0 Comments · Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Whenever out of touch folks from affluent
suburbs share their opinions, they need to be taken with a grain of
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County
Commissioner Todd Portune on Nov. 10 proposed creating a task force that
could help the city and county governments share services.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A budget proposal by Hamilton County
Administrator Christian Sigman unveiled Oct. 13 calls for a .25 percent
increase in sales taxes and a decrease in property taxes for the county.
Democrats see a chance to regain a majority on the Hamilton County Commissioners board. Sort of.
0 Comments · Tuesday, September 2, 2014
After last month's battle between the city and Hamilton
County's Republican Commissioners over funds to fix Music Hall and
Union Terminal, Democrats sense an
opportunity to unseat Commissioner Chris Monzel in the upcoming November
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 9, 2014
The Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST) says it will fight Hamilton County
Commissioners’ proposed plans to raise either sales or property taxes to
help pay for renovations to Music Hall and Union Terminal.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
If you have ever been past these places
at twilight, just as the exterior lights are coming up, the dichotomies
of our shadowy citizens “living” near a casino in proximity to two
entertainment districts are illuminated as the houses of justice become
the beds and toilets for the indigent.
by Hannah McCartney
Hamilton County Municipal Court included on list of offenders
A new report from the ACLU of Ohio released today suggests that in many courts across Ohio, it's a crime just to be poor.The report, titled The Outskirts of Hope, delineates how several courts across Ohio, including Hamilton County Municipal Court, are unlawfully jailing people because they’re too impoverished to pay court fines. It’s a system called “debtors’ prisons,” a tool in which people are jailed for debts as small as a few hundred dollars, even when the offense committed could have been something as minor as allowing a dog to walk off its leash in public, according to Mike Brickner, ACLU Ohio's director of communications. “Today across Ohio, municipalities routinely imprison those who are unable to pay fines and court costs despite a 1983 United States Supreme Court decision declaring this practice to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution,” reads the report. It’s referring to Bearden v. Georgia, the landmark Supreme Court case in which the courts ruled it was unlawful to imprison someone for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the non-payment was “willful,” also upheld in the Ohio Constitution and Ohio Revised Code. That means that if a judge is able to determined than an individual actually does have the financial resources available to pay a court fine but refuses to do so, he or she is subject to incarceration, not for actually failing to pay the fines but for willfully refusing to do so. In the case of not being able to afford the fine, the jailing is for a civil misdoing, not a criminal one, and, according to the ACLU, that’s not something that merits jail time costly to the state of Ohio. The report examined 11 different counties in Ohio and found that seven of courts in at least seven counties, including Bryan Municipal Court, Hamilton County Municipal Court, Mansfield Municipal Court, Parma Municipal Court, Sandusky Municipal Court, Springboro Mayor’s Court and Norwalk Municipal Court, were using some form of “debtors’ prison” practices by illegally jailing people for not paying fines without the judge-certified ruling that they’re financially capable of doing so. In one finding, the ACLU points out that the staff at the Norwalk Municipal Court’s Clerk of Court Office in Huron County “openly admitted that whenever court records showed a person was incarcerated for ten days on a ‘contempt’ charge, this meant he or she had most likely been jailed for failure to pay fines.”The ACLU’s investigation found that over a six-month period, 22 percent — more than one in five — of the total bookings at the Huron County Jail were related to failure to pay fines. ACLU staff members attended multiple contempt hearings in the Norwalk Municipal Court and found a pattern for dealing with non-payment at hearings, noting that “people facing jail time were informed of the total amount owed and, without any inquiry into their financial situations, assigned arbitrary monthly payment plans. At no time were they informed of their right to counsel. The court informed them that, if they did not stay current in these payment plans, they would be required to turn themselves in to jail on a specific date several months in the future.” That’s where the vicious cycle begins; if the fines weren’t paid and the individual didn’t report to jail, he or she would be taken to jail and incarcerated for 10 days with no bond. Ten days later, they’d be released with an extra stack of fines involved in the arrest, creating more crippling debt and often causing this process to be repeated. The number of people living in poverty grew by 57.7 percent in Ohio from 1999 to 2011, according to the report — a trend mirrored across the Midwest. The ACLU calls for courts to be more transparent in communicating defendants their rights, consistently hold hearings to assess defendants' financial viability and "willfulness" to pay accumulated fines and provide retroactive debt credits to those wrongfully incarcerated based on circumstances of poverty. Brickner says ACLU Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor outlining the report, and he's hopeful the Supreme Court will issue statewide guidelines to make the laws extremely clear to judges across the state."With these 11 cases, we believe they're just the tip of the iceberg," says Brickner.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners Feb. 27 unanimously approved a 40-year agreement with the
Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that will lease
the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the
by Andy Brownfield
Retiring sheriff will take visiting judge job in 2013
Outgoing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is retiring
after his current term and Jim Neil will replace him on Jan. 6, 2013,
but that doesn’t mean Leis is done with public life.
The lawman best known for the raid of the Contemporary
Arts Center over an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and
his prosecution of pornographer Larry Flynt will begin serving as a visiting judge in 2013, according to letters first published by The
Before being appointed sheriff, Leis served as a Hamilton
County Common Pleas judge from 1982 to 1987. Prior to that he was
Hamilton County prosecutor for 12 years.
The letters dated May 1, 2012 and Oct. 22, 2012 indicate
that Leis wrote Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to let
her know he was retiring and was interested in being assigned as a
Visiting judges are in charge of all of the cases other
judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets. Leis will be
paid the standard visiting judge rate of $60.68 per hour.
Since Leis last served as judge 25 years ago, O’Connor is
requiring him to shadow another judge for a day or so to get back up to
speed. Leis has kept his law license current since becoming sheriff.
by Andy Brownfield
Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit
Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come
tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on
Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part
of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums.
The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every
$100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an
extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value.
The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which
faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise
about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.
“The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced
so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same
thing we are doing today,” Portune said.
Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to
6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10
years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have
expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the
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
“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.