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by German Lopez 03.29.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Fracking at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake

Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects, but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a referendum effort is complete.

Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again, proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.” Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose $40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.

A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake. The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.

In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits. In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits, ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration, but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and redevelopment.”

State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote — a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly support the idea.

A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.

Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.

Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.

New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.

Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.

by German Lopez 04.16.2013
Posted In: News, Terrorism, Budget, City Council at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
boston marathon

Morning News and Stuff

Explosions shake Boston Marathon, council member could resign, sequestration hurts Ohio

Two explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday led to the deaths of at least three and injured at least 140 others, with the deaths including an 8-year-old boy. So far, it is unclear who carried out the bombings. Police said the two bombs were set in trash cans, less than 100 yards apart, near the finish line of the marathon. Officials said police also found two bombs in different locations, but they were not set off. At least 134 entrants from Greater Cincinnati were at the marathon, but none are believed to be hurt, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The bombings were carried out on Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts-based holiday that commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, and tax day. They were the first major act of terrorism on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Councilman Cecil Thomas is set to make a major announcement today at 11:30 a.m. The speculation is that Thomas will officially announce he’s appointing his wife Pamula Thomas to replace him on City Council — a move hes hinted at for a couple months now. Thomas is term limited from running again in City Council, but appointing his wife to his seat could give her some credibility and experience to run in November.

Federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level, is already having an effect on Cincinnati and Ohio, with cuts taking place for education, housing and the environment. In Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into preschool and other early education programs. Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio, says the cuts are only the “tip of the iceberg.”

David Pepper, a Democrat who previously served on City Council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, announced yesterday that he will run for state attorney general. “I have been traveling the state for years now listening to working and middle class Ohioans and it is clear they want a change, a new direction at all levels,” Pepper said in a statement. “I’m running for Ohio Attorney General because Ohioans deserve better.” In the statement, Pepper touted his experience working with law enforcement in Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

At least seven members of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees are asking fellow member Stan Chesley to resign after Chesley’s permanent disbarment by the Kentucky Supreme Court last month. A letter to Chesley from his fellow board members cited the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, claiming he “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Greater Cincinnati housing permits increased by 41 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati. The numbers are another sign the local economy is quickly recovering from the Great Recession.

Convergys plans to fill 1,000 work-at-home call jobs in 60 days.

DunnhumbyUSA is preparing for future growth in Cincinnati by building a new headquarters.

Solar panels may be used to make natural gas 20 percent more efficient and therefore pollute 20 percent less greenhouse gases.

Two new studies of mice and rat skin cells could be used to treat brain disease.

by German Lopez 09.24.2012
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Budget at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

City Council Moves Streetcar Refinancing Plan Forward

Budget committee agrees to shift $29m to keep streetcar on track

City Council’s budget committee voted 6-3 Monday to use $29 million from other projects in part to move utility lines and pipes to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The plan will use $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal and $14 million from a new financing plan to ensure the streetcar’s opening is not delayed further from the current 2015 deadline.

The city claims it will eventually get the $15 million back. That money, which was originally promised to neighborhood projects, will be used to move utility lines and pipes. The city is currently trying to resolve a dispute with Duke Energy over who has to pay to move utility lines and pipes. If the city wins out, Duke will reimburse the costs. If Duke wins out, the money will be lost in the streetcar project.

At the public meeting that preceded the vote Monday, neighborhood officials and streetcar supporters clashed. Opponents to the plan claimed the money should stay in neighborhood projects as originally promised, while streetcar supporters pointed to the benefits of the streetcar for neighborhoods and insisted the money will eventually come back.

Chris Smitherman, Independent; Charlie Winburn, Republican; and P.G. Sittenfeld, Democrat, voted against the plan. Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach — all Democrats — approved the plan.

Jason Barron, spokesperson for Mayor Mark Mallory, says the mayor is in favor of the plan moving forward.

Although the vote included all City Council members, it was not the formal City Council vote. Instead, it was only the budget committee vote. The City Council vote will take place Wednesday.

CORRECTION: This story originally said the entire $29 million plan will be reimbursed by Duke. Only the $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal will be reimbursed if the city wins in the dispute.

by German Lopez 05.30.2013
Posted In: News, Prisons, Budget, Tea Party at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
from the inside

Morning News and Stuff

Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget

Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA accountable. To read the full story, click here.

A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state. The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code, potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes. If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to considerably less funding for the public institutions.

City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters, but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs, increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.

Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”

A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion, while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.

The Ohio legislature is moving to take away the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.

A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Churchs critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital sex rules against women than men.

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.

Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.

Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.

CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.

To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.

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 04.23.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Budget, Police at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

House budget bill may suppress student voters, tax plan favors wealthy, police chief may go

An amendment in the Ohio House budget bill last week would make it so universities have to decide between providing voting information to students or retaining millions of dollars in out-of-state tuition money. The amendment would make it so universities have to classify students as in-state — a classification that means lower tuition rates — when providing documents necessary for voting. Republicans claim the measure is “common sense” because anyone voting for Ohio’s elections should be an Ohio resident. But the amendment has provoked criticism from Democrats and universities alike, who say universities are being thrown into the middle of a voter suppression scheme.

An analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found the tax plan currently working through the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature favors the wealthy. The analysis also claimed there’s little evidence the across-the-board tax cuts suggested would significantly help Ohio’s economy. The plan still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Council members are asking Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to remain in Cincinnati instead of taking a job in Detroit, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. didn’t seem convinced that much can be done. Dohoney said Craig’s hometown is Detroit, a city that has suffered in recent years as the local economy has rapidly declined.

Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is running for governor, and he will make Cincinnati one of his first stops for his campaign kick-off tour. FitzGerald is challenging Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014, who has held the governor’s office since 2010. A recent poll found Kasich in a comfortable position with a nine-point lead on FitzGerald, but many respondents said they don’t know enough about FitzGerald to have an opinion on him.

Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a six-year high in March, with 2,190 homes sold. The strong housing market, which is recovering from a near collapse in 2008, is widely considered by economists to be a good sign for the overall economy.

But Ohio’s venture capital investments dropped to a two-year low, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

The Ohio EPA and Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District are partnering up to provide a $250,000 grant to help purchase equipment to screen, clean and sort glass — an important part of the recycling industry.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to forgo lunch on April 24 to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting. The event will let participants “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives,” according to a press release from Sittenfeld’s office. Participants are also being asked to donate money to the Freestore Foodbank. A ceremony for the event will be held on April 24 at noon in Fountain Square.

The U.S. Senate is moving toward approving bill that would allow states to better enforce and collect online sales taxes.

Mars One is calling all applicants for a mission to colonize Mars in 2023.

The sport of the future is here: combat juggling:

by German Lopez 02.06.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget, Streetcar, Taxes, Privatization at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Petition against privatization, Kasich sales tax hurts many, USquare development criticized

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is circulating a small business petition to stop Cincinnati from privatizing parking services. Sittenfeld threw his support behind the petition in a statement: “Individual citizens have made clear that they are overwhelmingly against outsourcing our parking system. Now we're going to show that small businesses feel the same way. I hope that when council sees that the small businesses that are the engine of our city are strongly against outsourcing our parking, we can then nix the proposal immediately.” The petition asks city officials “to find a smart, resourceful, sustainable alternative to address the budget situation.” City Manager Milton Dohoney says parking privatization is necessary to avoid laying off 344 city workers.

Gov. John Kasich’s expanded sales tax is going to hurt a lot of people. The tax is being expanded to apply to many items included in households’ monthly budgets, such as cable television, laundry services and haircuts. The revenue from the sales tax expansion will be used to cut the state income tax by 20 percent across the board, lower the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and slightly boost county coffers.

City Council and local residents are not impressed with the USquare development. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls described the development: “I have to say that it is underwhelming. And that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it.  And also really repeats, on many different levels, virtually all of the mistakes that have ever been made in the city and in neighborhoods when it comes to creating public spaces.” But architect Graham Kalbli said he’s excited about the plan: “Because we’ve taken a vacant strip of land and really made kind of a living room for the Clifton Heights community. We wanted to do that, that was one of our overriding goals.”

