by Nick Swartsell
118 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:06 AM | Permalink
Cincy City Manager courts businesses upset with Indiana's RFRA law; more streetcar headaches; public nude photog coming to Cincy, looking for "the crown jewels"
Good morning y’all. I cannot wait for this weekend so let’s get to it. Are you a businessperson in Indiana steamed about the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act? A lot of people are. In the wake of controversy around Indiana's law, which as written allows businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals on the basis of religious beliefs, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is making a pitch to Indiana businesses: Come to Cincy. We’re more accepting, and that’s good for business, Black says. Black has already written to companies like Yelp who had planned to expand in Indiana but are now pulling back thanks to the new law signed by Gov. Mike Pence last week. Many businesses have balked at such RFRA laws, both in Indiana and elsewhere, saying they’re morally objectionable and bad for business. Pence and Indiana lawmakers announced a fix to the law earlier this week that they say would prohibit discrimination. But many of the law’s critics, including big business, say the fix isn’t enough. Now Cincinnati is looking poach some of that business expansion for its own.• Another day, another embarrassing streetcar argument. At yesterday’s City Council meeting, Mayor John Cranley lashed out at the city’s streetcar team, saying it had “secretly” spent $200,000 on studies for the transit project’s potential second leg into uptown. It turns out that last February, the team, led by project executive John Deatrick, spent about $70,000 out of a fund set aside for streetcar studies in 2008. The team authorized the full $200,000 in contracts to two firms to do budget and cost benefit analyses but paused the work when it became clear focus on the current phase of the streetcar was the priority. Cranley says the 2008 City Council resolution creating the original $800,000 pot of money for studies didn’t specifically authorize the streetcar team to use the money and that the studies are an example of a “culture of secrecy” around the project. The team says it was unaware it had to ask for special permission to undertake the analyses for phase 1b. Phew. City Manager Harry Black, who has the power to discipline city personnel, says there appears to be no grounds to punish members of the streetcar team. Can we just stop the fussin’ and the feudin’, please?• Parking rates are changing in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Tuesday. The shifts, which are tied to usage in the areas, have been planned for a year and were given final approval by Cincinnati City Council yesterday. Rates will go up or down by a quarter in various parts of the downtown/OTR area. In general, rates will go down or stay the same west of Vine Street, ranging from $2.00 an hour south of Sixth Street to $.75 an hour north of Central Parkway. East of Vine Street, rates will go up; it will now cost $2.25 an hour to park south of Central Parkway and $1.25 an hour north of it. The city has watched usage rates in various parts of downtown/OTR since January to come up with the new rates, a kind of makeshift “dynamic parking” effort. In other cities, sophisticated data crunching can change parking rates on meters according to demand on an hourly basis. That won’t happen here, but by shifting rates according to the parking market, city leaders hope to incentivize parking turnover in busy areas and encourage drivers to park in less-used locations. Some of the funds from the parking boost will go to the streetcar, and some to the general fund, City Manager Harry Black says. • I grew up in Hamilton, where the grisly legacy of James Rupert is hard to escape. On Easter Sunday 40 years ago, Ruppert murdered 11 members of his family in a house on the corner of Minor Avenue in Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood. At the time, it was the largest mass-murder in U.S. history. Yesterday, Rupert had a parole hearing. The parole board’s decision hasn’t been announced yet, but the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office is strongly objecting to his release. • Hey, here’s a weird one. Need some new nude photos in front of Music Hall? There’s a guy who may be able to hook you up on Opening Day, when he comes to Cincinnati to shoot nude photos of folks in front of local landmarks. He’s done it in a number of big U.S. cities, sometimes with getaway drivers nearby due to the illegal nature of being naked in public. I can’t avoid comment on this quote in the Enquirer, so here it comes:“I am looking for Americana, the history of the United States,” Harvey Drouillard says. “I am looking for the crown jewels." Crown jewels indeed.• A few days ago, I told you about how the Ohio General Assembly floated a proposal that required college students and other somewhat transitory voters to register their car in Ohio if they wanted to vote here. Many Democrats have likened that measure to a poll tax; it would cost most students $75 to re-register their cars and if they don’t and try to vote, their current registration would become invalid. Gov. John Kasich apparently agreed with the detractors, vetoing the measure Wednesday. The provision was tucked into Ohio’s transportation budget legislation, which moves forward without the voter registration law. • Finally, U.S. negotiations with Iran over that country’s nuclear program have made big headlines lately, with a lot of politicking going on around the fact that we’re negotiating with the country at all. But according to some sources, those negotiations have taken a fruitful and promising turn lately. Here’s the latest on where things stand with U.S. efforts to keep Iran from developing nukes. The whole process is fascinating and terrifying stuff.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 10:35 AM | Permalink
Leelah Alcorn's mother expresses grief in first media interview; Ohio Against the World gets big ups from OSU win; NYPD's massive arrest slowdown
Hey hey Cincinnati! I hope your New Years Eve was as good as mine. I stayed out way too late and had more fun than you should be allowed to have while wearing a suit at CityBeat's speakeasy party. But enough about partying. Let’s get down to business.Carla Alcorn, who has been mostly silent since daughter Leelah Alcorn’s suicide Dec. 28, gave her first interview with media Wednesday. Speaking to CNN, Alcorn expressed deep grief at the loss of the 17-year-old transgender teen from Kings Mills, whose given name was Joshua and who said in a suicide note that she had felt “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” since the age of 4. Leelah’s suicide has sparked a national conversation about societal attitudes toward gender as well as the high rate of depression and suicide attempts among transgender people. The elder Alcorn told CNN that she forbade Leelah from obtaining medical procedures to help her transition toward more female physical traits because it was against the family’s religion. "We don't support that, religiously," Alcorn's mother told CNN in an emotional phone interview. "But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy."Controversy has arisen over the way some news outlets, Alcorn’s family and her school have identified Alcorn, using the name Joshua and male pronouns to refer to her. • On a more upbeat note, a local fashion icon got some big attention yesterday after Ohio State beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and clenched a spot at college football’s championship game. As OSU pulled ahead late in the game, ESPN showed a fan in the crowd rocking an Ohio Against the World shirt, a brand dreamed up by Cincinnatian Floyd Johnson. OATW has already gotten a lot of national attention, but screen grabs of the ESPN shot showed up on Twitter and promptly exploded, sending the phrase Ohio Against the World trending worldwide. Full disclosure: I’m a huge OATW fan and own a few of their shirts, one of which I’m wearing as I type, so this may not be unbiased reporting I’m doing here. I could not care less about football (sorry Buckeyes fans) but it’s awesome that great local talent is getting much-deserved recognition. Go get yourself one of those shirts! Just be sure you’re buying the real deal when you hop online to order one and not one of these. Yes, yes, I get it. That’s supposed to be OSU’s font. Still not into it.• Just a heads up: new parking meter times and rates go into effect today. Parking in Over-the-Rhine goes from 50 cents to $1 today, and you’ll have to pay from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. in OTR and downtown. The boost will be used to help pay for streetcar operating costs. Don’t fret if you don’t have change, though. The new meters take credit cards. • Tasha Thomas, the woman who was with John Crawford III in the Beavercreek Walmart where police shot him in August, died in a car accident yesterday. The accident occurred about 3 p.m. in downtown Dayton, authorities say. Thomas gained attention last month when a video tape was released showing Beavercreek police interrogating her harshly after the shooting. Crawford's shooting and other police killings of unarmed black citizens, including the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson Missouri, have ignited continuing protests across the country.• Women in Ohio and Kentucky are pushing back against a new form of birth control called Essure offered by major drug company Bayer. Essure claims to be a form of easy, permanent birth control. Sounds great, right? The problem is, the device, which is implanted, has reportedly caused headaches, severe nausea and other symptoms in some women, perhaps due to the fact it contains nickel, which many are allergic to. Women suffering these symptoms claim they were not told about the device’s nickel content. Other women have reported that the device has caused internal damage when it shifted inside their bodies, or that scans by doctors have been unable to find the device after it has been implanted. A number of activists, including women in Ohio, have called for a ban on the product, starting wide-ranging social media campaigns and filing a lawsuit. But doctors and the FDA say they can’t demonstrate a link between the device and health problems. They say the device is safe to use and that problems associated with the implant are probably psychosomatic. • The ongoing national argument over police tactics is having very real consequences within the nation’s largest police force. After a gunman ambushed and killed two officers Dec. 20, New York City police have decreased arrests 66 percent as part of a work slow down, the New York Post reports. The choke hold death of Eric Garner this summer and a subsequent grand jury’s decision not to indict an officer in that death has led to civil unrest in the city, and police have taken offense. The situation intensified when the gunman in Brooklyn murdered two officers last month. Since that incident, officers have protested by turning their backs to Mayor Bill deBlasio at public ceremonies for a perceived lack of support from the mayor. They’ve also instituted a slowdown on their policing and have announced they’ll only be arresting people when they have to — in part for safety reasons, and in part in protest. But think about that for just a minute. Shouldn’t police always approach and arrest people “only when they have to?” The New York Post reports that ticketing for incidents in the city has dropped 94 percent since the murder of the two officers. Arrests for drug offenses have dropped 82 percent. What are the rest of those arrests all about anyway?
3 Comments · Wednesday, March 5, 2014
This is my last article as a staff writer at CityBeat.
At the end of the week, I will be leaving Cincinnati for Washington,
D.C., to join a new journalistic venture.
by German Lopez
Council backs parking plan, strong mayor gains support, museum keeps Dr. Seuss cartoons
City Council yesterday expressed support for a barebones
parking plan that would upgrade all meters to accept credit card
payments and increase enforcement around the city, which should boost
annual revenues. The plan does not increase rates or hours at meters, as
Mayor John Cranley originally called for. It also doesn’t allow people
to pay for parking meters through smartphones. The plan ultimately means
death for the parking privatization plan, which faced widespread
criticism after the previous city administration and council passed it
as a means to jumpstart new investments and help fix the city’s
operating budget and pension system.Councilman Christopher Smitherman plans to pursue changes
to the city’s political structure to give more power to the mayor and
less to the city manager. Smitherman says the current system is broken
because it doesn’t clearly define the role of the mayor. Under
Smitherman’s system, the mayor would run the city and hire department
heads; the city manager, who currently runs the city and handles hiring,
would primarily preside over budget issues; and City Council would pass
legislation and act as a check to the mayor. Smitherman aims to put the
plan to voters this November.Commentary: “WCPO’s Sloppy Streetcar Reporting Misses Real Concerns.”The Cincinnati Art Museum maintains five political
cartoons from the famed Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel), but none are
currently on public display. The cartoons call back to the history before
World War II, when most of the world played ignorant to the horrors of
the Holocaust and Americans had yet to enter the war. Dr. Seuss loathed the villains on the world stage, and his cartoons promoted a
message of interventionism that would eventually lead him to join the
Army to help in the fight against the Axis powers. When he returned home, he would
write the famous stories and books he’s now so well known for.Mayor Cranley and some council members appear reluctant to
accept a routine grant application that would allow the Cincinnati Health
Department to open two more clinics because of the potential effect the
clinics could have on the city’s budget. Cranley and other council
members also seem concerned that the Health Department played a role in
the recent closing of Neighborhood Health Care, which shut down four
clinics and three school-based programs after it lost federal funding.Ohio legislators approved a bill that forces absentee
voters to submit more information and reduces the amount of time
provisional voters have to confirm their identities from 10 days to one
week. For Democrats, the bill adds to previous concerns that Republicans
are attempting to suppress voters. The bill now goes to Gov. John
Kasich, a Republican who’s expected to sign the measure into law.The Ohio legislature continues wrangling over how to give schools more snow days.More than 175,000 claims have been filed over winter damage, potentially making this winter one of the costliest in decades.Robot suits could make mixed martial arts blood-free.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Kasich gives annual speech, Ohioans move left on social issues, OTR gets parking plan
Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech last
night, promising to combat Ohio’s heroin epidemic, cut taxes and create
jobs across the state. The speech didn’t promise any new, huge proposals;
instead, it focused on expanding the approach Kasich has taken to
governing Ohio in the past four years. Democrats criticized the speech
for failing to note Ohio’s recent economic struggles, with the state now
among the worst in the nation for job growth. Meanwhile, a recent
analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found Kasich’s proposed
tax cut would benefit the wealthy.Ohioans are moving left on marijuana and same-sex
marriage, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday.
The poll found 87 percent of Ohioans now support legalizing marijuana
for medical uses, and 51 percent support allowing adults to legally
possess a small amount of the drug. Meanwhile, half of Ohio voters now
support same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who do not. Whether
the widespread support translates to ballot issues remains to be seen. CityBeat covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement here and same-sex marriage efforts here.The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC)
plans to alleviate parking problems in Over-the-Rhine by adding a
parking meter to every parking space in the neighborhood and asking City
Council to allow residential parking permits in neighborhoods that mix
commercial and residential. (Today, the city code allows residential
parking permits only in neighborhoods that are 100 percent residential.)
