City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee today approved a
plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority in a 4-3 vote, but the plan will require five votes to become law in a final City Council vote on March 6.
Council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young voted for the plan, and council members Chris Seelbach, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against it. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was absent, and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan abstained, although she said she could vote yes if she sees more details about how the city will curb its long-term budget problems.
The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), would lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. The deal would produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city projects that additional annual installments would generate more than $263 million throughout the lease’s duration.
Before the vote, several City Council members said the parking plan would not solve Cincinnati’s structural deficit problems, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the plan would help reduce the deficit by generating recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and development.
“The situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate
growth right now, not later,” he said. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to
have further negative ramifications to deal with.”
Still, Dohoney admitted the plan would not solve all the city’s budget woes — just like he has repeatedly said in the past. Even with the parking plan, the city projects a $10 million deficit in 2014, $15.5 million deficit in 2015 and $20 million deficit in 2016.
The council members insisted there are alternatives to the parking plan and Dohoney’s Plan B, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes.
On March 1, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would not lease the city’s parking assets to balance the budget and would instead use $7.5 million in casino revenue, 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 a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax.
On the same day as the hearings, Winburn, the sole Republican on City Council, proposed Plan C, which would reduce city employees’ salaries across the board — with exemptions for police, ﬁre, health, garbage, recreation, parks and road paving — and use casino and parking revenue to clear the deficit.
At the City Council hearings, Quinlivan listed a few other
possibilities, including sharing public safety services with other
local communities. She also advised the city to put together a long-term deficit reduction plan. “We don’t want to kick the can down the road any more,” she said.
Thomas suggested putting an earnings tax hike of 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent on the ballot. He said, “It would solve this (deficit) problem once and for all.”
Some council members also raised concerns about the release of bond documents, which will further detail the framework of the parking agreement. Dohoney and Laura Brunner, president of the Port Authority, said the bond documents have not been crafted because a lease agreement has to be approved by City Council first, but the documents will be made public once they are put together.
Before the final committee vote, Smitherman successfully
motioned to separate part of the parking plan from the budget, which opens the plan to referendum. The motion was in response to City Solicitor
John Curp, who said appropriation ordinances, or ordinances that are essentially budgets, aren’t subject to
referendum, according to state law.
Gov. John Kasich’s school funding plan may not be so progressive after all. In his initial announcement, Kasich promised the program will be more progressive by raising funding to poorer schools, but this fact from StateImpact Ohio seems to contradict that claim: “Under the projections released by the state, a suburban district like Olentangy that has about $192,000 of property value per student would get a more than three-fold increase in state funding. Meanwhile, Noble Local, a small rural district with about $164,000 of property wealth per student sees no increase in state funding.” The Toledo Blade found Kasich’s education plan favors suburban schools. The Akron Beacon Journal pulled numbers that show rich, growing school districts will do fine under the plan. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 60 percent of Ohio schools will not see increases in funding from Kasich’s plan.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is now shying away from statutory guarantees for northern Ohio in the Ohio Turnpike plan. Originally, Kasich promised 90 percent of Ohio Turnpike funds will remain in northern Ohio, albeit with a fairly vague definition of northern Ohio. Now, even that vague 90 percent doesn’t seem to be sticking around. But the plan would still be a massive job-creating infrastructure initiative for the entire state. The Ohio Turnpike runs along northern Ohio, so changes to fees and the road affect people living north the most.
WLWT published a thinly veiled criticism of local teacher
salaries. The article pointed out Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) pays
45 of its employees more than $100,000 a year.
Of those people, 42 are administrators and three are teachers. In
comparison, the highest paid Cleveland school teacher makes $86,000. The
article also glances over the fact CPS is “the number one urban-rated
school district in the state” to point out the school district is still
lacking in a few categories. As CPS Board President Eileen Reed points
out, a school district needs to attract better educators with higher
salaries if it wants to improve. Paying teachers less because the school
district is performing worse would only put schools in a downward
spiral as hiring standards drop alongside the quality of education.
County commissioners seem supportive of Kasich’s budget. Republican commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann said the budget could be “revolutionary” by changing how county governments work. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune highlighted the Medicaid expansion in the budget. As “revolutionary” as the budget could be, it’s not enough to make up for Ohio and Kasich’s troubled past.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was ranked the third best pediatric hospital in the United States by Parents magazine.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for comments on updating the region’s bike map. Anyone who wants a say should leave a comment here.
The upcoming Horseshoe Casino is partnering up with local hotels to offer a free shuttle service that will seamlessly carry visitors around town.
One courageous grandma stood up to an anti-gay pastor. During a sermon, the pastor outed a gay high school student and told everyone they would "work together to address this problem of homosexuality." At that point, the grandma snapped at the pastor, “There are a lot of problems here, and him being gay is not one of them.” She then apologized to the boy and walked out.
Music has a lot of effects on the brain. Here is an infographic that shows them.
Bonus science news: Earth-like planets could be closer than most people think.
President Barack Obama announced a new trade action against China during a Cincinnati campaign stop on Monday, where he also took the opportunity to attack Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The U.S. filed the case at the World Trade Organization on Monday and claims that China offers “extensive subsidies” to native automakers and auto-parts producers.
The Chinese government filed its own complaint before the WTO on Monday, challenging tariffs the U.S. imposes on Chinese products ranging from steel to tires. The tariffs are meant to protect American manufacturers against what the U.S. government claims are unfair trade practices by China.
“(The U.S. action is) against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto part manufacturing jobs overseas,” Obama said before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at the Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest.”
“It’s not right, it’s against the rules, and we will not let it stand. American workers build better products than anyone. ‘Made in America’ means something. And when the playing field is level, America will always win.”
Obama went on to criticize his Republican challenger, saying Romney made his fortune in part by uprooting American jobs and shipping them to China. Obama accused Romney — who has criticized Obama’s foreign policy, saying the president apologizes for American interests — of talking the talk without being able to walk the walk.
The Romney campaign countered with an email after the rally, saying that Obama’s economic policies were hurting the private sector and harmed manufacturing.
“The President’s misguided, ineffective policies have hampered the private sector and allowed China to flaunt the rules while middle-class families suffer,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.
“As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a fresh start for manufacturers by promoting trade that works for America and fiscal policies that encourage investment, hiring and growth.”
The email pointed to reports from Bloomberg finding that manufacturing and production have shrunk recently.
Before the Obama rally several Ohio Republicans held a news conference behind a Romney campaign bus near Eden Park, where they focused more on the deficit than foreign trade.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said it was “laughable” that Obama considers himself a budget hawk. He pointed to the decline in budget negotiations between the president and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, saying Obama “walked away” from talks with Speaker John Boehner.
“Basically as president from that time last August until now, it’s been all politics,” Chabot said.
Chabot also attacked Obama on foreign policy, claiming the president has left Israel hanging in the Middle East and is not serious with Iran, who he says is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons.
The president in his speech said he did have a plan to reduce the federal deficit, and would reduce it by $4 trillion over the next 10 years without raising taxes on the middle class.
Monday’s visit to Cincinnati was Obama’s second of this campaign and his 12th trip to Ohio this year. Romney has visited the state 18 times during his campaign.
Obama was scheduled to fly to Columbus Monday afternoon for a campaign appearance there.
Public service announcement: There will be no Morning News and Stuff Thursday and Friday due to Thanksgiving break. Happy Thanksgiving, and CityBeat will see you again on Monday!
With gains in the civilian labor force, Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent. The city’s unadjusted unemployment rate is below the nation’s rate of 7.5 percent, but it’s above Hamilton County’s 6.2 percent rate and Ohio’s 6.3 percent rate.
The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. As part of broader reform, state education leaders have agreed to establish new standardized tests with a focus on college and career readiness. But the reform faces some concerns from Democrats, who worry the new standards, particularly the school report cards that evaluate schools and districts, may be unreasonably tough. An early simulation of the new school report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D- under the new system, with 23 CPS schools flunking.
Gas prices in southwest Ohio appear to be on the rise. Since Monday, they have moved up 10 to 20 cents.
The Horseshoe Casino is hiring again. This time, the casino is looking for people experienced in restaurant management, hosting, banquet, finance, marketing and guest services.
One problem Ohio must consider in its decision to expand Medicaid or not: a doctor shortage. Still, one study found states that expanded Medicaid had notable health gains. Contrary to the fiscal reasons normally cited by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office, another report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found expanding Medicaid would actually save the state money by lowering the amount of uncompensated care.
Thirteen people are going for the Ohio Supreme Court. The vacant slot needs to be filled after Justice Evelyn Stratton announced she was stepping down earlier in the year. Her replacement, who will be picked by Gov. Kasich, will finish the two years of her six-year term. Some of the candidates are from the Cincinnati area, including Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, the newly elected First District appellate judge. Surprisingly, Republican Justice Robert Cupp did not submit an application despite recently losing re-election.
A ban on internet sweepstakes cafes is on its way. The cafes are allegedly susceptible to illegal activities such as money laundering, racketeering and sex trafficking.
Marc Dann, the Democrat formerly in charge of the Ohio attorney general’s office, lost his law license for six months. Dann resigned from the role of attorney general in 2008 after 17 months of scandal-ridden service.
Three staffers at Gov. Kasich’s office were cleared by the Ohio inspector general’s office of engaging in political activity during work hours.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is some science on weight gain.
A new way to give drugs to patients: injectable sponges that expand inside the body.
City Council wants to do more research before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.
A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion. The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison inmates. A previous study found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results, including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save $378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.
The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,” the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.
The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms. The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience.
If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney. Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.
Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief James Craig.
Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage. Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime, neighborhood cleanup and beautification.
Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.
Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.
The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.
Some people really suck at political slogans.
Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.
With 1,500 people leaving the labor force in one month, Cincinnati had a seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.9 percent in September, according to new data released today by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The city’s unemployment is still above the unadjusted rate of 6.4 percent for Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati.
For Cincinnati, that’s a 0.7 percent drop from August’s unemployment rate, which was revised upward to 7.6 percent. However, most of that drop comes from the 1,500 people who left the labor force, which combines the number of unemployed people looking for work with the amount of employed people. About 400 less Cincinnatians were employed in September than they were in August.
The new numbers show Cincinnati’s labor force was actually smaller in September than it was in September 2011. Back in September 2011, the labor force was made up of 144,800 people. In September 2012, it was 144,500. Still, more people are working in September 2012 than they were in September 2011; in that time frame, the employment number went up from 131,200 to 134,500.
Both Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County also had mixed numbers. They both saw their seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates drop from 6.8 to 6.4 percent between August and September, but both saw their labor forces and employment numbers shrink as more people quit looking for work and left the work force.
However, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati had their labor forces and employment numbers grow between September 2011 and September 2012, effectively making the gains throughout the year positive.
One bright spot for Cincinnati is its seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remains below the U.S. rate of 7.6 percent. It remains above Ohio’s unadjusted rate of 6.5 percent, however.
The unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate measures the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. The state and federal numbers are typically adjusted to fit seasonal employment patterns to give a more consistent rate.
Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment.
The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was
previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have
enough support from the district’s board. It might now.
Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools. Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to change the school funding formula.
seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9
percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs
and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down
from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from
the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300
in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500
left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from
6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October
and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate
of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4
percent in November. Unemployment numbers are calculated through a
household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed
people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force.
Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in
later months. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for
Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects. Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52 cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”
Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.
As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.
On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.
What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!
Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.
The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”
A Purcell Marian High School administrator was fired for declaring his public support for same-sex marriage. Mike Moroski, who was the assistant principal at the Catholic school, wrote about his support for LGBT equality on his personal blog. Following the blog post, Moroski claims he was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to resign or recant his statements. CityBeat covered same-sex marriage and the amendment that could bring marriage equality to Ohio here.
A board vote failed to remove State Board of Education President Debe Terhar from her position. In response, Ohio Democrats filed a lawsuit seeking access to her cell phone and other records. Terhar has been receiving heavy criticism for a Facebook post that compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. CityBeat wrote about Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here.
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools were among nine city school districts found to be scrubbing attendance data by the state auditor. The school districts claim most the errors were simple mistakes, not intentional manipulation of data. Both the auditor and schools agree state policy is too confusing and must change.
The city of Cincinnati is beginning the process of sorting through construction bids for the streetcar. Three bids ranging from $71 million to $87 million have already come to light, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The bids could push up the price tag on the streetcar, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, cautions the process is barely starting. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
Cincinnati is speeding up the demolitions of condemned buildings this year, particularly buildings near schools and family zones.
A new report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found employment in the shale industry was up 17 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Critics caution the jobs aren’t worth the risks — pointing to a number of environmental and health concerns related to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” CityBeat wrote about fracking and its extensive problems here.
One in 25 students in Columbus schools are restrained or secluded. The state’s lax seclusion policies have been under heavy criticism in the past year following the discovery that school staff were using seclusion for convenience, not just to restrain students.
On Wednesday, Metro staff will be holding a security exercise meant to gauge counterterrorism capabilities. Metro bus service will not be affected.
The Horseshoe Casino pays homage to Liuzhou, China — Cincinnati’s sister city of 25 years.
The chief curator resigned from the Cincinnati Art Museum.
A Cincinnati woman was charged with helping her daughter beat up a student during a classroom brawl.
Curiosity is officially the first robot to drill another planet.
A new report from the state auditor found Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and Winton Woods City Schools were manipulating attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school districts.
CPS and Winton Woods were cited among nine school districts by State Auditor Dave Yost for improperly withdrawing students from enrollment. More than 70 other schools had errors in their attendance reporting, but they were not found to be purposely manipulating — or “scrubbing” — attendance data.
The report largely focused on flaws in state policy that enable bad attendance reporting — particularly a single “count week” in October that encourages school districts to boost attendance during that one week and no other time in the school year.
“Kids count every day, all year long,” Yost said in a statement. “They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it doesn't.”
As a solution, Yost is calling on legislators to change school funding so it’s based on year-long attendance reporting.
The report also made 12 other recommendations, including increased oversight and monitoring, more programs for at-risk students, better training, use of automated data reporting, more accessibility to pertinent information for the Ohio Department of Education and clearer rules.
Winton Woods was one of the few schools to self-report issues to the auditor. Jim Smith, interim superintendent of Winton Woods, admits the school made mistakes and will make adjustments. But he says most of the issues were explained away as errors, not intentional data manipulation. Only four of the 15 issues couldn’t be reasonably explained, according to Smith.
Smith says the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is used to report attendance data, is problematic for highly mobile
students, particularly in urban school districts. He argues the system
is too complicated and difficult to use for tracking such students.
In a Feb. 8 press release, Winton Woods claimed the reporting issues were related to confusion regarding expelled students, poor record keeping and a lack of well-defined procedures and reporting systems.
In an emailed statement, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan wrote the school district made mistakes, but internal audits did not find evidence of data manipulation or scrubbing. She linked the errors to confusing state policy and issues with highly mobile students.
School attendance data is one of many ways states measure school performance, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Update (Feb. 12, 10:29 a.m.): Originally, this story did not include comments from CPS. It was updated to reflect comments CityBeat obtained after publishing.