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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.

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by German Lopez 01.15.2014
city hall

City Council Tackles Progressive Agenda

Democratic majority pushes initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion

City Council on Wednesday advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion.

The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project.

The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years.

Responsible bidder

Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.

The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system.

The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training.

But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules.

The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives.

“We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.”

The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose.

“Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.

If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully continues.

Supportive housing project in Avondale

A supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.

Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.

Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.

Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.

National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.

“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.

Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.

Disparity study

City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts.

The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support.

But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced doubts that the studys findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses.

Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete.

“I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city.

Other notable actions

• Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials.

• Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth.

• Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities.

• Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the mayor and council originally established to look into halting the project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.

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

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.
by 02.24.2011
Posted In: Social Justice, Business, Financial Crisis at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

American Inequality at a Glance

There was a period of time in U.S history, roughly for 30 years after the Civil War, known as “the Gilded Age.” The American economy grew at an unprecedented rate as the nation transformed itself from an agrarian society into an industrial one.

But the transformation's downside included excessive displays of wealth and captains of industry who grew their fortunes on the backs of exploited and mistreated workers. The government ignored the situation, as the era gave rise to the concept of “social Darwinism.”

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by German Lopez 07.30.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Health care, Parking at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City mulling disparity study, Medicaid expansion bill underway, parking hours criticized

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. The study could cost between $500,000 to $1 million, according to city officials. Because of a U.S. Supreme Court case, the city must carry out the study before it can impose policies that favorably target minorities or women with business contracts. Since the city's last race- and gender-based program was dismantled 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, but rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively unchanged. But the numbers could be understating how many minority-owned businesses there are because classifying as one is now voluntary, while it was mandatory in the 1990s.

State Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee, says he wants to move on a package of bills that would include the Medicaid expansion by early October. The bills will also tackle other issues, such as how to deal with growing concerns about opiate addiction in Ohio. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the federally funded Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and generate roughly $1.8 billion for the state in the next year. But Republican legislators in the General Assembly say they're concerned the federal government won't be able to uphold its commitment to the expansion. Recent polling found about 63 percent of Ohioans support expanding Medicaid.

East side residents pleaded with Greater Cincinnati Port Authority officials yesterday to reduce enforcement hours for parking meters under the city's controversial parking lease. The plan allows for enforcement until 9 p.m., but residents say it should only go to 6 p.m. to avoid hurting local businesses that might rely on free parking during the evening. The city is leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then manage the assets through private operators from around the country. The city administration estimates the deal will produce $92 million up front and at least $3 million a year afterward for Cincinnati, which officials plan to use for development projects and to help close budget gaps.

Meanwhile, opponents of the parking lease appealed their legal challenge to the Ohio Supreme Court. Opponents argue the lease should be susceptible to voter referendum. The city claims Cincinnati's emergency clause powers allow council members to expedite laws and remove the possibility of referendum altogether. The legal challenge was initially successful in a lower court, but the appeals court ultimately sided with the city. It's unclear whether the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the challenge.

Legal experts say it's unclear which, if any, of Ohio's new abortion restrictions could survive a court battle. The anti-abortion measures, which were passed in the state budget by Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich, impose a series of regulatory hurdles that require extra medical procedures prior to getting an abortion and could be used to shut down abortion clinics.

An internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report suggests that fracking, an oil- and gas-extraction process, can contaminate underground drinking water. The findings could have implications for Ohio, which is currently undergoing a fracking boom as companies rush to tap into oil and gas reserves in northeastern parts of the state. CityBeat covered Ohio’s fracking boom in further detail here.

Councilwoman Pam Thomas and ex-Councilman Cecil Thomas want everyone to know that they have not endorsed anyone for mayor.

Ryan Widmer's mother, who gained notoriety for defending Widmer during his three trials, was found dead yesterday. There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play. Widmer is currently serving 15 years for drowning his wife in a bathtub in 2008.

Scientists may have to genetically modify oranges to save them from a deadly disease.

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.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012

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 04.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Duke Energy lost its appeal Thursday that sought to get more money from its customers to reimburse the firm for damages it sustained to equipment in the September 2008 windstorm. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) involving the restoration of electrical service after the storm that was caused by Hurricane Ike. In January 2011, PUCO ruled to allow Duke to recover about $14.1 million of the $30 million it had requested. With revenues of $14.53 billion for 2011, we're confident Duke can absorb the loss. Besides, isn't that the sort of thing that qualifies as “the cost of doing business?” Buck up, James Rogers.

The Reds emerged victorious Thursday in its season opener against the Marlins, winning 4-0. Reds Manager Dusty Baker credited pitcher Aroldis Chapman's performance for helping put the team over the top. It was the team's first Opening Day shut-out since 1980. Players might have been buoyed on by the 42,956 people watching them play – the second-largest attendance at Great American Ball Park, surpassed only by a playoff loss to Philadelphia in 2010.

As might be surmised from the above figures, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade before the game also had one of its largest crowds ever. Organizers credited the turnout to sunny weather, a later start time and optimism about the Reds' prospects this season.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is asking Avondale residents to help patrol the neighborhood as part of efforts to stop an uptick in shootings there. At least five people were shot Sunday night a few blocks from the Avondale Pride Center, police said. Officers have increased their presence in the neighborhood, but residents said they know the solution must involve a network of community members working with police.

A series of meetings will be held this month to give the public a chance to offer input on various plans for updating or replacing the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River. The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 11 at Covington City Hall, with later sessions planned for April 24 at Longworth Hall and April 25 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. economy added a relatively weak 120,000 jobs in March, compared with 240,000 in February, but the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, the Labor Department reported today. Analysts had forecast a 205,000 gain in non-farm payrolls, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Some critics are alleging the Republican National Committee was actively helping Mitt Romney win the GOP's presidential nomination, instead of serving as an impartial arbiter of the process. The list of grievances ranges from “issues the party acknowledges are legitimate, to those that they dismiss as desperate fixations from Romney’s flailing rivals,” Politico reports. The committee agrees that some states that went for Romney jumped the line in the primary schedule, a violation of party rules. But it shrugs off other complaints, like that it undermined rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich by formatting a delegate tracking list to pad Romney’s tally.

An Iraqi defector whose lies helped spark the United States' decision to invade Iraq, starting a nine-year war that cost more than 100,000 lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, confessed to making up his tale to get U.S. leaders to act. In his first British TV interview this week, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi – known as “Curveball' in intelligence circles – admitted that he knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, as he had alleged.

A Florida woman was arrested after allegedly offering to have sex in exchange for two hamburgers off of McDonald's dollar menu. Christine Baker, 47, was walking on a Southwest Florida street last Friday when she was approached by a detective working in the Manatee County Sheriff Office’s special investigations division, according to a sheriff’s office report. After the undercover detective invited Baker into his car and the talk turned to sex, she said her fee would be two double cheeseburgers.

A British infant that essentially was born without any blood is being hailed by doctors as a miracle baby by her doctors for surviving her ordeal. Olivia Norton, who is now six months old, was born completely white because she had such a low count of hemoglobin – the chemical which carries oxygen in red blood cells – that it could not officially be classified as “blood.” She was nicknamed "ghost baby" and given less than two hours to live, but survived thanks to emergency transfusions.
by Hannah McCartney 11.08.2013
Posted In: Business, News at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
chase main street grants1

Help a Cincinnati Small Business Win a $250,000 Grant

Local businesses need votes to go before panel of judges

Cincinnati-area businesses only have a few more days left to garner enough votes to enter the running to win a slice of $3 million Chase Bank will award to 12 small businesses across the country.

Chase's Mission Main Street Grants program is designed to help small businesses grow. Although the registration deadline has passed, there are about 65 small local businesses who've applied hoping to enter the running. Click here and search "Cincinnati" to see which local businesses are vying for a grant, and vote for your favorite using your Facebook account.

In order to earn eligibility, small businesses need to garner 250 votes from supporters, which will allow them to move onto the selection phase where a Chase panel will review small businesses' applications and choose winners based on enthusiasm, likelihood to succeed, a well thought-out growth plan and positive impact in the community.

The 12 winners will receive a $250,000 grant, plus a Google Chromebook Pixel laptop and a trip to Google for a small business workshop with Google whizzes. Voting ends on Nov. 15, and winners will be announced in January 2014. 

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

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.