The plan would add 162 metered spaces to the 478 currently metered
spaces, and 637 spaces would be designated for residents.City Council could move to officially dissolve the parking
privatization plan as soon as Wednesday. What will replace the plan is
still unclear, but CityBeat compared Mayor John Cranley’s proposal to the parking privatization plan here.Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says officers
responded appropriately to an incident in which police shot and killed a suspect. Blackwell said police had to respond with deadly force when
the suspect came out of his house with a rifle.Cincinnati-based Kroger could buy supermarket rival Safeway.An alarming video shows old arctic ice vanishing as a
result of global warming, even though old ice is more resistant to
melting.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Parking debate continues, mayors work to bring manufacturing, voting bills pass legislature
City Council watered down Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to
just two proposals: upgrading parking meters and increased enforcement. Council and public opposition ultimately proved too much for increasing neighborhood rates and expanded evening hours at major hubs. The changes
mean less revenue for the city but reduced parking costs for
residents. Still, with the parking plan changing almost daily, it’s
unclear whether the current iteration will be the final proposal that
the Neighborhood Committee and City Council ultimately pass.Compare: Cranley’s original parking plan versus the parking privatization plan.Meanwhile, Xerox, the private operator that took over
Cincinnati’s parking meters in the parking privatization plan, proposed
its own version of a parking plan in which the company manages parking
meters while City Council retains control over setting hours, rates and
enforcement. Xerox says its plan will generate
more revenue. But Cranley rejected Xerox’s plan weeks ago.Commentary: “County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law.”Cranley yesterday announced he’s partnering with Dayton
Mayor Nan Whaley to get a share of $1.3 billion in federal funds that
would help attract manufacturing. The two cities will compete as one
community for the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities
Partnership. The competition’s 12 winners will each receive part of
the $1.3 billion pot. Even if Cincinnati and Dayton don’t win, Cranley
said the competition will at least get them thinking about working
together as a community for manufacturing jobs.The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday
approved controversial election bills that reduce the state’s early voting period by one week and restrict
counties’ abilities to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot
applications. Democrats say the measures are meant to suppress voters,
but Republicans argue the changes are supposed to set uniform standards
across the state. At least one top Ohio Republican previously admitted the
measures were supposed to suppress voters, particularly “the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Gov. John Kasich is now
the only person that stands between the bill becoming law.The city plans to undertake a pothole-fixing blitz in March.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will begin its
14-neighborhood rehabilitation plan in Evanston, where the agency will
target about 100 properties.With a “virtual online menu” and access to vocational
education in the seventh grade, Gov. Kasich says he wants to get Ohio students planning their careers much earlier.The Ohio House approved a plan that will give schools four
more calamity days — more popularly known as “snow days” — for the
current school year. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate and Kasich.U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown wants to close a loophole in
Medicare that costs seniors thousands of dollars in unexpected medical
bills.Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll found Ohioans
would choose Hillary Clinton over Kasich and other Republicans for
president.Whooping cough appears to be evolving in response to its vaccine.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comparing Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to the one he stopped in November
5 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
What's different between Mayor John Cranley's parking plan and the plan he helped kill in November?
by German Lopez
Proposal could increase parking enforcement, hours and rates
Mayor John Cranley on Feb. 12 officially unveiled his
plan for Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, providing the
first clear option for the city’s parking system since the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority agreed to halt the previous plan.
The proposal seeks to effectively replace the previous
administration’s parking privatization plan, which outsourced the city’s
parking assets to the Port Authority and several private companies, and maintain local control of the city’s parking assets.Here’s a breakdown of the plan and all its finer details.
What is Cranley’s parking plan?
It’s a plan for Cincinnati’s parking
meters, lots and garages. More specifically, Cranley calls his proposal a
“framework” that focuses on upgrading the city’s parking meters and keeps City Council’s control of parking rates and hours.
Cranley’s plan, based on a Feb. 7 memo from Walker Parking Consultants, achieves his goals in a few ways:
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to upgrade all parking meters to accept credit card payments.
• The amount of enforcement officers under the city’s
payroll would increase to 15, up from five, to provide greater coverage
of the city’s parking meters. (Currently, a few areas, including major
hubs like the University of Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine, are
effectively unenforced for two to five hours a day, according to Walker.)
• Neighborhood meter rates would go up by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. Downtown rates would remain at $2 an hour.
• Sundays and holidays remain free.
Cranley says the underlying idea is to maintain a few key
principles, particularly local control over rates and hours. He cautions
Walker’s proposal, including expanded enforcement hours, could change with public input and as City Council puts together the final plan.Does the plan let people use smartphones to pay for parking meters?
