by German Lopez
State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics
Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked
tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run
in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The
Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the
stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new
law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was
put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers
upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County
Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight
felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court
documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s
already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long
Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be
replaced while the legal battle unfolds.Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and
the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point
to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate
low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of
supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local
officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps
through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that
voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a
broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted
in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say
would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking
feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at
EasternCorridor.org.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might
challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary,
discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the
right to sue in a local case that could have broader
implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight
between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could
resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.As local and state officials work to address the opiate
epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati
proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges
are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen
O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold
courts’ attempts at impartiality.Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Judge halts election law, unemployment benefits advance, city loses budget director
A federal judge halted a controversial election law that
limited minor political parties’ access to the ballot and ruled that the
state must allow minor parties to participate in the primary and
general elections in 2014. But by merely agreeing that only the
retroactive restrictions for 2014 are too burdensome for minor parties,
the judge left room to keep the law intact for elections in 2015 and
beyond. Still, the ruling comes as a major victory for the Libertarian
Party of Ohio and other minor parties who took to calling the
Republican-backed law the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act”
because it conveniently limited minor parties that are upset with Republican Gov.
John Kasich’s support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman broke with most of his fellow
Republicans yesterday to help advance federal legislation that would extend
emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Still, he hinted that
he would not support the three-month extension if the $6.4 billion cost
isn’t covered by federal spending cuts elsewhere. Without the extension,
128,600 Ohioans could lose unemployment benefits through 2014 even as
the state economy shows signs of weakening.
Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen yesterday confirmed
she is leaving her high-level city job to take the same job in Long
Beach, Calif. Peggy Sandman will fill in for Eriksen while a
search for a permanent replacement is held. Eriksen’s announcement comes as a blow to the city but little surprise to political watchers. Shortly
before taking office, Mayor John Cranley called Eriksen and other
administration officials “incompetent” because of how they handled the
$132.8 million streetcar project, even though their estimates for
cancellation costs turned out to be mostly on point.Newsflash: Global warming didn’t stop just because we’re cold now.The worst of the deep freeze should be over for Ohio.Cincinnati’s 2013 homicide rate of 25 per 100,000
residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus
at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.An Ohio appeals court ruled Cincinnati can change medical benefits for retirees after all.Construction for the uptown interchange could begin in July and finish in late 2016.The city announced yesterday that it’s extending its
Winter Holiday Trash Amnesty through Jan. 17, which means residents have
until then to set out extra trash next to their city-provided trash
Gov. Kasich is asking parents to tell their children about
the dangers of drug abuse, as the state works to combat problems with
prescription painkillers and heroin.A Fairfield, Ohio, teacher who was fired for allegedly
telling a black student, “We don’t need another black president,” will
fight for his job.Dozens of inmates at the Lebanon Correctional Honor Camp
endured frigid conditions Monday evening after one of three furnaces
broke, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction.A Cincinnati-area medical device firm is in a race with
some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to get a
painless drug injector on the market.People are stealing English ferrets used to hunt rabbits.A survey of brown dwarfs found they’re racked by planet-sized storms of molten iron.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Court orders state to allow minor-party primaries
A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a
controversial law that limits minor political parties’ access to the
statewide ballot and ruled that the state must allow minor parties to participate in primary and general elections in 2014.
The law required minor parties to gather about 28,166 voter signatures by July to
regain official recognition at the state level — a threshold that
critics called unrealistic and burdensome for minor political parties —
and disallowed minor parties from holding primary elections in 2014.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson concluded the requirements
hurt minor parties that already filed for election before Kasich
signed the law in November. He argued the law also unfairly prevented minor
parties from reaping the political benefits of a primary election.
“The Ohio Legislature moved the proverbial goalpost in the
midst of the game,” wrote Watson in a 28-page opinion. “Stripping
plaintiffs of the opportunity to participate in the 2014 primary in
these circumstances would be patently unfair.”
