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
Ohio was one of two states to see economy worsen in three-month index
Despite Gov. John Kasich’s claims to the contrary, the
only miracle in Ohio’s economy might be how bad the state is doing compared to
the rest of the nation.
The proof: Ohio’s economy was among just two states in the
nation that actually worsened during September through November compared to August through October, according
to the research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Beyond Ohio’s borders, Alaska also worsened, two states remained stable and the rest of the nation moved in a generally positive direction.
In other words, while 46 states’ economies moved in a generally positive direction, Ohio actually got worse.
The measures come from the State Coincident Index issued
by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia every month. The index
combines several economic indicators to gauge the condition of each
state’s economy. The research department then gauges whether the index
improved or worsened after the latest month’s data is taken into
account.With the gubernatorial election now less than one year
away, the sorry state of Ohio’s economy could prove a bad sign for Gov.
Kasich, a Republican, came into office as Ohio’s economy
began dashing out of the Great Recession stronger than most of the
nation — a trend Kasich took to calling the “Ohio miracle.”
Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s likely Democratic challenger, has
criticized the claim in the past few months as Ohio’s economy showed
more signs of worsening despite Kasich’s promises that his policies
would keep the state in the right direction.
One of those policies was privatizing Ohio’s development
agency and effectively turning it into JobsOhio. In less than three years, the
agency has been riddled in multiple scandals following accusations from
Democrats that the JobsOhio board hosts various conflicts of interests
and lacks transparency when recommending who should get state tax
Kasich also pushed and approved an across-the-board income
tax cut earlier in 2013 through the two-year state budget. But because
the income tax cut came with a sales tax hike, left-leaning think tank
Policy Matters Ohio found Kasich’s tax cut heavily favors the wealthy, which
calls into question whether the tax cut will actually help Ohio’s middle
class or economy.
For FitzGerald and other Democrats, the challenge is
advocating a progressive agenda that stands in contrast to Kasich’s
policies. Although they have plenty of criticisms, it remains unclear
what Democrats could do if — as looks almost certain — Republicans
continue to hold Ohio’s legislative chambers.
Then there’s the question of whether state policies matter
much, if at all. Economists generally agree that state officials
tend to dramatize the economic impact of their policies when much
bigger factors are at play, particularly as globalization reshapes the
national and global economies.
For now, one thing is clear: Kasich’s policies
haven’t been enough to turn around Ohio’s sinking economy throughout the
past three months.
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
Private backers support streetcar offer, city budget gap estimated, governor's race still close
More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities
support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) plan to
develop a private-public partnership to pay for the streetcar’s
operating costs, according to Eric Avner, vice president of the
philanthropic Haile Foundation. If the people cited by Avner put money behind their support, they could get streetcar operating costs off
the city’s books and pave the clearest path forward for the $132.8
million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took
office earlier this month. Although Cranley called SORTA’s offer
“woefully insufficient” earlier in the day, Councilman Kevin Flynn, one
of two swing votes on council, said the idea could turn into a viable option if the business and philanthropic community
provided more assurances.
Other streetcar news:• City Council will hold public hearings on the streetcar
today at 1:30 p.m., with a vote to decide the project’s fate expected
tomorrow.• Speaking about the streetcar project, Vice Mayor David Mann told The Business Courier, “I’m awfully close to saying let’s go for it.” • The Federal Transit Administration might prefer to deal with SORTA over Mayor Cranley if the streetcar is completed.
Cincinnati’s projected operating budget gap for fiscal
year 2015 is $16 million, which means City Council will need to find new
revenue or cuts to balance the budget by July. Although a majority of
council members promise to structurally balance the budget in the next
few years, a minority say it will be more difficult than most expect without hiking
taxes or cutting police and firefighters.The 2014 gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John
Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald is within the margin of
error, according to a poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling (PPP). “Although
there’s been a fair amount of movement toward Republicans nationally
since (November), the state of this particular race has seen very little
movement and Democrats continue to have an excellent chance at a pick
up next year,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of PPP.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune could challenge FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination.A task force could undertake a comprehensive review of the city charter to modernize the city’s guiding legal document.Startup incubator SoMoLend is likely to liquidate before
the scheduled Jan. 23 state hearing about alleged securities fraud. The
liquidation would be an effective end to a once-promising company that partnered with the city of Cincinnati to foster startups
and small businesses.
This year could be the least deadly on Ohio’s roadways, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.A bill in the Ohio House could require hospitals to report
the number of newborns addicted to drugs. The grim number would provide
a much-needed measure for tackling Ohio’s so-called opioid epidemic.
Ohio is doing a poor job fighting infectious diseases,
according to a report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital obtained a grant to combat brain cancer.
Two won the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.
