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Park Board bonuses raise eyebrows; Duke settles lawsuit for $80 million; Ohio Senate votes to defund Planned Parenthood

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click to enlarge NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland speaks to pro-choice advocates during a June 24 rally at the Ohio capitol building.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland speaks to pro-choice advocates during a June 24 rally at the Ohio capitol building.

Good morning Cincy. Here’s a rundown of the news today.

More details are coming to light surrounding Issue 22, the proposed charter amendment to fund new projects in the city’s parks.

First, The Cincinnati Enquirer has information on the donors funding the campaign promoting the proposed amendment. Among the names that contributed the $670,000 raised by the campaign are some you’ll find familiar: Western & Southern, Kroger, Duke Energy and American Financial Group all contributed $50,000. More than half the donations to the campaign came from corporate sources. Western & Southern will participate in a plan to renovate Lytle Park, which is next to its corporate headquarters, if the amendment passes. W&S says it gave the money solely to support the city’s parks, which it says help attract people to Cincinnati.

Uptown Consortium, a non-profit development group composed of representatives from the University of Cincinnati, the uptown hospitals and other big employers focused on the neighborhoods around UC, gave $100,000. Uptown Consortium has a big interest in Burnet Woods, which sits at the heart of the uptown neighborhoods.

Individuals gave money, too. Folks living in Hyde Park, which stands to benefit from the proposed Wasson Way bike path, have been especially supportive of the effort. Donations from that zip code totaled more than $70,000. Various park board members and their spouses, as well as local philanthropists, also donated to the campaign.

• Meanwhile, revelations about big bonuses taken by Cincinnati Park Board leaders between 2004 and 2010 are causing controversy. In 2013, park leaders overseeing both the public Cincinnati Parks Board and the private nonprofit Cincinnati Parks Foundation reached a confidential settlement with the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding those bonuses, but questions linger about the way more than $100,000 was routed from public accounts to private ones with the foundation again in 2011. There are also concerns about a never-completed or published city audit of the way money was transferred between the two organizations. Cincinnati Parks Executive Director Willie Carden ran the public board and the private foundation at the time the bonuses were paid. Marijane Klug, who worked just under Carden in the public organization, also received large bonuses for her work from the private funds. Mayor John Cranley has said he has faith in the Park Board, but also said Cincinnati City Council should commission an independent audit in the name of full transparency.

• Duke Energy has entered an $80 million settlement to end a lawsuit alleging that it gave its biggest customers improper discounts on their electricity at the expense of other users. According to allegations in the suit, in 2004, Duke, then called Cinergy, brokered a secret deal with 22 of its largest industrial clients while it was seeking a rate hike from the state. From 2005 to 2008, the suit alleges, those customers paid a lower rate on their electricity — a rate that was subsidized by everyone else using Duke’s services. As a result of the settlement, residential customers could see rebates up to $400, while commercial users affected by the secret deal could get up to $6,000 back.

• The Ohio Senate yesterday passed a bill to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood in the state. The legislation would divert about $1.3 million dollars from the women’s health organization because it provides abortions and direct that money to other clinics across the state that do not. The federal money is used for things like health screenings, not abortions, but conservative lawmakers say they want to end any association between the state and Planned Parenthood. The bill also forbids public entities like schools from partnering with the organization on things like sex education.

"This bill is not about women's health care," said Senate President Keith Faber, who sponsored the bill. "It's about whether we're going to fund an organization that has its senior leadership nationally, who by the way get money from Ohio, who believe it's good public policy to chop up babies in a way it makes their parts more valuable so they can buy a Lamborghini."

The push to defund the organization comes after heavily edited videos were released this summer purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue to undercover activists. Those videos have largely been debunked, but the organization’s donation of fetal tissue for scientific research has raised outcry among conservatives. An effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip all federal funds from the organization nearly led to a government shutdown earlier this month. Ohio clinics do not participate in fetal tissue donation, which is illegal in the state. Planned Parenthood runs 28 clinics in Ohio, three of which provide abortions. The Ohio House is considering a similar bill, which it expects to pass in the coming weeks. A reconciled bill will then go to Gov. John Kasich's desk for his final approval.

That’s it for me. I’m off tomorrow, so have a great weekend, y'all. 

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