by German Lopez
Western & Southern, American Financial Group lag behind national progress
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal” in corporate
America, but American Financial Group and Western & Southern Financial Group are
apparently exceptions. Both Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 companies
received a 0 percent for LGBT policies in the 2012 Corporate Equality
Index (CEI) from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).The index uses LGBT-related corporate policies to determine scores: non-discrimination policies including sexual
orientation and gender identity, company-provided domestic partner
health insurance, equal health coverage for transgender individuals,
organizational LGBT cultural competency, engagement in actions that
undermine LGBT equality and other categories. The full rankings, dubbed a
“Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.
In the Greater Cincinnati area, Cincinnati-based Omnicare,
Covington-based Ashland and Highland Heights-based General Cable fared
only slightly better than American Financial and Western & Southern. The three companies received 15 points for at
least including sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies.
Other Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 companies did much
better in HRC’s rankings. Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s
got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent and Fifth Third Bank got an
85 percent. The high scores show some companies are providing more to LGBT individuals than local, state and federal governments through equal access to health care and other benefits that aren't written into law.
On a national level, the five low-scoring Fortune 500 companies in Greater Cincinnati show a surprising level of backwardness. In general, the nationwide rankings were very positive
this year. In an emailed statement, HRC pointed out 252 companies got
100-percent scores in 2012, up from 13 companies in 1991. As HRC put it,
“For American companies, 100 percent is the new normal.”
CityBeat could not reach Western & Southern or
American Financial Group for immediate comment. This story will be
updated if comments become available.
by German Lopez
Kasich lacks re-election support, budget faces scrutiny, city increasing green incentives
For the first time since inauguration,
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a positive approval rating, but a plurality
of registered voters say Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term. The
Quinnipac University poll attributed the increase in Kasich’s approval
rating to “high levels of satisfaction among Ohio voters with life in
the Buckeye State.” About 42 percent of respondents approved of Kasich,
while 35 percent disapproved. About 42 percent said Kasich doesn’t
deserve a second term, while 36 percent said he does. The poll surveyed
1,165 registered voters with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
Last night, Cincinnati held its final public hearing
on City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed budget. About 40 people spoke
during the meeting, with many voicing concern about Media Bridges
funding, which CityBeat recently covered here. The budget has also come under scrutiny due to its privatization of parking services, but Dohoney says the choice is privatization or 344 layoffs.
Cincinnati plans to bolster its green building incentives.
City officials are trying to amend the city’s Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) standards to encourage higher levels of
investment in green projects. Since LEED standards were first approved
in 2009, they have been criticized for only offering strong incentives
for lower levels of certification. The amendment seeks to make the
higher levels of certification more appealing.
University Hospital is being renamed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
An “anti-immigrant bill” proposed by Cincinnati’s Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is not being received well by Innovation Ohio.
S.B. 323 seeks to limit workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants,
but the Ohio policy research group is not sure that’s a legitimate
problem. The organization is also worried the bill will impose a
regulatory burden on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Ohio’s
workers without providing extra funds and training to carry out the
Ohio is improving in its battle against human trafficking.
The state earned a “C” and it was labeled “most improved” in a new
report from the Polaris Project. But one state legislator wants to go
further by placing tougher standards on “johns” participating in the sex
trade. CityBeat previously wrote about the human trafficking problem in Ohio here.
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved enough credits to help create about 500 jobs in Greater Cincinnati.
Michigan may have recently passed its anti-union “right-to-work” law, but Gov. Kasich does not share a similar interest.
Kasich will announce
his changes to the Ohio Turnpike Thursday and Friday. The governor says
his proposed changes will unlock “greater wealth,” but critics are
worried Kasich is about to sell off a major public asset.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is still defending his decisions during the lead-up the election. Husted has now become infamous nationwide due to his pre-election record, which CityBeat wrote about here.Even Jesus would be jealous. Science can now turn human urine into brain cells.
by German Lopez
Local state senator proposes bill to limit payments to illegal immigrants
An Ohio policy research group is taking offense to a local
state senator’s “anti-immigrant bill.” If passed, S.B. 323, proposed in
April by Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, would require workers to prove their
legal status to work before receiving workers’ compensation, but
Innovation Ohio says the bill reaches too far to solve a problem that
might not even exist.
The bill was the topic of discussion at a Senate
Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee hearing on Nov. 27. At the
hearing, supporters argued the bill would stop compensating illegal
workers who aren’t supposed to be in Ohio to begin with. But opponents
argue that the details in the bill add too many extra problems.
In fact, the bill might be going after a problem that
doesn’t even exist. At an earlier hearing, Seitz, a Republican, said the state does not
collect data on the immigration status of workers receiving
compensation. To Brian Hoffman of Innovation Ohio, this means there’s no
way to know if the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has ever
compensated a single undocumented worker. “It just seems curious that
this bill is being introduced and has gotten three hearings when there’s
no proof that it’s actually even an issue,” he says.
Hoffman is also worried that the bill is imposing a new
regulatory burden on BWC without providing additional funds. In his
view, the state agency is essentially being told to do more without
additional resources to prepare or train regulators. Considering how
complicated the immigration issue can get, this makes Hoffman doubt the
agency will be able to properly carry out the new regulations.
From a broader perspective, the bill imposes regulatory hurdles on all injured workers just so they can get compensation they're entitled to under state law. “Talk about kicking someone when they’re down,” Hoffman says.
But the burden could hit Hispanics even harder and lead to
more discrimination in the workplace. After all, when employers are
clearing legal statuses, who are they more likely to question, someone with a
name like “Dexter Morgan” or someone with a name like “Angel Batista”?
In Hoffman’s view, the state should leave immigration
issues to the federal government and worry about more pressing issues:
“Why is the state legislature even wasting its time on the issue? There
are plenty of really good ideas to bring jobs back to Ohio. Why aren’t
they focused on those?”
The bill is still in committee, but it’s been the subject
of multiple hearings. It’s unlikely the Ohio Senate will take it up in
what’s left of the lame-duck session, but it could come back in the next
CityBeat was unable to reach Seitz for comment
despite repeated attempts through phone and email, in addition to a scheduled
interview that was canceled. This story will be updated if comment becomes available.
by German Lopez
Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops
The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal
regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the
deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three
years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However,
the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?
The identity of the Miami University student who put up
the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court
will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.
Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.
A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.
Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing.
About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2
percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could
shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a
higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make
the cut more progressive.
Gov. Kasich is ending the practice
of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could
potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with
bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.
If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on
Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court
today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First
Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private
associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also
do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the
animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law,
which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.
An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.
Ohio gas prices are still dropping.
The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.
by James McNair
Ohio Supreme Court has until Dec. 14 to consider settlement over sealing of case
The sealing of a criminal court case involving a former
Miami University student who posted a “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with
Rape” flier in a freshman dormitory now has the presiding judge
defending his decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. And he’s doing it with
the help of the Butler County prosecutor who endorsed the secrecy.
Robert Lyons, whose part-time job as the judge for Butler
County Area I Court supplements his income as a practicing attorney,
took the student’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct on Nov. 8. At the
request of the young man’s lawyer, Dennis Deters, the judge ordered the
case file and all printed references to the defendant’s name sealed from
public view. The order extended to paperwork generated by the Miami
University Police Department. In effect, other than the press coverage
it received, all record that the crime was committed and the perpetrator
was brought to justice doesn’t exist.
Six days later, the Cincinnati Enquirer filed suit
against Lyons with the Ohio Supreme Court. It said Lyons erred by
issuing a “blanket” seal of the case. It said he failed to “find by
clear and convincing evidence that the presumption of public access is
outweighed by a higher interest” and further failed to conduct a hearing
where the Enquirer could argue for public access. The Enquirer didn't mention in its initial report on the plea deal an intent to sue over the sealing, and to date it hasn’t reported on its own lawsuit.
Lyons was given until Dec. 14 to file an answer. What’s
weird is that Lyons is represented by Butler County’s Prosecuting
Attorney, Mike Gmoser. In Ohio, the county prosecutor serves as legal
counsel for county government, county agencies and school districts —
and represents them in court — as standard practice. As a private
practitioner, though, Lyons specializes in defending people accused of
drunken driving. Guess who sits at the opposing counsel’s table in those
cases? Yes, Gmoser’s deputy prosecutors.
Lyons’ unusual role as defender and decider of DWI cases drew umbrage from Gmoser in March. According to the Hamilton Journal-News,
Lyons the judge was about to rule on a motion to disallow the results
of an Intoxilyzer 8000 blood-alcohol testing device in a DWI case. Lyons
the lawyer, meanwhile, had challenged the validity of the machine in
other cases, and his firm ran seminars about its failings. At Gmoser’s
request, a higher court judge in July ordered Lyons to step down from
hearing 10 pending DWI cases.
Last Thursday, in his initial response to the Enquirer’s
lawsuit to open the rape tipster’s court file, Lyons hinted at the
possibility of not fighting the suit. He asked to have until Dec. 14 to
file a full response “so as to give settlement discussions an
opportunity to come to fruition.”
by German Lopez
With voter approval, Washington state embraces new freedoms
This morning, social conservatives around the world dug
themselves into Armageddon-resistant bunkers, preparing for what they
knew was coming. Today, marijuana and same-sex marriage were
being legalized in Washington state.
