by German Lopez
Judge halts election law, unemployment benefits advance, city loses budget director
A federal judge halted a controversial election law that
limited minor political parties’ access to the ballot and ruled that the
state must allow minor parties to participate in the primary and
general elections in 2014. But by merely agreeing that only the
retroactive restrictions for 2014 are too burdensome for minor parties,
the judge left room to keep the law intact for elections in 2015 and
beyond. Still, the ruling comes as a major victory for the Libertarian
Party of Ohio and other minor parties who took to calling the
Republican-backed law the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act”
because it conveniently limited minor parties that are upset with Republican Gov.
John Kasich’s support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman broke with most of his fellow
Republicans yesterday to help advance federal legislation that would extend
emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Still, he hinted that
he would not support the three-month extension if the $6.4 billion cost
isn’t covered by federal spending cuts elsewhere. Without the extension,
128,600 Ohioans could lose unemployment benefits through 2014 even as
the state economy shows signs of weakening.
Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen yesterday confirmed
she is leaving her high-level city job to take the same job in Long
Beach, Calif. Peggy Sandman will fill in for Eriksen while a
search for a permanent replacement is held. Eriksen’s announcement comes as a blow to the city but little surprise to political watchers. Shortly
before taking office, Mayor John Cranley called Eriksen and other
administration officials “incompetent” because of how they handled the
$132.8 million streetcar project, even though their estimates for
cancellation costs turned out to be mostly on point.Newsflash: Global warming didn’t stop just because we’re cold now.The worst of the deep freeze should be over for Ohio.Cincinnati’s 2013 homicide rate of 25 per 100,000
residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus
at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.An Ohio appeals court ruled Cincinnati can change medical benefits for retirees after all.Construction for the uptown interchange could begin in July and finish in late 2016.The city announced yesterday that it’s extending its
Winter Holiday Trash Amnesty through Jan. 17, which means residents have
until then to set out extra trash next to their city-provided trash
Gov. Kasich is asking parents to tell their children about
the dangers of drug abuse, as the state works to combat problems with
prescription painkillers and heroin.A Fairfield, Ohio, teacher who was fired for allegedly
telling a black student, “We don’t need another black president,” will
fight for his job.Dozens of inmates at the Lebanon Correctional Honor Camp
endured frigid conditions Monday evening after one of three furnaces
broke, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction.A Cincinnati-area medical device firm is in a race with
some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to get a
painless drug injector on the market.People are stealing English ferrets used to hunt rabbits.A survey of brown dwarfs found they’re racked by planet-sized storms of molten iron.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
State cuts hit local budget, police explain homicides, Democratic primary heats up
If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race. Cold weather led many area schools to close for another day. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School
Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Republican state officials slashed local government funding in previous budgets
Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.Following cuts approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and
the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, Cincinnati officials estimate
the city is getting $26 million less in state funding in 2015 than the
city did in 2010.
At the same time, the city is facing a $21 million operating budget gap in 2015.
The reduction in state aid helps explain why the local
budget gap remains after several years of council-approved spending cuts
and tax hikes.
“It sounds like the city is doing a good job,” said
Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach at Monday’s Budget and Finance
Committee meeting. “Where we’re seeing these obstacles is these outside
Independent Councilman Christopher Smitherman countered
that the cuts to the local government fund and the elimination of the
estate tax, both of which drove the reduction in state aid, have been
known since 2011 and 2012.
“Public policy makers have, in my opinion, continued to
make decisions as if those public policy decisions from the governor’s
chair or from the state … weren’t in play,” Smitherman said. “This is
not new information.”
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn agreed. He said it’s
time to stop blaming the governor for the city’s problems and face the reality of
reduced revenues.Still, Winburn acknowledged he would be willing to meet with state officials to bring more revenue back to Cincinnati.“Maybe Republicans will be willing to meet with a
Republican like me and see if we can bring some money back to
Cincinnati,” Winburn said.
Republicans at the state level passed cuts to the local
government fund as a way to balance the 2012-2013 budget, which faced a
projected gap of nearly $8 billion in 2011. They then approved the
elimination of the estate tax — often labeled the “death tax” by
opponents — in 2012.
But with Ohio’s economy slowly recovering from the Great
Recession, the state budget looks to be in much better shape. The
2012-2013 budget ended with a $2 billion surplus because of
Ohio Democrats point to the surplus as evidence the
Republican-controlled state government could undo the $1 billion in cuts to local
government funding. They argue the cuts have hurt local governments and
forced cities to slash basic services, including public safety.
Balanced budget, pension reform among tough tasks facing incoming council members hoping not to raise taxes
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
of newly elected council members say they’re committed to structurally
balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget — a promise repeated by
Mayor-elect John Cranley on the campaign trail and following the Nov. 5
by German Lopez
Abortion restrictions follow trend, more tax issues in state election, Luken to run for judge
Ohio and various other states passed more abortion
restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they did in the previous decade,
according to the Guttmacher Institute. The findings indicate that the
latest Republican-backed abortion restrictions, which were passed
through Ohio’s two-year state budget last June, were part of a broader
trend that’s culminated across the nation since the tea party rose to
national prominence in 2010. The trend could play a pivotal political
role: Ohio Democrats have made their opposition to the abortion
restrictions a central part of their campaigns to unseat Republican
incumbents who hold top executive offices in the state.
One of the candidates expected to join the tea party
ticket in a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John Kasich
appears to have personal tax problems. Brenda Mack, tea party leader Ted
Stevenot’s expected running mate, is linked to nearly $60,000 in unpaid
state and federal taxes and penalties, according to government records
in Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties analyzed by The Columbus Dispatch.
Mack refuses to comment on the tax problems until a Tuesday press
conference in which she and Stevenot are expected to officially announce
their candidacies for the May 6 primary.Former Mayor Charlie Luken says he will run for Hamilton
County probate judge. The Democratic candidate will likely face off
against Republican Ted Winkler, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court
judge. Luken recently garnered the public spotlight for his support for
Mayor John Cranley’s campaign.Cincinnati’s homicide rate for victims younger than 18
rose to 1 in 7 in 2013 and 2012, up from 1 in 10 from 2000 through 2011,
according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Four of the juvenile
victims were 1-year-old or younger, including a fetus who died after the
mother was strangled to death in April.Four seats on the 19-member Ohio Board of Education remain
unfilled, including two seats that have been vacant for months, long
past the 30-day deadline Gov. Kasich has under state law to name a
replacement. Administration officials said they’re aware of the
deadline, but they intend to find the best fit for the position before
moving forward with an appointment. “It’s far more important to us to
find the right person than putting warm bodies on the board,” Kasich
spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Columbus Dispatch.The amount of untested rape kits submitted to Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded 5,000.Fewer than 1,000 died last year in traffic crashes across
Ohio, the lowest number since the state began keeping track of the
fatalities in 1936.Bill Nye the Science Guy will debate evolution and
biblical creationism at northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum on Feb. 4.
Evolution is a scientific fact, but Creation Museum leader Ken Ham
denies its existence.Aaron Betsky announced yesterday he will step down as
director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The news follows Betsky’s
controversial comments against the streetcar project in
ArchitectMagazine.com, which Betsky expanded on in a separate blog post.
CityBeat recently interviewed Betsky here.The Cincinnati Bengals received an extension until 4 p.m.
today to sell out tickets for Sunday’s game and avoid a television
blackout in the Cincinnati area.Strange lights sometimes precede earthquakes. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
States passed more abortion restrictions in past three years than previous decade
Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more
abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous
decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Between 2011 and 2013, states passed 205 new restrictions
on abortion. Between 2001 and 2010, states passed only 189 new
The trend is unsurprising for Ohio, which the Guttmacher
Institute says has been “hostile to abortion” since 2000, but the
timeline shows a clear shift in state policies around the nation since
the tea party rose to national prominence in 2010.
Ohio’s latest restrictions were passed last June by Ohio Republicans through the two-year state budget.
Among other restrictions, one measure forces doctors to
perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and tell
her if a heartbeat is detected and the statistical probability of the
fetus making it to birth.
Ohio and Oklahoma were also the only states in 2013 to
pass restrictions on federal funding for family planning providers, the
Guttmacher Institute claims.
Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, insist they don’t use
public funds for abortions, instead funding the procedure with
the help of private contributions.
But Ohio Republicans, who predominantly oppose abortion
rights, went through with the restrictions anyway, ultimately hitting
some family planning service providers that don’t even offer abortions.“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, told CityBeat last June. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”
Ohio Democrats, particularly gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald, have made their opposition to the anti-abortion measures
part of their campaigns to unseat Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio
Republicans who hold top executive positions in the state. But given the Guttmacher Institute’s timeline, reversing
the trend could require a radical shift in the state government of the
past 14 years.
The people, budgets and controversies CityBeat covered while writing about the streetcar all year
0 Comments · Thursday, December 26, 2013
Just like it was a big year for Cincinnati and Ohio, it was a big year for the CityBeat news team.
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
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Support for the uptown interchange project reveals the hypocrisy of streetcar opponents.
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