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by German Lopez 11.30.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Women's Health, Education at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Mitt Romney

Morning News and Stuff

Romney loss stops heartbeat bill, tougher report cards pass House, S&P criticizes Cincinnati

Mitt Romney’s big loss is finally getting to Ohio Republicans. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus made procedural moves to block the heartbeat bill from a vote before the end of the lame-duck session. Niehaus, a Republican, said his decision was largely influenced by Romney’s loss on Nov. 6. When the heartbeat bill was originally proposed, it was labeled the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. It banned abortion as soon as a heartbeat was detected, which can happen six weeks into pregnancy. It made no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. CityBeat recently wrote about the GOP's renewed anti-abortion agenda, but if Republicans begin taking lessons from the most recent election, the renewed agenda will never come to light.

The Ohio House of Representatives approved Cincinnati’s tougher school report card standards. An early simulation of the proposed system in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A. The bill will also impose more regulations and oversight on charter schools. As part of the overall reform, the state is replacing its standardized tests, but some Democrats are worried the new tests and system will be too tough on schools.

Standard & Poor's is not optimistic about Cincinnati. The firm gave the city’s debt rating a negative outlook due to structural budget problems. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says ratings firms are looking for spending cuts or revenue growth from Cincinnati to achieve structurally balanced budgets in the next two years, but Dohoney’s most recent budget proposal largely balances the deficit with a one-time source from privatizing parking services. On the other hand, pursuing austerity during a weak economic recovery is a bad idea.

The Cincinnati Fire Department says it doesn’t have enough personnel to man fire trucks. The problem is only getting worse as retirements increase, according to Fire Chief Richard Braun.

The University of Cincinnati’s campus was ranked among the most dangerous in the country.

Ohio has some of the lowest graduation rates in the Midwest. Low-income, black and Hispanic students are all much less likely to graduate than their wealthier and white peers.

Gov. John Kasich met with college and university leaders today to discuss higher education. After the meeting, Kasich and the leaders suggested attaching state funding to graduation rates, among other reforms.

It looks like Ohio’s financial institutions tax bill will make it through the Ohio Senate without major changes. The bill was already passed by the Ohio House. A memo from nonprofit research organization Policy Matters Ohio recommended making changes so the bill cuts tax loopholes without cutting rates on big banks. Zach Schiller, research director from Policy Matters, said in the memo, “Big banks aren’t better banks, as their role in the recent financial crisis made clear. It is questionable policy for the state to favor them with lower rates.”

It’s official: Cincinnati is “cougar capital of Ohio.”

Heart-lifting story of the day: A New York City cop helped a homeless person by buying him a pair of boots.

Has the modern art world lost touch with its audience?

NASA confirmed the presence of ice water on Mercury.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.27.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy

Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut

An analysis released June 26 found Ohio’s top 1 percent would get the biggest breaks from the tax plan included in the final version of the two-year state budget, while the state’s poorest would pay more under the plan.

The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio, shows the tax plan’s slew of tax cuts and hikes balance out to disproportionately favor the wealthy in terms of dollars and percents.

On average, the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan. The next 4 percent would pay $983, or 0.5 percent, less in taxes.

Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or 0.1 percent, more in taxes. The second-lowest 20 percent would see their taxes go down by $5, rounded to 0 percent. The middle 20 percent would see a tax cut of $9, which is also rounded to 0 percent.

Policy Matters criticizes the tax plan, claiming the revenue should go to other programs, not tax cuts.

“Rather than approving a tax plan that will further shift Ohio’s tax load from the most affluent to low- and middle-income residents, we should direct those dollars into needed public services,” said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, in a statement. “That includes restoring support for local governments and schools, and bolstering human services, from foodbanks to child care.”

Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, says the tax plan is supposed to provide an economic boost to almost everyone, not any specific group.

“The tax plan is going to provide an overall tax cut for nearly all Ohioans,” he says. “What this plan intends to do is not disproportionately favor the wealthy at all.”

The broad tax cuts, Republicans claim, should provide a boost to Ohio’s economy that will spur further job growth.

But Schiller argues the tax cut ultimately won’t create jobs: “A 21-percent cut that was approved in 2005 has not kept Ohio’s job market from underperforming that of the country as a whole during and after the last recession.”

The tax plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it balances the cuts by hiking sales and property taxes.

Specifically, the budget cuts income taxes for all Ohioans by 10 percent over three years, gives business owners a 50-percent tax break on up to $250,000 of annual net income and creates a small earned income tax credit for low- and middle-income working Ohioans based on the federal credit.

To balance the cuts, the plan raises the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, increases future property taxes by 12.5 percent and graduates the homestead tax exemption to be based on need, meaning the lowest-income seniors, disabled and widowed Ohioans will get the most out of the exemption in the future.

Most recently, the conference committee added two safeguards for low-income Ohioans: a credit that wipes out income-tax liability for Ohioans making $10,000 or less a year and another $20 credit for those making $30,000 or less a year.

The Policy Matters analysis doesn’t take into account the two changes to property taxes and several other, smaller changes to income and sales taxes, but the rest of the changes, including the conference committee’s recent adjustments, are considered.

The tax plan is part of the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly today. It's expected Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign it into law this weekend.

Update: Budget bill passed by General Assembly.

Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion

 
 
by German Lopez 01.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote

Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.

Chris Monzel is now in charge of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.

City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000.

Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.

King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.

Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.

An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.

Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.

Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world. 

Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.18.2013
Posted In: Budget, Governor, News, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

PUCO appointment criticized, poll supports school funding, superintendent investigation

Gov. John Kasich appointed a former Republican to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) seat that must go to a Democrat or Independent, according to The Plain Dealer. M. Beth Trombold will finish her term as the assistant director in Kasich’s Ohio Development Services Agency in April, when she will then take up the PUCO position. The appointment immediately drew criticism from some Democrats. State Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland called the appointment “another example of Kasich cronyism running rampant.”

A poll from Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found Kasich’s budget proposals aren’t popular with most Ohioans. The poll found 62 percent of Ohioans prefer prioritizing school funding over reducing the state income tax, while only 32 percent prefer tax reduction. When asked what Ohio lawmakers should prioritize in the coming months, 56 percent said job creation, 38 percent said school funding, 24 percent said keeping local property taxes low and 18 percent said cutting the state income tax.

A school superintendent from Warren County may face prosecution for misusing public resources after he wrote a letter to parents urging them to campaign against Kasich, reports Dayton Daily News. Franklin City Schools Superintendent Arnol Elam was apparently angry with Kasich’s new school funding formula, which did not increase funding for poor school districts like Franklin Cities, but did give increases to Springboro, Mason and Kings — the three wealthiest districts in Warren County. County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he will be investigating Elam for engaging in political activity with public resources.

Kasich will give his State of the State Tuesday. The speech is expected to focus on the governor’s budget and tax reform plans.

As part of an agreement with the city, Duke Energy is suing over the streetcar project, according to WLWT. The lawsuit is meant to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar. CityBeat covered the agreement between the city and Duke here and how the streetcar will play a pivotal role in the 2013 mayor’s race here.

Thousands of people in Butler County, mainly students, are benefiting from Judge Robert Lyons’ criminal record seals, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Lyons’ practice of sealing cases came to light after he sealed the case for the Miami University student who posted a flyer on how to get away with rape. In the past five years, Lyons has sealed 2,945 cases — more than a third of the new misdemeanor cases filed.

Ohio’s casinos are falling far short of original revenue projections, according to The Columbus Dispatch. It’s uncertain why that’s the case, but some are pointing to Internet-sweepstakes cafes. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which will open March 4, was spurred by the original projections.

StateImpact Ohio reports that many Ohio teachers are concerned with new teaching evaluation rules.

Two Cincinnati Republicans will begin reviewing the effects of legislation that deregulated phone companies in Ohio, reports Gongwer. State Rep. Peter Stautberg, who chairs the House Public Utilities Committee, and State Sen. Bill Seitz, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee, will hear testimony from PUCO Tuesday.

Downtown’s Chiquita center has landed in bankruptcy, reports WCPO. The building lost its major tenant last year when Chiquita Brands relocated to Charlotte, N.C.

“Star Trek” is becoming reality. University of Cincinnati researchers are developing a tricorder device to help users monitor their own health, reports WVXU.

Are you worried about space rocks recently? Popular Science says NASA is concerned as well.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.06.2012
 
 
120413_obama_romney_4x3.photoblog600

Morning News and Stuff

Election Day is today. Find your correct polling booth here. Check out CityBeat’s endorsements here.

After a year of campaigns, the race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is almost over. All eyes are on Ohio to decide the presidential election. In aggregate polling, Obama leads Romney by 2.9 points in Ohio and 0.7 points nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ electoral forecast model, gives Obama a 91.4 percent chance to win Ohio and a 91.6 percent chance to win the election. The New York Times also has an interactive flowchart to gauge both Obama's and Romney's paths to victory.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown leads Republican challenger Josh Mandel by 5 points in aggregate polling. CityBeat covered the policy and campaign differences between the two candidates in coverage of the first, second and third debate and a cover story.

Gov. John Kasich has taken a noticeable shift to the center and considered less divisive ideas in recent months, and some of that might be to help Romney’s electoral chances in Ohio. In the past two years, Kasich went from supporting SB 5, which would have limited collective bargaining for public employees, to focusing almost entirely on jobs.

While we focus on voting on Earth, astronauts in space also vote.

Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, laid out his budget plan yesterday. Hartmann touted “austerity” as a prominent theme in the budget. Austerity measures actually led Europe into a second recession, according to prominent economist Robert Reich. This matches the opinion of other economists, such as Nobel-winning Paul Krugman, who argue governments should try to make up for shortfalls in the private sector through increased spending during recessions. Recently, the International Monetary Fund admitted it underestimated the bad economic impact of austerity measures. Still, Hamilton County is required to balance its budget, so the commissioners don’t have many options. Todd Portune, the lone Democratic commissioner, says he will unveil his plan later.

The new Jungle Jim’s at Eastgate is having a large, positive impact on its neighbors. The exotic grocery store has apparently brought a lot of new paying customers to the area.

Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood might soon put its traffic problems in the past. City Council is expected to vote on a plan Wednesday that would block three streets in the neighborhood. Residents have complained traffic is out of control because of development at the Rookwood Exchange in Norwood, and traffic could get worse due to the holiday shopping season.

Workers injured during the construction of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino are looking for a way around workers comp rules. The exemption-seeking lawsuit filed by four workers against 13 defendants is typical in Ohio law, which generally prevents workers from suing employers over workplace injuries since Ohio’s compensation rules provide ways to obtain missing wages and other potential damages.

Time Warner Cable is hiring for more than 50 positions in Cincinnati.

A new partnership between the Memorial Hall Society, 3CDC and Hamilton County’s commissioners may revitalize Hamilton County’s Memorial Hall. The hall is one of Hamilton County’s architectural treasures, but a lack of renovations has left it behind modern developments, including air conditioning.

Some of Ohio’s exotic animal owners are not happy with a new law that requires registering and micro-chipping exotic animals, so they are suing the state.

A Cleveland woman that drove on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was unloading children will have to wear a sign that says, “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She will have to wear the sign at an intersection for one hour a day for two days next week.

An Ohio woman broke into a family’s house, cleaned the house and left a $75 bill.

On Sunday, an amputee climbed 103 stories using a mind-controlled bionic leg. Oh, science.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.08.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, Government, News, Voting, Prisons, Budget at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here. Tomorrow is also the last day to register to vote.

A federal appeals court upheld the decision to allow in-person early voting for everyone during the three days prior to the election. The decision comes as a big win to President Barack Obama’s campaign, which filed a lawsuit to restore in-person early voting on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Republicans in the state have repeatedly pushed against expanded early voting, citing racial politics and costs. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Friday he will decide what to do with the ruling after the weekend. The court ruling means Husted could close down all boards of election on the three days before Election day, eliminating early voting for everyone — including military voters. If Husted doesn’t act, individual county boards of election will decide whether to stay open or closed.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is discussing the budget today. It has a few options, but all of them involve cuts.

A recently released audit by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) found the private prison sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has some serious problems. The prison only met 66.7 percent of Ohio’s standards, and 47 violations were found. CCA says it’s working with ODRC to resolve the problems. The news mostly confirmed the findings of CityBeat’s in-depth look into private prisons.  

Schools responded to the state auditor’s recent report that found five school districts were scrubbing data and the Ohio Department of Education did not have enough safeguards. The five school districts generally objected, saying they did not purposely alter any data provided to the state.  

Humana will be hiring for 200 full-time jobs in Greater Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati is turning up its search for a new president this week. First up for consideration: Provost and Interim President Santa Ono.

The Associated Press says Cincinnati is a changed city thanks to recent development funding.

There will be a bar crawl to support the Anna Louise Inn on Oct. 13. The bar crawl, hosted by Ohioans United to Protect Abused Women, will last from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets will be sold for $10 with all proceeds going to the Anna Louise Inn. Participating bars will be Milton's Prospect Hill Tavern, Neon's, The Drinkery, MOTR, JAPS and Arnold's Bar.

Mayor Mark Mallory challenged San Francisco’s mayor to a chili cook-off to benefit the city that wins the Reds-Giants playoffs. Mallory touted some fighting words in a statement announcing the friendly bet: “I sure hope San Francisco Chili is as good as Mayor Lee says it is, that way it raises lots of money for Cincinnati’s youth, after the Reds send the Giants packing in the first round.”

Meet the chair of the U.S. House Science Committee's panel on investigations and oversight. He says evolution and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.09.2013
Posted In: Budget, News at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City Manager Unveils Budget Plan

Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.

The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.

Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s bill each quarter.

The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other departments, 64 would be laid off.

The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.

About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with changes in revenue.

The budget release says the cuts are a result of the city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”

With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance. Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10 million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to $3.5 million in the revised budget plan.

The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would further challenge departments that have already experienced significant funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”

The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and senior level management positions, including the city manager. The changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the budget release.

Other cuts in the budget were selected through the Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation. Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be eliminated, along with all arts funding.

The budget plan would also eliminate various other services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.

The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a 50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special events.

The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.

The city was originally planning to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.

But if the city is successful in court, the budget release claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the parking plan.

The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.

Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within 30 days.

The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall. The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established in state law.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2013
Posted In: Economy, Budget, Media, News, Privatization, Parking at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Judge halts council's parking plan, city's deficit options, gun records could be sealed

City Council approved a plan to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, but the plan is now being held up by a judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO). The plan was passed with an emergency clause, which is meant to expedite the plan’s implementation, but it also makes the law immune to referendum. The judge’s TRO, which will delay implementation for at least one week, will provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum. The parking plan will lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. Opponents say they’re concerned about the plan leading to parking rate hikes, and they say the plan will not fix the city’s structural deficits.

Before the final vote on the parking plan, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a presentation to City Council that showed options for reducing Cincinnati’s structural deficit, including a reduction or elimination of lower-ranked programs in the city’s Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, a reduction in subsidies to health clinics that are getting more money from Obamacare, the semi-automation of solid waste collection or the introduction of new or increased fees for certain programs, among other changes.