The Hamilton County Board of Elections is subpoenaing 19 voters who are suspected of voting twice in the November election. Most of the voters being investigated filed provisional ballots then showed up to vote on Election Day.

David Mann is officially running for City Council. The Democrat has served as a council member, mayor and congressman in the past.

Traffic congestion isn’t just bad for drivers; it’s also bad for the environment and economy. The Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found traffic congestion cost Cincinnati $947 million in 2011 and produced an an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide.

Leslie Ghiz is taking the judge’s seat a little early. The former city council member was elected to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in November, but she was appointed to the seat early by Gov. John Kasich to replace Dennis Helmick, who retired at the end of 2012.

The magic of capitalism: Delta is already matching a low-cost carrier’s fares to Denver at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

The U.S. Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery starting Aug. 1. The Postal Service has been dealing with financial problems ever since a 2006 mandate from U.S. Congress forced the mail delivery agency to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. Riddled with gridlock, Congress has done nothing to help since the mandate was put in place. This will be the first time the Postal Service doesn’t deliver mail on Saturdays since 1863.

It’s unlikely zombies could be cured by love, but it’s possible they could be cured by science.

The next Michael Jordan has been discovered:

by German Lopez 01.30.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Education, Voting, Budget, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Austerity hurts U.S. economy, voter suppression returns, state income tax benefits rich

Between October and December, the U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies, particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending was actually strong.

Some Republicans want another go at reducing voting rights. Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud in the United States between 2000 and 2012. That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were excluded by photo ID laws in 2012.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax hits the poor and middle class a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1 percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least $324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent. Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between $31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.”

Cincinnati is extending its contract with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really much ado about nothing. SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are expecting a net profit in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees, according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S. economy.

The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is driving economic growth in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties.

When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy Matters report found school choice may hurt education standards in the state.

Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is gearing up to run for the governor's race in 2014.

Scientists have taught bacteria to eat electricity. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.

by German Lopez 03.20.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Immigration at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Jobs fair needs employers, parking petition underway, JobsOhio meets deadline

The city’s Youth Job Fair needs more employers to reach the city’s goal of 100, says Mayor Mark Mallory. The fair offers young people a chance to seek out jobs. Employers can sign up for the free booths at www.mayormallory.com.

The petition to stop the parking plan is at 4,000 signatures — nearly half of the 8,522 required before April 5. Under the plan, the city will lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the 2014 and 2015 budgets and foster economic development, but opponents say the semi-privatization plan will cede too much control of the city’s parking assets and cause rates to skyrocket. Whether the plan is subject to referendum is currently being debated in court.

JobsOhio, the privatized, nonprofit development agency, met the deadline on a subpoena issued by State Auditor Dave Yost to collect the agency’s full financial records, which include public and private funds. JobsOhio also said it will eventually pay back $1 million in public funds. Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans argued only public funds can be checked by the state auditor, but Yost says he’s allowed to seek a full audit. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved JobsOhio in part to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited.

In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote that the children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for a social security number and work permit. DeWine’s letter is not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal adviser, it could put pressure on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ legal team as it continues reviewing Ohio’s driver’s license policy.

Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, is pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC) that could act as a progressive replacement for Gov. John Kasich’s tax plan. The tax credit benefits low- and middle-income people, particularly those with kids. The Policy Matters report says the federal EITC has been one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in the United States.

A bill that will limit the referendum process was pushed through the Ohio House Policy and Oversight Committee, despite warnings from members of the League of Women Voters and Democrats that the bill might draw a constitutional challenge. The bill would give petitioners 10 days to collect additional signatures if their initial submission falls short. Under current law, members can continuously collect signatures while the secretary of state and boards of elections verify the initial batch. The Ohio Constitution gives petitioners 10 days to file, not collect, additional signatures.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled his three-pronged strategy for reducing city blight. The plan would encourage the passage of a state law that would allow people to trespass abandoned properties to remediate them, focus demolition resources on hazardous buildings and expand the city’s vacant foreclosed property registry.

A report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a D for health care transparency. Twenty-nine states got an F, and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts got A’s.

Ohio lawmakers are poised to raise the speed limit on interstates in rural areas to 70 mph.

When The Huffington Post asked Ohio Sen. Rob Portman if he wished it hadn't required a personal experience with gay marriage to alter his position to favor marriage equality, he responded, “Well, it did.” He added, “I'm more of an economic policy wonk. That's always been my background and focus: budget issues and economic growth issues. … That’s just where I was.” Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage two years after finding out his son is gay.

T.J. Lane, the convicted Chardon High School shooter, will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three Ohio students. At hearings yesterday, Lane smiled and mocked the victims’ families.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is looking to fill more than 1,000 jobs.

NASA's advice for a near-term meteor strike: “Pray.” Due to a severe lack of funding, NASA does not have the proper technology to detect all the small asteroids in orbit that could level cities. If a deadly asteroid is detected, the current plan is to crash a spacecraft on it to slow it down or alter its course.

Would you get a vampire facial?

by German Lopez 02.22.2013
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City could raise rate cap, Cranley's website against parking plan, superintendent pays up

While fact checking an interview, CityBeat discovered it will be possible to circumvent the parking plan’s cap on meter rate increases through a multilayer process that involves approval from a special committee, the city manager and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The process adds a potential loophole to one of the city manager’s main defenses against fears of skyrocketing rates, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says raising the cap requires overcoming an extensive series of hurdles: unanimous approval from a board with four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by the city manager, affirmation from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. Olberding says the process is necessary in case anything changes during the 30-year time span of the parking deal, which CityBeat covered in detail here.

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley launched DontSellCincinnati.org to prevent the city manager’s parking plan, which semi-privatizes the city’s parking assets. The website claims the plan gives for-profit investment companies power over enforcement, guarantees 3-percent rate increases every year and blows through all the money raised in two years. The plan does task a private company with enforcement, but it will be handled by Xerox, not a financial firm, and must follow standards set in the company’s agreement with the Port Authority. While the plan does allow 3-percent rate increases each year, Olberding says the Port Authority will have the power to refuse an increase — meaning it’s not a guarantee.

Arnol Elam, the Franklin City Schools superintendent who sent an angry letter to Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan, is no longer being investigated for misusing county resources after he paid $539 in restitution. CityBeat covered Elam’s letter, which told parents and staff about regressive funding in Kasich’s school funding proposal, and other parts of the governor’s budget in an in-depth cover story.

To the surprise of no one, Ohio’s oil lobby is still against Kasich’s tax plan, which raises a 4 percent severance tax on oil and wet gas from high-producing fracking wells and a 1 percent tax on dry gas.

Local faith leaders from a diversity of religious backgrounds held a press conference yesterday to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights all attended the event. CityBeat covered the amendment and its potential hurdles for getting on the 2013 ballot here.

Vanessa White, a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, is running for City Council. White is finishing her first four-year term at the board after winning the seat handily in 2009. She has said she wants to stop the streetcar project, but she wants to increase collaboration between the city and schools and create jobs for younger people.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) policy on providing driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants remains unclear. Since CityBeat broke the story on the BMV policy, the agency has shifted from internally pushing against driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to officially “reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.” DACA is an executive order from President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for permits that enable them to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.

A survey from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments found locals are generally satisfied with roads, housing and issues that affect them everyday. The survey included 2,500 people and questions about energy efficiency, infrastructure, public health, schools and other issues.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed 7,000 Ohioans have received more than $280 million in consumer relief as part of the National Mortgage Settlement announced one year ago. The $25 billion settlement between the federal government and major banks punishes reckless financial institutions and provides relief to homeowners in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Ohio received a $3 million federal grant to continue improving the state’s health care payments and delivery programs.

Cincinnati home sales reached a six-year high after a 27-percent jump in January.

CityBeat’s Hannah “McAttack” McCartney interviewed yours truly for the first post of her Q&A-based blog, Cinfolk.

Crows have a sense of fairness, a new study found.