by German Lopez
Bill could reduce voting, panel wants facial recognition limits, governors debate Obamacare
A Republican-proposed bill in the Ohio legislature is drawing criticism from voting rights advocates
because they say it would unnecessarily limit absentee voting. The bill
would permit the secretary of state to send out absentee-ballot
applications on even years, when gubernatorial and presidential
elections are held, only if the legislature funds the mailings, and it
would prevent county election boards from mailing out additional ballot
applications beyond what the state sends out. Previously, some counties
mailed unsolicited ballot applications to all voters to potentially
reduce lines on Election Day. Voting rights advocates say the bill will
dampen and reduce voter participation, but State Sen. Bill Coley, the bill’s sponsor, argues
it’s necessary to bring uniformity to county-by-county absentee voting.
A nine-member panel of criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access and improving oversight
of Ohio’s controversial facial recognition program, following a
two-month review of the system and public criticisms over the program’s
secrecy and alleged lack of oversight. The facial recognition program,
which is part of a state database of criminal justice records known as
the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), 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.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear debated Obamacare on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Beshear pointed to his state’s successful rollout of Kynect,
a Kentucky-operated online marketplace for state-based health insurance
plans. The Kentucky marketplace has already enrolled 26,000
Kentuckians, although 21,000 are Medicaid enrollees. Meanwhile, Kasich
criticized the rocky launch of the federal portal HealthCare.gov, which only applies to states, like Ohio, that declined to run their own online marketplaces. The federal portal has been practically unworkable
for a huge majority of Americans since it launched on Oct. 1. Kasich
also claimed Obamacare will increase health insurance costs in Ohio — a
claim that goes against
findings in a national premium model developed by Avik Roy, a
conservative health care expert who is typically critical of Obamacare. CityBeat covered Obamacare’s Ohio rollout in further detail here.
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used a man named Jim Kiefer as a source
after he posted racist insults aimed at her on social media. WCPO
quoted Kiefer in a story as a John Cranley supporter, but the Cranley
campaign quickly distanced itself from Kiefer upon learning of his
history of bigoted posts on his Facebook wall, which was public at the
time but is now private. Kiefer told CityBeat the posts were supposed to be jokes.
The ongoing mayoral race looks like the most expensive since Cincinnati began directly electing its mayors in 2001.
City Council could move forward with a plan next month to reduce the noise freight trains make overnight.
Emma and William were the most popular names in Cincinnati in 2012.
Ohio gas prices dipped this week after two straight weeks of increases.
The furthest confirmed galaxy shows off light from just 700 million years after the Big Bang.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
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
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.