WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Cincinnati vs. The World 01.22.2014

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Tea party activists and fiscal conservatives are securing seats on local school boards across the Tristate and taking their anger over big government and Obama out on tax levies and Common Core standards. CINCINNATI -1  
by German Lopez 01.21.2014 93 days ago
Posted In: 2014 election, News, Education, Death Penalty at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role

Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions planned for the year.David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the death penalty and reproductive rights.A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.The Justice Department is investigating a former chief judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 

Cincinnati vs. the World 11.27.13

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Family Association got real mad last week when it found out Radio Shack is not using the word “Christmas” in its holiday sales, calling for a boycott of the retailer due to “censorship.” WORLD -1  
by German Lopez 01.02.2014 112 days ago
Posted In: News, LGBT, 2014 election, Governor at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

LGBT groups debate ballot timing, Kasich gets tea party challenge, Portune's ethics disputed

Ohio’s leading LGBT groups still disagree whether same-sex marriage should appear on the ballot in 2014 or 2016, but FreedomOhio says it’s continuing with efforts to put the issue to a public vote within a year. The debate could decide when gay couples in Ohio will get the same rights already granted to couples in other states. In its defense, FreedomOhio cites polling that shows its amendment has support from 56 percent of Ohio voters. But that same poll also put Ohioans within the margin of error — 47 percent in favor and 48 percent in opposition — on the general question of same-sex marriage legalization, which other LGBT groups point to as a sign Ohio needs more time before it’s ready. Clermont County tea party leader Ted Stevenot will mount a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John Kasich. Stevenot has long criticized Kasich for his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which now allows anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to enroll for Medicaid. Stevenot has also called on Kasich to support anti-union legislation commonly known as “right-to-work.” Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune’s challenge against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is off to a rough start: A former law partner said Portune isn’t “ethically … suited to be governor,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Portune on Monday announced his intent to challenge FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, despite opposition from various state Democrats. Commentary: “What to Watch in 2014.” The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, up from a winter weather advisory, for southwest Ohio today between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. The region should get 3-5 inches of snow, with most of it coming this morning and early afternoon.Three new local homeless shelters expect to start construction in 2014.Eighty local organizations across Ohio, including three in Hamilton County, are receiving more than $26.3 million in state funds for homeless prevention, emergency shelters and transitional and supportive housing projects.The federal government awarded Ohio $10.8 million for getting low-income children health insurance.Check out The Onion’s best videos of 2013. Here are the best astronomy and space pictures of 2013, according to Phil Plait of Slate. Popular Science published its science predictions for 2014.CityBeat is hiring a full-time associate editor. Click here for more information.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 10.28.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, COAST at 04:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
randy simes

Lawsuit Filed to Scrub Blogger Off Voter Rolls

COAST attorney files lawsuit following board of elections ruling

A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the local voter rolls. The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after the board of elections ruled that Simes is eligible to vote in Cincinnati. The case has been mired in politics since it was first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting. Attorney Curt Hartman is spearheading the lawsuit. He regularly represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group that opposes the streetcar project and Qualls. The lawsuit claims Simes isn’t legally able to vote in Cincinnati because he currently resides in South Korea and lived in Chicago prior to the move overseas.Ohio election law requires a place of residency to vote, but someone can remain on the voter rolls if he or she intends to return to the city or state while in another part of the country or overseas. Simes’ supporters, who the board of elections sided with on Oct. 14, claim Simes has every intention of returning to Cincinnati when he’s done with his work in South Korea. Simes’ contract with his employer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, states he’ll return to Cincinnati in two years. Until then, Simes is registered to vote at a condominium owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell. According to Estell’s testimony to the board of election, Simes kept a key and sometimes stayed for a week when he came and went from the residence throughout the spring and summer. Simes also has credit card and bank mail sent to the address, and he attempted to change his registered driver’s license address to match the residence, Estell said.But Hartman says the evidence, which was gathered largely through Simes’ social media activities, shows Simes was a visitor, not a resident. He cites Estell’s testimony that Simes lived out of a suitcase and didn’t pay rent when he stayed in Cincinnati.Tim Burke, chairman of the board of elections and Hamilton County Democratic Party, says there’s a reason three out of four members of the board, including one Republican, agreed Simes should remain on the voter rolls. “The facts that were presented didn’t rise to the legal standard of clear and convincing evidence to justify depriving the voter of his right to vote,” Burke says. Burke likens the arrangement to a Procter & Gamble employee who spends a year or two overseas but still keeps the right to vote in Cincinnati. Burke says someone could even sell his home in Cincinnati and keep his right to vote from the sold residence.Hartman says the comparison doesn’t work because a Procter & Gamble employee would live in and keep ties to Cincinnati prior to moving overseas. He claims Simes’ decision to register to vote from Chicago in 2012 effectively broke his electoral ties with Cincinnati and Ohio.But the argument could be rendered moot. Burke, who is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit, says the legal challenge might not make it to court because two different people filed the lawsuit to the court of appeals and complaint to the board of elections. That could render the lawsuit procedurally defective and lead to a dismissal, according to Burke.The lawsuit currently has no scheduled hearing or judge, but Hartman says he hopes to expedite hearings in time for the Nov. 5 election.
 
 
by German Lopez 10.24.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Pensions at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tea party pensions

Few Local Contributions to Issue 4 Campaign

Financial disclosures show mostly out-of-town contributions to pension privatization effort

Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups, according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 24. The report confirms concerns previously raised by city officials, unions and mayoral and City Council candidates: The pension privatization effort is coming from outside Cincinnati and, in some instances, Ohio. Up to Oct. 16, Cincinnati for Pension Reform, which successfully placed Issue 4 on the ballot, received more than $231,000 from campaign contributors. Of that money, $209,500 came from groups in West Chester, Ohio — organizations called Jobs and Progress Fund, A Public Voice, Ohio 2.0 and Ohio Rising — and $20,000 came from the Virginia-based Liberty Initiative Fund, which CityBeat previously reported as an early supporter of pension privatization schemes around the country.Chris Littleton, a leading consultant for Issue 4 and long-time tea party activist, is also based in West Chester. He’s blogged about his involvement in Ohio Rising and Ohio 2.0, and he helped create the Cincinnati Tea Party and Ohio Liberty Coalition, another tea party group. Upon receiving the contributions, Cincinnati for Pension Reform used more than $215,000 to circulate petitions, email blasts, advertisements and other typical campaign expenses. The infusion of cash from out-of-town sources also helps explain why Cincinnati for Pension Reform managed to mobilize its efforts so quickly and without the knowledge of many city officials, who previously said they’re bewildered by the effort and don’t know where it came from. If approved by voters, Issue 4 would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to and manage individual retirement accounts, which would also be supported by a proportional match from the city. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea is to move from a public plan and instead imitate a 401k plan that’s often seen in the private sector. The conservative Buckeye Institute, which supports Issue 4, previously studied the proposal and found it could greatly reduce retirement benefits for city employees. Although the Buckeye Institute’s report claims Issue 4 could ultimately save Cincinnati money, it was laced with caveats that could actually lead to higher costs for the city. Another study from a finance professor at Xavier University found Issue 4, if approved, could force the city to cut services, excluding police and firefighters, by up to 41 percent or increase taxes by a similar amount in the near term by mandating that the city more expediently pay off the current pension system’s $862 million unfunded liability. A major concern for critics of Issue 4 is that it could cost the city its Social Security exemption. Under the current pension system, the city doesn’t have to pay into Social Security. If Issue 4 passes, the city’s contributions to the pension system might not be generous enough to keep the exemption, which could force the city to make costly Social Security payments. And if the city doesn’t lose its exemption, city workers would be left with an individual retirement plan that wouldn’t have the safety net of Social Security — unlike private-sector workers who get both an individual retirement account and Social Security. Supporters of Issue 4 dismiss the criticisms. They say that Issue 4 is necessary to address Cincinnati’s large unfunded pension liability, which credit ratings agency Moody’s cited as one of the reasons it downgraded the city’s bond rating in July. The city’s leaders, who unanimously oppose Issue 4, say they are working on solving the liability, but they argue it’s better to reform the system, not scrap it altogether. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that pension issues for current city employees are covered by reforms passed in 2011, and she says City Council will take up further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election in November. Voters will make the final decision on Issue 4 on Nov. 5.The full financial report: Updated with more information Chris Littleton and the involved groups.
 
 
by German Lopez 10.14.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, 2013 Election at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
tea party pensions

