by German Lopez
73 days ago
Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013
City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting
location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov.
At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a
middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month
after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to
pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country —
will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Organizations from around the state and country will be working over
the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as
possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican
legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate:
A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would
reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the
same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion,
or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city
employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement
accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the
private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds
and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension
amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of whom may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley,
will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select
Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but
they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both
of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate,
which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today.
He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to
take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised
Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he
reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology,
worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that
she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The
motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in
recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped
by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing
levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot
afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit
class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting
public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city
parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public
safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable
cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased
between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further
because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing
sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
by German Lopez
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.
1 Comment · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
As county and state officials move to
investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups
are pushing back, warning that the investigations could cause a chilling
effect among voters.
by German Lopez
Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying
$12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal
funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used
for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed.
The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in
fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should
contribute to the pension fund continues to go up.
The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money
toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying
degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the
economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102
million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund
as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the
pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee
ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted
twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2),
which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an
absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County
Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an
Following a report that found Ohio’s juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region.
Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008.
The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light.
Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Voting
at 10:27 AM | Permalink
Critics warn of potential chilling effect
As county and state officials move to investigate and
potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups are pushing back,
warning that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls became the latest to speak out
in a letter to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Ohio Secretary
of State Jon Husted.
“The current legal investigations perpetuate the idea that
voter fraud is widespread, when it’s not true,” she wrote. “We need to
work together to give citizens the confidence that the election process
is fair and accessible to those who have followed the law and
pre-determined process. When citizens are confused about the process of
voting they are intimidated from exercising their full rights to vote,
which erodes confidence in and the integrity of our democracy.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and
League of Women Voters of Ohio sent similar letters to Husted in the
past few weeks, echoing fears that the investigations will intimidate
voters into staying out of future elections.
The controversy surrounds 39 “double voter” cases recently sent to the county prosecutor by the Hamilton County Board of
Elections. In most of the cases, the voters in question sent in an
absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voted on Election Day through a provisional
ballot, which are given to voters when there’s questions about
eligibility. Even though the voters technically voted
twice, their votes were only counted once.
The letters from Qualls and the League of Women Voters claim
the cases were sent to the county prosecutor based on a narrow
interpretation of state law and other sections of election law back the voters’ actions.
The letters reference Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2),
which says, “If a registered elector appears to vote in that precinct
and that elector has requested an absent voter's ballot for that
election and the director has received a sealed identification envelope
purporting to contain that elector's voted absent voter's ballots for
that election, the elector shall be permitted to cast a provisional
ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code in that precinct on the day of that election.” The law goes on to clarify only one of the votes should be counted.
Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of
Elections on May 31, siding with the Republicans on the board who wanted
to send the case to the county prosecutor.
Alex Triantafilou, an elections board member and chairman
of the Hamilton County Republican Party, says Republicans just want an investigation.
“I think anytime a person casts two ballots we ought to
ask why,” Triantafilou says. “This is not to prejudge any of these cases
as criminal charges. That’s not been our intention. What we want is a
qualified investigator to ask the question and then answer it.”
Tim Burke, chairman of the local elections board and the
Hamilton County Democratic Party, disagrees: “This is a damn shame.
What’s happening to those voters is absolutely wrong.”
Burke claims the law was followed and no further investigation is necessary. He alleges
Republicans are trying to suppress voters.
“I fear that what’s going on is that elements of the
Republican Party want to create the impression that there is massive
voter fraud going on, and they want to scare the hell out of people to
intimidate them and discourage them from voting in the future,” Burke
says. “I think part of what’s going on here is an effort to identify
voter fraud in order to justify more restrictions on voting rights.”
Triantafilou argues Democrats, including Burke, are
playing politics: “It’s a continuation of the kind of fear that
Democrats try to instill in the electorate, and it’s a political weapon.
We’re not trying to do that. They alleged voter suppression in the last
election cycle. That was nonsensical. The problem really is fraud.”
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana advances, commissioners threaten streetcar, voter fraud report released
If you have any questions about Cincinnati, CityBeat’s staff will do its very best to answer if you submit them here.
The Ohio Ballot Board certified an amendment
that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio.
Petitioners will now have to gather 385,253 signatures to get the issue
on the ballot — most likely this year or 2014. CityBeat previously covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement in greater detail here.
Republican county commissioners are asking the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments to pull $4 million in streetcar funding,
but the city says OKI can’t legally do it. Commissioners Greg Hartmann
and Chris Monzel, who are also members of the OKI board, made the
request in a letter. City spokesperson Meg Olberding says OKI was simply
an agency that passed the money along as it worked through the Federal
Transit Administration (FTA) to OKI to the Southwest Ohio Regional
Transportation Authority (SORTA), and the agreement doesn’t allow OKI to
interfere any further. This morning, the city’s Twitter account
tweeted, “City has confirmed with Feds that OKI cannot pull streetcar $
bc funds are already obligated to this federal project.”
Ohio released its first ever statewide report on voter fraud yesterday, called the “Post-2012 General Election Voter Fraud Report.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted said the report shows voter fraud exists,
but it’s “not an epidemic.” That coincides with previous findings from
researchers: An extensive study of the nation’s databases by News21, a
Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Ohio Democrats are proposing more accountability rules
for JobsOhio, including adherence to public record laws, open meeting
laws, state ethics laws for employees and full state audits. JobsOhio is
a privatized nonprofit agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of
Development. They claim the privatized nature of the agency allows it to
respond to economic problems more quickly, but Democrats say the agency
redirects public funds with minimal oversight.
Cincinnati will host a march against genetically modified organisms
Saturday as part of the international March Against Monsanto. The
movement’s organizers are calling on participants that explain the facts
of genetically modified organisms, encouraging “no slandering, no
opinions or paper — just facts.” The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at
A.G. Lafley is reclaiming the top spot at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. The company says the change is not part of a deeper issue.
The 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati begins tomorrow.
Win or lose, the University of Cincinnati baseball team has a lot of fun.
An adorable Labrador Retriever puppy had her heart cured after a minimally invasive heart procedure — the first ever in the Tri-State.
Salamanders have some lessons for humans when it comes to regrowing limbs.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
If you can’t beat them, make it so they
can’t play to begin with. That’s been the mentality of the Ohio
Republican Party time and time again, and the latest budget bill from
the Republican-controlled Ohio House continues the trend.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
An amendment in the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House could make voting more difficult for out-of-state college and university students.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:14 AM | Permalink
Measure may limit voting, city tops LEED certified buildings, Medicaid could be on ballot
Today is primary election day in Ohio, but there are no
ballot items in Cincinnati. Some Hamilton County precincts outside the
city have ballot issues, which are listed here. Polls will be open between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
An amendment snuck into the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House would force universities to decide
between providing the proper documentation for voting to out-of-state
students or getting extra money from out-of-state tuition rates,
prompting concerns from Democrats that Republicans are attempting to
limit voting opportunities once again. Republicans spent a bulk of the
lead-up to the 2012 election approving measures that limit voting,
including a later-repealed set of laws that greatly reduced early voting
About 82 percent of all Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings in Ohio are in
Cincinnati, and the reason is likely local tax incentives,
which allow Cincinnatians to eliminate property taxes for up to
15 years by retrofitting businesses and homes in an environmentally
friendly manner. CityBeat covered Cincinnati’s successes in solar energy here and FirstEnergy’s campaign to weaken Ohio’s energy efficiency standards here.
If legislators fail to take up the Medicaid expansion, the issue could appear on the ballot
on November 2014. Supporters of the expansion, including Gov. John
Kasich, say the expansion will help insure hundreds of thousands of
Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade, but Republican
legislators say they’re concerned the federal funds backing the
expansion will eventually dry up. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill, which effectively rejected the expansion for the time being, here.
The Ohio Department of Transportation says 2,230 bridges in the state need repairs, but there’s not enough funding to make it happen.
Ohio banks are warning of possible cyberattacks
that could happen today. The Ohio Bankers League and the Ohio Credit
Union League said the attacks would impact online services but not the
security of customers’ bank accounts.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has the second highest airfares in the nation, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble was ranked No. 7 in a ranking for top 50 most diverse companies by DiverseInc.
Sometimes human brains make people do bad things, such as enjoying high-calorie foods even when the foods aren’t delicious.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:14 PM | Permalink
Budget bill forces universities to decide between out-of-state tuition, providing documents
An amendment snuck into the budget bill passed by the
Republican-controlled Ohio House on April 18 would force public
universities to decide between charging lucrative out-of-state tuition
rates or providing out-of-state students with documents required for
voting in Ohio, raising concerns from Democrats that Republicans are
attempting to limit voting opportunities in the state once again.
The measure would force public universities to classify
students living on campus as in-state if they receive utility bills or
official letters that can be used for identification when voting in
Out-of-state tuition rates are typically higher than
in-state tuition rates, which means universities would be giving up
potentially millions in revenue to provide out-of-state students with
the proper documents.
For universities, the measure adds a financial incentive
to hold on to the documents. For out-of-state students, that could mean a
more difficult time getting the documents to vote in Ohio
Students can vote in Ohio if they have lived in the state
for at least 30 days, but voting requires proper identification and proof of residency. Utility
bills and official letters qualify, but student identification cards do
Republicans have been quick to defend the measure, while
Democrats have been quick to oppose it. For both sides, there’s a clear
political motivation: In the 2012 elections, 63 percent of Ohio voters
aged 18 to 29 supported Democratic President Barack Obama, while only 35
percent supported Republican Mitt Romney, according to exit poll data.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder justified the measure to the Toledo Blade:
“The real issue for local areas in particular [is], what happens when
somebody from New York City registers to vote. How do they vote on a
school levy? How do they vote on a sheriff’s race? To me, there is a
significant question, particularly the levies, as to what having people
who don’t have to pay for them would do in terms of voting on those
The comments prompted a response from Ohio Democrats,
particularly attorney general candidate David Pepper, a Greater
“It’s startling to see one of Ohio’s leaders voicing such a
blatantly unconstitutional justification for this cynical law,” Pepper
said in a statement. “The Constitution guarantees an individual’s right
to vote, regardless of what views they espouse (‘how ... they vote’),
whether they own property, or where they hail from originally. The
Speaker’s comments would quickly become Exhibit A in a successful
Constitutional challenge of this scheme to keep Ohio’s college students
Pepper’s statement went on to cite three U.S. Supreme Court cases to support his argument: Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15 from 1969, Carrington v. Rash from 1965 and Dunn v. Blumstein from 1972.
In Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, the
court argued any laws that discriminate against certain types of voters
must endure strict judicial scrutiny because “any unjustified
discrimination in determining who may participate in political affairs
or in the selection of public officials undermines the legitimacy of
representative government.” The ruling struck down a New York statute
that said those participating in school board elections must be property
owners, the spouses of property owners, lessors or a parent or guardian
of a child in the school district.
Pepper’s statement claims the ruling invalidates
Batchelder’s argument: “The Court rejected the state’s argument
(identical to the Speaker’s) that only those two groups had a primary
interest in such elections.”
In Carrington v. Rash, the Supreme Court ruled
states may not limit voting based on how someone may vote: “‘Fencing
out’ from the franchise a sector of the population because of the way
they may vote is constitutionally impermissible. ‘[T]he exercise of
rights so vital to the maintenance of democratic institutions’ ...
cannot constitutionally be obliterated because of a fear of the
political views of a particular group of bona fide residents.”
Similarly, Dunn v. Blumstein struck down
Tennessee’s one-year residency requirements for voting in a ruling that
said residents recently coming from other states can’t be barred from
voting: “[T]he fact that newly arrived [Tennesseeans] may have a more
national outlook than long-time residents, or even may retain a
viewpoint characteristic of the region from which they have come, is a
constitutionally impermissible reason for depriving them of their chance
to influence the electoral vote of their new home State.”
The Ohio House’s budget bill amendment is only one of many
attempts from Ohio Republicans to limit voting opportunities in the
state since 2011. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and
Gov. John Kasich approved two laws that reduced early voting hours.
Democrats and third-party groups threatened to bring the legislation to
referendum, but the Republican-controlled legislature and Kasich
repealed most of the measures and restored expanded early voting in Ohio
before the referendum came to a vote. A federal court also
restored early voting for all Ohioans for the three days prior to Election Day, which the previous repeals had only brought back for military voters.
In 2012, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican,
invoked uniform early voting hours, effectively eliminating most
weekend voting, and made last-minute changes that placed the burden of
proper identification on voters instead of poll workers, which Democrats
argued made verifying provisional ballots more difficult.
When asked to justify some of the measures, Doug Preisse,
close adviser to Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican
Party, wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I
really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to
accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
The race-based reasoning prompted a harsh response from
Democrats, who claimed Republicans were trying to suppress minority
voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
Beyond voting rights, the Ohio House budget bill defunds Planned Parenthood and forgoes the Medicaid expansion (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).The budget bill still has to be approved by the Ohio Senate and Kasich to become law.