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by Kevin Osborne 04.30.2012
 
 
casino

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati City Council will soon create a working group of leaders from six neighborhoods near the planned downtown casino site. Once organized, the working group will examine ways to maximize the benefits from the visitors, jobs and tax revenue the new casino will bring, while dealing with any problems like possible increases in crime. The neighborhoods involved in the effort are downtown, Pendleton, Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills.

A winner has finally been announced in a disputed judicial election from November 2010. Once a count of provisional ballots was completed Friday, Democrat Tracie Hunter was declared the victor over Republican John Williams by 71 votes. Because of the close margin, however, a recount likely will be held. Hunter seemingly lost the 2010 election by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table. Hunter filed a lawsuit, and two federal courts ultimately agreed the ballots should be tallied.

Since taking office in October, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler has cracked down on bail bond agents who owe money to the court system. During the past seven months, Winkler has collected $1.3 million of the $2.1 million owed by bond agents and their insurance companies. Since the early 1990s, several previous clerks of courts allowed some bond agents not to pay bonds forfeited when their clients didn’t appear in court, resulting in a large amount of forfeited but uncollected bonds owed to the governments involved in the cases.

The results of an investigation into the recent actions of Villa Hills Mayor Mike Martin will be released at a meeting tonight. Martin is accused of retaliatory behavior and comments, misuse of city facilities, violating the Open Records Act and burning city documents, according to WCPO-TV (Channel 9). Several council members have requested that Martin resign, but he has refused.

Motorists that use the Norwood Lateral to access southbound Interstate 75 will have to find a new route for the next 45 days. Beginning today, work to replace a bridge deck will require a closure of the ramp from westbound Norwood Lateral to southbound I-75. Traffic will be detoured to northbound I-75 to Paddock Road to southbound I-75.

In news elsewhere, the CIA is ignoring the Pakistani government's directives and has resumed the use of automated drone attacks within that nation's borders. The drone strikes killed four al-Qaeda-linked fighters Sunday in a girls’ school they had taken over in the North Waziristan tribal area. Some politicians said the drone strikes might set back negotiations over the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that Pakistan blocked five months ago.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules to strike down the federal government's mandate that individuals must buy health insurance, some observers say state governments might have to enact their own versions or pass other measures to draw healthy people into the system so their insurance markets remain viable. Ironically, lawmakers in the states opposing the federal mandate could face pressure from insurance companies to pass state mandates if the high court doesn’t also strike down the rules preventing them from charging more or denying coverage to sicker people.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said negotiations with Iran should be given time to work before launching a military strike against the nation's nuclear facilities. Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006-09, was in office when a suspected nuclear site in Syria was attacked in five years ago.

A few days after the United Kingdom entered into a double-dip recession, Spain has followed suit. The recession, defined as two months of “negative growth,” was blamed on weak domestic demand that was only partially compensated by exports, according to data from the National Statistics Institute. It was the first official estimate to confirm a recession. Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist under house arrest in China, has escaped his captors and gone into hiding. A dissident who met Chen in Beijing after his escape said Chen scaled a wall by night to escape from his village in eastern China, past guards and surveillance equipment. A human rights group says Chen has taken shelter in the U.S. embassy, but American officials have not publicly confirmed the reports.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening

City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton Dohoney unveiled Plan B to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.

Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.

Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.

On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools. Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only to traditional public schools, not charter schools.

Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.

The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.

U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.

Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”

If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 05.01.2012
 
 
osha

Morning News and Stuff

A federal investigation into a January construction accident at the Horseshoe Casino site is now completed and the fines in the case have been reduced. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration originally imposed $108,000 in fines, but has since cut that amount in half. Thirteen workers were injured when a concrete floor they were pouring gave way. Four firms were cited in the mishap.

