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by Andy Brownfield 08.08.2012
 
 
levy

Commissioners Vote to Keep Senior, Mental Health Levies Flat

Tax levies will stay at 2008 levels, representing millions in reduced funding for services

Faced with the choice of raising property taxes or funding senior and mental health services at their current levels, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve a ballot measure that would effectively cut tens of millions of dollars from those services if passed by voters.

“It seems wrongheaded for us to ask citizens to pay more in taxes when their homes are worth less, when costs have gone up in their households and when in many cases their paychecks are down,” said Board President Greg Hartmann. “So we need to hold the line on those property taxes.”

The tax rate would be held at the levels passed by voters in 2008, which would be an effective reduction due to declining property values. If Hamilton County voters approve the levies in November, senior services would see a $7 million reduction in funding over the next five years — down to $97 million from $104 million — while funding for mental health services would fall $17 million from $187 million to $170 million, Hartmann said.

The money funds services such as meals on wheels, in-home care for seniors, counseling and drug and alcohol addiction and treatment services.

The board’s sole Democrat — Commissioner Todd Portune — made the symbolic gesture of submitting an alternate proposal which would have funded services at the levels providers had requested, but it failed without support from either of the board’s two Republican members.

Portune’s resolution would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 the property was worth. He said voters should be given the option to shoulder the additional tax burden. He later voted in favor of Hartmann’s resolution, saying the worst thing that could happen would be for voters to approve no levy.

Commissioners also approved a resolution to formally review all healthcare services provided by the county in hopes of saving money by eliminating any that were duplicated at the federal level under the healthcare overhaul.

Hartmann said he didn’t come to the decision to keep the levies at the current rate lightly and pledged to work with the recipients to manage the reduction.

Many of those providers appeared at three public hearings held in the last month and with near unanimity asked commissioners to approve the increased rates — which would have kept funding even by countering the money lost from decreased property values.

Patrick Tribbe, president and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, didn’t outline specific cuts the agency would undertake, but told reporters after the commissioners’ vote that he would spend the next six months planning for the start of the next fiscal year, when the cuts would take effect.

The Tax Levy Review Committee had recommended that the property tax rate remain flat instead of increasing. It suggested that service providers reduce their administrative costs and find areas to increase efficiency. 

Many of the providers who spoke at the public hearings said they had already cut administrative costs about as deeply as they could and had very little room for to cut further.

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.19.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

The ever-debated, never implemented property tax increase will continue to be nonexistent, as will a new police station, playgrounds, some public pools, Music Hall renovations and certain street repavings and building demolitions, according to The Enquirer. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan will make the deciding vote against City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed tax increase, which would add $46 to the owner of a $100,000. Also against disproportionately taxing rich people are Councilmen Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn. Quilivan says the government isn’t the right size and that the government should make the tougher changes before asking for more revenue.

Here are two ways to report the latest news regarding potential Duke Energy rate hike connected to streetcar construction:

• From The Enquirer:  Duke customers could face streetcar tab

• From The Business Courier: “Cincinnati, Duke making progress on moving utility lines

A 15-year-old girl was killed in Over-the-Rhine around 11 p.m. last night. She was reportedly standing with a group of people, though Police haven’t released any details about the shooter.

A new poll shows support for President Obama’s shift on immigration policy.

More Asians are immigrating to the U.S. than Hispanics these days.

Adult humans are 16.5 million tons overweight, which researchers say will threaten the world’s food security and environmental resources.

Approximately half of all new AIDS cases are occurring in the South, and the region is severely short on HIV specialists.

Attorneys for the Penn State football coach who showered with a bunch of boys are starting their defense by painting him in a positive light.

Spotify will stop charging $10 per month for use on mobile devices. Free now.

Facebook acquires Face.com. Ha.

Former baseball player Roger Clemens was acquitted of perjury charges, the latest in a bunch of wasted time by the federal government investigating athletes who can afford really good lawyers.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.04.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Media at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
reporter notebook

Reporter's Notebook: Mitt Romney Comes to Town

Amusements and things that didn't make it into our story

There are a lot of things that don’t make it into any given news story. When you attend an event as a reporter, such as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Union Terminal last Saturday (as I did), you wait in line for about an hour, then wait inside for another hour while security checks every visitor.

During that time, you’re talking to people who are attending, taking notes to provide color for the story (things such as what songs are playing, slogans on shirts or signs, the general mood or atmosphere) and getting information from the event staff, such as how many tickets were given out, how many people are estimated to attend, etc.

Then there are the speakers — about an hour of politicians talking. After that, there’s the counter press conference with local Democratic officials. Then you make phone calls to fill in any gaps.

With all of that material and the average reader attention span on 800 words, a lot of information gets left out of any given piece. So here are some things I found interesting from Romney’s visit that didn’t make it into my story that day.

  • The most popular attire seemed to be Reds items. Many event-goers wore Reds T-shirts or caps, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who spoke at the event, wore a Reds ballcap and opened his speech with “So Cincinnati, how about these Redlegs?” and talked about Jay Bruce’s homer the previous night.
  • U.S. House Speaker John Boehner attended the rally. I remember seeing him on TV at the Republican National Convention and commenting that he didn’t look as tan anymore. Must have been the cameras. In person, he was at least five shades darker than the pasty Portman.
  • U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot also spoke at the rally. While most speakers stuck to short speeches meant to pump up attendees and introduce Romney, Chabot got local. He encouraged attendees to vote against Issue 2, a ballot measure appearing in November that would change the way redistricting is done in Ohio. Currently congressional redistricting is done by the Legislature, which can give one party an advantage if they control both houses and the governor’s mansion. Chabot said Issue 2, which would set up an independent commission to redraw congressional districts, would allow special interest groups to take voters out of the equation and have the lines drawn by “unelected, unaccountable” people. (CityBeat covered this year's redistricting issue here and here.)
  • As politicians do, speakers from both Republican and Democratic camps tried to spin the message. Portman told rally attendees that we were in the midst of the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, a statement independent fact checkers determined to be false. UPDATE 9/5/12: According to Republicans in the Joint Economic Committee and a report by The Associated Press economic growth and consumer spending have recovered more slowly from this recession than any time since The Great Depression. A PolitiFact check of Romney's claim that it was the slowest jobs recovery was deemed to be false.
  • Meanwhile, in their press conference after the rally, Democrats had maybe a dozen local Cincinnatians in a small public area near Music Hall. Obama’s campaign provided signs and had them all crowd behind a podium where local politicians spoke. For the TV cameras, it probably looked like a sizeable crowd, which is an old trick.
  •  
     
    by Danny Cross 06.04.2012
     
     
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    Morning News and Stuff

    Hamilton County has been killing people more often than Ohio counties of similar size, despite actually asking for the death penalty less often. Today's Enquirer takes a look at the growing opposition to the death penalty in other states and recent legislation and task forces aimed at either studying its effectiveness or stopping the practice altogether. Prosecutor Joe Deters says he's going to kill all the people who deserve it because the law is still the law.

    Would you like to pay tolls or higher gas taxes in order to have a new Brent Spence Bridge? No? Then you're like a majority of people who take the time to respond to Enquirer polls.

    City Manager Milton Dohoney plans to ask City Council to raise the property tax rate in response to a projected $33 million 2013 deficit that everyone knows was coming.

    The Community Press on the East Side says Norfolk Southern is willing to consider selling the Wasson Way right of way that some would like to see turned into a bike trail. CityBeat in March found the proposed trail to have support among cycling enthusiasts but some resistance from light rail supporters.

    President Obama hooked up an 11-year-old kid with a note excusing him from class on Friday.

    “He says, ‘Do you want me to write an excuse note? What’s your teacher’s name?” Sullivan told ABC. “And I say, Mr. Ackerman. And he writes, ‘Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president.'"

    Fortune magazine has taken exception to Mitt Romney's recent criticism of Solyndra, the solar panel company that went out of business despite a $500 million Department of Energy loan.

    So last Thursday Romney held a surprise press conference at Solyndra's shuttered headquarters. During his prepared statement, Romney said:

    "An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Administration had steered money to friends and family and campaign contributors."

    Romney then repeated the claim later in the press conference.

    Small problem: No inspector general ever "concluded" such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements.

    Wisconsin Gov./Union Crusher Scott Walker holds a slight lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to a recent poll.

    George Zimmerman is back in jail after what his attorney is calling a misunderstanding over telling a judge that he had limited money even though a website set up to fund his legal defense raised more than $135,000.

    Legal issues will be involved in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban giant sodas.

    Jason Alexander has released a lengthy and quite thoughtful apology for referring to the sport of cricket as "a bit gay" during a recent appearance on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

    Why do people on the West Coast get to see all the cool stuff that happens in space? First the eclipse and now the Transit of Venus, when Venus will cross paths between the sun and earth. Next time it will happen is 2117. And Australia got to see a partial lunar eclipse the other day, too.

