by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:25 PM | Permalink
Constitutional amendment could appear on November ballot
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote
and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage."I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process
to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout
machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.The Voter's Bill of Rights:
by German Lopez
Troubled execution draws critics, activists push voters' rights, Preschool Promise needs help
A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory
for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should
expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before
noon.As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on
lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus.
But some students and parents say the school should pursue more
aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus
bookstore.Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
4 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Put it all together, and the trend is obvious: Republicans are trying their best to rig the elections.
by German Lopez
Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is
criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex
marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with
no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General
takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is
a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the
deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal
treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon
Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs
taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June,
gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population
trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4
percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year
before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has
received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.
Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley,
Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two
finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are
perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down
by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati
chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted
religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities
since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and
inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with
increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to
experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the
organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged
two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than
$155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County
Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess.
One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion
of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after
comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
by German Lopez
Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013
City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting
location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov.
At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a
middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month
after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to
pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country —
will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Organizations from around the state and country will be working over
the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as
possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican
legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate:
A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would
reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the
same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion,
or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city
employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement
accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the
private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds
and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension
amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley,
will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select
Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but
they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both
of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate,
which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today.
He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to
take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised
Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he
reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology,
worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that
she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The
motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in
recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped
by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing
levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot
afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit
class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting
public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city
parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public
safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable
cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased
between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further
because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing
sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
by German Lopez
Only 11 streetcar workers to lose jobs, federal funds endangered, GOP reducing early voting
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday said only 11 streetcar workers are expected to lose their jobs
following City Council’s pause of the $132.8 million project, far below
the original estimate of 200 city officials gave on Monday. The remaining workers will be moved by contractors to other jobs or
kept under ongoing utility work, which utility companies agreed to
continue despite no longer qualifying for reimbursements from the city,
according to Deatrick. He also said it’s “a wild guess” whether the
number of layoffs will grow in the future.
Cincinnati should expect to return up to $44.9 million in
federal grants funding nearly one-third of the streetcar project even
though the project is only on “pause” as local officials weigh the costs of cancellation and completion, according to transportation experts who
talked to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Without the federal grants, the project is effectively dead.
The two swing votes on council — David Mann and Kevin Flynn — say they
want to evaluate whether it would make financial sense to cancel the
project this far into construction. Deatrick previously estimated
the costs of cancellation could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for
$32.8 million in sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in
close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grants. But Mann and
Flynn voiced distrust over the projections and called for an independent
Democrats and voter advocates claim Republican legislators are slowly rebuilding “voter suppression” laws
that were the subject of referendum in 2012 before Republicans backed
down. Democrats called on Gov. John Kasich to veto the bills. Among
other measures, the bills would reduce the amount of in-person early voting days
and restrict elected officials’ ability to to mail out unsolicited
absentee ballot applications. Democrats claim the bills are meant to
suppress voters. Republicans argue the measures help
reduce “cheaters,” even though in-person voter fraud is very rare.
Chris Finney, a high-profile lawyer who is critical of local tax breaks for businesses, apologized for denying that he sought tax breaks for his law firm.
Finney sought the tax breaks shortly after criticizing Cincinnati for
granting a tax incentive package to convince Pure Romance to move from
Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati. Finney is the top legal crusader
for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group with a history of anti-gay causes.
Tea party group One Percent for Liberty nominated Mayor
John Cranley as a “Defender of Liberty for 2013” for his work against the
streetcar project and parking privatization plan. The group previously nominated various conservative politicians and activists from around the
region. The award will be presented at COAST’s Christmas party.
Hundreds of schools and businesses in the Cincinnati area today closed in response to the developing winter storm.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth, two of the areas’ largest health systems, yesterday announced they’re teaming up to reduce costs, improve the patient experience and generate better health outcomes.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced he will crack down on electronic raffle operations.
Nelson Mandela, a South African icon of peace, died yesterday.
Mandela was a peaceful leader of the anti-apartheid movement who went
on to become South Africa’s first black president. His consistent
devotion to peace inspired similar peaceful protests around the world. The New York Times put together a great interactive featuring several correspondents who witnessed Mandela first-hand here.
U.S. unemployment fell to 7 percent in November, the lowest rate in five years.
Popular Science explains how to get rid of animal testing.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union of
Ohio says it opposes Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s
in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:40 AM | Permalink
Proposed legislation removes five days in which voters can simultaneously register and vote
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes
Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s in-person early voting
period from 35 to 29 days and repeal a five-day period in which Ohioans
can simultaneously register to vote and vote in person.
“The five-day window offers major benefits to many voters,
including those with disabilities or inflexible work schedules, and
there is little evidence that it has created any major problems,” said
ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner
in a statement. “S.B. 238 throws away these critical, nonpartisan
benefits for no good reason.”
The bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Nov. 13 by
Republican State Sen. Frank Larose. It’s co-sponsored by six Republicans,
including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati.
The bill’s introduction follows a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urging legislators to trim in-person early voting days.
The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims
uniform voting hours are necessary to avoid legal challenges in case
some counties set longer voting periods than others, which courts could
deem unfair under equal protection grounds. The uniform voting periods
reduce early voting days in some counties without their approval, the
organization acknowledges, but it’s necessary to keep the standards
uniform without placing an unfair burden on smaller counties.
Democrats, including State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, say the real reason behind such proposals is to suppress voters.
“The Secretary of State’s voter suppression agenda is
extremely disappointing. As the state’s chief elections officer,
Secretary Husted is tasked with the duty of ensuring that Ohio’s
elections are fair and accessible to all citizens,” Reece said in a
statement. “Unfortunately, the proposed changes are aimed at restricting
voters’ access to the ballot box in 2014.”
Democrats have some evidence to their claims. Doug
Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close
adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch
in an email regarding early voting, “I guess I really actually feel we
shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read
African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
A old, white, anti-gay Republican narrowly won a community
board of trustees election in Houston after he purposely misled voters
in his largely black voting district to believe he was also black. WORLD -2
by German Lopez
Cranley sets agenda, streetcar cancellation costs still unknown, Kasich limits minor parties
Mayor-elect John Cranley laid out his plans and priorities for his first term
at his first press conference yesterday. Cranley says two of his top
priorities are undoing the $133 million streetcar project and parking
plan, which would lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. He also spoke on some of his more
positive ideas, including the interchange project at Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive, 3CDC-style public-private partnerships to
revitalize neighborhoods and development of the Wasson Way bike trail,
old Swifton Commons and Westwood Square.
It remains unclear
how much it would cost to actually cancel the streetcar project. As of September’s monthly
progress report, $94 million is tied to contractual obligations, $23
million is already spent and nearly $45 million in federal grants is still attached
to the project. And if contractors, subcontractors and taxpayers sue the
city to complete the project, it could impose litigation costs on the
operating budget instead of the capital budget currently financing
construction. Supporters of the streetcar also say cancellation could
tarnish relationships with the federal government and contractors, which
have a stake in the project’s completion. At his press conference
yesterday, Cranley said he’d weigh the costs and benefits of
cancellation and would continue the project if he deems it cheaper.
Meanwhile, Cranley might travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss reprogramming nearly $45 million in federal grants
from the streetcar project to the I-71/MLK interchange project. In a
June 19 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed it would
take back nearly $41 million of the grant money if the streetcar project
were canceled. City officials say they’ve already spent $2 million from
the grants on the streetcar project, and, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding, that would
need to be repaid through the operating budget if the project were terminated.
Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature passed a bill
that imposes new restrictions on minor political parties trying to get on the
state ballot. The requirements force minor parties to meet higher
petition signature and voting thresholds to get and remain on the
ballot. Ohio Libertarians say they plan to sue to block the changes from
becoming law in 90 days. Democrats and minor parties say the changes
are meant to protect Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014; they argue
that, without the new requirements, tea party challengers upset with
Kasich over his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion could take away enough votes and spoil the election in favor of a Democrat. CityBeat covered the Senate version of the bill in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday unanimously approved
the first budget in six years that didn’t require major cuts or revenue
increases to achieve balance, but the budget also had very little in
terms of new policies. Commissioners also approved a separate plan from
the Port Authority, a city- and county-funded development agency, to
expand its borders; the Port now needs to work out agreements with other
jurisdictions before the expansion becomes official.
Janitors in Cincinnati are striking against New York City-based ABM
in a push for wage hikes and health benefits. In supporting the
efforts, Councilman Chris Seelbach says the strike and media attention
surrounding it should hopefully put pressure on Cincinnati’s Fortune 500
companies that hire ABM to clean their buildings.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress.”
After only 28.8 percent of registered Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral and City Council elections, The Cincinnati Enquirer asked those who didn’t show up to vote to explain themselves.
The answers ranged from total apathy toward the streetcar project to
disdain and distrust for the city’s government and political system.
Voters on Tuesday approved more than half of Ohio school levies.
The University of Cincinnati yesterday signed an agreement that will increase collaboration with NASA.
Blockbuster is closing down its remaining company-owned stores in the United States.
Biking in traffic can have some complicated results as bikers breathe in traffic exhaust.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez