn't feel threatened by gays and lesbian couples who wish to marry.

"I've always felt that marriage is between a man and a woman, but other people don't agree with that," he said. "People should be able to live their lives the way they choose. And it's not going to threaten our overall value system or our country to allow gays to marry, if that's what they want to do."

Nearly a quarter of Republicans reportedly support same-sex rights, leaving the door open for plenty more GOP leaders to search for gay family members on Facebook who might offer insight inspirational enough to frame their own stories of new found compassion and respect for other people.

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<![CDATA[Chabot Refuses to Authorize Superstorm Sandy Disaster Relief]]> U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot called the deadly storms that hit the Cincinnati area last March “catastrophic,” and he offered shattered communities a financial lifeline through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s low-interest rate disaster loan program.

In 1997, when Washington wrangling over budget issues held up relief after the Ohio River flooded Cincinnati, Chabot raged against “politics at its worst” and said his hometown truly needed federal assistance to rebuild. His words at the time: “Let us get the disaster relief to the people who truly need it.” 

Fast-forward to January 2013, and Chabot is a refusenik when it comes to helping the battered Northeast United States with federal disaster relief.

Former New York Sen. Al D’Amato is calling the Republican House members like Chabot who wouldn’t support $60 billion in aid for Hurricane Sandy-ravaged states a "bunch of jackasses.” The jackasses are members of his D’Amato’s own political party. Chabot apparently balked at the Sandy relief package because it offered federal cash to the National Park Service and other agencies that needed funding after the storm. Chabot saw pork where most in the House — the two Sandy bills passed by huge margins — saw responsible and necessary federal actions; to borrow his words, getting “disaster relief to people who really need it.” Chabot and his fellow travelers are getting pounded as short-sighted skinflints. And he probably can be criticized as a hypocrite.

After the massive March tornado outbreak, Chabot posted links on his Twitter account and his official House website that guided Ohioans in the ravaged areas on how to apply for federal help. He pointed to the U.S. Small Business Administration as a source of disaster loans. On April 16, 2012, Chabot said, “The tornadoes on March 12 affected many in our region in various ways, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) may be able to help those who have experienced ‘uninsured’ losses caused by these catastrophic storms. If you are located in Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton or Warren counties and experienced damages caused by the tornadoes, high winds or flooding, you may be eligible for assistance from the SBA’s Disaster Loan program. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center has reopened in Moscow, Ohio, with extended hours.”

You can find the link from Chabot’s official House website by clicking here.

But there is more to the story. In 1997, after a disastrous Ohio River flood wrecked much of Cincinnati’s riverfront, Chabot ripped into then President Bill Clinton for vetoing a disaster relief package. Clinton was furious that the GOP had tied flood aid to his showdown with former Speaker Newt Gingrich over a government shutdown. Chabot said stopping the 1997 disaster relief package was a refusal to help Cincinnatian rebuild and get on with their lives.

Chabot took the House floor and gave a speech about Cincinnati needing federal disaster relief. Here is his speech from June 10, 1997:

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday President Clinton sent a callous message to the flood-ravaged American families in the Midwest. Only minutes after receiving the disaster relief bill from Capitol Hill, the President who likes to say he feels our pain told thousands of flood victims that he was going to veto the bill that would help them rebuild their homes and get on with their lives. 

“Why did President Clinton veto the legislation? Because the bill contained a provision that would stop him from forcing another Government shutdown. Let me repeat that. The President is withholding aid to thousands of flood victims so he can reserve the right to once again put thousands and thousands of government employees out of work and bring the work of the federal government to a halt.

“Despite the fact that the President in a master of spin, Mr. Speaker, I do not think he is going to be able to spin this one much. The American people are going to see through this. It is politics at this worst. Let us get disaster relief to the people who truly need it most.”  

You can read his House speech here.

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<![CDATA[Democrats Call for School Board President's Resignation]]>

Democrats are calling for the resignation of Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, who compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler in a Facebook post.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”

Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican, insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. She told The Dispatch that people who know her understand she was describing the “need to step back and think about it and look at history.”

When looking at history, there is no evidence Hitler actually said the quote in question. The Nazi leader referenced disarming the subject races,” according to Hitler's Table Talk, but the direct quote Terhar posted is unverifiable.

