by Nick Swartsell
25 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:32 AM | Permalink
Commissioners, city wrangle over icon tax; court to hear gay marriage arguments; grandmas with guns
Sometimes, all the forces of the universe conspire to make every important thing possible happen on the same day, at the same time. That day is tomorrow, when City Council will meet for the first time since its summer recess, Hamilton County Commissioners will vote on the icon tax and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Cincinnati will hear challenges to gay marriage bans in four states. To make sure you're ready, let's review a couple big upcoming news events, shall we?• Time is ticking down for a possible tax hike deal to renovate Music Hall and Union Terminal. County Commissioners have until tomorrow to decide whether or not a proposed .25 percent sales tax will end up on the November ballot, and there’s no indication that two of the three commissioners are leaning toward voting for the tax as-is. At issue is the city’s contribution and the age-old city vs. county dynamic. Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann, both Republican, say they want a bigger financial commitment from the city, a sign of long-term buy-in. Monzel has floated the idea of cutting Music Hall out of the deal, since he says that building is the city’s responsibility and Union Terminal has more history county-wide. He’s said an alternative sales tax proposal could be ready for tomorrow’s meeting if a deal for both buildings can’t be reached. Another alternate idea involves ticket fees for those attending events at the buildings. The city has pledged to continue the $200,000 a year it pays toward upkeep for each building and has committed an additional $10 million for Music Hall. Commissioners have said that isn’t enough. They’ll vote at their weekly meeting tomorrow on whether to put the issue on the ballot for voters to weigh.• Tomorrow is a big day for other reasons. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear challenges to gay marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. It will be a decisive moment for the marriage equality movement, which has been on a winning streak in the courts lately. The Supreme Court last June struck down a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and since then many courts have ruled against gay marriage bans and other laws restricting recognition of same-sex marriages. But two of the three judges on the appellate board here are appointees from former President George W. Bush’s time in office and have a record of rulings supporting conservative values. Both opponents and supporters of the bans have rallies planned during the 1 p.m. hearings. Religious groups in the area, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, are urging followers to pray for the judges. The church has voiced strong support for Ohio’s gay marriage ban, passed in 2004.• An effort to open a cooperative grocery store in Clifton is coming down to the wire, an Enquirer report says. The proposed market has met a quarter of its $1.65 million fundraising goal, officials with the group say. That money comes from shares anyone can buy to become a part owner of the store and would go toward buying the former Keller’s IGA building on Ludlow Avenue. The Clifton Cooperative Market group is under contract to buy the building, but that contract expires Oct. 11. The group envisions an “upmarket” grocery that provides both staple goods and specialty items. If the group can get half the money, officials say, it will become easier to secure financing for the rest through bank loans.• Miami University is tops! The local university ranks high on a few just-released Princeton Review lists, though not necessarily all positive ones. Miami is the nation’s 11th best party school, the review finds. It’s rocketed up five spots from last year, passing rival Ohio University. As an alum, I can tell you the recognition is long overdue. However, the school is also ranked fifth on the “little race and class interaction” list. So if you like partying with 16,000 friends who look a whole lot like you (assuming you look like an extra from a Brooks Brothers casual wear catalogue shoot) I’ve got the school for you. The school also ranked high for Greek life (sixth) and its entrepreneurial program (12th). • Finally, a story about grandmothers in Aurora, Indiana who have taken up a new hobby — firearms. Two senior women there started a gun education group in May after being robbed. Women Armed and Ready, or WAR, trains women on proper use of handguns for self-defense, firearm laws and target shooting.“My gun is the answer to anybody who thinks I'm an old lady living alone,” says WAR member Barb Marness. Enough said.
