by German Lopez
Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues
With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial
recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer,
DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the
program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the
public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s
initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and
privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able
to abuse the new tool.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets
once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but
it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise
revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or
the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken
steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a
reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas.
The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time
injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents
of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s
parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking
rates and hours.
Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets
will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for
Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving
forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John
Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the
demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1
A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic
will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI
claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of
that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way.
Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary
Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to
provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation
funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals,
among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today
begins its first week back to school.
Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery.
Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than
Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has
stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by
half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average.
The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial.
NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:18 AM | Permalink
Meet Roger Ramundo, city budget cuts could be reduced, AG won't appeal marriage order
Meet Roger Jeremy Ramundo,
the man police shot and killed on July 24 after what’s now being called
a “life or death struggle.” Police say they first tried to subdue
Ramundo, who had a history of mental health problems. But when Ramundo
fired his gun once, an officer retaliated by firing two fatal shots into
Ramundo’s left back. For family members and colleagues, Ramundo’s death
came as a shock; none of them seemed to expect that he could turn
violent. Ramundo was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized
anxiety disorder, according to the health care worker who notified police that Ramundo left home with his licensed gun, but he had been refusing to take his medication for
either illness at the time of his death.
Budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas could be retroactively reduced or eliminated
with higher-than-projected revenues from the previous budget cycle,
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced yesterday. When City Council passed
the city’s operating budget in May, it had not yet received the full
revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. With the full
numbers expected to come in higher than originally projected, Council
will be able to evaluate options for what and how much can be restored.
Human services funding was cut by roughly one-third in the city budget,
putting it at 0.3 percent of overall spending — far below the city’s
historic goal of 1.5 percent.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won’t appeal the temporary restraining order that forces the state to recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple on their death certificate,
but DeWine says he’ll continue defending the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokesperson, noted that such restraining orders
are normally not susceptible to appeal. Hackley’s explanation contradicts an earlier report from The Cincinnati Enquirer that the order was going to be appealed. Meanwhile, FreedomOhio says it
will try to put an amendment legalizing marriage equality on the
November 2014 ballot, which CityBeat covered here when the group was still aiming for the 2013 ballot.
The I-71/MLK Interchange yesterday moved closer to its
$107.7 million funding goal when Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory
Council gave preliminary approval to Gov. John Kasich’s transportation
plan, which will use $3 billion raised through Ohio Turnpike revenues to
fund infrastructure projects around the state.
The Ohio Supreme Court will review whether anti-gambling opponents of racinos have standing to sue.
Among other issues, critics argue that Kasich’s legalization of video
lottery terminals didn’t represent an actual extension of the Ohio
Lottery, which is why the state claims it was allowed to legalize the
gambling machines without voter approval. The state’s Supreme Court says
it will decide the issue after it rules on a similar case involving
privatized development agency JobsOhio.
Democrats are voicing uncertainty about whether Republicans will actually take up a Medicaid expansion bill in September. Republican legislators rejected the expansion in the state budget,
but they’ve said they will take up the issue in the fall. The Health
Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion, which is funded mostly
through federal funds from Obamacare, would insure half a million
Ohioans and save the state money over the next decade.
Charter schools’ big challenge: finding space to house their facilities.
An Ohio gun group raised $12,000 to buy George Zimmerman a gun or security system.
Drivers, beware: Hackers could soon be crashing your cars.
Drinking coffee has been linked to a 50 percent lower risk of suicide.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:27 AM | Permalink
Local Republican indicted, gay couple sues state, Ohio PAC buying Zimmerman a gun
The speaker of the Ohio House is asking a local state representative to resign after he was indicted on 16 counts of fraud.
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican, already faces a maximum of 43 years in
prison if he’s convicted on all the counts, but Ohio Attorney General
Mike DeWine says the ongoing investigation might produce more charges. The
charges are a result of Beck’s alleged actions involving an Ohio
software company called Christopher Technologies, which investors claim
bilked them out of $200,000.
