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by Andy Brownfield 11.14.2012
 
 
u-square-at-the-loop

U Square Worker Payment Investigation Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by German Lopez 07.29.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Equality at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
qualls

City to Consider Funding for Disparity Study

Minority-owned businesses struggle to regain foothold

City Council could use leftover revenue from the previous budget cycle and money from the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether minority- and women-owned businesses should be favorably targeted by the city’s contracting policies.

“Once we conclude the parking lease agreement and see the results of the close-out of the last budget year, I believe there may be a majority (of Council) that would support funding a Croson study,” Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls told CityBeat.

The disparity study — named a “Croson study” after a U.S. Supreme Court case — could cost between $500,000 and $1 million, according to city officials.

Qualls expects to see the final revenue numbers from the previous budget cycle sometime this week. The numbers are expected to come in higher than projected, which would give Council some leftover money to allocate for newer priorities, including a disparity study and human services funding.

Another potential funding source: the city’s parking lease agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will take over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages and manage them through various private companies from around the nation.

The announcement comes shortly after minority inclusion became a major issue in the 2013 mayoral race between Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.

Cranley announced his minority inclusion plan, which includes a disparity study, on July 12.

Because of a 1989 Supreme Court ruling, city governments are unable to enact programs that favorably target minorities or women without first doing a disparity study that proves those groups are underrepresented.

The city’s last disparity study was done between 1999 and 2002. It found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.

But since the city did away with its affirmative-action contracting policies in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses dropped from a high of 22.4 percent in 1997 to a low of 2.7 percent in 2007. Participation among women-owned businesses remained relatively stable, hitting a high of 6 percent in 2005 and otherwise fluctuating between 0.9 percent and 3.8 percent from year to year.

Rochelle Thompson, head of the city’s Office of Contract Compliance, points out that classifying as a minority- or women-owned business is now voluntary, whereas it was mandated through the city’s policies in the 1990s. That, she argues, might be understating how many contracted businesses are truly minority- or women-owned.

Still, business leaders are calling on the city to do more. They claim minority-owned businesses are more likely to hire minorities, which could alleviate an unemployment rate that’s twice as high for them as it is for white Cincinnatians.

Qualls says City Council hasn’t pursued a disparity study until now because it was waiting for the full implementation of recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city’s small business program. The resulting policies forced the city administration to be more transparent and accountable for the program’s established goals.

Thompson claims OPEN Cincinnati’s changes “breathed life” into the small business program, but none of the changes specifically targeted minority- and women-owned businesses. Instead, the program broadly favors and promotes small businesses, which Thompson calls the drivers of job and economic growth.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 05.01.2012
 
 
osha

Morning News and Stuff

A federal investigation into a January construction accident at the Horseshoe Casino site is now completed and the fines in the case have been reduced. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration originally imposed $108,000 in fines, but has since cut that amount in half. Thirteen workers were injured when a concrete floor they were pouring gave way. Four firms were cited in the mishap.

An article in a journal published by the American Heart Association states that a review of eight cases indicates the use of electrical stun guns by police can cause cardiac arrest. Douglas Zipes, a physiologist with Indiana University, wrote the article that examines the effects of the Taser X26 ECD. At least three people have died locally in recent years after being shocked by Tasers, most recently a North College Hill man who was shocked at the University of Cincinnati last August. Police in Colerain Township and Fairfax have stopped using stun guns, but Cincinnati police officers still use the devices.

A single woman who used artificial insemination to become pregnant has filed a federal lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after she was fired from her teaching job at a Catholic school. Christa Dias, who was fired in October 2010, isn't Catholic and says she wasn't aware of the church's teachings against the procedure. She taught computer classes and had no ministerial duties at the school. Employment law experts expect the issues involved in the case will attract national attention and could set a precedent.

Nine local schools will receive part of a $21 million federal grant given to the state of Ohio to help improve low-performing schools. The Cincinnati facilities that will get aid are Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, Woodward Career Tech High, South Avondale Elementary, William H. Taft Elementary, George Hays-Jennie Porter, Schroder Paideia High, West Side Montessori High, Oyler and the district's Virtual High School. Local school officials say the grant money has been used the past two years to take all but one school out of the “academic emergency” classification.

Cincinnati City Council could vote as soon as Wednesday on a proposal to extend insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. A council committee voted 8-0 Monday to give tentative approval to the plan, which was lobbied for by Councilman Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay man to serve on the group. The benefit is expected to cost the city between $300,000 and $540,000 annually, depending on how many claims are filed. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican and evangelical Christian minister, abstained from the vote.

In news elsewhere, documents seized from Osama bin Laden's hideaway in Pakistan after his death reveal the terrorist leader was worried about al-Qaeda's image. The records show bin Laden trying to reassert control over factions of loosely affiliated jihadists from Yemen to Somalia, as well as independent actors whom he believed had sullied al-Qaeda’s reputation and muddied its central message. Bin Laden was killed in a raid by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011.

British lawmakers said today that global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is unfit to run a major company and should take responsibility for a culture of illegal telephone hacking that has shaken News Corp. A parliamentary committee said Murdoch and his son, James, showed "willful blindness" about the scale of phone-hacking that first emerged at Murdoch's News of the World newspaper. In the United States, Murdoch owns the Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post.

President Obama expressed support Monday for the blind Chinese dissident at the center of a standoff between Beijing and Washington. Speaking at a press conference, Obama said he wouldn't address specifics of the Chen Guangcheng case, but then went on to urge Beijing to address its human rights record. It's believed that Chen is hiding at the U.S. Embassy in China, but officials have declined to confirm the speculation or whether negotiations are underway.

Although most Republican politicians are united in their opposition to federal health-care reforms known as “ObamaCare,” they disagree on what should replace it, Politico reports. Even after three years of railing against Obama’s plan, Republicans haven't coalesced around a full replacement plan. Although most Republicans support the health law’s requirement that insurance companies accept all applicants, the main replacement plan put forward by the GOP ignores that idea.

Violence continues in Syria between government forces and rebels despite both sides agreeing to a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire. A human a rights group reported 10 civilians were killed in an army mortar attack and 12 soldiers killed in a firefight with rebel gunmen today as U.N. monitors tried to broker an end to the fighting, which has lasted more than a year.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.29.2012
 
 
dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty-five suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement were arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America by Interpol, the international law enforcement agency. The suspects, aged between 17 and 40, are suspected of planning coordinated cyber-attacks against institutions including Colombia's defense ministry and presidential websites.
 
 
by 05.04.2011
Posted In: Media, Ethics, Business, Community at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Washburn's PR Tour

The newly hired top editor at The Enquirer will be making several public appearances in coming weeks in an effort to become acquainted with the community.

Carolyn K. Washburn, the newspaper's editor and vice president, will be speaking at events organized by Northern Kentucky University and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area, among others.

Read More

 
 
by 11.17.2010
Posted In: Congress, Business, Family at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Senate Kills Paycheck Fairness

A bill that supporters say would've ensured women are paid the same as men for doing the same work was blocked today by the U.S. Senate in a 58-41 vote. All Republican senators — including George Voinovich from Ohio — voted against allowing debate on the bill.

The bill, known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, was approved by the House in January 2009 and was supported by President Obama.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.26.2012
Posted In: Business, Development, Urban Planning at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
fountain

Vendors Sought for Fountain Square

Tuesdays will be market day at downtown’s Fountain Square beginning in late spring and lasting until early fall. And to fill the market, the group that manages the plaza is accepting applications from interested vendors.

The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp. (3CDC) will operate the market for 21 weeks, from May 1 to Sept. 25. The midday, mini-market will be open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Read More

 
 
by 07.08.2011
 
 

Kearney Hosts Small Business Forum

A state lawmaker will host two sessions later this month designed to give advice to small business owners on obtaining loans to start or expand a business.

State Sen. Eric Kearney (D-9th District) is sponsoring the Small Business Credit Access Forum on July 28. The sessions will be held at the TechSolve Business Park, located at 6705 Stegner Drive in Carthage.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012
 
 
heritage1

Conservative Group Hires Beckett

Longtime City Hall staffer joins Heritage Action

A local conservative activist has found another job in politics.

Brad Beckett recently was appointed as Heritage Action for America’s first regional coordinator for the Cincinnati area. Beckett served for years as chief of staff for City Councilman Chris Monzel, until Monzel left that group in January 2011 to become a Hamilton County commissioner.

In his new role, Beckett will be responsible for growing Heritage Action’s grassroots infrastructure in Cincinnati and nearby areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

“Brad brings a wealth of experience in and knowledge of Cincinnati politics,” said Michael Needham, Heritage Action’s CEO, in a prepared statement.

“His knowledge of Cincinnati and the surrounding region will be essential to ensuring that the American people’s voices cut through the big-government noise in Washington as we fight to save the America dream,” Needham added.

Prior to his latest gig, Beckett almost had the top job in Butler County government. When Monzel was elected to the Hamilton County commission, Beckett discreetly lined up another job as Butler County administrator. Two commissioners there hatched the plan privately but one abruptly changed his mind a day before Beckett’s employment was to have begun, leaving him without a job.

More recently Beckett has been working at the Apple Store in Kenwood Towne Center and launched The Political Daily Download, a right-leaning blog. Also, he assisted in Tom Brinkman’s unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican nomination to run for the Ohio House 27th District seat.

Founded in 2010, Heritage Action for America is the sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The newer group’s motto is “we hold Congress accountable to conservative principles,” and it was formed mostly because the foundation isn’t allowed to back pieces of legislation due to its tax-exempt status.

One of Heritage Action’s first projects was to organize opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law pushed by President Obama.

Among Heritage Foundation’s primary donors is Charles Koch, one half of the infamous Koch Brothers duo. They’re the industrialists who helped form the Tea Party movement, which advocates for corporate interests that benefit the brothers and harm the working class.

Also, the Kochs led the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.20.2012
Posted In: Business, Environment, Neighborhoods, War , Republicans at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
samueladams

Morning News and Stuff

The Samuel Adams Brewery in Cincinnati's West End is using $3.6 million in grant funding to expand its facilities. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the grants so the firm could expand its operations onto an adjacent contaminated site that once contained dry cleaning and automotive businesses. “They had a business choice,” said Scott Nally, EPA director. “They could have chose to stay here and be landlocked or to expand and take some risk or to move out of the state.”

Cincinnati Public Schools is grappling with rising transportation costs, which are contributing to a deficit. The district will spend $29.5 million this year to transport 21,000 kids to and from school each day. That’s nine percent, or $2.3 million, more than budgeted and $1.3 million more than last year. Officials are looking at options to reduce costs. One is negotiating with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati about changing some start times at parochial schools to allow CPS to run fewer routes, which would save about $400,000.

Seven inmates have been mistakenly released at the Butler County Jail this year, including four in recent weeks. Some of the prisoners were jailed for misdemeanors such as traffic violations, but others were locked up for more serious crimes such as theft and burglary. An official said court personnel misread the court documents in some cases, but also admits a failure in oversight that led to nine jail employees being disciplined. (Maybe Sheriff Richard Jones should focus more on running the jail, and less on rounding up undocumented immigrants.)

Starting today, motorists headed to Over-the-Rhine may park in the new garage that's been built under Washington Park, across from Music Hall. The garage has 450 spaces. Construction crews still are working above ground to renovate and expand the park itself, which is slated to open July 1.

A southeastern Ohio village mayor suspected of repeatedly raping a girl has pleaded not guilty and is being held in jail in lieu of posting a $1 million bond. Michael Shane Shuster – who is mayor of Stockport, located near Athens – is charged with 10 counts each of rape, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition. He pleaded not guilty in a Morgan County court on Wednesday.

In news elsewhere, the Obama administration has revealed that even after the United States withdraws its combat troops from Afghanistan in late 2014, the nation and its allies still will spend spend about $4.1 billion annually to prop up Afghan army and police forces. Most of the money will come from the U.S., they added. (Maybe that's the real reason politicians are telling us we need to cut Social Security and Medicare. Which would be a better investment in the long-haul?)

Meanwhile, a U.S. military Black Hawk helicopter with four crew members on board crashed in southwestern Afghanistan on Thursday. A senior U.S. military official told NBC News there was bad weather in the area at the time of the crash, but couldn't rule out the possibility that enemy activity downed the helicopter.

A proposed “personhood” law in Oklahoma that would grant embryos the same rights as people beginning at the moment of conception failed in the state's Legislature Thursday without coming to a vote in the House of Representatives. The bill, which backers hoped would provide a path to roll back the constitutional right to an abortion, had sailed through the Oklahoma Senate in February but Republican caucus leaders indicated some medical professionals and business leaders expressed their dislike for the measure. It's unclear if the bill will be revived for a final vote after this fall's elections.

Fenway Park, the much-beloved home of the Boston Red Sox, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Thousands of diehard fans are expected to pour into the stadium today to help the team commemorate the event.

In an effort to shore up his support from social conservatives, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney will deliver the commencement address at Liberty University in Virginia on May 12. The evangelical Christian college was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, a TV preacher known for – among other things – blaming the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on gays and feminists angering God and incurring his wrath. The university estimated that 14,000 students will graduate at the ceremony, with some 34,000 guests watching.
 
 

 

 

 
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