by German Lopez
Pepper calls on DeWine to stop court battle against local gay couple
The debate over same-sex marriage came to the forefront of
Ohio’s attorney general race after Democratic candidate David Pepper
drew up an online petition calling on Attorney General Mike DeWine to
drop a court battle against a local gay couple.
Pepper’s petition is in direct response to the legal
battle surrounding Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who legally married
in Maryland last year and won legal recognition of their marriage in
Arthur’s Ohio death certificate. (Arthur passed away after suffering
from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that causes
muscles to rapidly deteriorate.)
The case originally applied only to Obergefell and Arthur,
but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited equal
protection grounds to force state officials to acknowledge gay marriages
in all Ohio death certificates.
With DeWine’s office acting as the attorneys in the case, the state intends to appeal the ruling.
The attorney general’s office told CityBeat it’s up
to the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to decide
whether to appeal the ruling. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s
office declined to comment on whether DeWine offered legal advice for
or against the appeal.
But DeWine previously defended his intention to uphold Ohio’s
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2004.
“Our job is to defend Ohio’s constitution and defend what voters have voted on,” he told WKSU Public Radio.
In his petition, Pepper argues it’s DeWine’s duty to
uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the local couple’s
court-established marriage rights.
“What a waste of taxpayer dollars, and what a misuse of an
office whose duty is to stand up to — not for — the unconstitutional
treatment of Ohioans,” the petition reads.
While DeWine and Pepper will face off in the upcoming
November ballot, same-sex marriage could appear on the ballot as well — despite
disagreement among LGBT groups on the timing.Pepper’s petition can be read and signed here.
by German Lopez
Tea party drops challenge to Kasich, gay marriage in 2014 election, city faces parking issues
Tea party leader Ted Stevenot won’t run against Gov. John
Kasich in a Republican primary after all. The development came just four
days after Stevenot announced his candidacy. Stevenot said his decision
to pull out had nothing to do with his running mate’s tax problems,
which The Columbus Dispatch uncovered shortly after Stevenot
announced his intention to run. Stevenot’s withdrawal comes despite
building tea party opposition against Kasich over his support for the
Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion and his unwillingness to support
anti-union “right-to-work” legislation.
The debate over same-sex marriage reached the state
attorney general’s race Friday when Democratic candidate David Pepper
published an online petition calling on Republican Attorney General Mike
DeWine to stop the state-sanctioned legal battle against a local gay
couple. On Dec. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled that
state officials must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates,
including the union of Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur.
But the state is appealing the ruling. DeWine’s office said it’s up to
the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to appeal
Black’s decision. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s office
declined to comment whether he advised for or against appeal.When Pepper and DeWine face off in the November election, same-sex marriage legalization could appear on the ballot as
well — despite LGBT groups’ disagreement over the ballot initiative’s
With the parking privatization plan presumably dead, Mayor
John Cranley and City Council plan to address what to do with
Cincinnati’s lackluster parking system in the next couple months. By all
accounts, the system is broken and in need of upgrades. The question is
how to fund the upgrades and leverage parking revenue so it can better
finance basic services and development projects. When asked whether
privatization is still on the table, Cranley says he’s only open to
leasing parking garages, not parking meters, to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority.Another issue looming for city officials: Their desire to
structurally balance the budget without raising taxes or draconian
spending cuts. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.Frigid weather led area schools to close today,
including the region’s public universities. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.Dayton gets a new mayor today.
Ohio was snubbed for a coveted drone testing program, much
to the chagrin of state officials who are now touting partisan claims
as reasons why.Ohio gas prices dropped in time for the first full work week of 2014.A study found no evidence of time travelers on the Internet.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:31 PM | Permalink
New program requires better oversight and clear protocols, say criminal justice officials
A panel of nine criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access to Ohio’s facial recognition program and establishing protocols that would seek to make the program less prone to abuse. The panel’s recommendations follow a nearly two-month review of current procedures and public criticisms over the program’s secrecy and alleged lack of oversight.The panel broadly looked at the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), a state database of criminal justice histories and records, but largely focused on the controversial facial recognition program, which was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.The panel recommends limiting access of the facial recognition program to law enforcement, meaning police departments, sheriff’s offices, state highway patrol, county prosecuting attorneys and other local, state or federal bodies that enforce criminal laws or have employees who have the legal authority to carry out an arrest. Anyone else who wants to tap into the system would need to do so with written permission from the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).For those who would retain access, the panel says written policies and protocols should be developed and implemented. The recommendations extend from written rules for out-of-state officials to a training program that better establishes clear penalties for misuse and guidelines for reporting and prosecuting infractions.The report calls for improved monitoring of the system, which it states is “perhaps the most effective measure of whether the system is being properly implemented for its intended criminal justice purpose.” The oversight should include random audits of OHLEG, one person in charge of monitoring OHLEG’s use in each local agency and a model for ideal use, according to the report.The panel says the attorney general should also establish a steering committee comprised of criminal justice officials, along with an advisory group. The committee would be in charge of OHLEG training, monitoring and policy review, among other oversight functions.The panel also advises the attorney general’s office to launch an education campaign that tells the public of the potential benefits of OHLEG’s programs.Separately, the Ohio Public Defender’s Office recommends allowing citizens to access their own criminal history records through a secure Internet portal with a social security number, similar to AnnualCreditReport.com.The panel included former Ohio Supreme Court justices, judges and law enforcement officials, among other criminal justice leaders from around Ohio.DeWine, a Republican, says the facial recognition program
is a vital tool for law enforcement to more easily identify and catch
potential criminals. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties
Union of Ohio and Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper,
say the program was allowed to operate for far too long without public knowledge or proper
checks in place.When asked if DeWine will implement the recommendations, Lisa Hackley, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an email, “The Attorney General has committed to implementing the recommendations. Some are already in progress. Others, such as those requiring new computer programming, may take longer.”The full report:Updated at 10:04 p.m. with comment from the attorney general’s office.
by German Lopez
Streetcar renderings unveiled, county won't raise taxes, facial recognition scrutinized
CAF USA yesterday unveiled new renderings
for Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project. The city has hired CAF
to supply five cars, which will have four doors on each side and be
capable of moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also
completely low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and
moving around the streetcar easier. John Deatrick, the streetcar
project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s
been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in
August, and he expects to really test out the cars once the
Over-the-Rhine loop is completed in June 2015.
Hamilton County commissioners unanimously agreed
the 2014 budget won’t include tax increases. It’s also the first budget in
six years that won’t require major cuts. Hamilton County Administrator
Christian Sigman’s budget proposal doesn’t explicitly suggest a tax
hike, but it does explain how a sales tax hike could be used to offset
other expenditures, such as a cut in property taxes. But commissioners
all said they’re opposed to a sales tax hike. Commissioners will likely
retool the budget and pass the final version in November.
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper called on Ohio
to restrict access of the state’s facial recognition system to a small
group of a couple dozen specially trained law enforcement officers,
which would take calls for the system 24/7. Under Republican Attorney
General Mike DeWine, Ohio in June secretly launched a facial recognition
program that allows law enforcement to use a photo to search state
databases and connect suspects with contact information; previously,
searching the databases required a name or address. In his defense,
DeWine claimed the system is vital for law enforcement and widely used across the country. But an
investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer found Ohio’s system grants access to thousands more officials than other states’ systems.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections began a hearing yesterday on whether Randy Simes, owner of UrbanCincy.com,
can vote in Cincinnati after living in Chicago and moving to South
Korea. Simes registered to vote in the mayoral primary election through
Travis Estell’s address, where Simes says he stays when he’s in town.
Simes’ supporters say the conservative groups behind the hearing are
attacking him for political purposes because he supports the streetcar
project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls for mayor, both of which the
groups oppose. The attorney for the conservative groups said that he
doesn’t want voting “treated as a game.” Some members of the board of
elections said they were disturbed by the political undertones of the
hearing and a request for emails between Simes and Estell.
Gov. John Kasich yesterday announced voluntary guidelines
urging doctors to use caution when prescribing high levels of opioid
painkillers for long-term use to patients. The restrictions are in
response to a rise in prescription drug abuse and overdoses across the country. Some
members of the medical community say they’re concerned the guidelines
will lead to temporary disruption in pain care, but others say the kinks
should work themselves out in the long term.
Letters from State Treasurer Josh Mandel show he lobbied for Suarez Corp.
to seek relief from litigation for the company. The two letters were
obtained on Jan. 2 by a federal grand jury that later indicted Benjamin
Suarez, owner of Suarez Corp., and Michael Giorgo, chief financial
officer of the company, on charges of illegally funneling about $200,000
to Mandel and a Republican congressman’s campaigns in 2011.
Among states and the District of Columbia, WalletHub estimates Ohio is No. 32 most affected by the federal government shutdown. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in greater detail here.
Ohio gave 23 communities $8 million for local infrastructure improvements, but Cincinnati and Hamilton County were not among the recipients.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino held its spot as Ohio’s top-earning casino in September.
Enrollment to Cincinnati State increased despite a statewide decline. The university also received a $2.75 million manufacturing training grant.
Science confirmed that political extremists think they’re always right and everyone else is wrong.
Watch coffee shop customers freak out at a real-life Carrie:
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.
by German Lopez
Cranley outraises Qualls, city pension recommendations stalled, layoffs at 'The Enquirer'
Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race by $124,000, but the
history and research of money in politics suggest the lead might not
matter much, if at all. Mayor Mark Mallory was outspent more than
three-to-one in the 2005 mayoral race by David Pepper, but Mallory won
the vote 52-48 percent. Political scientists argue fundraising and
campaigns generally have a marginal impact, while economic growth, the
direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship,
name likability and recognition, and political affiliation have much
bigger effects. [Correction: This originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.]
The board that manages Cincinnati employees’ struggling pension system won’t make a recommendation to City Council Monday,
as originally planned, because it can’t decide how much taxpayers and
employees should suffer to help fix the $862 million unfunded liability.
Board members couldn’t agree on the proper balance between benefit
cuts and increased funding from the city. Credit rating agency Moody’s
on July 15 downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating
from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.” Moody’s
stated one of the biggest causes of concern for Cincinnati’s debt
outlook is its pension fund.
There were massive layoffs at The Cincinnati Enquirer
and its parent company Gannett yesterday, including the reported
closing of the newspaper’s Kentucky office. As of the latest update from
more than 200 people were laid off nationwide and 11 lost their jobs at
the Cincinnati offices. The news comes just two weeks after Gannett CEO
Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.”
Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held and raped three women at his house for years, yesterday was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
A few dozen residents organized by a conservative group asked the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority
to kill Cincinnati’s parking lease at a meeting Thursday. The Port is
taking control over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages as
part of a controversial deal that will net the city $92 million up front
and $3 million or more a year afterward. CityBeat covered the lease in further detail here.
While the Port Authority meeting apparently warranted live
tweeting and various articles from several outlets, other local media outlets never covered a streetcar social that involved roughly 200 supporters of the Cincinnati streetcar and Mayor Mallory.
State officials claim average costs for health insurance
will soar by 41 percent for Ohioans who buy coverage online under
Obamacare, but experts say the state’s claims are misleading.
“These are sticker prices, and very few people will pay these prices,”
said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family
Foundation. “Many will qualify for subsidies.” The Republican officials
touting the claims of higher costs, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, have opposed
Obamacare from the start.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is once again asking for an ethics probe
of Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio, the privatized development
agency established by Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of
Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio is creating thousands of job in
the state, but Democrats argue the agency’s secretive nature makes it
difficult to verify whether taxpayer dollars are being effectively used.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced a
statewide Internet cafe investigation spanning to an establishment in
Middletown. “We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to
be a very lengthy investigation,” DeWine said in a statement. “While it
is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe
the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal
gambling.” Earlier in the year, Gov. John Kasich and the state
legislature effectively banned Internet cafes, which they claimed were
hubs for online gambling and illegal activity.
The Ohio crime lab received about 3,300 untested rape kits
from law enforcement around the state and found nearly 400 DNA matches
after testing more than 1,300 of the kits. DeWine says the extensive tests are
helping solve sexual assault crimes.
The Cincinnati Zoo has a region-wide economic impact of $143 million, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Just one day after announcing he’s quitting the mayoral race, Libertarian Jim Berns is asking to rejoin. Berns withdrew from the race
Wednesday in protest of the mayoral primary election and debate
schedule. In a statement, he said he had changed his mind because
staying in the race supposedly allows him to shed light on important issues.
Keeping Cincinnati Beautiful is offering a one-day free recycling event Saturday for hard-to-recycle items.
Evolution punishes selfish people, according to a game theory study.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:14 PM | Permalink
Budget bill forces universities to decide between out-of-state tuition, providing documents
An amendment snuck into the budget bill passed by the
Republican-controlled Ohio House on April 18 would force public
universities to decide between charging lucrative out-of-state tuition
rates or providing out-of-state students with documents required for
voting in Ohio, raising concerns from Democrats that Republicans are
attempting to limit voting opportunities in the state once again.
The measure would force public universities to classify
students living on campus as in-state if they receive utility bills or
official letters that can be used for identification when voting in
Out-of-state tuition rates are typically higher than
in-state tuition rates, which means universities would be giving up
potentially millions in revenue to provide out-of-state students with
the proper documents.
For universities, the measure adds a financial incentive
to hold on to the documents. For out-of-state students, that could mean a
more difficult time getting the documents to vote in Ohio
Students can vote in Ohio if they have lived in the state
for at least 30 days, but voting requires proper identification and proof of residency. Utility
bills and official letters qualify, but student identification cards do
Republicans have been quick to defend the measure, while
Democrats have been quick to oppose it. For both sides, there’s a clear
political motivation: In the 2012 elections, 63 percent of Ohio voters
aged 18 to 29 supported Democratic President Barack Obama, while only 35
percent supported Republican Mitt Romney, according to exit poll data.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder justified the measure to the Toledo Blade:
“The real issue for local areas in particular [is], what happens when
somebody from New York City registers to vote. How do they vote on a
school levy? How do they vote on a sheriff’s race? To me, there is a
significant question, particularly the levies, as to what having people
who don’t have to pay for them would do in terms of voting on those
The comments prompted a response from Ohio Democrats,
particularly attorney general candidate David Pepper, a Greater
“It’s startling to see one of Ohio’s leaders voicing such a
blatantly unconstitutional justification for this cynical law,” Pepper
said in a statement. “The Constitution guarantees an individual’s right
to vote, regardless of what views they espouse (‘how ... they vote’),
whether they own property, or where they hail from originally. The
Speaker’s comments would quickly become Exhibit A in a successful
Constitutional challenge of this scheme to keep Ohio’s college students
Pepper’s statement went on to cite three U.S. Supreme Court cases to support his argument: Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15 from 1969, Carrington v. Rash from 1965 and Dunn v. Blumstein from 1972.
In Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, the
court argued any laws that discriminate against certain types of voters
must endure strict judicial scrutiny because “any unjustified
discrimination in determining who may participate in political affairs
or in the selection of public officials undermines the legitimacy of
representative government.” The ruling struck down a New York statute
that said those participating in school board elections must be property
owners, the spouses of property owners, lessors or a parent or guardian
of a child in the school district.
Pepper’s statement claims the ruling invalidates
Batchelder’s argument: “The Court rejected the state’s argument
(identical to the Speaker’s) that only those two groups had a primary
interest in such elections.”
In Carrington v. Rash, the Supreme Court ruled
states may not limit voting based on how someone may vote: “‘Fencing
out’ from the franchise a sector of the population because of the way
they may vote is constitutionally impermissible. ‘[T]he exercise of
rights so vital to the maintenance of democratic institutions’ ...
cannot constitutionally be obliterated because of a fear of the
political views of a particular group of bona fide residents.”
Similarly, Dunn v. Blumstein struck down
Tennessee’s one-year residency requirements for voting in a ruling that
said residents recently coming from other states can’t be barred from
voting: “[T]he fact that newly arrived [Tennesseeans] may have a more
national outlook than long-time residents, or even may retain a
viewpoint characteristic of the region from which they have come, is a
constitutionally impermissible reason for depriving them of their chance
to influence the electoral vote of their new home State.”
The Ohio House’s budget bill amendment is only one of many
attempts from Ohio Republicans to limit voting opportunities in the
state since 2011. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and
Gov. John Kasich approved two laws that reduced early voting hours.
Democrats and third-party groups threatened to bring the legislation to
referendum, but the Republican-controlled legislature and Kasich
repealed most of the measures and restored expanded early voting in Ohio
before the referendum came to a vote. A federal court also
restored early voting for all Ohioans for the three days prior to Election Day, which the previous repeals had only brought back for military voters.
In 2012, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican,
invoked uniform early voting hours, effectively eliminating most
weekend voting, and made last-minute changes that placed the burden of
proper identification on voters instead of poll workers, which Democrats
argued made verifying provisional ballots more difficult.
When asked to justify some of the measures, Doug Preisse,
close adviser to Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican
Party, wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I
really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to
accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
The race-based reasoning prompted a harsh response from
Democrats, who claimed Republicans were trying to suppress minority
voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
Beyond voting rights, the Ohio House budget bill defunds Planned Parenthood and forgoes the Medicaid expansion (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).The budget bill still has to be approved by the Ohio Senate and Kasich to become law.
8 Comments · Tuesday, February 8, 2011
We're not sure if Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters pays The Enquirer to handle his public relations, but he should. In a stunning example of Deters spinning his previous statements and the newspaper ignoring its previous article on the topic, The Enquirer reported Feb. 2 that Deters was angry and upset about a contract approved by county commissioners for use of an outside law firm.
1 Comment · Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Maybe it's easier to stand up for principle when you're retiring in a few weeks, but the Republican U.S. senator from Cleveland has never been afraid to buck his party, when needed. Now George Voinovich is calling out skittish President Obama and dogmatic GOP lawmakers for their deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone — including millionaires and billionaires — for the next two years.
The Tea Party's crazy contradictions put their stamp on the 2010 elections
2 Comments · Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The 2010 elections will be remembered mostly for the Tea Party movement, though the exact meaning of the movement is yet to be determined. If Republicans are successful in co-opting Tea Partiers' anti-government anger and gain majorities in the U.S. House and/or Senate, the movement will have "arrived." If voters wake up and realize that the Tea Party simply is a "populist" cover for the Republican Party, Democrats will be given further time to continue cleaning up the mess left by the Bush administration.
County officials turn to citizens for input
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Hamilton County officials are asking residents for help in determining what course of action to take to solve some of the most severe budget issues the county has ever faced. Ideas about what residents expect from county government and how they would solve funding dilemmas are being solicited through the 2011 Hamilton County Citizens Survey.