Ohio senators are pushing a law that would make records of people licensed to carry concealed firearms in Ohio off-limits to journalists. The senators say they were inspired to push the law after a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of permit holders in three counties. Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, says the law will decrease government transparency and limit rights: “I wish the pro-gun forces would be as respectful of the First Amendment as they are of the second, and they should be fearful of excessive government secrecy.”

The superintendent and treasurer of the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, a charter school, were indicted after allegedly using school funds to go to “Girls weekends” in Chicago, sightseeing tours through California and Europe and a trip to Boston to see Oprah — allegedly costing taxpayers more than $148,000. Dave Yost, state auditor, said in a statement, “The audacity of these school officials is appalling. The good work by our auditors and investigators has built the strongest possible case to ensure they can never use the public treasury as their personal travel account again.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are working together to make the case that any delays in the Brent Spence Bridge project will hurt Greater Cincinnati’s economy. Most people involved in the issue agree the bridge needs rebuilding, but not everyone agrees on how the project should be funded. Northern Kentucky politicians in particular have strongly opposed instituting tolls — one of the leading ideas for funding the project.

In public hearings yesterday, service industry officials said Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan, which will expand the state’s sales tax to apply to more service, would drive some service providers out of Ohio and make the state less competitive. Among other complaints, Carter Strang, president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, said the plan could make it harder for Ohioans to access legal counsel by increasing costs and reducing employment in the legal sector. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.

State Auditor Yost filed a subpoena to get JobsOhio’s financial records after the agency failed to turn them over. The subpoena puts Yost at odds with Kasich, a fellow Republican who established JobsOhio, a nonprofit company, in an attempt to bring more jobs to the state and replace the Ohio Department of Development.

Hamilton County is launching the Hamilton County Community Re-entry Action Plan, which will help integrate ex-convicts back into society. Commissioner Todd Portune told WVXU the plan will help with overpopulation in jails and prisons: “When you build (jail and prison) facilities, the population in them always seems to rise to meet whatever the (capacity) level is in the facility. You never seem to have enough space. The real answer beyond facilities is that we've got to turn around the lives of the individuals who are in our corrections system that have made bad choices.”

The University of Cincinnati says it won’t block an outdoor display of vagina pictures on campus.

Yesterday, Kentucky’s U.S. Sen. Rand Paul held a nearly 13-hour filibuster to protest any possible use of drone strikes on American soil. Paul was joined by senators from both sides of the aisle in his opposition to using the strikes, which were used in Yemen in 2011 to kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American citizen accused of being a high-ranking al-Qaeda official.

The same Cleveland judge who made a woman hold an “idiot” sign for driving around a school bus is making a 58-year-old man hold another sign for threatening officers in a 911 call. The sign will apologize to officers and read, “I was being an idiot and it will never happen again.” The man will also go to jail for 90 days.

There used to be camels in Arctic Canada, but that shouldn’t be too surprising — camels currently reside in the Gobi Desert, which can reach -40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.27.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Budget at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
chastity bunch

State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion

Republican legislators claim they’re protecting “sanctity of human life”

Republican state legislators are using the two-year state budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to admit it.

The goal is “to maintain the sanctity of human life,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans.

Most recently, the House-Senate conference committee, which put the final touches to the state budget, tacked on an amendment that requires doctors to perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and inform the woman if a heartbeat is detected. The doctor would also be required to explain the statistical probability of the woman carrying the fetus to birth.

The amendment came in addition to other anti-abortion measures in the budget that would reprioritize family services funding to effectively defund Planned Parenthood, increase funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and impose regulations that the state health director could use to shut down abortion clinics.

Under the regulations, abortion clinics would be unable to set patient transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic doesn’t have a transfer agreement in place, the state health director could shut it down with no further cause.

The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s more difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.

Abortion rights advocates are protesting the measures, labeling them an attack on women’s rights.

