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With a $3.2 billion price tag and 15- to 20-year time scale, Cincinnati’s plan to retrofit and replace its sewers is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history, but the program is experiencing hurdles as the city and county clash over how to reward contracts and whether the government should have a say in training employees. Cincinnati recently passed and modified a “responsible bidder” law that sets rules for apprenticeship programs and a fund for pre-apprenticeship programs, which Councilman Chris Seelbach says help promote local jobs and job training. But critics, backed by county officials and business organizations, say the law puts too much of a burden on contractors.
The Ohio Senate budget bill would restore $717 million in education funding, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in education funding cuts carried out in the last biennium budget. The funding increase also disproportionately favors the wealthy, with the property-poorest one-third of school districts getting 15 percent of the funding increases and the top one-third getting the vast majority. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn’t hand out “free marijuana plants” at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.
With 8-0 support from City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory appointed Stan Chesley to the city’s Human Relations Commission yesterday. Chesley retired from practicing law after he was disbarred in Kentucky for allegedly keeping millions of dollars that should have gone to clients involved in a lawsuit about phen-fen, a diet drug. Mallory and Chesley have worked together in the past, particularly to raise money for the city’s swimming pools.
Ohio lawmakers are considering two laws that would tighten rules about who can carry guns in schools and encourage religious education. The changes related to guns would involve local law enforcement in deciding who can carry guns, but it would also allow schools to conceal the names of who can carry a firearm and protect those individuals from liability for accidents unless there was “reckless and wanton conduct.” The changes for religious education would allow public high schools to give credit to students who take religious courses outside of school.
Ohio senators scrapped a plan that would have raised vehicle registration fees.
Ohio gas prices jumped above $4 this week.
NASA is building an intergalactic GPS.
Sleep-deprived men are apparently really bad at judging who wants to sleep with them.
As of Friday, Cincinnati’s winter shelter still needs $43,000 out of the $75,000 required to open from late December through February. That means hundreds of homeless people could be left out in the cold — literally — for at least a month longer than usual if the shelter doesn’t get more donations. According to Spring, the goal each night is to shelter 91 people, although the number can fluctuate depending on the circumstances. For its run between late 2012 and early 2013, the winter shelter housed roughly 600 people, or about $125 a person. Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”
Officials involved with the $133 million streetcar project are considering around-the-clock work for certain days to speed up delivery of rail and minimize disruptions at busy streets around Over-the-Rhine. The third shifts would reduce the time needed to deliver and install rails around Findlay Market and Liberty Street from one week to a couple days at each location, which would allow the city to avoid closing down surrounding streets beyond a weekend or Monday and Tuesday, according to project executive John Deatrick. He says the extra work is absolutely not related to recent discussions about canceling the project.
The new school funding formula approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled General Assembly means high-minority schools get less state aid than schools with less diversity. Southwest Ohio’s 10 most diverse school districts will average $3,837 in state aid per student, while the 10 least diverse districts will average $4,027 per student. The finding is just the latest controversy for a school funding formula that is supposed to make state aid to schools more equitable. CityBeat covered some of the prior concerns in further detail here.
Despite Mayor-elect John Cranley’s insistence that the streetcar conversation “is over,” The Cincinnati Enquirer continues getting messages in support of the project. Supporters of the streetcar plan to launch a campaign this week to lobby council members and Cranley to back the project. The campaign will begin on Thursday with a town hall-style meeting particularly aimed at stakeholders along the streetcar route. The location and specific time should be announced later today or tomorrow.
Still, as Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier writes, it is unlikely Cranley will break his promise on the streetcar.
That means it might be up to the three swing votes on City Council —
P.G. Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — or a referendum to save the project.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport spent nearly $120,000 since July on coaching and job evaluation services for its board and CEO, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. That’s on top of the $140,000 the board spent on travel, conferences and expensive dinners since 2011. Following the disclosures, local leaders have called for leadership changes at the board.