No. Cranley says the upgraded meters will support the
technology, but it will be up to council to decide whether it’s enabled in the
Smartphone capability is a double-edged sword: It introduces its own set of costs, including shorter battery life for meters. It also allows customers to avoid under- and overpaying at parking meters, which decreases citation and meter revenues. But smartphone access also increases ease of use, which could lead to higher revenues by making it easier to pay.
The parking privatization plan promised to provide smartphone access at all parking meters. The previous administration and Port
Authority championed the feature as key to increasing convenience and revenue.
OK, that explains the parking meters. What about the parking garages?
Cranley’s plan makes two changes to garages:
• The Port Authority would take over Fountain Square South
Garage. The Port would be required to cover expenses for the garage,
but any net revenue could be used on projects within the city.
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to build a garage at 7th and Broadway streets.
Otherwise, things remain the same as today.
In other words, the city would be on the hook for
parking garage repairs and upgrades, which Walker estimates would cost
roughly $8 million in capital expenses over the next five years.But the city would also continue directly receiving around $2 million per year in net revenue from parking garages, according to Walker.
Still, the city isn’t allowed under state law to use the revenue from parking garages for anything outside the parking system.The parking privatization plan tried to do away with the restriction by putting the Port Authority in charge of garages. State law allows agencies like the Port to tap into garage revenues for other uses, such as development projects.But without the previous administration’s plan, Cranley claims the Port Authority declined to take over more facilities beyond Fountain Square South
Garage. Given the rejection, Cranley says it’s up to council to figure out another way to leverage garage
revenues beyond putting them back in the parking system.What does Cranley’s plan do about the thousands of parking tickets already owed to the city?
Nothing. By Cranley’s own admission, the city needs to do a
better job collecting what it’s owed. But he says that’s something City
Council will have to deal with in the future.
So why did Cranley oppose the parking privatization plan?
Cranley vehemently opposed giving up local
control of the city’s parking assets. He warned that outsourcing meters to the Port Authority and private companies would create a for-profit incentive to
ratchet up parking rates and enforcement.
The previous administration disputed Cranley’s warnings.
They pointed out an advisory board, chaired by four Port Authority
appointees and one city appointee, would need to unanimously agree on
rate and hour changes, and the changes could be vetoed by the city
manager.Without any changes from the advisory board, the 30-year privatization plan hiked downtown parking meter rates by 25 cents every three years and neighborhood rates by 25 cents every six years. The plan also expanded enforcement hours to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in Over-the-Rhine and parts of downtown.
Still, City Council would lose its control of rates and hours under the privatization plan. Cranley and other opponents argued the outsourcing scheme could insulate the parking system from public — and voter — input.
Cranley also opposed the privatization plan’s financial
arrangement. Under the old deal, the city would receive a lump sum of
$85 million and annual installments of $3 million, as long as required
expenses, such as costly garage upgrades or repairs, were met.In comparison, the city currently gets roughly $3 million in net revenue from parking meters and another $2 million in net revenue from parking garages. (As noted earlier, the parking garage revenue can only be used for parking expenses.) Cranley characterizes the lump sum as
“borrowing from the future” because it uses upfront money that could
instead be taken in by the city as annual revenue.Related: Compare Cranley’s plan with the parking privatization plan.
Why does Cranley think his proposal is necessary? It solidifies the death of the parking privatization plan. That’s important to begin the process of legally dismantling the previous plan.The plan also increases net parking meter revenues from roughly $3 million to $6 million in the next budget year and more than $7 million per year within five years, according to Walker’s original estimates. (The estimates are likely too high because they assumed evening hours would expand around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But Cranley shelved the expansion of hours, with no estimates for how the changes will affect revenues.)Since parking meter revenue, unlike garage revenue, can be used for non-parking expenses, the extra revenue could help plug the $20 million gap in the $370 million operating budget.Why do some people oppose Cranley’s plan?
Some people supported the parking privatization plan. They
saw the lump sum as a great opportunity to invest in development
projects around the city. Without the lump sum, critics claim Cranley’s
plan accepts all the pain of the previous plan — increased
enforcement, rates and hours — for very little gain, even though the city would get more annual revenue and upgraded parking meters and garages.
Politics are also involved. After the contentious
streetcar debate, there’s not much Cranley can do without some critics speaking out.
When will Cranley’s plan go into effect?
