by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at
Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former
superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for
previously discovered incidents.
reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for
fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former
treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and
ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in
payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo
Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede.
“These two officials saw no boundaries in how they used
taxpayer dollars,” State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “With
each audit, we find more of the same: total disregard for the trust
placed in them.”
CCPA responded to the audit by stating it has terminated
the credit card and replaced it with two debit cards, which supposedly
have controls in place to require approval and keep track of who’s using
the cards and for what.
The school is also reviewing contracts for the next school
year to ensure no further overpayments are made, on top of requiring
payments be board-approved.
In March, the school fired Hamm and Millard, and the two
former school officials were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office. Their attorney, Mike Allen, claims the school board approved the spending, which could mean the women didn’t break any laws.
In June, another special audit
found CCPA had inappropriately spent $520,000 for various unnecessary
expenditures, including bonuses, Christmas gifts, Nutrisystem weight
loss products and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber concerts.
CCPA enrolls nearly 1,200 students for kindergarten
through 12th grade, with more than 95 percent coming from low-income
households, according to Ohio’s school report card data. The Ohio
Department of Education gave the school’s K-12 building in the West End a
“D” and its K-6 building in Madisonville a “B” for the 2011-2012 school
The school is set to receive roughly $6 million in state
dollars in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. That follows the
funding trend for Ohio’s charter schools, which are generally receiving
more state money in the recently approved two-year state budget.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:28 AM | Permalink
Another statistic adds doubt to state’s economic recovery
A new report shows Ohio has the fourth highest housing
foreclosure rate in the nation — another troubling statistic for a state
that, according to state officials, is supposed to be undergoing a
major economic boom.
The report from RealtyTrac,
a real estate information company, put Ohio’s foreclosure rate at 0.96
percent during the first half of 2013, a 2-percent increase from a
comparable period in 2012.
Ohio’s foreclosure rate beat only Florida (1.74 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent) and Illinois (1.2 percent) in the rankings.
Ohio’s bump up in foreclosures defies the national trend:
Foreclosure starts are on track to hit about 800,000 this year, down
from 1.1 million in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. The recovery follows
the 2007-2008 recession and the housing crisis that helped cause it,
which led to a spike in foreclosures.
State officials, particularly Gov. John Kasich, often
claim Ohio has led the nation in job and economic growth following the
recession, but recent statistics have raised doubts about the claim.
A June 16 infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job creation between April 2012 and April of this year, supporting claims from liberal and conservative think tanks that Ohio’s job growth has been stagnating in the past year.
Still, Ohio had a 7 percent unemployment rate in May, lower than the national rate of 7.6 percent.
The state also added 32,100 jobs in May — more than any
other state for that month. Whether that job growth holds up will be
made clearer on July 19, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services will release state job numbers for June.
Kasich on June 30 signed a state budget approved by the
Republican-controlled General Assembly that Republicans claim will spur
further job growth, but a CityBeat analysis calls that claim into question.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:52 PM | Permalink
Created Equal cites First Amendment rights for protest
Fountain Square will bear witness on July 11 to an
explicit anti-abortion video as part of a Midwest tour by Created Equal,
a Columbus-based anti-abortion group that describes itself as “a social
action movement seeking to end the greatest human rights injustice of
The “graphic abortion video,” as the group calls it,
utilizes images familiar to anyone who regularly passes by protests outside of Planned
Parenthood clinics: bloodied fetuses, separated fetal limbs and other
images that are meant to link fetuses to defenseless, dismembered
Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, says the display is necessary to grab people’s attention.
“Unfortunately, it’s required. This type of message has to
be strong because of the apathy in our culture to issues like abortion
and injustices like this,” he says.
Abortion-rights advocates have taken steps to stop Created Equal, with some signing a MoveOn.org petition to convince 3CDC, which manages events on Fountain Square, to pull its permit for the event.
“It is time to tell Created Equal that they are not
permitted to show graphic abortion footage on public space,” the
petition reads. “Fountain Square is a family friendly public space and
such footage is not appropriate in this venue. Their viewing date is
Thursday, July 11, 2013, stop this from going forward.”
Harrington says groups like MoveOn.org are attacking his
First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. He argues political
speech, such as his display, is completely protected by the U.S.
“If they wanted to come out and show bloody images of
women who had used coat hangers for abortions … it’s protected under
the First Amendment,” Harrington says. “We would defend their right to
do so. I would never circulate a petition to stop them.”
In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has been supportive of
free speech as long as it’s politically motivated, with the notable
exceptions of sexual content and airwave broadcasts.
Still, the Supreme Court on June 10 refused to consider
overturning an injunction from the Colorado Court of Appeals that’s
preventing an anti-abortion group from displaying graphic images outside
of a Denver church. The Colorado court argued that the images were too
“gruesome” and barred their display in areas where they might disturb
children. Keeping with tradition, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for
declining to hear the case.
For those who are genuinely offended by the graphic nature
of the images and not just obstructing the organization’s anti-abortion
message, Harrington says the message is worth the downsides: “I would urge them to
be equally if not more concerned for the children that are dying and
not simply for their own children, who might be disturbed by this.”
