by German Lopez
City debt outlook worsens, Port apologizes for email about parking memo, fracking tax fails
It may become more expensive for the city to issue debt after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating.
The credit rating agency pinned the blame on the city’s exposure to
local and state retirement systems, as well as the city’s reliance since
2001 on one-time sources to balance the operating budget. Still,
Moody’s does give the city some credit for its economically diverse
population and recently stabilized earnings tax, despite docking the city for bad socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner is apologizing to the public and council members
following the exposure of an email that implied she was trying to keep a
critical parking memo away from public sight. Brunner says she was just trying
to buy time so she could directly show the memo to the Port Authority’s
board before it was reported by news outlets, but she acknowledges that
her email was ill-conceived and came off as an attempt to stifle
transparency. The memo suggests Cincinnati is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Port Authority and several private operators, but the Port Authority and city officials argue the memo is outdated and full of technical errors.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report detailing political contributions from oil and gas companies
that may have helped bring down a state “fracking tax,” which was supposed to
raise state revenue from Ohio’s ongoing oil and gas boom. Apparently,
many of the Republican legislators who staunchly opposed the oil and gas
severance tax also took in a lot of money from the same companies who
would have to pay up. The tax proposal was effectively dead on arrival,
even with the hyperbolic support of Republican Gov. John Kasich. Fracking is an
extraction technique that pumps millions of gallons of water underground
to free up oil and gas. CityBeat covered its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
Water utility leaders are meeting in Cincinnati this week to discuss sustainable business models.
In Cincinnati, water usage has dropped while expenses to treat water
and waste water have escalated, causing the Metropolitan Sewer District
to take in less money. The conference will discuss models that can
adjust around this trend while keeping rates low for customers.
The owners of The Hanke Exchange, a collection of buildings in Over-the-Rhine, say occupancy is going up
as a result of the promise of the Cincinnati streetcar. The property is
now at 84 percent occupancy rate, up from 28 percent three years ago.
Dayton and Cincinnati will hold rallies Saturday showing support for Trayvon Martin,
the unarmed black 17-year-old who was killed by George Zimmerman last
year. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury last Saturday.
Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general, was confirmed to direct the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the top agency that will regulate the financial institutions that played a role in causing the Great Recession.
The Hamilton County Young Democrats are hosting a free event
today to meet Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who’s also running for
secretary of state next year against Republican incumbent Jon Husted.
If the sun suddenly went out, humanity could take a few weeks to die out and perhaps live in Iceland.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Abortion
at 03:46 PM | Permalink
State budget limits access to legal abortions through various changes
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging
a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process
that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget.
If the petitioning process is successful, it would force
the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that don’t involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or
ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also
questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly
those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding
abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from
discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate
free speech rights.
The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care
and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics,
including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for
abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with
The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis
pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion
alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood.
The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but
centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a
viable option with rape victims.
Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators
also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to
getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required
to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the
ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth.
FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive,
plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Kasich signed the
controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30,
despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a
move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but
repealed the anti-abortion provisions.
CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at
Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former
superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for
previously discovered incidents.
reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for
fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former
treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and
ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in
payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo
Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede.
“These two officials saw no boundaries in how they used
taxpayer dollars,” State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “With
each audit, we find more of the same: total disregard for the trust
placed in them.”
CCPA responded to the audit by stating it has terminated
the credit card and replaced it with two debit cards, which supposedly
have controls in place to require approval and keep track of who’s using
the cards and for what.
The school is also reviewing contracts for the next school
year to ensure no further overpayments are made, on top of requiring
payments be board-approved.
In March, the school fired Hamm and Millard, and the two
former school officials were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office. Their attorney, Mike Allen, claims the school board approved the spending, which could mean the women didn’t break any laws.
In June, another special audit
found CCPA had inappropriately spent $520,000 for various unnecessary
expenditures, including bonuses, Christmas gifts, Nutrisystem weight
loss products and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber concerts.
CCPA enrolls nearly 1,200 students for kindergarten
through 12th grade, with more than 95 percent coming from low-income
households, according to Ohio’s school report card data. The Ohio
Department of Education gave the school’s K-12 building in the West End a
“D” and its K-6 building in Madisonville a “B” for the 2011-2012 school
The school is set to receive roughly $6 million in state
dollars in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. That follows the
funding trend for Ohio’s charter schools, which are generally receiving
more state money in the recently approved two-year state budget.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:52 PM | Permalink
Created Equal cites First Amendment rights for protest
Fountain Square will bear witness on July 11 to an
explicit anti-abortion video as part of a Midwest tour by Created Equal,
a Columbus-based anti-abortion group that describes itself as “a social
action movement seeking to end the greatest human rights injustice of
The “graphic abortion video,” as the group calls it,
utilizes images familiar to anyone who regularly passes by protests outside of Planned
Parenthood clinics: bloodied fetuses, separated fetal limbs and other
images that are meant to link fetuses to defenseless, dismembered
Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, says the display is necessary to grab people’s attention.
“Unfortunately, it’s required. This type of message has to
be strong because of the apathy in our culture to issues like abortion
and injustices like this,” he says.
Abortion-rights advocates have taken steps to stop Created Equal, with some signing a MoveOn.org petition to convince 3CDC, which manages events on Fountain Square, to pull its permit for the event.
“It is time to tell Created Equal that they are not
permitted to show graphic abortion footage on public space,” the
petition reads. “Fountain Square is a family friendly public space and
such footage is not appropriate in this venue. Their viewing date is
Thursday, July 11, 2013, stop this from going forward.”
Harrington says groups like MoveOn.org are attacking his
First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. He argues political
speech, such as his display, is completely protected by the U.S.
“If they wanted to come out and show bloody images of
women who had used coat hangers for abortions … it’s protected under
the First Amendment,” Harrington says. “We would defend their right to
do so. I would never circulate a petition to stop them.”
In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has been supportive of
free speech as long as it’s politically motivated, with the notable
exceptions of sexual content and airwave broadcasts.
Still, the Supreme Court on June 10 refused to consider
overturning an injunction from the Colorado Court of Appeals that’s
preventing an anti-abortion group from displaying graphic images outside
of a Denver church. The Colorado court argued that the images were too
“gruesome” and barred their display in areas where they might disturb
children. Keeping with tradition, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for
declining to hear the case.
For those who are genuinely offended by the graphic nature
of the images and not just obstructing the organization’s anti-abortion
message, Harrington says the message is worth the downsides: “I would urge them to
be equally if not more concerned for the children that are dying and
not simply for their own children, who might be disturbed by this.”
Created Equal is against abortion in most contexts, with
the sole exception of a situation in which the mother’s life is
undoubtedly in danger.
“You do the best you can to save both. When you can’t save both, you got to save one,” Harrington says.
Even then, Harrington says letting miscarriages naturally occur is typically his preferred option.
Thursday’s event will take place less than two weeks after
Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year state budget that limits access to
legal abortions, among other changes to school funding and taxes. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Republican policies are driving Ohioans — particularly the poor, women and minorities — into a perpetual cycle of near-poverty, and the victims sometimes can't even vote against it.
State Republicans lower taxes for the rich, defund Planned Parenthood and try to block health care for the poor in Kasich-signed budget
1 Comment · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature,
Republican state officials on June 30 passed a budget that alters taxes,
schools, Medicaid and abortion services in Ohio, putting the state in a
controversial and politically charged path for the next two years.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:14 PM | Permalink
Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut
released June 26 found Ohio’s top 1 percent would get the biggest breaks from
the tax plan included in the final version of the two-year state budget, while the
state’s poorest would pay more under the plan.The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio, shows the tax plan’s slew of tax cuts and hikes balance out to disproportionately favor the wealthy in terms of dollars and percents.On average, the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall
by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan. The next 4 percent would pay
$983, or 0.5 percent, less in taxes.
Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or
0.1 percent, more in taxes. The second-lowest 20 percent would see their
taxes go down by $5, rounded to 0 percent. The middle 20 percent would
see a tax cut of $9, which is also rounded to 0 percent.
Policy Matters criticizes the tax plan, claiming the revenue should go to other programs, not tax cuts.
“Rather than approving a tax plan that will further shift
Ohio’s tax load from the most affluent to low- and middle-income
residents, we should direct those dollars into needed public services,”
said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, in a
statement. “That includes restoring support for local governments and
schools, and bolstering human services, from foodbanks to child care.”
Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans,
says the tax plan is supposed to provide an economic boost to almost everyone,
not any specific group.
“The tax plan is going to provide an overall tax cut for
nearly all Ohioans,” he says. “What this plan intends to do is not
disproportionately favor the wealthy at all.”
The broad tax cuts, Republicans claim, should provide a boost to Ohio’s economy that will spur further job growth.
But Schiller argues the tax cut ultimately won’t create
jobs: “A 21-percent cut that was approved in 2005 has not kept Ohio’s
job market from underperforming that of the country as a whole during
and after the last recession.”The tax plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and
particularly business owners, but it balances the cuts by hiking sales and property taxes.
Specifically, the budget cuts income taxes for all Ohioans
by 10 percent over three years, gives business owners a 50-percent tax
break on up to $250,000 of annual net income and creates a small
earned income tax credit for low- and middle-income working Ohioans based on the federal credit.