“If the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly want to practice medicine, they should go to medical school,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “We urge Gov. (John) Kasich to veto these dangerous provisions from the budget. Party politics has no place in a woman’s private health care decision. The time is now to stand up and lead, not in the interests of his party, but in the interests of the women and families he has been elected to lead.”

Dittoe insists Republicans are not attacking women with the measures: “The women in our caucus have introduced some of these proposals. It’s hard to say it’s a ‘war on women’ when you have women actually introducing the legislation. It’s certainly not about an attack on women; it’s about protecting human life.”

Abortion rights supporters rallied today in Columbus in a last-minute stand, calling on Kasich to line-item veto the measures — a move that would keep the rest of the budget in place but nullify the anti-abortion provisions.

Kasich has so far declined to clarify whether he will veto the anti-abortion measures, instead punting multiple reporters’ questions on the issue.

Much of the debate has focused on Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services, sexually transmitted infection and cancer screening, pregnancy tests, birth control and various other health care services for men and women.

Supporters point out no public funds go to abortion services, which are entirely funded through private donations. Public funds are instead spent on Planned Parenthood’s other services.

Dittoe says that Republicans still take issue with the abortion services, and it’s the sole reason Planned Parenthood is losing funding.

“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” he says. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”

About 15 percent of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s budget comes from the family planning grants that are being reworked. Not all of that money is allocated by the state government; a bulk is also set by the federal government.

The anti-abortion changes will go into effect with the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the budget today, and Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law this weekend.

Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy
State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion

 
 
by German Lopez 07.30.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Council to Undo $4 Million in Budget Cuts

Human services, parks among programs getting funding restorations

A motion proposed by a majority of City Council today would use leftover revenue from the previous budget year to undo cuts to various programs, including human services, parks and the Health Department.

The restorations mean no city workers will be laid off as a result of the operating budget passed in May. Previously, 60 positions had been cut, but many employees remained in different offices while the budget situation was worked out.

The cuts were previously approved with the 2014 budget before council members knew final revenue numbers for fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30. Council had to pass the budget 30 days early because the city’s use of emergency clauses, which eliminate a waiting period on passed laws, was being held up in court.

The city ended up with roughly $10 million more revenue than projected in the past budget year. The Council motion uses nearly $4 million to undo some of the $20 million in cuts carried out in the latest budget. The rest of the extra revenue will be held until the city manager makes further suggestions, but some of that money will likely be saved for next year’s budget gap, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said at a press conference.

Human services funding is getting more than $510,000 restored, putting the program at 0.4 percent of the operating budget. Cincinnati has historically set a goal of directing 1.5 percent of the operating budget to human services, which flows through various agencies that aid low-income and homeless Cincinnatians.

The Health Department is getting the largest restoration at $900,000, allowing the city to bring back positions affecting junked vehicles, rodent control, litter and weed response, infant mortality and more.

Parks will also get back $400,000 out of $1 million that was cut in the previous budget. Another $312,000 is being used to restore recreation funding, particularly to keep the Busch Center open.

Other programs getting money back: the Center for Closing the Health Gap, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Film Commission, African American Chamber of Commerce, Urban Agriculture Program, Office of Environmental Quality, Neighborhood Support Fund, Neighborhood Business District Support Fund, Law Department and funding to 3CDC for Fountain Square maintenance.

Qualls claimed the higher-than-projected revenues are evidence the city’s economic strategy is so far successful.

“Cincinnati’s strategy of investing in jobs, neighborhoods, people is working,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in revenue as a result of investments we are making.”

Qualls also acknowledged that the budget debate has felt like a “roller coaster” for many citizens. Originally, Mayor Mark Mallory’s administration claimed it would have to lay off police and firefighters if the city didn’t lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. But when the parking lease was held up in a court challenge, Council managed to pass a budget without the public safety layoffs. Now, Council is undoing further cuts and moving forward with the parking lease.

After the press conference, Qualls told CityBeat that some of the unused revenue may also be used to finance a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.

 
 

 

 

 
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