Thousands of Early Voters to Get New Ballots

Ohio Supreme Court forces board to change ballot language for pension amendment

More than 3,000 Cincinnatians who already voted early will get new ballots in the mail after an Ohio Supreme Court decision forced the Hamilton County Board of Elections to change the ballot language for Issue 4, the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system. It remains unclear whether the early voters, who represent roughly 1.5 percent of registered Cincinnati voters, will have their old votes for or against Issue 4 counted if they fail to send in a new ballot with the new language. The board will decide on that issue after hearing back from state officials and reviewing election law, according to Sally Krisel, deputy director of Hamilton County Board of Elections. The Ohio Supreme Court on Oct. 10 upheld most of the ballot language for Issue 4, including portions that claim the amendment could lead to higher taxes and cut city services. But the court also ordered the Board of Elections to add language describing how much Cincinnati can contribute to retirement accounts under the new system and how the amendment will affect future retirees. The court’s decision came after the Board of Elections received more than 3,000 ballots from early voters. Those voters will now get new ballots with revised language for Issue 4. Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the tea party group behind Issue 4, sued the Board of Elections to get the ballot language changed. The organization complained that the ballot language included speculation not included in the actual city charter amendment, but the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the language to remain. Krisel says the original ballot language was suggested by the city, approved by the board and signed off by Ohio’s secretary of state. Although the Ohio Supreme Court asked the board to add new sections, Krisel notes the additions have very little to do with the tax and spending portions that led Cincinnati for Pension Reform to sue in the first place. The court’s ruling instead took issue with how the board used its discretion on other issues. If approved by voters, the charter amendment would move future city employees into individual retirement accounts similar to 401k plans that are common in the private sector. Currently, the city pools pension funds into a public system and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials and other opponents of Issue 4 argue the amendment could increase costs and cut benefits for city employees. Both the concerns were acknowledged in a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute, even though the think tank actually backs Issue 4. Supporters of Issue 4 argue it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability, which reached $862 million in 2013 after the city underfunded the pension system for years and economic downturns shrunk investments financing the system. Moody’s named the liability as one of the reasons it downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating. City officials acknowledge the enormous financial problems posed by the unfunded pension liability, but they say it would be better to make reforms within the system instead of scrapping it altogether. City Council passed reforms in 2011 that address future costs, and council is expected to take up reforms that address the unfunded liability after the November election, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat. Voters will make the final decision on Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
 
 
by German Lopez 10.03.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, Drugs, Energy at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
tea party pensions

Morning News and Stuff

Pension proposal could reduce benefits, energy bill contested, needle exchanges approved

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended. Local business groups, unions, progressive organizations, the mayor and all council members are united against a tea party-backed ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, and a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute helps explain the opposition. The report echoes concerns from both sides: It finds new employees would have their benefits cut by one-third under the tea party’s proposed system, but it also shows that, when measured differently, Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability might currently stand at $2.57 billion, more than three times the $862 million estimate city officials typically use. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city employees contribute to and manage their own individual retirement accounts; under the current system, the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea is to move workers from a public system to private, 401k-style plans. Voters will decide on the amendment when it appears on the ballot as Issue 4 on Nov. 5. Environmental and business groups argued in front of the Ohio Senate yesterday that a new deregulatory bill would effectively gut Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and hurt the state’s green businesses, but the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), claims it’s “not as loosey-goosey” as environmental and business groups make it seem. The biggest point of contention: Seitz’s bill would allow utility companies to count energy savings that are seen as “business as usual” toward energy efficiency standards. That, green groups argue, would let businesses claim they’re becoming more energy efficient without making any real energy-efficiency investments. It could also cost Ohioans more money: A previous report from Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found the bill could increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s bill in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the deregulatory attempts here. The Ohio House yesterday approved a bill that expands local authority to pursue needle-exchange programs that would provide clean needles to drug addicts. Supporters of the bill say it would help local communities reduce drug-related infections and perhaps drug addiction, but opponents claim it surrenders to drug pushers by enabling more drug activity. A 2004 study from the World Health Organization found “a compelling case that (needle-exchange programs) substantially and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among (injection drug users) and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at either the individual or societal level.” CityBeat covered the war on drugs and the changing approach to combating Ohio and the nation’s drug problems in further detail here. Some help for voting: “2013 City Council Candidates at a Glance.” The Cincinnati Bengals want a new high-definition scoreboard that could cost county taxpayers $10 million. But taxpayers don’t have much of a choice in the matter; the stadium lease requires taxpayers purchase and install new technology, including a scoreboard, at the Bengals’ request once the technology is taken up at 14-plus other NFL stadiums. Women gathered at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday to protest measures in the recently passed state budget that restrict access to legal abortions and defund family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. CityBeat covered the state budget, including the anti-abortion restrictions, in further detail here. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says Republican legislators should forget their fight against Obamacare and instead focus on a deficit-reduction package. Republicans helped cause a federal government shutdown by only passing budget bills that weaken Obamacare, but Democrats have refused to negotiate over the health care law, which is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s legacy-defining domestic policy. Meanwhile, Obamacare’s online marketplaces opened on Tuesday, allowing participants to compare and browse subsidized private insurance plans. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote them in further detail here. The $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project will require tolls, according to a study released by Kentucky and Ohio transportation officials on Thursday. Officials at every level of government have been pursuing a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge as concerns mount over its economy-damaging inadequacies. A $26 million residential and retail development project is coming just north of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino.Greater Cincinnati Water Works is using an extra layer of ultraviolet disinfection treatment to make local water cleaner. The second round of Ohio’s job training program offers $30 million to help businesses train workers so they can remain competitive without shedding employees. “Project Censored” analyzes the stories the mainstream media failed to cover in the past year. Check the list out here. A new study found eye contact makes people less likely to agree with a persuasive argument, especially if they’re skeptical in the first place.
 
