The streetcar project is on track for its Sept. 15, 2016 opening date, according to a monthly progress report released by the city yesterday. Through Aug. 31, the city spent $22.1 million on the project, including nearly $2 million in federal funding. In total, the project is estimated to cost $133 million, and about $45 million will come from the federal government. CityBeat covered the project and political misrepresentations surrounding it in further detail here.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and community partners yesterday unveiled the “Come Home Cincinnati” initiative, which promises to make vacant properties available to new occupants in an effort to increase homeownership and redevelop neighborhoods hit hardest by vacancy and abandonment. The initiative will work through the Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development corporations to connect potential homeowners with a pool of loan guarantees, which would pay for the home loans if a borrower defaulted. Qualls’ office says the plan will likely require tapping into the city’s Focus 52 fund, which finances neighborhood projects. If City Council passes the motion supporting the initiative, the city administration will have 60 days to come up with a budgeted plan, which Council will also have to approve.
A Democratic state legislator used Pure Romance’s troubles to criticize Ohio’s process for granting tax credits. State Rep. Chris Redfern, who sits on the legislature’s Controlling Board, repeatedly brought up Pure Romance when discussing tax credits for three companies supported by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. Redfern ultimately didn’t vote against the tax credits, but he only backed down after getting state officials to say the three companies were meeting all of the state’s priorities. Pure Romance originally planned to move its headquarters and 60 jobs from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati and create 60 jobs in the process. But since the company was denied state tax credits, it’s openly discussed moving to Kentucky to take up a better tax offer. The Kasich administration says it denied the tax credits because Pure Romance isn’t part of a targeted industry, but Democrats argue the administration is killing jobs in Ohio just because of prudish feelings toward Pure Romance’s product lineup, which includes sex toys.
Cincinnati will be honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later today for connecting residents to renewable energy sources, according to a press release from the city. Some environmental groups have already praised Cincinnati for championing solar energy in particular, as CityBeat covered here.
At a City Council forum last night, residents demanded walkable, livable neighborhoods that include grocery stores.
Internet cafes need more than 71,000 signatures to get on the November 2014 ballot. The cafes are attempting to overturn a state law that effectively forces them out of business. State officials argue the law is necessary because Internet cafes, which offer slot-machine-style games on computer terminals, are hubs of illegal gambling activity. But Internet cafes say what they offer isn’t gambling because customers always get something of value — phone or Internet time — in exchange for their money.
The Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) marketplaces will go live in one week, regardless of whether the federal government shuts down. The marketplaces will allow users to enroll in insurance plans with tax subsidies from the federal government. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote and obstruct them in further detail here.
A Democratic state legislator is pushing new requirements that would force lobbyists to disclose their annual salaries.
I-75 lanes are temporarily closing for improvements.
Step one to stopping malicious hackers: Learn their ways.
The Ohio Senate will not take up the heartbeat bill and a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the lame-duck session. The heartbeat bill was called the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country when it was first proposed. It sought to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. However, there have been some rumblings of bringing a new version of the heartbeat bill to the Ohio legislature, and recent moves by Ohio Republicans show a clear anti-abortion agenda. In a statement, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio cautioned the bills will come up again next year: “Make no mistake about it, the threat to women’s health may be delayed, but it remains. We fully expect anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women’s health when the legislature reconvenes in January.”
In a 4-3 ruling, the Ohio Supreme court upheld the state’s redistricting map. Democrats claimed the Ohio House and Senate districts were unconstitutional, while Republicans insisted the map was fine. The Republican-controlled government redrew the districts in a way that favors Republican candidates for public office. The Ohio Supreme Court is skewed heavily in favor of Republicans; six justices are Republicans, while only one is a Democrat.
Ohio high schools have a bit of work to do, according to federal data. Apparently, the state has worse graduation rates for blacks than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. Ohio did manage to improve its graduation rates by more than 2 percent over four years, as required by the federal program Race to the Top.
To avoid an estimated $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, a coalition wants to speed up the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is successful, the project will begin in 2014 — four years ahead of schedule. But the organization is pushing a public-private relationship that would likely involve tolls, and Kentucky lawmakers oppose that idea.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County were picked to participate in a program that puts the long-term unemployed back to work. The program was originally started in southwest Connecticut in 2011 by WorkPlace with some success. It placed 70 percent of participants in jobs, with 90 percent moving to full-time employment.
Tourism is boosting Greater Cincinnati’s economy. An impact study from the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network found tourism is responsible for one in 10 local jobs. Visitors to Cincinnati spent $4.1 billion in the area last year.
Another good sign for the economy: Personal income went up in Greater Cincinnati and nationwide. In Cincinnati, personal income went up by 4.6 percent in 2011, lower than the nationwide rise of 5.2 percent.
Unfortunately, Greater Cincinnati still has a lot of vacant homes. On Numbers ranked the area No. 31 out of 109 in terms of vacant homes.
The Cincinnati Police Department is encouraging fitness through intra-department competition.
The University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning is one of the five best design schools in the world.
Councilman Chris Smitherman was re-elected to the presidency of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Seven AIDS activists protested nude in U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office yesterday. The protesters were part of ACT-UP, and they were protesting federal budget cuts to HIV programs that are set to kick in next year.
The bill regulating puppy mills passed the Ohio Senate. Animal advocates claim lax regulations and oversight have made Ohio a breeding ground for poor practices. CityBeat previously covered puppy mills and how they lead to Ohio’s dog auctions.
The Ohio inspector general released a report criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for mismanaging stimulus funds going to southwest Ohio. The findings echoed a lot of what was found in previous reports for other regions of the state.
The Earth’s core may have clues about our planet’s birth.
The city would save just $7.8-$52.6 million in capital costs if it takes on tens of millions in additional expenditures to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar project, an independent audit revealed yesterday. The news appeared to throw another potential lifeline for the streetcar, which can now claim a five-member majority of supporters on City Council. But with Mayor John Cranley's veto threat, council will likely need six votes to continue the project. Council expects to make a decision today, prior to a Friday deadline for federal grants funding roughly one-third of the project.
Some city leaders are trying to ensure all of Cincinnati's 3- and 4-year-olds attend quality preschool programs through Cincinnati’s Preschool Promise. Citing swaths of studies and data, Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, says the policy could reach all corners of the city and hugely benefit the city’s economy in the long term. But supporters of the proposal first must find a means to fund it, which Landsman says will likely require some sort of voter-approved tax hike in 2014. Before the Preschool Promise campaign gets there, Landsman vows supporters will heavily engage the community to gather feedback and determine the scope of the proposal.
City Council yesterday unanimously approved $20 million in capital funding for the $106 million uptown interchange project, which will allow the project to move forward with the state and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments filling the rest of the funding gap. The capital allocation means property taxes will remain higher than they would without the project, as revealed at Monday's Budget and Finance Committee. Mayor Cranley and council members argue the cost is worth it because, as a study from the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center previously found, the project will generate thousands of jobs and other economic gains in the uptown area.
Commentary: "Anti-Streetcar Logic Should Stop Uptown Interchange Project."
The Democratic majority on City Council yesterday dismissed legislation that would have repealed controversial bidding requirements for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Council's decision could put Cincinnati and Hamilton County on a collision course over rules governing a federally mandated revamp of the city's inadequate sewer system. A majority of council members support the bidding requirements as a way to foster local jobs and local job training, while opposing county officials say the rules favor unions and impose a huge burden on MSD contractors. Councilman Chris Seelbach says he's working with Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to get both parties in mediation talks and end a county-enforced hold on sewer projects before the federal government begins enforcing its mandate.
The city of Cincinnati is allowing residents to put out extra trash bags next to approved trash containers between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3 in a "trash amnesty."
Gov. John Kasich's 2014 wish list: More infrastructure funding, measures that curb health care costs, new anti-drug and anti-poverty initiatives, and another tax cut.
Ohio's May ballot could include a measure that would tap into existing revenues to boost funding for infrastructure projects around the state.
Seventeen non-U.S. citizens allegedly cast illegal ballots in Ohio's 2012 general election, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Two Democrats in the Ohio Senate proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. But Republicans control both chambers of the Ohio legislature, so it's unlikely the bill will pass.
Four Ohio libraries, including the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, are collaborating to preserve historical documents, photographs and more.
Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal that will avoid a federal government shutdown and ease previously planned across-the-board spending cuts.
A new study found the Milky Way has four arms, not two as previously believed.
The Hamilton County Court of Appeals today refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan.
On June 12, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling and sided with the city over critics of the parking plan, deciding that the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum efforts on passed legislation, including the parking plan. Emergency clauses also allow the city to avoid a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws.
For Cincinnati, the plan will first produce a $92 million one-time payment. Following that, the city will get an estimated $3 million a year, which the city says will eventually increase to $7 million and continue climbing afterward.
Still, the city says it won’t spend any funds until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are exhausted.
“The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds,” City Manager Milton Dohoney said in a statement on June 12. “Once there is legal certainty, the Administration will look at the budget to determine if there are items that may need to be revisited and bring those before Members of City Council, as appropriate.”
Opponents are planning to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures supporting a referendum on the parking plan. But with the appeals court ruling, that referendum may never come to pass.
The city says the parking plan’s funds will be used to accelerate economic growth, but critics argue the parking
plan will hurt downtown businesses by expanding parking meter hours and
increasing meter rates.
City Council began discussing potential changes to the parking plan in a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today. The meeting largely focused on whether City Council could repeal or rework the parking plan with a simple majority or supermajority.
Following the June 12 ruling, five out of nine council members signed a motion to repeal the parking plan. But City Council would need to pass an ordinance for any changes to be legally binding.
An ordinance would likely need six votes to overrule the mayor’s veto powers.
City Solicitor John Curp told City Council the mayor also has the power through the City Charter to hold any proposed ordinances until the end of his term on Nov. 30, which means the mayor can effectively stop all repeal attempts.
Mayor Mark Mallory supports the parking plan. Jason Barron, his spokesperson, previously told CityBeat Mallory would reject a repeal.
The big news this morning is President Obama’s State of the Union address, which revealed an assertive, populist side to B-Rock that’s largely been missing during the first three years of his term.
Will Obama keep his promises to go after Wall Street excesses and reckless financial firms, or is it mere election year posturing like apparently many of his statements in 2008 were? Only time will tell.
The Ohio House is looking to rewrite parts of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal after dissent has focused on the governor’s tax plan. The chamber’s leaders are looking to set aside the tax plan from the bill so they can better focus on other complicated parts of the budget, including the Medicaid expansion and school funding. Even without the governor’s controversial sales tax expansion plan, Kasich’s budget proposal contains enough leftover money to pass some income tax cuts, with about $280.4 million in general revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and $690.2 million available in fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis in the Bluebook. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he expects to get the subpoenaed financial records from JobsOhio today by the noon deadline, even though the audit has come under criticism from Gov. Kasich and other state officials. Yost says he should be allowed to look into JobsOhio’s full financial records, which include private funds, but Kasich and other Republicans argue only public funds are open to audit. JobsOhio is a publicly funded nonprofit, privatized development agency that was set up by Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development, which is susceptible to a full audit.
Workers for the $78 million U Square project near the University of Cincinnati allege they are being underpaid. In a lawsuit, union workers are claiming they should be paid prevailing wage established in state law because the project is using public funds and 50 percent owned by a public authority.
With the support of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Cincinnati is now looking to cash into its innovative water technology with the formation of the Global Water Technology Hub, which will use expert advice to identify market needs and sell the technology. The city promises the hub will also help keep water rates low for users and find new revenue sources.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will hold a press conference today to introduce his Restoring Our Communities Initiative, which will seek to fight blight and improve child safety in Cincinnati. The initiative will include a push for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 16, which would make it so individuals are not liable for trespassing convictions if the person is remediating blight on abandoned personal property. In a statement, Sittenfeld explained the purpose of the initiative: “Blight is a complicated issue that impacts many aspects of life, and I think this plan helps attack the problem from several angles.”