     
     
    by Danny Cross 10.31.2011
     
     
    tebow1

    Morning News and Stuff

    The Cincinnati Enquirer announced its endorsements over the weekend, and four incumbents were left thinking, “What the [expletive] did I do?!?” The current councilpersons who the paper decided not to endorse are Republican Wayne Lippert, who was appointed in March, and Republicans Leslie Ghiz and Charlie Winburn, along with Democrat Cecil Thomas.

    Ghiz was described as having a penchant for starting arguments that have been “personal, petty and nasty,” while Winburn's “unpredictable behavior” was noted along with Thomas' problems fully grasping budget and finance issues.

    Read More

     
     
    by German Lopez 10.18.2012
     
     
    yesonissue2

    Morning News and Stuff

    In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

    In case you missed it, CityBeat is hosting a party for the final presidential debate at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. There will be live tweeting, and Councilman Chris Seelbach will be on-hand to discuss this year's key issues. Even if you can’t come, make sure to live tweet during the presidential debate using the hashtag #cbdebate. More info can be found at the event’s Facebook page.

    A new study found redistricting makes government even more partisan. The Fair Vote study says redistricting divides government into clear partisan boundaries by eliminating competitive districts. In Ohio, redistricting is handled by elected officials, and they typically use the process for political advantage by redrawing district boundaries to ensure the right demographics for re-election. Issue 2 attempts to combat this problem. If voters approve Issue 2, redistricting will be taken out of the hands of elected officials and placed into the hands of an independent citizens commission. The Republican-controlled process redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, by adding Warren County to the district. Since Warren County typically votes Republican, this gives an advantage to Republicans in the First Congressional District. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting reform effort here.

    Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will face off in another debate for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate today. The two candidates met Monday in a feisty exchange in which the men argued over their records and policies. Brown and Mandel will face off at 8 p.m. The debate will be streamed live on 10TV.com and Dispatch.com. Currently, the race is heavily in Brown’s favor; he is up 5.2 points in aggregate polling.

    Cincinnati is moving forward with its bike sharing program. A new study found the program will attract 105,000 trips in its first year, and it will eventually expand to 305,000 trips a year. With the data in hand, Michael Moore, director of the Department of Transportation and Engineering, justified the program to The Business Courier: “We want Cincinnatians to be able to incorporate cycling into their daily routine, and a bike share program will help with that. Bike share helps introduce citizens to active transportation, it reduces the number of short auto trips in the urban core, and it promotes sustainable transportation options.”

    Cincinnati’s school-based health centers are showing promise. Two more are scheduled to open next year.

    Echoing earlier comments by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio Senate Republicans are now talking about using the lame duck session to take up a bill that would set standard early voting hours and tighten voting requirements. Republicans are promising broad consensus, but Democrats worry the move could be another Republican ploy at voter suppression. Republicans defend the law by saying it would combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud isn’t a real issue. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found zero examples of in-person voter fraud in the last 10 years. Another investigation by News21 had similar results. Republicans have also justified making voting tougher and shorter by citing racial politics and costs.

    A Hamilton County judge’s directive is causing trouble. Judge Tracie Hunter sent out a directive to hire a second court administrator because she believes the current county administrator is only working for the other juvenile judge. The county government is trying to figure out if Hunter has the authority to hire a new administrator.

    This year’s school report card data held up a long-term trend: Public schools did better than charter schools. In Ohio, the average charter school meets slightly more than 30 percent of the state’s indicators, while the average traditional public school meets 78 percent of the state’s indicators, according to findings from the education policy fellow at left-leaning Innovation Ohio. The data for all Ohio schools can be found here. 

    Some in the fracking industry are already feeling a bit of a bust. The gas drilling business is seeing demand rapidly drop, and that means $1 billion lost in profits. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the potential fracking bust here.

    Ohio student loan debt is piling up. A report by Project on Student Debt says Ohio has the seventh-highest student loan debt in the nation with an average of $28,683 in 2011. That number is a 3.5 percent increase from 2010.

    What if Abraham Lincoln ran for president today?

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could soon be reality. Scientists are developing a drug that removes bad memories during sleep.

     
     
    by German Lopez 07.25.2012
    Posted In: 2012 Election, Environment, News, Weather at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
     
     
    250px-seal_of_the_state_auditor_of_ohio.svg copy

    Morning News and Stuff

    A performance audit for the Cincinnati Service Department could save the city $3.7 million. The audit claims $2 million could be saved every year if the city privately contracted solid waste collection and street sweeping. An additional $1.7 million could be saved if the city reduced overtime, sick leave and staffing levels. Along with other recommended savings measures, the changes could amount to 7.9 percent of Cincinnati’s budget.