To balance the cuts, the plan raises the sales tax from
5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, increases future property taxes by 12.5
percent and graduates the homestead tax exemption to be based on need,
meaning the lowest-income seniors, disabled and widowed Ohioans will get
the most out of the exemption in the future.
Most recently, the conference committee added two
safeguards for low-income Ohioans: a credit that wipes out income-tax
liability for Ohioans making $10,000 or less a year and another $20
credit for those making $30,000 or less a year.
The Policy Matters analysis doesn’t take into account the
two changes to property taxes and several other, smaller changes to
income and sales taxes, but the rest of the changes, including the conference
committee’s recent adjustments, are considered.
The tax plan is part of the $62 billion state budget for
fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly today. It's expected Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign it into law this weekend.Update: Budget bill passed by General Assembly.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
by German Lopez
U.S. Supreme Court strikes down federal ban on same-sex marriage
The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the federal
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a ruling that effectively requires the
federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who
reside in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
The DOMA ruling also sets a powerful historical precedent by extending equal protection rights to gay and lesbian individuals.In another ruling, the Supreme Court vacated a case on California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state, and effectively sent the case back down to a lower court that deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The ruling means California will likely begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the ruling’s effects will not go beyond California’s borders.
For gay and lesbian Ohioans, the DOMA ruling adds yet another incentive to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. If FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014 are successful, Ohio’s gay couples will have their marriages recognized at all levels of government. (The group previously aimed for 2013, but it now says it needs more time.)
So far, it remains unclear whether the ruling will extend
to same-sex couples who get married in other states but live in Ohio. If so, Ohio gay couples could get married in Massachusetts, return to Ohio and be eligible for federal marriage benefits — but not state marriage benefits. Legal experts and federal officials will surely debate the
issue in the coming months to develop a clearer answer.
Still, there’s been a lot of cheering and jubilation about
the historical rulings, which are widely seen as victories for LGBT rights. Below are some of
those reactions from local and state leaders, gathered through
interviews and statements.Also, make sure to check out CityBeat's Pride Issue for more coverage on LGBT issues.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member:
“It’s pretty amazing. Just as President Obama when he
announced his support for marriage equality, this feels like just as
much of a milestone, if not more because of the legal significance of
the rulings. This is proof that the tides have turned and the laws are
changing. We are realizing full equality for LGBT people across this
“The fact that they used the equal protection clause means
this case will be used across the country for every type of law that
has an impact on LGBT people. The Supreme Court just set a new precedent for
the rights of any government to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
It’s far broader than just the repeal of DOMA, which in itself is an
incredible feat. But the precedent that it’s setting for scrutiny on the
basis of sexual orientation will have an effect on laws throughout this
country for decades to come.”
Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio:
“We are elated that the Supreme Court has repealed DOMA
and in effect rejected Proposition 8. These decisions are proof that the
tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country, and we
have taken two more important steps toward true equality.
“This important moment, however, does not change the
reality that Ohio still has a constitutional amendment banning
same-gender marriage. Ohio voters can address the civil rights issue of
our generation by voting for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom
amendment. We are elated and our resolve has been doubled to collect
signatures. The journey continues. We will bring marriage equality to
Ohio in November, 2014.”
Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party:“I’m
deeply thankful that the Defense of Marriage Act has finally been
struck from our country’s books, and that millions across the nation and
Ohio are one step closer to equal and fair treatment under the law.
DOMA implemented discrimination into the highest law of the land, and
it’s a great day that this ugly reminder of a different time is finally
gone. “Ohio Democrats are honored to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters
in the fight to earn marriage equality for all, and continue our march
to overcome the prejudice of the past. But despite our victories across
the nation, Ohio Republicans in the Statehouse and Governor’s office
remain committed to keeping prejudice enshrined in law.” John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House and Republican from West Chester, Ohio:
“Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act on an
overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and President (Bill) Clinton signed it into
law. The House intervened in this case because the constitutionality of a
law should be judged by the Court, not by the president unilaterally.
While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical
that we protect our system of checks and balances. A robust national
debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my
hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and
German Lopez, gay staff writer at CityBeat:
“Cool.”Danny Cross, CityBeat editor: “DOMA was a real horseshit piece of legislation, and we're happy those old bastards in the Supreme Court did the right thing.”Update (1:47 p.m.): Added more reactions.
2 Comments · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
As the state budget process winds down,
it’s looking more and more likely that Republican legislators will
reject one of the most obviously positive policies to ever come before
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
An Ohio House bill introduced June 11
would add more restrictions to obtaining a legal abortion in Ohio, and
some of the requirements may force doctors to provide medically