Cincinnati-area businesses only have until Nov. 15 to garner enough votes to enter into a competition hosted by Chase Bank that will divide $3 million among 12 small businesses across the country.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s expansion plans already received approval from Hamilton, Brown, Adams, Scioto and Boone counties. The plan expands the Port Authority’s boundaries from 26 miles to 205 miles along the Ohio River, which the Port says will make the agency more attractive to businesses.
At least 41 percent of 1,600 new apartments in and near downtown are receiving aid from the city of Cincinnati. City officials say the aid helps continue Cincinnati’s economic momentum and urban revitalization. But critics say more aid should go to low-income housing and other Cincinnati neighborhoods.
Virtual Community School of Ohio, an online charter school, didn’t follow rules for educating students with disabilities. CityBeat covered online schools and the controversy surrounding them in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices are down 17 cents per gallon this week.
Cranley has inspired some interesting parody accounts on Twitter.
As if they weren’t terrifying enough, drug-resistant “superbugs” can show up in animals.
In-person early voting begins in Ohio today. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Cincinnati could change how it gathers trash in the future. City officials, under the request of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., are looking for a way to make trash collection more automated and reduce the amount of manual labor required to pick up trash. Michael Robinson, director of public services, described the possible changes to WVXU: “Implement a new cart system using semi-automated trucks as well as automated units to reduce our workers compensation claims.” The changes would save the city money.
For the second year in a row, statewide college enrollment declined. The two-year drop is the first time college enrollment has dropped since the 1990s.
Casinos are popping up around Ohio — including the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati — but Ohioans do not have a gambling problem. A new survey, which seeks to establish a baseline to find out the impact of new casinos around the state, found problematic gambling is fairly uncommon in Ohio with about 250,000 Ohio adults, or nearly 3 percent of Ohioans, reporting problems.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s will be hiring 80,000 new employees for the holidays.
Several Ohio testing centers will be partnering up with the GED Testing Service to allow taking GED tests online. The GED test, which is accepted by most U.S. employers and colleges, gives a second chance to adults who did not get a high school diploma.
JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development program, suffered a serious setback Friday when an Ohio Supreme Court ruling dismissed efforts to clarify the program’s legal status. Critics of JobsOhio say the program is unconstitutional and illegal, and their complaints have often been legitimized by lower courts. State officials hoped the Ohio Supreme Court would put the issue to rest, but the court said a decision would have to be given by lower courts first.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Republican U.S.
senatorial candidate, doesn’t seem to be handling the stress of the
campaign very well. In a newly released video, Mandel is seen on an
elevator in an awkward confrontation that gets a little physical with a
campaign tracker. The tracker’s story was confirmed by a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch, who was also on the elevator and can be seen and heard in the video.
The amount of abortions in Ohio is down 12 percent, according to a new report by the Ohio Department of Health.
A Xavier study found trust in government and business is on the rise. The increase is typical in a growing economy.
U.S. home prices rose the most they have in six years. The year-over-year increase of 4.6 percent is a potential sign of a recovering economy.
Want to increase your productivity? Look at cute kitties.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino. None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law between capital budgets and operating budgets.
A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February
that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal
investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the
changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The
state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over
individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing
can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to
increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.
An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a Cincinnati field office.
Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.
The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
A new study found people can better calm themselves down by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.
Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space:
Gov. John Kasich will give his State of the State address today in Lima, where he is expected to cover his budget plan, jobs and tax reform. It will air live at The Ohio Channel at 6:30 p.m. During his last State of the State speech, the governor lacked focus, imitated a Parkinson’s patient and called Californians “wackadoodles,” leading outlets like The Hill to call the speech “bizarre.”
The next state superintendent of public instruction could be Richard Ross, Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser, or acting superintendent Michael Sawyers, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross apparently has Kasich’s support, making him a favorite. Stan Heffner, the previous state superintendent, was forced to resign after misusing state resources.
New legislation will be introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld to City Council today to require all rental properties to be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors. The photoelectric detectors have better protection against smoldering, smoky fires, which cause more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving fires picked up by ionization form of detectors, according to the vice mayor’s office. Qualls and Sittenfeld are introducing the legislation after hearing stories from Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for Fire Safety, who both lost children to house fires.
The Horseshoe Casino’s parking plan was revealed yesterday, reports WVXU. Parking will be free for guests on opening day from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It will also remain free on weekends. Weekday parking will be free for guests who play slots or table games for 30 minutes, play an hour of poker or spend at least $25 in a restaurant or gift shop. Otherwise, parking will cost $1 for the first hour, up to a daily maximum of $14.
Restaurants around the country are discovering that fewer calories brings better health and business, according to Dayton Daily News.
Ohio gas prices are continuing their movement up, according to the Associated Press.
Glass was found in Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries cereal, prompting a recall, reports WCPO.
Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked yesterday, which raises all-important questions: How did anyone notice? Why are people following fast food chains on Twitter?
Popular Science has an in-depth report on how neuroscience will allow scientists to rewire the brain to battle seizures, dementia, blindness, paralysis and deafness.
State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion. Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that. Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate $1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal government.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.
With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.
Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2,
according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls
will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained
national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.
State Democrats and Republicans have some questions
about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned
the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for
EZPass users. Others are worried
about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.
The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Dayton wants to help
illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission
approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential
victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.
A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.
The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.
In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.
A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.
Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
Urban schools spend less on basic education for a typical student than previously assumed after accounting for the cost of poverty, according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups. After weighing the extra cost of educating an impoverished student, the report finds major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly 24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14 percent. In the report, Cincinnati Public Schools drop from a pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil education funding out of 605 school districts in the state to No. 55, while Indian Hills Schools actually rise from No. 11 to No. 4.
An Ohio House committee approved sweeping gun legislation that would enact “stand your ground” in the state and automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. The “stand your ground” portion of the bill would remove a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in all areas in which a person is lawfully allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat in a person’s home or vehicle. The proposal is particularly controversial following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial that let Zimmerman go free. To become law, the proposal still needs to make it through the full House, Senate and governor.
A state senator is proposing a sales-tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping
to encourage a shot of spending in a stagnant economy and lure shoppers
from outside the state. Eighteen states have similar policies, but none
border Ohio, according to University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Michael Jones of UC’s Economics Center says the idea is to use tax-free school supplies to lure out-of-state shoppers, who are then more likely to buy other items that aren’t tax exempt while they visit Ohio.
An Ohio Senate committee approved new limits on the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel that has grown controversial following its approval of the federally funded Medicaid expansion despite disapproval from the Ohio legislature. Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board after he failed to persuade his fellow Republicans in the legislature to back the expansion for much of the year. The proposal now must make it through the full Senate, House and governor to become law.
Cincinnati’s Metro bus service plans to adopt more routes similar to bus rapid transit (BRT) following the success of a new route established this year. Traditional BRT lines involve bus-only lanes, but Metro’s downsized version only makes less stops in a more straightforward route. CityBeat covered the lite BRT route in further detail here.
Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.
A bill approved by U.S. Congress last week could direct millions in federal research dollars to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
A UC study found a higher minimum wage doesn’t lead to less crime.
Gov. Kasich will deliver UC’s commencement address this year.
The new owner of the Ingalls Building in downtown Cincinnati plans to convert some of the office space to condominiums.
Here are some images of the Cincinnati that never was.
Someone invented a hand-cranked GIF player.
The city would save just $7.8-$52.6 million in capital costs if it takes on tens of millions in additional expenditures to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar project, an independent audit revealed yesterday. The news appeared to throw another potential lifeline for the streetcar, which can now claim a five-member majority of supporters on City Council. But with Mayor John Cranley's veto threat, council will likely need six votes to continue the project. Council expects to make a decision today, prior to a Friday deadline for federal grants funding roughly one-third of the project.
Some city leaders are trying to ensure all of Cincinnati's 3- and 4-year-olds attend quality preschool programs through Cincinnati’s Preschool Promise. Citing swaths of studies and data, Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, says the policy could reach all corners of the city and hugely benefit the city’s economy in the long term. But supporters of the proposal first must find a means to fund it, which Landsman says will likely require some sort of voter-approved tax hike in 2014. Before the Preschool Promise campaign gets there, Landsman vows supporters will heavily engage the community to gather feedback and determine the scope of the proposal.
City Council yesterday unanimously approved $20 million in capital funding for the $106 million uptown interchange project, which will allow the project to move forward with the state and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments filling the rest of the funding gap. The capital allocation means property taxes will remain higher than they would without the project, as revealed at Monday's Budget and Finance Committee. Mayor Cranley and council members argue the cost is worth it because, as a study from the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center previously found, the project will generate thousands of jobs and other economic gains in the uptown area.
Commentary: "Anti-Streetcar Logic Should Stop Uptown Interchange Project."
The Democratic majority on City Council yesterday dismissed legislation that would have repealed controversial bidding requirements for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Council's decision could put Cincinnati and Hamilton County on a collision course over rules governing a federally mandated revamp of the city's inadequate sewer system. A majority of council members support the bidding requirements as a way to foster local jobs and local job training, while opposing county officials say the rules favor unions and impose a huge burden on MSD contractors. Councilman Chris Seelbach says he's working with Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to get both parties in mediation talks and end a county-enforced hold on sewer projects before the federal government begins enforcing its mandate.
The city of Cincinnati is allowing residents to put out extra trash bags next to approved trash containers between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3 in a "trash amnesty."
Gov. John Kasich's 2014 wish list: More infrastructure funding, measures that curb health care costs, new anti-drug and anti-poverty initiatives, and another tax cut.
Ohio's May ballot could include a measure that would tap into existing revenues to boost funding for infrastructure projects around the state.
Seventeen non-U.S. citizens allegedly cast illegal ballots in Ohio's 2012 general election, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Two Democrats in the Ohio Senate proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. But Republicans control both chambers of the Ohio legislature, so it's unlikely the bill will pass.
Four Ohio libraries, including the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, are collaborating to preserve historical documents, photographs and more.
Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal that will avoid a federal government shutdown and ease previously planned across-the-board spending cuts.
A new study found the Milky Way has four arms, not two as previously believed.
Ohio’s lower-income fourth-graders were much more likely than higher-income fourth-graders to fall below reading proficiency standards in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Four in five lower-income fourth-graders were declared below reading proficiency standards in 2013, the report found. Only 48 percent of higher-income fourth-graders fell below proficiency.
Ohio mostly matched the national trend: About 80 percent of lower-income fourth-graders and 49 percent of higher-income fourth-graders across the country read below proficient levels last year.
The report also found Ohio’s overall reading proficiency improved by 5 percent between 2003 and 2013, a notch below the nation’s 6 percent improvement.
The report comes as state officials implement the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires most Ohio third-graders to test as “proficient” before they advance to the fourth grade. Preliminary results showed one-third of Ohio students failing to pass the test, putting them at risk of retention.
“Ohio needs to do whatever it takes to get all children — especially low income and children of color — on track with this milestone,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, in a statement. “The long-term prosperity of Ohio and our nation depends upon improving crucial educational outcomes such as reading proficiency.”
The report also speaks to some of the challenges Ohio and other states face in evaluating schools, teachers and students as the nation struggles with high levels of income inequality.
A Jan. 22 report from Policy Matters Ohio found high-scoring urban schools tend to have lower poverty rates than low-performing urban schools. In Cincinnati, nine of the 19 top-rated urban schools served a lower percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the district as a whole.
Another study from three school advocacy groups found
Ohio’s school funding formula fails to fully account for how many
resources school districts, including Cincinnati Public Schools, need to
use to serve impoverished populations instead of basic education
services. In effect, the discrepancy means Ohio’s impoverished school
districts get even less funding per student for basic education than previously assumed.