“I’m not comparing the president to Adolf Hitler,” Terhar said. It’s the thought of disarming citizens, and this has happened throughout history. What’s the true intention of the Second Amendment? It was to protect us from a tyrannical government, God forbid.”

Terhar’s stance could have an impact on school policies. She told The Dispatch, “Schools are gun-free zones. If you have someone who is bent on causing harm, where are they going to go? To a place where there is little chance of resistance.”

But when looking at different countries and states, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found a correlation between more guns and more homicides. More specifically, men and women in places with more firearms are at a larger risk for gun-related homicide.

Terhar was elected Jan. 14 by the 19-member Ohio State Board of Education to serve as president.

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<![CDATA[County Commissioners Reduce Property Tax Rollback]]> 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.

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<![CDATA[Qualls to Announce 2013 Mayoral Run]]>

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will be formally announcing her run for the top spot in Cincinnati on Thursday.

Qualls’ campaign site has been up for some time already, and the vice mayor’s team had a meeting with political writers and bloggers on Nov. 26.

The vice mayor will be joined by current term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, implying his support for her mayoral run. The event is taking place at 10 a.m. at Core Clay, Inc., a small women-owned business in Walnut Hills.

Qualls, who is endorsed by both the Democratic Party and Charter Committee, previously served as mayor from 1993-1999 after serving in Cincinnati City Council from 1991-1993. She returned to council in 2007.

Former city councilman John Cranley, also a Democrat, is also running for mayor. Cranley served on council between 2001 and 2007. His campaign will officially launch in January and former mayor Charlie Luken will serve as the honorary chair.

Republican Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann is also considering a run for mayor, but hasn’t made a formal announcement.

Cincinnati has an open mayoral primary, which means that the top two vote-getters will run against each other in the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

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<![CDATA[War Is Declared! On Babies!]]>

America is a country at war. While the war in Iraq ostensibly drew down in December 2011, the United States has been quagmired in a war in Afghanistan for more than a decade.

But we're also in the midst of a number of other wars — cultural wars. It started with Nixon’s War on Drugs, then quickly escalated.

President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations on coal mining caused proponents to claim he had declared a War on Coal. The Affordable Care Act’s mandate that companies pay for employee contraception caused many faith groups to claim a War on Religion.

Statements from Republican politicians about “legitimate rape” and “binders full of women” caused some Democrats to claim the GOP had declared a War on Women.

And the ever-vigilant conspiracists news hounds at FOX News have exposed a scheme by Jesus-hating liberals to wage a War on Christmas for trying to remove constitutionally questionable dolled-up trees and pastoral scenes of babies in unsuitable barn-life cribbery faith-based displays from public property.

But by far the most heinous altercation being waged originated with Republican Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, who has declared a War on Babies.

As first reported by The Enquirer, conservative groups this week sent out a press release vilifying Niehaus for killing tons of babies in a mass effort to wipe out the state’s youth population a 17-month old bill that would give Ohio one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

Niehaus moved the so-called Heartbeat Bill — which would ban all abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat — from the Health Committee to the Rules and Reference Committee to avoid a forced vote on the legislation. He also removed staunch anti-abortion Senators Keith Faber and Shannon Jones from that committee.

“I’m shocked by Tom Niehaus’ war on pro-life women,” wrote Lori Viars in the news release. Viars is the vice president of Warren County Right to Life and vice chair of Warren County Republican Party.

Viars called for Republicans to remove Niehaus from Senate leadership. Niehaus is term-limited and will not continue on in office after this year.

Niehaus blamed Romney’s loss for his decision to kill the bill, saying that the Republican’s victory would have increased the likelihood of a U.S. Supreme Court lineup that would uphold it against a likely challenge.

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<![CDATA[Ohio Democrats Push for Puerto Rico Statehood]]>

A group of Ohio House Democrats wants Congress to move quickly and grant statehood to Puerto Rico, which has been a U.S. possession since the Spanish-American War ended in 1898.  The Ohioans do not say where the star should go on a redesigned American flag, but they said statehood would “respect the rights of self-governance through consent of the governed of our fellow United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico.”

