0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Cincinnati might not be facing an
operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts
to state aid for local governments.
by German Lopez
Court orders state to allow minor-party primaries
A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a
controversial law that limits minor political parties’ access to the
statewide ballot and ruled that the state must allow minor parties to participate in primary and general elections in 2014.
The law required minor parties to gather about 28,166 voter signatures by July to
regain official recognition at the state level — a threshold that
critics called unrealistic and burdensome for minor political parties —
and disallowed minor parties from holding primary elections in 2014.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson concluded the requirements
hurt minor parties that already filed for election before Kasich
signed the law in November. He argued the law also unfairly prevented minor
parties from reaping the political benefits of a primary election.
“The Ohio Legislature moved the proverbial goalpost in the
midst of the game,” wrote Watson in a 28-page opinion. “Stripping
plaintiffs of the opportunity to participate in the 2014 primary in
these circumstances would be patently unfair.”
But in filing a temporary injunction, Watson acknowledged the law’s requirements
could still stand for 2015 and beyond after the court hands down its final ruling at a later date. Watson
merely agreed with minor parties that the law places too many
retroactive limits in time for the 2014 election.
For now, the ruling comes as a major victory for the
Libertarian Party of Ohio, which filed a legal complaint against the law
after Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the state
legislature, including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, approved it.
Ohio Democrats and Libertarians took to calling the law
the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.” They argued the law defends Kasich from minor-party challengers dissatisfied with his
record as governor, particularly his support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, also backed the law. He is cited as the defendant in Watson’s opinion.
CityBeat could not immediately reach Husted’s office for comment.
Democrats quickly took advantage of Watson’s ruling to prop up Nina Turner, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state.
“Today, a federal court declared that Jon Husted’s attempt
to put his political party over the rights of Ohio voters to have
choices violated the constitutional rights of Ohioans. This is not the
first time, either. This November, Ohioans can elect Nina Turner to
bring needed change to the Ohio secretary of state’s office,” said Brian
Hester, spokesperson for Ohio Democrats, in a statement.
Husted and Turner will likely face off in the November ballot.
Watson’s ruling could make it easier for a minor-party candidate to enter the race as
by German Lopez
Abortion restrictions follow trend, more tax issues in state election, Luken to run for judge
Ohio and various other states passed more abortion
restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they did in the previous decade,
according to the Guttmacher Institute. The findings indicate that the
latest Republican-backed abortion restrictions, which were passed
through Ohio’s two-year state budget last June, were part of a broader
trend that’s culminated across the nation since the tea party rose to
national prominence in 2010. The trend could play a pivotal political
role: Ohio Democrats have made their opposition to the abortion
restrictions a central part of their campaigns to unseat Republican
incumbents who hold top executive offices in the state.
One of the candidates expected to join the tea party
ticket in a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John Kasich
appears to have personal tax problems. Brenda Mack, tea party leader Ted
Stevenot’s expected running mate, is linked to nearly $60,000 in unpaid
state and federal taxes and penalties, according to government records
in Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties analyzed by The Columbus Dispatch.
Mack refuses to comment on the tax problems until a Tuesday press
conference in which she and Stevenot are expected to officially announce
their candidacies for the May 6 primary.Former Mayor Charlie Luken says he will run for Hamilton
County probate judge. The Democratic candidate will likely face off
against Republican Ted Winkler, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court
judge. Luken recently garnered the public spotlight for his support for
Mayor John Cranley’s campaign.Cincinnati’s homicide rate for victims younger than 18
rose to 1 in 7 in 2013 and 2012, up from 1 in 10 from 2000 through 2011,
according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Four of the juvenile
victims were 1-year-old or younger, including a fetus who died after the
mother was strangled to death in April.Four seats on the 19-member Ohio Board of Education remain
unfilled, including two seats that have been vacant for months, long
past the 30-day deadline Gov. Kasich has under state law to name a
replacement. Administration officials said they’re aware of the
deadline, but they intend to find the best fit for the position before
moving forward with an appointment. “It’s far more important to us to
find the right person than putting warm bodies on the board,” Kasich
spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Columbus Dispatch.The amount of untested rape kits submitted to Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded 5,000.Fewer than 1,000 died last year in traffic crashes across
Ohio, the lowest number since the state began keeping track of the
fatalities in 1936.Bill Nye the Science Guy will debate evolution and
biblical creationism at northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum on Feb. 4.
Evolution is a scientific fact, but Creation Museum leader Ken Ham
denies its existence.Aaron Betsky announced yesterday he will step down as
director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The news follows Betsky’s
controversial comments against the streetcar project in
ArchitectMagazine.com, which Betsky expanded on in a separate blog post.
CityBeat recently interviewed Betsky here.The Cincinnati Bengals received an extension until 4 p.m.
today to sell out tickets for Sunday’s game and avoid a television
blackout in the Cincinnati area.Strange lights sometimes precede earthquakes. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
States passed more abortion restrictions in past three years than previous decade
Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more
abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous
decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Between 2011 and 2013, states passed 205 new restrictions
on abortion. Between 2001 and 2010, states passed only 189 new
The trend is unsurprising for Ohio, which the Guttmacher
Institute says has been “hostile to abortion” since 2000, but the
timeline shows a clear shift in state policies around the nation since
the tea party rose to national prominence in 2010.
Ohio’s latest restrictions were passed last June by Ohio Republicans through the two-year state budget.
Among other restrictions, one measure forces doctors to
perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and tell
her if a heartbeat is detected and the statistical probability of the
fetus making it to birth.
Ohio and Oklahoma were also the only states in 2013 to
pass restrictions on federal funding for family planning providers, the
Guttmacher Institute claims.
Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, insist they don’t use
public funds for abortions, instead funding the procedure with
the help of private contributions.
But Ohio Republicans, who predominantly oppose abortion
rights, went through with the restrictions anyway, ultimately hitting
some family planning service providers that don’t even offer abortions.“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, told CityBeat last June. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”
Ohio Democrats, particularly gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald, have made their opposition to the anti-abortion measures
part of their campaigns to unseat Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio
Republicans who hold top executive positions in the state. But given the Guttmacher Institute’s timeline, reversing
the trend could require a radical shift in the state government of the
past 14 years.
by German Lopez
Democrats worry announcement could compromise gubernatorial campaign
Democrats face a potential wrinkle in their campaign to
unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich following Hamilton County
Commissioner Todd Portune’s announcement Monday that he will run for governor of Ohio.
At a public press conference, Portune said he intends to
mount a primary challenge against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed
FitzGerald, who previously looked like the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.
In justifying his announcement, Portune claimed he had heard “some rumblings” from rank-and-file Democrats to offer more options in the governor’s race.
“This is an honest effort to give Democrats choice,” Portune said.
Some Democrats might appreciate the choice following a
scandal that threw FitzGerald’s choice for lieutenant governor, State
Sen. Eric Kearney, off the ticket. Kearney withdrew after multiple
reports uncovered he and his family owe hundreds of thousands in unpaid
But much of the Democratic establishment seems to have
responded with contempt by portraying Portune’s announcement as an
unnecessary hurdle in the 2014 election.
Likening the Democratic primary election to an internal
family discussion, Portune denied accusations that a primary campaign
would cripple the party’s chances of winning the gubernatorial election.
“Primaries allow you to talk about the issues. They generate momentum,” he said.
Several Democrats took to social media to publicly disapprove of Portune’s announcement.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern tweeted that he’s “excited about our endorsed Democrats,” meaning FitzGerald.
Cincinnati council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld also restated on Twitter that they will support FitzGerald for governor.