An article in a journal published by the American Heart Association states that a review of eight cases indicates the use of electrical stun guns by police can cause cardiac arrest. Douglas Zipes, a physiologist with Indiana University, wrote the article that examines the effects of the Taser X26 ECD. At least three people have died locally in recent years after being shocked by Tasers, most recently a North College Hill man who was shocked at the University of Cincinnati last August. Police in Colerain Township and Fairfax have stopped using stun guns, but Cincinnati police officers still use the devices.

A single woman who used artificial insemination to become pregnant has filed a federal lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after she was fired from her teaching job at a Catholic school. Christa Dias, who was fired in October 2010, isn't Catholic and says she wasn't aware of the church's teachings against the procedure. She taught computer classes and had no ministerial duties at the school. Employment law experts expect the issues involved in the case will attract national attention and could set a precedent.

Nine local schools will receive part of a $21 million federal grant given to the state of Ohio to help improve low-performing schools. The Cincinnati facilities that will get aid are Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, Woodward Career Tech High, South Avondale Elementary, William H. Taft Elementary, George Hays-Jennie Porter, Schroder Paideia High, West Side Montessori High, Oyler and the district's Virtual High School. Local school officials say the grant money has been used the past two years to take all but one school out of the “academic emergency” classification.

Cincinnati City Council could vote as soon as Wednesday on a proposal to extend insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. A council committee voted 8-0 Monday to give tentative approval to the plan, which was lobbied for by Councilman Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay man to serve on the group. The benefit is expected to cost the city between $300,000 and $540,000 annually, depending on how many claims are filed. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican and evangelical Christian minister, abstained from the vote.

In news elsewhere, documents seized from Osama bin Laden's hideaway in Pakistan after his death reveal the terrorist leader was worried about al-Qaeda's image. The records show bin Laden trying to reassert control over factions of loosely affiliated jihadists from Yemen to Somalia, as well as independent actors whom he believed had sullied al-Qaeda’s reputation and muddied its central message. Bin Laden was killed in a raid by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011.

British lawmakers said today that global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is unfit to run a major company and should take responsibility for a culture of illegal telephone hacking that has shaken News Corp. A parliamentary committee said Murdoch and his son, James, showed "willful blindness" about the scale of phone-hacking that first emerged at Murdoch's News of the World newspaper. In the United States, Murdoch owns the Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post.

President Obama expressed support Monday for the blind Chinese dissident at the center of a standoff between Beijing and Washington. Speaking at a press conference, Obama said he wouldn't address specifics of the Chen Guangcheng case, but then went on to urge Beijing to address its human rights record. It's believed that Chen is hiding at the U.S. Embassy in China, but officials have declined to confirm the speculation or whether negotiations are underway.

Although most Republican politicians are united in their opposition to federal health-care reforms known as “ObamaCare,” they disagree on what should replace it, Politico reports. Even after three years of railing against Obama’s plan, Republicans haven't coalesced around a full replacement plan. Although most Republicans support the health law’s requirement that insurance companies accept all applicants, the main replacement plan put forward by the GOP ignores that idea.

Violence continues in Syria between government forces and rebels despite both sides agreeing to a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire. A human a rights group reported 10 civilians were killed in an army mortar attack and 12 soldiers killed in a firefight with rebel gunmen today as U.N. monitors tried to broker an end to the fighting, which has lasted more than a year.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project.

The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.

Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.

Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.

With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.

The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.

Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.

But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.

Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.

With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.

Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.

Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.

Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2012
Posted In: Budget, Government, Casino, News, Education at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
casino

Casino Tax Not Enough

New casinos around Ohio won’t provide enough revenue for cuts to state aid

A new analysis suggests that tax revenue from Ohio’s new casinos will not be enough to make up for state spending cuts to cities and counties. The findings of the Oct. 1 analysis, by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, apply even to casinos and big cities that get extra casino tax revenue. They still lose twice in state aid what they get in new taxes, according to the report.

Overall, the analysis found that new casino revenue will provide $227 million a year to counties and cities. In total, state aid to counties and cities has been cut by about $1 billion. That means the tax revenue isn’t even one quarter of what cities and counties will need to make up for cuts.

The cuts also won’t be enough to make up for state cuts to schools. When casino plans propped up around the state, governments promised that revenue from casinos would be used to build up schools. However, state aid to K-12 education has been cut by $1.8 billion, and new tax revenue will only make up 0.5 to 1.5 percent of those cuts in most school districts, according to the Policy Matters report.

In 2013, Cincinnati will become the fourth Ohio city with a casino. Cleveland and Toledo have casinos, and a new casino opened in Columbus Oct. 8. 

Currently, the system is set up so each casino is taxed at 33 percent of gross revenues. That revenue is split into many pieces with approximately 34 percent going to the school fund. Each city with a casino also gets an exclusive 5 percent of its casino’s revenue.

For Cincinnati, that means about $12.1 million in new annual tax revenue. But even with that revenue, Cincinnati will still be losing about $17.7 million in state funding, according to calculations from Policy Matters.

In past interviews, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich, has repeatedly cited the constitutional requirement to balance Ohio’s budget to defend any state budget cuts: “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. We had to fix that.”

Cuts Hurt Ohio, a website showing cuts to state aid, was launched by Policy Matters earlier this year. That website found $2.88 billion in cuts to state aid with $1.8 billion in cuts to education and $1.08 billion in cuts to local governments. In Hamilton County, that translated to a $136 million cut to education and a $105 million cut to local government.

The report does caution that its findings are “necessarily tentative”: “Projected revenues have come down significantly since the 2009 campaign for the casino proposal, and the expected opening of numerous gambling facilities makes it hard to be sure what revenues will be. We estimate casino tax revenue based on several sources, including state agencies, casino operators, and former taxation department analyst Mike Sobul. Our numbers reflect a comparatively optimistic assessment.”

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.21.2012
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

City Leaders have decided that they don't need to sell Music Hall to a private organization in order for the historic building to receive tax credits toward its renovation. Mayor Mallory on Sunday told The Enquirer that selling the building was not part of any discussion he's willing to have. While city leaders hope a public-private partnership like that which has renovated Washington Park can help update the building, organizers with the Music Hall Revitalization Co. say some donors willing to contribute to the private renovation of the building will not contribute to the project while it is city owned. On Saturday, the Music Hall Revitalization Co.'s leader, Jack Rouse, resigned.

First they had a giant bridge built over their neighborhood. Now the residents of Lower Price Hill who live near the Sixth Street viaduct hope construction crews can take it down without causing too many clouds of lead paint dust to cover their homes. The viaduct is being replaced by a new structure currently under construction south of the existing one.

Ohio's second of four new casinos is set to open in Toledo next week. Cleveland's casino opened last week, while Columbus' Hollywood Casino is scheduled to open this fall with Cincinnati's Horseshoe in-line for an early 2013 unveiling.

Jury selection in the trail of former Goldman Sachs/Procter & Gamble board member Rajat Gupta began today in federal court in Manhattan. Gupta is accused of insider trading stemming from a 2008 phone call that authorities have already used to convict hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence. From the AP:

Rajaratnam has been the biggest catch so far in a wide-ranging insider-trading investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that's resulted in more than two dozen prosecutions of white collar defendants. But based on Gupta's standing in the world of finance, his trial could draw more attention — and a potential conviction could resonate farther.

Aside from his role at Goldman Sachs, the Indian-born Gupta is the former chief of McKinsey & Co., a highly regarded global consulting firm that zealously guards its reputation for discretion and integrity.

Gupta, 63, is also a former director of the huge consumer products company Procter & Gamble Co., a pillar of American industry and one of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones industrial average. P&G owns many well-known brands including Bounty, Tide and Pringles.

Researchers have created a national registry of wrongful conviction exonerations that has identified 873 faulty convictions during the past 23 years that have been recognized by authorities. The registry's founders say the collection is only a fraction of such convictions and that it demonstrates a serious problem with America's criminal justice system.

"What this shows is that the criminal justice system makes mistakes, and they are more common than people think," said University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, the registry's editor. "It is not the rule, but we won't learn to get better unless we pay attention to these cases."

Mitt Romney is having some trouble getting conservative donors to back his campaign. Meanwhile, Obama continues to talk about Romney's business dealings.

The John Edwards jury is still in deliberations today trying to determine whether the former Democratic presidential candidate conspired to violate election laws while hiding an extramarital affair during his campaign. Prosecutors say Edwards solicited more than $900,000 from a 101-year-old woman named Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and a Texas lawyer to hide a child from his wife, who had cancer at the time.

Protests continued in Chicago today during the final day of the NATO summit.

Apparently 25 percent of American teens have diabetes or pre-diabetes, up from 9 percent in 1999-2000.

People in Asia and the western U.S. last night got to see a solar eclipse that looked like a ring of fire.

The private rocket scheduled to launch a commercial space capsule was forced to abort its mission on Saturday but is scheduled to fly up into space on Tuesday.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.20.2012
 
 
streetcar

Council to Move Funds to Avoid Further Streetcar Delays

Project would still open in 2015

Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the $110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.

One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near the former Blue Ash Airport. 

The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar construction, so the city should foot the bill.

“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said. “It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate the cost.”

Another ordinance would change the municipal code to “confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according to a news release.

Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a change in the city’s position.

The final ordinance would change the funding source that is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to fund the streetcar. 

Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area. 

That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks.

Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.

The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Privatization, News, Budget, Courts, Economy, Casino at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops

The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However, the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?

The identity of the Miami University student who put up the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.

Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.

Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing. About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2 percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make the cut more progressive.

Gov. Kasich is ending the practice of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.

If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on fracking.

Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law, which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.

An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.

Ohio gas prices are still dropping.

The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.15.2012
 
 
432widea

Morning News and Stuff

The private group hoping to purchase Music Hall for $1 is now asking for $10 million in city contributions to its effort to update the historic building, double the initial $5 million it asked for. The Music Hall Revitalization Co. says failing to strike a deal before June 1 will jeopardize the proposed $165 million renovation. Among the updates the city is being asked to fund are $75,000 buffers to block noise from the streetcar and a $150,000 escrow account to pay for any future disruptions due to the streetcar.

City Council yesterday spent some time considering ways to fix the city's retirement fund deficit. Cincinnati's retirement board wants the city to contribute $67 million to the pension system this year, though Council has reportedly contributed only about half of that.

CVG today will unveil its updated Concourse A, which has undergone a $36.5 million renovation. It is part of the airports attempt to lure a low-cost airline to the hub that formerly housed Delta.

Cleveland is the first Ohio city to open one of the state's four new casinos, drawing about 5,000 to a grand opening last night. Cincinnati's casino is expected to be the last of the four to open, with Hollywood casinos scheduled to open in Toledo May 29 and in Columbus this fall. Cincinnati's' Horseshoe is scheduled to open next year.

Barack Obama's Super PAC is airing TV ads questioning Mitt Romney's business record, specifically his commitment to workers.

Prosecutors today decided to bring charges against former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, who along with her husband and four others will be charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The alleged incidents occurred in response the phone hacking allegations, and the charges are apparently quite embarrassing to Rupert Murdoch and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

JP Morgan today said, “Surprise! We lost a bunch of money!” Two years after congress tightened regulations on Wall Street, the industry now fears that regulators will now listen to their fears even less as they enact stricter reforms.

Humans are consuming more resources than the earth can replenish, according to the World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report for 2012.

Lady Gaga yesterday cancelled a cold-out Indonesia performance in response to conservative protests over her clothing and dance moves.

National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar, responding to the pressure, said Tuesday that the permit for her June 3 "Born This Way Ball" concert had been denied.

Indonesia, a nation of 240 million people, has more Muslims than any other. Although it is secular and has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.

Hard-liners have loudly criticized Lady Gaga, saying the suggestive nature of her show threatened to undermine the country's moral fiber. Some threatened to use physical force to prevent her from stepping off the plane.

Lawmakers and religious leaders, too, have spoken out against her.

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.23.2012
 
 
we_are_ohio_400

Morning News and Stuff

We Are Ohio, the organization that helped repeal SB5 last year, says it will team up with nonpartisan Ohio Voters First to help put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment that would change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn. The effort is in response to Republican-drawn redistricting maps that attempted to create 12 solidly GOP districts and four Democratic districts. The proposal calls for a nonpartisan commission to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries rather than letting politicians and anyone who gives them money do it.

The University of Cincinnati has released a study showing a considerable economic impact from construction of The Banks. Between construction contractors, new residents and visitors to the area's restaurants, the development reportedly will impact the local economy by more than $90 million a year.

The parent company of Cincinnati's Horseshoe Casino will host two informational sessions this week to offer local vendors information on how to bid on contracts for supplies and services the entertainment complex will need. The first takes place 6 p.m. tonight at Bell Events Centre near the casino site at 444 Reading Road, and the second is 9 a.m. Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

The Enquirer on Tuesday reported that the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University have agreed to move the Crosstown Shootout to U.S. Bank Arena for two years in response to last year's massive brawl. NBC Sports today reported that the presents of both universities issued a press release in response, stating that no final decision had been made.

The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University were both surprised to see today’s announcement concerning the future of the Crosstown Shootout. While both schools are committed to the future of the Crosstown rivalry, specific discussions are ongoing and no details have been finalized. We look forward to sharing our plans with the community at an appropriate time in the coming weeks.

If it does happen, The Enquirer's Bill Koch says it's reasonable, while Paul Daugherty says that's fine but kind of dumb.

President Obama is finding it rather difficult to even win primaries against nobodies in the South. Not that it's surprise or really matters, though.

Of course, there are reasons for these kinds of returns. Few Democrats are voting in these primaries where Obama faces only token opposition; only protest voters are truly motivated.

There's also the fact that Obama is an underdog to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the states of Kentucky, Arkansas, and West Virginia; Obama lost all three in 2008 to John McCain.

Another potential factor: Race.

Just when you thought Sarah Palin was super reliable, she goes and backs a Utah Republican incumbent over a tea party supported candidate.

The John Edwards jury entered its fourth day of deliberations today because they need to see more prosecution exhibits.

A white supremacist was sentenced to 40 years in jail by a federal judge for a 2004 package bomb attack that injured a black city administrator in Arizona.

European researchers say they can figure out if Bigfoot really existed, if they can just get one of his hairs.

The film version of On the Road premiered at the Cannes Film Festival today, 55 years after Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation-defining novel was published. London's The Guardian says the “handsome shots and touching sadness don't compensate for the tedious air of self-congratulation in Walter Salles's road movie.”

 
 

 

 

Latest Blogs
 
by German Lopez 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down

Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling — a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5 billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise, given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done.

Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget. The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state budgets.

A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here.

Cincinnati Gardens is for sale. Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.”

At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November.

In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family.

As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in a different kind of public service here.

Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal.

Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening

City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton Dohoney unveiled Plan B to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.

Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.

Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.

On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools. Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only to traditional public schools, not charter schools.

Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.

The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.

U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.

Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”

If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.25.2013
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison

The White House released a list of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.

Community Council President David White told WVXU that the streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area. With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6 million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to new businesses.

A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog. The CIIC report found enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools. The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.

Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog. The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of making the pick.

Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and train staff in the cars use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.

The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009. The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.

Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a parking garage and grocery store.

The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.

On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.

Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Casino, Budget, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval

John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar, Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the bids will take a few more weeks.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that are no longer good for service.

The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company, to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s is currently $22 billion in debt.

Ohio legislators have a lot of questions about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.

Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials. 

Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.

CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.

Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.

Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.

Covington is getting a new city hall.

New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.05.2013
Posted In: Casino, News, Budget, Economy, Governor, Education at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Casino revenue estimates drop, Kasich's budget unveiled, fraternity's lawsuit dismissed

New casino revenue numbers are well below 2009 estimates. State officials previously estimated Ohios casinos would bring in $1.9 billion a year once they were built and functional, but the latest state budget cuts that prediction by half. The new estimates are due to competition with racinos and lower-than-expected performance at casinos that are already up and running. 

Gov. John Kasich announced his 2014-2015 budget, unveiling a few pleasant and unpleasant surprises for progressives. As part of the budget, Ohio is going ahead with expanding Medicaid to meet Obamacare’s financial incentives, despite Kasich’s past criticism of the national health care program. But the budget also directs higher revenues to cutting taxes, instead of making up for past spending cuts enacted by Kasich.

A Miami University fraternity’s $10 million lawsuit has been dismissed. The lawsuit accused the university of “malice, hatred and ill will” for the suspension of Phi Kappa Tau after it had a fireworks battle with another fraternity. The battle led to police discovering marijuana inside the fraternity.

Looks like Ohioans are returning to school. Some universities, including Miami, have seen a spike in the number of applications recently, despite Ohio having fewer high school graduates in the past few years. The spike is likely due to out-of-state recruiting.

City Council will vote tomorrow on whether to provide tax breaks for neighborhood projects in Walnut Hills and Linwood. The projects are focused on buildings that are apparently uninhabitable, according to the developer.

PNC Bank is set to announce a “major gift” to Smale Riverfront Park. The gift would continue a stream of private contributions to the park. Last year, Procter & Gamble donated $1 million to fund the P&G Vibrant Playscape.

Cincinnati’s tree fee will not change this year. The tree fee is paid by homeowners so the city can take care of trees in public rights of way.

Cincinnati was awarded the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association for contributing to the renovations of the Villages at Roll Hill.

An unhappy defendant punched his own lawyer in court. 

The 3-D print revolution has taken an unexpected turn: Scientists can now print human embryonic cells. The researchers hope to use the cells as ink for printed organs and tissues.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.09.2013
Posted In: Casino, Education, News, Government, Economy at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio holding bond sale, schools get casino profits, rape flier case remains sealed

Despite challenges to its constitutionality, JobsOhio is moving forward with a bond sale. The agency, which is meant to create jobs, is holding a bond sale Jan. 23 to raise money for economic development. But ProgressOhio, which is suing Gov. John Kasich’s administration over JobsOhio, says the governor should halt the sale until legal issues are resolved: “There are serious legal questions about the funding of JobsOhio. Gov. Kasich's own commerce director said his duty to uphold the Ohio Constitution was stopping him from moving JobsOhio forward until these questions were resolved.”

Ohio will give schools $37.9 million in casino profits. When casinos were approved by voters, one of the caveats was that some of the tax revenue raised would go into improving the state’s education system. Cincinnati will get its own casino in March 2013.

To avoid rules regarding how to properly seal a case, charges have been dropped in the rape flier case. That’s despite the fact the student who allegedly posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” previously pleaded guilty. Judge Robert Lyons, who was presiding over the case, was previously criticized by The Enquirer for not following proper procedure, but dropping the charges and letting the student withdraw his guilty plea may put the judge in the legal clear. Lyons says he regularly seals cases for students.

The old building for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts will be converted into 170 apartments.

Northern Kentucky University could soon ban smoking on campus. Several other schools in Kentucky are already tobacco-free. The Ohio Board of Regents encouraged Ohio campuses to ban smoking on July 23. 

Applications for Gov. Kasich’s worker training vouchers are going fast. The program is meant to improve Ohio’s business climate. It reimburses businesses for eligible employee training expenses in an effort to make Ohio companies more competitive and improve workers’ skills.

A portrait of Jesus will remain in an Ohio school after 300 people showed up in support at a school board meeting. An atheist group is already planning on suing the school over the portrait. In a letter, Freedom from Religion Foundation claims that “if a district were to promote a religion over non-religion, it would impermissibly turn any non-believing student, parent, or staff member into an outsider.”

With former governor Ted Strickland dropping out of the governor’s race, The Washington Post posted an early look at whether Gov. Kasich can survive re-election. At this point, Kasich’s most likely opponent is Ed FitzGerald, former mayor of Lakewood and Cuyahoga County’s executive.

Apparently, Australia is so hot meteorologists had to add two new colors to heat maps to properly show the country’s temperature. Americans can probably relate, considering 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the United States.

The cure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be panda blood. Will pandas abuse their newfound powers to take over the world?

 
 
by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project.

The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.

Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.

Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.

With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.

The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.

Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.

But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.

Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.

With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.

Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.

Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.

Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Privatization, News, Budget, Courts, Economy, Casino at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops

The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However, the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?

The identity of the Miami University student who put up the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.

Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.

Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing. About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2 percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make the cut more progressive.

Gov. Kasich is ending the practice of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.

If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on fracking.

Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law, which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.

An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.

Ohio gas prices are still dropping.

The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2012
Posted In: Budget, Government, Casino, News, Education at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
casino

Casino Tax Not Enough

New casinos around Ohio won’t provide enough revenue for cuts to state aid

A new analysis suggests that tax revenue from Ohio’s new casinos will not be enough to make up for state spending cuts to cities and counties. The findings of the Oct. 1 analysis, by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, apply even to casinos and big cities that get extra casino tax revenue. They still lose twice in state aid what they get in new taxes, according to the report.

Overall, the analysis found that new casino revenue will provide $227 million a year to counties and cities. In total, state aid to counties and cities has been cut by about $1 billion. That means the tax revenue isn’t even one quarter of what cities and counties will need to make up for cuts.

The cuts also won’t be enough to make up for state cuts to schools. When casino plans propped up around the state, governments promised that revenue from casinos would be used to build up schools. However, state aid to K-12 education has been cut by $1.8 billion, and new tax revenue will only make up 0.5 to 1.5 percent of those cuts in most school districts, according to the Policy Matters report.

In 2013, Cincinnati will become the fourth Ohio city with a casino. Cleveland and Toledo have casinos, and a new casino opened in Columbus Oct. 8. 

Currently, the system is set up so each casino is taxed at 33 percent of gross revenues. That revenue is split into many pieces with approximately 34 percent going to the school fund. Each city with a casino also gets an exclusive 5 percent of its casino’s revenue.

For Cincinnati, that means about $12.1 million in new annual tax revenue. But even with that revenue, Cincinnati will still be losing about $17.7 million in state funding, according to calculations from Policy Matters.

In past interviews, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich, has repeatedly cited the constitutional requirement to balance Ohio’s budget to defend any state budget cuts: “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. We had to fix that.”

Cuts Hurt Ohio, a website showing cuts to state aid, was launched by Policy Matters earlier this year. That website found $2.88 billion in cuts to state aid with $1.8 billion in cuts to education and $1.08 billion in cuts to local governments. In Hamilton County, that translated to a $136 million cut to education and a $105 million cut to local government.

The report does caution that its findings are “necessarily tentative”: “Projected revenues have come down significantly since the 2009 campaign for the casino proposal, and the expected opening of numerous gambling facilities makes it hard to be sure what revenues will be. We estimate casino tax revenue based on several sources, including state agencies, casino operators, and former taxation department analyst Mike Sobul. Our numbers reflect a comparatively optimistic assessment.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.20.2012
 
 
streetcar

Council to Move Funds to Avoid Further Streetcar Delays

Project would still open in 2015

Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the $110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.

One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near the former Blue Ash Airport. 

The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar construction, so the city should foot the bill.

“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said. “It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate the cost.”

Another ordinance would change the municipal code to “confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according to a news release.

Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a change in the city’s position.

The final ordinance would change the funding source that is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to fund the streetcar. 

Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area. 

That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks.

Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.

The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.

 
 
 
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