The chief sponsor of the resolution, H.C.R. 57, is State Rep. Dan Ramos of Lorain, a northern Ohio city where about 25 percent of the 64,000 residents are Hispanic. Lorain is considered the most Hispanic city in Ohio, and nearly 20 percent of its population claims Puerto Rican descent. The resolution urging statehood was introduced this week in the Ohio House where it likely faces an uncertain future. The current term of the legislature is scheduled to end in December, and it has no Republican co-sponsors.  The GOP controls the House, which means that Democratic proposals often get bottled up or receive short shrift.

Earlier this month, a slight majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood for the Caribbean Island. It was the first time a statehood referendum has won there, and the non-binding vote was seen as signaling that many Puerto Ricans appear ready to end the island’s status as a U.S. commonwealth. The move by the Ohio House Democrats also appears aimed at cementing the party’s support among Hispanic voters. Some 70 percent of Hispanics backed the Democrats and President Obama on Election Day, and Hispanics are emerging as a key bloc with increasing power at the ballot box.    

With the exception of State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, all of the other House Democrats backing the statehood resolution are from Columbus or further north in Ohio. The resolution urges Congress to take swift action “towards admitting the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the Union as a State.” Statehood decisions are up to Congress. The Ohio resolution points out that Puerto Ricans are already U.S. citizens (although they cannot vote in presidential elections), and that many serve in the U.S. military. A 1917 law granted residents U.S. citizenship.

There is a historical footnote involving Cincinnati in Puerto Rico’s fate. Former GOP President William Howard Taft, a Cincinnatian who went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the 1920s, delivered a major legal decision in 1922 that helped keep Puerto Rico separate. Taft said the congressional act that conferred citizenship on the islanders did not contemplate that they would be incorporated into the Union. He ruled the U.S. possession had never been designated for statehood. Taft gave the island a unique status that has been described as a commonwealth, or as it is said in Spanish, “Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico.”

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<![CDATA[Curmudgeon Notes 11.28.2012 ]]> It was a double scoop when HUC Prof. Ben Zion Wacholder and doctoral student Martin G. Abegg Jr. released their bootleg translations of previously unpublished Dead Sea scrolls. 

Their highly accurate texts were created without seeing the scrolls and they shattered secrecy created by a cabal of scholars who for decades restricted other researchers’ and translators’ access to the ancient documents.

Steve Rosen’s recent Page 1 story in the Enquirer got that right. The other scoop was my 1991 Enquirer story reporting Wacholder and Abegg’s triumph. Our photo showed visually impaired Wacholder looking at a dramatically enlarged image on a Mac.  

Their ordeal had its origin in a promise by then-HUC president Nelson Glueck in 1969. He agreed to house 1000-plus photographic images of the scrolls lest something happen to the originals. He also agreed with scholars controlling access to the scrolls that no one else would see the HUC negatives while the original scrolls existed.

That included Wacholder. To his frustration, HUC honored that promise even after Glueck’s death and despite the growing international controversy over restricted scholarly access to many of the original scrolls.  

Today’s Biblical Archaeology Society website, biblicalarchaeology.org, recalled how Wacholder and Abegg got lucky in 1989. Chief editor of the scrolls John Strugnell sent a copy of a secret concordance of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Wacholder. It “consisted of photocopies of index cards on which every word in the unpublished scrolls was listed, including its location and the few words surrounding it.” It was their Rosetta Stone.

Wacholder and Abegg programmed the Mac to apply their knowledge of ancient literature to the data in the concordance. "I'm sick and tired of all this waiting," he told me at the time. 

In 1991, the society’s Biblical Archaeology Review published the reconstructions, breaking the more-than-40-year-old monopoly on the scrolls.

And when jealous scholars challenged the accuracy of the reconstructions, Wacholder was dismissive. "I'll match my knowing of the . . . texts - even blind — any of them.

Wacholder died last year. Abegg became professor and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in British Columbia. 

