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by Kevin Osborne 03.22.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati officials approved a deal Wednesday that offers up to $12 million in tax incentives to a local firm in return for it agreeing to build its new headquarters at the long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets downtown and maintaining certain employment levels. City Council said it was important to keep Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding company, located here. Dunnhumby will build a $36 million complex that includes 250,000 square feet of office space and create 550 new jobs by 2014, along with retaining its 450 current employees. Under the deal, the city would pay Dunnhumby up to 75 percent of the new income tax generated each year as the company adds jobs.

A plan to reconfigure I-471 in Northern Kentucky is delaying a road project across the Ohio River in Cincinnati's East End neighborhood. The city's project would make Riverside Drive more like a neighborhood street, instead of a major thoroughfare, and add bicycle lanes. But the I-471 project means motorists who need to reach the East Side during rush hour will likely be using Riverside Drive, so city engineers don't want to restrict traffic there until the highway construction is done. The change means the Riverside Drive work will be delayed between one and two years.

Partially based on local complaints, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an antitrust lawsuit against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. for allegedly being involved in a price-fixing scheme. The lawsuit alleges the two companies divided up the Ohio rock salt market between themselves, agreeing not to compete with each other and driving up rock salt prices over the past decade. In 2008, Hamilton County said it saw signs that collusion was occurring when it was getting only one bid for salt at triple the usual price.

A man who rescued a child from a burning house in Northside is among a group of people recognized for their heroism. Ryan Phillips, 43 of Cincinnati, saved a 3-year-old child from a fire in February 2011. He is among the 21 winners of Carnegie Medals for heroism. Carnegie medalists receive a financial reward from a fund. More than $33.9 million has been awarded to 9,516 honorees since its 1904 inception.

Boosted by expansion at hospitals and colleges, the number of construction jobs in Ohio is slowly increasing. The state’s construction industry employed 177,300 workers in January, an increase of 4,500 — or 2.6 percent — from January 2011, according to a new analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Almost half of the gains came from the Columbus area. (For the record, the mayor of Columbus and a majority of its City Council are Democrats. Just saying.)

In news elsewhere, after a long standoff and a gun battle, French police today stormed into the apartment of a young Islamic radical suspected of killing seven people. The suspect, Mohammed Merah, was shot and killed in the confrontation. He is believed to be the person that murdered three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi in an eight-day terrorism spree.

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea bargain negotiations, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. In a pair of 5-to-4 decisions, the high court vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers. About 97 percent of convictions in federal courts were the result of guilty pleas. In 2006, the last year for which data was available, 94 percent of convictions in state courts were the result of such deals.

Even though he came in fourth, behind Ron Paul, in the Illinois primary this week, Newt Gingrich isn't giving up hope about his struggling presidential bid. The ex-House Speaker told NPR that he sees no reason to exit the Republican presidential race and that there's a chance of a new contender emerging at the party's convention in August. "I'm not so sure you wouldn't get a series of brand new players" stepping forward during a brokered convention, he said. Dream on, Newt.

Soldiers in Mali have taken over state-operated television and announced they have seized control of the government. The soldiers said the coup was necessary because of the mishandling of an insurgency in the north. For those of you scratching your heads, Mali is in western Africa, near Algiers, and has a population of 14.5 million people. (It's not to be confused with Malawi, where Madonna likes to adopt children.)

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean executives over an oil leak in the Atlantic Ocean in November 2011. Prosecutors on Wednesday accused the executives of environmental crimes, of misleading Brazil's oil regulator about their safety plans and not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill. At least 416,000 liters of oil seeped through cracks on the ocean floor near a Chevron well off the Rio de Janeiro coast.
by 05.07.2010
Posted In: County Commission, Development, Business at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

AMOS Seeks More Local Hiring

A group of clergy say Hamilton County’s recent analysis of workers on the massive Banks project along Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront vindicates its concern that not enough local residents are being used.

During a Hamilton County Commission meeting Wednesday, Banks project manager John Deatrick unveiled an analysis that revealed the numbers of people employed who live in Cincinnati and Hamilton County are lower than previously reported.

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by 04.08.2009
Posted In: Media, Business, Financial Crisis at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Uh, How's That Again?

Rich Boehne must be a glutton for punishment.

A former reporter at The Cincinnati Post and The Cincinnati Enquirer, Boehne rose through the ranks at The E.W. Scripps Co., The Post’s parent firm and joined its corporate staff in 1988 as the first investor relations manager. Since then, he’s held a number of positions in the company.

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by Andy Brownfield 09.25.2012
paul ryan

Ryan Talks NFL Refs at Cincy Town Hall

Compares Obama administration to replacement refs who botched end of Monday game

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan weighed in on the controversy over replacement National Football League referees in a Tuesday town hall-style meeting in Cincinnati, comparing the Obama administration to the substitute officials who cost his home-state Green Bay Packers a victory with their botched call Monday night.

“Give me a break. It is time to get the real refs,” Ryan said. 

“And you know what, it reminds me of President Obama and the economy — if you can’t get it right, it’s time to get out. I half think that these refs work part time for the Obama administration in the budget office.”

Ryan was referencing a play that should have been called an interception for the Packers but instead allowed the Seattle Seahawks to score a game-winning touchdown on Monday Night Foodball. Replacement referees — some of whom may have been fired by the Lingerie Football League for incompetence — are filling in for unionized officials who are locked out.

The vice presidential candidate spoke inside a Byer Steel warehouse surrounded by piles of I-beams and rebar. A self-proclaimed Southern gospel rock band played before the event, occasionally pausing to talk up GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials.

Much of Ryan’s prepared speech, as well as questions from participants in the town hall, focused on the economy, the deficit and the need for changes to entitlement programs.

Asked by an audience member how he would limit government and eliminate programs, Ryan said he and Romney would spur economic growth by lessening the tax burdens on small businesses, cut discretionary spending on government agencies and overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Outside before the rally, protesters called for Ryan — whose House-passed budget made deeps cuts to many welfare and safety-net programs — to have more compassion for the poor. 

Meanwhile an airplane sponsored by MoveOn.org carried a banner reading, “Romney: Believe in 55% of America?” referencing comments revealed in a recent video where Romney claimed 47 percent of Americans didn’t pay any income tax and viewed themselves as victims reliant on government so it wasn’t his job to worry about their votes.

“We’re here with several messages, including the immorality of the Ryan budget and how it will impact the vast majority of Americans negatively," said David Little with the liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio. “When a budget protects those with the most and negatively impacts those with the least, I would suggest that is immoral.”

Bentley Davis with the Alliance for Retired Americans said she was concerned about what Romney and Ryan’s plans for Medicare and Social Security would do to retirement security.

Ryan had proposed to keep Medicare the same for anybody already 55 and over, but give younger Americans the choice to get money to spend toward private insurance or stay in a Medicare-like program.

Inside the warehouse was a digital sign that ticked up the national debt, which was at $16 trillion and rising.

“Here is what our government, our Congressional Budget Office, is telling us our debt is in the future if we stay on the path that President Obama has kept us on, has put us on … the debt goes as high as two and a half times the size of our economy by the time my three kids are my age,” Ryan said. 

The Obama campaign fired back in an email response, saying Ryan used misleading rhetoric to hide his own record and Republican plans to raise taxes on the middle class to fund tax cuts for wealthier Americans.

The Romney-Ryan ticket has plenty of questions to answer about a failed record on manufacturing and job creation and their support for policies that will devastate middle class families by raising their taxes and shipping jobs overseas,” Obama for America – Ohio Press Secretary Jessica Kershaw wrote.

“These policies would take the growing manufacturing industry backward, not forward.”

For some in the audience, the economy was also on the forefront.

Steve Teal, 56, of West Chester, said he doesn't like the direction the country is going in.

"Just get the country back to work," Teal said. "I don't trust him (Obama). He doesn't stand up for America. He doesn't stand up for Americans."

CityBeat writer Stefane Kremer contributed to this report.

Ryan went from Cincinnati to an event with Romney in Dayton later on Tuesday.

by 12.18.2008
Posted In: Business at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Freedom Center Lets 17 People Go

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is suffering from a poor economy and continuing financial trouble.

The center announced today that they will be laying off 17 full-time employees, by the end of the year, leaving a staff of 47.

The museum will also no longer be open on Sundays.

Last year, the Freedom Center was caught up in a battle at City Hall when Councilman Chris Monzel attempted to redirect a proposal to give the center $800,000 to pay for speed humps.

At the time this sum was delivered, a $25 million debt remained for the $110 million construction of the center.

The museum has been criticized by state and local officials for requesting public funds after Freedom Center President Ed Rigaud said the center wouldn’t ask for additional public money to balance its books, even after projected and actual attendance numbers dropped dramatically.

Attendance at the center peaked in its first full year open in 2005 at just over 200,000. The numbers have been falling ever since.

For Christmas, the Freedom Center might want to ask for financial independence.

by 11.19.2010

CCV Facing Deficit

A prominent local anti-gay, right wing group sent a mass e-mail to supporters today seeking money to avoid a $150,000 deficit next year, which is close to what the group's president makes in salary.

The e-mail distributed by Sharonville-based Citizens for Community Values (CCV) states it's ready to “jump into 2011 with both feet!”

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by Kevin Osborne 05.01.2012

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 Kevin Osborne 02.29.2012

Morning News and Stuff

One headline about Tuesday's bitterly-contested primary in Michigan summarizes events succinctly: “Mitt wins ugly.” Mitt Romney won the contest in his native state, giving him the edge in the battle over the Republican presidential nomination, but not by a large margin. Romney received 41.1 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum's 37.9 percent. They were separated by 32,393 votes — respectable, but nothing to gloat about as Mitt outspent his rival by a large margin. Romney won a much more convincing victory in Arizona, where he got 47.3 percent of the vote compared to Santorum's 26.6 percent.

All of this means next week's “Super Tuesday” will be even more closely watched. There are seven primaries (Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia) and three caucuses (Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota) slated for March 6 and — once again — the Buckeye State could be a bellwether for the race. “While Santorum’s own super PAC will help him remain viable in Ohio, a Romney win there, combined with some other key states that day (Virginia will not not be seen as a clean victory since only Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot), could start winding down the race,” Politico reported.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended his recommendation to give a Hamilton soul food restaurant nearly $1 million in grants and loans to create a second location at The Banks district in downtown Cincinnati. Some officials have criticized the pending deal after learning Liz and Trent Rogers, owners of Mahogany’s Cafe and Grill, owe about $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government. In a memo to City Council sent Tuesday afternoon, Dohoney wrote that city financing is the only way to attract small, minority-owned businesses like Mahogany’s to The Banks, and fits with the developers’ vision to include some locally owned restaurants in the project.

With Cincinnati Public Schools facing a $43 million deficit, Superintendent Mary Ronan said some layoffs are likely. If there are layoffs, affected staffers will be informed during the last week of April. “Everyone has balanced their budget by taking money away from the district," Ronan told WLWT-TV (Channel 5). "So now, we're looking at layoffs."

It's time to get rid of that ratty old sofa sitting next to your garage. Cincinnati City Council will vote today on a proposed ordinance that will place restrictions on what residents can store outside of their homes. Any item intended for use in the interior of a house, like appliances and most furniture, won't be able to be left outside for an extended period of time. Violators would have 10 days to correct problems. If the person doesn't, he or she would face fines ranging from $250 to $1,000, along with up to one year in jail.

If you think corporate executives are coddled or that bankers add little of true value to the economy, you might want to skip this blurb. Fifth Third Bank paid $7.1 million to CEO Kevin Kabat last year, giving him a 49 percent compensation increase. Kabat's pay hike is due, at least partially, to the bank’s repayment last year of $3.4 billion it borrowed through the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). That got Fifth Third released from federal restrictions on executive pay, The Business Courier reports.

In news elsewhere, three investigations have been launched into the Koran burnings at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan by the U.S. military. The event ignited days of deadly protests that caused the deaths of up to 30 Afghanis and might have caused the shooting deaths of four American soldiers.

A prisoner held at the Guantanamo Bay prison since 2003 is expected to plead guilty soon at a war crimes tribunal. Pakistani Majid Khan, 32, who had lived in the United States, will admit to terror-related charges in exchange for leniency. He faces five war crimes charges, including conspiring with al-Qaeda, murder and attempted murder.

Twenty-five suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement were arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America by Interpol, the international law enforcement agency. The suspects, aged between 17 and 40, are suspected of planning coordinated cyber-attacks against institutions including Colombia's defense ministry and presidential websites.
by German Lopez 10.09.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Economy at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Council Approves Pure Romance Tax Credits

City administration estimates deal will net nearly $2.6 million in tax revenues over 20 years

Oct. 10 update: At its final full session before the Nov. 5 election, City Council on Wednesday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits for Pure Romance that city officials say will bring the company to downtown Cincinnati for at least 20 years.

Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on council, was the only council member to vote against the deal.

Oct. 9 story: City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20 years.

The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades.

If the company fails to keep at least 126 jobs after three years or remain in Cincinnati for 20 years, the city will claw back some of the tax credits depending on how egregiously the terms are failed.

Cincinnati in 2011 clawed back tax benefits on its so-called “megadeal” with Convergys after the company failed to keep its total downtown employment at 1,450 or higher.

Pure Romance is a $100-million-plus company that hosts private adult parties and sells sex toys, lotions and other “relationship enhancement” products.

The company was originally planning on moving to Cincinnati with support from both the state and city. But Gov. John Kasich’s administration ultimately declined to provide tax credits, which forced the city to ratchet up its offer from $353,000 to prevent Pure Romance from moving to Covington, Ky., instead of Cincinnati.

Kasich’s administration says the company didn’t fall into an industry the state normally supports, but state Democrats and local officials claim the state government resisted the tax credits because of a “prudish” attitude toward a company that sells sex toys.

“We welcome Pure Romance to the city of Cincinnati,” Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said at the committee meeting. “We are glad that the city administration and Pure Romance were able to work out an arrangement that actually welcomed them to the city.”

Pure Romance previously told CityBeat that it hopes to move its headquarters from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati by the end of the year, but the move hinges on whether the company can quickly finalize a lease agreement.

by Andy Brownfield 11.14.2012

U Square Worker Payment Investigation Continues

Committee members want to change way contracts are written to ensure fair wages

A City Council committee wants Cincinnati’s leadership to investigate whether workers in a Clifton Heights development project are being paid what they’re supposed to.

The Strategic Growth Committee on Wednesday passed a motion asking the city administration to report back on wage payments to workers on the U Square development. The project includes a parking garage as well as residential and commercial units.

Under Ohio law, workers on projects funded by cities must be paid a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project.

The city only has money invested in the garage, and the state  of Ohio recently ruled that workers on other parts don’t have to be paid prevailing wage.

Council members Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas and Laure Quinlivan produced a video in which they interviewed carpenters who said they were being paid less than the prevailing wage.

At issue is a letter from developer Towne Properties that says the company will pay all workers prevailing wage anyway. Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said his company cuts a check to subcontractors respecting that agreement, so if workers aren’t being paid the proper amount it’s their fault.

City Solicitor John Curp told members of the Strategic Growth Committee that under city and state law, the subcontractors are not required to pay workers a prevailing wage on parts of the project that are not getting public funding. He said the letter from the developer does not hold the weight as a legal contract.

Young, Thomas, Quinlivan and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld all expressed the need to overhaul the way the city enters into development contracts to better protect workers.

However, City Manager Milton Dohoney hinted that overzealous requirements for high wages could chase off some development projects.

He said that a project like U Square is tied to the Clifton location because of its proximity to the University of Cincinnati, but the city can’t be too restrictive when it comes to businesses that could expand elsewhere.

Dohoney said the city also doesn’t currently have the manpower to do the kind of aggressive enforcement that the council members were asking for.

Councilman Young countered that he would like to see the city be as aggressive with enforcement as they are with making economic development deals.

“We want to change the rules of the game to make sure everyone is treated equal,” Young said.