by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:03 AM | Permalink
Ohio must recognize gay marriages, governor calls for more tax cuts, citizens saved streetcar
A federal judge on Monday ordered Ohio authorities to
recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. Although the ruling
was narrow, many advocates of gay marriage argue the merits of the
judge’s decision indicate a broader problem with Ohio’s marriage laws
following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling against a federal anti-gay marriage law. The judge’s ruling came just three
days after another federal court struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage
ban on similar constitutional grounds.Gov. John Kasich’s plan to get Ohio’s economy moving
again: more tax cuts. But the policy announcement — unsurprising, coming from a Republican — comes on the
same year Ohio’s economy slowed down even after Kasich and the
Republican legislature passed tax cuts that heavily favored the state’s
Believe in Cincinnati saved the streetcar, argues The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The group was formed shortly after Mayor John Cranley won the November election and
threatened to halt the $132.8 million streetcar project for good. But
the threats inspired a groundswell of streetcar supporters, ranging from concerned
businesses to residents. And before City Council
agreed to continue the streetcar project, Believe in Cincinnati in just eight days gathered 11,300 petition signatures for a charter amendment
restarting the project. CityBeat covered the group in its infancy here.
Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, according to the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Cleveland and Toledo also made the unfortunate top five, CDF found.Overtime pay at the Metropolitan Sewer District exceeded
$2 million for the third consecutive year in a row, but the number falls
below the accepted standard of less than 10 percent of total
payroll. MSD Director Tony Parrott says overtime allows the agency to
keep staffing numbers in check but still responsive to unexpected
situations. Still, the overtime estimate arrives at a time Hamilton County
commissioners are raising sewer and water rates to comply with federal
Cincinnati will tap into a state program for a major
demolition blitz in 2014. The city plans to knock down 240 blighted and
condemned buildings next year — far higher than the typical annual rate
Eight historic buildings in Cincinnati, including Memorial
Hall, on Dec. 20 received roughly $6 million in state tax credits for
projects totaling $71 million.
Rhinegeist Brewing plans to begin canning its craft beer in January.
Humans were getting the flu as far back as the year 1510,
but it’s completely unknown if dinosaurs suffered from similar
illnesses.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Cincinnati streetcar saved, gay marriage could appear on ballot, Medicaid overhaul signed
City Council yesterday decided Cincinnati will get a streetcar after all. After securing the six votes necessary to overturn a mayoral veto, Mayor John Cranley
conceded that the $132.8 million streetcar project will restart
following a two-week pause. It was a surprising journey for the project,
which largely seemed like the underdog ever since the new mayor and
council took office earlier in the month. In the end, the project gained
its sixth vote from Councilman Kevin Flynn after the philanthropic Haile Foundation signed onto contributing $900,000 a year for 10 years to help underwrite part of the streetcar’s annual operating costs.Advocacy group FreedomOhio yesterday announced it has enough signatures to place same-sex marriage on Ohio’s 2014 ballot.
The group declined to tell Cleveland.com exactly how many signatures it
had collected so far, but the organization says it’s aiming to collect 1
million before the July filing deadline. At the same time, FreedomOhio
released a poll that found Ohioans are still split on the issue of same-sex
marriage. But the poll also found that a good majority of Ohioans
support FreedomOhio’s gay marriage legalization amendment, which
provides exemptions for religious groups.Gov. John Kasich yesterday signed a bipartisan Medicaid
overhaul bill that seeks to control costs by establishing an
oversight commission and a target for spending growth. The legislation
also sets a focus on health care outcomes to ensure quality
standards in the government-run program. Both parties pursued the bill
to tamp down on health care costs that have been taking up more of the
state’s budget in the past few years.
A new report from the state attorney general’s office
found nearly half the businesses who received state aid in 2012 did not
fulfill their end of the deal in terms of producing new jobs and other promises.Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent in
November, down from 7.5 percent the month before. But the number was well above the 6.8
percent rate from November 2012, indicating a decline in job growth in
the past year.Police arrested the mother of a 3-year-old for falsification and the mother’s boyfriend for accidentally shooting the child on Tuesday.Today is Homeless Memorial Day, a day meant to commemorate those who died in 2013 while experiencing homelessness. The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is gathering at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of 14th and Elm streets to honor the occasion.Bike Share plans to come to Cincinnati next summer and allow residents to rent out bikes around multiple parts of town.Miami University is the second most efficient
university in the nation in terms of delivering a good education
for relatively low cost, according to a study from U.S. News and World Report.Cincinnati’s housing market marked 29 consecutive months of increased sales last month with a 5-percent rise. The measure indicates the local economy is recovering after the Great Recession crippled housing markets around the nation.A new product that claims to translate dogs’ thoughts to human speech is bogus.After today, Morning News and Stuff will take a vacation until Dec. 26. Happy holidays!Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 05:12 PM | Permalink
City gains 13 points in HRC’s index ranking treatment of LGBT community
Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on Tuesday, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.
The city aced categories for its relationship with the
LGBT community, law enforcement and non-discrimination laws, which ban
employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also fared well with municipal services and opportunities provided to city workers.
The index also gave Cincinnati various bonus points, including three
for the election of Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly
gay elected official.
But the city was docked for failing to recognize LGBT
relationships through a domestic partner registry. Seelbach
told CityBeat last week that establishing a registry will be one of his priorities in his upcoming four-year term.
This year, establishing a domestic partner registry would have been enough to give Cincinnati a
perfect overall score in the Municipal Equality Index — a strong upward
shift from the 77 out of 100 the city received in 2012.
The 90 out of 100 was enough to place Cincinnati in
the top 25 percent of cities. The top 10 percent got a 96 or higher, and
25 of 291 cities got perfect scores in 2013.
3 Comments · Wednesday, November 6, 2013
A majority in all other states
now supports a ban on LGBT workplace discrimination. In a country that
is rarely unanimous on hot-button political issues, that’s as clean as
it gets. Not clean enough for the U.S. House of
by German Lopez
Last chance to vote early today, gay marriage case proceeds, streetcar workshops this month
With Election Day tomorrow, today is the last chance to vote early. Find your voting location here.
Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are
extended. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day
(Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
Judge Timothy Black ruled to continue
with a lawsuit that will decide whether same-sex marriages conducted in
other states should be acknowledged on Ohio’s death certificates. The
lawsuit originally appeared to matter only to a Cincinnati gay couple, but it’s been expanded to potentially reflect on the
rights of all gay couples in the state. Black is expected to give his
final ruling on the lawsuit in December. If Black rules in favor of
same-sex couples, it could be the latest step forward in an ongoing line
of progress for LGBT rights. Although same-sex marriage remains illegal
in Ohio, gay couples can now jointly file for federal taxes.
Local officials plan to host two workshops
to show business owners how the streetcar could benefit them. The
workshops are set for Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. and Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. Both will
be held on the third floor of the Public Library of Cincinnati and
Hamilton County at 800 Vine Street, downtown Cincinnati. Anyone interested can sign up here.
Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the Bureau of Criminal Investigation tested 2,093 sexual assault kits
through October, resulting in 688 DNA matches. Each kit represents a
sexual assault case in which DNA was taken but not previously submitted
for testing. The initiative is meant to speed up the process through
which sexual assault kits from around the state are tested.
A teacher with close ties to Gov. John Kasich was promoted to senior policy adviser, a top position, at the Ohio Department of Education.
With financial incentives from the state attached, the film industry is working more and creating jobs in Cincinnati and around Ohio.
A new study, conducted in part by Cincinnati researchers, found obesity contributes to early puberty in girls.
Ohio gas prices slightly increased from one week ago.
Eating too much Halloween candy might make someone really sick, but it usually won’t kill.
Watch kids discuss gay marriage:
And here’s one lady who really loves sponges:
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:19 AM | Permalink
LGBT groups call for marriage equality to bring standard to state and local taxes
The Ohio Department of Taxation this week released
separate tax forms that will allow gay couples who live in the state but
got married in another state to jointly file for taxes at the federal
level. But because of Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage,
same-sex couples won’t be able to jointly file for taxes at the state
or local level.
Although the move is being received as a step forward for
Ohio’s gay couples, some LGBT groups say the discrepancy between
different levels of government shows the need to push for marriage
equality in Ohio.
Why Marriage Matters Ohio, which is trying to educate
Ohioans on the benefits of same-sex marriage, pointed out
the discrepancy in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
“This is why marriage equality matters in Ohio. This is
why we’re working to build support for affording all Ohio families the
protections and responsibilities that only marriage offers,” wrote Elyzabeth Holdford, executive director of Equality Ohio and board chair
of Why Marriage Matters Ohio.
FreedomOhio, which is attempting to get same-sex marriage
on the November 2014 ballot, also criticized the discrepancy on
“While many will appreciate the extra tax benefits, this
separate and unequal treatment of families is unfair, unequal and is not
the treatment we seek,” said Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, in a
statement. “FreedomOhio is committed to bringing equal rights to all
Beyond the issue of equal rights, allowing same-sex
marriages in Ohio could generate economic activity. A study conducted by
Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics, LLC, found
marriage equality could produce $100-$126 million in economic growth
within three years in the state and $8.2 million in the same time span
in Hamilton County.