“Todd Portune has been a client and someone I've admired
for a long time,” Seelbach wrote. “But the last thing we need is a
by German Lopez
Portune could run for governor, city could host GOP in 2016, laxer regulations draw critics
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he'll run for governor. If he decides to run, Portune will face off against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald to decide which Democrat should face off against Republican Gov. John Kasich next November. Until now, it has been widely assumed that FitzGerald would take the gubernatorial nomination without a primary challenge. But if Portune enters the race, it could lead to a primary process that could hinder Democrats' chances in a pivotal state election.Hamilton County Republican Party officials are looking into hosting the 2016 national GOP convention in Cincinnati, but they acknowledge their bid might come in too late. The 2016 convention would put the national spotlight on Cincinnati during a presidential election year, when presumably two new presidential contenders will have been picked by Democrats and Republicans to replace President Barack Obama. Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Cincinnati would be a great location for the convention, given the region's electoral importance to both parties, but he wants to make sure Cincinnati actually stands a chance before using time and resources to file a formal application.Entertainment districts allow some businesses in Walnut Hills and nine other Cincinnati neighborhoods to receive their state liquor licenses more quickly and inexpensively, but some — particularly businesses facing new competition — are worried the increasingly popular economic designation will lead to more alcohol-serving establishments than Cincinnati can sustain.Local startup incubator SoMoLend got state hearings over allegations of fraud pushed to February and March. The once-promising crowdfunding incubator previously partnered with Cincinnati, but the city cut ties with the business once allegations of fraud surfaced.The Ohio Department of Health warned on Friday that flu activity is increasing across the state and Ohioans should get vaccinated.The Ohio State Highway Patrol last week launched an enhanced registry of people who have been convicted of drunk driving at least five times.Starting Jan. 1, regulations meant to crack down on puppy mills will require licenses for dog breeders and clean cages. The legislation enforcing the new rules was approved more than a year ago to curtail Ohio's reputation of being soft on large dog breeding operations.Ohio gas prices spiked at the end of the year.With the year drawing to a close, check out CityBeat's top stories of 2013.The question you probably never asked has now been answered: Can a human fall in love with a computer?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Only 11 streetcar workers to lose jobs, federal funds endangered, GOP reducing early voting
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday said only 11 streetcar workers are expected to lose their jobs
following City Council’s pause of the $132.8 million project, far below
the original estimate of 200 city officials gave on Monday. The remaining workers will be moved by contractors to other jobs or
kept under ongoing utility work, which utility companies agreed to
continue despite no longer qualifying for reimbursements from the city,
according to Deatrick. He also said it’s “a wild guess” whether the
number of layoffs will grow in the future.
Cincinnati should expect to return up to $44.9 million in
federal grants funding nearly one-third of the streetcar project even
though the project is only on “pause” as local officials weigh the costs of cancellation and completion, according to transportation experts who
talked to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Without the federal grants, the project is effectively dead.
The two swing votes on council — David Mann and Kevin Flynn — say they
want to evaluate whether it would make financial sense to cancel the
project this far into construction. Deatrick previously estimated
the costs of cancellation could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for
$32.8 million in sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in
close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grants. But Mann and
Flynn voiced distrust over the projections and called for an independent
Democrats and voter advocates claim Republican legislators are slowly rebuilding “voter suppression” laws
that were the subject of referendum in 2012 before Republicans backed
down. Democrats called on Gov. John Kasich to veto the bills. Among
other measures, the bills would reduce the amount of in-person early voting days
and restrict elected officials’ ability to to mail out unsolicited
absentee ballot applications. Democrats claim the bills are meant to
suppress voters. Republicans argue the measures help
reduce “cheaters,” even though in-person voter fraud is very rare.
Chris Finney, a high-profile lawyer who is critical of local tax breaks for businesses, apologized for denying that he sought tax breaks for his law firm.
Finney sought the tax breaks shortly after criticizing Cincinnati for
granting a tax incentive package to convince Pure Romance to move from
Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati. Finney is the top legal crusader
for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group with a history of anti-gay causes.
Tea party group One Percent for Liberty nominated Mayor
John Cranley as a “Defender of Liberty for 2013” for his work against the
streetcar project and parking privatization plan. The group previously nominated various conservative politicians and activists from around the
region. The award will be presented at COAST’s Christmas party.
Hundreds of schools and businesses in the Cincinnati area today closed in response to the developing winter storm.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth, two of the areas’ largest health systems, yesterday announced they’re teaming up to reduce costs, improve the patient experience and generate better health outcomes.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced he will crack down on electronic raffle operations.
Nelson Mandela, a South African icon of peace, died yesterday.
Mandela was a peaceful leader of the anti-apartheid movement who went
on to become South Africa’s first black president. His consistent
devotion to peace inspired similar peaceful protests around the world. The New York Times put together a great interactive featuring several correspondents who witnessed Mandela first-hand here.
U.S. unemployment fell to 7 percent in November, the lowest rate in five years.
Popular Science explains how to get rid of animal testing.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Cranley sets agenda, streetcar cancellation costs still unknown, Kasich limits minor parties
Mayor-elect John Cranley laid out his plans and priorities for his first term
at his first press conference yesterday. Cranley says two of his top
priorities are undoing the $133 million streetcar project and parking
plan, which would lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. He also spoke on some of his more
positive ideas, including the interchange project at Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive, 3CDC-style public-private partnerships to
revitalize neighborhoods and development of the Wasson Way bike trail,
old Swifton Commons and Westwood Square.
It remains unclear
how much it would cost to actually cancel the streetcar project. As of September’s monthly
progress report, $94 million is tied to contractual obligations, $23
million is already spent and nearly $45 million in federal grants is still attached
to the project. And if contractors, subcontractors and taxpayers sue the
city to complete the project, it could impose litigation costs on the
operating budget instead of the capital budget currently financing
construction. Supporters of the streetcar also say cancellation could
tarnish relationships with the federal government and contractors, which
have a stake in the project’s completion. At his press conference
yesterday, Cranley said he’d weigh the costs and benefits of
cancellation and would continue the project if he deems it cheaper.
Meanwhile, Cranley might travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss reprogramming nearly $45 million in federal grants
from the streetcar project to the I-71/MLK interchange project. In a
June 19 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed it would
take back nearly $41 million of the grant money if the streetcar project
were canceled. City officials say they’ve already spent $2 million from
the grants on the streetcar project, and, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding, that would
need to be repaid through the operating budget if the project were terminated.
Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature passed a bill
that imposes new restrictions on minor political parties trying to get on the
state ballot. The requirements force minor parties to meet higher
petition signature and voting thresholds to get and remain on the
ballot. Ohio Libertarians say they plan to sue to block the changes from
becoming law in 90 days. Democrats and minor parties say the changes
are meant to protect Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014; they argue
that, without the new requirements, tea party challengers upset with
Kasich over his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion could take away enough votes and spoil the election in favor of a Democrat. CityBeat covered the Senate version of the bill in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday unanimously approved
the first budget in six years that didn’t require major cuts or revenue
increases to achieve balance, but the budget also had very little in
terms of new policies. Commissioners also approved a separate plan from
the Port Authority, a city- and county-funded development agency, to
expand its borders; the Port now needs to work out agreements with other
jurisdictions before the expansion becomes official.
Janitors in Cincinnati are striking against New York City-based ABM
in a push for wage hikes and health benefits. In supporting the
efforts, Councilman Chris Seelbach says the strike and media attention
surrounding it should hopefully put pressure on Cincinnati’s Fortune 500
companies that hire ABM to clean their buildings.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress.”
After only 28.8 percent of registered Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral and City Council elections, The Cincinnati Enquirer asked those who didn’t show up to vote to explain themselves.
The answers ranged from total apathy toward the streetcar project to
disdain and distrust for the city’s government and political system.
Voters on Tuesday approved more than half of Ohio school levies.
The University of Cincinnati yesterday signed an agreement that will increase collaboration with NASA.
Blockbuster is closing down its remaining company-owned stores in the United States.
Biking in traffic can have some complicated results as bikers breathe in traffic exhaust.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Groups contest Gov. John Kasich’s decision to bypass legislature
The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday expedited the 1851
Center for Constitutional Law’s challenge against the federally funded
Medicaid expansion, which Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, despite resistance from the Ohio legislature.
The case will decide whether Kasich was constitutionally
allowed to bypass the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility to more
low-income Ohioans. The 1851 Center says the Controlling Board isn’t
allowed to go against the will of the legislature. The Kasich
administration argues the Controlling Board can unilaterally accept
With the case now expedited, both sides will submit their
arguments on the merits of the case to the state’s highest court by Dec.
Kasich tried for most of 2013 to get the expansion
approved by the Ohio House and Senate, but he couldn’t convince
Republican legislators, who control both chambers, to approve the plan.
But instead of accepting defeat, Kasich asked the
Controlling Board to take up federal funds for the expansion. The board
approved the funds on Oct. 21.
The legal complaint was filed on Oct. 22 on behalf of
Republican State Reps. Matt Lynch, Ron Young, Andy Thompson, Ron Maag,
John Becker and Ron Hood, Cleveland Right to Life and Right to Life of
Kasich, in a rare alliance with Democrats, says the
Medicaid expansion is necessary to insure more low-income Ohioans and
obtain federal Obamacare dollars that would go to other states if Ohio
declined the expansion.
But Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the
government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the
federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion.
Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid
eligibility to reach anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty
level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If
states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion
through fiscal year 2016 then gradually phase down its payments to 90
percent of the expansion. In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013.
The expansion would fill a so-called “coverage gap” under
Obamacare and Ohio law. Without it, parents with incomes between 90
percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless
adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level won’t
qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.
The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) previously found
the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through
fiscal year 2015. If the expansion is approved beyond that, HPIO says it
would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million
Ohioans over the next decade.
If the Ohio Supreme Court upholds the Controlling Board’s
decision, the Medicaid expansion will go into effect in 2014 and cost
the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
Small political parties in Ohio say S.B. 193 will limit their influence over the 2014 governor’s race
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
S.B. 193 could make it too difficult for minor parties to get their candidates on the Ohio ballot.