by German Lopez
72 days ago
City plans to add firefighters, abortion clinics under threat, Kasich gets union supporters
Mayor John Cranley yesterday announced a plan to add
another recruit class to the Cincinnati Fire Department and effectively
eliminate brownouts, but it remains unclear how the class will be paid
for in the long-term. The Fire Department applied for a federal grant
that would cover the costs for two years, but the city would need to pay for the new firefighters’ salaries after that. To some City Council members, the proposal, along
with other plans to add more police recruits and fund a jobs program
for the long-term unemployed, raises questions about what will get cut
in the budget to pay for the new costs.Gov. John Kasich’s administration has led an aggressive
effort to shut down abortion clinics around the state, and a clinic in
Sharonville, Ohio, could be the next to close after the administration
denied a request that would have allowed the clinic to stay open without an
emergency patient transfer agreement. The process has apparently
involved high-ranking officials in the Ohio Department of Health, which
one regulator says is unusual. The
threat to the Sharonville clinic follows the passage of several new anti-abortion
regulations through the latest state budget, but state officials say the
new regulations were unnecessary to deny the Sharonville clinic’s
request to stay open.Unions broadly support Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign, but at least one union-funded group,
Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, seems to be throwing its
weight behind Kasich, a Republican. The surprising revelation shows
not every union group has kept a grudge against Kasich and other
Republicans after they tried to limit public employees’ collective
bargaining rights through Senate Bill 5 in 2011. ACT Ohio says its
support for Kasich is related to jobs, particularly Kasich’s support for
infrastructure projects. The jobs market actually stagnated after
Kasich took office, which some political scientists say could
cost Kasich his re-election bid even though economists say the governor isn’t to blame.Talk of tolls continues threatening the $2.65 billion
Brent Spence Bridge project as opposition from Northern Kentuckians remains strong. Ohio and Kentucky officials insist tolls are necessary to replace
the supposedly dangerous bridge because the federal government doesn’t
seem willing to pick up the tab.
Ohio gas prices keep rising.A Dayton University student froze to death after falling asleep outside, with alcohol a possible factor.Airplane pilots often head to the wrong airport, according to new reports.Watch people tightrope walk between hot air balloons.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
93 days ago
The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes
If his speeches and other comments are any indication,
Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern
Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.
In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear
he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to
reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their
best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host
of other issues.
Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what
better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what
they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.
On voting rights:
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the
right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I
cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a
democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can
only submit to the edict of others.”King and other civil rights activists saw the right
to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights
Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination
in the voting booth.
“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient
misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly
citizens,” King said.
More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo
several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead,
Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and
poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top
Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also
help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the
voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American —
voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin
County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an
email to The Columbus Dispatch.
In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches
and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.On labor unions and “right to work”:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard
against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a
law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to
destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which
unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King
said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws
have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there
are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We
demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum
on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to
the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.
But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some
restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the
Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a
bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective
Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to
the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly
rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge
political boost to unions and Democrats.Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The
tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an
anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today. On the death penalty:
“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any
crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford
University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern
criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in
the nature of God.”King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even
for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and
study of criminology.
Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.
In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.
The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed
use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push
new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected
the Republican majority will ignore the bills.Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.On health care:
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care
is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin
Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical
Committee for Human Rights.
Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed
legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer
system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes
closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’
opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care
To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the
“inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by
aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican
Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority
refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget
and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done
through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative
Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.On reproductive rights:
“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family
planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security
and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There
are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal
existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an
understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family
related in size to his community environment and to the income potential
he can command.”King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.
Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported
abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian,
accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the
Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive
rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly
going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.
In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority
passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other
comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit
family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.
Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his
comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family
planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
by German Lopez
Streetcar track arrives, thousands to get new ballots, "right to work" supporters aim for 2014
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
City leaders will host an event today to lay down the
first streetcar track. The event will take place at 11 a.m. near Music
Hall at Elm and 12th streets. The moment has been years in the making
for Cincinnati, which continued pursuing the streetcar project through
two referendums, Gov. John Kasich’s decision to pull $52 million from
the project and a separate $17.4 million budget gap. Meanwhile, ex-Councilman John Cranley, citing costs, says he would cancel the project
if he wins the mayoral election against streetcar supporter Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls on Nov. 5, even though canceling at this point could cost more than completing the project.
More than 3,000 Cincinnatians who already voted early will get new ballots in the mail
after an Ohio Supreme Court decision forced the Hamilton County Board
of Elections to change the ballot language for Issue 4, the tea
party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s pension system. Sally Krisel, deputy director of the
Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the old ballots will at least
count for every candidate and issue except Issue 4, but the 3,000-plus
voters could have to refile their ballots to have their votes counted on
the controversial pension issue. The board will make the final decision
on whether to count the old votes for or against Issue 4 after it hears from state officials and
reviews election law, Krisel says.
Supporters of a type of anti-union law infamously dubbed “right to work” say they’re gathering petitions
to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. The anti-union proposal
wouldn’t ban unions, but it would significantly weaken them by banning
agreements between companies and unions that mandate union membership
for employees and allow unions to collect dues and fees from nonunion
members. The proposal first lost in Ohio in 1958, and it’s been a
“flashpoint” for union politics ever since, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Cranley says he’d pick a Democrat as his vice mayor
if elected to office. The announcement came on the same day a group of
Democratic ward chairs pressured him to announce he’d pick a Democrat as
his vice mayor. It was previously rumored that Cranley would choose
Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman over any of the Democrats on
City Council. The news is the second time in a week Cranley attempted to
rebuke the idea that he’s the conservative alternative to Qualls. Previously, Cranley told CityBeat
he doesn’t want and would reject an endorsement from the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group
with a history of anti-gay causes.
In a 3-1 vote, the Hamilton County Board of Elections decided to keep Randy Simes, the pro-streetcar founder of UrbanCincy.com,
on the local voter rolls. Tea party groups contested Simes’ ability to
vote in Cincinnati because he’s currently on assignment in South Korea
and they believed he lived in Chicago when he voted in the Sept. 10
mayoral primary. But Simes says he intends to return to Cincinnati once
he completes his assignment in South Korea, leading election officials
to conclude that the case is similar to when Procter & Gamble or
General Electric employees work abroad but retain their right to vote in
Cincinnati. Simes’ supporters said the whole case reeked of politics;
the tea party groups behind the charges oppose Qualls for mayor, who
Simes openly supports.
Cincinnati yesterday broke ground
on its new police headquarters in District 3, which
covers East Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Lower Price Hill,
Millvale, North Fairmount, Riverside, Roll Hill, Sayler Park,
Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, West Price Hill and
Westwood on the West Side.
WCPO will host a mayoral candidate debate between Qualls and Cranley tonight at 7 p.m. Submit questions for the candidates here.
The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday hosted an online chat with streetcar project executive John Deatrick. Check out the replay here.
Mercy Health hopes to sell two hospitals to consolidate its medical services on the West Side of Cincinnati.
Headline: “Man grabs attacking black bear’s tongue.”