But in filing a temporary injunction, Watson acknowledged the law’s requirements
could still stand for 2015 and beyond after the court hands down its final ruling at a later date. Watson
merely agreed with minor parties that the law places too many
retroactive limits in time for the 2014 election.
For now, the ruling comes as a major victory for the
Libertarian Party of Ohio, which filed a legal complaint against the law
after Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the state
legislature, including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, approved it.
Ohio Democrats and Libertarians took to calling the law
the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.” They argued the law defends Kasich from minor-party challengers dissatisfied with his
record as governor, particularly his support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, also backed the law. He is cited as the defendant in Watson’s opinion.
CityBeat could not immediately reach Husted’s office for comment.
Democrats quickly took advantage of Watson’s ruling to prop up Nina Turner, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state.
“Today, a federal court declared that Jon Husted’s attempt
to put his political party over the rights of Ohio voters to have
choices violated the constitutional rights of Ohioans. This is not the
first time, either. This November, Ohioans can elect Nina Turner to
bring needed change to the Ohio secretary of state’s office,” said Brian
Hester, spokesperson for Ohio Democrats, in a statement.
Husted and Turner will likely face off in the November ballot.
Watson’s ruling could make it easier for a minor-party candidate to enter the race as
by German Lopez
Cranley sets agenda, streetcar cancellation costs still unknown, Kasich limits minor parties
Mayor-elect John Cranley laid out his plans and priorities for his first term
at his first press conference yesterday. Cranley says two of his top
priorities are undoing the $133 million streetcar project and parking
plan, which would lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. He also spoke on some of his more
positive ideas, including the interchange project at Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive, 3CDC-style public-private partnerships to
revitalize neighborhoods and development of the Wasson Way bike trail,
old Swifton Commons and Westwood Square.
It remains unclear
how much it would cost to actually cancel the streetcar project. As of September’s monthly
progress report, $94 million is tied to contractual obligations, $23
million is already spent and nearly $45 million in federal grants is still attached
to the project. And if contractors, subcontractors and taxpayers sue the
city to complete the project, it could impose litigation costs on the
operating budget instead of the capital budget currently financing
construction. Supporters of the streetcar also say cancellation could
tarnish relationships with the federal government and contractors, which
have a stake in the project’s completion. At his press conference
yesterday, Cranley said he’d weigh the costs and benefits of
cancellation and would continue the project if he deems it cheaper.
Meanwhile, Cranley might travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss reprogramming nearly $45 million in federal grants
from the streetcar project to the I-71/MLK interchange project. In a
June 19 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed it would
take back nearly $41 million of the grant money if the streetcar project
were canceled. City officials say they’ve already spent $2 million from
the grants on the streetcar project, and, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding, that would
need to be repaid through the operating budget if the project were terminated.
Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature passed a bill
that imposes new restrictions on minor political parties trying to get on the
state ballot. The requirements force minor parties to meet higher
petition signature and voting thresholds to get and remain on the
ballot. Ohio Libertarians say they plan to sue to block the changes from
becoming law in 90 days. Democrats and minor parties say the changes
are meant to protect Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014; they argue
that, without the new requirements, tea party challengers upset with
Kasich over his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion could take away enough votes and spoil the election in favor of a Democrat. CityBeat covered the Senate version of the bill in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday unanimously approved
the first budget in six years that didn’t require major cuts or revenue
increases to achieve balance, but the budget also had very little in
terms of new policies. Commissioners also approved a separate plan from
the Port Authority, a city- and county-funded development agency, to
expand its borders; the Port now needs to work out agreements with other
jurisdictions before the expansion becomes official.
Janitors in Cincinnati are striking against New York City-based ABM
in a push for wage hikes and health benefits. In supporting the
efforts, Councilman Chris Seelbach says the strike and media attention
surrounding it should hopefully put pressure on Cincinnati’s Fortune 500
companies that hire ABM to clean their buildings.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress.”
After only 28.8 percent of registered Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral and City Council elections, The Cincinnati Enquirer asked those who didn’t show up to vote to explain themselves.
The answers ranged from total apathy toward the streetcar project to
disdain and distrust for the city’s government and political system.
Voters on Tuesday approved more than half of Ohio school levies.
The University of Cincinnati yesterday signed an agreement that will increase collaboration with NASA.
Blockbuster is closing down its remaining company-owned stores in the United States.
Biking in traffic can have some complicated results as bikers breathe in traffic exhaust.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Election Issue hits stands, ballot restrictions move forward, Cranley helped move jobs
CityBeat’s full Election Issue is in stands now. Check out our feature stories on three remarkable City Council challengers: Mike Moroski, Michelle Dillingham and Greg Landsman. Find the rest of our election coverage, along with our endorsements, here.
The Ohio legislature is working through a bill that would limit ballot access
for minor parties, which argue the petitioning and voting requirements
are meant to help Gov. John Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014. The
Ohio House narrowly passed the bill
yesterday with looser restrictions than those set by the Ohio Senate
earlier in the month, but a legislative error in the House means neither
chamber will hammer out the final details until they reconvene next week.
Republicans say the bill is necessary to set some basic standards for
who can get on the ballot. Democrats have joined with minor parties in
calling the bill the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” because it
would supposedly protect Kasich from tea party and other third-party
challengers after his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion turned members of his conservative base against him.
As an attorney and lobbyist at Keating, Muething & Klekamp (KMK), mayoral candidate John Cranley helped payroll company Paycor finalize plans to move its headquarters
— and 450 to 500 jobs with it — from Queensgate in Cincinnati to
Norwood, Ohio. Specifically, KMK and several of its employees, including
Cranley, helped Paycor and Norwood set up a tax credit deal to
incentivize the company’s relocation. The Cranley campaign says he was
just doing his job after Paycor went to KMK, not the other way around.
But supporters of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Cranley’s opponent in the
mayoral race, say he shouldn’t be helping companies leave the city he
wants to lead. Paycor’s move in 2014 means the city will have to take
back some of the money it gave the company, through two tax deals that
Cranley approved while on City Council, to encourage it to stay in Cincinnati through 2015. Cranley received a $1,100 campaign contribution from Paycor CEO Bob Coughlin on Aug. 20.
Opinion:• “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Streetcar?”• “The Folly of Privatization.”
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
(CVG) board travels widely and often dines at public expense, according
to an investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer. Among other findings, The Enquirer
found the CVG board, which is considered a governmental agency, has a
much more lenient travel expense policy for itself than it does for
staff members, and it sometimes uses airport funds to pay for liquor. On
Twitter, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartman called the findings outrageous and demanded resignations.
Northside property crime is on the rise,
and police and residents are taking notice. Business leaders in the
neighborhood are concerned the negative stigma surrounding the crime
will hurt their businesses.
With federal stimulus funding expiring in November, 1.8
million Ohioans will get less food assistance starting tomorrow. The
news comes after 18,000 in Hamilton County were hit by additional
restrictions this month, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday agreed to pay $883,000 to cover legal fees
for Judge Tracie Hunter and her legal team. The Hamilton County Board
of Elections racked up the bill for the county by repeatedly appealing
Hunter’s demands that the board count more than one-third of previously
discarded provisional ballots, which were enough to turn the juvenile
court election in Hunter’s favor. Hunter’s opponent, John Williams,
later won a separate appointment and election to get on the juvenile
Metro, Cincinnati’s local bus service, announced it’s relaxing time limits on transfer tickets, which should make it easier to catch a bus without sprinting to the stop.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp laid off nearly 500 employees in the past six months, with some of the layoffs hitting Cincinnati. The bank blames the job cuts on slowdowns in the mortgage business.
A new study finds cheaters are more likely to strike in the afternoon.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here.
Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are
extended. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day
(Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez