2 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
It makes me sad, angry and bewildered
every time I see a black person littering, just blatantly tossing down
with impunity and careless disregard for their surroundings the remnants
of their ghetto diets and their ghetto lifestyles
by Hannah McCartney
48 days ago
Hamilton County Municipal Court included on list of offenders
A new report from the ACLU of Ohio released today suggests that in many courts across Ohio, it's a crime just to be poor.The report, titled The Outskirts of Hope, delineates how several courts across Ohio, including Hamilton County Municipal Court, are unlawfully jailing people because they’re too impoverished to pay court fines. It’s a system called “debtors’ prisons,” a tool in which people are jailed for debts as small as a few hundred dollars, even when the offense committed could have been something as minor as allowing a dog to walk off its leash in public, according to Mike Brickner, ACLU Ohio's director of communications. “Today across Ohio, municipalities routinely imprison those who are unable to pay fines and court costs despite a 1983 United States Supreme Court decision declaring this practice to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution,” reads the report. It’s referring to Bearden v. Georgia, the landmark Supreme Court case in which the courts ruled it was unlawful to imprison someone for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the non-payment was “willful,” also upheld in the Ohio Constitution and Ohio Revised Code. That means that if a judge is able to determined than an individual actually does have the financial resources available to pay a court fine but refuses to do so, he or she is subject to incarceration, not for actually failing to pay the fines but for willfully refusing to do so. In the case of not being able to afford the fine, the jailing is for a civil misdoing, not a criminal one, and, according to the ACLU, that’s not something that merits jail time costly to the state of Ohio. The report examined 11 different counties in Ohio and found that seven of courts in at least seven counties, including Bryan Municipal Court, Hamilton County Municipal Court, Mansfield Municipal Court, Parma Municipal Court, Sandusky Municipal Court, Springboro Mayor’s Court and Norwalk Municipal Court, were using some form of “debtors’ prison” practices by illegally jailing people for not paying fines without the judge-certified ruling that they’re financially capable of doing so. In one finding, the ACLU points out that the staff at the Norwalk Municipal Court’s Clerk of Court Office in Huron County “openly admitted that whenever court records showed a person was incarcerated for ten days on a ‘contempt’ charge, this meant he or she had most likely been jailed for failure to pay fines.”The ACLU’s investigation found that over a six-month period, 22 percent — more than one in five — of the total bookings at the Huron County Jail were related to failure to pay fines. ACLU staff members attended multiple contempt hearings in the Norwalk Municipal Court and found a pattern for dealing with non-payment at hearings, noting that “people facing jail time were informed of the total amount owed and, without any inquiry into their financial situations, assigned arbitrary monthly payment plans. At no time were they informed of their right to counsel. The court informed them that, if they did not stay current in these payment plans, they would be required to turn themselves in to jail on a specific date several months in the future.” That’s where the vicious cycle begins; if the fines weren’t paid and the individual didn’t report to jail, he or she would be taken to jail and incarcerated for 10 days with no bond. Ten days later, they’d be released with an extra stack of fines involved in the arrest, creating more crippling debt and often causing this process to be repeated. The number of people living in poverty grew by 57.7 percent in Ohio from 1999 to 2011, according to the report — a trend mirrored across the Midwest. The ACLU calls for courts to be more transparent in communicating defendants their rights, consistently hold hearings to assess defendants' financial viability and "willfulness" to pay accumulated fines and provide retroactive debt credits to those wrongfully incarcerated based on circumstances of poverty. Brickner says ACLU Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor outlining the report, and he's hopeful the Supreme Court will issue statewide guidelines to make the laws extremely clear to judges across the state."With these 11 cases, we believe they're just the tip of the iceberg," says Brickner.
by German Lopez
64 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:20 AM | Permalink
Tax credits could be progressive alternative to governor's tax plan
Policy Matters Ohio is now pushing an earned income tax
credit (EITC) that would benefit the state’s poor and middle class,
including more than 822,000 working families. The plan could be a progressive replacement for Republican Gov. John Kasich’s proposed tax
plan, which some reports claim disproportionately benefits the wealthy.
The EITC is a tax credit targeted at working people who
have low to moderate income, particularly those with children. It is
currently used by the federal government, 24 states and Washington, D.C.
The report from Policy Matters,
a left-leaning policy research group, found a 10-percent EITC would
cost about $184 million per year, producing an estimated $224 million in
economic benefits, and a 20-percent EITC would cost about $367 million
per year, producing an estimated $446 million in economic benefits.
If state legislators set aside Gov. John Kasich’s tax
proposals, the state would be left with about $280.4 million in general
revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and about $690.2 million available in
fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis of Kasich’s budget bluebook.
That would be more than enough money in fiscal year 2014 to pay for a
10-percent EITC, and even a 20-percent EITC would only eat up about half
of available funds in fiscal year 2015.
Using a model from the nonpartisan Institute for Tax and
Economic Policy, the Policy Matters report found a state EITC would
benefit Ohioans making less than $51,000 per year. Under a 10-percent credit, qualifying families making less
than $18,000 would get $190 on average, qualifying families making
between $18,000 and $33,000 would get $323 on average and qualifying
families making between $33,000 and $51,000 would get $149 on average,
according to the report.
Under a 20-percent credit, benefits would be bumped up to
$381 on average for qualifying families making less than $18,000 per
year, $646 on average for qualifying families making between $18,000 and
$33,000 and $298 for qualifying families making between $33,000 and
$51,000, according to the report.
These benefits would then be spent in a way that helps
families, local communities and small businesses, according to the
Policy Matters report: “Families that claim the EITC use the refunds to pay for basic
needs like housing, food, transportation and child care. These purchases
stimulate local economies. A number of studies focusing on the economic
impacts of the EITC find that small businesses and other taxes benefit
from a cash infusion into the local economy.”
The report claims a state
EITC would also result in a fairer tax system that better helps the state’s low-
and middle-income earners, stronger incentives to work and better social and economic results
for EITC recipients.
The Policy Matters report touts the federal EITC, which
was created by former President Gerald Ford in 1975 and has been
expanded by every presidential administration since, to support adopting
a similar policy in the state: “The federal Earned Income Tax Credit
does more than any other program to keep working families out of
poverty. … (It) is lauded for its direct impact in keeping families with
children above the poverty line, making work pay, and sending federal
dollars to local communities.”
Anyone making $50,270 a year or less qualifies for the
federal EITC. The tax credit is built so it particularly benefits
families with children, and it “encourages families making at or near
minimum wage to work more hours since the credit has a longer, more
gradual phase-out range compared to other programs,” according to the
Policy Matters report.
The report says the federal EITC has already benefited more than
950,000 Ohio families with an average refund of $2,238.
In previous analyses, Policy Matters found Kasich’s tax
proposals disproportionately benefit the wealthy and actually raise
taxes on the state’s poor and middle class (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20). But Kasich says his tax plan will cut taxes for “job creators,” particularly the state’s small businesses.
The governor’s tax proposals are facing bipartisan
resistance, and the Republican-controlled Ohio House is currently
considering setting the proposals aside while the rest of the budget is
worked out, according to Gongwer.
In a press conference on March 14, local officials around
the state, including Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, suggested dropping
income tax cuts and instead using the revenue to restore local
government funding cuts, which have totaled $1.4 billion since Kasich
4 Comments · Thursday, January 3, 2013
I’ve been living in downtown Covington, Ky., since the
middle of July 2011. Having lived in Cincinnati for most of my adult
life and with a lot of that time working and/or living downtown,
Covington has been an adjustment for me. In my view, Downtown Covington
isn’t anything like the city across the river.
