by German Lopez
Eighteen of 21 candidates participated in Oct. 5 forum
Just one month before voters pick nine council members at the ballot box on Nov. 5, 18 of 21 City Council candidates on Oct. 5 participated at a candidate forum that covered issues ranging from better supporting low-income Cincinnatians to expanding downtown's growth to all 52 neighborhoods.During the event, the candidates agreed Cincinnati is moving forward, but they generally agreed that the city needs to carry its current economic growth from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to all 52 neighborhoods. Participating candidates particularly emphasized public safety and government transparency, while a majority also focused on education partnerships and human services for the poor and homeless, which have been funded below council's goals since 2004.The three City Council candidates not in attendance were Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn, Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman and Independent challenger Tim Dornbusch. The absences prompted forum moderator Kathy Wilson, who's also a columnist at CityBeat, to remind the audience that "a vote is a precious thing" and candidates should work to earn support by engaging the public.Councilman Chris Seelbach and challenger David Mann, both Democrats, had surrogates stand in for them. Seelbach was attending a wedding, and Mann was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his family.The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area.Here are the highlights from the 18 participating candidates, in order of their appearance:Wendell Young (Democrat, incumbent): Young said Cincinnati should put basic services and public safety first, but he added that the city should also help address "quality of life issues" such as providing "world-class parks." He also said Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget, which has relied on one-time funding sources since at least 2001, and make further adjustments to the underfunded pension system. Young also explained that the city needs to strengthen its partnerships with local organizations to help combat homelessness, affordable housing, child poverty and infant mortality.Laure Quinlivan (Democrat, incumbent): Quinlivan proudly pointed out she's the "only elected mom" on City Council. She said her goal is to make Cincinnati "cleaner, greener and smarter" by focusing on population and job growth and thriving neighborhoods. To spur such growth, Quinlivan claimed the city needs the streetcar project and more bike and hike trails, both of which she argued will attract more young adults to Cincinnati. Unlike other candidates, Quinlivan publicly supported potentially "rightsizing" — or cutting — Cincinnati's police and fire departments to structurally balance the budget. She also said the city should provide more options for health insurance to city employees so they don't all get a so-called "Cadillac plan" that's expensive for the city.P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat, incumbent): Sittenfeld touted downtown and Over-the-Rhine's turnaround as a model for economic growth that Cincinnati should expand to all neighborhoods. He argued the model is what attracts companies like Pure Romance to Cincinnati, as the company mentioned the city's recent urban growth as one reason it decided to stay here. (Of course, the nearly $699,000 in tax incentives over 10 years probably help as well.) When asked about his opposition to the current streetcar project, Sittenfeld said the current project is fiscally irresponsible because of its previous budget problems, which City Council fixed in June, and reduction in funding from the state government, which forced the city to pick up more of the funding share. Sittenfeld said his past two years on council were a success, but he added, "I'm not done yet."Amy Murray (Republican and Charterite, challenger): Murray said her campaign is focused on creating a fiscally sound city by structurally balancing the budget and fixing the underfunded pension system. But she said she would do both without increasing taxes, which could force the city to cut services and retirement benefits. When asked about her opposition in 2011 to extending city employee benefits to LGBT spouses, Murray said she never had a problem with extending the benefits to LGBT individuals — which City Council did in 2012 — but was simply acknowledging that providing the extra benefits requires making cuts elsewhere to balance the budget. (Opponents previously said the issue should be about equality and fairness, not costs.)Vanessa White (Charterite, challenger): White said her main goals are reducing poverty in Cincinnati, providing more education opportunities to residents and expanding citizen access to city officials. When specifying her goals for education, White said Cincinnati needs to do a better job incentivizing internships for youth at local businesses and touted the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which seeks to expand preschool education opportunities in Cincinnati. To increase transparency and outreach, White said she would assign City Hall staffers to answer citizens' questions after council meetings.Michelle Dillingham (Democrat, challenger): Dillingham said the role of local government is to spur growth in abandoned areas that have been failed by the private sector. But to successfully do this, she said the city needs to engage and reach out to its citizens more often. As an example, she cited the development of an affordable housing complex in Avondale, which has been snared by sudden public outcry from a neighborhood group. Dillingham said supporting affordable housing is also more than just providing expanded services; she explained that she supports creating more jobs that would provide a living wage, which would then let more locals own or rent a home without exceeding 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs. At the end, Dillingham touted her 10-point plan to give more Cincinnatians "a seat at the table" and make the city government more inclusive.Mike Moroski (Independent, challenger): Moroski said he intends to focus on growing Cincinnati's population, reducing re-entry into the criminal justice system and lowering child poverty. He also touted support for development projects and infrastructure, including the streetcar project. At the same time, Moroski argued some development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown is pricing low-income people out of the city's booming areas — an issue he would like to address. Moroski also said he backs efforts to increase Cincinnati's human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years. When asked about his lack of government experience, Moroski said he sees it as a "gift" and "blessing" that's given him a fresh, outside perspective. "I will be the voice for the voiceless," he said.Melissa Wegman (Republican, challenger): Wegman opened by showing off her business credentials and neighborhood advocacy. When asked what she means when she says she'll bring a "business perspective" to council, she said she would like to see the city put more support toward small businesses. In particular, Wegman said underserved neighborhoods need more city help and funding. She also told panelists that she opposes Issue 4, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot and would semi-privatize Cincinnati's pension system.Kevin Flynn (Charterite, challenger): Flynn said Cincinnati's budget problems are by far the most important issues facing the city, but he also trumpeted the local government's lack of transparency and engagement as major issues. He explained he's particularly opposed to the mayor's pocket veto, which allows the mayor to entirely dictate what legislation is voted on by council and potentially block any legislation he or she disagrees with. Flynn said he would like to see more citizen engagement on budget issues and more open debate between council members during public meetings.Greg Landsman (Democrat and Charterite, challenger): Landsman stated his focus is on population, job and revenue growth, which could help him achieve his goal of a structurally balanced budget. He said the city needs to do more to attract and retain young people. Although Landsman acknowledges the city's progress, he said Cincinnati is undergoing a "tale of two cities" in which some neighborhoods prosper and others flounder. Landsman also suggested increasing human services to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years and improving city management in other areas, including the budget, pension system and roads.Kevin Johnson (Independent, challenger): Johnson said the role of government should be to balance out the private sector and provide a safety net for those who fall through the system. He said the city needs to do more to tackle income inequality by "investing in people." Johnson said he supports recent efforts to create a land bank system for struggling neighborhoods, which aim to increase homeownership by making it more affordable and accessible. Johnson also claimed that people are tired of party politics and would like to see more transparency in government.David Mann (Democrat and Charterite, challenger), represented by campaign manager John Juech: Speaking for Mann, Juech said his candidate got into the campaign to address Cincinnati's budget problems. Juech explained Mann will leave "all options on the table," whether it's revenue increases or service cuts, to structurally balance the budget. When asked whether Mann, who previously served 18 years on council, really deserves more time in the local government, Juech explained that Mann's experience makes him a "walking Cincinnati historian." He also argued that Mann has great relationships with county officials, particularly Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, that could make it easier to jointly manage some city services in a way that would drive down costs.Yvette Simpson (Democrat and Charterite, incumbent): Simpson said she measures progress in Cincinnati by "how well the least of us do," which drove her to start the Cincinnati Youth Commission and other partnerships that help connect the city's youth to jobs. Although Simpson said she supports boosting funding to human services and building better relationships with human services agencies, she said providing more funding is hindered by a "simple math problem" and the city needs to balance its budget before it can provide more and better services. Simpson also said the city could and should do a better job engaging the public with big ideas.Chris Seelbach (Democrat, incumbent), represented by legislative director Jon Harmon: Reading a statement from Seelbach, Harmon said Cincinnati is on the rise but still needs to improve in various areas. In particular, he said the city needs to do a better job funding all 52 neighborhoods, providing more opportunities for low-income Cincinnatians and eventually increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget. Harmon also touted City Council's progress with infrastructure issues, including increased road paving and bridge funding. By addressing these issues and occasionally making "tough choices," Harmon said Seelbach hopes to continue growing the city.Pam Thomas (Democrat, incumbent): Thomas claimed she wants local government to be open, honest and transparent. She said the city's progress should be gauged through education metrics, particularly local graduation rates and, starting next year, the city's success in meeting state-mandated third-grade reading proficiency standards. Thomas replaced her husband on council after she was appointed by him and other council members earlier in 2013, but Thomas said that, unlike him, she opposes the current streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to fund development projects and help balance the budget.Shawn Butler (Democrat, challenger): To Butler, progress means reducing income inequality, creating jobs and growing the city's population. Although Butler, who is Mayor Mark Mallory's director of community affairs, said he's generally supportive of the mayor's policies, he said the city could do a better job selling itself and reaching out to the business community. Butler also touted his experience, particularly how he's gone through eight budget cycles during his time with the mayor. To structurally balance the budget, Butler said he wouldn't increase the earnings tax and would instead pursue other options, such as tapping into money from the parking plan and cutting services.Angela Beamon (Independent, challenger): Beamon said she would ensure city services are spread out to all citizens and neighborhoods. She suggested struggling neighborhoods are underserved — not "underperforming," a term she doesn't adhere to — and the city should do more to reach out to them. Beamon also stood firm on her opposition to the streetcar project. Instead of funding the streetcar, she said city resources should go toward promoting business ownership and services that help the underprivileged.Sam Malone (Republican, challenger): Malone said his goal is to make all of Cincinnati's neighborhoods thrive with more businesses. He said since he lost his re-election to City Council in 2005, he's managed a small business and learned how it feels to be on the other side of the government-business relationship. Malone said his campaign slogan ("I love everybody, I come in peace") best exemplifies how he's led his life. When asked about a 2005 incident in which he disciplined his son with a belt, Malone claimed he's "running on issues" and his parenting tactics were deemed lawful by a court.
by German Lopez
Shutdown hurts Ohio workers, infant mortality efforts continue, glitches snare Obamacare
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and we may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
The ongoing federal government shutdown is keeping thousands of Ohioans from going to work.
The federal government closed its doors yesterday after House
Republicans refused to pass a budget that doesn’t weaken Obamacare and
Senate Democrats and the White House insisted on keeping President
Barack Obama’s signature health care law intact. Without a budget,
non-essential federal government services can’t operate.
As part of a broader campaign to reduce Cincinnati’s high infant mortality rate, the city yesterday launched another effort
that aims to educate parents in the city’s most
afflicted zip codes on proper ways to put their babies to sleep.
According to the Cincinnati Health Department, 36 babies died from
unsafe sleeping conditions between 2010 and 2011. Cradle Cincinnati plans to help prevent these deaths by reminding parents that babies should always
sleep alone, in a crib and on his or her back. The education effort is
just one of many to reduce Cincinnati’s infant mortality rates, which in
some local zip codes have been worse than rates in
Ohioans who tried to use Obamacare’s online marketplaces on opening day yesterday likely ran into some website errors,
but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking
participants for patience as they work out the glitches, which appear to
be driven by overwhelming demand. The problems weren’t unexpected, given
that software launches are often mired in issues that are later
patched up. “We’re building a complicated piece of technology, and
hopefully you’ll give us the same slack you give Apple,” HHS Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at a Sept. 30 briefing.
Domestic violence arrests in 2012 were down from the previous year, but law enforcement officials say they need more help
from lawmakers to bring down the number, which remained above 41,000,
even further. Officials claim a law on teen dating violence, which,
among other things, allows protective orders on accused abusers who are
under 18 years old, has helped, but advocates argue protections need to
be strengthened. CityBeat covered the advocates’ efforts in further detail here.
The Ohio Libertarian Party asked lawmakers at a hearing yesterday to loosen restrictions
in a bill that seeks to limit ballot access for minor political
parties. The bill, which is sponsored by State Sen. Bill Seitz
(R-Cincinnati), requires minor parties to gather an estimated 100,000
signatures every two years to remain on the ballot, which Libertarians
say would be difficult and expensive. Instead, Libertarians would like
that provision to require the signatures every four years. Libertarians
also asked lawmakers to allow voting thresholds, which give minor
parties automatic recognition in Ohio if they get 3 percent or more of
the vote, to apply to more than the gubernatorial race. Seitz said he’s
open to the changes.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced yesterday that
the Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded its goal of testing 1,500
rape kits in the program’s first year. In total, the agency has tested
1,585 out of 4,053 submitted kits. The program allows local and state law enforcement to
analyze and match DNA evidence to verify criminal allegations. So far, it has led to
505 DNA matches.
Cincinnati could make an offer by the end of the year
for a currently unused section of the Wasson Way railroad line that the
city plans to convert into a five-mile bike and hike trail.
Three more downtown buildings will house apartments.
Although the buildings aren’t directly on the streetcar route, the
developer said that public transportation, along with bicycles, will
play an important role in promoting the apartments because they won’t
have dedicated parking.
The Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council is offering an energy benchmarking toolkit that allows small and medium-sized businesses to see how they can improve their environmental performance.
Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati is the No. 1 hospital for delivering babies in Ohio.
The number of induced abortions in Ohio rose between 2011
and 2012 but ended up at the second lowest levels since 1976, according
to the Ohio Department of Health.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is putting more than $3 million toward purchasing new vehicles and equipment that should help elderly and disabled residents across the state.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first “artificial pancreas” to help diabetics better monitor and control their insulin levels.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:21 AM | Permalink
Report finds state lacks leadership opportunities for women
In comparison to men, Ohio women have lower incomes, hold fewer
leadership roles and disproportionately suffer from the state’s high
infant mortality rate. The issues placed Ohio at No. 30 out of 50 states
for women’s issues in a Sept. 25 report from the Center for American
Progress (CAP) titled, “The State of Women in America.”
Out of three major categories, Ohio performed worst on leadership roles available to
women, ranking No. 37 in the category with a “D”
grade. CAP found only 16.7 percent of Ohio’s state-elected executive
offices and 37.2 percent of managerial positions are held by women, even
though women make up 52 percent of the state’s population.
The state performed slightly better in health outcomes for
women and obtained a “C-” in the category. The report particularly
criticized Ohio for its infant mortality rate of 7.7 deaths for every
1,000 infants — the fourth highest in the nation — and regulations and defunding measures in the recently passed state budget that make reproductive health services less accessible to women.
On economic issues, Ohio was relatively on par with the
U.S. median and ranked No. 27 with a “C” grade. For every $1 a man
makes, an Ohio woman makes 77 cents, which matches the national average.
But the results are even worse for minorities: Black women make 66 cents
for each dollar a man makes and Hispanic women make 64 cents.
Still, with 17.7 percent of Ohio women living in poverty,
the state has the No. 19 highest poverty rate for women in the country.
The statistics were again worse for minorities: About 36.4 percent of
black women and 32.6 percent of Hispanic women in Ohio live in poverty.
The CAP report analyzed 36 indicators for women in the
categories of economic security, leadership and health. It then graded
the states and ranked them based on the grades.
Vermont topped the rankings with an “A,” and Oklahoma was at the very bottom with an “F.”
CAP, which is an admittedly left-leaning organization, is
touting the report to support progressive policies that could help lift
women out of such disparities, including the federally funded Medicaid
expansion and an increase to minimum wages.
“While women have come a long way over the past few
decades, much remains to be done to ensure that all women can have a
fair shot at success,” said Anna Chu, one of the report’s authors,
in a statement. “Today’s report shows that in many states, it is still
difficult for women and their families to get ahead, instead of just
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Pure Romance on Sept. 24 announced that
it is moving to downtown Cincinnati despite a decision from Gov. John
Kasich’s administration to not grant tax credits to the $100
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
In the middle of a state economy mired in
stagnant growth, Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans are
attempting to weaken a key safety net that benefits more than 1.8
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:56 PM | Permalink
Company moving to downtown Cincinnati despite state's refusal to grant tax credits
Pure Romance on Tuesday announced that it is moving to
downtown Cincinnati despite a decision from Gov. John Kasich’s
administration to not grant tax credits to the $100 million-plus company, which hosts
private adult parties and sells sex toys, lotions and other
“relationship enhancement” products.
Pure Romance will now move 60 jobs and its headquarters
from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati. It expects to create another 60
jobs in the process.
In a statement that thanked City Council and City Manager
Milton Dohoney for their support, Pure Romance CEO Chris Cicchinelli
cited downtown Cincinnati’s growth as a reason for remaining in Ohio.
“We look forward to playing an active role in the
continued resurgence of this region’s urban core and know that Pure
Romance professionals will add to the dynamic and exciting growth being
enjoyed in downtown Cincinnati,” he said.
The move will receive support from the city government, which previously offered $353,000 in tax breaks to the company.
Pure Romance was originally considering moving to Kentucky after Ohio
refused to give the company tax credits. Kasich and other Republican officials justified their refusal with claims that Pure Romance
just didn’t fall into an industry that Ohio normally supports, such as logistics and energy.But
Democrats, citing other companies that obtained tax credits despite not
being within traditional industries, argue that Kasich’s administration
only denied the tax request because of a prudish, conservative perspective toward Pure
Romance’s product lineup, which includes sex toys.Pure Romance is looking to move downtown by the end of the year, but the time frame hinges on ongoing lease negotiations.
by German Lopez
Streetcar on track, initiative to redevelop homes, Pure Romance touted in tax credit debate
The streetcar project is on track for its Sept. 15, 2016 opening date, according to a monthly progress report
released by the city yesterday. Through Aug. 31, the city spent $22.1
million on the project, including nearly $2 million in federal funding.
In total, the project is estimated to cost $133 million, and about $45
million will come from the federal government. CityBeat covered the project and political misrepresentations surrounding it in further detail here.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and community partners yesterday unveiled the “Come Home Cincinnati” initiative,
which promises to make vacant properties available to new occupants in
an effort to increase homeownership and redevelop neighborhoods hit
hardest by vacancy and abandonment. The initiative will work through the
Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development
corporations to connect potential homeowners with a pool of loan
guarantees, which would pay for the home loans if a borrower defaulted.
Qualls’ office says the plan will likely require tapping into the city’s
Focus 52 fund, which finances neighborhood projects. If City Council
passes the motion supporting the initiative, the city administration
will have 60 days to come up with a budgeted plan, which Council will also have to
approve.A Democratic state legislator used Pure Romance’s troubles to criticize Ohio’s process for granting tax credits. State Rep. Chris Redfern, who sits on the legislature’s Controlling Board, repeatedly brought up Pure Romance when discussing tax credits for three companies supported by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. Redfern ultimately didn’t vote against the tax credits, but he only backed down after getting state officials to say the three companies were meeting all of the state’s priorities. Pure Romance originally planned to move its headquarters and 60 jobs from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati and create 60 jobs in the process. But since the company was denied state tax credits, it’s openly discussed moving to Kentucky to take up a better tax offer. The Kasich administration says it denied the tax credits because Pure Romance isn’t part of a targeted industry, but Democrats argue the administration is killing jobs in Ohio just because of prudish feelings toward Pure Romance’s product lineup, which includes sex toys.
Cincinnati will be honored by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) later today for connecting residents to
renewable energy sources, according to a press release from the city.
Some environmental groups have already praised Cincinnati for championing
solar energy in particular, as CityBeat covered here.
At a City Council forum last night, residents demanded walkable, livable neighborhoods that include grocery stores.Internet cafes need more than 71,000 signatures to get on the November 2014 ballot.
The cafes are attempting to overturn a state law that effectively
forces them out of business. State officials argue the law is necessary because Internet cafes, which offer slot-machine-style games on
computer terminals, are hubs of illegal gambling activity. But Internet
cafes say what they offer isn’t gambling because customers always get
something of value — phone or Internet time — in exchange for their
The Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) marketplaces will go live in one week, regardless of whether the federal government shuts down. The marketplaces will allow users to enroll in insurance plans with tax subsidies from the federal government. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote and obstruct them in further detail here.
A Democratic state legislator is pushing new requirements that would force lobbyists to disclose their annual salaries.
I-75 lanes are temporarily closing for improvements.
Step one to stopping malicious hackers: Learn their ways.