by German Lopez
Advocates say tactic focuses on the wrong problem
Homeless advocates gathered in front of the Hamilton
County Courthouse on Wednesday to speak out against the county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people
sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.
The press conference came on the same day that four local homeless filed a lawsuit
in federal court claiming Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s new
policy is cruel and unusual because it punishes people for being
Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says the policy is necessary to address a public health issue. She explains that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, says county officials should stop using taxpayer
money to address public defecation and focus on the
state of the economy. He’s asking locals to tell county officials, “I want my government to invest in
jobs and housing, not in pushing people to the margins.”
If the policy remains, Spring says the county could at
least compromise and hold enforcement until the winter shelter opens,
which would provide another housing opportunity for many of the homeless
people who currently rely on county buildings for a safe spot to sleep.McGuffey says the current timeline for the winter shelter opening — two months — is too much time to wait for what she describes as a public health issue. She says it’s also unclear whether local organizations, which are still gathering funds for the shelter, will have enough money to open it.
At the press conference, Spring was joined by several
homeless people who shared their experiences. All the speakers echoed a
similar theme: They’re not homeless by choice, and they only sleep on
county property because it’s much safer than the alternatives, such as
alleys and abandoned buildings.McGuffey insists no one is trying to demonize homeless people. She says officers try to link homeless people with local human services when possible. Some of that outreach is already underway through trained officers and neighborhood liaisons, and starting next week the county will bring in a trained mental health professional to act as an advocate and outreach coordinator.But if help can’t be found, McGuffey says officers have to threaten arrest to invoke a “sense of immediacy” or homeless people might never leave the properties and the public health issue would go unaddressed.So far, the sheriff’s office sees the program as successful. Over the past four weeks, it’s brought down the amount of homeless people camping out at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center each night from 40 to 12, according to McGuffey. She says the reductions exemplify people who were redirected to human services, but there’s no hard evidence showing those people actually got help or whether the reduction is temporary.Spring says there aren’t enough human services to get all of the city’s homeless help. That, he claims, is the real problem that needs local officials’ attention.Over the past decade, City Council fell far short of its funding goal for human services,
which aid homeless and low-income Cincinnatians. Several council
candidates, including Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman and Mike Moroski,
say increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget will be a
priority for them over the next few years. The increase would represent an
improvement, but it would still fall short of the city’s 1.5 percent goal.
Meanwhile, Strategies to End Homelessness aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 to roughly 3,500 over the next five years through an initiative backed by the city and county.
As part of Homelessness Awareness Month, Spring and other
advocates will march in support of homeless causes later this month. The
march will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine. The lawsuit:
by German Lopez
Eighteen of 21 candidates participated in Oct. 5 forum
Just one month before voters pick nine council members at the ballot box on Nov. 5, 18 of 21 City Council candidates on Oct. 5 participated at a candidate forum that covered issues ranging from better supporting low-income Cincinnatians to expanding downtown's growth to all 52 neighborhoods.During the event, the candidates agreed Cincinnati is moving forward, but they generally agreed that the city needs to carry its current economic growth from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to all 52 neighborhoods. Participating candidates particularly emphasized public safety and government transparency, while a majority also focused on education partnerships and human services for the poor and homeless, which have been funded below council's goals since 2004.The three City Council candidates not in attendance were Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn, Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman and Independent challenger Tim Dornbusch. The absences prompted forum moderator Kathy Wilson, who's also a columnist at CityBeat, to remind the audience that "a vote is a precious thing" and candidates should work to earn support by engaging the public.Councilman Chris Seelbach and challenger David Mann, both Democrats, had surrogates stand in for them. Seelbach was attending a wedding, and Mann was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his family.The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area.Here are the highlights from the 18 participating candidates, in order of their appearance:Wendell Young (Democrat, incumbent): Young said Cincinnati should put basic services and public safety first, but he added that the city should also help address "quality of life issues" such as providing "world-class parks." He also said Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget, which has relied on one-time funding sources since at least 2001, and make further adjustments to the underfunded pension system. Young also explained that the city needs to strengthen its partnerships with local organizations to help combat homelessness, affordable housing, child poverty and infant mortality.Laure Quinlivan (Democrat, incumbent): Quinlivan proudly pointed out she's the "only elected mom" on City Council. She said her goal is to make Cincinnati "cleaner, greener and smarter" by focusing on population and job growth and thriving neighborhoods. To spur such growth, Quinlivan claimed the city needs the streetcar project and more bike and hike trails, both of which she argued will attract more young adults to Cincinnati. Unlike other candidates, Quinlivan publicly supported potentially "rightsizing" — or cutting — Cincinnati's police and fire departments to structurally balance the budget. She also said the city should provide more options for health insurance to city employees so they don't all get a so-called "Cadillac plan" that's expensive for the city.P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat, incumbent): Sittenfeld touted downtown and Over-the-Rhine's turnaround as a model for economic growth that Cincinnati should expand to all neighborhoods. He argued the model is what attracts companies like Pure Romance to Cincinnati, as the company mentioned the city's recent urban growth as one reason it decided to stay here. (Of course, the nearly $699,000 in tax incentives over 10 years probably help as well.) When asked about his opposition to the current streetcar project, Sittenfeld said the current project is fiscally irresponsible because of its previous budget problems, which City Council fixed in June, and reduction in funding from the state government, which forced the city to pick up more of the funding share. Sittenfeld said his past two years on council were a success, but he added, "I'm not done yet."Amy Murray (Republican and Charterite, challenger): Murray said her campaign is focused on creating a fiscally sound city by structurally balancing the budget and fixing the underfunded pension system. But she said she would do both without increasing taxes, which could force the city to cut services and retirement benefits. When asked about her opposition in 2011 to extending city employee benefits to LGBT spouses, Murray said she never had a problem with extending the benefits to LGBT individuals — which City Council did in 2012 — but was simply acknowledging that providing the extra benefits requires making cuts elsewhere to balance the budget. (Opponents previously said the issue should be about equality and fairness, not costs.)Vanessa White (Charterite, challenger): White said her main goals are reducing poverty in Cincinnati, providing more education opportunities to residents and expanding citizen access to city officials. When specifying her goals for education, White said Cincinnati needs to do a better job incentivizing internships for youth at local businesses and touted the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which seeks to expand preschool education opportunities in Cincinnati. To increase transparency and outreach, White said she would assign City Hall staffers to answer citizens' questions after council meetings.Michelle Dillingham (Democrat, challenger): Dillingham said the role of local government is to spur growth in abandoned areas that have been failed by the private sector. But to successfully do this, she said the city needs to engage and reach out to its citizens more often. As an example, she cited the development of an affordable housing complex in Avondale, which has been snared by sudden public outcry from a neighborhood group. Dillingham said supporting affordable housing is also more than just providing expanded services; she explained that she supports creating more jobs that would provide a living wage, which would then let more locals own or rent a home without exceeding 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs. At the end, Dillingham touted her 10-point plan to give more Cincinnatians "a seat at the table" and make the city government more inclusive.Mike Moroski (Independent, challenger): Moroski said he intends to focus on growing Cincinnati's population, reducing re-entry into the criminal justice system and lowering child poverty. He also touted support for development projects and infrastructure, including the streetcar project. At the same time, Moroski argued some development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown is pricing low-income people out of the city's booming areas — an issue he would like to address. Moroski also said he backs efforts to increase Cincinnati's human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years. When asked about his lack of government experience, Moroski said he sees it as a "gift" and "blessing" that's given him a fresh, outside perspective. "I will be the voice for the voiceless," he said.Melissa Wegman (Republican, challenger): Wegman opened by showing off her business credentials and neighborhood advocacy. When asked what she means when she says she'll bring a "business perspective" to council, she said she would like to see the city put more support toward small businesses. In particular, Wegman said underserved neighborhoods need more city help and funding. She also told panelists that she opposes Issue 4, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot and would semi-privatize Cincinnati's pension system.Kevin Flynn (Charterite, challenger): Flynn said Cincinnati's budget problems are by far the most important issues facing the city, but he also trumpeted the local government's lack of transparency and engagement as major issues. He explained he's particularly opposed to the mayor's pocket veto, which allows the mayor to entirely dictate what legislation is voted on by council and potentially block any legislation he or she disagrees with. Flynn said he would like to see more citizen engagement on budget issues and more open debate between council members during public meetings.Greg Landsman (Democrat and Charterite, challenger): Landsman stated his focus is on population, job and revenue growth, which could help him achieve his goal of a structurally balanced budget. He said the city needs to do more to attract and retain young people. Although Landsman acknowledges the city's progress, he said Cincinnati is undergoing a "tale of two cities" in which some neighborhoods prosper and others flounder. Landsman also suggested increasing human services to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years and improving city management in other areas, including the budget, pension system and roads.Kevin Johnson (Independent, challenger): Johnson said the role of government should be to balance out the private sector and provide a safety net for those who fall through the system. He said the city needs to do more to tackle income inequality by "investing in people." Johnson said he supports recent efforts to create a land bank system for struggling neighborhoods, which aim to increase homeownership by making it more affordable and accessible. Johnson also claimed that people are tired of party politics and would like to see more transparency in government.David Mann (Democrat and Charterite, challenger), represented by campaign manager John Juech: Speaking for Mann, Juech said his candidate got into the campaign to address Cincinnati's budget problems. Juech explained Mann will leave "all options on the table," whether it's revenue increases or service cuts, to structurally balance the budget. When asked whether Mann, who previously served 18 years on council, really deserves more time in the local government, Juech explained that Mann's experience makes him a "walking Cincinnati historian." He also argued that Mann has great relationships with county officials, particularly Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, that could make it easier to jointly manage some city services in a way that would drive down costs.Yvette Simpson (Democrat and Charterite, incumbent): Simpson said she measures progress in Cincinnati by "how well the least of us do," which drove her to start the Cincinnati Youth Commission and other partnerships that help connect the city's youth to jobs. Although Simpson said she supports boosting funding to human services and building better relationships with human services agencies, she said providing more funding is hindered by a "simple math problem" and the city needs to balance its budget before it can provide more and better services. Simpson also said the city could and should do a better job engaging the public with big ideas.Chris Seelbach (Democrat, incumbent), represented by legislative director Jon Harmon: Reading a statement from Seelbach, Harmon said Cincinnati is on the rise but still needs to improve in various areas. In particular, he said the city needs to do a better job funding all 52 neighborhoods, providing more opportunities for low-income Cincinnatians and eventually increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget. Harmon also touted City Council's progress with infrastructure issues, including increased road paving and bridge funding. By addressing these issues and occasionally making "tough choices," Harmon said Seelbach hopes to continue growing the city.Pam Thomas (Democrat, incumbent): Thomas claimed she wants local government to be open, honest and transparent. She said the city's progress should be gauged through education metrics, particularly local graduation rates and, starting next year, the city's success in meeting state-mandated third-grade reading proficiency standards. Thomas replaced her husband on council after she was appointed by him and other council members earlier in 2013, but Thomas said that, unlike him, she opposes the current streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to fund development projects and help balance the budget.Shawn Butler (Democrat, challenger): To Butler, progress means reducing income inequality, creating jobs and growing the city's population. Although Butler, who is Mayor Mark Mallory's director of community affairs, said he's generally supportive of the mayor's policies, he said the city could do a better job selling itself and reaching out to the business community. Butler also touted his experience, particularly how he's gone through eight budget cycles during his time with the mayor. To structurally balance the budget, Butler said he wouldn't increase the earnings tax and would instead pursue other options, such as tapping into money from the parking plan and cutting services.Angela Beamon (Independent, challenger): Beamon said she would ensure city services are spread out to all citizens and neighborhoods. She suggested struggling neighborhoods are underserved — not "underperforming," a term she doesn't adhere to — and the city should do more to reach out to them. Beamon also stood firm on her opposition to the streetcar project. Instead of funding the streetcar, she said city resources should go toward promoting business ownership and services that help the underprivileged.Sam Malone (Republican, challenger): Malone said his goal is to make all of Cincinnati's neighborhoods thrive with more businesses. He said since he lost his re-election to City Council in 2005, he's managed a small business and learned how it feels to be on the other side of the government-business relationship. Malone said his campaign slogan ("I love everybody, I come in peace") best exemplifies how he's led his life. When asked about a 2005 incident in which he disciplined his son with a belt, Malone claimed he's "running on issues" and his parenting tactics were deemed lawful by a court.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
City Manager Milton Dohoney announced on
Sept. 13 that Jeffrey Blackwell, the current deputy chief of the
Columbus Division of Police, is being appointed to Cincinnati’s top
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:35 PM | Permalink
Twenty-six-year veteran of Columbus Division of Police to take over
City Manager Milton Dohoney announced on Sept. 13 that
Jeffrey Blackwell, the current deputy chief of the Columbus
Division of Police, is being appointed to Cincinnati’s top police job.
The appointment ends a months-long process as the city searched for a replacement for former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to take the top police job in his hometown, Detroit.
Blackwell was picked over three other finalists: Paul
Humphries, who’s been acting Cincinnati Police chief since Craig left;
Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and
Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey Police.
In a statement, the city touted Blackwell’s
accomplishments in Columbus: Blackwell is a 26-year veteran of the police force, he was commended
for his outreach to young people, he helped reach out to significant
immigrant populations such as Somalians and Latinos, he advanced the use
of technology and he worked with the city and communities to reduce crime
“Jeff understands that we have to work with the various
communities we serve to build a culture of understanding and respect. In particular, I have spoken to him about our need to work in
partnership with other organizations to reach teen youth and young
adults to move the needle on reducing crime in this community,” Dohoney
said in a statement.
With the decision, Blackwell will be put in charge of implementing new policies and leading the Cincinnati Police Department.
The appointment was made without much
public input, even though some City Council members previously called on
Dohoney to open up the process. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on Sept. 9
sent a letter to the city manager asking him to hold town halls in which
the public could ask questions and evaluate the police chief
The city manager is ultimately in charge of who gets appointed to the city’s top police job.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 11, 2013
In partnership with the Cincinnati Police
Department, City Councilman Chris Seelbach on Sept. 5 unveiled a
legislative plan that would crack down on cellphone thefts by making it
more difficult to sell stolen devices.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:19 PM | Permalink
City manager will interview candidates in coming days
City officials are now considering four finalists for the
Cincinnati Police Department’s top job, City Manager Milton Dohoney
The city has been looking for a replacement for former
Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to take the top
police job in his hometown, Detroit. Since then, Paul Humphries has been
acting chief of the Cincinnati Police Department.
Humphries is among the four finalists being considered by
the city manager. The others: Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the
Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the
Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy
superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.Whoever is picked will be charged with implementing new policies and leading the Cincinnati Police Department.
The four finalists were screened by a committee that
looked at 28 total applicants. The committee was comprised of 11 members
that included a former police chief, a former prosecuting attorney, Air
Force veterans, business leaders and community members.
“I am appreciative to the Screening Committee for their
time, dedication and the seriousness to which they approached the
selection process in order to recommend this group of excellent
candidates for our next Chief of Police,” Dohoney said in a statement.
The city manager will make the final decision of who to appoint as Cincinnati’s next police chief. Dohoney could choose one of the four finalists or consider
other applicants until the position is filled.
by German Lopez
Councilman Chris Seelbach introducing legislation Monday
In partnership with the Cincinnati Police Department, City Councilman Chris Seelbach on Thursday unveiled a legislative plan that
would crack down on cellphone thefts by making it more difficult to sell
“We know that the cellphone is such an important part of
everyone’s lives,” Seelbach says. “It’s how we connect to our loved ones,
to our work environment. It’s how we capture moments that we want to
remember. And so to have something like that stolen is definitely an offense
that is personal.”
Americans are increasingly using cellphones for more than
making calls. Applications now let people browse the Internet, social
media and even bank accounts. But the diversity of uses has also linked
cellphone theft to other crimes, such as identity theft.
Cellphone thefts made up 30 to 40 percent of robberies in major cities in 2011, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The initiative will require the hundreds of dealers who currently buy
cellphones second-hand to get licensed with the city and keep full
records of the transaction, including a serial number of the device, a photocopy of the seller’s ID and other contact information.
Seelbach likened the requirements to existing regulations for pawn
The hope is that cracking down on dealers will make stolen
cellphones more difficult to sell and less lucrative to potential
Seelbach says the plan will come at no extra cost outside
of the extra policing work. Acting Cincinnati Police Chief Paul
Humphries says the police department prefers taking preventive measures
that stop cellphone theft in the first place than spending costlier
resources on investigating a robbery after it happens.If the legislation is approved by City Council, police
officers will first take steps to educate dealers about the new law.
Shortly after, police will begin cracking down with fines.
Officials are also advising cellphone owners to take their
own steps to avoid having devices stolen: Never leave a phone
unattended, avoid using a cellphone in public when it’s unnecessary and
put a password lock on the phone.
Similar laws already exist at the state level, but they’re currently not enforced, Seelbach says.
The plan will go through a City Council committee on Monday
and, if approved there, a full session of City Council on Wednesday. Seelbach says he’s expecting unanimous support from
fellow council members.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:26 AM | Permalink
Kasich says he wants to slow down attorney general’s program
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to slow down Attorney
General Mike DeWine’s facial recognition program and work with the Ohio
legislature to review if changes are necessary.
“I am concerned about the level of government knowledge
about everything about us. I have concerns about the NSA. I have
concerns about not using the FISA court. I have concerns about an
overzealous group of people that are violating their own rules that have
been established,” Kasich told reporters today. “When it comes to this issue, there’s value in it, but I want to slow down and get this right.”
The governor’s comments linked the facial recognition program to
federal surveillance programs like the NSA and FISA, which have come
under scrutiny in the past few months after leaks unveiled broader
snooping and data collection of Americans’ private communications than
Kasich said he understands the tools provided by the
facial recognition program could be valuable to law enforcement and
security, but he added that he wants to ensure people’s rights are being
“When people say I have nothing to hide, that in and of
itself, as Peggy Noonan says, begins to erode the First Amendment,” he
said. “You begin worrying about what you say because somebody’s watching
The facial recognition program allows police officers and
civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and
contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name
or address to search such databases.
Shortly after the plan was announced, the American Civil Liberties Union asked DeWine to shut down the program until proper protocols were put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy.
The program was in place for more than two months and used
for 2,677 searches before it was unveiled to the public. In that time
span, the program wasn’t reviewed by an outside group.
On Thursday, DeWine appointed a group of judges, law
enforcement and prosecutors to review the program’s protocols. The panel
has 60 days to come up with recommendations.