City Council first has to approve Cranley’s plan for it to
become law. Council will likely take up and debate the plan at the
Neighborhood Committee on Feb. 24 and set a more concrete timeline
after that.This blog post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available. Latest update: Feb. 19.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
Parking plan targets budget, GOP could restrict early voting, e-cigarette bill advances
Mayor John Cranley says his parking plan intends to
alleviate Cincinnati’s ongoing budget woes by increasing parking
revenue, but the plan will need approval from a majority of City Council
to become law. The plan wouldn’t increase parking meter
rates downtown, but it would increase neighborhood rates by 25 cents to
75 cents an hour. The plan would also increase enforcement at parking
meters, which could lead to more tickets, and extend enforcement hours
to 9 p.m. around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville,
Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But the plan would not give control of the city’s parking meter rates and hours to outside entities, like
the parking privatization plan did. Cranley plans to send the proposal
to the Neighborhood Committee, with a full council vote possible in two
weeks.An Ohio House committee yesterday cleared a pair of
controversial election bills that would reduce the state’s early voting
period by one week — effectively eliminating a “Golden Week” in which
voters can register and vote at the same time — and restrict counties’
abilities to mail out absentee ballot applications. The bills wouldn’t
go into effect until after the May 6 primary. Democrats say the bills
are blatant attempts at voter suppression, but Republicans, some of whom
acknowledge they politically benefit from reduced access to voting,
say the reform is necessary to eliminate voting disparities between
urban and rural counties. The bills still need approval from the
Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich to
become law.A bill placing age requirements on electronic cigarettes
yesterday passed an Ohio Senate committee. Critics of the bill argue it
doesn’t go far enough because it puts e-cigarettes in a different
category than tobacco, which exempts e-cigarettes from higher taxes and
stricter regulations even though they contain addictive substances and
potential health risks. Kasich and the rest of the legislature need to OK the proposal before it becomes law.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reopened
three school-based health clinics closed after Neighborhood Health
Care’s abrupt shutdown.A poll worker in Avondale allegedly voted twice, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.The Ohio Department of Education plans to increase the
number of weeks schools can administer state tests to alleviate time
concerns brought on by excessive snow days.Meanwhile, the Ohio House plans to vote on a bill that would let schools take on more snow days this year.A Christian university located south of Columbus gets public dollars to teach “biblical truth,” an Akron Beacon Journal investigation found. And the school’s president and lobbyist just happen to sit on the Ohio Board of Education.NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw revealed he has cancer.RoboCop isn’t that far off from reality.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Another LGBT battle could reach court, Cranley crafts parking plan, fracking tax bill revised
A federal court in Cincinnati could soon decide whether
married same-sex parents should be recognized by Ohio on their
children’s birth certificates. Civil rights attorney Alphonse
Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who
married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the
couples adopt a child in Ohio. The lawsuit argues leaving one parent
unnamed perpetuates harmful social stigmas and potentially endangers a
child’s life by making it more difficult for a parent to get his child
help in case of emergencies. Although opponents of LGBT rights argue allowing gay couples to adopt hurts children, the research suggests widespread discrimination and same-sex parents’ limited rights are the real threats to gay couples’ sons and daughters.Mayor John Cranley is crafting a new plan to upgrade
Cincinnati’s parking system while retaining local control. Under the
drafted plan analyzed by The Business Courier, the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority would issue $25 million in bonds backed by
parking revenues. To pay for the new costs, parking meter rates in
neighborhoods — but not downtown — would increase by 25 cents per hour
to 75 cents per hour, and the city would hire more officers to increase
enforcement. The new parking meters would take credit card payments, but
smartphone payments currently aren’t in the plan.A revised version of the Ohio House’s fracking tax bill
increases the severance tax on oil and gas companies but cuts the income
tax more and directs funding to areas most affected by the state’s oil
and gas boom. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of
gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock
oil and gas reserves. Following its widespread adoption, the United
States, including Ohio, began pumping out natural gas at record levels.
But critics worry the technique could pollute and contaminate
surrounding air and water resources. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.As a result of the harsh winter, Cincinnati’s winter
shelter for the homeless has been extra busy this year. Some City
Council members appear to be considering a more standardized funding
plan for the shelter, which traditionally relies largely on private
funding.The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade will take a slight detour this year to avoid streetcar construction.No surprise here: Ohio is among the worst states for funding transit projects.Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland want to know what it
would take to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, which will
name the GOP’s presidential candidate.Fixing food deserts alone won’t make people eat healthier, a new study found.A Los Angeles newscaster mixed up Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne.Astronomers say they found the oldest known star in the
universe. At more than 13 billion years old, the star is about three
times the age of the Sun.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.