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by German Lopez 04.17.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Budget Gap Threatens Streetcar Project

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls calls for public hearing to discuss project

After years of delays and obstructionism, a Tuesday memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7 million budget gap is threatening to put an end to the streetcar project, prompting Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to call for a public hearing to address the issue.

In the city manager’s memo, the city says it could bring down the potential budget gap to $17.4 million with budget cuts, but the rest would have to come from new funds. The memo says the budget gap is a result of construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget.

The memo says the city will continue working with “federal partners” to find solutions, but it makes no specific proposals — a sign the project will likely require new city funds and private donations to close the gap.

In response to the memo, Qualls, a Democratic mayoral candidate who has long supported the streetcar, called for a public hearing on April 29 in a statement sent out today. The statement says part of the meeting will help clarify what would happen with allocated funding if the project fell apart.

Qualls told CityBeat it’s too early to jump to conclusions about the project’s fate, but she says it’s time to have a serious discussion about the project. “We’re at the point where we need to have a very robust public conversation about this that is based upon fact,” she says.

At the public hearing, both council members and the public will have time to ask questions. Qualls says she’s interested in getting answers for how the project got to this point, what the cost issues are, whether the streetcar is still a good economic investment and what costs are associated with shutting down the project if it’s deemed necessary.

“Fundamentally, it’s an issue of what are the costs but also what are the benefits,” she says. “We need to clearly outline both for the public.”

But opponents, including Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, have responded to the budget gap by criticizing the streetcar project. Cranley, a longtime opponent of the streetcar, called for the project’s end in a statement today: “The streetcar has been a bad idea and a bad deal for the people of Cincinnati from the beginning. ... Ms. Qualls has already voted to raise property taxes three times to pay for the project. When is she going to say ‘enough is enough?”

The opposition is nothing new to the project, which has undergone multiple bouts of obstructionism, including two failed referendum efforts in which a majority of voters came out in favor of the streetcar. Qualls says these delays have only made the project’s implementation more difficult.

The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing the two Democrats running for mayor this year, making it a contentious political issue (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).

The city recently approved two motions to prepare to hire John Deatrick, the current project manager for The Banks, to help bring the streetcar’s costs in line (“City Moves to Hire New Streetcar Manager,” issue of April 10). Deatrick was involved in finding savings in the streetcar project, according to the memo.

The hire and shortfall announcement came in the middle of an ongoing local budget crisis that may lead to the layoff of 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. The crisis is a result of legal and referendum efforts holding up the city’s plan to lease parking assets to the Port Authority, which would have opened up funds to help balance the budget for the next two years and carry out development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).

But the streetcar project, including Deatrick’s hire, is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget that employs cops and firefighters. Capital budget funds can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.

A statement from Cincinnatians for Progress defended the streetcar, despite the higher costs now facing the project: “These are challenging moments for Cincinnati's administration and City Council regarding the streetcar. Bids came in higher than anticipated. However, even at a slightly higher cost, the economic benefits of the system far outweigh these costs. This is a reality that has been outlined in study after study and confirmed in results from other cities across the country.

“Nearly 100 years ago, political leaders were having these same discussions before tragically losing resolve and abandoning the proposed subway and rail system that was nearly complete. Times have changed. A new attitude of positivity has taken over our city. We must continue the pattern of success that encompasses many recent projects that were difficult and not inexpensive, but well worth the investment.”

 
 
by German Lopez 04.16.2013
Posted In: News, Terrorism, Budget, City Council at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
boston marathon

Morning News and Stuff

Explosions shake Boston Marathon, council member could resign, sequestration hurts Ohio

Two explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday led to the deaths of at least three and injured at least 140 others, with the deaths including an 8-year-old boy. So far, it is unclear who carried out the bombings. Police said the two bombs were set in trash cans, less than 100 yards apart, near the finish line of the marathon. Officials said police also found two bombs in different locations, but they were not set off. At least 134 entrants from Greater Cincinnati were at the marathon, but none are believed to be hurt, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The bombings were carried out on Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts-based holiday that commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, and tax day. They were the first major act of terrorism on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Councilman Cecil Thomas is set to make a major announcement today at 11:30 a.m. The speculation is that Thomas will officially announce he’s appointing his wife Pamula Thomas to replace him on City Council — a move hes hinted at for a couple months now. Thomas is term limited from running again in City Council, but appointing his wife to his seat could give her some credibility and experience to run in November.

Federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level, is already having an effect on Cincinnati and Ohio, with cuts taking place for education, housing and the environment. In Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into preschool and other early education programs. Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio, says the cuts are only the “tip of the iceberg.”

David Pepper, a Democrat who previously served on City Council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, announced yesterday that he will run for state attorney general. “I have been traveling the state for years now listening to working and middle class Ohioans and it is clear they want a change, a new direction at all levels,” Pepper said in a statement. “I’m running for Ohio Attorney General because Ohioans deserve better.” In the statement, Pepper touted his experience working with law enforcement in Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

At least seven members of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees are asking fellow member Stan Chesley to resign after Chesley’s permanent disbarment by the Kentucky Supreme Court last month. A letter to Chesley from his fellow board members cited the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, claiming he “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Greater Cincinnati housing permits increased by 41 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati. The numbers are another sign the local economy is quickly recovering from the Great Recession.

Convergys plans to fill 1,000 work-at-home call jobs in 60 days.

DunnhumbyUSA is preparing for future growth in Cincinnati by building a new headquarters.

Solar panels may be used to make natural gas 20 percent more efficient and therefore pollute 20 percent less greenhouse gases.

Two new studies of mice and rat skin cells could be used to treat brain disease.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.15.2013
Posted In: Economy, Budget, News at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Federal Sequestration Cuts Hurt Ohio

Cuts affecting education, housing, environment

Policy Matters Ohio released a report Monday that gives a hint of how federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts that kicked in March 1, will affect Ohio. The impact of sequestration is already being felt in various areas, including education, housing and the environment.

In Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into preschool and other early education programs.

Cuts will be spread out all around the state, leading to cuts in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, reduced research programs at major universities and the elimination of military jet flyovers at certain events.

Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters, says the cuts are only the beginning.

“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now,” Patton says, citing cuts in Chillicothe that will force the Chillicothe Metropolitan Housing Authority to serve 47 less families through the housing voucher program. “We will see this kind of information come out across Ohio’s 88 counties as the months roll by.”

In February, the White House outlined how sequestration cuts will affect Ohio in its efforts to convince Congress to stop the cuts. The White House estimated about 26,000 civilian defense department employees would have to be furloughed, nearly $6.9 million in funding to clean air and water would have to be cut and 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk, among other cuts.

Even the unemployed will be hurt through cuts to unemployment insurance benefits — bad news in an already weak economy. In Ohio, about $5.3 million in federal grant money going toward unemployment insurance will be cut in a way that particularly affects the long-term unemployed, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

“We already have a problem with the long-term unemployed,” says Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters. “This just makes it worse for these folks.”

An analysis from The Washington Post found employers often discriminate against anyone who has been unemployed for a considerable time during the hiring process.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.15.2013
Posted In: News, Taxes, Budget at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Tax Day today, city layoffs underway, Ohio Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood

Today is Tax Day, which means income tax returns have to be filed by midnight. If you’re in a rush, there are a variety of online tax filing services out there, particularly for state and federal taxes. Cincinnati’s e-filing service can be found here.

Cincinnati is outlining the time frame for police, firefighter and other layoffs that the city says it must undertake to balance the budget. The layoffs are currently set for June 9, with layoff letters going out by then. The city administration says the layoffs are necessary because the city’s plan to lease its parking assets has been held up in court and a referendum effort, eliminating the use of parking funds to help balance the budget in time for fiscal year 2014. Opponents say there are alternatives, but Mayor Mark Mallory and the city’s budget gurus recently criticized the suggestions as misleading and unworkable.

Ohio House Republicans are once again attempting to defund Planned Parenthood in their latest budget plan, but this time they are also throwing in support for crisis pregnancy centers, which tout abstinence-only education, in a separate part of their budget proposal. The moves have sparked criticism from pro-choice groups around the state that say Republicans are trying to push their morality on women, while anti-abortion groups have praised the budget for enforcing family values and what they claim are more women’s health options.

The Medicaid expansion is uniting Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other health experts against the Ohio House Republicans’ budget proposal, which rejects the expansion. Supporters of the expansion point to studies that say the expansion will save the state money, insure nearly half a million Ohioans and help the state’s neediest, but Ohio Republicans say they’re concerned the federal funding backing the expansion will dry up at some point, even though there’s no historical precedent of the federal government failing to meet its Medicaid commitments.

State officials are moving to reform Ohio’s foster care system after several deaths were linked to poor oversight and regulations. The Foster Care Advisory Group sent out its suggestions last week, which include removing some rules to “normalize” foster children’s childhoods and eliminating county-by-county funding inequality.

Internet sweepstakes cafes have been closed in California and Florida — a move state officials are looking to replicate in Ohio.

Ohio gas prices are low this week.

A new state license plate design is now available.

A new strand of the bird flu is here, and it’s already killed 11 people in China.

Scientists have reconstructed the ancestor that came between the human and chimp.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.12.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health, Health care at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio House Republicans to Defund Planned Parenthood

Pro-choice groups rebuke Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan

Pro-choice groups are criticizing Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan for pulling money from Planned Parenthood and shifting federal dollars to “anti-choice” crisis pregnancy centers.

The Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would redirect federal funding for family planning services in a way that would strip funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning providers.

During hearings at the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee today, multiple women’s health advocates, ranging from health experts to members of Planned Parenthood, said these services mostly benefit low-income women, particularly in rural areas. On the other side, representatives from anti-abortion groups spoke in support of the Ohio House Republicans’ measures, citing health care options, family values, abstinence and chastity.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says the defunding measure has become a recurring trend for Ohio Republicans, who have taken up the Planned Parenthood measure multiple times in the past couple years. But she says the threat could have more weight this time around.

“This feels different,” Copeland says. “They’ve always kind of tried to hide it before. This time they were a lot more upfront about it. It seems like they may be willing to put political capital into this fight this time.”

A separate section of the Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan redirects federal funding to a program that will fund crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which provide abstinence-only family planning services.

Some researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that include birth control education reduce rates.

A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.

Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.

A study released in January by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found CPCs routinely mislead patients. The study, which looked at CPCs around Ohio in an “undercover investigation,” said 47 percent of CPCs give misleading information about mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provide false information about the connection between breast cancer, infertility and abortion.

Some supporters say the Ohio House Republicans’ budget measures aren’t specifically about Planned Parenthood, abortion or birth control. Instead, they argue they’re trying to establish more health care options for women.

But the providers that would be able to get more funding already apply for it; they just lose out to Planned Parenthood’s services, which are deemed superior by state officials who distribute the funds during the competitive distribution process.

Copeland says “no thinking person” should fall for the reasoning given by Republicans and supporters who say abortion is not one of their concerns.

“They’re trying to impose their morals on you,” Copeland says. “These are not health care experts. These are not people who are trying to find real solutions for the problems that real people face. These are people who want to impose their personal views, their personal morality on you.”

Some anti-abortion supporters, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, say abortion and broader cultural issues are absolutely part of the reason they support the Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan.

“Our mission is to support the right to life from conception to natural death,” Leipold says. “Abortion happens to be a big problem right now because in the past 40 years it’s become part of the culture.”

She adds, “Now kids are learning that responsible sex means that you can have sex but just use birth control. That’s not supposed to be the attitude. The attitude is supposed to be that sex is for a committed relationship between a man and a woman in a marital relationship.”

During testimony today, Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, asked state legislators to support the organization’s numerous medical services, including women’s health, family planning and sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment.

Kight also said state and federal funds do not go to abortions. Planned Parenthood’s abortion services are instead funded by private donations.

At the hearings, Republican State Rep. Ron Maag asked Kight why Planned Parenthood doesn’t shut down its three abortion clinics in Ohio if those clinics are potentially threatening the “good work” Planned Parenthood does elsewhere. Kight said Planned Parenthood believes its abortion services are “good work.”

 
 
by German Lopez 04.12.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Medicaid Expansion Unites Common Enemies

Governor, Democrats, mental health advocates criticize Ohio House Republicans’ budget

Ohio House Republicans are poised to reject the Medicaid expansion and the $500 million per year in federal funding that would come with it for the next two years — a move that has united Republican Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other health groups in opposition.

The Medicaid expansion is part of a measure in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level with the use of federal funds. For the first three years, the federal government would pick up the entire tab for the expansion. After that, payments would be phased down over time so the federal government would be paying 90 percent of costs.

Ohio House Republicans oppose the measure because they say they’re worried federal funding will dry up in the future, even though there is no historical precedent of the federal government failing to pay its commitment to Medicaid.

Kasich’s proposal for the Medicaid expansion includes an automatic trigger that would immediately stop and retract the expansion if federal funding falls through, but Ohio Republicans previously voiced concerns in hearings that the trigger would hurt Ohioans who have become accustomed to government-provided health insurance without any plan to make up for the lost coverage.

A report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would help insure 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state money in the next decade by producing economic growth and shifting health-care expenses from the state to the federal government.

For advocates of mental health and addiction treatments, Ohio House Republicans’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion and other budget items means mental health and addiction services will miss out on $627 million per year, according to a report from the Office of Health Transformation.

Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would include $50 million more annual funding for mental health and addiction services, but that’s also not enough to make up for the $140 million in annual funds cut around the state since 2002 and the $17 million being cut over two years through the dissolution of the tangible personal property tax replacement funds.

Cheri Walter, chief executive officer of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA), says the Medicaid expansion is a great opportunity to emphasize mental health services around the state.

“On the mental health side, ... sometimes it can take two or more years for someone to get a disability determination that makes them Medicaid eligible,” she says. “In addition to making more people Medicaid-eligible, it will speed up the process for many others.”

Walter says for addiction patients in particular, getting access to health services can be difficult because alcoholism and other forms of addiction are not technically disabilities. By including more income levels in the Medicaid program, less people will fall through the cracks, she says.

OACBHA was one of the many groups that rallied at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday in support of the Medicaid expansion. The crowd, which received support from Ohio Democrats and Kasich, was estimated to reach 2,500.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion was required, but the court ruled that states must be allowed to opt in and out.

The Medicaid expansion was one of the few parts of Kasich’s budget plan that Democrats and progressives approved, while the two other major proposals in Kasich’s plan — school funding and a tax cut proposal — were criticized for disproportionately benefiting wealthy Ohioans (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).

 
 
by German Lopez 04.10.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Interactive Map: State Earned Income Tax Credit

Policy Matters Ohio releases county-by-county map detailing tax credit

As part of an effort supporting a state earned income tax credit (EITC), Policy Matters Ohio unveiled an interactive map today that shows the potential benefits to taxpayers in different counties.

For Hamilton County, about 19 percent of tax-filing households would qualify for the program. A 10-percent EITC would return about $15.6 million to households in Hamilton County, or about $225 on average for each qualifying filer. A 20-percent EITC would return about $31.2 million to Hamilton County, with each qualifying filer getting about $451 on average.

EITC is a tax credit that goes to working families, typically favoring low- and middle-income earners with children. It is already used by the federal government and several states to progressively reward employment.

CityBeat previously covered Policy Matter's efforts and how EITC could replace Gov. John Kasich's tax proposals, which would expand the sales tax and cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board, here.

Since then, Ohio House Republicans have rejected most of Kasich's tax proposals, instead downsizing the plan to a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut with no sales tax expansion.

Here is the interactive map, courtesy of Policy Matters:


 
 
by German Lopez 04.10.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Budget, Courts at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling

Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies. The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47 percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided false information about the connection between breast cancer, infertility and abortion, among other findings.

The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum, effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic development.

With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime, poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.

Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here. While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.

Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton, campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting, McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as “unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile, recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.

As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.

Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.09.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_casino_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month, translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan. Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.

Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project. The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of structural deficit problems.

House Republicans are poised to reject Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.

PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes, the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from the local EZ-Pass freeze.”

Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.

The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign.

One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit, where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth.

New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.08.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

The Banks Manager Could Take Over Streetcar Project

City Council committee passes measure allowing “double dipping”

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee moved forward with two controversial measures in two 5-4 votes today that will allow the city to rehire retirees while still paying their pensions and create an executive project director position for the streetcar project.

One of the measures repeals the city’s ban on “double dipping,” which means rehired retirees will be able to simultaneously cash in a salary and pension payments. The measures will allow the city to hire John Deatrick, the current project manager for The Banks, to head the streetcar project. The city could not previously hire Deatrick because he formally retired from the city and is currently receiving pension payments.

The city says Deatrick has the experience and expertise necessary to help bring the streetcar project’s costs in line, but critics say the city should not be hiring someone for the streetcar project when the city is considering laying off 344 employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters, to balance the budget.

Deatrick says the layoffs are unfortunate, but he emphasizes that they are occurring through the general fund. If he was hired, Deatrick’s salary would be paid through the capital budget, a completely separate fund that the city uses for major development projects. Because of legal and traditional constraints, capital budget funds generally can’t be used to balance the general fund.

“The capital budget generates projects that bring money into the general fund,” Deatrick says.

Deatrick’s point is similar to an argument often touted by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., who says the city needs to economically grow out of structural budget deficits. Dohoney and other city officials say the true cause of Cincinnati’s structural budget imbalance has been the city’s dwindling population in the past decade, and bringing people back to Cincinnati through economic development projects, including the streetcar, is a better approach than austerity that would cause more layoffs and economic pain.

Others, particularly Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, aren’t convinced. In a press statement that used vocabulary that often comes from streetcar opponent COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes), Cranley said, “Since day one the streetcar has been a poorly conceived, poorly managed boondoggle that is now costing the city even more money. The fact that this being done while police officers and firefighters are facing layoffs is a slap in the face of those who risk so much to make sure that our city is safe.”

But the city says Deatrick’s involvement could help bring the streetcar project’s costs down, and Deatrick seems to agree.

“That’s been my whole ‘shtick,’ ” Deatrick says, before citing numerous aspects of the streetcar project he would be interested in looking at to bring costs in line.

Opponents have pointed to the streetcar’s multiple problems, including unexpected costs and delays, as proof the project has been doomed from the start. But Deatrick says it’s normal for big projects to deal with hurdles, and he cautions he would expect to deal with more rising problems if he takes the job.

“Any time you try to build something — even out in the middle of a corn field — you’re going to have unexpected, unanticipated issues,” he says. “These things happen, and that’s what project management is all about.”

Deatrick says he has long supported the streetcar, and he plans to expand the project up to the University of Cincinnati and the rest of the uptown area if he’s put in charge.

While Deatrick has discussed heading the streetcar project with city officials, no formal offers have been made yet. Still, City Council members and Dohoney repeatedly named Deatrick as a potential candidate in the special session of City Council today.

Some council members said they were concerned the double-dipping measure will be used for more similar hires in the future, which could raise hiring costs as the city pays for multiple employees’ salaries and pensions at the same time.

Democratic council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young supported the measures. Democrats Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman voted in opposition.

Deatrick’s resume shows experience going back decades. Since June 2008, Deatrick has headed The Banks project, which recently won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation (“Bank On It,” issue of Jan. 16).

Before that, he worked as deputy director and chief engineer at the District of Columbia Department of Transportation from May 2002 to August 2007, where he says he helped manage parts of the D.C. streetcar, among other projects.

Prior to his work at D.C., Deatrick started his career as an urban development technician at Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering on September 1973. He helped with many projects around the city before eventually rising to the director position in November 1999, where he remained until May 2002.

The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing Democratic mayoral candidates Cranley and Qualls, making the 2013 mayoral race another important election for the future of the project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).

 
 

 

 

 
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