by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, County Commission
, Financial Crisis
, Mitt Romney
at 03:53 PM | Permalink
"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases
The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board
outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an
austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said
his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30
percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to
approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or
0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3
percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5
percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the
Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public
safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic
development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he
supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own
budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is
working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the
Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by
the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the
budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for
county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different
visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is
running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s
waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the
economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking
that’s what you were going to go with.”
by German Lopez
State data glitch causes late delivery of 33,000 updated registration records
An error in how voters update their address online caused
updated registration records to be delivered late to Ohio’s election
officials. With about a week left in Ohio’s voting process, the late delivery might have caused the Hamilton County Board of
Elections to mistakenly reject some eligible voters because officials did not
have the voters’ current addresses. Amy Searcy, director of elections
at the board, says it’s unclear how many registered voters were
affected, but 2,129 updated registration records were sent from Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s
office. She says the number could end up varying since some of the
records are duplicates.
Across the state, an unknown number of ballots were
mistakenly rejected as 33,000 registration records were sent late on
Monday and Tuesday. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer reported 71 voters were mistakenly rejected in Cuyahoga County.
Matt McClellan, Husted’s spokesperson, said Husted’s
offices were previously unaware of the data, which is why it wasn’t
requested before the glitch was detected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
The glitch caused the BMV to not properly send online address changes to Husted’s office, says Joe Andrews, communications
director at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which oversees the BMV. He
added, “As soon as we discovered it, we fixed it. And I think that, in
cooperation with the secretary of state’s office, the problem has been
In a directive detailing the delay, Husted touted the benefits of the catch.
“While the timing is unfortunate, we are extremely pleased
that the data from this new system can be sent electronically and will
require minimal data entry,” he wrote. “Additionally, the new system has
the potential to help reduce provisional ballots significantly.”
Outdated registration records are one of the major reasons
voters cast provisional ballots, which are ballots given to voters
whose eligibility is unclear. In 2008, nearly 205,000 provisional
ballots were cast and about 40,000 — about 20 percent — were rejected for varying reasons. Recently, a federal judge blocked an
Ohio law that led to 14,000 of those rejections. Husted followed up that
ruling with an appeal and a request for an emergency stay.Tim Burke, chairman of the county Board of Elections and county Democratic Party, expressed mixed feelings about the caught error.“Obviously, you hate like hell to have the secretary of
state’s office, which had promised to have a very efficient election,
popping something like that on us seven days out,” he says. “Having said
that, I’m glad at least once they recognized that these names are out
there they moved to get them to us so that we can do our best to ensure
that these folks are not disenfranchised because of some administrative
glitch.”He says the board will contact any mistakenly rejected voters.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
A 20-year veteran of Hamilton County’s
probation department says she was denied a promotion after advising
another woman to file a sexual-harassment claim against a boss on the
county’s payroll at the time.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
This year, there is a surprising amount
of choice in the Hamilton County offices. In the past, a lot of the
seats have been uncontested, typically held by powerful Republican
incumbents. This year is different. In addition to offering a differint
perspective than the extremist Republican status quo, each of these
candidates offers credibility and new ideas.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
We like how Democratic Commissioner Todd
Portune tried to keep funding for mental health and elderly services the
same with a very minor tax hike that would have made up for property
values dropping. We like his support for the streetcar. We like how he
can rein in the two Republicans on the Board of Commissioners.
County leaders say electronic voting machines are appropriately monitored, despite connections to Romney-supporters
1 Comment · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
In the late hours of this upcoming
Presidential Election night, one Democrat commissioner and one
Republican commissioner from the Hamilton County Board of Elections will
tally the final vote to see whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins
by German Lopez
New casinos around Ohio won’t provide enough revenue for cuts to state aid
A new analysis suggests that tax revenue from Ohio’s new casinos will not be enough to make up
for state spending cuts to cities and counties. The findings of the Oct. 1 analysis, by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, apply even to casinos and big cities that get
extra casino tax revenue. They still lose twice in state aid what they
get in new taxes, according to the report.
Overall, the analysis found that new casino revenue will
provide $227 million a year to counties and cities. In total, state aid
to counties and cities has been cut by about $1 billion. That means the
tax revenue isn’t even one quarter of what cities and counties will
need to make up for cuts.
The cuts also won’t be enough to make up for state cuts to
schools. When casino plans propped up around the state, governments
promised that revenue from casinos would be used to build up schools.
However, state aid to K-12 education has been cut by $1.8 billion, and
new tax revenue will only make up 0.5 to 1.5 percent of those cuts in
most school districts, according to the Policy Matters report.In 2013, Cincinnati will become the fourth Ohio city with a
casino. Cleveland and Toledo have casinos, and a new casino opened
in Columbus Oct. 8.
Currently, the system is set up so each casino is taxed at
33 percent of gross revenues. That revenue is split into many pieces
with approximately 34 percent going to the school fund. Each city with a
casino also gets an exclusive 5 percent of its casino’s revenue.For Cincinnati, that means about $12.1 million in new annual tax revenue. But even with that revenue, Cincinnati will still be losing about $17.7 million in state funding, according to calculations from Policy Matters.
In past interviews, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Gov.
John Kasich, has repeatedly cited the constitutional requirement to
balance Ohio’s budget to defend any state budget cuts: “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. We had to fix that.”Cuts Hurt Ohio, a website showing cuts to state aid, was launched by Policy Matters earlier this year. That website found $2.88 billion in cuts to state aid with $1.8 billion in cuts to education and $1.08 billion in cuts to local governments. In Hamilton County, that translated to a $136 million cut to education and a $105 million cut to local government.The report does caution that its findings are
“necessarily tentative”: “Projected revenues have come down
significantly since the 2009 campaign for the casino proposal, and the
expected opening of numerous gambling facilities makes it hard to be
sure what revenues will be. We estimate casino tax revenue based on
several sources, including state agencies, casino operators, and former
taxation department analyst Mike Sobul. Our numbers reflect a
comparatively optimistic assessment.”
by German Lopez
Today is the last day to register to vote, and in-person
early voting is underway. Register to vote and vote at your nearest
board of election, which can be located here.Hamilton County commissioners agree on not raising the
sales tax. That effectively rules out two of three plans laid out by the
county administrator. The one plan left would not cut public safety, but it would make cuts to the courts, criminal justice system, administrative departments, commissioner departments and the board of elections.It seems other news outlets are now scrutinizing online
schools. A Reuters report pointed out state officials — including some
in Ohio — are not happy with results from e-schools. Even Barbara
Dreyer, CEO of the e-school company Connections Academy, told Reuters
she’s disappointed with performance at e-schools. A CityBeat look into e-schools in August found similarly disappointing results.
Ohio Democrats are asking federal and state officials for
an investigation into Murray Energy, the Ohio-based coal company that
has been accused of coercing employees into contributing to Republican
political campaigns. In the statement calling for action, Ohio
Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Thanks to this report,
now we know why coal workers and miners have lent themselves to the
rallies, ads, and political contributions. They’ve been afraid.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach is following up on information
obtained during public safety meetings. The most consistent concerns
Seelbach heard were worries about loitering and young people breaking
The state auditor says the Ohio Department of Education
(ODE) could save $430,000 a year if it moved its student information
database in-house. Current law prohibits ODE from having access to the
data for privacy reasons, but State Auditor Dave Yost says it’s
unnecessary and “wastes time and money.”It seems Duke Energy is quickly integrating into its recent merger with Progress Energy. The company's information technology, nuclear and energy-supply departments are fully staffed and functional.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is renovating and restoring the Art Academy on the building’s west side.
It might not feel like it sometimes, but parking in Cincinnati is still pretty cheap.
Scientific research is increasingly pointing to lead as an explanation for people’s crazy grandparents. Research indicates even small programs cleaning up lead contamination can have massive economic and education returns.
Kings Island is selling off pieces of the Son of Beast.
The troubled roller coaster was torn down after years of being shut
The “Jeopardy!” Ohio Online Test is today. If you’re ever on the show, give a shout-out to CityBeat.
by German Lopez
Mayor criticizes county commissioner for going to media first
Mayor Mark Mallory was not happy with Hamilton County
Commission President Greg Hartmann’s Tuesday letter criticizing him for failing to follow through with a city-county shared services plan. Mallory fired back today in his own letter,
criticizing Hartmann for going to the media first and explaining why he
no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee.
“We have had a
strong working relationship since you have become Commission
President,” Mallory wrote. “So, I was surprised and disappointed that
you sent the letter to the media instead of sharing your concerns with
me directly; after all, you have my cell phone number.”
Mallory went on to point out that Hartmann is the fourth
commission president he has worked with, and the previous three “never
would have handled City/County relations in such a confrontational
The mayor also clarified why he no longer supports the
City County Shared Services Committee, which was meant to consolidate
county and city services to end redundancies and improve efficiency and
“As the scope of the proposed committee’s work was
developed, it became clear to me that not only were we already
collaborating at a high level, but that several new collaborations
proposed by the City had met resistance from the County,” Mallory wrote.
“I began to question the need for a committee to conduct a $400,000
study of future collaboration if there were already potential new
collaborations sitting on the shelf.”
Mallory also said he “will never give away the ability of
the citizens of Cincinnati to control crucial City functions.” He cited
the examples of prosecutors and health clinics, which Mallory implied
could have been given off to the county if the committee pushed through
The mayor also pointed out that even if the city and
county approved the committee and its recommendations, Hamilton County
would still have serious budget problems: “You and I both know that the
recommendations of the Shared Services Committee would never have
resulted in close to enough savings to close the County’s budget
deficit, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.” In other words, stop
shifting the blame.
The rest of Mallory’s letter went on to point out
Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborate on a regular basis to
“improve services, create efficiencies, and save money.” The mayor
pointed to many programs for examples of the city and county working
together: the Banks development, the Convention and Visitors Bureau,
the Metropolitan Sewer District, emergency operations, the Port Authority, a
$1.9 million city-county contract that has the county manage
Cincinnati’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program and the Neighborhood
Stabilization Program Consortium.
Mallory also claimed there have been cases in which the county declined to collaborate with the city, citing the Indigent Care Levy. The
county’s consultant recommended Hamilton County give some of that levy
to provide county residents access to primary care at the City Health
Center System, but the county declined the potential partnership.
Mallory then said he was willing to work on collaboration
with purchasing, fire hydrant maintenance and economic development —
three areas Hartmann cited in his own letter to Mallory.
The letter finished with a call to end the politics of the
back-and-forth: “I feel very strongly that it is time to take the
politics out and leave the matter to the public sector professionals.
The City Manager is ready to meet with the County Administrator to
discuss any proposed partnership that would improve the lives of our
citizens by improving service, increasing efficiency, or saving money.”
In his letter, Hartmann
criticized Mallory for not keeping his promise to back the
city-county committee, citing a previous letter from Mallory to the
Ohio Department of Development that promised $100,000 for the new committee.
by German Lopez
Misleading headline bogs down otherwise accurate story on important issue
In-person early voting in Hamilton County has been given a minimum price tag: $18,676. That’s how much The Cincinnati Enquirer
says it will cost to staff polling booths in downtown
Cincinnati during the early voting hours directed by Secretary of
State Jon Husted.
Unfortunately, in an effort to appear as if the early voting issue has two sides, the Enquirer
never bothered putting the number in context. The article reads as if
that number, which amounts to $406 an hour, is a big expense for
Hamilton County. In reality, the additional cost would amount to about
0.009 percent of the 2012 county budget — a rounding error in the $206 million budget. Meanwhile, the Enquirer downplayed a new $300,000 cost to county taxpayers in the top story for today's paper. The article pointed out the unnecessary cost is due to county commissioners refusing to make a tough decision, but the headline made it seem like the county is getting away with little-to-no trouble.
The number is important because costs are the top
non-racist concern Republicans bring up when opposing more early voting
hours. The other concerns are empowering military voters above normal citizens, which contradicts the entire point of civilian control of the military and ignores mail-in absentee ballots, and voter fraud, which is completely overblown by Republicans.
Over the weekend, Ohio’s early voting battle caught national headlines again when Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch
in an email, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the
voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American —
voter-turnout machine.” The statement echoed earlier statements from
former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, who told MSNBC that voting
restrictions are an attempt to limit voting from minorities and younger
voters.The admission to racial politics confirmed suspicions from Democrats that limiting early voting hours is at least partly about
suppressing the vote among demographics that typically vote Democrat.
The estimate comes in the middle of an ongoing controversy
regarding in-person early voting hours. Husted
said Wednesday that counties must all follow the same early voting
hours. But the hours excluded early voting during the weekend, much to
the dismay of state Democrats. In response, Democrats in Montgomery
County, which is where Dayton is, decided to try having weekend voting
anyway, and Husted suspended and threatened to fire the Democrats on the
Montgomery County Board of Elections. Democrats were not happy with the threats.“It's outrageous and borderline criminal,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, in a statement.
Ohio Democrats held a rally in Columbus this morning in
support of Montgomery County Democrats. The Dayton-area Democrats appeared in a hearing with Husted today to see if they will be fired
from the Montgomery County Board of Elections. A decision will be given later in the week.
At the hearing, Dennis Lieberman, one of the Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections,
said he “was not put on the board of elections to be a puppet.”
Lieberman also pointed out that Montgomery County saved $200,000 in the
2008 elections by lowering the amount of precincts required with weekend
The controversy is following up an earlier controversy
about county-by-county discrepancies in early voting hours — an issue
Hamilton County barely avoided when Husted
directed county boards to invoke uniform in-person early voting hours
across the state a day before Hamilton County Board of Election