The new tax form for same-sex couples can be found here.
by German Lopez
Yvette Simpson says man quoted in WCPO story harassed her with racist remarks
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used
a man named Jim Kiefer as a source for a story after he harassed her on social media with racist insults.
WCPO’s Kevin Osborne
quoted Kiefer in a story, identifying him as a supporter for John Cranley’s mayoral
campaign. (Full disclosure: Osborne formerly worked for CityBeat.) When Simpson saw the story with Kiefer as a source, she says she immediately recognized him as someone who has repeatedly harassed her with racist remarks on Facebook. Kiefer's Facebook page was publicly viewable prior to Simpson calling him out on Twitter yesterday, but it has since been made private. On Oct. 20, the day before WCPO's story was published, Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook
wall that said, “For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati
(sic).... Evette (sic) getto (sic) Simpson!” Although the post included
various grammatical and spelling errors, Kiefer then attached an image
that said, “No you may not ‘Axe’ me a question. I don't speak Walmart.”Several of Simpson’s colleagues, including Councilman Chris Seelbach and City
Council candidate Mike Moroski, have come
to Simpson’s defense after she posted the image. The issue for Simpson is whether a media outlet should be
using Kiefer as a source, considering his images and posts were publicly viewable on Facebook. Simpson says Osborne never responded to
her email asking whether he or WCPO is aware of Kiefer’s history. Osborne is Facebook friends with Kiefer.CityBeat contacted WCPO News Director Alex Bongiorno by phone and email to ask about WCPO’s policy for vetting and identifying sources, but no response was given prior to the publishing of this story.WCPO’s story detailed criticisms from Cranley
supporters against opponent Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who Simpson supports. Specifically, the
story questioned why Qualls allegedly never sought an opinion from the
Ohio Board of Ethics over whether her work as a realtor presents a
potential conflict of interest with her support for the streetcar
project, which could increase property values — and perhaps Qualls’ compensation as a realtor — along its route.It turns out Qualls had asked for a professional opinion on the ethical issue at least two times before,
but the city solicitor deemed the connection
between Qualls’ work and the streetcar project too indirect and
speculative to present a conflict of interest, according to an email
from City Solicitor John Curp copied to CityBeat and other media outlets.Kiefer called CityBeat after people on social media discussed CityBeat’s various calls for comment for this story. Kiefer said the images were supposed to be jokes. “You have to have a sense of humor,” he said. The Cranley campaign says it has and wants nothing to do with Kiefer.“John (Cranley) wouldn’t know Jim Kiefer if he walked past him in
the street right now. It’s not someone that he’s ever met. It’s not
someone that he’s ever dealt with. It’s not someone that the campaign
has ever dealt with,” says Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s campaign director.
“Whatever his views are don’t reflect those of John.”Kincaid also points out that Cranley’s record goes against
some of the bigotry perpetuated by Kiefer's posts. While on City Council, Cranley
championed and helped pass an anti-racial profiling ordinance and LGBT
protections in local hate crime laws.Simpson’s history with Kiefer goes back to at least June,
when Simpson says Kiefer went on a racist tirade against her on Facebook
in the middle of an online discussion over the city’s parking plan. The
discussion has been deleted since then, but Simpson says
Kiefer told her to never return to the West Side of Cincinnati.This is not the first time Kiefer touted images with bigoted connotations on
his Facebook wall. In one instance, he “liked” an image of President
Barack Obama in tribal regalia. In another, he posted an image of
Barney Frank that mocked the former congressman’s homosexuality.
by German Lopez
Medicaid expansion approved, local LGBT rights champion dies, judge's victory costs county
A seven-member legislative board yesterday accepted federal funding
made available through Obamacare to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program to
cover more low-income Ohioans for the next two years. Gov. John Kasich
went through the Controlling Board, an obscure panel that typically
handles less contentious budget issues, to get the federally funded
Medicaid expansion after months of failing to convince his fellow
Republicans to back the policy in the Ohio House and Senate. Most
Republican state representatives, including local Reps. Lou Terhar,
Louis Blessing and Peter Stautberg, signed a letter in protest of the tactic, and some groups are already discussing lawsuits. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through
fiscal year 2015. If legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the
institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly
half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
John Arthur, the Cincinnati man who helped lead a legal battle for same-sex marriage in Ohio, died today at the age of 48.
Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011, and
the fatal neurodegenerative disease pushed Arthur and his partner Jim
Obergefell to hasten their battle for LGBT equality and recognition in the eyes of the law. After the couple married in
Maryland, they sued the state to recognize their marriage on Arthur’s
death certificate — a request granted in July by U.S. District Court
Judge Timothy Black, less than one month after the U.S. Supreme Court
struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which previously barred
same-sex marriages at the federal level.The 18-month legal battle over the 2010 juvenile court election between Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter and the Hamilton County Board of Elections will cost the county more than $920,000.
Hunter, a Democrat, ultimately won the lawsuit and recount. Her 2010
opponent, Republican John Williams, eventually got another seat in the
juvenile court through an appointment and subsequent election.
Teen drivers remain one of Ohio’s most at-risk groups for traffic accidents, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
Between 2010 and 2012, teen drivers were at fault for nearly 101,000
accidents resulting in more than 44,000 injuries and 299 deaths. In
total, teens were responsible for roughly 10 percent of fatal crashes.
To address the issue, OSHP is advising teen drivers and their parents on
safety basics, such as following the speed limit and wearing a
seatbelt, and promising to encourage better behavior through
Speaking to investors on Friday, Caesar’s Entertainment, the operator of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, disclosed the details of a federal money-laundering investigation
and said it previously withdrew a request for a gaming license in
Massachusetts after investigators there questioned past business
practices. Ohio officials reportedly told WCPO they’re reviewing the
In September, Cincinnati year-over-year home sales increased for the 27th consecutive month.
Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery removed a SpongeBob SquarePants headstone for an Iraq War veteran because officials deemed it inappropriate.
The Cincinnati Reds will replace former manager Dusty Baker with pitching coach Bryan Price, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer.
A new study found no known species matches the expected profile of a shared ancestor for humans and Neanderthals.Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Pension language mostly upheld, Cranley rejects COAST, Ky. group criticizes housing facility
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld most of the controversial ballot language
for Issue 4 — the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system — but the court also
concluded that the Hamilton County Board of Elections must add language
about how much the city can contribute to the new retirement accounts.
The amendment would require future city employees to contribute to and
manage individual 401k-style retirement accounts, instead of placing
them under the current pension system in which the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. Voters
will make the final decision on the amendment on Nov. 5, although some
already voted early on ballots that included the full controversial
language. CityBeat analyzed the amendment — and how it could reduce benefits for city employees and raise costs for the city — in further detail here.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject and doesn’t want
an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of
anti-LGBT causes. The response came just two days after COAST on Oct. 8
tweeted that it supported — but not endorsed — Cranley and council
candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a
“change of direction.” In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach,
Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, called on all candidates
to reject COAST’s support because the conservative group’s most public
members previously opposed LGBT rights and backed efforts to make it
illegal for the city to deem gays and lesbians a protected class in
anti-discrimination statutes.A historic preservation society in Ludlow, Ky., is attempting to block
a transitional housing facility that provides low-cost housing for
recovering addicts as they get their lives back in order. Even though
the facility’s two buildings aren’t designated as “historic,” the Ludlow
Historic Society wrote in an email that it’s “concerned because we are
striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and
especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their
homes and raise their families.” There’s not much information on the
ripple effect transitional housing has on communities, but a 2010 study found residents of transitional housing were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence.Ohio officials are considering rules
that would allow oil and gas drillers to store fracking wastewater in
lagoons the size of football fields then recycle the wastewater for further use.
Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water,
chemicals and sand are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas
reserves, but the technique produces potentially toxic wastewater that
has to be deposited or recycled somewhere. CityBeat covered fracking and the environmental controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
A state senator proposed a bill
that attempts to keep the monthly per-member growth of Medicaid costs at
3 percent or lower, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. But the bill doesn’t specify how it would reach the savings required and
instead calls on the legislature and state administration to find a
solution. The bill also doesn’t take up the federally funded Medicaid
expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a
million Ohioans in the next decade.
A national reporting project will track the accessibility of Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” now that emergency contraception is a court-upheld right for all women of childbearing age.
The death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive and raping them for a decade, may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, not suicide.
Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she got a double mastectomy may have inspired more Cincinnati women to seek a cancer screening.
Scientists discovered an exoplanet whose mass is 26 percent water. In comparison, Earth is only 0.023 percent water, by mass, according to Popular Science.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
by German Lopez
Conservative group has history of anti-LGBT causes
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes.“I don’t want it. I’m not a member of COAST,” Cranley says.
The response comes just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie
Winburn for a “change of direction.” The group later claimed the tweets weren’t endorsements, but not before
progressives called on candidates to reject COAST’s support.Councilman Chris Seelbach responded to COAST’s apparent interest in influencing the mayoral and City Council races on his Facebook page: “Regardless of the politics involved, anyone who wants my
support should make it clear: COAST is a hate-driven, fringe
organization that should not be apart (sic) of any conversation on how
to make Cincinnati a better place.”CityBeat couldn’t immediately reach
Murray, Smitherman or Winburn for comment on whether they would accept
COAST's support for their campaigns. But Smitherman, who is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he’s not campaigning, often teams up with COAST on local issues.
Seelbach, who has been a favorite target of COAST, tells CityBeat there’s no doubt the group’s vitriolic opposition is at least partly based on hate.
“Without question, I believe COAST targets me because I’m
gay,” Seelbach says. “In some ways, I’m a symbol of everything that they
hate, which is LGBT progress.”Cranley agrees the group is hateful. He points out that some COAST members have criticized him over the years for supporting LGBT causes, including hate crime legislation in 2003.
In the 1990s, Chris Finney, chief legal crusader for
COAST, authored Article XII, the city charter amendment approved by
voters in 1993 that barred the city from deeming gays a protected class
in anti-discrimination statutes.
In a June 1994 Cincinnati Post article,
Finney said landlords should not be legally required to rent to gay or
lesbian tenants. Finney explained, “Because there may be some who don’t
want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they
find offensive.” To critics, the remarks seemed fairly similar to
arguments leveled in support of racial segregation in the 1960s.COAST chairman Tom Brinkman and member Mark Miller were also part of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which defended Article XII in court in 1997.
When City Council passed hate crime legislation protecting
gays and lesbians in 2003, Brinkman criticized the Catholic members of City Council at the time — including Cranley, who sponsored the legislation — for sending “the message that you openly approve of homosexuality.”Back then, Cranley responded, “We have a little something in this
country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked
me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution.”
Around the same time, Seelbach prepared and then helped lead the 2004
campaign that did away with Article XII. For Cincinnati, the repeal of
the city charter amendment, just 11 years after voters approved it,
exemplified the more tolerant, open direction the country was moving in regards to the LGBT community.
But while the country has embraced greater equality for
LGBT individuals, Seelbach says COAST hasn’t done the same. Even though
Seelbach voted against the parking plan that COAST also opposes, the
conservative organization has regularly targeted Seelbach in blog posts
and emails criticizing the plan, which leases the city’s parking meters,
lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
In March, COAST sent out a doctored image that compared
Seelbach to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ in the Christian
religion, for approving an emergency clause on the parking plan that
effectively exempted the plan from a voter referendum. Seelbach voted
against the parking plan itself when it came to a vote.
“I don’t believe in running our city by referendums,”
Seelbach says. “What we currently have is a representative democracy. We
elect people that we hold accountable by either re-electing them or
not, and we trust the people that we elect to research the policies and
make informed decisions. I think that’s the best system.”
Most recently, COAST went after Seelbach for his trip to
Washington, D.C., where he received the Harvey Milk Champion of Change
award for his efforts to protect and promote Cincinnati’s LGBT
community. The city paid more than $1,200 for the trip, which COAST
called into question with legal threats. Even though City Solicitor John
Curp, the city’s top lawyer, deemed the allegations frivolous, Seelbach
agreed to reimburse the funds to stave off a lawsuit that could have
cost the city more than $30,000.
At the same time, media outlets, including WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer,
have closely covered COAST’s allegations and commonly turned to the
group to get the conservative side of different issues, ranging from the
streetcar project to the pension system. Both media outlets have
characterized COAST as a “government watchdog group,” ignoring the organization’s history of conservative activism and crafting legislation.
The favorable attention might be turning around. The Enquirer recently scrutinized COAST’s lawsuits against the city, which revealed the group, which frames itself as an
anti-tax, anti-spending watchdog, could cost the city more than $500,000
in legal fees. The city solicitor also estimated his office puts the
equivalent of one full-time employee on COAST’s cases, with the typical
city civil attorney making about $65,000 a year, according to The Enquirer.
Seelbach acknowledges the vast differences between the
black and LGBT civil rights movements, but he says a group with a
similarly discriminatory past wouldn’t get the kind of media coverage and
attention COAST does, at least without the proper context.
“If there was a group that had a history of fighting for
segregation, … there is absolutely no way anyone, much less media, would
quote or accept support in any form,” Seelbach says.This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. with more context.