0 Comments · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Noble Maseru said the city intends to
work toward greater equity in life expectancy among races, though he refused to admit
that reducing the life expectancy of whites would make this happen
by German Lopez
Conservative group has history of anti-LGBT causes
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes.“I don’t want it. I’m not a member of COAST,” Cranley says.
The response comes just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie
Winburn for a “change of direction.” The group later claimed the tweets weren’t endorsements, but not before
progressives called on candidates to reject COAST’s support.Councilman Chris Seelbach responded to COAST’s apparent interest in influencing the mayoral and City Council races on his Facebook page: “Regardless of the politics involved, anyone who wants my
support should make it clear: COAST is a hate-driven, fringe
organization that should not be apart (sic) of any conversation on how
to make Cincinnati a better place.”CityBeat couldn’t immediately reach
Murray, Smitherman or Winburn for comment on whether they would accept
COAST's support for their campaigns. But Smitherman, who is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he’s not campaigning, often teams up with COAST on local issues.
Seelbach, who has been a favorite target of COAST, tells CityBeat there’s no doubt the group’s vitriolic opposition is at least partly based on hate.
“Without question, I believe COAST targets me because I’m
gay,” Seelbach says. “In some ways, I’m a symbol of everything that they
hate, which is LGBT progress.”Cranley agrees the group is hateful. He points out that some COAST members have criticized him over the years for supporting LGBT causes, including hate crime legislation in 2003.
In the 1990s, Chris Finney, chief legal crusader for
COAST, authored Article XII, the city charter amendment approved by
voters in 1993 that barred the city from deeming gays a protected class
in anti-discrimination statutes.
In a June 1994 Cincinnati Post article,
Finney said landlords should not be legally required to rent to gay or
lesbian tenants. Finney explained, “Because there may be some who don’t
want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they
find offensive.” To critics, the remarks seemed fairly similar to
arguments leveled in support of racial segregation in the 1960s.COAST chairman Tom Brinkman and member Mark Miller were also part of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which defended Article XII in court in 1997.
When City Council passed hate crime legislation protecting
gays and lesbians in 2003, Brinkman criticized the Catholic members of City Council at the time — including Cranley, who sponsored the legislation — for sending “the message that you openly approve of homosexuality.”Back then, Cranley responded, “We have a little something in this
country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked
me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution.”
Around the same time, Seelbach prepared and then helped lead the 2004
campaign that did away with Article XII. For Cincinnati, the repeal of
the city charter amendment, just 11 years after voters approved it,
exemplified the more tolerant, open direction the country was moving in regards to the LGBT community.
But while the country has embraced greater equality for
LGBT individuals, Seelbach says COAST hasn’t done the same. Even though
Seelbach voted against the parking plan that COAST also opposes, the
conservative organization has regularly targeted Seelbach in blog posts
and emails criticizing the plan, which leases the city’s parking meters,
lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
In March, COAST sent out a doctored image that compared
Seelbach to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ in the Christian
religion, for approving an emergency clause on the parking plan that
effectively exempted the plan from a voter referendum. Seelbach voted
against the parking plan itself when it came to a vote.
“I don’t believe in running our city by referendums,”
Seelbach says. “What we currently have is a representative democracy. We
elect people that we hold accountable by either re-electing them or
not, and we trust the people that we elect to research the policies and
make informed decisions. I think that’s the best system.”
Most recently, COAST went after Seelbach for his trip to
Washington, D.C., where he received the Harvey Milk Champion of Change
award for his efforts to protect and promote Cincinnati’s LGBT
community. The city paid more than $1,200 for the trip, which COAST
called into question with legal threats. Even though City Solicitor John
Curp, the city’s top lawyer, deemed the allegations frivolous, Seelbach
agreed to reimburse the funds to stave off a lawsuit that could have
cost the city more than $30,000.
At the same time, media outlets, including WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer,
have closely covered COAST’s allegations and commonly turned to the
group to get the conservative side of different issues, ranging from the
streetcar project to the pension system. Both media outlets have
characterized COAST as a “government watchdog group,” ignoring the organization’s history of conservative activism and crafting legislation.
The favorable attention might be turning around. The Enquirer recently scrutinized COAST’s lawsuits against the city, which revealed the group, which frames itself as an
anti-tax, anti-spending watchdog, could cost the city more than $500,000
in legal fees. The city solicitor also estimated his office puts the
equivalent of one full-time employee on COAST’s cases, with the typical
city civil attorney making about $65,000 a year, according to The Enquirer.
Seelbach acknowledges the vast differences between the
black and LGBT civil rights movements, but he says a group with a
similarly discriminatory past wouldn’t get the kind of media coverage and
attention COAST does, at least without the proper context.
“If there was a group that had a history of fighting for
segregation, … there is absolutely no way anyone, much less media, would
quote or accept support in any form,” Seelbach says.This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. with more context.
by German Lopez
City Council reluctantly allows ballot initiative to move forward
Despite unanimous opposition, City Council fulfilled duties dictated by the City Charter and voted to allow a controversial pension amendment to appear on the ballot this
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls explained that all council
members oppose the amendment, but it’s part of City Council’s
ministerial duties to allow ballot initiatives if petitioners
gather enough signatures to put the issue to a public vote. The Hamilton County Board of Elections
announced on Aug. 12 that petitioners had gathered enough signatures to
clear the 7,443 requirement.
The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are
under a separate system — contribute to and manage individual
401k-style accounts. Currently, the city pools pension contributions and
manages the investments through an independent board.
City officials oppose the
amendment. They say it will cost the city more and hurt retirement gains
for city employees.
One new concern: As written, the amendment could force the
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke tax-exempt status for city
employees’ retirement plans. Paula Tilsley, executive director of the
Cincinnati Retirement System, says the new tax burden would force
someone in a lower tax bracket with $100,000 in retirement savings to
immediately pay $15,000 in taxes.
Supporters of the amendment, including out-of-state tea
party groups, argue it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s present and
future pension liabilities, which currently stand at $862 million.
The current liability is a result of two issues: City
Council has underfunded the pension system by varying degrees since at
least 2003, and economic downturns have hurt investments in the city’s
That outstanding liability was one of the factors that led Moody’s, a credit ratings agency, to downgrade Cincinnati’s bond rating on July 15.
City officials say they’ve already taken steps to resolve future costs and the only remaining concern is how to
pay for the current liability. In 2011, City Council raised the retirement age and reduced pension benefits for city employees
“This council adopted some of the most sweeping changes to
any public pension system in the country for current and future
employees,” Qualls said.
Councilman Chris Smitherman clarified he doesn’t support
the proposed amendment, but he says City Council has done a poor job
with the current pension system.
“My recommendation to this council is to put forth a
solution to solve the problem,” Smitherman said. “You can’t have your
cake and eat it too. You can’t say, ‘This is bad,’ and then underfund
Tilsley says the pension board will make recommendations
to City Council within a month to address the current pension liability.
The board estimates the changes would keep the system 100 percent
funded after 30 years.
CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that might be behind it in further detail here.Updated (2:17 p.m.): Updated to reflect the full City Council vote.
by German Lopez
Tea party-backed reform would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
Councilman Chris Smitherman told CityBeat he doesn’t support the pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this November, which means no council member approves of the controversial proposal.
The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are under a
separate system — contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts.
Currently, the city pools pension contributions and manages the investments
through an independent board.
City officials and unions claim the amendment will cost
the city more and hurt retirement gains for public employees. Tea party groups say
the amendment is necessary to address the city’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability.
“I do not support the amendment. I have introduced several
solutions that have been ignored by council and your paper,” Smitherman
wrote in an email.
The other eight members of City Council — seven Democrats
and one Republican — on Aug. 7 approved a resolution
that condemned the tea party amendment. But Smitherman, an Independent,
wasn’t present at the meeting.
CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Ohioans support Medicaid, bill would ease gun rules, Smitherman steps down from NAACP
Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders
from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or
know anyone willing to participate, email email@example.com.
A new poll from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati found a majority of Ohioans support expanding Medicaid coverage,
but state legislators have passed on a federally funded expansion in
their latest budget bills and other legislation. About 63 percent of 866
Ohioans asked between May 19 and June 2
supported the expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent. The
question was part of the Ohio Health Issues Poll, which the University
of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research has conducted for the
Health Foundation each year since 2005.
An Ohio bill would ease restrictions on semi-automatic magazines,
making it so gun owners can more easily purchase high-round clips for
their semi-automatic weapons. Supporters of the bill say the change helps
differentiate between automatic and semi-automatic weapons — a
differentiation that doesn’t currently occur under state law. Critics
argue the bill makes it easier for offenders to carry out violent
shootings, such as the recent massacre in Sandy Hook
Councilman Chris Smitherman is stepping down
as president of the local branch of the NAACP while he runs for
re-election. If he wins the election, Smitherman will then offer his resignation, which the NAACP's local executive committee can accept or reject. James Clingman, a vice president of the NAACP and founder
of the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce, will
take Smitherman's spot for the time being. Before the move, Smitherman was criticized for engaging in
partisan political activity as he ran for re-election, which is
generally looked down upon by the NAACP and federal rules regarding
501(c)(3) organization like the federal branch of the NAACP.
The world’s most advanced solar plane touched down in Cincinnati Friday before continuing its record-breaking journey across the nation to Washington, D.C.
Apparently, cities with more room to grow actually grow more. For Cincinnati, that could be a good sign as the city moves to build more apartments.
The Columbus Dispatch says Internet cafes make gambling more convenient and accessible to problematic gamblers. As a result of recently passed legislation, Internet cafes are being effectively shut down around the state.
Ohio gas prices are coming back down.
If someone wants to get away from the U.S. government, Popular Science has a few suggestions.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology built a robot that helps people be less awkward.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
, City Council
at 12:49 PM | Permalink
Council member could permanently resign if he wins re-election
Council member Chris Smitherman announced in a statement today that he will leave his post as president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP while he runs for re-election to City Council.If he does win re-election, Smitherman will offer his permanent resignation to the local chapter's executive committee, which can then accept or reject Smitherman's leave.James Clingman, a vice president of the NAACP and founder of the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce, will take Smitherman's spot for now.Smitherman, City Council's sole Independent, has come under criticism recently to step down from his NAACP post as he runs for office. Others have also criticized Smitherman's involvement with political organizations like the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) and his support for Republican City Council candidates — involvement and support that critics argue are too political for the NAACP.A memo titled "Election Year Dos and Don'ts" from the NAACP tells members to avoid partisan, political activity."Although NAACP units are 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations, the national NAACP is a 501(c)(3) organization which is restricted in how it can assist people in registering or getting out to vote. In addition, NAACP policy specifically prohibits units’ engagement in political campaign activity. This means that NAACP units cannot endorse or oppose candidates running for public office, make financial or in-kind contributions to candidates, political parties, or PACs, or engage in other activity that is designed or targeted to influence the outcome of any candidate election," the memo reads.By separating himself from the NAACP, Smitherman can continue his political activities without violating federal and national NAACP rules.
5 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Step one: Create problems for
Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Step two: Blame the problems on the
streetcar project. Step three: Political profit.
1 Comment · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Even Christopher Smitherman and
Christopher Finney must roll over in the middle of the night in the
strange bed they share and look at one another and wonder: How the
hell’d this happen
by Andy Brownfield
Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine
UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for
federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new
Council members voted with all but one approving the
application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the
Washington Park-area shelters.
If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would
move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount
Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined
Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the
shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20
Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice.
He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the
loan and the city’s ability to pay it back.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to
Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying
for the loan, but also voiced some concern.
“The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love
with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting
income diversity as well as racial and ethnic.
“I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop
that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low
income people out of Over-the-Rhine.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly
adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable
housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
“Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982
and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,”
“Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters
were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had
failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 19, 2011
One of Cincinnati’s
unique treasures is celebrating a major anniversary this year. Mount
Airy Forest, the 1,471-acre park and nature preserve on the city’s
northwest edge, was established 100 years ago. The Park Board
commemorated the event earlier this month with a day-long event that
included songs, storytelling and historical reenactments.