by German Lopez
132 days ago
Few local contributions to Issue 4, private prison mired in violence, Ohio could limit voting
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups,
according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County
Board of Elections on Oct. 24. Of the more than $231,000 raised for Issue 4 by
Cincinnati for Pension Reform, $229,500 came from groups in
West Chester, Ohio, and Virginia. Chris Littleton, a leading consultant
for Issue 4 and a long-time tea party activist involved in a few of the
listed groups, is also based in West Chester. City leaders unanimously
oppose Issue 4 because they argue it would force the city to cut
services and city employees’ retirement benefits — two claims that have
been backed by studies on Issue 4. Supporters say Issue 4 is necessary
to help fix the pension system’s $862 unfunded liability. Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that City Council will take up
further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election,
assuming voters reject Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional
Institution (LECI) found that, while the private prison has made some
improvements in rehabilitation, health services and staffing, it remains
on pace in 2013 to match the previous year’s increased levels of violence.
Various state reports found the facility quickly deteriorated after it
became the first state prison to be sold to a private company,
Corrections Corporation of America, in 2011, under the urging of Gov.
John Kasich. In particular, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff
assaults rapidly rose between 2010 and 2012 and appear to remain at
similar increased levels in 2013, according to an audit conducted on
Sept. 9 and 10 by Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio’s
independent prison watchdog. CityBeat previously covered the deteriorating conditions at LECI in further detail here.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated trimming the amount of early voting days
in a letter to the state legislature yesterday. Husted says he wants
the rules passed to establish uniformity across all Ohio counties. But
Democrats — including State Sen. Nina Turner, who is set to run against
Husted in 2014 for secretary of state — say the measures attempt to
limit voting opportunities and suppress voters. In 2012, Doug Preisse,
close adviser to Gov. Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County
Republican Party, explained similar measures that limit early voting in
an email to The Columbus Dispatch: “I guess I really actually
feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Husted’s suggestions
also included measures that would allow online voter registration and
limit ballot access for candidates in minor political parties.
A Hamilton County judge yesterday dismissed another legal challenge
against the city’s parking plan, but the conservative group behind the legal dispute
plans to appeal. The plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots
and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which would then
use private operators to manage the assets. Supporters say the lease is
necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets for an $85 million
upfront payment that would help pay for development projects. Opponents argue
it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets to private
Several Medicaid overhaul bills began moving in the Ohio House
yesterday, following months of work and promises from Republican
legislators. The bills increase penalties for defrauding the state,
require the Department of Medicaid to implement reforms that seek to
improve outcomes and emphasize personal responsibility, and make
specific tweaks on minors obtaining prescriptions, hospitals reporting
of neonatal abstinence syndrome, behavioral health services and other
smaller categories. The overhaul bills follow Gov. Kasich’s decision to bypass the Ohio legislature
and expand Medicaid eligibility for at least two years with federal
funds approved by the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative
Ohio’s controversial facial-recognition program can be used by some federal and out-of-state officials, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a
photo to search state databases for names and contact information; previously,
law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such
databases. Shortly after the program was revealed, Gov. Kasich compared it to privacy-breaching national intelligence agencies.
Ohio students aren’t as good at math and science as students in China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, among other countries.
A bipartisan “open container” bill would allow cities, including Cincinnati, to legalize drinking alcohol in the streets. In the case of Cincinnati, the city could allow public drinking in up to two districts if the bill passed.
Supporters of the bill say it would boost economic activity in certain
areas, but some are concerned the bill will enable “trash and
Cincinnati leads the way on Twitter.
Vitamin B2, which is commonly found in cottage cheese, green veggies and meat, could be used to 3-D print medical implants.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
1 Comment · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
As county and state officials move to
investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups
are pushing back, warning that the investigations could cause a chilling
effect among voters.
by German Lopez
Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying
$12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal
funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used
for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed.
The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in
fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should
contribute to the pension fund continues to go up.
The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money
toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying
degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the
economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102
million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund
as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the
pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee
ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted
twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2),
which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an
absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County
Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an
Following a report that found Ohio’s juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region.
Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008.
The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light.
Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Voting
at 10:27 AM | Permalink
Critics warn of potential chilling effect
As county and state officials move to investigate and
potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups are pushing back,
warning that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls became the latest to speak out
in a letter to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Ohio Secretary
of State Jon Husted.
“The current legal investigations perpetuate the idea that
voter fraud is widespread, when it’s not true,” she wrote. “We need to
work together to give citizens the confidence that the election process
is fair and accessible to those who have followed the law and
pre-determined process. When citizens are confused about the process of
voting they are intimidated from exercising their full rights to vote,
which erodes confidence in and the integrity of our democracy.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and
League of Women Voters of Ohio sent similar letters to Husted in the
past few weeks, echoing fears that the investigations will intimidate
voters into staying out of future elections.
The controversy surrounds 39 “double voter” cases recently sent to the county prosecutor by the Hamilton County Board of
Elections. In most of the cases, the voters in question sent in an
absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voted on Election Day through a provisional
ballot, which are given to voters when there’s questions about
eligibility. Even though the voters technically voted
twice, their votes were only counted once.
The letters from Qualls and the League of Women Voters claim
the cases were sent to the county prosecutor based on a narrow
interpretation of state law and other sections of election law back the voters’ actions.
The letters reference Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2),
which says, “If a registered elector appears to vote in that precinct
and that elector has requested an absent voter's ballot for that
election and the director has received a sealed identification envelope
purporting to contain that elector's voted absent voter's ballots for
that election, the elector shall be permitted to cast a provisional
ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code in that precinct on the day of that election.” The law goes on to clarify only one of the votes should be counted.
Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of
Elections on May 31, siding with the Republicans on the board who wanted
to send the case to the county prosecutor.
Alex Triantafilou, an elections board member and chairman
of the Hamilton County Republican Party, says Republicans just want an investigation.
“I think anytime a person casts two ballots we ought to
ask why,” Triantafilou says. “This is not to prejudge any of these cases
as criminal charges. That’s not been our intention. What we want is a
qualified investigator to ask the question and then answer it.”
Tim Burke, chairman of the local elections board and the
Hamilton County Democratic Party, disagrees: “This is a damn shame.
What’s happening to those voters is absolutely wrong.”
Burke claims the law was followed and no further investigation is necessary. He alleges
Republicans are trying to suppress voters.
“I fear that what’s going on is that elements of the
Republican Party want to create the impression that there is massive
voter fraud going on, and they want to scare the hell out of people to
intimidate them and discourage them from voting in the future,” Burke
says. “I think part of what’s going on here is an effort to identify
voter fraud in order to justify more restrictions on voting rights.”
Triantafilou argues Democrats, including Burke, are
playing politics: “It’s a continuation of the kind of fear that
Democrats try to instill in the electorate, and it’s a political weapon.
We’re not trying to do that. They alleged voter suppression in the last
election cycle. That was nonsensical. The problem really is fraud.”
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana advances, commissioners threaten streetcar, voter fraud report released
If you have any questions about Cincinnati, CityBeat’s staff will do its very best to answer if you submit them here.
The Ohio Ballot Board certified an amendment
that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio.
Petitioners will now have to gather 385,253 signatures to get the issue
on the ballot — most likely this year or 2014. CityBeat previously covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement in greater detail here.
Republican county commissioners are asking the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments to pull $4 million in streetcar funding,
but the city says OKI can’t legally do it. Commissioners Greg Hartmann
and Chris Monzel, who are also members of the OKI board, made the
request in a letter. City spokesperson Meg Olberding says OKI was simply
an agency that passed the money along as it worked through the Federal
Transit Administration (FTA) to OKI to the Southwest Ohio Regional
Transportation Authority (SORTA), and the agreement doesn’t allow OKI to
interfere any further. This morning, the city’s Twitter account
tweeted, “City has confirmed with Feds that OKI cannot pull streetcar $
bc funds are already obligated to this federal project.”
Ohio released its first ever statewide report on voter fraud yesterday, called the “Post-2012 General Election Voter Fraud Report.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted said the report shows voter fraud exists,
but it’s “not an epidemic.” That coincides with previous findings from
researchers: An extensive study of the nation’s databases by News21, a
Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Ohio Democrats are proposing more accountability rules
for JobsOhio, including adherence to public record laws, open meeting
laws, state ethics laws for employees and full state audits. JobsOhio is
a privatized nonprofit agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of
Development. They claim the privatized nature of the agency allows it to
respond to economic problems more quickly, but Democrats say the agency
redirects public funds with minimal oversight.
Cincinnati will host a march against genetically modified organisms
Saturday as part of the international March Against Monsanto. The
movement’s organizers are calling on participants that explain the facts
of genetically modified organisms, encouraging “no slandering, no
opinions or paper — just facts.” The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at
A.G. Lafley is reclaiming the top spot at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. The company says the change is not part of a deeper issue.
The 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati begins tomorrow.
Win or lose, the University of Cincinnati baseball team has a lot of fun.
An adorable Labrador Retriever puppy had her heart cured after a minimally invasive heart procedure — the first ever in the Tri-State.
Salamanders have some lessons for humans when it comes to regrowing limbs.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
If you can’t beat them, make it so they
can’t play to begin with. That’s been the mentality of the Ohio
Republican Party time and time again, and the latest budget bill from
the Republican-controlled Ohio House continues the trend.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
An amendment in the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House could make voting more difficult for out-of-state college and university students.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:14 AM | Permalink
Measure may limit voting, city tops LEED certified buildings, Medicaid could be on ballot
Today is primary election day in Ohio, but there are no
ballot items in Cincinnati. Some Hamilton County precincts outside the
city have ballot issues, which are listed here. Polls will be open between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
An amendment snuck into the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House would force universities to decide
between providing the proper documentation for voting to out-of-state
students or getting extra money from out-of-state tuition rates,
prompting concerns from Democrats that Republicans are attempting to
limit voting opportunities once again. Republicans spent a bulk of the
lead-up to the 2012 election approving measures that limit voting,
including a later-repealed set of laws that greatly reduced early voting
About 82 percent of all Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings in Ohio are in
Cincinnati, and the reason is likely local tax incentives,
which allow Cincinnatians to eliminate property taxes for up to
15 years by retrofitting businesses and homes in an environmentally
friendly manner. CityBeat covered Cincinnati’s successes in solar energy here and FirstEnergy’s campaign to weaken Ohio’s energy efficiency standards here.
If legislators fail to take up the Medicaid expansion, the issue could appear on the ballot
on November 2014. Supporters of the expansion, including Gov. John
Kasich, say the expansion will help insure hundreds of thousands of
Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade, but Republican
legislators say they’re concerned the federal funds backing the
expansion will eventually dry up. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill, which effectively rejected the expansion for the time being, here.
The Ohio Department of Transportation says 2,230 bridges in the state need repairs, but there’s not enough funding to make it happen.
Ohio banks are warning of possible cyberattacks
that could happen today. The Ohio Bankers League and the Ohio Credit
Union League said the attacks would impact online services but not the
security of customers’ bank accounts.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has the second highest airfares in the nation, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble was ranked No. 7 in a ranking for top 50 most diverse companies by DiverseInc.
Sometimes human brains make people do bad things, such as enjoying high-calorie foods even when the foods aren’t delicious.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:14 PM | Permalink
Budget bill forces universities to decide between out-of-state tuition, providing documents
An amendment snuck into the budget bill passed by the
Republican-controlled Ohio House on April 18 would force public
universities to decide between charging lucrative out-of-state tuition
rates or providing out-of-state students with documents required for
voting in Ohio, raising concerns from Democrats that Republicans are
attempting to limit voting opportunities in the state once again.
The measure would force public universities to classify
students living on campus as in-state if they receive utility bills or
official letters that can be used for identification when voting in
Out-of-state tuition rates are typically higher than
in-state tuition rates, which means universities would be giving up
potentially millions in revenue to provide out-of-state students with
the proper documents.
For universities, the measure adds a financial incentive
to hold on to the documents. For out-of-state students, that could mean a
more difficult time getting the documents to vote in Ohio
Students can vote in Ohio if they have lived in the state
for at least 30 days, but voting requires proper identification and proof of residency. Utility
bills and official letters qualify, but student identification cards do
Republicans have been quick to defend the measure, while
Democrats have been quick to oppose it. For both sides, there’s a clear
political motivation: In the 2012 elections, 63 percent of Ohio voters
aged 18 to 29 supported Democratic President Barack Obama, while only 35
percent supported Republican Mitt Romney, according to exit poll data.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder justified the measure to the Toledo Blade:
“The real issue for local areas in particular [is], what happens when
somebody from New York City registers to vote. How do they vote on a
school levy? How do they vote on a sheriff’s race? To me, there is a
significant question, particularly the levies, as to what having people
who don’t have to pay for them would do in terms of voting on those
The comments prompted a response from Ohio Democrats,
particularly attorney general candidate David Pepper, a Greater
“It’s startling to see one of Ohio’s leaders voicing such a
blatantly unconstitutional justification for this cynical law,” Pepper
said in a statement. “The Constitution guarantees an individual’s right
to vote, regardless of what views they espouse (‘how ... they vote’),
whether they own property, or where they hail from originally. The
Speaker’s comments would quickly become Exhibit A in a successful
Constitutional challenge of this scheme to keep Ohio’s college students
Pepper’s statement went on to cite three U.S. Supreme Court cases to support his argument: Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15 from 1969, Carrington v. Rash from 1965 and Dunn v. Blumstein from 1972.
In Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, the
court argued any laws that discriminate against certain types of voters
must endure strict judicial scrutiny because “any unjustified
discrimination in determining who may participate in political affairs
or in the selection of public officials undermines the legitimacy of
representative government.” The ruling struck down a New York statute
that said those participating in school board elections must be property
owners, the spouses of property owners, lessors or a parent or guardian
of a child in the school district.
Pepper’s statement claims the ruling invalidates
Batchelder’s argument: “The Court rejected the state’s argument
(identical to the Speaker’s) that only those two groups had a primary
interest in such elections.”
In Carrington v. Rash, the Supreme Court ruled
states may not limit voting based on how someone may vote: “‘Fencing
out’ from the franchise a sector of the population because of the way
they may vote is constitutionally impermissible. ‘[T]he exercise of
rights so vital to the maintenance of democratic institutions’ ...
cannot constitutionally be obliterated because of a fear of the
political views of a particular group of bona fide residents.”
Similarly, Dunn v. Blumstein struck down
Tennessee’s one-year residency requirements for voting in a ruling that
said residents recently coming from other states can’t be barred from
voting: “[T]he fact that newly arrived [Tennesseeans] may have a more
national outlook than long-time residents, or even may retain a
viewpoint characteristic of the region from which they have come, is a
constitutionally impermissible reason for depriving them of their chance
to influence the electoral vote of their new home State.”
The Ohio House’s budget bill amendment is only one of many
attempts from Ohio Republicans to limit voting opportunities in the
state since 2011. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and
Gov. John Kasich approved two laws that reduced early voting hours.
Democrats and third-party groups threatened to bring the legislation to
referendum, but the Republican-controlled legislature and Kasich
repealed most of the measures and restored expanded early voting in Ohio
before the referendum came to a vote. A federal court also
restored early voting for all Ohioans for the three days prior to Election Day, which the previous repeals had only brought back for military voters.
In 2012, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican,
invoked uniform early voting hours, effectively eliminating most
weekend voting, and made last-minute changes that placed the burden of
proper identification on voters instead of poll workers, which Democrats
argued made verifying provisional ballots more difficult.
When asked to justify some of the measures, Doug Preisse,
close adviser to Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican
Party, wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I
really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to
accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
The race-based reasoning prompted a harsh response from
Democrats, who claimed Republicans were trying to suppress minority
voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
Beyond voting rights, the Ohio House budget bill defunds Planned Parenthood and forgoes the Medicaid expansion (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).The budget bill still has to be approved by the Ohio Senate and Kasich to become law.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:00 AM | Permalink
House budget bill may suppress student voters, tax plan favors wealthy, police chief may go
An amendment in the Ohio House budget bill last week would make it so universities have to decide
between providing voting information to students or retaining millions
of dollars in out-of-state tuition money. The amendment would make it so
universities have to classify students as in-state — a classification
that means lower tuition rates — when providing documents necessary for
voting. Republicans claim the measure is “common sense” because anyone
voting for Ohio’s elections should be an Ohio resident. But the
amendment has provoked criticism from Democrats and universities alike,
who say universities are being thrown into the middle of a voter
An analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found
the tax plan currently working through the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature favors the wealthy.
The analysis also claimed there’s little evidence the across-the-board
tax cuts suggested would significantly help Ohio’s economy.
The plan still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio
Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Council members are asking Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to remain in Cincinnati
instead of taking a job in Detroit, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
didn’t seem convinced that much can be done. Dohoney said Craig’s
hometown is Detroit, a city that has suffered in recent years as the
local economy has rapidly declined.
Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is running for governor, and he will make Cincinnati one of his first stops
for his campaign kick-off tour. FitzGerald is challenging Republican
Gov. John Kasich in 2014, who has held the governor’s office since 2010. A recent poll found Kasich in a comfortable position with a nine-point lead on
FitzGerald, but many respondents said they don’t know enough about
FitzGerald to have an opinion on him.
Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a six-year high in March,
with 2,190 homes sold. The strong housing market, which is recovering
from a near collapse in 2008, is widely considered by economists to be a
good sign for the overall economy.
But Ohio’s venture capital investments dropped to a two-year low, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
The Ohio EPA and Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District are partnering up to provide a $250,000 grant to help purchase equipment to screen, clean and sort glass — an important part of the recycling industry.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to
forgo lunch on April 24 to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of
Fasting. The event will let participants “experience a small measure
of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives,” according to
a press release from Sittenfeld’s office. Participants are also being
asked to donate money to the Freestore Foodbank. A ceremony for the
event will be held on April 24 at noon in Fountain Square.
The U.S. Senate is moving toward approving bill that would allow states to better enforce and collect online sales taxes.
Mars One is calling all applicants for a mission to colonize Mars in 2023.
The sport of the future is here: combat juggling: