Hamilton County once again froze new work on a $3.2 billion project that will retrofit Cincinnati’s sewers because of a dispute concerning the city’s established bidding requirements. City Council in 2012 passed and in 2013 further adjusted rules that require companies bidding for lucrative sewer contracts to meet specific local hiring and training standards. City Council says the requirements will produce more local jobs, but Hamilton County commissioners argue that the rules favor unions and cost too much for businesses. Councilman Chris Seelbach and Commissioner Chris Monzel were originally working on a compromise, but prospects fell through after City Council rejected the deal. CityBeat covered the conflict in further detail here.
Covington, Ky., is publicly welcoming Pure Romance to the other side of the Ohio River, which could cost Cincinnati and Ohio up to 120 jobs and $100 million in revenue. Pure Romance was initially planning to move from Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati with some tax support from the city and state, but after the state’s tax credit agencies rejected the plan, the company has been getting better offers from out-of-state sources, including Covington. Ohio officials say they denied Pure Romance because the company isn’t part of a target industry such as biotech, energy or logistics, but emails have suggested that the Republican state government is worried about the deal coming off as politically embarrassing because some of Pure Romance’s products include sex toys.
Ohio coal officials repeatedly complained about the state’s water pollution rules to Gov. John Kasich, whose administration then carried on the complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kasich’s office insists it was just trying to collect “different viewpoints and then work together to challenge each other to do the best job possible,” but environmental advocates say the governor was putting unfair pressure on a state agency just trying to do its job. The conflict might explain why the Ohio EPA’s top water-quality official, George Elmaraghy, was forced to resign after claiming that coal companies are pursuing permits “that may have a negative impact on Ohio streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.”
The tea party-backed pension reform effort on Thursday sued to change ballot language approved by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The lawsuit says the current ballot language is making “conjecture and partisan argumentation” by claiming the pension amendment will force the city to raise taxes, fees or other revenues to cope with stricter requirements for paying back Cincinnati’s $872 million pension liability. If it’s approved by voters, the amendment would effectively privatize the city’s pension system so future city employees, minus police and firefighters, would be required to contribute to and manage an individual 401k-style plan; currently, the city pools city employees’ retirement funds, makes its own contribution and invests the funds through an independent board. CityBeat covered the tea party-backed pension amendment in further detail here.
Hamilton County sheriffs are rolling out a three-phase plan to move homeless squatters out of county buildings and especially the Hamilton County Courthouse, where much of the city’s homeless population has been sleeping and defecating. Sheriffs will first set up bathrooms, such as portable potties, and try to identify the needs of the squatters and whether they should be connected to mental health or other services; during the month of the first phase, homeless people will be allowed to remain in the buildings. Then sheriffs will get more strict and forcibly remove people but still connect them to special services. Finally, the affected buildings will be cleaned up.
An upcoming report will likely place legislators and police and fire officials in conflict over the state’s police and fire pension system. Supporters of the pension system claim it’s financially stable, but a state consultants predicted that an actuarial report will soon show the pension system is failing to make its required commitments and will be unable to play for health care benefits beyond 15 years. Despite the problems, pension officials say they want to avoid more changes until the most recent changes are in place for one year. The most recent reforms will be officially in place for one year on July 2014, but they won’t show up on actuarial reports until late 2015, which means further changes would have to be held off until 2016 at the earliest under pension officials’ suggestion.
A lengthy, scathing report from the state’s independent prison watchdog found skyrocketing violence and drug use, high staff turnover and low staff morale at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Two private organizations and the city of Cincinnati are working to place 21 bike share stations with 10 bicycles each in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati by spring 2014.
The reason reported mayoral primary results seemed to stall midway through counting: a memory card mix-up. Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy says the memory cards were never in an insecure environment, but some memory cards were locked up and left behind, while others were accidentally taken to a warehouse instead of the Board of Elections.
At four times their usual number, bats are forcing health officials to recommend rabies vaccinations and other disease-avoiding precautions to people in Kenton County in northern Kentucky.
Cincinnati’s largest mall, currently known as Forest Fair Village and previously named Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and Forest Fair Mall, is apparently not for sale, despite early reports from The Business Courier.
Social robots can easily replace humans as dogs’ best friend, according to a new study in Animal Recognition.
Ohio ranked No. 8 among states for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing to 3,800 from 2,900 over the year, according to the Feb. 11 census report from the Solar Foundation.
Still, the state actually dropped five spots to No. 23 in per-capita rankings, which measure the amount of solar jobs relative to a state’s overall population.
The U.S. solar industry employed more than 142,000 Americans in November, representing an increase of nearly 24,000 over the year, according to the Solar Foundation. At nearly 20 percent growth, the solar sector grew more than 10 times faster than the overall economy, which on average increased employment by 1.9 percent.