Even the physics behind emperor penguin huddles are pretty complicated.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
FitzGerald could replace running mate, streetcar supporters seek vote, winter shelter opens
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is
preparing to replace running mate Eric Kearney, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Kearney, a state senator from Cincinnati, has been under increasing
pressure to drop out of the race following multiple media reports that
uncovered he, his wife and his business owe up to $826,000 in unpaid
taxes. FitzGerald is running against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.Streetcar supporters will seek a city charter amendment that would task Cincinnati with continuing the $132.8 million streetcar project. Supporters say the amendment will act as a
back-up plan if Mayor John Cranley and City Council decide to strike
down the project after completion and cancellation costs are reviewed
through an independent audit. But the Federal Transit Administration
says the city would lose up to $44.9 million in federal funding —
roughly one-third of the streetcar project — if the city government doesn’t agree
to continue with the streetcar before Dec. 19. If the charter amendment gets enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot, voters could decide on the issue as
late as May.Cincinnati’s winter shelter opened today and will remain
open through February, according to the Greater Cincinnati Homeless
Coalition. The opening comes after winter storms covered Cincinnati’s
streets in ice and snow and sparked a citywide snow emergency over the weekend. The colder conditions will continue into the week,
according to the National Weather Service. It was originally unclear
whether the shelter would be able to open for its traditional
two-to-three months, but a $30,000 contribution from City Council helped
pave the way forward.The woman who was struck by a police cruiser in
Over-the-Rhine last month filed a lawsuit alleging the officer deliberately deleted
the dashboard camera video of the collision and lied when he claimed his
emergency lights and siren were on. The camera stopped recording for about three minutes right
before Officer Orlando Smith hit Natalie Cole with his cruiser. Police say the camera malfunctioned. But
the incident was the second time Smith’s camera stopped working in the
past year; previously, the camera failed to record during a shooting
that left one suspect dead and another wounded. CityBeat covered the issues surrounding cruiser cameras in further detail here.Councilman Charlie Winburn says the city wastefully
purchased and dumped 2,000 tons of road salt. Although other council
members on the Budget and Finance Committee appeared cautious of
Winburn’s accusations, he asked the city administration to
investigate the issue.
Ohioans can now enroll in an expanded Medicaid program,
which covers anyone up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or an annual
income of $15,856.20 or less. In October, a seven-member legislative
panel accepted federal funds to pay for expanded Medicaid eligibility
for two years despite resistance from the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber named a new president and CEO.
The rover Curiosity found a former lake on Mars.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Local senator to run for lt. governor, audit clears JobsOhio, House OKs "stand your ground"
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald selected State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati as his running mate
for his bid against Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Although Kasich is widely
perceived as a favorite as the incumbent, recent polling found the race is tied. (The poll was commissioned by Ohio Democrats, but the firm behind it was deemed the most accurate national pollster of 2012.)
Republican State Auditor Dave Yost’s long-awaited audit of JobsOhio found no substantial conflicts of interests at the privatized development firm established by Gov. Kasich and
Republican legislators to replace the public Ohio Department of
Development. But the audit found 113 items totaling
nearly $69,000 in inadequately documented expenditures financed through the state’s leased liquor profits and insufficient safeguards to identify
potential conflicts of interest. In a statement, John Patrick Carney, the Democratic candidate for state auditor running against Yost in 2014, claimed the audit was “a whitewashed attempt that fails to give taxpayers a full accounting of JobsOhio” and touted it as evidence the state auditor’s office needs change. CityBeat previously wrote about criticisms towards JobsOhio in further detail here. (Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Rewrote paragraph to add Carney’s comments.)
The Ohio House yesterday approved sweeping gun legislation
that would impose “stand your ground” rules in the state and
automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states.
“Stand your ground” rules remove a duty to retreat before using deadly
force in self-defense when a person is in areas in which he’s lawfully
allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat when a person is
in his home or vehicle. The bill is particularly controversial
following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a
“stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in
the trial that let Zimmerman go free. The bill now requires approval
from the Ohio Senate and Gov. Kasich to become law.
Commentary: “False Equivalency Confuses Streetcar Debate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes new early voting limits
that would shorten the in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days
and remove a “golden week” that allows Ohioans to simultaneously
register and vote in person. The Ohio Association of
Election Officials claims the limits are necessary to establish uniform
voting days across all counties without placing too much of a burden on
smaller counties. But Democrats claim the limits aim to suppress voters.
The Ohio Senate yesterday cleared the new early voting limits, which now require approval from the Ohio House and Gov. Kasich to become law.
If property and business owners along the planned
streetcar line sue over the cancellation of the $133 million project, legal experts say they have a very slim chance of winning.
The threat of litigation is one of the potential back-up options
discussed by streetcar supporters if Mayor-elect John Cranley and the
incoming City Council agree to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners agreed to increase the tax return local property owners will get
as part of the deal funding Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball
Park. The deal boosts the rebate to $13 million in 2014, up from $10
million in 2013 but still below the $20.5 million promised to property
owners after voters approved a sales tax hike to fund the stadiums.
Commissioners estimate property owners will receive nearly $46 for each
$100,000 of property value from the boosted rebate, up from $35 this
year, but Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes told CityBeat that the exact number is unclear until the tax commissioner approves new tax rates.
College campuses generally struggle with too-frequent cases of sexual assault, but one lawsuit from an alleged victim is targeting Miami University
for supposed negligence and a breach of the student code of conduct.
The female student claims she was raped by former Miami University student Antonio
Charles, but she says that multiple red flags could have prevented the
alleged incident. Charles was eventually expelled from Miami University for “sexual
misconduct” in response to the incident involving the plaintiff, but
that was after he was investigated for multiple other accusations related to sexual misconduct. Miami University Sexual
Assault Response Coordinator Rebecca Getson defends some of the
university administration’s actions regarding sexual assault cases as a
strict adherence to protocol and blames some of the public perception on
the administration’s lack of awareness about the atmosphere.
Cincinnati’s economy will grow more slowly than the nation’s economy next year, according to Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development’s panel of five regional economists.
Al Neyer plans to build a $22 million luxury apartment tower in downtown Cincinnati.
Cancer research done on mice might get screwed up by standard laboratory temperatures.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
5 Comments · Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Politicized redistricting is impacting yet another important state issue.
by German Lopez
Mayoral primary today, groups to push same-sex marriage, JobsOhio likely to remain
Today is the mayoral primary election between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. The big difference between the two candidates: Qualls supports and Cranley opposes the streetcar project and parking lease. Polls will be open
until 7:30 p.m. tonight. To find out more information and where to vote,
visit the Hamilton County Board of Elections website here.
LGBT groups, civil libertarians and legislators came together in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus
yesterday to announce Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a new statewide effort
to educate and persuade Ohioans to support legalizing same-sex
marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Equality Ohio,
Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign are all involved. The
efforts have also been endorsed by faith and business community leaders,
according to the groups. The groups say the campaign is partly in
response to public polling. The 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute
found Ohioans evenly divided on same-sex marriage: 47 percent supported
it and 47 opposed it. But the survey went against earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University, which found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.
If he’s elected governor, Democrat Ed FitzGerald says he would make changes to JobsOhio
to make it more transparent and open to a public audit, but he says he wouldn’t dismantle the privatized development agency altogether.
FitzGerald acknowledges he would prefer a public agency to land the
state’s development deals, but he says it’s unrealistic to expect the
Republican-controlled General Assembly to repeal JobsOhio. The agency
was established by Gov. John Kasich and fellow Republicans in 2011 to
replace the Ohio Department of Development. Democrats have criticized
JobsOhio for a lack of transparency that has mired it in several
scandals and potential conflicts of interest lately, while Republicans
insist the agency’s privatized, secretive nature help it establish
job-creating development deals more quickly.
In a letter to the city manager, Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld is calling on the city to host town hall meetings with the four final candidates for Cincinnati Police chief. Sittenfeld says the meetings would help assess how the next police chief responds to
the community and takes feedback. City Manager Milton Dohoney announced
on Sept. 5 that city officials had narrowed down its pool of candidates to four:
acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the
Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the
Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy
superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.
Hamilton County commissioners are likely to keep property taxes higher
to pay for the stadium fund, which is running in the positive for the
next five years after years of shortfalls. Last year, commissioners agreed to reduce the property tax rollback
by half, effectively raising property taxes by $35 for every $100,000
in a home’s value. With yesterday’s news, it’s looking like the property
tax hike will remain permanent. Even without the full rollback in
place, the stadium fund is expected to start producing shortfalls again
in 2019. The rollback disproportionately benefits the wealthy, who end
up getting much more money back than low- and middle-income residents.
Meanwhile, county commissioners might take up an insurance policy with PNC Bank to meet debt obligations on the stadium fund
for the next three years. Commissioner Greg Hartmann says the plan
would give the county enough time to refinance, which could help reduce
the fund’s problems.
City Council committees moved forward with two major pieces of legislation yesterday:
• Qualls’ plan would enforce stricter regulations on the city’s lobbyists and expand disclosure requirements for city officials to make the political process more transparent.• Councilman Chris Seelbach’s proposal would help address cellphone theft by making it more difficult to sell the stolen devices.
As it stands, the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund needs more money to stay solvent. Still, officials say the fund needs time for newly implemented changes to start making an impact.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino now stands as the top earner among Ohio casinos, according to the latest state data.
New hybrid engines could lead to a new era of more affordable spaceplanes.
by German Lopez
City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll
City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group
that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the
city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp
wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed
to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms
and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay
leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have
been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion
calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting
requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials,
lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post
the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a
statement that the update is particularly timely because the
Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2
billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably
involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses
New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now
stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents
still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t
sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is
affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the
2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.
Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley
that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The
trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar
to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major
garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton
County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval,
it could get federal funding.
Investors are upset with SoMoLend,
the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state
investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that
the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the
state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati
announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.
Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.
The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.
Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants
permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break
state and federal laws.
Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill
currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has
been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was
acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old
Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law,
which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal
defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.
Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.
Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated
petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures
in the two-year state budget.