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 12, 2012
This election-era talk about lifting, taxing or not taxing America’s middle class doesn’t land or resonate with me. When I hear numbers like the possibility of $250,000 tax breaks for the
wealthy, it’s drowned out by the white noise poverty thrums through my
head or the rumbling hunger makes in my gut. It’s official: I am distracted by my own poverty.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: News
at 11:51 AM | Permalink
Experts weigh pros and cons in transition
In yet another effort to save tax dollars and fill holes in the state budget, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his health care advisers will streamline the state’s Medicaid system by altering the availability to care plans and condensing care regions. There are currently 38 health plans and 10 regions in the state of Ohio, which provide services to more than 1.6 million Ohioans each year. When changes in the system are implemented January 1, 2013, the availability will condense to five statewide plans and only three geographic regions, according to a press release from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The change is billed by Kasich's office as a way to simplify the way it offers coverage, eventually making a more sustainable, efficiently run program, which will supposedly trump the short-term inconveniences caused by the switch. According to The Enquirer,
Medicaid costs the state of Ohio around $4.8 billion each year — nearly
one fifth of the state’s budget. Those costs continue to grow. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the new plan will also mandate higher care standards and offer financial incentives to doctors, hospitals and other providers to help improve care quality and patient health.Selected managed care organizations include: Aetna Better Health of Ohio, CareSource, Meridian Health Plan, Paramount Advantage and United Healthcare Community Plan of Ohio. Managed care organizations who lost the bid include incumbent providers Centene, AmeriGroup and Molina Healthcare, among others. According to the Wall Street Journal, the loss of business marks a blow for those providers, who have benefited from covering "dual-eligible" patients — those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid services. WSJ reports that dual-eligible patients are seen as a $300 billion opportunity for managed care firms. Because Ohio is pushing to start better coordinating care for dual-eligible patients, dropped insurers will likely lose a piece of that pie. Streamlining the selection of managed care organizations available should help, in turn, streamline processes for dual-eligible patients, who often encounter difficultly in coordinating coverage with both Medicaid and Medicare services, says Jim Ashmore, performance improvement section chief for Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCJFS).ODJFS reports that the new providers were selected using a fair, through and open application process that was “based on applicants’ past performance in coordinating care and providing high-quality health outcomes.” Although the changes are generally perceived as a positive move forward, service providers, including doctors and health centers, acknowledge that the disruption in services could cause serious confusion when recipients are forced to find new providers and obtain new Medicaid cards. In Kentucky, the three private managed care companies
which provided Medicaid services to more than 500,000 patients have
received an influx of care-related complaints, including inefficiency in
authorizing services and payment issues. Ashmore challenges the notion that the transition will be a bumpy one, noting patients have little to worry about: When the transition is made, everyone will likely receive an enrollment package in the mail that will outline steps to switch over new care providers.
by Kevin Osborne
If you care about politics, no doubt you’ve heard by now that birth control opponent Rick Santorum scored upset victories Tuesday in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and Missouri’s non-binding primary. No delegates were awarded in any of the races, but the showing further undermines presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s efforts to solidify his image as Republican frontrunner.One of the best number crunchers around, Nate Silver at the FiveThirtyEight blog, says the latest results mean Romney will have a long slog to win the party’s nomination. Given history and voter demographics, Romney should’ve easily won in Minnesota and Colorado and the fact that he didn’t should serve as a warning for him, Silver adds.
by Danny Cross
Posted In: 2011 Election
, 2012 Election
, Occupy Cincinnati
, Occupy Wall Street
, Social Justice
, County Commission
at 11:23 AM | Permalink
The Hamilton County Commissioners' stadium funding failures have caused County Auditor Dusty Rhodes to describe a “dream world” where politicians think their inaction doesn't affect anybody. Today's news that the stadium fund will be bankrupt by March without additional funding has not deterred Republican Chris Monzel and Democrat Todd Portune from giving property owners the tax credit that convinced them to vote for the 1996 sales tax increase."It would be the height of irresponsibly to commit funds they knew were not there," Rhodes said. "I've long criticized various governments for living in dream world. "This takes it to a whole new level," Rhodes said.
by Danny Cross
Posted In: Occupy Wall Street
, Occupy Cincinnati
, 2011 Election
, 2012 Election
, Social Justice
, President Obama
at 08:59 AM | Permalink
The Cincinnati Enquirer announced its endorsements over the weekend, and four incumbents were left thinking, “What the [expletive] did I do?!?” The current councilpersons who the paper decided not to endorse are Republican Wayne Lippert, who was appointed in March, and Republicans Leslie Ghiz and Charlie Winburn, along with Democrat Cecil Thomas. Ghiz was described as having a penchant for starting arguments that have been “personal, petty and nasty,” while Winburn's “unpredictable behavior” was noted along with Thomas' problems fully grasping budget and finance issues.
by Danny Cross
Approximately 50 Occupy Cincinnati protesters attended yesterday's City Council meeting to testify against Piatt Park's 10 p.m. closing time. Negotiations between the city and protesters is ongoing, according to reports, but no agreement was made yesterday after protesters turned down an offer of a new place to stay overnight and the city declined to let the group stay in the park under new restrictions. Councilman Chris Bortz and Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz, both of whom have connections to property along the park, have brought up the possibility that if protesters aren't removed that someday the city will have to let the Ku Klux Klan camp out. Ghiz yesterday was criticized by protesters for posting on Facebook the private information of two people who wrote emails criticizing her (more on that here). CityBeat reflected on the situation again here.