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
Facial recognition program insecure, mayoral primary tomorrow, startup innovates cooking
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is taking steps to secure Ohio’s facial recognition program against hackers after potential problems were found.
The program allows law enforcement and other public officials to use a
simple photo to search driver’s license and mugshot databases to get
contact information. In the past, officials needed a name or address to
search such databases. But the program apparently wasn’t following
proper security protocols and lacked typical requirements for passwords,
including a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special
characters, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Previously, Gov. John Kasich compared the program’s potential for abuse to breaches of privacy made through federal surveillance programs such as the National Security Agency and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Tomorrow is the day of the mayoral primary, in which voters will decide between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble.
The two winners will move on to a head-to-head face-off on Nov. 5.
Currently, Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. It’s
difficult to predict how many people will turn out to vote, but only 21 percent of Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral primary in 2005.
A Cincinnati entrepreneur is aiming to innovate solar energy through his GoSun solar cooker, which will use solar collectors traditionally seen on solar panels to cook food. Patrick Sherwin launched a Kickstarter campaign
for the project on Sept. 5. He says his original interest in solar
energy came from a desire to move away from harmful fossil fuels that
are warming the planet, and this project gives him a chance to inspire a
small cultural shift.Councilman Chris Seelbach will today introduce new legislation
that will help crack down on cellphone theft by making it more
difficult to sell stolen devices. The initiative will require the
hundreds of dealers who currently buy cellphones second-hand to get
licensed with the city and keep full records of the transaction,
including a serial number of the device, a photocopy of the seller’s ID
and other contact information. Seelbach has likened the requirements to
existing regulations for pawn shops. The hope is that cracking down on
dealers will make stolen cellphones more difficult to sell and less
lucrative to potential thieves.
Four finalists remain in the search for Cincinnati’s new police chief: acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the
Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the
Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy
superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.
Butler County turns away more veterans seeking aid than any county in Ohio. In 2012, veterans asked for help 432 times; they were turned away nearly 40 percent of the time.
Although tax receipts are up, they’re coming in below estimate for the first two months of the new fiscal year. The lower-than-expected revenue could cause deficits in the state budget.
Ohio gas prices are rising toward the national average.
Human babies are apparently hardwired to pay attention to lemurs.
If you’re job searching, remember that a job interview can almost always go much worse:
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 4, 2013
It’s hard to imagine what Attorney
General Mike DeWine was thinking when he allowed his office to withhold
knowledge of the state’s facial recognition program for more than two
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:26 AM | Permalink
Kasich says he wants to slow down attorney general’s program
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to slow down Attorney
General Mike DeWine’s facial recognition program and work with the Ohio
legislature to review if changes are necessary.
“I am concerned about the level of government knowledge
about everything about us. I have concerns about the NSA. I have
concerns about not using the FISA court. I have concerns about an
overzealous group of people that are violating their own rules that have
been established,” Kasich told reporters today. “When it comes to this issue, there’s value in it, but I want to slow down and get this right.”
The governor’s comments linked the facial recognition program to
federal surveillance programs like the NSA and FISA, which have come
under scrutiny in the past few months after leaks unveiled broader
snooping and data collection of Americans’ private communications than
Kasich said he understands the tools provided by the
facial recognition program could be valuable to law enforcement and
security, but he added that he wants to ensure people’s rights are being
“When people say I have nothing to hide, that in and of
itself, as Peggy Noonan says, begins to erode the First Amendment,” he
said. “You begin worrying about what you say because somebody’s watching
The facial recognition 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.
Shortly after the plan was announced, the American Civil Liberties Union asked DeWine to shut down the program until proper protocols were put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy.
The program was in place for more than two months and used
for 2,677 searches before it was unveiled to the public. In that time
span, the program wasn’t reviewed by an outside group.
