by German Lopez
112 days ago
Tea party-backed reform would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
Councilman Chris Smitherman told CityBeat he doesn’t support the pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this November, which means no council member approves of the controversial proposal.
The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are under a
separate system — contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts.
Currently, the city pools pension contributions and manages the investments
through an independent board.
City officials and unions claim the amendment will cost
the city more and hurt retirement gains for public employees. Tea party groups say
the amendment is necessary to address the city’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability.
“I do not support the amendment. I have introduced several
solutions that have been ignored by council and your paper,” Smitherman
wrote in an email.
The other eight members of City Council — seven Democrats
and one Republican — on Aug. 7 approved a resolution
that condemned the tea party amendment. But Smitherman, an Independent,
wasn’t present at the meeting.
CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
by German Lopez
117 days ago
Outsiders back pension reform, Requiem could be evicted, JobsOhio conflicted in interests
Local and national tea party groups are pushing a ballot initiative that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
by moving city workers from a public plan to 401k-style plans, but city
officials and unions are urging voters to reject the measure because
they claim it would raise costs for the city and reduce gains for
retirees. Cincinnati for Pension Reform paid Arno Petition Consultants
nearly $70,000 to gather enough signatures to get the initiative on the
ballot. It’s so far unclear where that money came from. Virginia-based
Liberty Initiative Fund, which is supporting a similar pension proposal in
Tucson, Ariz., is backing the Cincinnati effort, with one of two
blog posts on its website
praising the local initiative. Liberty Initiative Fund has given at
least $81,000 to the Tucson campaign. For more information about the
Cincinnati campaign and initiative, click here.
Hamilton County Judge Carl Stitch on Wednesday ruled against granting a temporary restraining order
that would prevent the trio that owns and leases the Emery Theatre from
evicting the nonprofit seeking to renovate the building. The ruling
means Requiem Project, which was founded in 2008 to renovate the
theater, might be kicked out by the University of Cincinnati, Emery
Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) and the Emery Center
Corporation (ECC), the groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre.
Still, the judge said that the ruling should in no way indicate what the
final outcome of the case will be and it could turn out that
Requiem deserves a long-term lease.
Gov. John Kasich received campaign donations from and
served on the board of Worthington Industries, a central Ohio steel
processor, before the company got tax credits from JobsOhio,
the privatized development agency. Kasich’s spokesperson told the
Associated Press that the governor severed ties with Worthington before the
tax deals were approved. Still, the latest discovery adds to a series of
conflicts of interest that have mired JobsOhio in the past few weeks.
Previously, Dayton Daily News found that most of the board
members on JobsOhio had direct financial ties to some of the companies
getting state aid. Republicans defend JobsOhio because they say its
privatized and secretive nature allows it to carry out job-creating
development deals more quickly, but Democrats say the agency is too
difficult to hold accountable and might be wasting taxpayer money.
Commentary: “Disparity Study Now.”
State officials are looking to tighten limits
for local governments passing budgets, issuing debt and funding
pensions. State Rep. Lou Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati, and State
Auditor Dave Yost say the proposal is aimed at correcting pension
problems such as the one in Cincinnati, which Yost labeled
“Pension-zilla.” Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability currently
stands at $862 million, which earned the city a downgraded bond rating from Moody’s in a July 15 report.
A task force convened by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor is set to meet again to discuss possible changes to the state’s death penalty.
The panel recently proposed eliminating the use of capital punishment
in cases in which an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary,
robbery or rape.
A record number of white women, many from rural areas, are being sent to Ohio prisons, according to a report from the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
Two City Council candidates are struggling to get their names on the ballot
because of a couple different circumstances. Newcomer Mike Moroski fell
46 petition signatures short of the requirement of 500 signatures that
have to be turned in by Aug. 22. Meanwhile, hundreds of Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld’s petitions might be thrown out because several dates were
corrected by crossing them out and writing the accurate date on the back
of the forms. The Hamilton County Board of Elections says it’s unclear
whether it can accept those signatures. Both candidates are now renewing
their petition drives to ensure they appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Candace Klein is resigning as CEO of SoMoLend,
the embattled local startup that previously partnered with the city of
Cincinnati to link local businesses to up to $400,000 in loans. City officials
Monday they were severing ties with SoMoLend after it was revealed that
the Ohio Division of Securities is accusing the company of fraud
because SoMoLend allegedly failed to get the proper licenses and exaggerated its
financial and performance figures. SoMoLend’s specialty is supposed to
be using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups
with lenders, but the charges have called its expertise into question.
Metro, the city’s bus system, turns 40 today, and it plans to hold a party on Fountain Square from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in celebration.
Activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman sold a majority of his Procter & Gamble stocks.
Popular Science has the list of the 10 weirdest robots at this year’s drone show here.
Out-of-town tea party groups take aim at Cincinnati’s struggling pension system
3 Comments · Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Local and national tea party groups are
backing a city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s
ailing pension system.
by German Lopez
120 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:47 PM | Permalink
Campaign paid nearly $70,000 to gather petitions in city
The tea party-backed amendment that would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s ailing pension system gathered enough signatures earn a place on the November ballot.
Of 14,215 signatures scrutinized so far, 8,653 were valid, according to Sally Krisel, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. That clears the requirement of 7,443 signatures, but the numbers will grow as the board continues counting petitions.
The success follows a well-funded effort from Cincinnati
for Pension Reform, which paid California-based Arno Petition Consultants
nearly $70,000 to collect enough signatures, according to petition
documents obtained through the city.
The amendment would privatize pension plans so city
employees hired after January 2014 contribute to and manage their own
retirement accounts — a shift from the current set-up in which the city
pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent
But unlike private-sector employees, city workers might
not qualify for Social Security benefits, which means they would lack
the safety net and benefits that shield them from bad investments.
Alternatively, the city could be required to pay into
Social Security. An Aug. 5 report from the city administration claims
that would make the tea party-backed system more expensive than the
current pension system, which would defeat the reform’s main intention.
Supporters of the tea party amendment say it’s necessary
because Cincinnati is dragging its feet in addressing an $862 million
pension liability, which earned the city a downgraded bond rating
from Moody’s in a July 15 report. Although the city passed reforms in
2011 addressing future pension costs, the unfunded liability actually
grew by $134 million between 2012 and 2013.
The Cincinnati Retirement System board is working on
changes that would address the unfunded liability, but so far no
agreement has been reached as board members argue over whether taxpayers
or retirees should be hit hardest by more cost-cutting measures.
City officials acknowledge the issues with the current
pension system, but they claim the tea party-backed amendment would
exacerbate cost problems and reduce payments to future city retirees.
“Under the guise of ‘reform,’ a well-financed out-of-state
group is pushing an amendment that spells economic disaster for the
future city retirees and the city’s budget,” Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls
said in a statement. “Current and future retirees need an income they
can live on. This amendment is a budget-buster for retirees and the
City Council condemned the amendment in a resolution unanimously passed on Aug. 7.
CityBeat’s Aug. 14 news story will give an in-depth look at the amendment and the campaign behind it.This story was updated at 5:07 p.m. with the most up-to-date numbers.
by German Lopez
119 days ago
Pension amendment to appear on ballot, city cuts ties with SoMoLend, heartbeat bill returns
A tea party-backed pension amendment yesterday cleared the hurdle of 7,443 petition signatures required to appear on the November ballot. Cincinnati
for Pension Reform, the group behind the amendment, had previously paid
nearly $70,000 to petitioners to gather signatures. The amendment
would privatize pension plans so the city and city employees hired after
January 2014 would contribute to individual retirement accounts that
the employee would then manage by independently selecting investments.
That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. But
unlike private-sector employees, city workers might not qualify for
Social Security, which means they’ll lack the safety net that typically
comes with risky 401k-style plans. If workers do qualify for Social
Security, the city would have to pay into the federal entitlement
program, which would cost the city more money, according to an Aug. 5
report from the city administration.
Cincinnati is cutting ties with SoMoLend,
the local startup that had previously partnered with the city to
connect small businesses and startups with $400,000 in loans. SoMoLend
has been accused of fraud by the Ohio Division of Securities, which says
the local company exaggerated its performance and financial figures
and lacked the proper licenses to operate as a peer-to-peer lending
business. The Division of Securities won’t issue a final order until
after a hearing in October. SoMoLend’s specialty is using crowdfunding
tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders.
Ohio Republicans are considering bringing back the “heartbeat bill,”
the controversial anti-abortion bill that would ban induced abortions
after a heartbeat is detected, which could happen as early as six weeks
into a pregnancy. The bill could be reintroduced next week. That would
come just a couple months after Republican legislators and Gov. John
Kasich approved a slew of anti-abortion measures through the two-year state budget.
The Ohio Senate will today hear testimony
from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio about projections that show
the state could save money if it takes up the Medicaid expansion. As
part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to
include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In
return, the federal government will pay for the expansion for the first
three years and wind down to paying 90 percent of the costs after that.
The Health Policy Institute previously estimated the expansion would
save Ohio roughly $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is touting Cincinnati Safe Student Housing,
a website that allows university students to pick from housing options
that passed a free fire inspection. The website was unanimously approved
by City Council following several university students’ deaths to fires,
which council members argue could have been prevented with stronger
The new owner of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel says he will reopen the building as a hotel.
Alan Friedberg, managing principal of the company that bought the
building earlier this year, says the process of bringing back the
building will take a lot of time and work, considering it’s now been
vacant for three years.
Four Greater Cincinnati hospitals have been recognized for protecting the LGBT rights of patients and employees by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation: Bethesda North
Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, the Veterans Affairs Cincinnati
Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana in Ohio. DeWine claims the summary for the ballot initiative is untruthful and leaves out various important details.
Mason, a Cincinnati suburb, was ranked one of the top 10 places to live by CNNMoney. Maybe CNN really likes Kings Island.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to
call on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expedite processing
on benefit claims. The VA currently has a backlog of 500,000 veterans,
according to a press release from Brown’s office.
Introducing Elon Musk’s Hyperloop,
a proposal for a railway system that would use high-pressure tubes to
shoot passengers around the country. It’s estimated traveling from Los
Angeles to San Francisco, which normally takes about five and a half
hours, would only take 30 minutes in the tubes.
by German Lopez
Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget
Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to
the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and
independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and
rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by
official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA
accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state.
The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code,
potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s
libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes.
If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to
set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to
considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters,
but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs,
increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public
safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city
officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan
to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront
and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The
bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down
abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion,
while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going
through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away
the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor
Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes
private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have
pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators
established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she
got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is
taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is
discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital
sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits
in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the
school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.
To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Today, a tea party-backed lawsuit based
on the wording of a 1979 law has Kentuckians wondering what life would
be like with a weakened public library system — or, worse, with no
library at all.
by German Lopez
Parking hearing today, police chief may go, tea party planning against GOP
The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before
— except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move
forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining
before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins
July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite
legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting
period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the
wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum
efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its
parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.
It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit,
despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously,
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed
city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because
his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a
Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from
the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions,
according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here,
and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a
gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the
2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some
areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.
In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:News: “Think of the Children: Local leaders pledge to support efforts to put more low- and middle-income kids in preschools.”City Desk: “City Manager Defends Streetcar in Light of Budget Gap.”Commentary: “The Many Merits of Cycling Infrastructure.”
A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult
for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to
decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent
out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little
about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule
suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support
in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called
“right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union
laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective
bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be
linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have
limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5
was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order
of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.
Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.
Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.
Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
An Oklahoma cop thought it fit to ticket the mother of
Dillan, a 3-year-old in the process of potty-training, for $2,500 after
he had an urge to go and peed in his family’s own front yard. WORLD -1
by Danny Cross
We didn’t mean to help re-elect a socialist
During the past year CityBeat has spent a lot of
energy reporting on countless Republican screw-ups, from typical
shortsighted policies to legislation that is straight-up offensive to women,
minorities, gay people and the poor and working class. But we didn’t
realize that by pointing out how offensive and irrelevant the country’s
GOP leaders were acting, that we were inadvertently killing America.
That's why we would like to formally apologize to the Lebanon tea party in Warren County. The email you sent to The Enquirer today hit us
pretty hard — the fact that you’re literally wearing black and mourning
America because “socialists, welfare and unions took over this country”
is super sad. In our haste to ask questions of elected leaders, fact
check their statements and put their beliefs and policies into perspective over the
past few months, we forgot how badly people in Warren County wish America
could be like the 1950s again, when women knew their place and black
people had to operate the elevators and never say anything whites didn’t
want to hear. Mad Men is a great show.
We didn’t mean to be tricked by President Obama’s stimulus
bill — we (stupidly) believed the economists who said it staved off a
depression caused by under-regulation of the housing and financial
industries (we tried to believe Mitt Romney’s concept of further
reducing regulations so the job-creators can stimulate the economy in
the private sector thus giving our wealth back to us, but it was maybe
too complicated for us to understand?).
Some people we know kept their jobs when the president
didn’t allow the American car companies to go broke even though they’re
the ones that decided to max out profits on SUVs with truck beds on the
back. Other people we know spent time last year without health care, and
this country’s health care costs are somewhere around twice as much as
any other country’s so we were like, “Yea, reforming that system sounds
about right.” But we admit that we don’t know what it’s going to be like
for the 15 percent of this country living in poverty to all of the
sudden have access to preventative care. Someone in Cincinnati died of a
tooth problem last year, and we don’t even know if that’s covered.
We realize that it wasn’t Mitt Romney who used the term
“legitimate rape,” but it made us want to throw up, which slowed down
productivity that might have allowed us to figure out that Don’t Ask
Don’t Tell was the only thing keeping our country’s military from
turning Afghanistan into a European-style gay disco.
We thought it was kind of gross when the president killed
Osama bin Laden, but everyone was really happy about it so we focused
our attention on the results of the president’s home buying and
refinancing programs that helped stimulate the economy and saved
people’s houses, even though we’re all a bunch of renters who don’t even
know how to use a level.
So we’re clearly at fault for your expectation of the
downfall of this country, and we realize that you’re upset and probably
right about America becoming a socialist nation within months. We messed
up bad this time, but we want you to know that we’re not blind to it —
your press release has put our actions into a perspective that we wish
we had yesterday or, even better, several years ago before we learned
how to do our jobs the right way.
At least you have the local daily newspaper to publish
your emotional reactions to historical election results and to continue
endorsing GOP candidates no matter how ill qualified and misguided they are.
Please don’t mourn long — there’s still hope for the type of social
regression you’re looking for, especially in Warren County.