A series of contradictory tweets and blog comments posted by members of an anti-transit group has observers wondering of there is dissension in its ranks — or whether one member simply has anger management issues.
Ever since an initiative put on the Nov. 8 ballot by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was rejected by voters, someone with the group has vowed on various local blogs that it still would try to block Cincinnati’s streetcar project.
A pending decision about whether to appeal a federal judge’s decision in a disputed election could place Hamilton County taxpayers on the hook for legal fees in the case.
The case involves which provisional ballots to count in the Juvenile Court judicial race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams from the November 2010 election.
Hunter lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast. Some ballots weren’t counted, however, because although they were cast at the correct polling station, they were cast at the wrong precinct table, apparently due to poll worker error. Hunter then filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the board’s decision.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott ruled Feb. 8 that 286 provisional ballots should be counted in the race.
On Monday the Hamilton County Board of Elections split 2-2, along partisan lines, about whether to appeal Dlott’s ruling. Because there was a tie vote, the matter goes to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who likely will side with his GOP colleagues on the board and order an appeal.
Like the Republicans on the county elections board, Husted has said state law, not a federal judge, should be the final authority on which ballots are counted.
“I am concerned about the continuing involvement of the federal court in prescribing which ballots should and should not be counted in a county judicial race in Ohio,” Husted said in January 2011. “As Ohio’s chief elections officer, I maintain that it is of utmost importance that we take this stand to preserve the authority of state law to govern state elections, as interpreted by the Ohio Supreme Court.”
But the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals already has upheld a ruling by Dlott in the case once before. The appellate court ruled in January 2011 that the board should determine how many ballots were cast due to poll worker error.
The three-judge panel said not counting ballots that were miscast through no fault of the voter would be "fundamentally unfair." Still, it looks like the board will try its luck with the 6th Circuit once again.
It’s routine in cases like this for the victor — plaintiff Tracie Hunter, in this instance — to ask the court to order the defendant to pay legal costs. Although the exact amount of legal fees incurred to date wasn’t immediately available, it’s believed to be in the range of $800,000 to $1.5 million.
If an appeal is pursued, the county could be at risk of paying much more. A lengthy appeal process could easily double what’s been spent so far, legal experts said.
The expense comes at a time when Hamilton County commissioners are cutting back sheriff's patrols and other county services to avoid a deficit.
Husted’s office hasn’t yet received formal notice of the board’s tie vote, a staffer said today. When it does, a legal review will be initiated.
“We will make a decision shortly thereafter,” said spokesman Matt McClellan. “We hope to make one soon.”
Interestingly, Dlott also commented in her ruling on the apparent unconstitutionality of Ohio law.
“Ohio’s precinct-based voting system that delegates to poll workers the duty to ensure that voters are directed to the correct precinct but which provides that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct shall not be counted under any circumstance, even where the ballot is miscast due to poll-worker error, is fundamentally unfair and abrogates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law,” the judge wrote.
Dlott said she was unable to order a remedy, however, because the original complaint wasn’t based on a due process claim and the plaintiff had failed to notify the Ohio Attorney General, as she were required to do if she intended to challenge the constitutionality of Ohio law.
Since then, though, the notice has been given. Conceivably, Dlott could rule on that issue in the not-too-distant future and order a remedy, namely declaring Ohio’s election laws unconstitutional and unenforceable.
An unusual online exchange Tuesday between an occasional CityBeat freelancer and an Enquirer sports blogger led to the blogger’s own comments being deleted for violating the newspaper’s terms of service.
The comment seems to have been deleted by a moderator for being racist against Hispanics.
Just two days after he proposed the idea, Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding quietly dropped his proposal to tax panhandlers and require them to wear signs stating how much the city contributes to social service agencies on an annual basis. Despite the sudden flip-flop, Berding's idea has inspired a similar concept targeting City Hall.
Jailing juveniles as a form of “rehabilitation” comes with an expensive price tag. More than money, the criminal justice system costs kids their rights and that state seems to be OK with that.
With Republican support and Democratic opposition, the Ohio House Finance Committee approved a budget bill today that would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups call “anti-choice.”
Citing the possibility of “gateway sexual activity,” the bill would make it so teachers can be fined up to $5,000 if they explain the use of condoms and other forms of birth control to high school students. It would also prohibit individuals and groups from distributing birth control on school grounds.
The bill pushes abstinence-only education to curtail any promotion, implicit or explicit, of gateway sexual activity. To define such activity, the bill cites Ohio’s criminal code definition for “sexual contact,” which is defined as “any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast.”
The bill would also redirect federal funding to defund Planned Parenthood and shift funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
“Today the Ohio House Finance Committee voted to send our state back to the 1950s,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “The Ohio House is doing everything they can to restrict access to reproductive health care and medically accurate information that help Ohioans live healthy lives. (Gov. John) Kasich can stop these dangerous attacks on women’s health care. We need him to speak out against these budget provisions and to line-item veto these dangerous measures when they reach his desk.”
Researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be generally ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that include birth control education reduce rates.
A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.
When looking at three ways to prevent unintended pregnancies for a 2012 study, the Brookings Center on Children and Families found the most cost-effective policy was to increase funding for family planning services through the Medicaid program. In other words, if governments increased spending on birth control programs, they would eventually save money.
Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.
At hearings on April 12, anti-abortion groups praised abstinence-only education for promoting chastity.
The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Greater Cincinnati recently held its annual membership meeting and elected leaders for 2012.
Rusty Lockett and John Maddux were elected to another term as board president and vice president, respectively. Lockett formerly served as the center’s clerk before first being elected president in early 2010. Also, he has served as event chairman for Pride Night at Kings Island in September and is convener of the local LGBT Episcopal worship group, called Integrity.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's parent company is testing a “pay wall” system at three of its newspapers as it attempts to devise a business model that involves users paying for Internet content.
If successful, the model being implemented at the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, The Greenville News in South Carolina and The Spectrum in St. George, Utah, eventually could be implemented at Cincinnati's only surviving daily newspaper.