Here’s an army robot firing a machine gun:
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
Council to rework "responsible bidder" ordinance
Cincinnati and Hamilton County today announced a compromise that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects, allowing the projects to move forward. As a condition, the city will have to rework and repeal the controversial laws that incited county commissioners into approving the hold in the first place.As part of the deal, Commissioner Chris Monzel will ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to immediately repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.On the city's side, Councilman Chris Seelbach will ask City Council to immediately repeal so-called "local hire" and "local preference" rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors' workforce be local residents.The city, county and their partners will then work on changing the city's responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug. 1.In May, City Council modified the responsible bidder ordinance originally passed in June 2012. The changes were supposed to trigger in August, but the compromise may alter those changes altogether. Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.The city argued the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county criticized the rules for supposedly favoring unions and imposing extra costs on MSD projects.Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati's sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati's history.But the project was effectively halted by the county commissioners' funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.CityBeat covered the county-city conflict in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
EPA approves sewer plan, anti-union law gets hearing, DeWine to speed synthetic drug bans
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Mill Creek sewer overhaul plan
that includes bringing back a long-buried creek in the area. The
unconventional strategy is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
attempt at dealing with storm overflow in a green, sustainable manner
that also saves taxpayers money — particularly in comparison to an
expensive deep underground tunnel that the EPA originally suggested. CityBeat previously covered MSD’s green plans in further detail here.
A law that would ban mandatory union membership is temporarily back on the Ohio House agenda,
leaving union advocates worried that Republicans are trying to push the
anti-union law, which supporters of the change call “right to work,” once again.
Still, lawmakers say they’re only giving the law one hearing as
required by House rules for legislation introduced early on in the
session. Under current law, employers and unions are allowed to agree to mandating union membership for employees, but the anti-union law would
bar that agreement. Many states have already taken up similar laws, and
they’ve been linked to a significant decline of unions around the
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is partnering with Ohio
State Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Kyle Parker to continue the
fight against synthetic drugs. In a statement, DeWine’s office said the
partnership will help state officials expedite the process of banning
synthetic drugs as they are found. “Despite the success of House Bill 334,
which outlawed a multitude of synthetic drugs in 2012, rogue chemists
continue to create new, dangerous chemicals that fall outside of Ohio's
controlled substances law,” DeWine said in a statement.
Cost for vehicle registration in Ohio could go up under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.
Two more alleged voter fraud cases were sent to the county prosecutor.
So far, most of the Hamilton County voter fraud cases involve people voting twice —
supposedly on accident — by first early voting and then voting on
A Gillette commercial is at the center of the most important question of our time: How does Superman shave?
The “cutest couple” at a suburban New York school is two boys.
Being from Ohio may have ruined Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote.
In case you missed it, here is the news section for the latest issue of CityBeat:
Cover story: “From
the Inside: Inmates told CityBeat about violence, staff ineptitude and
unsanitary conditions inside Ohio’s private prison. Then came the
surprise inspections.”News: “What’s On the Books?: Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state”Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics”
by German Lopez
Streetcar budget fixes detailed, Senate kills 'right to work,' county fights infant mortality
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave his suggestions for fixing the streetcar budget gap Tuesday, and CityBeat analyzed the details here. The suggestion, which include temporarily using front-loaded Music Hall funds and pulling money from other capital projects, are capital budget items that can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits in state law, so if City Council approved the suggestions, the streetcar would not be saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget.Ohio Senate Republicans seem unlikely to take up so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation after it was proposed in the Ohio House. RTW legislation prevents unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership to be hired for a job, significantly weakening a union's leverage in negotiations by reducing membership. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically around the nation. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the RTW bills and compare them to S.B. 5, a 2011 bill backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining powers for public employees and significantly reduced public sector unions' political power.Hamilton County commissioners approved a county-wide collaborative between health and government agencies to help reduce the county's infant mortality rate, which has exceeded the national average for more than a decade. Funding for the program will come in part from the sale of Drake Hospital to UC Health.With a 7-2 vote yesterday, City Council updated its "responsible bidder" ordinance, which requires job training from contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District, to close loopholes and include Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the charge on the changes, which were opposed by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn.Ohio Senate Democrats are still pushing the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found would insure 456,000 Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade. Ohio House Republicans effectively rejected the expansion with their budget bill, which the Ohio Senate is now reviewing. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.The state's Public Utilities Commissions of Ohio approved a 2.9 percent rate hike for Duke Energy, which will cost customers an average of $3.72 every month.Concealed carry permits issued in Ohio nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, following a wave of mass shootings in the past year and talks of federal gun control legislation.Real headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: "How much skin is too much skin for teens at prom?"A Pennsylvania woman who had been missing for 11 years turned herself in to authorities in Florida.New research shows early American settlers at Jamestown, Va., ate each other.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The city of Cincinnati and a union
representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court
settlement for a lawsuit involving the city’s pension program.
by Andy Brownfield
City workers would get raises, protection from layoffs if City Council approves parking plan
In order to win the support of the largest city employees
union for the leasing of Cincinnati’s parking facilities, the city
administration has agreed to pay raises and no layoffs for three years.
There’s a catch — municipal employees only get the raises
and job security if the city’s parking meters, garages and surface lots
are leased to a private company for 30 years.
City Manager Milton Dohoney wants to lease the facilities
for at least $40 million upfront and a share of parking profits for the
next 30 years. He’d use $21 million of the upfront payment to patch a
$34 million deficit in the city’s budget.
During recent budget hearings before City Council, Dohoney
said extra revenue was needed to avoid the layoff of 344 city
In a memo to the mayor and city council members, Dohoney outlined the agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Any municipal employees who will lose their jobs because of the deal would be placed in other city jobs with no loss of wages. No city employees covered by the union would be laid off between 2013 and 2016. City employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living
raise for the 2013-2014 contract year and another 1 percent raise for
the next contract year. AFSCME members will continue city vehicle maintenance work from 2013-2016.
However, if City Council doesn’t approve of the plan to privatize parking, city employees get nothing.
Public employees in Cincinnati have not been given raises
in almost four years. Meanwhile, council voted last month to give Dohoney a 10
percent raise and a $35,000 bonus. Dohoney had not received a merit raise since 2007, but had collected cost of living adjustments and bonuses over the years.
by Andy Brownfield
Council members urge city to investigate worker wages
Some members of city council agreed that the city needs to
take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer
money, but they took no action during a special joint committee meeting
Thursday to discuss allegations that workers were being underpaid at the
University Square development in Clifton.
Council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell
Young presented a video investigation they conducted, which included interviews
with workers on the project who claim they were being taken advantage of
by the University Square developers.
Under Ohio and Cincinnati law, workers on projects funded
by taxpayers must be paid a so-called “prevailing wage” (the same as a
unionized worker) and be given benefits.
In Cincinnati, that wage is $23.17 an hour for the carpentry work done by the workers interviewed for the video.
The workers in the video claimed they were paid $500 for working a 60-hour week.
“Five-hundred dollars a week to me when you don’t have a
job, that’s a lot,” said Garrick Foxx, a construction worker on the
“But actually when you average it out, it’s not. Like to
the hour-wise it’s probably like 9-something, so like I could actually
make that working at McDonalds.”
The University Square developer — a collaboration between
Towne Properties and Al. Neyer, Inc. — is building a complex with a
parking garage, residential units and retail space.
The City of Cincinnati has $21 million invested in the
parking garage. The State of Ohio recently ruled that the prevailing
wage provisions apply only workers constructing the garage that the city
has money invested in.
Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said the controversy was
ginned up by unions and it hasn’t been proven that workers are being
“All of this was started by the unions themselves because
they became very unhappy when the State of Ohio said a sizeable portion
of our project was not subject to prevailing wage,” Bortz said. “They
tried then to discredit and intimidate anyone who is on the other side
of the table.”
Bortz said he agreed to pay a prevailing wage even to
workers who worked on parts of the project not subject to the law. He
said he cuts a check to the subcontractors based on that agreement.
“Whether any of those subcontractors might have been
unfair to the workers, we do not know,” Bortz said. “If they were, they
should be made to be fair.”
Deputy City Solicitor Aaron Herzig said if the contract
required a particular wage be paid and it wasn’t, the city can bring a
breach of contract action against the developers. But to start an
investigation, a complaint must first be made.The council members asked that their investigation be considered a formal complaint.