    Trayvon Martin’s parents will be visiting Cincinnati today to take part in the national conference hosted by the Children’s Defense Fund. The conference will target violence and race-related issues.

    Procter & Gamble and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have teamed up to improve environmental sustainability at manufacturing facilities and supply chains.

    The worst U.S. drought in half a century is putting pressure on oil and gas companies to recycle and conserve water used for fracking. Fracking uses millions of gallons of water to free oil and gas from underground rock formations.

    Gay marriage has generated $259 million in economic activity in New York City.

    The Congressional Budget Office said repealing Obamacare would increase the deficit by $109 billion.

    Voters sometimes punish politicians for bad weather.

    Some scientists are saying the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man might not be too far off from reality.

     
     
    by Kevin Osborne 04.25.2012
     
     
    pit bull

    Morning News and Stuff

    Cincinnati City Council took the first step Tuesday in repealing the city's ban on owning Pit Bull terriers. Council's Livable Communities Committee voted 5-1 to support repeal, saying it was unfair to single out a specific breed for harsher treatment. Experts have said Pit Bulls aren't inherently vicious, and that their treatment and training by their owners is responsible for any bad behavior. Councilman Cecil Thomas opposed the repeal, stating he was concerned about “enforcement issues.” The full City Council could make a final decision as soon as this afternoon. CityBeat examined the ban in-depth here.

    Police Chief James Craig met Tuesday morning with 19 ministers and community leaders in an Avondale church. Craig wants to create a partnership with clergy to combat youth violence and shootings. It was the second such session that Craig has held this month. Since police presence was increased in Avondale April 2, no more shootings have occurred in the neighborhood.

    A Cincinnati police officer was hospitalized after being hurt for the second time on the job. Officer Jerry Enneking has survived four car crashes while on-duty. The 23-year police veteran was rear-ended in a five-car crash Tuesday. Seeing another driver trapped, Enneking ignored his own injuries and helped rescue the person.

    Tim Tebow, the prayerful quarterback for the New York Jets, will be in town today for two events at Cincinnati Christian University in Price Hill. The first already is sold out, but there are $500 tickets still available for a banquet. Both events will focus on how Tebow balances his life in the NFL with his faith.

    The School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Over-the-Rhine is being awarded a $45,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The SCPA competed with more than 300 other groups for the cash, which will be used to support the school's Master's Artist Series and Artists in Residence programs for the next school year.

    In news elsewhere, an ex-drilling engineer for BP Oil has been arrested on charges of intentionally destroying text messages sought by federal authorities as evidence in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill. If found guilty, Mix could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.

    As expected, Willard Mitt Romney swept the five Republican presidential primaries held Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor got 67.4 percent of the vote in Connecticut, 56.5 percent in Delaware, 62.4 percent in New York, 58 percent in Pennsylvania, and 63.2 percent in Rhode Island. Most of the other GOP contenders have conceded the nomination race to Romney.

    During the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States had the worst job creation record in decades, suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression and borrowed billions of dollars from China to support two wars. If you've been wondering how Romney or other Republican politicians running for office would do anything differently, wonder no more. Alexandra Franceschi, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in an interview last week that the GOP's economic platform will be the same as that under Bush, just “updated.” There, voters: You have been warned.

    A Brooklyn district attorney is resisting a public records request to divulge the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges there during the past three years. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says the "tight-knit" nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims. A Jewish newspaper might file a legal challenge to the decision.

    Despite numerous cuts to government spending in the name of austerity — or perhaps because of it, if you listen to some economists — the United Kingdom has now officially sunk into a double-dip recession, its first since the 1970s. Economic indicators reveal the U.K. economy has performed even more weakly since the current financial crisis began than in the Great Depression.

     
     
    by Kevin Osborne 03.08.2012
     
     
    wenstrup

    Morning News and Stuff

    Since it's an election year, it must be about time for pandering by lawmakers seeking to keep their offices. Cue U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood), who is proposing a bill in response to fears about an influx of publicly subsidized housing for the poor into suburban areas. Chabot wants to impose time limits and work requirements on most people who get Section 8 federal housing vouchers. If approved, the bill would impose a five-year time limit on Section 8 recipients and require those 18 and older to work for at least 20 hours each week. Even if the measure passes the House, it's unlikely to pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama, leaving us to wonder what Chabot's true motive is. Any guesses?

    Believe it or not, Cincinnati is Ohio's wealthiest city, sort of, according to a Business Courier study of U.S. Census data. A total of 3.7 percent of households in the Cincinnati-Middletown metropolitan area have income of $200,000 or more. The No. 2 metro area in the state was Columbus, with 3.63 percent of its households earning that much. Of course, the rankings involve entire regions, not just the city itself, and Greater Cincinnati includes such affluent enclaves like Indian Hill, Mason and West Chester Township. (Suck on it, Bexley.)

    Crews from Duke Energy are investigating what caused an explosion and fire under a downtown street on Tuesday. The blast happened under the intersection of Fourth and Main streets at about 9 a.m., and both streets were blocked for much of the day. No one was injured in the mishap.

    Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist from Columbia Tusculum who scored an upset victory Tuesday in the GOP primary against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), is crediting grassroots organization for his unlikely win. Wenstrup and his surrogates actively campaigned in all corners of the sprawling 2nd Congressional District, which was recently redrawn through redistricting. Although Wenstrup portrayed himself as a moderate when he sought his first political office, in the Cincinnati's mayor race in 2009, his latest campaign positioned him as a darling of the Tea Party movement.

    The American Red Cross has established a hotline for Clermont County residents to call if they have an immediate need for housing as a result of last Friday's tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. The number is 513-579-3024.

    Despite rumors to the contrary, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) said he won't move to Washington state to run for one of the three open congressional seats there. The longtime progressive congressman lost in Tuesday's Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. The two lawmakers recently were redistricted into the same area. Kucinich told reporters Wednesday he will stay on and represent his Cleveland district through the end of his term in January 2013. He would have to resign his current seat if he were to move to Washington state to establish residency for a campaign there.

    In news elsewhere, U.S. intelligence officials are monitoring the transfer of millions of dollars to foreign accounts by wealthy Syrians who have ties to President Bashar al-Assad. The officials are trying to determine whether the transfers mean Assad's regime is weakening or if the elites are merely hedging their bets. Assad is under increasing international pressure due to his violent crackdown on anti-government protestors during the past year.

    Meanwhile, a Syrian deputy oil minister says he is resigning to join the revolt against the government. Abdo Hussameddin, 58, announced his defection in a video posted on YouTube.

    The Obama administration is being criticized for how it treats whistleblowers who reveal instances of misconduct in the public and private sectors. In recent years, the White House has set a record by accusing six government employees, who allegedly leaked classified information to reporters, of violating the Espionage Act, a law dating to 1917. Also, it is alleged to have ignored workers who have risked their careers to expose wrongdoing in the corporate and financial arena, even though there are laws available to protect them.

    The House is expected to vote today on a jobs bill that would mark rare agreement between the Obama administration and House Republicans, CNN reports. The proposal is comprised of six measures aimed at removing barriers to small business investment.

     
     
    by Danny Cross 07.05.2012
    Posted In: 2012 Election, President Obama, News, Sports at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
     
     
    cover_worldchoirgames_countdown

    Morning News and Stuff

    The World Choir Games kicked off last night with an opening ceremony that CityBeat’s Anne Arenstein thoroughly enjoyed. Arenstein in a blog described choirs from West Chester, Loveland and Pleasant Ridge mingling with groups from Japan, Colombia, Canada and Australia, along with “spontaneous singing and dancing.” The event takes place at various venues through July 17. More info here.

    Kentucky has a higher rate of women who smoke while pregnant than other parts of the country. The state health department has apparently felt the need to remind people that when you inhale cancerous chemicals with a baby inside your body, the baby gets some too. 

    Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is willing to offer the full strength of his office should any knuckleheads try to rip off the state’s new casinos. In a joint statement with Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, DeWine articulated his dedication to stopping cheaters  in casinos. The state charged seven people for increasing bet sizes or removing bets when you’re not allowed to anymore. 

    President Obama has begun a two-day bus tour through northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The tour is called ”Betting on America” and will include a defense of Obama’s economic policies while pointing out that the auto bailout worked and Mitt Romney outsourced mass jobs. 

    Mitt Romney is reportedly considering choosing a woman as a running mate, and Romney’s wife says “I don’t have a problem with that.”

    London built a new skyscraper called “The Shard.” It’s 95 [expletive] stories high.

    Reuters says there are positive signs for the struggling job market. 

    Veteran NBA point guard Steve Nash is joining the L.A. Lakers, and Pau Gasol says it will be a huge honor to play with the dude. Kobe says, "Meh."

     
     

     

     

     
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