Morning News: Cincy finds big budget surplus; Ohio among worst states for gender wage gap; the strangest presidential debate ever?

Ohio is 42nd in the nation when it comes to the wage gap between genders. The average wage for a woman in Ohio is about $37,000 a year, compared to about $50,000 for men.

click to enlarge Rachel Dovel, middle, is suing the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over transgender-inclusive health benefits.
Rachel Dovel, middle, is suing the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over transgender-inclusive health benefits.

Hi there. Are you hungover? Do you have a headache? Deep, unsettling anxiety? If not, you must’ve missed the first presidential debate last night. It was a doozy. But hey, before we go there, let’s talk about stuff closer to home.

The city of Cincinnati will have a $16.6 million budget surplus, city administration says, after it spent $9 million less than expected and made almost $8 million more than anticipated this year. Word is, the city got a really great deal on some used golf clubs and bootleg Yeezys and flipped ‘em on Ebay. (That is not real but it’s funny to think about).

Of course, the good news set off a battle in Cincinnati City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting yesterday, where council members went back and forth for an hour and a half about what to spend the money on. City Manager Harry Black did what dads do, which is write a sternly worded memo asking Council to remember its plan for saving money and to put an extra $3.5 million in the piggy bank. City administration floated some ideas for spending the cash, including estate tax repayments, heroin crisis funds, police, raises for city employees and other items. But that plan left out funding for the African American Chamber of Commerce, which was promised money from the city in the last budget. That caused consternation among some council members, who moved to table a vote on the spending plan until next week.

• Rachel Dovel, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County employee seeking medical coverage related to her transgender status, filed suit against the library yesterday related to that pursuit. Dovel has repeatedly sought coverage for gender reassignment surgery through her insurance coverage there, but the library board has declined to purchase additional coverage from its provider, Anthem. Dovel, whose doctor has recommended the surgery, estimates it will cost $25,000 if she pays for it out of pocket. Many major employers in Cincinnati, including city government, Proctor & Gamble and others, have opted for transgender-inclusive health care. The library board says it’s sympathetic to Dovel’s situation but must make tough decisions with taxpayer money.

• Another restaurant at riverfront development The Banks is closing its doors. Crave, which has been at the long-awaited downtown attraction for four years, ceased operations yesterday, when moving trucks were outside its doors. The closure of one of the development’s original restaurants seems abrupt, and representatives from The Banks did not immediately return calls from a Cincinnati Business Courier reporter about Crave. A number of restaurants at The Banks have closed since it launched in 2012, including controversial soul food restaurant Mahogany’s. Critics of that establishment decried city grants and loans given to owner Liz Rogers after Mahogany’s shut down over back state taxes and missed payments on those loans.

• University of Cincinnati student body president Mitchell Phelps, along with five other student government leaders, remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance at a UC Student Senate meeting last week, becoming the latest locals to join in a spreading protest against racial injustice in America. Phelps said the protest wasn’t meant to disrespect America, military service members or law enforcement, but that saying the words “and justice for all” rings hollow in light of recent police shootings of unarmed black men. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has set off a wave of similar protests by refusing to stand for the national anthem, a gesture that has been picked up by athletes and students across the country, including at local Withrow High School. CityBeat columnist Christina Brown commented on the reaction to Kaepernick's protest here.

• Ohio ranks very low when it comes to gender equity in wages, a new study shows. The state is 42nd in the nation when it comes to women’s earnings in comparison with men’s. The average wage for a woman in Ohio is about $37,000 a year, compared to about $50,000 for men. According to the American Association of University Women, which conducted the survey, there are a number of reasons for that gap, including different career routes men and women take, differing expectations when it comes to raising families and performing childcare duties, along with outright discrimination.

• Finally, let’s talk about last night's debate for just a second. GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton squared off in the first of three matchups (the next two will be Oct. 9 and 19). Consensus among pundits and viewers seems to be that Clinton came out on top this time around, keeping a calm, even presence as The Donald ranted, sniffled (weird) and contradicted himself.

Among the larger of Trump’s factual gaffes during the debate: claiming that he never said global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China (he is on record saying that multiple times), claiming that he can’t release his tax returns until an audit by the Internal Revenue Service is complete (the IRS says that’s not true) and a number of other verifiably false claims. Trump was also rather cavalier about some shocking things: He said he doesn’t pay income tax because “he’s smart” and wrote off a federal lawsuit over housing discrimination at his Cincinnati Swifton Commons development by explaining that lots of companies have been sued for similar racist policies.

But Clinton had her own moments where she stretched the truth: claiming that, since the beginning of her campaign, she’s embraced law enforcement reform over the shootings of unarmed black men by police, when in fact she was slow to come to that issue and only did so after primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders did. Clinton also failed to address comments she made during the 1990s calling young minority men “super predators” as she supported her husband President Bill Clinton’s justice system policy changes. Those changes put millions more minorities behind bars, often for minor drug charges. As Clinton continues to cast herself as the racial justice candidate, she’ll need to reckon more fully with that legacy.

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