On Thursday, DeWine appointed a group of judges, law
enforcement and prosecutors to review the program’s protocols. The panel
has 60 days to come up with recommendations.
by German Lopez
Gay marriages recognized, facial recognition panel appointed, drug testing for welfare fails
The federal government announced yesterday that same-sex
marriages will be recognized for federal tax and Medicare purposes even
if the marriage is considered illegal in the state where the couple
resides. That means gay Ohioans could get married in a state
where it’s legal, such as Massachusetts or California, and have their
marriages recognized by the federal government even if the couple
lives in Ohio. The change does not apply to Social Security,
which will continue basing benefits on where couples live, not where
they got married. The changes also won’t apply to taxes at the local and
state level until those governments legalize same-sex marriage for
themselves. Freedom Ohio is currently working to get same-sex marriage
on Ohio’s ballot in 2014, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday appointed the panel
that will review the state’s facial recognition program. It includes
Democrats, Republicans, judges, law enforcement and prosecutors, but not
civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union,
that asked to be involved. Shortly after the program was formally
unveiled on Monday, the ACLU asked DeWine to shut it down
until proper protocols are put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to
privacy. 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
A Republican state senator is introducing legislation that
would attach drug testing to welfare benefits in Ohio, but similar
measures have failed in other states.
Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties would be
required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire to using
drugs in the past six months. In Utah, the state government spent more
than $30,000 screening welfare applicants, but only 12 people tested
positive, according to Deseret News.
The policy has also faced legal troubles, particularly in Florida, but
since the Ohio proposal only requires drug testing after information is
solicited through a questionnaire, it’s unclear whether privacy concerns
will hold up in court.
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, is speaking out against a $300 million light rail project
that would run from downtown Cincinnati to Milford, Ohio. Hartmann says
he’s concerned ridership numbers will be low and costs will be too
high. County commissioners are involved with the project through the
Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District.
Ex-Councilman John Cranley continues to outraise and outspend Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race. But money rarely matters in political campaigns, according to research and Cincinnati’s mayoral history.
The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is asking the city solicitor
to force Councilman Chris Seelbach to repay the city for his trip to
Washington, D.C., where Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council
member, received the White House’s Champion of Change Award. Seelbach
says the trip served a public purpose; mainly, the trip allowed him and
his staff to spend time with other award recipients to learn how to
better deal with LGBT issues.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble announced it backs legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio currently has no such law.
Ohio’s prison population is growing again,
which has spurred further calls from state officials to continue
pursuing sentencing reform. The state government in 2012 passed some
reform that weakened sentences and made it easier for convicts to have their records expunged, but Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director
Gary Mohr says more needs to be done.
Ohio gun owners are gathering in Columbus today to call on
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to support comprehensive background checks
for firearms, according to a press release from Mayors Against Illegal
Guns. Polling data released by the group found 83 percent of Ohioans
support comprehensive background checks.
A Democratic state representative is asking Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to explain why he’s accused of forcing the Ohio EPA’s top water watchdog to resign,
but Kasich’s people don’t seem to be taking the concern too seriously.
Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded to the demands by telling The Columbus Dispatch,
“If she had her way, we’d all be living on a collective farm cooking
organic quinoa over a dung fire. So I think we’ll take her views in
context.” George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s surface-water
division, was allegedly asked to step down by Kasich after Elmaraghy
claimed Ohio coal companies want water-pollution permits “that may have a
negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and
federal laws.” Republican lawmakers are notoriously friendly with oil,
gas and coal companies.
Two more are being investigated by the Hamilton County Board of Elections for illegally voting in Ohio while living in other states.
Gas prices are rising in time for Labor Day weekend, but they should be cheaper than last year.
The famous “47 percent” is now down to 43 percent.
The Tax Policy Center says the change is driven by the recovering
economy, rising incomes and cuts to federal assistance programs.
Antarctica appears to be bleeding in a phenomenon that shows life can exist without sunlight or oxygen.