Claiming discrimination, a newlywed same-sex couple is suing the state of Ohio
for failing to recognize their marriage. Jim Obergefell and John Arthur
were married in Maryland, but the couple lives in Cincinnati, Ohio,
where same-sex marriage is banned by the state constitution. The
couple’s attorney claims the state should be forced to recognize the
marriage because of Fourteenth Amendment protections extended to gay
couples by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Arthur was diagnosed in 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a
neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, and
he’s currently bedridden as a result. Given Arthur’s health,
the couple will argue for an expedited ruling at a hearing at 1:30 p.m.
today in front of U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black.
The Buckeye Firearms Association is raising money to buy a gun for George Zimmerman,
who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the murder trial of black
17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s gun is currently being held by
the U.S. Department of Justice as it investigates further charges.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and 100 members of the
Children’s Defense Fund will meet at Washington Park at 1 p.m. today to rally
against gun violence in Cincinnati. The group plans to march to City
Hall, where they will listen to students’ suggestions for making the city a safer place to visit and reside.
A state representative introduced a bill
that would allow some public university students to forgo traditional
tuition and instead pay for their college education through a percent of
their income for 24 years after they graduate.
An Ohio health aide is being sent to prison for Medicaid fraud.
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
In a desperate bid to save the endangered Sumatran rhino, the Cincinnati Zoo is attempting to breed a brother and sister.
If you think the recent heat has been bad, Popular Science has a humbling list of the 10 worst places to live in the universe.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Ohio’s Human Trafficking Commission on
June 28 released its first annual Human Trafficking Statistics Report
detailing human trafficking investigations conducted by local law
enforcement agencies across the state.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
EPA approves sewer plan, anti-union law gets hearing, DeWine to speed synthetic drug bans
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Mill Creek sewer overhaul plan
that includes bringing back a long-buried creek in the area. The
unconventional strategy is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
attempt at dealing with storm overflow in a green, sustainable manner
that also saves taxpayers money — particularly in comparison to an
expensive deep underground tunnel that the EPA originally suggested. CityBeat previously covered MSD’s green plans in further detail here.
A law that would ban mandatory union membership is temporarily back on the Ohio House agenda,
leaving union advocates worried that Republicans are trying to push the
anti-union law, which supporters of the change call “right to work,” once again.
Still, lawmakers say they’re only giving the law one hearing as
required by House rules for legislation introduced early on in the
session. Under current law, employers and unions are allowed to agree to mandating union membership for employees, but the anti-union law would
bar that agreement. Many states have already taken up similar laws, and
they’ve been linked to a significant decline of unions around the
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is partnering with Ohio
State Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Kyle Parker to continue the
fight against synthetic drugs. In a statement, DeWine’s office said the
partnership will help state officials expedite the process of banning
synthetic drugs as they are found. “Despite the success of House Bill 334,
which outlawed a multitude of synthetic drugs in 2012, rogue chemists
continue to create new, dangerous chemicals that fall outside of Ohio's
controlled substances law,” DeWine said in a statement.
Cost for vehicle registration in Ohio could go up under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.
Two more alleged voter fraud cases were sent to the county prosecutor.
So far, most of the Hamilton County voter fraud cases involve people voting twice —
supposedly on accident — by first early voting and then voting on
A Gillette commercial is at the center of the most important question of our time: How does Superman shave?
The “cutest couple” at a suburban New York school is two boys.
Being from Ohio may have ruined Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote.
In case you missed it, here is the news section for the latest issue of CityBeat:
Cover story: “From
the Inside: Inmates told CityBeat about violence, staff ineptitude and
unsanitary conditions inside Ohio’s private prison. Then came the
surprise inspections.”News: “What’s On the Books?: Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state”Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics”
by German Lopez
Pillich to run for treasurer, medical marijuana language approved, Medicaid rally today
State Rep. Connie Pillich announced today that she will run for state treasurer,
putting the Greater Cincinnati Democrat on a collision course with
current Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican who ran for U.S. Senate
last year. Before becoming state representative, Pillich was in the Air
Force, a lawyer and a small business owner. “Whether as a captain in
the Air Force, a lawyer and owner of a small business, or a
representative in the legislature, I’ve dedicated my career to listening
to concerns, creating a plan of action, and working hard to deliver
real results,” she said in a statement.
Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the ballot language
for an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, opening the
possibility that the issue will be on the ballot in 2013 or 2014. CityBeat wrote more about the amendment and the group behind it here.
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion are hosting a
public meeting and presentation today at 10 a.m. at the Red Cross
headquarters at 2111 Dana Ave. CityBeat previously covered the
Medicaid expansion, which supporters claim will save the state money
and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, here.
Ohio is one of many states preparing to adopt Common Core
standards and other reforms in schools, but a recent survey by the
Thomas B. Fordham Institute of the state’s superintendents declared that
the state is not ready
for all the changes being proposed. Terry Ryan of the Thomas B. Fordham
Institute says Ohio should consider slowing down to give legislators
and educators more time to work through the new requirements.
A new Ohio bill would require only one license plate per vehicle,
potentially saving the state $1 million a year. But critics say the
bill would limit the amount of tools available to law enforcement to
fight and prevent crime.
Nearly two-thirds more suburban residents live below the poverty line in comparison to 2000, according to “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” a book by two Brookings Institution fellows. The book uses U.S. Census Bureau data to form a clearer picture on U.S. poverty trends. Previous analyses have correlated the U.S. rise in poverty with welfare reform, which former President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.
Ohio and U.S. gas prices are spiking this week.
It’s going to be hot today.
A study found a correlation between fiscal conservatives and big biceps.
The first American mission to sample an asteroid is moving forward.
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Attorney General Mike DeWine says Obamacare infringes on religious liberty, but Republicans just want special economic rules for religious institutions.
by German Lopez
Jobs fair needs employers, parking petition underway, JobsOhio meets deadline
The city’s Youth Job Fair needs more employers
to reach the city’s goal of 100, says Mayor Mark Mallory. The fair offers young people a chance to seek out jobs. Employers can sign up for the free booths at www.mayormallory.com.
The petition to stop the parking plan is at 4,000 signatures
— nearly half of the 8,522 required before April 5. Under the plan, the city will lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the 2014 and 2015 budgets and foster economic development,
but opponents say the semi-privatization plan will cede too much
control of the city’s parking assets and cause rates to skyrocket.
Whether the plan is subject to referendum is currently being debated in court.
JobsOhio, the privatized, nonprofit development agency, met the deadline
on a subpoena issued by State Auditor Dave Yost to collect the agency’s
full financial records, which include public and private funds.
JobsOhio also said it will eventually pay back $1 million in public
funds. Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans argued only public
funds can be checked by the state auditor, but Yost says he’s allowed to seek a full audit. Kasich and the Republican-controlled
legislature approved JobsOhio in part to replace the Ohio Department of
Development, which can be fully audited.In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote that the children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses
under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) initiative, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to
qualify for a social security number and work permit. DeWine’s letter is
not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal
adviser, it could put pressure on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ legal
team as it continues reviewing Ohio’s driver’s license policy.Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, is pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC)
that could act as a progressive replacement for Gov. John Kasich’s tax
plan. The tax credit benefits low- and middle-income people,
particularly those with kids. The Policy Matters report says the federal
EITC has been one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in the
A bill that will limit the referendum process was pushed through the Ohio House Policy and Oversight Committee,
despite warnings from members of the League of Women Voters and
Democrats that the bill might draw a constitutional challenge. The bill
would give petitioners 10 days to collect additional signatures if their
initial submission falls short. Under current law, members can
continuously collect signatures while the secretary of state and boards
of elections verify the initial batch. The Ohio Constitution gives
petitioners 10 days to file, not collect, additional signatures.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled his three-pronged strategy for reducing city blight. The plan would encourage the passage of a state law that would allow people to trespass abandoned properties to remediate them, focus demolition resources on hazardous buildings and expand the city’s vacant foreclosed property registry.
A report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a D for health care transparency. Twenty-nine states got an F, and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts got A’s.Ohio lawmakers are poised to raise the speed limit on interstates in rural areas to 70 mph.
When The Huffington Post asked Ohio Sen. Rob
Portman if he wished it hadn't required a personal experience with gay
marriage to alter his position to favor marriage equality, he
responded, “Well, it did.”
He added, “I'm more of an economic policy wonk. That's always been my
background and focus: budget issues and economic growth issues. … That’s
just where I was.” Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage two
years after finding out his son is gay.
T.J. Lane, the convicted Chardon High School shooter, will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three Ohio students. At hearings yesterday, Lane smiled and mocked the victims’ families.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is looking to fill more than 1,000 jobs.
NASA's advice for a near-term meteor strike: “Pray.”
Due to a severe lack of funding, NASA does not have the proper
technology to detect all the small asteroids in orbit that could level cities. If a
deadly asteroid is detected, the current plan is to crash a spacecraft
on it to slow it down or alter its course.
Would you get a vampire facial?
by German Lopez
DeWine says DACA recipients should be eligible to obtain driver's licenses
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has been reviewing its
driver’s license policy for the children of illegal immigrants for nearly
two months now, but if it was up to Attorney General Mike DeWine, those
people would already be eligible for driver’s licenses.
In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission dated to March 19,
DeWine wrote, “It appears that the BMV would have to accept driver’s
license applications from individuals that fall under the Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative because they can provide
all of the information necessary.”
DACA is an executive order signed by President Barack
Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for a
social security number and work permit. According to DeWine, that should
be enough to qualify for an Ohio driver’s license: “With these
documents and any other documents normally required by the BMV, an
individual can provide the BMV with the information necessary to receive
a driver’s license.”
The BMV has been reviewing its driver’s license policy for DACA recipients for nearly two months. A previous CityBeat report
found the BMV is granting driver’s licenses to some of the children of
illegal immigrants, but what qualifies a few and disqualifies others is
DeWine’s letter is not legally binding, but since it’s
coming from the state’s top legal adviser, it could put
pressure on the BMV’s legal team as it continues reviewing the Ohio’s driver’s
“I encourage any citizen who is concerned about a law or
policy to contact their legislators and voice that concern,” DeWine
wrote. “As Attorney General, I do not have the authority to introduce or
vote on legislation.”
CityBeat originally broke the story regarding the
BMV policy through the story of Ever Portillo, who was not able to receive a driver’s license despite being a DACA recipient (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6).
CityBeat later heard stories and received documents showing what seemed to be internal confusion and conflict about the policy at the BMV. Between January and February, there was a
noticeable shift in the BMV’s messaging from flat-out barring DACA
recipients from obtaining driver’s licenses to reviewing the entire
process — a change that might be attributable to the barrage of statewide media coverage on the issue after CityBeat's coverage.
by German Lopez
DeWine calls for school staff training, Music Hall to be leased, bus money not for streetcar
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is proposing
training school staff and teachers to be first responders in the case
of an attack. The news comes in the wake of the massacre in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which caused the deaths of 20
children and six adults. CityBeat proposed its own solution in this week’s commentary: Make this time different by focusing on mental health services and gun control.
Cincinnati will lease Music Hall for 75 years to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC). The lease
is part of a plan to renovate the iconic building to include more
comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning,
improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations,
Music Hall will be closed for 17 months.
City Council passed
a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money for the streetcar.
The supposed conflict between the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest
Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is being drummed up by the
media, but it’s really much ado about nothing.
Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up by 5 percent in early 2013.
The Cincinnati Health Department is pushing
recommendations from a lead hazard study. The recommendations would
prohibit lead-based paint hazards and require all properties to be free
of lead-based paint, dust and soil. City Council is asking the health
department to carry out the regulations, and it expects from a plan and
timetable from regulators within 60 days. One study found getting rid of lead would do wonders for school performance
A Brookings Institute ranking placed Greater Cincinnati among the worst areas in the country due to falling home prices.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank agreed
to a $16 million settlement in a securities fraud case. The
four-year-old lawsuit was brought in the onset of 2008’s financial
crisis, when the bank’s stock plummeted as it took several large
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino still needs to fill 450 positions in food and beverage, marketing, finance, security and more. A Washington Post analysis found casinos tend to bring jobs, but they also bring crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
As expected, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping
Ohio’s economy. The state has 39,000 jobs attached to oil and gas this
year, and the number is expected to triple by the end of the decade. To
take advantage of the boom, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he will push his oil-and-gas severance tax in 2013. But the plan faces opposition from liberals and conservatives.
If Ohio Republicans tried to push “right-to-work” legislation, it would lead to a very nasty public fight, The Plain Dealer reports. Kasich and Republican lawmakers didn’t rule out
using ballot initiatives to push conservative ideas like right-to-work
in a press conference yesterday, but he did say he’s like a horse with
blinders on, focusing on job creation.
The animal and robot takeover have been merged in the BigDog robot. It can now obey voice commands, follow and roll over.