by German Lopez
LGBT groups debate ballot timing, Kasich gets tea party challenge, Portune's ethics disputed
Ohio’s leading LGBT groups still disagree whether same-sex
marriage should appear on the ballot in 2014 or 2016, but FreedomOhio
says it’s continuing with efforts to put the issue to a public vote
within a year. The debate could decide when gay couples in Ohio will get
the same rights already granted to couples in other states. In its defense, FreedomOhio cites polling that shows its
amendment has support from 56 percent of Ohio voters. But that same poll
also put Ohioans within the margin of error — 47 percent in favor and
48 percent in opposition — on the general question of same-sex marriage
legalization, which other LGBT groups point to as a sign Ohio needs more
time before it’s ready.
Clermont County tea party leader Ted Stevenot will mount a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John
Kasich. Stevenot has long criticized Kasich for his support for the
federally funded Medicaid expansion, which now allows anyone up to 138
percent of the federal poverty level to enroll for Medicaid. Stevenot
has also called on Kasich to support anti-union legislation commonly
known as “right-to-work.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune’s
challenge against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is
off to a rough start: A former law partner said Portune isn’t “ethically
… suited to be governor,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Portune on Monday announced his intent to challenge FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, despite opposition from various state
Commentary: “What to Watch in 2014.”
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm
warning, up from a winter weather advisory, for southwest Ohio today
between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. The region should get 3-5 inches of snow, with
most of it coming this morning and early afternoon.Three new local homeless shelters expect to start construction in 2014.Eighty local organizations across Ohio, including three in
Hamilton County, are receiving more than $26.3 million in state funds for homeless
prevention, emergency shelters and transitional and supportive housing
projects.The federal government awarded Ohio $10.8 million for getting low-income children health insurance.Check out The Onion’s best videos of 2013.
Here are the best astronomy and space pictures of 2013, according to Phil Plait of Slate.
Popular Science published its science predictions for 2014.CityBeat is hiring a full-time associate editor. Click here for more information.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Tuesday, December 31, 2013
direction of Ohio — whether it will be progressive or a continuation of the tea
party agenda — remains unclear until Ohioans file their ballots next
by German Lopez
Democrats worry announcement could compromise gubernatorial campaign
Democrats face a potential wrinkle in their campaign to
unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich following Hamilton County
Commissioner Todd Portune’s announcement Monday that he will run for governor of Ohio.
At a public press conference, Portune said he intends to
mount a primary challenge against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed
FitzGerald, who previously looked like the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.
In justifying his announcement, Portune claimed he had heard “some rumblings” from rank-and-file Democrats to offer more options in the governor’s race.
“This is an honest effort to give Democrats choice,” Portune said.
Some Democrats might appreciate the choice following a
scandal that threw FitzGerald’s choice for lieutenant governor, State
Sen. Eric Kearney, off the ticket. Kearney withdrew after multiple
reports uncovered he and his family owe hundreds of thousands in unpaid
But much of the Democratic establishment seems to have
responded with contempt by portraying Portune’s announcement as an
unnecessary hurdle in the 2014 election.
Likening the Democratic primary election to an internal
family discussion, Portune denied accusations that a primary campaign
would cripple the party’s chances of winning the gubernatorial election.
“Primaries allow you to talk about the issues. They generate momentum,” he said.
Several Democrats took to social media to publicly disapprove of Portune’s announcement.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern tweeted that he’s “excited about our endorsed Democrats,” meaning FitzGerald.
Cincinnati council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld also restated on Twitter that they will support FitzGerald for governor.
“Todd Portune has been a client and someone I've admired
for a long time,” Seelbach wrote. “But the last thing we need is a
by German Lopez
Ohio was one of two states to see economy worsen in three-month index
Despite Gov. John Kasich’s claims to the contrary, the
only miracle in Ohio’s economy might be how bad the state is doing compared to
the rest of the nation.
The proof: Ohio’s economy was among just two states in the
nation that actually worsened during September through November compared to August through October, according
to the research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Beyond Ohio’s borders, Alaska also worsened, two states remained stable and the rest of the nation moved in a generally positive direction.
In other words, while 46 states’ economies moved in a generally positive direction, Ohio actually got worse.
The measures come from the State Coincident Index issued
by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia every month. The index
combines several economic indicators to gauge the condition of each
state’s economy. The research department then gauges whether the index
improved or worsened after the latest month’s data is taken into
account.With the gubernatorial election now less than one year
away, the sorry state of Ohio’s economy could prove a bad sign for Gov.
Kasich, a Republican, came into office as Ohio’s economy
began dashing out of the Great Recession stronger than most of the
nation — a trend Kasich took to calling the “Ohio miracle.”
Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s likely Democratic challenger, has
criticized the claim in the past few months as Ohio’s economy showed
more signs of worsening despite Kasich’s promises that his policies
would keep the state in the right direction.
One of those policies was privatizing Ohio’s development
agency and effectively turning it into JobsOhio. In less than three years, the
agency has been riddled in multiple scandals following accusations from
Democrats that the JobsOhio board hosts various conflicts of interests
and lacks transparency when recommending who should get state tax
Kasich also pushed and approved an across-the-board income
tax cut earlier in 2013 through the two-year state budget. But because
the income tax cut came with a sales tax hike, left-leaning think tank
Policy Matters Ohio found Kasich’s tax cut heavily favors the wealthy, which
calls into question whether the tax cut will actually help Ohio’s middle
class or economy.
For FitzGerald and other Democrats, the challenge is
advocating a progressive agenda that stands in contrast to Kasich’s
policies. Although they have plenty of criticisms, it remains unclear
what Democrats could do if — as looks almost certain — Republicans
continue to hold Ohio’s legislative chambers.
Then there’s the question of whether state policies matter
much, if at all. Economists generally agree that state officials
tend to dramatize the economic impact of their policies when much
bigger factors are at play, particularly as globalization reshapes the
national and global economies.
For now, one thing is clear: Kasich’s policies
haven’t been enough to turn around Ohio’s sinking economy throughout the
past three months.
by German Lopez
Portune could run for governor, city could host GOP in 2016, laxer regulations draw critics
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he'll run for governor. If he decides to run, Portune will face off against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald to decide which Democrat should face off against Republican Gov. John Kasich next November. Until now, it has been widely assumed that FitzGerald would take the gubernatorial nomination without a primary challenge. But if Portune enters the race, it could lead to a primary process that could hinder Democrats' chances in a pivotal state election.Hamilton County Republican Party officials are looking into hosting the 2016 national GOP convention in Cincinnati, but they acknowledge their bid might come in too late. The 2016 convention would put the national spotlight on Cincinnati during a presidential election year, when presumably two new presidential contenders will have been picked by Democrats and Republicans to replace President Barack Obama. Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Cincinnati would be a great location for the convention, given the region's electoral importance to both parties, but he wants to make sure Cincinnati actually stands a chance before using time and resources to file a formal application.Entertainment districts allow some businesses in Walnut Hills and nine other Cincinnati neighborhoods to receive their state liquor licenses more quickly and inexpensively, but some — particularly businesses facing new competition — are worried the increasingly popular economic designation will lead to more alcohol-serving establishments than Cincinnati can sustain.Local startup incubator SoMoLend got state hearings over allegations of fraud pushed to February and March. The once-promising crowdfunding incubator previously partnered with Cincinnati, but the city cut ties with the business once allegations of fraud surfaced.The Ohio Department of Health warned on Friday that flu activity is increasing across the state and Ohioans should get vaccinated.The Ohio State Highway Patrol last week launched an enhanced registry of people who have been convicted of drunk driving at least five times.Starting Jan. 1, regulations meant to crack down on puppy mills will require licenses for dog breeders and clean cages. The legislation enforcing the new rules was approved more than a year ago to curtail Ohio's reputation of being soft on large dog breeding operations.Ohio gas prices spiked at the end of the year.With the year drawing to a close, check out CityBeat's top stories of 2013.The question you probably never asked has now been answered: Can a human fall in love with a computer?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Cincinnati streetcar saved, gay marriage could appear on ballot, Medicaid overhaul signed
City Council yesterday decided Cincinnati will get a streetcar after all. After securing the six votes necessary to overturn a mayoral veto, Mayor John Cranley
conceded that the $132.8 million streetcar project will restart
following a two-week pause. It was a surprising journey for the project,
which largely seemed like the underdog ever since the new mayor and
council took office earlier in the month. In the end, the project gained
its sixth vote from Councilman Kevin Flynn after the philanthropic Haile Foundation signed onto contributing $900,000 a year for 10 years to help underwrite part of the streetcar’s annual operating costs.Advocacy group FreedomOhio yesterday announced it has enough signatures to place same-sex marriage on Ohio’s 2014 ballot.
The group declined to tell Cleveland.com exactly how many signatures it
had collected so far, but the organization says it’s aiming to collect 1
million before the July filing deadline. At the same time, FreedomOhio
released a poll that found Ohioans are still split on the issue of same-sex
marriage. But the poll also found that a good majority of Ohioans
support FreedomOhio’s gay marriage legalization amendment, which
provides exemptions for religious groups.Gov. John Kasich yesterday signed a bipartisan Medicaid
overhaul bill that seeks to control costs by establishing an
oversight commission and a target for spending growth. The legislation
also sets a focus on health care outcomes to ensure quality
standards in the government-run program. Both parties pursued the bill
to tamp down on health care costs that have been taking up more of the
state’s budget in the past few years.
A new report from the state attorney general’s office
found nearly half the businesses who received state aid in 2012 did not
fulfill their end of the deal in terms of producing new jobs and other promises.Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent in
November, down from 7.5 percent the month before. But the number was well above the 6.8
percent rate from November 2012, indicating a decline in job growth in
the past year.Police arrested the mother of a 3-year-old for falsification and the mother’s boyfriend for accidentally shooting the child on Tuesday.Today is Homeless Memorial Day, a day meant to commemorate those who died in 2013 while experiencing homelessness. The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is gathering at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of 14th and Elm streets to honor the occasion.Bike Share plans to come to Cincinnati next summer and allow residents to rent out bikes around multiple parts of town.Miami University is the second most efficient
university in the nation in terms of delivering a good education
for relatively low cost, according to a study from U.S. News and World Report.Cincinnati’s housing market marked 29 consecutive months of increased sales last month with a 5-percent rise. The measure indicates the local economy is recovering after the Great Recession crippled housing markets around the nation.A new product that claims to translate dogs’ thoughts to human speech is bogus.After today, Morning News and Stuff will take a vacation until Dec. 26. Happy holidays!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.”
by German Lopez
New anti-streetcar majority faces unknown costs, hit to operating budget with cancellation
City officials on Wednesday reasserted that it remains
unknown how much it would cost to cancel the $133 million streetcar
project, and city spokesperson Meg Olberding and project
executive John Deatrick agreed the unknown costs are a big concern.
Voters on Tuesday elected John Cranley to the mayor’s office
and six council members — out of nine total — who oppose the streetcar
project, giving streetcar opponents enough votes to cancel the project
once the new government takes power on Dec. 1.
But, as first reported by CityBeat on Oct. 9,
cancellation could carry all sorts of costs with $94 million tied to
contractual obligations, including supply orders and other expenses
from contractors and subcontractors, and $23 million already
sunk on the project.
If the city were to cancel, it would also need to return
nearly $41 million in grants to the federal government, according to a
June 19 letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Canceling the project would cost jobs as well. About 150
laborers are currently working on the project, according to Deatrick. He
says there’s also management positions involved, but he couldn’t offer
an estimate for those jobs and whether they’re working on the project
full- or part-time.
Deatrick says that it’s difficult to pin down how much
cancellation would ultimately cost because the issue would likely
be worked through litigation as the city tries to minimize cancellation
costs and developers — such as Messer Construction, Prus Construction,
Delta Railroad and CAF USA — attempt to maximize what they recoup from the
Another concern, according to Olberding, is cancellation’s impact on the operating budget. She says the roughly
$2 million in federal grant money already spent on the project would have
to come out of the operating budget, and litigation costs would come from the operating budget as well.
The capital budget, which is financed through bonds and
other forms of debt, pays for capital projects like the streetcar. The
operating budget typically goes toward day-to-day operations, including
police, firefighters and human services.
The operating budget has been structurally imbalanced
since 2001. If millions in litigation costs and repayments to the
federal government are added to it, the city could be forced to cut services and jobs or raise taxes.
There are also concerns about how the federal government and
Cincinnati’s business partners would react to the cancellation of such a
major project. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Cranley’s opponent in the
mayoral race, previously told CityBeat that pulling back on a
commitment could break the faith developers and the feds placed in
Cincinnati when they agreed to take on the streetcar project.
Cranley and other anti-streetcar elects argue the long-term costs — the $88 million in the capital budget for the current
phase of the project, the cost of future expansion and $3-4 million that
it would cost to operate the streetcar annually — outweigh even the
costs of cancellation.
Cranley previously told CityBeat that he would help developers involved in the project find other work in the
city to recoup the revenue lost from the project’s cancellation. He says
Messer and Prus in particular are based in and already work heavily in
Cincinnati, so it’s unlikely they would try to cut ties with the city.
Streetcar supporters aren’t convinced. If the city pulls out of such a
big commitment, officials argue both the federal government and
developers could be compelled to look for a more reliable source for
Meanwhile, Deatrick says current construction work is
progressing on time and within budget. He expects the track on Elm Street to
be laid down between 12th and Henry streets by the end of the year.
As for the next phase of the project, Deatrick says
there’s still no estimated cost. He attributes much of the project’s current
political problems to construction bids coming in over budget earlier in
the year — a turn of events that led City Council to put another $17.5
million to the streetcar project — so he says the city needs to be
really careful with future estimates if it decides to expand the
Despite the fresh political threats, the city still
intends to conduct meetings with businesses on Nov. 14 and 18 about the
benefits of the streetcar. Deatrick says those meetings should show the
economic benefits of the rail line that go beyond the streetcar’s use as
a transit network.
Supporters of the streetcar often point to those benefits as
their reasoning for backing the project. Citing a 2007 study from
consulting firm HDR that was later evaluated and supported by the
University of Cincinnati, supporters say the streetcar project would produce a three-to-one return on investment.
Deatrick acknowledges those projections are now outdated,
given all the changes the project has gone through since 2007. He says
the city has people working on updating the numbers and looking at
other economic effects the HDR study may have missed.
But opponents of the streetcar project say it’s simply too
expensive and the wrong priority for Cincinnati. Still, the potentially
high cost of cancellation could prove a bigger fiscal concern.
Either way, Cincinnati should find out the full consequences to the project in December.
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