But the bunkers may have been a waste of time and money,
considering the end of the world didn’t occur. In fact, it seems like a lot
of people are happy with the legal changes, which voters approved on
From the perspective of this CityBeat writer, same-sex marriage would be great. It’s something I wrote about extensively before (“The Evolution of Equality,”
Nov. 28 issue). As a refresher, not only does same-sex marriage bring a
host of benefits to same-sex couples, but it also produces economic
benefits for everyone. A recent study from Bill
LaFayette, founder of Regionomics LLC, found that legalizing gay
marriage would grow Ohio’s gross domestic product, which measures
economic worth, by $100-$126 million within three years.
Marijuana has similar benefits. Not only does it give
people the freedom to put a relatively harmless plant into their bodies,
but it also provides a big boon to state budgets. For Washington, it’s
estimated the marijuana tax will bring in as much as $500 million a
Legalization also creates jobs and economic growth as
businesses pop up to sell the product and customers buy the plant to
toke up. Washington State’s Office of Financial Management estimates the
marijuana market will be worth about $1 billion in the state.
Considering the state is about 2 percent of the U.S. population, that
could be extrapolated to indicate a potential $50 billion nationwide
Still, public use of marijuana and driving while
intoxicated remain illegal. In a press conference Wednesday, Seattle
City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “If you're smoking in plain public view, you're
subject to a ticket. … Initiative 502 uses the alcohol model. If
drinking in public is disallowed, so is smoking marijuana in public.”
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) seems a bit
friendlier. In an email today, SPD told officers to only give verbal
warnings until further notice. The warnings should essentially tell
people to take their marijuana inside, or, as SPD spokesperson Jonah
Spangenthal-Lee put it on the SPD Blotter,
“The police department believes that, under state law, you may
responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a ‘Lord of the Rings’
marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”
The Washington law also faces possible federal resistance.
Even though the state legalized pot, the drug is still illegal under
federal law. That means the feds can still shut down marijuana
businesses and arrest buyers, just like they have with legal medical marijuana
dispensaries in the past.
In fact, maybe the limitations are what’s keeping the
apocalypse at bay. Maybe social conservatives will get to make use of
those bunkers if the rest of the country catches on to Washington’s
by German Lopez
Environment Ohio touts renewable energy’s health, job benefits
A Dec. 5 report is encouraging Cincinnati to become the solar
energy capital of Ohio and the broader region. The report, titled
“Building a Solar Cincinnati,” was put together by Environment Ohio to
show the benefits and potential of Cincinnati regarding solar power.
Christian Adams, who wrote the report along with Julian
Boggs, says Cincinnati is especially poised to take charge in this
renewable energy front, in contrast to the rest of the state, which gets
82 percent of its electricity from coal. Adams points to
the sustainability-minded city officials and public, a “budding solar business
sector” and the great business environment as the city as reasons why
Cincinnati could become a pivotal leader.
With 21 public solar installations to date, the city has
already seen some of the benefits of solar power. The most
obvious benefit is cleaner air, which leads to better overall health and
helps combat global warming. But the report points out that local solar
initiatives mean local jobs. “You can’t export these jobs,” Adams says.
“It’s a great opportunity for economic revitalization.”
With solar energy comes an array of job opportunities for
solar installers, solar designers, engineers, construction workers,
project managers, sales associates and marketing consultants. That’s
enough to create brisk job creation. The report points out
“energy-related segments of the clean economy added jobs at a torrid
pace over the last few years, bucking trends of the Great Recession.”
Still, there are hurdles.
Although solar energy saves money in the long term, installing solar
panels has a high upfront cost. The cost can make the short term too bleak for many potential customers.
To help overcome the short-term problem, the report suggests
third-party financing. In these financing agreements, customers agree to
give up roof space to have a solar power company install solar panels,
and then customers agree to buy their power needs from the company. It’s
a win for the solar power company because the panels eventually pay for
themselves through new customers, and it’s a win for the customer because
he sees more stable, lower energy costs and cleaner air. Adams points
out that a few businesses and individuals in the area have already taken part in such agreements with great success.
There are also some incentives already in place to
encourage solar energy. Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, which was passed in
2008, pushes utility companies into the renewable energy market with
Solar Renewable Energy Credits. These are credits utility companies must
earn to meet annual benchmarks by installing solar panels or purchasing
them from third parties. Duke Energy has followed the law’s
requirements by establishing its own renewable energy credit program.
Ohioans also have access to some tax breaks — the Energy
Conversion Facilities Sales Tax Exemption, Air-Quality Improvement Tax
Incentives and Qualified Energy Property Tax Exemptions — and loan
programs — the Energy Loan Fund and Advanced Energy Fund — that
encourage solar and other renewable energy sources.
Falkin, director of the city’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ),
says the report didn’t have much new information, but he’s glad
it can be used to push solar energy to the broader public. He touted the
benefits of job creation and reducing reliance on foreign energy
sources by moving toward energy independence.
For now, the city is mostly taking the approach of leading
by example. Falkin says the city is acting like a “model” for solar
energy. Cincinnati added solar installations to two city facilities this
year, and another will be added by the end of the month. Falkin’s
office is also working together with different organizations to keep any
Adams and Falkin both attended a Dec. 5 roundtable discussion
that engaged regional officials, including solar businesses,
environmental and sustainability groups, education leaders and the
Cincinnati Zoo. They both said the roundtable went well.
“I think all the right people are coming together and doing the right things to try to move us forward,” Falkin says.
by German Lopez
Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes
Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but
will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a
Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close.
The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform
the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week,
and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional
redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as
politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First
Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during
the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren
County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning
urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely
A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level.
Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve
Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making
more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional
district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what
they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the
wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study
that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative
impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.
Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback.
For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a
home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback
or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund,
which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the
Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when
the original stadium deal was made.
The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal
on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
(AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised
not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25
union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned
into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking
privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid
The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6
p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation
Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations.
But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will
retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who
see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination.
Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but,
under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul.
Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for
tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers
are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown
Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to
deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.
The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering
to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups.
The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory
Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.
The Ohio Senate will rework
a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to
enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on
improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards
are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping
from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a
D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its
top mark with an A.
The Ohio House passed
a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the
Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for
More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.
A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared
the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from
victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more
The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt
for not following a court order requiring the state agency to
compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result,
ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation
cases within 120 days.
We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.
Off the Streets graduation marks renowned purpose, hope for prostituted women
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The OTS program, created in 2006, is
spearheaded by Cincinnati Union Bethel and focuses on six areas of
need: emergency needs, housing, medical care, mental health, substance
abuse, education and employment.
by German Lopez
Cincinnati to work with SoMoLend in lending plan
The city of Cincinnati will be pairing up with a web-based
lending platform to help out small businesses and startups. With the approval of the
Small Business Advisory Committee, the city and SoMoLend will give up
to $400,000 in loans to stimulate economic
growth and job creation.
The partnership will aid small businesses and startups
through crowd funding, which connects multiple potential lenders so no
single investor, including the city government, is carrying the a bulk
of the burden. Since crowd funding gets more investors involved, it can
also raise more money for promising startups and small businesses.
Businesses will be picked through SoMoLend’s typical
application process, which emphasizes startups and small businesses.
Successful applicants usually have 15 or fewer employees, meet a few
standards regarding business and personal finances and prove they
actually need a commercial loan. In the past, businesses have raised as
much as $1 million in loans with SoMoLend.
Applicants will also have to go through the city’s
application process. The city government will look at how many jobs are
created, what’s the capital investment involved, how much the city will
give relative to private lenders and other similar metrics.
Even as the economy recovers, small businesses and
startups are having a tough time getting loans in comparison to bigger businesses. So the focus on small
businesses and startups is in part to bring beneficial fairness to the
system, says Meg Olberding, city spokesperson. “Access to capital at all
levels has to happen. And the city government feels like small
businesses are key to growth in our local economy.”
The partnership’s focus on startups is economically sound. Governments and politicians love to herald small businesses as the drivers of economic
growth, but studies suggest startups are more deserving of the praise. A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that young small businesses, or startups, are the key drivers to economic and job growth.
As for why SoMoLend was picked over other platforms,
Olberding says location and history played a role: “It’s a local small
business, so it’s … demonstrating what we’re talking about. It’s also a
demonstrated success in terms of bringing viable businesses to the
The partnership is part of an ongoing effort to spur small
businesses and startups in Cincinnati. SBAC was created in 2012 to pave
a clearer, better path that encourages such businesses in the city.
SBAC reviewed, gave feedback and approved the new partnership earlier
today.Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, head of SBAC, praised the
partnership in a statement: “I am excited that the SBAC approved the city’s new partnership with SoMoLend today. By making city lending more
efficient and expanding the network of small businesses receiving city
assistance, this new partnership fits well into the SBAC’s goal of
making Cincinnati a better place for small business.”