Turner, state lawmakers upset state declined money for Wright-Patt

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 7:22 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 7:22 PM

Area lawmakers are upset Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was shut out of a share of $5 million in state aid vowed changes Thursday to a state panel that decided to split the money for projects at two Ohio Air National Guard bases.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and state Reps. Niraj Antani and Rick Perales spoke at a Thursday press conference about their frustrations with Wright-Patterson’s being shut out in a plea for funding for four infrastructure projects, covering everything from roof repairs to security gates.

Antani, R-Miami Twp., and Perales, R-Beavercreek, vowed to work to change how the money was awarded and review who sits on the nine-member Ohio Military Facilities Commission, five of whom were former high-ranking Ohio National Guard leaders.

Turner, R-Dayton, said he was “outraged” when he learned the commission bypassed Wright-Patterson for a share of millions of dollars to help pay for infrastructure projects.

“We know there are facilities that need funding all across the state but certainly with the largest single-site employer in the state right here in the Miami Valley we were very surprised and disappointed that not a dollar of the $5 million would come to Dayton, Ohio,” he said at a press conference in his downtown Dayton district office.

RELATED: Wright-Patt loses out on millions in state dollars

The congressman, a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, said he had worked with Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, to push for the creation of a pot of state money to defray infrastructure costs at federal installations like Wright-Patterson in a bid to compete with other states doing the same thing and out to capture new missions and jobs.

Turner said he expects a base realignment and closure process, or BRAC, will begin next year and start to have an impact in 2020.

Wright-Patterson has a workforce of about 27,000, the most at one employer site in Ohio. The panel voted to send $2.5 million to help relocate a taxiway at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base and $2.5 million to help build a combined deployment and processing and physical fitness center at Toledo Air National Guard Base.

“As the largest single-site employer, the entire region benefits from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and if this is only going to fund athletic facilities at National Gaurd bases which really don’t face a threat from the federal government to move jobs and missions around, we don’t want to support that funding,” Antani said.

For the panel to divide the “entire pot of funds for two facilities makes you question really what was doing on with the commission and the implications that were in front of them,” Turner said.

The evaluation process should include the workforce size at the facility and the spin-off technology created to “reflect the true value of the military installations” in Ohio, Perales said. He has a budget request for $5 million more to fund the program in the future.

RELATED: Wright-Patt to ask for state funds

The two state lawmakers also noted the majority, or five of the nine members of the commission, were former high-ranking Ohio National Guard leaders.

Antani said the Dayton region, which had one commission member, should have a higher share of the appointees with the state’s largest work site at Wright-Patterson.

“I think we need to retake a look at who’s getting appointed and if they have a conflict of interest in serving in the National Guard,” he said in part.

In an email Thursday, Commission Chairman Mark D. Wagoner Jr., a Toledo area lawyer and former state lawmaker, referred questions about who sits on the commission to the appointing authorities, which were the House, Senate and the governor’s office.

“I would also note that the vote of the Commission was unanimous, so the four members with no previous affiliation with the National Guard also voted to adopt the rankings of the neutral evaluator,” he wore in an email.

According to an OFMC document, chosen projects had applications with supporting documents that gave “much greater detail directly tying the infrastructure projects to military value” and the last base realignment and closure guidelines.

RELATED: Some U.S. military bases face closure threat to save money

Ten projects totaling $13.3 million in requests obtained a point score on how the improvement might increase the military value of the facility in a future round of base closures; local state or matching dollars offered; and a project cost estimate and deadline to completion.

Congressman Mike Turner target of national Democratic group

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 3:38 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 6:31 PM

Congressman Michael Turner (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For the first time in more than a dozen years, the congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, is being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has named 79 seats of more than 130 it plans to focus on in 2018.

Turner was one of 20 new targets the DCCC announced Monday. He is one of only two that voted against the recent Republican legislation to replace Obamacare.

Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party says the DCCC sees the 10th District as winnable for a Democrat in part because of the district makeup and also because of the current political climate.

RELATED: Look back at Turner’ 2016 race

The district includes all of Montgomery, Greene and part of Fayette County.

Turner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“I think it’s because even though it is a gerrymandered district it is less gerrymandered than some others around the country,” Owens said.

Owens said two potential candidates are already interested in challenging Turner in 2018 but he would not name them as he did not have their permission to do so.

RELATED: With protesters outside Republicans at local GOP dinner stress unity

“One is a West Point grad, Afghan/Iraq vet” and the other is a a local businesswoman, Owens said. He said one of the two “has some wealth and is going to put some money into” the race, which Owens expects will require $1 million to $1.5 million to be competitive.

Blaine Kelly, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said Turner won by a large margin in the Nov. 2016 over teacher Robert Klepinger, a Democrat, and Huber Heights Mayor Thomas McMasters, an independent.

“The only explanation for the Democrats’ decision to target Congressman Turner, or any Republican seats in Ohio, is that they are gluttons for punishment. Congressman Turner’s constituents gave him a giant stamp of approval last November by reelecting him with sixty-four percent of the vote,” Kelly said. “Democrats can manufacture outrage when Republicans keep campaign promises, but they can’t fake votes.”

Turner’s seat is one of four in Ohio the DCCC believes can be taken from Republican incumbents in 2018. The others are U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, Bob Gibbs, R-Avon, and Dave Joyce, R-Russell Twp. Nearly all the targeted seats are held by the GOP and the others are open.

RELATED: Groups hold town hall without Rep. Mike Turner

Owens said a Democratic candidate can get logistical and fund-raising support from the DCCC in a targeted race. He thinks the last time Turner’s district was targeted was the year he won it in a 2002 battle against Democrat Rick Carne to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Dayton.

“We’re incredibly excited that our national partners are expanding the map and targeting races like Ohio’s 10th Congressional District,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

The DCCC raised more than $9 million in April, beating previous records for the month, according to The Hill. However that’s about $1 million less than what was raised last month by Republicans.

Dayton Congressman Mike Turner files for divorce

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 3:34 PM
Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 6:23 PM

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner has filed for divorce from his wife, Majida, and asked that she be restrained from taking any of their assets, according to a divorce filing made Thursday in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

“Ms. Turner is guilty of a fraudulent contract,” according to the filing, which does not elaborate on what that means.

RELATED: Congressman Turner’s divorce finalized

Fraudulent contract is one of 11 “divorce causes” allowed by Ohio law, according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Turner asks that the two equitably allocate their marital assets and debts, that she pay his attorney fees and that neither of them pay spousal support.

“Yesterday, Congressman Turner filed for divorce from his wife, Majida Turner. The family asks for privacy at this time,” Turner spokeswoman Morgan Rako said in an emailed statement.

Turner, R-Dayton, married Majida Mourad, 47, on Dec. 19, 2015 in Dayton. It was his second marriage. He divorced his wife, Lori Turner, in 2013.

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Congressman Turner married Saturday in Dayton

Turner says fiancee’s business dealings pose no conflict

The Turners live in a Performance Place condominium in downtown Dayton and she is listed on county property records as owner, paying $209,000 for it in August 2015 before they were married.

Majida Turner could not be reached for comment.

Majida was a registered lobbyist for the liquid natural gas export company Cheniere Energy Inc. An investigation by this newspaper found Turner backed legislation that would make it easier for companies to export natural gas, but Turner said his work on that legislation had nothing to do with his relationship with his then-fiancee.

Cheniere’s most recently filed lobbyist disclosure form from April 19 says Majida Turner was a lobbyist for the group through March of this year. But the report lists her as one of two people “no longer expected to act as a lobbyist for the client.”

The report says Cheniere spent $440,000 on its four-person lobbying operation in the first quarter and lobbied on the issue of liquid natural gas exports.

The Summer 2017 Dayton Art Institute member magazine lists Majida Turner as a trustee and vice president of government affairs at Tellurian, Inc., a Texas-based liquid natural gas company.

In his Thursday’s filing Rep. Turner asks that a restraining order be issued that keeps her from taking any of their joint property and assets.

“This includes but isn’t limited to any items in the parties’ home safe or safe deposit box(es), and Mr. Turner’s piano,” the filing says.

It also asks that she not incur any debt or credit card purchases in Rep. Turner’s name or on any joint account.

Retired Ohio police, firefighters could see changes to health plans

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 10:56 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 4:34 PM

Retired cops and firefighters will likely see big changes in their health care coverage

Retired cops and firefighters will likely see big changes in their health care coverage but not until January 2019, said Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund Director John J. Gallagher, Jr., on Wednesday.

“This is all being done in an effort to preserve the fund and extend its solvency to allow members, especially those of a younger age, to prepare to more on their own for retiree health care expenses,” he said.

RELATED: Retiree health care cuts looming for cops and firefighters in Ohio

OP&F trustees reviewed health care and pharmacy costs incurred in 2016 and considered three options for premium changes for 2018 but did not make a decision.

Also looming as a plan to switch from a self-insured system that provides subsidized health care coverage for retirees to issuing stipend checks for them to go purchase coverage on the private market.

“We hope to have some firm decisions by the end of the year, which would give us a full year of lead time to communicate and education whatever changes – if any changes – are determined by the (OP&F) board,” Gallagher said. In the next few weeks, the fund will request proposals from companies to present ideas on how the changes should be structured.

RELATED: Pension cuts looming for Ohio teachers and retirees

He added that there are no plans to ask the Ohio General Assembly to increase contribution rates or make other changes to plow more money into shoring up the health care fund. Lawmakers revamped the public pension funds in 2012 and emphasized the importance of preserving the pension benefits, which are mandated by law. Health care coverage is not required, though Ohio’s pension funds have provided it to retirees for decades.

“Whether or not we’re going to be able to continue supporting the cost of it, that remains to be seen,” Gallagher said.

OP&F plans to request proposals from companies this summer on how the health care system should be restructured. One option is to require retirees eligible for Medicare to leave the OP&F health care system and purchase coverage on the open market – and provide a stipend to defray those costs, Gallagher said. OP&F would still face the challenge of providing health care coverage to retirees under the age of 65.

Joe Silvati, 58, who retired in November after nearly 40 years with the Cincinnati Fire Department, faces years of buying insurance in the marketplace until he is eligible for Medicare. “I never had to go out and shop for health insurance and I never thought I would have to do it,” he said.

Silvati attended the trustee meeting to get up to speed on the coming changes. “It’s unknown. It’s the uncertainty of the whole thing.”

Police and firefighters often retire in their early 50s – or even earlier if they’re disabled. Currently, OP&F covers 75 percent of premium costs for its retirees and 25 percent of the costs for their spouses.

OP&F has $14.8 billion invested for the benefit of 58,000 police, firefighters, retirees and beneficiaries.

City amends sign code

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 1:21 PM

The Vandalia City Council gave final approval to an ordinance to amend the city’s zoning code regarding directional and instructional signs. 

The new code will allow two directional signs in the Industrial District up to nine square feet, if the two signs are combined. Currently, the city only allows two signs per driveway that are three feet high and three square feet in area. 

Sign variance requests have been common over the past few years, and that prompted city staff and the Planning Commission to review the city’s code.