Popular Science has an explainer for cruise missiles, the weapon that soon may be deployed against Syria.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union of
Ohio on Aug. 26 asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to temporarily shut down a facial
recognition program used by law enforcement.
by German Lopez
Former governor dies, facial recognition program criticized, county prosecutor mocks court
Former Gov. John Gilligan, a Cincinnati Democrat best known for winning the creation of the state income tax, died at 92
yesterday. Gilligan’s most lasting accomplishment was also what doomed
his career; the state income tax was unpopular when it passed, even
though it allowed Gilligan to boost funding for education, mental health
and law enforcement programs. Gilligan’s political career began in
Cincinnati Council. From there, he rose to U.S. representative and then
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio yesterday asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to shut down a facial recognition program
used by law enforcement until state officials verify and develop safety
protocols that protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. DeWine formally
unveiled the program in a press conference yesterday. It 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 program has been
live for more than two months and so far used for 2,677 searches, but until now it was kept hidden from the public and hasn’t
been checked by outside groups for proper safety protocols.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stepped down as Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter’s attorney and
called her handling of the court a “judicial circus.” Hunter has been
mired in controversy ever since she took the bench: She was found in
contempt by a higher court, and she’s been sued multiple times by media,
including four times by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Deters, who
under state law had to legally represent Hunter, said the legal troubles
were too much, but his stepping down also complies with Hunter’s wishes
to find her own hand-picked attorney.
The University of Cincinnati is one of the top colleges where students can get the most out of their money, according to PolicyMic.
UC performs better than average in the graduation rate, debt at time of
graduation, percentage of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants
and starting salary after graduation, yet the school manages to stay
only slightly above the national average for tuition and board and room
Mayor Mark Mallory previously approved eliminating city parking requirements,
which should allow residential development projects to greatly reduce
or completely toss out parking space mandates downtown. “The goal of the
ordinance is to encourage development in the urban core by permitting
developers to determine their own parking needs for downtown
developments,” said Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. “I firmly believe that
the market will work to meet parking demands better than government
minimum parking requirements.”
The tax changes passed in the state budget earlier this year, including an income tax cut and sales tax hike, will go into effect on Sept. 1. The changes have been criticized for favoring the wealthiest Ohioans, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Gov. John Kasich approved tax credits
that are expected to create more than 591 jobs statewide, with at least
40 of the jobs being created at the Benjamin Steel Company in
Nearly one in five workers at Ohio casinos has quit or been fired. High turnover isn’t unusual in the casino business, but the numbers give a clearer glimpse at the volatility.
Piloting a military drone can apparently take quite the psychological toll.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:32 PM | Permalink
Tools allow police to link photos of suspects to driver’s licenses and mug shots
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Monday asked
Attorney General Mike DeWine to shut down a facial recognition program
used by law enforcement until state officials verify and develop safety
protocols that protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy.
DeWine formally announced the program’s existence in a
press conference Monday. It 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 program has been live for more than two months and so
far used for 2,677 searches. In that time span, the program was kept
hidden from the public and hasn’t been checked by outside groups for
proper safety protocols.
The attorney general’s office is just now putting together
an independent panel of judges, public defenders, chiefs of police,
sheriffs and other public safety officials to look at the program and
gauge whether currently standing protections are adequate.“The time for press conferences and advisory boards was
months ago,” said Gary Daniels, associate director of ACLU of Ohio, in a
statement. “This system needs to be shut down until there are
meaningful, documented rules in place to keep this information secure,
protect the privacy of innocent people and prevent government abuse of
this new tool.”
Shortly after unveiling the program at a press conference,
DeWine acknowledged it should have been revealed to the public earlier:
“In hindsight, if I had to over again, we would have put out a release
the day that it went up or before that.”
Still, DeWine defended the program’s ability to connect law enforcement with criminal suspects.
“Historically for, I don’t know, decades, law enforcement
has had the ability to pull up the (Bureau of Motor Vehicles)
information,” DeWine said, before noting that similar facial recognition
programs have been adapted by federal officials and 28 other states.
DeWine also explained that he thinks the current
protections for the program are good enough, but he said it’s prudent to
have an independent group verify the standards.
Misusing the program qualifies as a fifth-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of six months to one year.
David Pepper, who’s running for attorney general in 2014
against DeWine, criticized the current attorney general for how the program has been handled.
“It is highly irresponsible for the Attorney General of
Ohio to launch something this expansive and this intrusive into the
lives of law-abiding citizens without ensuring the proper protocols were
already in place to protect our privacy,” Pepper said in a statement.
“To have kept this a secret for this long only makes it worse.”
DeWine said the independent group will be given 60 days to come up with recommendations. His office
intends to announce who will serve on the group in the next few days.
by German Lopez
Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues
With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial
recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer,
DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the
program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the
public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s
initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and
privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able
to abuse the new tool.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets
once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but
it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise
revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or
the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken
steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a
reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas.
The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time
injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents
of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s
parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking
rates and hours.
Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets
will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for
Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving
forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John
Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the
demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1
A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic
will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI
claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of
that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way.
Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary
Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to
provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation
funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals,
among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today
begins its first week back to school.
Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery.
Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than
Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has
stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by
half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average.
The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial.
NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:18 AM | Permalink
Meet Roger Ramundo, city budget cuts could be reduced, AG won't appeal marriage order
Meet Roger Jeremy Ramundo,
the man police shot and killed on July 24 after what’s now being called
a “life or death struggle.” Police say they first tried to subdue
Ramundo, who had a history of mental health problems. But when Ramundo
fired his gun once, an officer retaliated by firing two fatal shots into
Ramundo’s left back. For family members and colleagues, Ramundo’s death
came as a shock; none of them seemed to expect that he could turn
violent. Ramundo was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized
anxiety disorder, according to the health care worker who notified police that Ramundo left home with his licensed gun, but he had been refusing to take his medication for
either illness at the time of his death.
Budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas could be retroactively reduced or eliminated
with higher-than-projected revenues from the previous budget cycle,
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced yesterday. When City Council passed
the city’s operating budget in May, it had not yet received the full
revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. With the full
numbers expected to come in higher than originally projected, Council
will be able to evaluate options for what and how much can be restored.
Human services funding was cut by roughly one-third in the city budget,
putting it at 0.3 percent of overall spending — far below the city’s
historic goal of 1.5 percent.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won’t appeal the temporary restraining order that forces the state to recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple on their death certificate,
but DeWine says he’ll continue defending the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokesperson, noted that such restraining orders
are normally not susceptible to appeal. Hackley’s explanation contradicts an earlier report from The Cincinnati Enquirer that the order was going to be appealed. Meanwhile, FreedomOhio says it
will try to put an amendment legalizing marriage equality on the
November 2014 ballot, which CityBeat covered here when the group was still aiming for the 2013 ballot.
The I-71/MLK Interchange yesterday moved closer to its
$107.7 million funding goal when Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory
Council gave preliminary approval to Gov. John Kasich’s transportation
plan, which will use $3 billion raised through Ohio Turnpike revenues to
fund infrastructure projects around the state.
The Ohio Supreme Court will review whether anti-gambling opponents of racinos have standing to sue.
Among other issues, critics argue that Kasich’s legalization of video
lottery terminals didn’t represent an actual extension of the Ohio
Lottery, which is why the state claims it was allowed to legalize the
gambling machines without voter approval. The state’s Supreme Court says
it will decide the issue after it rules on a similar case involving
privatized development agency JobsOhio.
Democrats are voicing uncertainty about whether Republicans will actually take up a Medicaid expansion bill in September. Republican legislators rejected the expansion in the state budget,
but they’ve said they will take up the issue in the fall. The Health
Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion, which is funded mostly
through federal funds from Obamacare, would insure half a million
Ohioans and save the state money over the next decade.
Charter schools’ big challenge: finding space to house their facilities.
An Ohio gun group raised $12,000 to buy George Zimmerman a gun or security system.
Drivers, beware: Hackers could soon be crashing your cars.
Drinking coffee has been linked to a 50 percent lower risk of suicide.