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved $10,000 for the Westwood Square project, which will involve a larger facility for the Madcap Theater, green space and changes to the neighborhood’s entryways to better encourage community pride and economic development.
A new $20 million, seven-story apartment tower with 110 high-end apartments is being planned for Downtown, above the Seventh and Broadway Garage.
Two weeks in, Horseshoe Casino’s executive says the casino is doing well and turnout has been good.
A report found auto insurance rates in Ohio are “a bargain,” with the state having the fourth lowest costs among other states and Washington, D.C.
A machine keeps human livers alive outside a body for 24 hours, which could double the amount of livers available for transplant and save thousands of lives.
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For many neighborhoods, the lack of access to fresh, healthy fruits, vegetables and foods is a big problem, but Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is helping address the problem, at least in the short term, through mobile produce zones that will be placed in eight neighborhoods generally considered “food deserts.” Quinlivan acknowledges the solution is a stopgap, but Michael Widener, assistant professor in University of Cincinnati’s Geography Department, says it’s a start that could help many local residents as a better solution is worked on.
In a 2-1 ruling yesterday, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision and said the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets is not subject to a referendum and may move forward. Parking opponents are appealing the decision and pushing for a stay. For the city, the parking plan will potentially unlock millions of dollars over 30 years, including a $92 million upfront payment. But opponents argue the terms of the deal, which include increased parking meter rates and operation hours, will hurt downtown business. The ruling also returned the city’s emergency clause powers, which the city says allow it to bypass a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and make laws insusceptible to referendum.
City Council unanimously approved a development deal for Fourth and Race streets downtown to build a grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage to replace Pogue’s Garage. With council approval, construction could begin late this year, with developers hoping to finish in 2015. The deal will be headed by Indianapolis-based development company Flaherty and Collins. The city’s share of the $80 million deal will be $12 million, paid for with a five-year forgivable loan financed by urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for downtown capital projects.
Commentary: “‘Jobs’ Budget Attacks Women’s Health Options”
The first mayoral candidate forum is tonight at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital MERC Auditorium at 620 Oak Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith are scheduled to participate.
After nearly six years of no pay increases for non-union workers, Hamilton County commissioners approved raises for some county employees yesterday. The raises will be merit-based, but they will not exceed 3 percent of what the county pays in wages each year.
Few owners actually register their exotic animals. The state began requiring exotic animal registration after a man in Zanesville, Ohio, released 56 exotic animals and committed suicide.
Pending approval from the board of trustees, the University of Cincinnati is hiring Beverly Davenport Sypher as senior vice president for academic affairs. Previously, Davenport Sypher was the vice provost for faculty affairs at Purdue University.
An ongoing study found women who are denied abortions have poorer health and are more likely to live in poverty two years on.
In Japan, cyclists can now store their bikes in underground robot caverns.
Updated at 11:10 a.m.: Added information about first mayoral candidate forum.
It’s not even two weeks since Gov. John Kasich signed the two-year state budget, and he’s already pushing for the federally funded Medicaid expansion again. Kasich, a Republican, called on fellow advocates and Democrats to lobby Republican legislators into supporting the expansion. The administration says it would need legislation passed by the end of the summer if it’s to get federal approval for an expansion by Jan. 1. Studies found the expansion would save the state money and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade. But Republican legislators passed on it, claiming the federal government can’t afford the expansion even though the federal government has long upheld its commitment to Medicaid. CityBeat covered the state budget and Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners are expected later today to repeal a funding hold on sewer projects, just a couple months after the hold was passed in response to controversial city laws. The city and county originally reached a compromise over the laws, but the deal appeared to have fallen through when City Council failed to approve its end of the bargain. Still, commissioners are moving forward with removing the funding hold, according to WVXU. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in greater detail here.
Designers, engineers and architects will compete over how they’ll cover Fort Washington Way in a few months, and Business Courier has some possibilities for where the project may go. The project is supposed to connect downtown and the riverfront, maximize economic development, encourage recreational activities, preserve openness and more. Although the first phase is just finishing, The Banks has already won awards, making the final connection between the area and downtown all the more important to city and county officials.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) will hold a meeting tonight for its regional strategic plan. Details are sparse, but OKI’s first plan since 2005 will likely put a big emphasis on Cincinnati. A draft of the plan will likely be available in 2014. The meeting will be at Memorial Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow was caught in a “pants on fire” statement by Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer after she claimed Ohio’s budget mandates women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe. The budget imposes new limits on legal abortions in Ohio and effectively defunds contraceptive care, cancer screenings and other non-abortion medical services at family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood, but it doesn’t require women undergo a transvaginal ultrasound.
Cincinnati topped Terminix’s annual bed bug list for most calls related to the critters, but it avoided a spot on another list for the highest increase in calls.
Warren County’s racino is now hiring.
One good thing that came out of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: swag for needy Kenyan youth.
Antimatter particles were detected erupting from solar flares.
One major problem in brain training studies: People always realize they’re being tested, particularly if they’re playing Tetris for hours.
If you're a Metro rider and often feel like making your bus transfer on time a little too closely resembles the hell that was your high school gym class, you're in luck: The folks at Cincinnati Metro have answered riders' requests to relax the time limit an issued transfer ticket is valid.
Cincinnati Metro Public Relations Manager Jill Dunne says extending transfer times was one of the most-requested changes from readers and drivers in a survey issued earlier this month. The results of that survey, the Metro Report Card, should be issued in a week or so, says Dunn.
Transfers currently cost 50 cents in addition to the cost of fare; they're used on top of regular fares when riders must switch buses and combine bus routes to reach their destination.
City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement Monday to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the mayor and City Council may still make changes to the controversial parking plan before it’s implemented. In the past week, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling, made the parking plan insusceptible to a referendum and refused to delay enforcement on the ruling, which allowed the city manager to sign the lease within days. Still, the city won’t spend the $92 million lump sum from the lease until there is legal certainty, meaning until appeals from opponents are exhausted. (Correction: The city signed the lease Monday, not Tuesday as originally reported in the story. The city made the announcement Tuesday, which caused confusion and miscommunication.)
City Council is discussing whether it needs to set funds for the I-71/MLK Interchange project. The state is asking the city to contribute $20 million, but some council members are questioning whether the state would pursue the project without city support. The city administration says the state is insisting on the city’s participation. City Council originally planned to use funds from the parking lease to pick up the city’s share of the tab for the project, which officials estimate will produce thousands of jobs in the region.
After introducing two competing Medicaid bills in the Ohio House, leaders said they’re unlikely to vote on the bipartisan measures before the General Assembly’s summer recess. One of the bills would create a Medicaid oversight committee and instruct the state Medicaid director to find cost savings without cutting benefits. The other bill would take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion while taking measures to diminish access to narcotics through the health care system and encourage cost sharing and private sector plans among Medicaid recipients. Gov. John Kasich is still pushing the General Assembly to pass the Medicaid expansion, whether it’s through the budget, these bills or other means.
Ohio will end the current budget year with an unused surplus of $397 million, according to the state budget director. Kasich says the money should go toward tax cuts. The Ohio House and Senate are currently discussing merging their tax plans in the 2014-2015 budget, which could mean taking up smaller versions of the House’s 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut and the Senate’s 50-percent income tax reduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income.
Sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, will cost Ohio $284 million in fiscal year 2013, according to a Policy Matters Ohio report. For the state, that means slower economic growth, furloughed defense workers, cuts to county funds for social services, public health service reductions and further downsizing of the Head Start program, which supports preschool. CityBeat covered the early impact of sequestration in Ohio here.
The American Medical Association will soon decide if obesity is a disease.
The U.S. House passed an anti-abortion bill that would restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks since conception. The bill is unlikely to move past the House.
Landlords are less likely to respond to rental inquiries from gay couples.
The Congressional Budget Office says immigration reform would save money and boost economic growth.
Researchers have apparently mastered the art of the bat and can now “hear” the size of a room.
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