I’ve described my fear that the Cleveland Plain Dealer — long Ohio’s best daily — will follow other Advance Publications into print obscurity.  PD journalists also heard the clatter of bean counters and created the Save The Plain Dealer campaign. Earlier this year, Advance — another name for Newhouse family publications — the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a traditional daily. It fired lots of journalists and now is printed three days a week to accommodate heavy advertising. Surviving journalists also work online every day. With that innovation, Newhouse made New Orleans America’s largest city without a daily paper. Smaller Advance dailies suffered the same fate. Poynter.com quoted an email from PD science writer John Mangels earlier this month:

The multi­media campaign will begin Sunday with a half­-page ad in The Plain Dealer, to be followed by bus and billboard ads throughout the city. TV and radio ads will appear soon. There will be mass mailings and e­ mailings to elected officials, political and business leaders and other people of influence. We’ll have a Facebook page with an abundance of content, a petition on Change.org, and a Twitter feed. We’re also working to organize community forums where we’ll discuss the future of journalism in Northeast Ohio, and the potential impact of the loss of the daily paper and much of its experienced news­gathering staff.”

Later, reached by phone, Mangels told Poynter that PD  management hasn’t said anything about Advance’s plans. “The only detail that we’ve been told by our bosses here is that major changes are coming, layoffs in some number are coming,” Mangels said. 

Have you noticed how GOP aspirants for the 2016 presidential nomination are using long-reviled mainstream news media (MSM) to distance themselves from Romney and his disdain for retirees, veterans, Hispanics, African Americans, and young adults? I love the GOP’s irony deficit. They’ve spent decades teaching True Believers that the MSM is an evil, liberal cabal, not to be trusted. Now, these same Republican 40-somethings want voters to believe what the mainstream news media tell them about their aspirations and sagacity. They’re also fleeing Romney’s transparent hypocrisy and its blowback; benefits to Democratic constituencies are meant to buy votes but benefits for GOP constituencies never, ever should be understood as a way to woo financial support or votes.  

Here’s an angle I haven’t encountered in post-election coverage: an almost inevitable GOP win in 2016. Not only is a second elected term unusual for modern Democratic presidents, but a third term for either party is rare. Since FDR in 1940, only popular Republican Ronald Reagan was succeeded by a Republican, George H. W. Bush. I’m not alone if my reading to liberal columnists is a fair indicator of grudging agreement. They want Obama to push through agendas they’ve advocated for the past four years and to find the cajones to fight for his nominations when they go before the Senate led by Kentucky Pride Mitch McConnell. 

Propaganda-laden cable news and TV/radio talk shows can lull angry, fearful partisans and voters into believing what facts refute. And I mean refute not rebut. Anything out of sync with those GOP media was rejected as MSM bias. Whether it was a Pavlovian response, delusional thinking or magical realism, the result was Republican candidates, consultants, strategists, voters and Fox News were stunned when state after state went for Obama. Carl Rove went into a spin of denial on Fox News as election returns came in; he believed what Fox News had been telling him for months: Romney in a walk.  What was that cliche, something about drinking the Kool-aid?

This from Eric Alterman in his What Liberal Media? column in The Nation: “They watched Fox News, read The Wall Street Journal, clicked on Drudge and the Daily Caller, and listened to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Karl Rove, Dick Morris and Peggy Noonan promise them that their Kenyan/Muslim/socialist/terrorist nightmare was nearly over. One election was all that stood between them and a country without capital gains taxes, pollution regulation, healthcare mandates, gay marriage and abortions for rape victims.”

Alterman continued: “The less wonderful irony involves the supporting role the mainstream media played in this un-reality show. Post-truth politics reached a new pinnacle this year as major MSM machers admitted to a lack of concern with the veracity of the news their institutions reported. ‘It’s not our job to litigate [the facts] in the paper,’ New York Times national editor Sam Sifton told the paper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regarding phony Republican ‘voter fraud’ allegations. ‘We need to state what each side says.’ ‘The truth? C’mon, this is a political convention’ was the headline over a column by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post ‘fact-checker.’ Yes, you read that right.”

How bad was it? Alterman quoted Steve Benen, a blogger and Rachel Maddow Show producer. He “counted fully 917 false statements made by Mitt Romney during 2012. Just about the truest words to come out of the campaign were those of the Romney pollster who explained, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.’ But not only did many members of the MSM give Romney a pass on his serial lying; they actually endorsed his candidacy on the assumption that we need not take seriously any of those statements the candidate had felt compelled to make in order to win the nomination of his party.”

In the expanding universe of online calumny, few American public officials or public figures strike back big time in part because of broad First Amendment protections available to defamers.  British libel law  makes it much easier for the victim to win. The latest target of false online vilification is Lord Alistair McAlpine. BBC implicated but didn’t name him in its spreading child abuse scandal. However, so little was left to the imagination that in Britain’s media/politics hothouse that McAlpine was named in myriad tweets. 

BBC quickly admitted error and paid him almost $300,000 to salve his bruised feelings. ITV — Britain’s Independent Television — followed BBC with apology and more than $200,000 for inadvertently accusing McAlpine of abusing children.

McAlpine is offering to accept a tweeted apology and modest payment from most of the tweeters. He’s less forgiving of  20 members of Parliament, journalists and other public officials and figures. They probably face costly libel actions in a country where it’s almost impossible for a defendant to win. 

Assume every microphone in front of you is “on.”  You don’t warm up with “There once was a man from Nantucket . . . “ on the assumption that mic is dead. Myriad public figures have ignored that Law of the Jungle to their pain. The latest is Jonathan Sacks, Orthodox chief rabbi of Great Britain, who delivers a “Thought for the Day” regularly on BBC radio’s  Today program. 

Here’s the Telegraph report and another statement from the overworked BBC apology machine. After Sacks finished and apparently assumed his mic was turned off, host Evan Davis asked, “Jonathan, before you go, you know, any thoughts on what’s going on over in Israel and Gaza at the moment?”

Lord Sacks sighed, before replying: “I think it has got to do with Iran, actually.”

Cohost Sarah Montague realized Sacks did not seem to know his remarks were being broadcast and she could be heard to whisper: “We, we’re live.”

Lord Sacks adopted a more formal broadcasting manner and suggested the crisis demanded “a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region. No-one gains from violence. Not the Palestinians, not the Israelis. This is an issue here where we must all pray for peace and work for it.” 

Later, BBC apologized for catching Sacks off-guard. A spokesman said: “The Chief Rabbi hadn’t realized he was still on-air and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected. (Host) Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologized to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology.”

So far, I haven’t found a news angle beyond prurience in the Petraeus resignation. Yes, there could have been a national security issue, but once then-spymaster Petraeus went public about his extramarital affair, he couldn’t be blackmailed.  We’ll never know how well the CIA would have run under Petraeus, but turning it further into an almost unaccountable paramilitary force with its fleet of deadly drones killing Americans abroad and others would not have been in the national interest. We need a good spy agency. Killing people you’re trying to subvert and convert is a lousy game plan. 

Admiring and available women are no stranger to powerful public and corporate leaders. Generals are no exception. Neither are social climbers hoping to use them.  All that’s missing from the Petraeus soap opera is for some just-married junior officer to claim his general exercised droit du seigneur. 

We can wonder what their frequently mentioned Lebanese origins have to do with the Tampa twins’ roles in the Petraeus soap opera, or whether Paula’s arms are fitter and better displayed than Michele’s. After that, let’s get to the fun stuff: the ease with which law enforcement obtains our emails.  

And a belated Thanksgiving note. Somehow, I found a turkey on the Copperbelt in Central Africa where I was editing the new daily Zambia Times. I did my best to explain how to roast it with stuffing to the cook in the house I was caring for. He served it that evening with obvious pride. It was brown, roasted over open coal on a spit he’d tended for hours. The stuffing was special beyond my dreams: the sonofabitch had used the kosher salami I’d hoarded for months for stuffing. I thanked and praised him through clenched teeth and dug in. It was memorable. And awful.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

In the Ohio House of Representatives, the difference between a Republican supermajority and a normal majority is now 14 votes. That’s how many votes are splitting Republican Rep. Al Landis and Democratic challenger Josh O'Farrell. The small difference has already triggered an automatic recount and likely a series of lawsuits from Democrats over counting provisional ballots. The supermajority would allow Ohio House Republicans to pass legislation without worry of a governor’s veto and place any measure on the ballot — including personhood initiatives — without bipartisan approval.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget proposal at a press conference yesterday. The proposal will pursue privatizing the city’s parking services to help close a $34 million deficit. The privatization plan has already faced some early criticism from Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld. The budget will also make minor cuts elsewhere. In addition to the 2013 budget, the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which Dohoney passed to City Council and the mayor yesterday, also raises property tax rates.

Meanwhile, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approved the 2013 budget in a 2-1 vote. Democrat Todd Portune was outvoted by Republicans Chris Monzel and Board President Greg Hartmann. The final budget was basically Hartmann’s “austerity” proposal, barring some minor tweaks. The cuts could cost 150 or more Hamilton County jobs.

Councilman Chris Smitherman is facing a challenge for his spot as president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP. The councilman’s opponent is Bob Richardson, a former officer of Laborers Local 265 and former president of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council. Richardson’s son told WVXU, “I think we have seen the NAACP veer off its core principles and turn into a tool for Smitherman and his conservative ideas.”

In a promising sign for the local economy, Greater Cincinnati banks are taking in more money from deposits.

The 21c Museum Hotel opened yesterday. But the hotel has critics, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. Drawing a comparison to the situation between Western & Southern and the Anna Louise Inn, Spring said the hotel ended up displacing far too many people.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is taking up research into how autism develops.

A new report found expanding Medicaid in Ohio could cost the state $3.1 billion. The money would be enough to insure 457,000 uninsured Ohioans. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid faced less health problems.

One concern with the state's “fracking” boom: water supply. Some are worried that the amount of water needed to fuel hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique for oil and gas, will drain Ohio’s wells and reservoirs.

After some sentencing reform, Ohio’s inmate population is not decreasing as fast as some state officials would like. As the state deals with prison overpopulation and more expensive prisons, Gov. John Kasich’s administration has turned to privatization. CityBeat looked at issues surrounding private prisons and the connections between the state government and private prison companies here.

Ohio women are having fewer abortions in the state. The drop seems largely attributable to increased access to birth control. Better access to health care and improved health education are also factors.

Ever forget to take some medication? No longer. There is now a pill that can inform others when it's taken.

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<![CDATA[Council Approves Raise, Bonus for City Manager]]>

City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.

Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase.

Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.

Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.

Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them.

To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.”

The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn.

Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years.

Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.

“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”

Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.

Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget.

Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.

Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.

"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

It’s official: Cincinnati’s budget proposal will arrive Nov. 26. The budget will seek to close a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million. Part of the budget plan was revealed when the city manager’s office suggested privatizing parking.

Despite the deficit the city is facing, City Council pushed forward a $21,000 raise and a one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney in a 6-3 vote. It’s the first raise Dohoney is getting since 2007, but some are unhappy with the decision in light of the deficit, which could lead to job cuts. “The city manager is a good man, he is a hard worker, but to me this just feels out of touch with the economic reality that we are in right now,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told Fox 19. “You don't give the highest paid employee in the city a raise, a significant raise, when you're facing a potentially huge budget deficit. Plus, you know, there's a very real possibility of layoffs.”

Ohio Republicans are pushing forward with HB 298, a bill that cuts funds to Planned Parenthood. The organization has become a popular target for Republicans because it provides abortions, but abortion services only make up 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood offers. The move is just one of many recent moves in the Republican agenda against abortion rights. They recently advocated renewing the heartbeat bill, and Gov. John Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government positions.

The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill that will put large-scale puppy mills under more scrutiny with new state standards and yearly inspections. Animal rights activists have argued Ohio has become a haven for bad breeding practices due to lax laws and regulations. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mills issue and how it enables Ohio’s dog auctions.

But that’s not all the Ohio legislature got done. The Ohio House passed a bill that further regulates “pill mills” — doctors, pharmacies or clinics that distribute narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons — and a bill that cracks down on “cyber stalking.” The Ohio Senate passed a bill that essentially lowers taxes for companies that increase payroll by 10 percent.

A new study highlighted the success of some Ohio schools, including Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati. The research found the schools succeeded despite high poverty and tight budgets. The study indicated some key attributes of success: principals play pivotal roles, teachers and administrators are obviously engaged and invested, school leaders provide major incentives to teachers, data is used to measure progress and teachers and administrators do not see a lack of parent or community engagement as an insurmountable barrier to success. The report also made some recommendations: establish clear transitional protocols in case a principal leaves, engage teachers, hire teachers that are on-board with the school’s goals, leverage great reputations and celebrate success.

Hamilton County could issue securities to raise revenue. County commissioners are currently working on ways to close a $20 million deficit. The securities idea comes from Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the Board of Commissioners.

The investigation into U Square worker payments is ongoing. A City Council committee wants to see if the workers are being paid what they are supposed to be paid. Under Ohio law, workers on city-funded projects must get a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. But City Solicitor John Curp argues developers do not have to pay prevailing wages for parts of the project that aren’t getting public funding. City Manager Dohoney also argued that overzealous requirements could drive businesses out of Cincinnati.

Despite the pleas of more than 500,000, it does not look like Cincinnati-based Macy’s will dump Donald Trump. The billionaire has gained recognition as a big-name Republican and “birther” — someone who ignores all facts to call into question President Barack Obama’s country of origin. Brian Williams, news anchor at NBC News, described Trump aptly during election night: “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading a new efforts to stop the use of synthetic drugs, including bath salts.

To fill a vacancy, a new interim chair has been named at the Ohio Board of Regents: Regent Vinny Gupta. He will be replacing James Tuschman, who successfully pushed a ban on smoking in Ohio’s college campuses. Gupta’s term will run through March 2013.

Meet the loneliest planet of them all. It’s an orphan that drifted away from its parent star.

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<![CDATA[Planned Parenthood Defunding Bill Moves Forward]]>

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.

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<![CDATA[Dear Lebanon Tea Party: We Are Sorry]]>

During the past year CityBeat has spent a lot of energy reporting on countless Republican screw-ups, from typical shortsighted policies to legislation that is straight-up offensive to women, minorities, gay people and the poor and working class. But we didn’t realize that by pointing out how offensive and irrelevant the country’s GOP leaders were acting, that we were inadvertently killing America.

That's why we would like to formally apologize to the Lebanon tea party in Warren County. The email you sent to The Enquirer today hit us pretty hard — the fact that you’re literally wearing black and mourning America because “socialists, welfare and unions took over this country” is super sad. In our haste to ask questions of elected leaders, fact check their statements and put their beliefs and policies into perspective over the past few months, we forgot how badly people in Warren County wish America could be like the 1950s again, when women knew their place and black people had to operate the elevators and never say anything whites didn’t want to hear. Mad Men is a great show. 

We didn’t mean to be tricked by President Obama’s stimulus bill — we (stupidly) believed the economists who said it staved off a depression caused by under-regulation of the housing and financial industries (we tried to believe Mitt Romney’s concept of further reducing regulations so the job-creators can stimulate the economy in the private sector thus giving our wealth back to us, but it was maybe too complicated for us to understand?). 

Some people we know kept their jobs when the president didn’t allow the American car companies to go broke even though they’re the ones that decided to max out profits on SUVs with truck beds on the back. Other people we know spent time last year without health care, and this country’s health care costs are somewhere around twice as much as any other country’s so we were like, “Yea, reforming that system sounds about right.” But we admit that we don’t know what it’s going to be like for the 15 percent of this country living in poverty to all of the sudden have access to preventative care. Someone in Cincinnati died of a tooth problem last year, and we don’t even know if that’s covered. 

We realize that it wasn’t Mitt Romney who used the term “legitimate rape,” but it made us want to throw up, which slowed down productivity that might have allowed us to figure out that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the only thing keeping our country’s military from turning Afghanistan into a European-style gay disco. 

We thought it was kind of gross when the president killed Osama bin Laden, but everyone was really happy about it so we focused our attention on the results of the president’s home buying and refinancing programs that helped stimulate the economy and saved people’s houses, even though we’re all a bunch of renters who don’t even know how to use a level. 

So we’re clearly at fault for your expectation of the downfall of this country, and we realize that you’re upset and probably right about America becoming a socialist nation within months. We messed up bad this time, but we want you to know that we’re not blind to it — your press release has put our actions into a perspective that we wish we had yesterday or, even better, several years ago before we learned how to do our jobs the right way. 

At least you have the local daily newspaper to publish your emotional reactions to historical election results and to continue endorsing GOP candidates no matter how ill qualified and misguided they are. Please don’t mourn long — there’s still hope for the type of social regression you’re looking for, especially in Warren County. 

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