by German Lopez
104 days ago
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
104 days ago
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
135 days ago
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.
by German Lopez
137 days ago
Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is
criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex
marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of whom is currently sick with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with
no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General
takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is
a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the
deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal
treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon
Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs
taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June,
gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population
trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4
percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year
before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has
received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.
Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley,
Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two
finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are
perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down
by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati
chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted
religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities
since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and
inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with
increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to
experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the
organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged
two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than
$155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County
Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess.
One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion
of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after
comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
by German Lopez
139 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:27 AM | Permalink
Local Republican indicted, gay couple sues state, Ohio PAC buying Zimmerman a gun
The speaker of the Ohio House is asking a local state representative to resign after he was indicted on 16 counts of fraud.
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican, already faces a maximum of 43 years in
prison if he’s convicted on all the counts, but Ohio Attorney General
Mike DeWine says the ongoing investigation might produce more charges. The
charges are a result of Beck’s alleged actions involving an Ohio
software company called Christopher Technologies, which investors claim
bilked them out of $200,000.
Claiming discrimination, a newlywed same-sex couple is suing the state of Ohio
for failing to recognize their marriage. Jim Obergefell and John Arthur
were married in Maryland, but the couple lives in Cincinnati, Ohio,
where same-sex marriage is banned by the state constitution. The
couple’s attorney claims the state should be forced to recognize the
marriage because of Fourteenth Amendment protections extended to gay
couples by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Arthur was diagnosed in 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a
neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, and
he’s currently bedridden as a result. Given Arthur’s health,
the couple will argue for an expedited ruling at a hearing at 1:30 p.m.
today in front of U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black.
The Buckeye Firearms Association is raising money to buy a gun for George Zimmerman,
who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the murder trial of black
17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s gun is currently being held by
the U.S. Department of Justice as it investigates further charges.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and 100 members of the
Children’s Defense Fund will meet at Washington Park at 1 p.m. today to rally
against gun violence in Cincinnati. The group plans to march to City
Hall, where they will listen to students’ suggestions for making the city a safer place to visit and reside.
A state representative introduced a bill
that would allow some public university students to forgo traditional
tuition and instead pay for their college education through a percent of
their income for 24 years after they graduate.
An Ohio health aide is being sent to prison for Medicaid fraud.
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
In a desperate bid to save the endangered Sumatran rhino, the Cincinnati Zoo is attempting to breed a brother and sister.
If you think the recent heat has been bad, Popular Science has a humbling list of the 10 worst places to live in the universe.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Ohio’s Human Trafficking Commission on
June 28 released its first annual Human Trafficking Statistics Report
detailing human trafficking investigations conducted by local law
enforcement agencies across the state.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
EPA approves sewer plan, anti-union law gets hearing, DeWine to speed synthetic drug bans
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Mill Creek sewer overhaul plan
that includes bringing back a long-buried creek in the area. The
unconventional strategy is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
attempt at dealing with storm overflow in a green, sustainable manner
that also saves taxpayers money — particularly in comparison to an
expensive deep underground tunnel that the EPA originally suggested. CityBeat previously covered MSD’s green plans in further detail here.
A law that would ban mandatory union membership is temporarily back on the Ohio House agenda,
leaving union advocates worried that Republicans are trying to push the
anti-union law, which supporters of the change call “right to work,” once again.
Still, lawmakers say they’re only giving the law one hearing as
required by House rules for legislation introduced early on in the
session. Under current law, employers and unions are allowed to agree to mandating union membership for employees, but the anti-union law would
bar that agreement. Many states have already taken up similar laws, and
they’ve been linked to a significant decline of unions around the
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is partnering with Ohio
State Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Kyle Parker to continue the
fight against synthetic drugs. In a statement, DeWine’s office said the
partnership will help state officials expedite the process of banning
synthetic drugs as they are found. “Despite the success of House Bill 334,
which outlawed a multitude of synthetic drugs in 2012, rogue chemists
continue to create new, dangerous chemicals that fall outside of Ohio's
controlled substances law,” DeWine said in a statement.
Cost for vehicle registration in Ohio could go up under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.
Two more alleged voter fraud cases were sent to the county prosecutor.
So far, most of the Hamilton County voter fraud cases involve people voting twice —
supposedly on accident — by first early voting and then voting on
A Gillette commercial is at the center of the most important question of our time: How does Superman shave?
The “cutest couple” at a suburban New York school is two boys.
Being from Ohio may have ruined Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote.
In case you missed it, here is the news section for the latest issue of CityBeat:
Cover story: “From
the Inside: Inmates told CityBeat about violence, staff ineptitude and
unsanitary conditions inside Ohio’s private prison. Then came the
surprise inspections.”News: “What’s On the Books?: Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state”Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics”
by German Lopez
Pillich to run for treasurer, medical marijuana language approved, Medicaid rally today
State Rep. Connie Pillich announced today that she will run for state treasurer,
putting the Greater Cincinnati Democrat on a collision course with
current Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican who ran for U.S. Senate
last year. Before becoming state representative, Pillich was in the Air
Force, a lawyer and a small business owner. “Whether as a captain in
the Air Force, a lawyer and owner of a small business, or a
representative in the legislature, I’ve dedicated my career to listening
to concerns, creating a plan of action, and working hard to deliver
real results,” she said in a statement.
Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the ballot language
for an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, opening the
possibility that the issue will be on the ballot in 2013 or 2014. CityBeat wrote more about the amendment and the group behind it here.
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion are hosting a
public meeting and presentation today at 10 a.m. at the Red Cross
headquarters at 2111 Dana Ave. CityBeat previously covered the
Medicaid expansion, which supporters claim will save the state money
and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, here.
Ohio is one of many states preparing to adopt Common Core
standards and other reforms in schools, but a recent survey by the
Thomas B. Fordham Institute of the state’s superintendents declared that
the state is not ready
for all the changes being proposed. Terry Ryan of the Thomas B. Fordham
Institute says Ohio should consider slowing down to give legislators
and educators more time to work through the new requirements.
A new Ohio bill would require only one license plate per vehicle,
potentially saving the state $1 million a year. But critics say the
bill would limit the amount of tools available to law enforcement to
fight and prevent crime.
Nearly two-thirds more suburban residents live below the poverty line in comparison to 2000, according to “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” a book by two Brookings Institution fellows. The book uses U.S. Census Bureau data to form a clearer picture on U.S. poverty trends. Previous analyses have correlated the U.S. rise in poverty with welfare reform, which former President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.
Ohio and U.S. gas prices are spiking this week.
It’s going to be hot today.
A study found a correlation between fiscal conservatives and big biceps.
The first American mission to sample an asteroid is moving forward.
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Attorney General Mike DeWine says Obamacare infringes on religious liberty, but Republicans just want special economic rules for religious institutions.
by German Lopez
Jobs fair needs employers, parking petition underway, JobsOhio meets deadline
The city’s Youth Job Fair needs more employers
to reach the city’s goal of 100, says Mayor Mark Mallory. The fair offers young people a chance to seek out jobs. Employers can sign up for the free booths at www.mayormallory.com.
The petition to stop the parking plan is at 4,000 signatures
— nearly half of the 8,522 required before April 5. Under the plan, the city will lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the 2014 and 2015 budgets and foster economic development,
but opponents say the semi-privatization plan will cede too much
control of the city’s parking assets and cause rates to skyrocket.
Whether the plan is subject to referendum is currently being debated in court.
JobsOhio, the privatized, nonprofit development agency, met the deadline
on a subpoena issued by State Auditor Dave Yost to collect the agency’s
full financial records, which include public and private funds.
JobsOhio also said it will eventually pay back $1 million in public
funds. Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans argued only public
funds can be checked by the state auditor, but Yost says he’s allowed to seek a full audit. Kasich and the Republican-controlled
legislature approved JobsOhio in part to replace the Ohio Department of
Development, which can be fully audited.In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote that the children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses
under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) initiative, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to
qualify for a social security number and work permit. DeWine’s letter is
not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal
adviser, it could put pressure on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ legal
team as it continues reviewing Ohio’s driver’s license policy.Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, is pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC)
that could act as a progressive replacement for Gov. John Kasich’s tax
plan. The tax credit benefits low- and middle-income people,
particularly those with kids. The Policy Matters report says the federal
EITC has been one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in the
A bill that will limit the referendum process was pushed through the Ohio House Policy and Oversight Committee,
despite warnings from members of the League of Women Voters and
Democrats that the bill might draw a constitutional challenge. The bill
would give petitioners 10 days to collect additional signatures if their
initial submission falls short. Under current law, members can
continuously collect signatures while the secretary of state and boards
of elections verify the initial batch. The Ohio Constitution gives
petitioners 10 days to file, not collect, additional signatures.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled his three-pronged strategy for reducing city blight. The plan would encourage the passage of a state law that would allow people to trespass abandoned properties to remediate them, focus demolition resources on hazardous buildings and expand the city’s vacant foreclosed property registry.
A report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a D for health care transparency. Twenty-nine states got an F, and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts got A’s.Ohio lawmakers are poised to raise the speed limit on interstates in rural areas to 70 mph.
When The Huffington Post asked Ohio Sen. Rob
Portman if he wished it hadn't required a personal experience with gay
marriage to alter his position to favor marriage equality, he
responded, “Well, it did.”
He added, “I'm more of an economic policy wonk. That's always been my
background and focus: budget issues and economic growth issues. … That’s
just where I was.” Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage two
years after finding out his son is gay.
T.J. Lane, the convicted Chardon High School shooter, will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three Ohio students. At hearings yesterday, Lane smiled and mocked the victims’ families.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is looking to fill more than 1,000 jobs.
NASA's advice for a near-term meteor strike: “Pray.”
Due to a severe lack of funding, NASA does not have the proper
technology to detect all the small asteroids in orbit that could level cities. If a
deadly asteroid is detected, the current plan is to crash a spacecraft
on it to slow it down or alter its course.
Would you get a vampire facial?