Advocacy group Environment Ohio applauded the latest numbers.
“The sun is an unlimited energy source that could provide all of our energy without the air and water pollution associated with coal, oil and gas,” said Christian Adams, state associate at Environment Ohio, in a statement. “This report shows that the solar industry is putting people to work to meet a growing percentage of our energy needs with a pollution-free energy source that has no fuel costs.”
Environment Ohio praised Cincinnati in particular. In 2012, Cincinnati became the first major city in the nation to support 100 percent renewable energy through electric aggregation. Last year, City Council adopted a motion to put solar panels on one in five city rooftops by 2028 and develop new financing programs to support the goal.
In a 2012 report, Environment Ohio found Cincinnati could become the solar capital of the region and lead a boom of solar jobs.
Under a 2008 state law, utility companies must meet benchmarks that require them to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar, and save 22 percent of electricity through new efficiency efforts by 2025.
A 2013 report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found the law will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.
Pressured by Akron-based FirstEnergy and the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is currently looking for ways to weaken the renewable energy and efficiency standards. The renewed effort comes after attempts to dismantle the law by State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who often compare Ohio’s energy law to Stalinism, failed to gain support.
Meanwhile, Environment Ohio says the state should actually increase its standards to help combat global warming and boost renewable energy jobs.
With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem. The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp Washington.
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement, Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded, it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy. The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The first of three debates for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat is
today. Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh
Mandel will meet for the first time to prove who has the better vision
for the state. Democrats have repeatedly criticized Mandel for
dishonesty and dodging questions. Republicans have criticized Brown for
supporting President Barack Obama’s policies, including the auto bailout
and Obamacare. A more substantive analysis of the candidates’
differences can be found here. In aggregate polling, Brown currently
leads by five points. The debate will be at 12:30 p.m. on C-SPAN.
Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for vice president, will be in Cincinnati today. Ryan’s event will take place at Lunken Airport at noon. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was in Lebanon Saturday. With the second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Romney tomorrow, both campaigns are turning up the events in Ohio, a state that is widely considered a must-win for both candidates. According to aggregate polling, Obama still holds Ohio by 2.2 points despite a nationwide post-debate bounce in the polls for Romney.
Bicyclists rejoiced Saturday as McMillan Street was converted back into a two-way street. William Howard Taft Road will undergo a similar transition Oct. 20. The conversion of both roads came thanks to the approval of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who pushed the motion in order to revitalize the business sector in the neighborhood.
The rest of Ohio’s school report card data will be released Wednesday. The report card data grades schools to see how school districts are doing in a variety of categories. The release for the data was initially delayed due to an ongoing investigation by the state auditor that’s looking into accusations of attendance reporting fraud at some school districts. Previously, the state auditor released preliminary findings criticizing some school districts and the Ohio Department of Education for some findings regarding attendance fraud.
A new report found Cincinnati still has a lot of work to do. The city ranked No. 10 out of 12 similar cities. Cincinnati excelled in job creation and housing opportunities, but it did poorly in categories regarding migration and age.
Bob Taft, former Republican governor of Ohio, is going green. The Ohio Environmental Council is rewarding Taft for standing up for the environment during his gubernatorial term.
Ohio’s stricter laws for exotic animals convinced one pet owner to move her two tigers to Indiana.
Some guy broke the sound barrier with his body yesterday.
Waking up to the sounds of birds singing is one sign spring has arrived. A birdhouse all but guarantees a songstress in residence but few people have the skills or a grandfather willing to build the requisite abode. But the positive impact of birdhouses can be significant, according to Greenbird LLC.
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.
Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity, cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in 2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.
Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?”
The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors to the public.
Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.
This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.
A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.
A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.
A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.
Not worried about freezing your ninnies off to help the environment? Then the Friends of the Great Miami have a job for you!
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The last debate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat took place last
night. The debate between Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and
Republican challenger Josh Mandel mostly covered old ground, but the
candidates did draw contrasting details on keeping Social Security
solvent. Mandel favored raising the eligibility age on younger generations, while Brown favored
raising the payroll tax cap. Currently, Brown leads
Mandel in aggregate polling by 5.2 points.
Mitt Romney was in town yesterday. In his speech, he
criticized the president’s policies and campaign rhetoric and touted
support for small businesses. The Cincinnati visit was the first stop of
a two-day tour of Ohio, which is the most important swing state in the
presidential race. But senior Republican officials are apparently
worried Romney has leveled off in the state, which could cost Romney the
Electoral College and election. President Barack Obama is
expected to visit Cincinnati on Halloween. In aggregate polling, Obama
is ahead in Ohio by 2.1 points, and Romney is up nationally by 0.9
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio says the
use of seclusion rooms in Ohio schools should be phased out
by 2016. The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Education
are currently taking feedback on a new policy draft that says schools
can only use seclusion rooms in cases of “immediate threat of physical
harm,” but the policy only affects traditional public schools, not
charter schools, private schools or educational service centers.
Seclusion rooms are intended to restrain children who become violent,
but recent investigations found the rooms are used to punish children or
as a convenience for staff. Currently, Ohio has no state laws
overseeing seclusion rooms, and the Department of Education and Board of
Education provide little guidance and oversight regarding seclusion
The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati and a City Council task force have a plan to make Cincinnati’s water infrastructure a little greener.
A study found Cincinnati hospitals are good with heart patients but not-so-good with knee surgery. The names of the hospitals that were looked at were not revealed in the study, however.
An economist at PNC Financial Services Group says 10,000 jobs will be added in Cincinnati in 2013.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble has new details about its effort to reduce costs and make operations more productive. The company announced a “productivity council” that will look at “the next round of productivity improvements.” The company also said it will reach 4,200 out of 5,700 job cuts by the end of October as part of a $10 billion restructuring program announced in February.
The world just got a little sadder. Chemicals in couches could be making people fatter.
On the bright side, we now know how to properly butcher and eat a triceratops.
Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced in a press release that they will be speaking later today about the city’s pool season. The unusually hot summer has sparked some calls that the city should keep pools open for longer, and it looks like the mayor may be ready to meet demands. Mallory and Chesley will make their announcement at 1 p.m.
City Council moved to ban wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose wastewater that is produced during fracking, within city limits. Studies have linked the injection wells to earthquakes, including a series of tremors felt in Youngstown, Ohio around New Year’s Eve.
Today is Marriage Equality Day and Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Which one will you take part in?
The Public Library Association says the downtown branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was the busiest library in North America in 2011. The ranking compared 1,300 public libraries from the United States and Canada.
Councilman Chris Seelbach was allegedly assaulted by an unidentified man Monday night when exiting a downtown bar. Seelbach was reported to be in good condition, and he said the incident will not deter him from spending time downtown in the future.
Cincinnati manufacturing slumped during July, according to the Cincinnati Purchasing Management Index. It’s the first time the index has shown economic contraction since late 2009.
Gov. John Kasich is still planning to cut the state’s income tax, and his next target for paying for it seems to be the state sales tax. Kasich wants to limit tax credits, deductions and exemptions in the sales tax to pay for the income tax reduction.
President Barack Obama reached 50 percent support in key swing states in the latest Quinnipiac poll. The poll put him at 50 percent and Mitt Romney at 44 percent in Ohio. Without Ohio, Romney would have a very rocky — if not impossible — road to the White House.
Ohio Democrats are telling Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to keep quiet about his opinions of the Voters First redistricting amendment while his office verifies the signatures. Husted called the request “absurd.”
Rep. Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, announced his retirement from politics yesterday. The congressman blamed his retirement on the lack of bipartisanship in Congress. LaTourette was one of the few Republicans to support labor unions, and he was known for criticizing Republicans for being completely unwilling to raise taxes.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt told the Financial Times he sees little future in nuclear power. Immelt argued that the future of energy is natural gas, which is now largely obtained from fracking, and renewable resources like solar power, hydropower and wind power.
The psychological abuse of children is common but underreported, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Scientists have invented pills that electronically remind health-care providers when a patient needs to take his/her meds.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.8 percent in November, according to new numbers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent in December. The amount of unemployed dropped from 391,000 to 388,000. Unfortunately, the amount of employed also dropped, indicating that some people are leaving the labor force.
The Republican State Leadership Committee admitted the only reason Republicans kept a House majority was politicized redistricting. The admission from a memo titled “How a Strategy of Targeting State Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in 2013.” The report even singled out Ohio as a state that benefited Republicans due to redistricting. CityBeat previously covered the issue in-depth here.
Cincinnati is among three finalists in the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour City Challenge. The contest judges efforts to combat global warming. Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco were chosen by WWF and global management consultancy Accenture for preparing their cities for a “climate-friendly future,” according to a statement from WWF.
At this point, it’s looking like Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposals will take months for legislators to sort through. The proposals include major changes to taxes, the Ohio Turnpike, education and Medicaid.
Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky signed a landmark water agreement to leverage Greater Cincinnati’s water technologies. The agreement seeks to spur legislation, according to the Business Courier.
The Cincinnati Zoo may need a levy to stay afloat.
Ohio hospitals spent $3.1 billion in free health care in 2010, up from $2.9 billion in 2009, according to an Ohio Hospital Association report.
On the bright side, overall crime is down in Cincinnati.
Bad news, everyone. Chipotle is likely to raise prices this year.
To avoid Obamacare’s health care requirements for businesses, some businesses may begin cutting jobs.
Some in the scientific community want to establish national parks on Mars.