by Nick Swartsell
59 days ago
Posted In: News
at 08:36 AM | Permalink
Kentucky's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, ticket hike to save historic buildings, Kasich and Brown take an usie
Here at the morning news desk (which is really just my desk, only in the morning), we usually lead off with some local news. But the big story of the moment comes from across the river.Kentucky's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled yesterday. The judge struck down Kentucky’s amendment to its state constitution banning same-sex marriages, though he is holding implementation of his ruling until after hearings here in Cincinnati next month. The next showdown over gay marriage in the region comes Aug. 6, when the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals downtown will hear cases from Ohio, Kentucky and other states about same-sex marriage bans. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is pitching user fees for events at Music Hall and the Cincinnati Museum Center as a way to raise funds to renovate the historic buildings. He floated the idea in a letter yesterday, where he also indicated he’s not sold on the idea of a sales tax hike to pay for the renovation projects. Portune said he’s not a flat no on the tax hike but that it will be a tough sell for him without some kind of ticket price increase. The buildings need more than $300 million in repairs. An Indianapolis-based developer working on rehab projects for three iconic historic buildings in Cincinnati is making progress. Core Redevelopment LLC is redeveloping the former School for Creative and Performing Arts building in Pendleton, the Crosley building in Camp Washington and the old Windsor Elementary School in Walnut Hills. The group was just awarded tax credits on the Windsor project, which will contain 44 units of housing. CEO John Watson indicated that he thinks Walnut Hills is on the verge of a “full scale redevelopment” as a neighborhood. The SCPA project is expected to break ground in September and will be home to 142 units. Finally, the group will develop 238 units in the looming white Crosley building, which was built in the 1920s by the Crosley company as a factory for radios and other items. All three projects will be market rate housing. The group expects the 800-square-foot, one bedroom units at the Windsor building will run a little over $800 a month.The city of Middletown is officially dissolving its housing authority after complaints it tried to kick people off Section 8 rolls. The Middletown Public Housing Authority voted unanimously to dissolve itself yesterday. MPHA will shut down by September, turning over 1,662 Section 8 vouchers to Butler and Warren Counties. Miami University of Ohio is the most expensive public university in the country, a new study finds, and Ohio’s other public universities are also among the priciest. Miami rings up at a net cost of $24,000 a year after financial aid is considered. As an alum, this makes me wonder if the resale value of their degrees is higher, too. I have one recent-model English/Poli Sci double if any one’s interested… rarely used, buyer takes over payments.It’s not every day you see your state’s Democratic senator take a selfie with your ultra conservative, Republican governor. But Sen. Sherrod Brown and Gov. John Kasich apparently got cozy for the camera yesterday at The Banks while celebrating the new GE deal. Cincinnati, bringing people together.Finally, scientists are working on breeding bald chickens that can withstand the increased heat caused by climate change in regions near the equator. That's... terrifying. I imagine they'll be able to do it, though, since they've already been able to genetically engineer the spicy and extra crispy varieties.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled June 5 that a
Butler County judge acted improperly when he sealed records relating to
a 2012 rape flier posted at Miami University.
by Nick Swartsell
81 days ago
Posted In: Courts
at 12:40 PM | Permalink
Butler County judge acted improperly sealing files, court says
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled June 5 that a Butler County judge acted improperly when he sealed records relating to a 2012 rape flier posted at Miami University.Judge Robert Lyons ordered the records sealed after a student at Miami University was charged with and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for posting a flier listing the "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape" in a coed residence hall bathroom at the school.When sealing the record, however, Lyons cited a law pertaining to sealing cases that don't reach a conviction, an error that he acknowledged later. The case drew national attention, in part due to the graphic nature of the list, which included pointers like "If your [sic] afraid the girl will identify you slit her throat." It also drew scrutiny for Lyons' unusual move making the records in the case, and thus the student's name, unavailable to the public.The Cincinnati Enquirer sued to have the records released. After the suit was filed, Lyons allowed the student to withdraw his guilty plea. The state of Ohio then dropped its case against the student, and Lyons sealed the case again under the same law he had cited previously.Misdemeanors require a one-year waiting period before cases can be sealed. Judge Lyons argued that this isn't the case for minor misdemeanors like disorderly conduct and that no waiting period applied. In a 5-2 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed, holding that there is no such distinction.The student left Miami shortly after the incident. You can find the full text of the court's decision here.
Lawsuit argues Miami University should have dismissed alleged rapist for previous violations
2 Comments · Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Although every college campus has a problem with sexual assault, a lawsuit is putting the spotlight on Miami University in particular.
by German Lopez
Casino revenue estimates drop, Kasich's budget unveiled, fraternity's lawsuit dismissed
New casino revenue numbers are well below 2009 estimates. State officials
previously estimated Ohio’s casinos would bring in $1.9 billion a year
once they were built and functional, but the latest state budget
cuts that prediction by half. The new estimates are due to competition
with racinos and lower-than-expected performance at casinos that are
already up and running.
Gov. John Kasich announced his 2014-2015 budget,
unveiling a few pleasant and unpleasant surprises for progressives.
As part of the budget, Ohio is going ahead with expanding Medicaid to meet Obamacare’s
financial incentives, despite Kasich’s past criticism of the national
health care program. But the budget also directs higher revenues to
cutting taxes, instead of making up for past spending cuts enacted by
A Miami University fraternity’s $10 million lawsuit has been dismissed.
The lawsuit accused the university of “malice, hatred and ill will” for
the suspension of Phi Kappa Tau after it had a fireworks battle with
another fraternity. The battle led to police discovering marijuana
inside the fraternity.
Looks like Ohioans are returning to school. Some universities, including Miami, have seen a spike
in the number of applications recently, despite Ohio having fewer high
school graduates in the past few years. The spike is likely due to
City Council will vote tomorrow
on whether to provide tax breaks for neighborhood projects in Walnut
Hills and Linwood. The projects are focused on buildings that are
apparently uninhabitable, according to the developer.
PNC Bank is set to announce a “major gift”
to Smale Riverfront Park. The gift would continue a stream of private
contributions to the park. Last year, Procter & Gamble donated $1
million to fund the P&G Vibrant Playscape.
Cincinnati’s tree fee will not change this year. The tree fee is paid by homeowners so the city can take care of trees in public rights of way.
Cincinnati was awarded the Audrey Nelson Community Development
Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association
for contributing to the renovations of the Villages at Roll Hill.
An unhappy defendant punched his own lawyer in court.
The 3-D print revolution has taken an unexpected turn: Scientists can now print human embryonic cells. The researchers hope to use the cells as ink for printed organs and tissues.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
When a reporter uses the law to pry
public records from resisting officials, readers are supposed to
benefit. And when readers value that invocation of open records laws, it
adds luster to the reporter’s work.
by James McNair
at 05:46 PM | Permalink
Cites concern for defendant's mental health, says sealings are common in "college town"
adverse publicity from pleading guilty to a minor crime — say indecent
exposure or public intoxication — is likely to cause you mental anguish,
pray that you go before a judge like Robert Lyons in Oxford.
Lyons is the Butler County judge who took the guilty plea from the former Miami University student who posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape”
flier in a dormitory bathroom. Lyons sealed the file in November,
shielding the young man’s name from public view. Facing an Ohio Supreme
Court challenge from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the judge dropped the disorderly conduct rap a month later and sealed the case again.
recounts those events in a deposition taken by Enquirer lawyer Jack
Greiner Jan. 15. (Download the full deposition by clicking here.) For starters, he swears he doesn’t remember the
defendant’s name, even “if I was tortured.” And here’s why he locked
away the case file and kept the Miami U. administration and campus
police from disclosing his name: “What I remember about him is that
there was certainly concern about his, say, his mental health and there
were grounds stated on the record for the necessity of sealing the
record. It had to do with his — probably as I recall, more so mental
well-being than anything else.”
wasn’t the first, nor the last, to be convicted of a crime in Lyons’
courtroom as leave as John Doe. As the part-time judge said under oath,
“This is a college town. Record sealings, you know, I would say if I do
10 record sealings in a week, that is not many.”Lyons is represented by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Gmoser, who originally prosecuted John Doe, convicting him of disorderly conduct. Gmoser has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against Lyons. The Enquirer has
other ideas. In a new pleading Friday, the paper says Lyons improperly
dismissed the conviction without a statutorily necessary finding of
“manifest injustice.” It wants to amend its lawsuit, while sticking with
its contention that, in Ohio, judges must do a document-by-document
review and conduct a public hearing before sealing case records.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The case of a former Miami University
student who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for posting a “Top Ten
Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier in a dormitory bathroom just keeps
getting more controversial.
by James McNair
Judge allows convicted student to withdraw his plea, then seals case again
The case of a
former Miami University student who pleaded guilty to disorderly
conduct for posting a “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier in a
dormitory bathroom just keeps getting more controversial.The
controversy began Nov. 8, when Butler County Area 1 Court Judge Robert
Lyons took the guilty plea and ordered all record of the case —
including the defendant’s name — sealed from public view. The MU police
chief says he is bound by Lyons’ order and can’t release the name. The
Butler County Prosecuting Attorney’s office did not object to the
sealing of the file.The Cincinnati Enquirer
entered the picture six days later. It sued Lyons in the Ohio Supreme
Court, saying he sealed the file without giving the newspaper a chance
to argue for public access. In his answer — filed by the Prosecuting
Attorney’s office on Dec. 13 — Lyons stood by his actions. Furthermore,
he wrote that “there was no plea” in the case.Now we know
where that came from. On that very same day, the case was back in Lyons
court for reconsideration. This time, prosecutors agreed to drop the
charge, and Lyons ruled it so. And, once again, he sealed the file, and
no one present objected. The Enquirer reported on the dismissal Wednesday.Prosecuting
Attorney Mike Gmoser won’t say why he agreed to dropping the charge
until the Supreme Court case is over. “Save that question, and I will
give you a full and detailed statement,” he told CityBeat. “I don’t try cases in the press.”Gmoser said he is asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the Enquirer’s suit because the issue at hand is “moot.”