 

Private Pension Problems

Conservative study suggests tea-party backed pension amendment would reduce benefits

2 Comments · Wednesday, October 2, 2013
A conservative group’s report helps explain why most of Cincinnati’s political establishment strongly opposes a tea party-backed pension amendment.  
by German Lopez 09.27.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
tea party pensions

Report: Pension Amendment Would Reduce Benefits

Conservative group finds city’s pension liability could be three times current estimate

A Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate: A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters on Nov. 5, would reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be three times what officials currently estimate. The Buckeye Institute’s summary of the report vaguely supports the tea party-backed amendment and touts its benefits, but the details and findings in the report are much more mixed.The tea party-backed amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to and manage individual retirement accounts, which would also be supported by a proportional match from the city. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea is to move from a public plan and instead imitate a 401k plan that’s often seen in the private sector.Opponents of the amendment say it would massively reduce city benefits and actually increase costs for the city — two issues that the Buckeye Institute’s report acknowledges as real possibilities.Officials are also concerned that the city would be forced to pay into Social Security, which would impose additional costs, if the tea party-backed system isn’t exempt from the federal retirement program. The current pension system absolves the city government from paying into Social Security.Supporters of the amendment say the drastic changes are necessary to help solve the city’s growing pension liability, which city officials put at $862 million.The Buckeye Institute report argues that even the city estimates are too low. When pricing the city’s pension liabilities through fair market value — a measure widely embraced by economists — the unfunded costs actually stand at $2.57 billion. That puts the pension system at 35 percent funding, which means the city will have to make up the 65-percent hole with extra payments.But the report also confirms a key claim for the amendment’s opposition: Future city employees would get about one-third less benefits under the tea party’s proposed system than they would under the current pension system.The benefit reductions should save Cincinnati $19.7 million a year, according to the report. But the savings estimate doesn’t consider cost-of-living adjustments, which the report says will rise for future employees and shrink savings over time. The estimate also assumes the tea party’s proposed system will be able to keep Cincinnati’s Social Security exemption, which city officials say is unlikely. Despite the reductions, the Buckeye Institute claims the final benefits will be better than comparable 401k plans in the private sector, but the assumption hinges on the city meeting its full contribution to employees’ individual retirement accounts. The tea party amendment allows — but it doesn’t require — the city to contribute up to 9 percent of an employee’s salary to retirement accounts. The city contributes only 2 percent of payroll under the current system, which is already strained for costs.The report also acknowledges that, if interpreted a certain way, the tea party amendment could force the city to pay for its unfunded pension liability in just 10 years, down from 30 years. Paying the liability that quickly could prove unmanageable for a city that hasn’t passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001. The pension amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of which may reside outside of Cincinnati and Ohio. They argue the reform is necessary to stabilize the city-funded retirement system. Meanwhile, Cincinnati for Pension Responsibility announced its formation on Sept. 27 and promised to get voters to oppose a “risky plan” that “could cost taxpayers millions.” Mayor Mark Mallory, all current council members, the AFL-CIO, ProgressOhio and other groups have joined the opposition. Opponents readily acknowledge the current system’s problems and unfunded liability, but they argue the city would be better off making reforms within the current system instead of adopting the tea party’s plan. Some of those reforms are expected to come before City Council in the next couple months. Voters will make the final decision on the tea party’s pension amendment when it appears as Issue 4 on the Nov. 5 ballot.
 
 

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