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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 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 09.19.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Transportation at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann wants Mayor Mark Mallory to live up to past promises of county-city collaboration. In a letter to Mallory, Hartmann criticized the mayor for failing to stick to his pledge of supporting the City-County Shared Services Committee. The committee seeks to streamline county and city services to end redundancies and make the services more competitive and efficient.

Cincinnati Economic Development’s director asked City Council to create a “mega incentive” for “huge impact” development. He also asked City Council to pledge $4 million of casino revenue a year to a local neighborhood project. If City Council agrees, casino revenue will be used to boost local businesses.

Metro is looking at the world’s quickest-charging electric bus. It supposedly can charge in 10 minutes and travel 40 miles.

The day before Pennsylvania’s voter ID law faced trouble in court, Secretary of Jon Husted suggested a “more strict” voter ID law for Ohio. Husted said the current ID system needs to be streamlined and simplified. Democrats criticized the suggestion for its potential voter suppression.

Sept. 22 will be the “Global Frackdown,” a day where activists will protest around the world in a push to ban hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. Cincinnati will have its own “Frackdown” at Piatt Park. Activists are generally against fracking because it poses too many risks, which CityBeat covered here. But Gov. John Kasich and other supporters of fracking insist it can be made safe with proper regulations. Some have also suggested that natural gas, which is now plentiful due to the spread of fracking, can be used as part of a bigger plan to stop global warming.

A new survey says Cincinnati companies will continue hiring through the fourth quarter. 

It wasn’t as good as last year, but it was better than the month before. A new state report says 7,341 new businesses filed to do work in Ohio in August, down from 7,423 in August 2011.

A state commission approved $1.5 million for the Cincinnati Art Museum and a $600,000 reimbursement for the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

More than half of Ohioans could be obese by 2030, a new report found. The rise in obesity could push up medical costs by $23.8 billion.

But screw worrying about weight. Taste of Belgium (writer’s note: best restaurant in the land) is thinking about expanding.

In other restaurant news, it seems Chick-Fil-A may stop its anti-gay donations. Maybe Kermit and friends will be forgiving.

The full footage for Mitt Romney’s controversial comments at a May 17 fundraiser has become available here. The footage shows why Romney prefers to be dishonest most of the time. More importantly, Romney’s comments about Obama voters are not accurate. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has an explanation for why Romney insists on unleashing gaffe after gaffe.

One astrophysicist says there is no such thing as time.

 
 
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 12.05.2012
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Energy, Mayor, Budget, Fracking at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls to run for mayor, city budget proposal raises taxes, local fracking control demanded

It will soon be official. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will announce her mayoral campaign on Thursday at 10 a.m. Qualls has already announced her candidacy and platform on her website. Qualls will be joined by term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, which could indicate support from the popular mayor. Right now, Qualls’ only known opponent is former Democratic city councilman John Cranley, who has spoken out against the streetcar project Qualls supports.

As part of City Manager Milton Dohoney’s budget proposal, anyone who lives in Cincinnati but works elsewhere could lose a tax credit. The budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rollback and moves to privatize the city’s parking services, which Dohoney says is necessary if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The mayor and City Council must approve Dohoney’s budget before it becomes law. City Council is set to vote on the budget on Dec. 14. Public hearings for the budget proposal will be held in City Hall Thursday at 6 p.m. and in the Corryville Recreation Center Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.

Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan are pushing a resolution that demands local control over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activity. But the resolution will have no legal weight, so the state will retain full control over fracking operations even if the resolution is passed. Qualls and Quinlivan will also hold a press conference today at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall to discuss problems with fracking, which has come under fire by environmentalist groups due to concerns about air pollution and water contamination caused during the drilling-and-disposal process.

Greater Cincinnati hospitals had mixed results in a new round of scores from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group.

In an effort to comply with cost cutting, the Hamilton County recorder is eliminating Friday office hours.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for feedback for the Tristate’s transportation and economic plans.

This year’s drought is coming to an end in a lot of places, but not southwest Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed a concussion bill that forces student athletes to be taken off the field as soon as symptoms of a concussion are detected.

