by German Lopez
State cuts hit local budget, police explain homicides, Democratic primary heats up
If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race. Cold weather led many area schools to close for another day. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School
Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Republican state officials slashed local government funding in previous budgets
Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.Following cuts approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and
the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, Cincinnati officials estimate
the city is getting $26 million less in state funding in 2015 than the
city did in 2010.
At the same time, the city is facing a $21 million operating budget gap in 2015.
The reduction in state aid helps explain why the local
budget gap remains after several years of council-approved spending cuts
and tax hikes.
“It sounds like the city is doing a good job,” said
Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach at Monday’s Budget and Finance
Committee meeting. “Where we’re seeing these obstacles is these outside
Independent Councilman Christopher Smitherman countered
that the cuts to the local government fund and the elimination of the
estate tax, both of which drove the reduction in state aid, have been
known since 2011 and 2012.
“Public policy makers have, in my opinion, continued to
make decisions as if those public policy decisions from the governor’s
chair or from the state … weren’t in play,” Smitherman said. “This is
not new information.”
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn agreed. He said it’s
time to stop blaming the governor for the city’s problems and face the reality of
reduced revenues.Still, Winburn acknowledged he would be willing to meet with state officials to bring more revenue back to Cincinnati.“Maybe Republicans will be willing to meet with a
Republican like me and see if we can bring some money back to
Cincinnati,” Winburn said.
Republicans at the state level passed cuts to the local
government fund as a way to balance the 2012-2013 budget, which faced a
projected gap of nearly $8 billion in 2011. They then approved the
elimination of the estate tax — often labeled the “death tax” by
opponents — in 2012.
But with Ohio’s economy slowly recovering from the Great
Recession, the state budget looks to be in much better shape. The
2012-2013 budget ended with a $2 billion surplus because of
Ohio Democrats point to the surplus as evidence the
Republican-controlled state government could undo the $1 billion in cuts to local
government funding. They argue the cuts have hurt local governments and
forced cities to slash basic services, including public safety.
by German Lopez
Tea party drops challenge to Kasich, gay marriage in 2014 election, city faces parking issues
Tea party leader Ted Stevenot won’t run against Gov. John
Kasich in a Republican primary after all. The development came just four
days after Stevenot announced his candidacy. Stevenot said his decision
to pull out had nothing to do with his running mate’s tax problems,
which The Columbus Dispatch uncovered shortly after Stevenot
announced his intention to run. Stevenot’s withdrawal comes despite
building tea party opposition against Kasich over his support for the
Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion and his unwillingness to support
anti-union “right-to-work” legislation.
The debate over same-sex marriage reached the state
attorney general’s race Friday when Democratic candidate David Pepper
published an online petition calling on Republican Attorney General Mike
DeWine to stop the state-sanctioned legal battle against a local gay
couple. On Dec. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled that
state officials must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates,
including the union of Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur.
But the state is appealing the ruling. DeWine’s office said it’s up to
the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to appeal
Black’s decision. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s office
declined to comment whether he advised for or against appeal.When Pepper and DeWine face off in the November election, same-sex marriage legalization could appear on the ballot as
well — despite LGBT groups’ disagreement over the ballot initiative’s
With the parking privatization plan presumably dead, Mayor
John Cranley and City Council plan to address what to do with
Cincinnati’s lackluster parking system in the next couple months. By all
accounts, the system is broken and in need of upgrades. The question is
how to fund the upgrades and leverage parking revenue so it can better
finance basic services and development projects. When asked whether
privatization is still on the table, Cranley says he’s only open to
leasing parking garages, not parking meters, to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority.Another issue looming for city officials: Their desire to
structurally balance the budget without raising taxes or draconian
spending cuts. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.Frigid weather led area schools to close today,
including the region’s public universities. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.Dayton gets a new mayor today.
Ohio was snubbed for a coveted drone testing program, much
to the chagrin of state officials who are now touting partisan claims
as reasons why.Ohio gas prices dropped in time for the first full work week of 2014.A study found no evidence of time travelers on the Internet.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Abortion restrictions follow trend, more tax issues in state election, Luken to run for judge
Ohio and various other states passed more abortion
restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they did in the previous decade,
according to the Guttmacher Institute. The findings indicate that the
latest Republican-backed abortion restrictions, which were passed
through Ohio’s two-year state budget last June, were part of a broader
trend that’s culminated across the nation since the tea party rose to
national prominence in 2010. The trend could play a pivotal political
role: Ohio Democrats have made their opposition to the abortion
restrictions a central part of their campaigns to unseat Republican
incumbents who hold top executive offices in the state.
One of the candidates expected to join the tea party
ticket in a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John Kasich
appears to have personal tax problems. Brenda Mack, tea party leader Ted
Stevenot’s expected running mate, is linked to nearly $60,000 in unpaid
state and federal taxes and penalties, according to government records
in Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties analyzed by The Columbus Dispatch.
Mack refuses to comment on the tax problems until a Tuesday press
conference in which she and Stevenot are expected to officially announce
their candidacies for the May 6 primary.Former Mayor Charlie Luken says he will run for Hamilton
County probate judge. The Democratic candidate will likely face off
against Republican Ted Winkler, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court
judge. Luken recently garnered the public spotlight for his support for
Mayor John Cranley’s campaign.Cincinnati’s homicide rate for victims younger than 18
rose to 1 in 7 in 2013 and 2012, up from 1 in 10 from 2000 through 2011,
according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Four of the juvenile
victims were 1-year-old or younger, including a fetus who died after the
mother was strangled to death in April.Four seats on the 19-member Ohio Board of Education remain
unfilled, including two seats that have been vacant for months, long
past the 30-day deadline Gov. Kasich has under state law to name a
replacement. Administration officials said they’re aware of the
deadline, but they intend to find the best fit for the position before
moving forward with an appointment. “It’s far more important to us to
find the right person than putting warm bodies on the board,” Kasich
spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Columbus Dispatch.The amount of untested rape kits submitted to Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded 5,000.Fewer than 1,000 died last year in traffic crashes across
Ohio, the lowest number since the state began keeping track of the
fatalities in 1936.Bill Nye the Science Guy will debate evolution and
biblical creationism at northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum on Feb. 4.
Evolution is a scientific fact, but Creation Museum leader Ken Ham
denies its existence.Aaron Betsky announced yesterday he will step down as
director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The news follows Betsky’s
controversial comments against the streetcar project in
ArchitectMagazine.com, which Betsky expanded on in a separate blog post.
CityBeat recently interviewed Betsky here.The Cincinnati Bengals received an extension until 4 p.m.
today to sell out tickets for Sunday’s game and avoid a television
blackout in the Cincinnati area.Strange lights sometimes precede earthquakes. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
States passed more abortion restrictions in past three years than previous decade
Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more
abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous
decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Between 2011 and 2013, states passed 205 new restrictions
on abortion. Between 2001 and 2010, states passed only 189 new
The trend is unsurprising for Ohio, which the Guttmacher
Institute says has been “hostile to abortion” since 2000, but the
timeline shows a clear shift in state policies around the nation since
the tea party rose to national prominence in 2010.
Ohio’s latest restrictions were passed last June by Ohio Republicans through the two-year state budget.
Among other restrictions, one measure forces doctors to
perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and tell
her if a heartbeat is detected and the statistical probability of the
fetus making it to birth.
Ohio and Oklahoma were also the only states in 2013 to
pass restrictions on federal funding for family planning providers, the
Guttmacher Institute claims.
Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, insist they don’t use
public funds for abortions, instead funding the procedure with
the help of private contributions.
But Ohio Republicans, who predominantly oppose abortion
rights, went through with the restrictions anyway, ultimately hitting
some family planning service providers that don’t even offer abortions.“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, told CityBeat last June. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”
Ohio Democrats, particularly gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald, have made their opposition to the anti-abortion measures
part of their campaigns to unseat Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio
Republicans who hold top executive positions in the state. But given the Guttmacher Institute’s timeline, reversing
the trend could require a radical shift in the state government of the
past 14 years.
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