Created Equal is against abortion in most contexts, with
the sole exception of a situation in which the mother’s life is
undoubtedly in danger.
“You do the best you can to save both. When you can’t save both, you got to save one,” Harrington says.
Even then, Harrington says letting miscarriages naturally occur is typically his preferred option.
Thursday’s event will take place less than two weeks after
Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year state budget that limits access to
legal abortions, among other changes to school funding and taxes. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Republican policies are driving Ohioans — particularly the poor, women and minorities — into a perpetual cycle of near-poverty, and the victims sometimes can't even vote against it.
by German Lopez
Kasich pushes Medicaid expansion, county to repeal sewer hold, riverfront link coming
It’s not even two weeks since Gov. John Kasich signed the two-year state budget, and he’s already pushing for the federally funded Medicaid expansion again.
Kasich, a Republican, called on fellow advocates and Democrats to lobby
Republican legislators into supporting the expansion. The
administration says it would need legislation passed by the end of the
summer if it’s to get federal approval for an expansion by Jan. 1.
Studies found the expansion would save the state money and insure nearly
half a million Ohioans in the next decade. But Republican legislators passed on
it, claiming the federal government can’t afford the expansion even though the federal government has long upheld its commitment to Medicaid. CityBeat covered the state budget and Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners are expected later today to repeal a funding hold on sewer projects, just a couple months after the hold was passed in response to controversial
city laws. The city and county originally reached a compromise over the
laws, but the deal appeared to have fallen through when City Council failed to approve its end of the bargain. Still, commissioners are moving forward with removing the funding hold, according to WVXU. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in greater detail here.
Designers, engineers and architects will compete over how they’ll cover Fort Washington Way in a few months, and Business Courier has some possibilities
for where the project may go. The project is supposed to connect
downtown and the riverfront, maximize economic development, encourage
recreational activities, preserve openness and more. Although the first
phase is just finishing, The Banks has already won awards, making the final connection between the area and downtown all the more important to city and county officials.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) will hold a meeting tonight for its regional strategic plan.
Details are sparse, but OKI’s first plan since 2005 will likely put a
big emphasis on Cincinnati. A draft of the plan will likely be available
in 2014. The meeting will be at Memorial Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow was caught in a “pants on fire” statement by Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer after she claimed Ohio’s budget mandates women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe. The budget imposes new limits on legal abortions in Ohio
and effectively defunds contraceptive care, cancer screenings and other
non-abortion medical services at family planning clinics like Planned
Parenthood, but it doesn’t require women undergo a transvaginal
Cincinnati topped Terminix’s annual bed bug list for most calls related to the critters, but it avoided a spot on another list for the highest increase in calls.
Warren County’s racino is now hiring.
One good thing that came out of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: swag for needy Kenyan youth.
Antimatter particles were detected erupting from solar flares.
One major problem in brain training studies: People always realize they’re being tested, particularly if they’re playing Tetris for hours.
by German Lopez
Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down
Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling
— a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky
officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5
billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise,
given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in
danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern
Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done.
Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget.
The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one
stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many
moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains
since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the
rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s
casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign
for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state
A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage,
giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on
the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head
of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which
may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder
of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here.
Cincinnati Gardens is for sale.
Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced
its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic
venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment
venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in
a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.”
At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November.
In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family.
As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris
Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage
and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in
a different kind of public service here.
Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start
in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get
back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday
that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal.
Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.
State Republicans lower taxes for the rich, defund Planned Parenthood and try to block health care for the poor in Kasich-signed budget
1 Comment · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature,
Republican state officials on June 30 passed a budget that alters taxes,
schools, Medicaid and abortion services in Ohio, putting the state in a
controversial and politically charged path for the next two years.
by German Lopez
Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto
Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are
calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S.
Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of
the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and
protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated
measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with
forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s
decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving
ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by
the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a
statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our
nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”.
Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings
following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing
Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing
to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which
require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency
personnel to enter.
Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in
the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when
he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge
for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas
severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is
“silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel
on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state
treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers
against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to
come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here.
A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending
cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state
officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid.
The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt
deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked
in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework
sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican
legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here.
The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here.
Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?”
It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways.
Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine.
The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation.
Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).
by German Lopez
Governor signs budget, school funding falls short in long term, Medicaid expansion denied
Following approval from the Republican-controlled General
Assembly earlier in the week, Gov. John Kasich last night signed a $62
billion two-year state budget that makes sweeping changes to taxes
and takes numerous anti-abortion measures. On the tax front, Policy
Matters Ohio previously criticized the mix of income tax cuts and property and
sales tax hikes for favoring the wealthy.
Meanwhile, abortion-rights advocates say the budget will hurt women by
limiting access to abortion, while Republicans say they’re trying to protect the “sanctity of human life.”
The budget also makes changes to the school funding
formula that increases funding to schools by $700 million, but the
funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools got in 2009.
Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education
policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says
Republican legislators should have spent less time on tax reform and
more on education. Although Dyer acknowledges the final education plan is
more equitable than Kasich’s original proposal, he argues equity doesn’t matter much when schools are still underfunded.
One policy that didn’t make it into the final state
budget: the Medicaid expansion. Kasich strongly backed the expansion
throughout the budget process, but Republican concerns about federal
funding ultimately won out and kept the Medicaid expansion from the final version of the budget.
Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion
Coalition, says the expansion’s absence is irresponsible, but he’s optimistic
it will be passed in a stand-alone bill later on. Owens and other
supporters of the expansion argue it will help insure hundreds of
thousands of Ohioans and save the state money by placing more of the
funding burden on the federal government.
One beneficiary of the state budget: low-rated charter schools.
Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner today announced her
candidacy for Ohio secretary of state — a position she will attempt to
take from Republican Jon Husted. Turner is a vocal critic of
Republicans’ voting policies, which she says suppress voters,
particularly minorities and low-income Ohioans.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday released the first Human Trafficking Statistics Report,
which his office plans to release on an annual basis to continue
spotlighting Ohio’s trafficking problem. Law
enforcement identified 38 human trafficking victims in the last year,
but that’s only a fraction of the estimated thousands of Ohioans,
particularly youth and those “at risk,” who are reportedly trafficked
and abused each year.
The Cincinnati Park Board won the National/Facility Park Design Award for Smale Riverfront Park.
The award from the National Recreation and Park Association recognizes
the park’s design, the inclusiveness of the design process and how the
board met the local community’s needs for the park. This is just another
major national award for The Banks; earlier in the year, the project won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation.
Some Republicans are not taking last week’s U.S. Supreme
Court decision on same-sex marriage well: State Rep. John
Becker, a Republican from Clermont County, now says polygamy is inevitable.
Cincinnati is currently looking for a new police chief, and it already has 13 applications.
Ohio gas prices are down again this week.
Kasich says he’s not interested in running for president in 2016.
Apparently, the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a scientifically funky region last summer.
Here is an explanation of what happens when stars collide.
by German Lopez
But Medicaid funding increased by $1 billion
Despite strong backing from Republican Gov. John Kasich,
the Medicaid expansion didn’t make it into the final version of the
two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General
Assembly on Thursday.
Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid
Expansion Coalition, calls the expansion’s failure a disappointment, but he
says he remains optimistic the expansion will be taken up in future
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal
government is asking states to expand their Medicaid programs to 138
percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $32,499 for
a family of four.
States are given a powerful financial incentive for doing so: For the
first three years, the expansion is entirely paid for by the federal
government. Afterward, the federal commitment is dropped to 90
percent, where it will indefinitely remain.
The federal government on average pays about 57 percent of
Medicaid costs, while states pay for the rest. So the 90-percent match for the
expansion is a uniquely lucrative deal.
But Republican legislators say they’re skeptical the
federal government can afford such a large commitment to Medicaid, often
calling the size of the expansion unprecedented.
Owens claims there is a precedent for the Medicaid expansion: Medicaid. He says the federal government has historically upheld its commitment to Medicaid, which insures 2.2 million Ohioans. There’s no sign that will stop any time soon, according to Owens.
To support his claim, Owens cites scoring from the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan organization that
scores federal policy proposals to gauge their fiscal and economic
impact. In July 2012, the CBO found repealing Obamacare, which includes the
Medicaid expansion, would actually increase the federal deficit by $109 billion
over 10 years, which means the health reform law is an overall fiscal gain for the federal government.
At the same time, analysts have found the Medicaid expansion
would be fiscally beneficial for Ohio. Earlier this year, the Health Policy
Institute of Ohio released an analysis
that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million
Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.
Instead of being concerned about fiscal problems,
Owens concludes opponents of the Medicaid expansion simply dislike the
president, Obamacare and Medicaid.
Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans,
pushes back at that notion. He points out the state budget will increase
funding for Medicaid by $1 billion, allowing 231,000 more Ohioans to
enter the system.
“When people say that we’re not doing anything for
Medicaid, obviously that’s not true,” he says. “Certainly, we could have
gone down the road of not funding that particular provision.”
The increased funding is going to people who are already eligible
for Medicaid but, for whatever reason, aren’t currently enrolled. The
federal government expects the new enrollees to sign up as a result of
Obamacare raising awareness and education about health coverage.
In other words, the federal government already expects
Ohio to pay for these Medicaid enrollees. Failing to do so would have
likely violated the state’s Medicaid agreement with the federal government and,
as Dittoe acknowledges when asked, resulted in penalties.
Although the Medicaid expansion is out of the state
budget, there is a bill currently sitting in the House that would take
up the expansion. Dittoe says that bill will likely be looked at in the
For legislators, that might be politically prudent: A poll
released June 14 by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati found
63 percent of Ohioans support the Medicaid expansion, with a margin of
error of 3.3 percent. The University of Cincinnati's Institute for
Policy Research conducted the poll for the Health Foundation between May
19 and June 2.
The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled
General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it into law
Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion