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by Kevin Osborne 03.16.2012
 
 
scrap-metal-theft

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati’s new law for selling scrap metal, which was scheduled to take effect today, has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by two local dealers. The law, approved by City Council last month, would require people who sell scrap metal within the city to get a license and make businesses that buy the metal pay dealers by check with a two-day hold, among other changes. The law was designed to cut down on metal theft in Cincinnati, but Cohen Brothers in the East End and American Compressed Steel in Carthage argued it would adversely impact their livelihood. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler issued a preliminary injunction Thursday afternoon.

In related news, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that requires scrap metal dealers to photograph anyone who sells them scrap. Dealers would be prohibited from buying metal from anyone who refuses to be photographed. Also, dealers must keep the photos on file for 60 days. The Ohio House will now consider the bill.

Last week we learned that Aaron Boone would be the grand marshal of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade, and now we know who will throw out the first pitch at the opener against the Miami Marlins. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr., who will retire later this year after a 41-year career in public service, has been selected for the honor. Just how far the 77-year-old Leis will be able to throw the ball remains to be seen, but we're betting he will do a better job than Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory did a few years ago.

Clermont County residents who suffered property damage in the tornado two weeks ago will be able to apply for Small Business Administration loans beginning this morning. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center is now open at the Washington Township Hall, located at 2238 Highway 756. Renters could receive up to $40,000 in loans while homeowners could receive up to $200,000 in loans to rebuild their home or replace furniture, said disaster relief officials.

Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain, is among the retailers that use so-called “pink slime” in some of its ground beef products. U.S. consumers generally have reacted with disgust after learning that many fast food restaurants and grocers use ground beef that contains “finely textured lean beef,” the product made from beef trimmings after all the choice cuts of beef are removed. About 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets contains the meat filler, according to reports.

In news elsewhere, a United Nations official this week formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment toward Bradley Manning, the American soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source. Juan Mendez has completed a 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning since the soldier's arrest at a U.S. military base in May 2010. He concludes that the U.S. military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping Manning locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period in conditions that he also found might have constituted torture, London's Guardian reports. American media, however, seem curiously quiet on this news.

Although President Obama reiterated his intention this week to stick to a timeline that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, pressure is mounting to quicken the schedule. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is demanding that NATO withdraw its forces from the small, rural outposts around the nation and confine its soldiers to military bases. The demand is the latest fallout after the burning of Korans by U.S. service members last month and the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians Sunday, allegedly by an Army staff sergeant who went on a rampage.

The Columbia Journalism Review looks at what The Gannett Co., the owner of The Enquirer, could've bought with the $37.1 million compensation package it gave recently departed CEO Craig Dubow. CJR's findings include that the money would've paid for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website. “In October, four months after handing 700 employees pink slips, Gannett gave Dubow a $37.1 million package, also accumulated over decades. He earned a mere $9.4 million in 2010, some of which padded his retirement package. A few weeks later, the company announced it would force employees to take their fifth unpaid furlough in three years,” the magazine reports.

Much attention has been paid to a column published Wednesday by The New York Times, in which Greg Smith explained why he was resigning after 12 years at Goldman Sachs due to what he said was the unethical and corrupt culture at the investment firm. But lesser known is this letter to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission by an unidentified whistleblower at JPMorgan Chase. The writer describes similar reckless practices at that firm, adding, “I am now under the opinion that we are actually putting hard-working Americans – unaware of what lays ahead – at extreme market risk.”
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.01.2012
 
 
huckabee

Morning News and Stuff

It's not exactly the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, but we'll understand your confusion if you mistake the event for the old Lollapalooza favorite. Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor, one-time presidential hopeful and current Fox News commentator, will host a forum Saturday in Southwest Ohio that features the three frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich will all attend the event, which will be held at the closed DHL plant in Wilmington. It will air live on the Fox News Channel from 8-10 p.m.

Cincinnati residents will get to sound off in coming weeks on two proposals from City Council that would extend councilmembers' terms from two years to four years. Under one proposal, all nine councilmembers would run at the same time, while in the other, terms would be staggered so some members would run every two years. Council will schedule four public hearings on the matter, then decide in August which of the two should be placed on the November ballot. Any change must happen in the form of a charter amendment, which needs voter approval.

A deer is being credited with saving a woman from being abducted in Oxford. The woman, a 20-year-old student at Miami University, walked outside a party alone about 1:20 a.m Sunday when a man grabbed her from behind and used her purse strap to choke her. The man dragged her to a nearby field. A deer then jumped from the bushes, startling the man and causing him to flee.

Although today is expected to be sunny and warm, Greater Cincinnati could experience some severe weather on Friday. Showers will move into the area at about noon Friday, and then warm fronts will arrive around 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., forecasters said. The fronts could produce strong thunderstorms and there is a “moderate” risk for hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. Powerful tornadoes Wednesday killed at least 12 people in the Midwest and South. States affected were Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

Kennedy Heights and Pendleton will be the recipients of Cincinnati's Neighborhood Enhancement Program this year. The program is a 90-day blitz of city services to jump-start revitalization efforts in individual neighborhoods. Kennedy Heights' blitz begins today, and Pendleton's will start in August.

In news elsewhere,
conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart died unexpectedly "from natural causes" early today, his website reported. Breitbart, 43, a star of the Tea Party movement, died shortly after midnight in Los Angeles, his website said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that the U.S. economic recovery is starting to accelerate. The economy grew by 3 percent in the final three months of last year, surpassing a previous estimate of 2.8 percent, and companies are beginning to add workers. Still, Bernanke cautioned that the recovery is “uneven and modest” and could be derailed by borrowers having trouble getting loans or by surging gasoline prices.


The European Union's data protection authorities are worried that Google's new privacy policy, which takes effect today, violates the union's standards for keeping some personal information confidential on the Internet. CNIL, a French regulatory agency, said Google's explanation of how it will use the data was too vague and difficult to understand "even for trained privacy professionals.”

Egypt has lifted a travel ban on the defendants in a trial of 43 nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers charged with using illegal foreign funds to promote unrest in the nation. In order to leave, however, the defendants – which include 16 American citizens — must post $330,000 in bail money. The U.S. State Department had protested the detentions, adding that Egypt's charges are groundless and aimed at quelling dissent against Islamic extremists.

Two more American military personnel were killed in Afghanistan when an Afghan civilian grabbed a weapon from an Afghan soldier and opened fire, NPR reports. The killings follow the anti-American protests and violence in Afghanistan since it was reported Feb. 21 that international military personnel had burned some Korans at the Bagram Air Field.. According to U.S. officials, the Korans were mistakenly mixed with some trash.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 10.19.2011
Posted In: 2011 Election, City Council, Government at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
seal_of_cincinnati,_ohio

Candidates On: Taking a Two-Month Summer Break

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “Do you believe City Council should continue taking its two-month summer break, or should it meet weekly during the summer?”

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 09.20.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
city hall

City Administration Defends Car Allowances

Restorations would subsidize car use for mayor, city manager, other directors

Just a few months after the city avoided laying off cops, firefighters and other city employees, City Manager Milton Dohoney on Sept. 15 proposed restoring $26,640 in vehicle allowances that would subsidize car use for the city manager, the mayor and other director-level positions in the city administration.

City spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat that restoring the allowances is a matter of basic fairness and keeping both the city’s word and competitiveness.

Olberding says car allowances are typically part of compensation packages offered in other cities that compete with Cincinnati for recruitment. The allowances, she explains, were also promised to city directors as part of their pay packages when they were first hired for the job.

“Cutting it reneges on their original offer and part of the pretense under which they took the job,” Olberding says, adding that failing to restore the compensation promises could make future potential hires reluctant to work in Cincinnati.