As the state government pushes regulations or even an outright ban on Internet cafes, one state legislator is suggesting putting the issue on the ballot. State officials argue unregulated Internet cafes are “ripe for organized crime” and money laundering. An Ohio House committee is set to vote on the issue today. If passed, the bill will likely put Internet cafes that use sweepstakes machines out of business.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be preparing for a 2016 campaign. Kasich was caught privately courting Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who spent millions on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney’s failed campaigns for the presidency. The early meetup shows how valued super PAC funders are to modern political campaigns. State Democrats criticized the meeting, saying it was Kasich “actively positioning to be the next Ohio darling of the special interests.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had a bit of trouble giving a speech on the federal debt yesterday. Hecklers repeatedly interrupted Portman, a Republican, as he tried to speak. The final protesters were escorted out of the room as they chanted, “We’re going to grow, not slow, the economy.” Portman says his plan is to promote growth. But both Democrats and Republicans will raise taxes on the lower and middle classes, according to a calculator from The Washington Post. Tax hikes and spending cuts are typically bad ideas during a slow economy.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is facing the wrath of his tea party comrades. The far right wing of the Republican Party is apparently furious Boehner purged rebellious conservative legislators out of House committees and proposed $800 billion in new revenue in his “fiscal cliff” plan to President Barack Obama.

To help combat fatigue at space stations, NASA is changing a few light bulbs.

Does this dog really love or really hate baths? You decide:


 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2013
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-abortion agenda could return, budget group speaks up, Green Cincinnati update

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Health and Aging Chairman Lynn Watchman said anti-abortion legislation could come back in the current legislative session. That includes the heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and a plan to defund Planned Parenthood. CityBeat wrote about the anti-abortion legislation last time Ohio Republicans tried to bring it up here.

One Ohio Now, a group focused on the state budget, has a few requests for Gov. John Kasich. They don’t want an income tax cut when the revenue could be used to expand Medicaid and raise school funding. In other states, a Medicaid expansion correlated with better health results, and one study found expanding Medicaid could save Ohio money. More school funding could also make up for the last budget's massive cuts to education, which are explained on a county-by-county basis at Cuts Hurt Ohio.

While the state government is tearing down solar power initiatives, Cincinnati is working to update Green Cincinnati. Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin told WVXU, “We’re broadening the plan to be not just focused on climate protection, but more broadly on all areas of sustainability.” He added, “It’s going to show us how Cincinnatians can live a better lifestyle using less resources.” The plan was originally drafted in 2007 and adopted a year later to prepare the city for changing environmental realities.

Last year was good for local home sales. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says home sales were at the highest levels since 2008.

A federal judge ended most of his court-mandated oversight of Ohio’s youth prisons last Friday. The ruling shows how much progress has been made in state youth facilities, according to Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates.

Ohio Democrats are now calling for Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar to resign. Terhar is facing criticism for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” 

Amy Murray is running for City Council. Murray was appointed to City Council in 2011 when Chris Monzel left and became Hamilton County commissioner. But she lost her seat in the 2011 election, which swept Democrats into City Council.

Cincinnati and Columbus airports saw a drop in traffic, but it seems Dayton International Airport more than made up for it.

The National Council of Teachers wants Ohio to make its colleges more accountable and selective.

An investigation into the massive accident on I-275 could take days. The accident, which is believed to have caused at least 86 cars to crash, led to the death of a 12-year-old girl.

Blockbuster still exists, and it’s shutting down stores and cutting jobs.

A smoke screen company wants to use its product to prevent more school shootings. The smoke screens fill up a room with non-toxic smoke on demand, which could obscure a shooter’s vision.

Update for any women looking to have a neanderthal baby: The Harvard scientist was only saying it’s a possibility someday.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.25.2013
Posted In: News, Business, City Council, Budget at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pride_seelbach_jf

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach helps gunshot victim, Pure Romance to stay in Ohio, Council denies car allowances

Councilman Chris Seelbach last night helped a gunshot victim before the man was taken to the hospital. Seelbach posted on Facebook that he was watching The Voice with his partner, Craig Schultz, when they heard gun shots. They went to their window and saw a man walking across Melindy Alley. When Seelbach asked what happened, the man replied, “I was shot.” Seelbach then ran down and held his hand on the wound for 10 to 15 minutes before emergency services showed up. “We have a lot of work to do Cincinnati,” Seelbach wrote on Facebook. Police told The Cincinnati Enquirer the victim seemed to be chosen at random.

Pure Romance yesterday announced it will remain in Ohio and move to downtown Cincinnati despite a decision from Gov. John Kasich’s administration not grant tax credits to the $100 million-plus company, which hosts private adult parties and sells sex toys, lotions and other “relationship enhancement” products. The reason for Pure Romance’s decision: The city, which was pushing for Pure Romance despite the state’s refusal, upped its tax break offer from $353,204 over six years to $698,884 over 10 years. Kasich previously justified his administration’s refusal with claims that Pure Romance just didn’t fall into an industry that Ohio normally supports, such as logistics and energy. But Democrats argue the tax credits were only denied because of a prudish, conservative perspective toward Pure Romance’s product lineup.

City Council yesterday unanimously rejected restoring car allowances, paid work days and office budgets for the city government’s top earners, including the mayor, city manager and council members. Councilman Seelbach said he hopes the refusal sends “a signal to the administration that this Council is not interested in making the wealthy more wealthy or giving more executive perks to people who already make hundred-plus thousands of dollars.” The restorations were part of $6.7 million in budget restorations proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney. The city administration previously argued the car allowances were necessary to maintain promises to hired city directors and keep the city competitive in terms of recruitment, but council members called the restorations out of touch.

The Cincinnati area’s jobless rate dropped from 6.9 percent in August 2012 to 6.7 percent in August this year as the economy added 11,500 jobs, more than the 3,000 required to keep up with annual population growth.

The former chief financial officer for local bus service Metro is receiving a $50,000 settlement from the agency after accusing her ex-employer of retaliating against her for raising concerns about issues including unethical behavior and theft. Metro says it’s not admitting to breaking the law and settled to avoid litigation.

Ohio House Democrats say state Republicans denied access to an empty hearing room for an announcement of legislation that would undo recently passed anti-abortion restrictions. But a spokesperson for the House Republican caucus said the speaker of the House did try to accommodate the announcement and called accusations of malicious intent “absurd.” The accusations come just one week after the state’s public broadcasting group pulled cameras from an internal meeting about abortion, supposedly because the hearing violated the rules. The legislation announced by Democrats yesterday undoes regulations and funding changes passed in the state budget that restrict abortion and defund family planning clinics, but the Democratic bill has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled legislature.

Ohioans will be able to pick from an average of 46 plans when new health insurance marketplaces launch on Oct. 1 under Obamacare, and the competition will push prices down, according to a new report. CityBeat covered Obamacare’s marketplaces and efforts to promote and obstruct them in further detail here.

Ohio lawmakers intend to pursue another ban on Internet cafes that would be insusceptible to referendum, even as petitioners gather signatures to get the original ban on the November 2014 ballot. State officials argue the ban is necessary because Internet cafes, which offer slot-machine-style games on computer terminals, are hubs of illegal gambling activity. But Internet cafe owners say what they offer isn’t gambling because customers always get something of value — phone or Internet time — in exchange for their money.

Ohio tea party groups can’t find candidates to challenge Republican incumbents.

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed the first openly gay U.S. appeals court judge.

The Cincinnati area is among the top 20 places for surgeons, according to consumer finance website ValuePenguin.

A graphic that’s gone viral calls Ohio the “nerdiest state.”

Insects apparently have personalities, and some love to explore.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.23.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
convergys

Report: Government "Megadeals" Fail to Produce Jobs

Ohio ranks No. 3 for massive subsidy deals with corporations

Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials.

In the Good Jobs First report released on June 19, Ohio tied with Texas as No. 3 for megadeals, which Good Jobs First defines as subsidies worth $75 million or more. Michigan topped the list with 29 deals, followed by New York with 23.

In the Cincinnati area, local and state agencies agreed to pay $196.4 million to Convergys in 2003 and $121 million to General Electric in 2009 to keep and create jobs in the area.

It’s no secret the deal with Convergys went sour for Cincinnati. In December 2011, the company, which provides outsourced call center services, agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city because the company’s downtown employment fell below 1,450 — the number of jobs required under the initial deal. The reimbursement deal also calls for the company to pay an additional $5 million if its downtown employment falls below 500 before 2020.

The Good Jobs First report finds this kind of failure is not exclusive to the Convergys megadeal or Cincinnati; instead, the report argues that megadeals are expensive and often fail to live up to expectations.

“Despite their high costs, some of the deals involve little if any new job creation,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy in a statement. “Some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company threatens to move and gets paid to stay put. Others involve interstate job piracy, in which a company gets subsidies to move existing jobs across a state border, sometimes within the same metropolitan area.”

For the jobs that are kept and created, states and cities end up paying $456,000 on average, with the cheapest deals costing less than $25,000 per job and the most expensive costing more than $7 million per job.

The report finds the number of megadeals per year has doubled since 2008, on top of getting more expensive in the past three decades. Each megadeal averaged at about $157 million in the 1980s, eventually rising to $325 million in the 2000s. The average cost dropped to $260 million in the 2010s, reflecting the price of deals made in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which strapped city and state budgets.

“These subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report, in a statement. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.”

Ultimately, the report aims to increase transparency for such subsidies, reflecting an ongoing goal for Good Jobs First. To do this, the organization has set up a database (www.subsidytracker.org) that anyone can visit to track past, present and future subsidy deals.

But the report claims much of this work should already be done by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which “has been long-negligent in failing to promulgate regulations for how state and local governments should account for tax-based economic development expenditures,” according to a policy sidebar from LeRoy. “If GASB were to finally promulgate such regulations — covering both programs and deals — taxpayers would have standardized, comparable statistics about megadeals and could better weigh their costs and benefits.”

 
 
by German Lopez 04.02.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
city hall

Council Members Demand Answers on Budget Alternatives

City officials frame budget debate with two choices, but there are more options

Councilman Chris Seelbach says Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials are wrong to claim Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make other cuts to city services, is the only solution to the city’s budget deficit if the parking plan isnt implemented.

Seelbach and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called for a special City Council session on April 4 to get the city administration to answer questions about alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters.

Seelbach, who opposes the parking plan, has pointed to casino revenue and cuts in programs ranked poorly by the city’s priority-driven budgeting process as two potential alternatives to eliminating at least 269 public safety positions.

“We spent $100,000 on the priority-based budget process to give the public and a diverse cross-section of the entire city input on what the Council and the city should be spending money on,” Seelbach says. “We should be using those results when deciding where we should make cuts.”

In the midst of the parking plan debate, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent.

At a press conference on March 28, Mayor Mark Mallory implied the plan is unworkable because it relies on November ballot initiatives. “We don’t have until November,” he said.

But Seelbach says City Council could pass a stub budget that would sustain the city financially until the ballot measures are voted on. If both the measures are rejected, City Council would then be required to make further adjustments to balance the budget.

Even without the ballot initiatives, Seelbach’s suggestions for casino revenue and cuts based on the priority-driven budgeting process could be approved by City Council to avoid at least two-thirds of the $18.1 million in public safety cuts outlined by Dohoney’s Plan B memo. Seelbach says further cuts could be made through the budget-driven priority process if necessary.

“It worries me that these threats of 344 layoffs is just an attempt to sell the parking plan,” he says. “Every option should be on the table.”

Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that City Council could choose its own cuts and use other revenue, including casino revenue, to balance the budget.

“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” she said. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another plan.”

In the 2013 mayoral race, the threat of laying off cops and firefighters has played a prominent role in the parking plan debate. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley has repeatedly said the threats are “the boy crying wolf.” On Friday, he proposed his own budget plan that he says would avoid layoffs, but critics say Cranley’s casino revenue estimates ignore recent trends.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another Democratic candidate for mayor, said the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters if the parking plan doesn’t go into effect, echoing earlier comments she made in a blog post Sunday.

On March 6, City Council passed a plan that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Development Authority to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). But the plan is being held up by a referendum effort after a ruling from Judge Robert Winkler on March 28.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.10.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Interactive Map: State Earned Income Tax Credit

Policy Matters Ohio releases county-by-county map detailing tax credit

As part of an effort supporting a state earned income tax credit (EITC), Policy Matters Ohio unveiled an interactive map today that shows the potential benefits to taxpayers in different counties.

For Hamilton County, about 19 percent of tax-filing households would qualify for the program. A 10-percent EITC would return about $15.6 million to households in Hamilton County, or about $225 on average for each qualifying filer. A 20-percent EITC would return about $31.2 million to Hamilton County, with each qualifying filer getting about $451 on average.

EITC is a tax credit that goes to working families, typically favoring low- and middle-income earners with children. It is already used by the federal government and several states to progressively reward employment.

CityBeat previously covered Policy Matter's efforts and how EITC could replace Gov. John Kasich's tax proposals, which would expand the sales tax and cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board, here.

Since then, Ohio House Republicans have rejected most of Kasich's tax proposals, instead downsizing the plan to a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut with no sales tax expansion.

Here is the interactive map, courtesy of Policy Matters:


 
 

 

 

 
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