But given Cincinnati’s ongoing budget problems, some council members say the proposal is out of touch.

“Are you kidding me?” asked Councilman Chris Seelbach at the Sept. 16 Budget and Finance Committee meeting. “I just question the judgment of an administration that would make that kind of recommendation given our current financial situation. I’m offended that it would be even recommended.”

Even though City Council managed to avoid layoffs in this year’s budget, Cincinnati’s operating budget remains structurally unbalanced, which means the city will have to come up with new revenue or cuts to balance the budget in upcoming years.

Seelbach told CityBeat he doesn’t agree with the competitiveness arguments.

“Im more concerned with the garbage worker whos making barely enough to get by and would love to get a quarter-on-the-hour raise, much less a $5,000 car allowance, he says. If someone wants to leave their position when they’re making $100,000-plus because we’re not going to give them a $5,000 car allowance, I’m convinced we can find someone just as capable, if not more capable, that would be thrilled with a $100,000-plus salary with no car allowance.”

Still, Olberding points out that city directors often need to drive more than the typical worker, whether it’s to get to public meetings, in case of an emergency or as a natural consequence of being on call 24/7. She says that justifies what she sees as a small cost.

The restoration was tucked into a proposal from the city manager that restores more than $6.7 million in previous cuts by using revenue left over from the previous budget cycle. The car allowance portion is about 0.3 percent of the total proposal and less than one-hundredth of a percent of the city’s overall operating budget.

For some city officials, the issue gets to what they perceive as a disconnect between private individuals and the government: Although thousands of dollars might seem like a lot of money to the typical person, the sum is usually worth much less than a penny on the dollar in city budget terms.

But Seelbach says garbage collectors and other city workers who havent received a raise in years would be thrilled to split $22,000, even if the sum doesnt mean much in total budget terms.

It shows a lack of respect for the people who make this city work,” Seelbach says.

The proposal also comes shortly after a tense budget showdown and in the middle of an election year for City Council and the mayors office.

Dohoney repeatedly said throughout the past year that the city would have to lay off 344 employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters, if it didn’t lease its parking meters to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The city ultimately avoided the layoffs without the parking lease by making cuts in various areas, including the city’s parks, and tapping into higher-than-expected revenues, but the city is still pursuing the lease to pay for economic development projects.

City Council will take up the restoration measures at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Sept. 24.

Updated at 4:09 p.m. with comments from Councilman Chris Seelbach.

 
 
by 04.09.2009
 
 

NAACP Speaks/Sings To City Council [Photos]

The NAACP turned out to the City Council meeting Wednesday to start the conversation about a disproportionate amount of city contracts awarded to non-minority contractors. Many of the speakers said that of the $1 billion worth of contracts awarded by the city, less than 1 percent were given to minorities.

Read More

 
 
by 01.08.2009
Posted In: City Council at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Brain Garry Seeks Cranley's Seat

Brian Garry has sent out word to the media that he's interested in replacing outgoing Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley, who announced yesterday that he's leaving office to work on Price Hill development projects and join a local law firm. Kevin Osborne reported yesterday that Greg Harris is the favorite to replace Cranley.

Garry, who has already announced he's running for City Council this fall, describes himself as a "community organizer and lifelong Democrat" in a press release touting his credentials.

"I've run for Council before, and I know what it takes to win," he says. "Building from my 2007 campaign will allow me to not only have the resources to retain this seat but also the man power it takes to get out the vote."

Garry placed 18th in the 2007 council race, when he was endorsed by the Democratic Party, and 23rd in the 2003 council race, when he ran as an independent. (Harris finished 15th in the 2007 council race, when he was also endorsed by the Democratic Party.)

Garry says he hopes to soon meet with Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke "as well as several other prominent Democrats" about Cranley's seat.

(Photo of Garry and Obama from Garry's press release.)

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 09.16.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Homelessness at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_jf1.widea

City Committee Puts Commons at Alaska Project on Hold

Independent mediator will work with supporters and opposition

The controversial proposed supportive housing facility for Alaska Avenue in Avondale was the main subject of a heated session of City Council's Budget and Finance Committee today, which resulted in the committee's decision to put the project on hold for two weeks. The committee also announced its intent to allocate $5,000 for an independent mediator, which the city administration will be responsible for finding.

A slew of Avondale community members spoke out in opposition of the project, while representatives from National Church Residences (NCR), Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and Kevin Finn of Strategies to End Homelessness were some of those who publicly expressed support for the project. Many in opposition articulated concern that predominantly poor black neighborhoods such as Avondale are "targeted" for low-income housing projects like these, while supporters insist a spread of misinformation is largely responsible for the tension and that the complex is a necessary step in moving forward with the city's 2008 Homeless to Homes Plan, which explicitly cited NCR as the well-regarded nonprofit developer and manager of supportive housing facilities commissioned to bring a permanent supportive housing facility to the city. 

The proposed project, coined Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit facility providing residency and supportive services to the area homeless population, particularly those with with severe mental health issues, physical disabilities and histories of alcohol and substance abuse. The project, which gained City Council's official support in February, has recently come under scrutiny from community group Avondale 29, Alaska Avenue residents and other community stakeholders who are fervently expressing public distaste for the facility, which they worry will threaten the safety and revitalization efforts in the neighborhood. CityBeat covered the controversy here.

Councilman Smitherman, who originally voted against Council's support for the project in February, vocally expressed his opposition, and later, Councilman Winburn rescinded his support for the project.

"It appears that maximum citizen participation did not happen... you are having hundreds of people who are not ready yet for this project. So something went wrong somewhere," he said. 

Winburn was also the one to announce the motion that asked council to suspend the project for two weeks.

Both sides are expected to once again go in front of the Budget & Finance Committee on a Sept. 30 meeting


 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Mayor at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
pg sittenfeld

Sittenfeld to Support Continuing Streetcar Project

Opponents might not have enough votes to prevent referendum if project is canceled

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on Monday announced he will vote to continue the $132.8 million streetcar project.

Sittenfeld’s support for the project means the incoming City Council might not have the six votes required for an emergency clause that would immediately halt the project and make a cancellation vote insusceptible to referendum.

If streetcar supporters successfully put a cancellation vote to referendum, the project would be forced to continue until the streetcar once again appears on the ballot in November 2014. The continuation would sink more costs into the project as construction is forced to progress for nearly a year.

Sittenfeld’s announcement preceded a vote from the outgoing City Council to officially write the streetcar project into law, which means Mayor-elect John Cranley, a streetcar opponent, won’t be able to take administrative action to halt the project and instead must bring the project to a City Council vote after he and other newly elected officials take office on Sunday.

The two remaining swing votes in the incoming council — David Mann, who Cranley on Monday named as his choice for vice mayor, and Kevin Flynn — previously discussed delaying the project as council analyzes whether it should permanently cancel or continue with currently ongoing construction.

But Sittenfeld equated a delay to total cancellation after warnings from the federal government made it clear that the city could lose federal funds for the project even if it only delayed progress.

If either Flynn or Mann move to support the streetcar project, streetcar proponents would gain a five-vote majority on the nine-member council to continue the project and preclude a referendum.

Sittenfeld characterized his decision as the better of “two bad choices.”

“We can pursue a project that has never earned broad public consensus and that has yet to offer a viable and sustainable budget,” he said at a press conference, “or we can scrub the project and throw away tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, forgo a massive federal investment and have nothing to show for the enormous effort and expense.”

To explain his decision, Sittenfeld cited concerns about how much money has been dedicated to the project at this point, including $32.8 million in sunk costs through November and a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs, according to estimates from the city. Sittenfeld noted that, at the very least, half of the city’s $87.9 million share of the project will be spent even if the city pulls the plug now.

Sittenfeld also voiced concerns that pulling back from the project and effectively forfeiting $44.9 million in allocated federal funds would damage Cincinnati’s reputation with the federal government. That could hamper projects he sees as much more important, such as the $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge project.

“I did my part to avoid getting us into this reality, but it cannot be wished away,” Sittenfeld said.

There was one major caveat to Sittenfeld’s decision: the operating costs for the streetcar, which the city estimates at $3.4-$4.5 million a year.

Sittenfeld said the cost must not hit Cincinnati’s already-strained operating budget and instead must be paid through fares, sponsorships, private contributions and a special improvement district that would raise property taxes near the streetcar line.

A special improvement district would require a petitioning process in which property owners holding at least 60 percent of property frontage near the streetcar line would have to sign in favor of taking on higher property taxes to pay for the streetcar.

“Ultimately, that’s a decision for the citizens,” Sittenfeld said.

If the special improvement district doesn’t come to fruition, Sittenfeld cautioned that the streetcar project would be more difficult to support going forward.

Asked whether Sittenfeld thinks some of the people who voted for him will see his decision as a betrayal, he responded that his conclusion shows the “thoughtfulness and carefulness” people expect of him when it comes to taxpayer dollars, given the costs of cancellation.

 
 
by 10.29.2009
Posted In: 2009 Election, City Council at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 

Candidates On: Changing Council Elections

CityBeat recently asked the non-incumbent candidates for Cincinnati City Council whether the charter should be amended to change the way future councils are elected.

The question posed was, “What are your thoughts on suggestions to either expand council terms to four years, or to elect council members by districts rather than at-large?”

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2012
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

The audio for the 911 call Councilmember Chris Seelbach made to report being assaulted has been released to the public. During the call, Seelbach admits to drinking alcohol that night. Apparently, people are shocked that Seelbach is a human being that drinks alcohol.

City Council voted yesterday to put a ballot initiative before voters that, if approved, would let councilmembers remain in power for four years, up from two years under current law. The initiative would let local policymakers worry more about passing good policy and less about getting reelected every other year.

City Council also approved an ordinance that bans wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking, within city limits. But the ordinance is little more than politics at this point, considering the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no permit requests for injection wells in southwestern Ohio, and ODNR spokesperson Heidi Hetzel-Evans says southwestern Ohio’s geology makes injection wells unfeasible.

There are more benefits to legalizing same-sex marriage than just giving a bunch of people basic rights without hurting anyone. A new study found that Ohio could gain $100-126 million in economic growth from same-sex marriage legalization. The study is being used by Freedom to Marry Ohio to promote the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, which the organization hopes will be on the November 2013 ballot.

Comair Inc. disclosed that 1,194 employees will be losing their jobs when the airline halts operations on Sept. 29. The airline, which is owned by Delta, is headquartered at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced yesterday that 10 Cincinnati pools will remain open for one whole extra week — keeping them open until the beginning of the school year. Since the city can’t pay for the entire extra week, Chesley raised $25,000, which the Cincinnati Recreation Foundation matched with another $25,000, to keep the pools open. All pools but one will also have free admission for the rest of the year. The one exception is Otto Armleader Pool at Dunham, which will have $2 admission, down from $5.

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich passed the “second chance” law. The law will make it easier for convicted criminals to continue on with their lives after their time is served.

More good news for Ohio Democrats: A new poll says Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is leading challenger Josh Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer, by 12 points. Mandel is known for excessively lying in campaign attacks.

President Barack Obama was in Akron yesterday.

Glenn Beck says he is planning a big event in Ohio for the week of Sept. 12. Beck is known for literally crying on national television and disapproving of most of what Obama does.

In completely unsurprising news, temperatures in July broke heat records.

But worries about excessive heat may be a thing of the past. Scientists have invented a shirt that can lower a person's body temperature.

 
 

 

 

 
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