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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 German Lopez 05.20.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, LGBT Issues at 06:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Seelbach Wins White House's Champion of Change Award

Award acknowledges 10 leaders committed to equality, public service

The White House announced today that Councilman Chris Seelbach has won the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award, which recognizes 10 community leaders around the nation each year for a commitment to equality and public service.

Seelbach, Cincinnati's first openly gay council member, won the award after he was nominated by the the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). He will officially receive the award at a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.

"I am humbled and proud to be recognized by the White House for my efforts on City Council and extremely grateful to the people of Cincinnati for giving me the opportunity to effect positive change in our community. In order to create a city where more people want to live, work and raise a family, we must continue fighting to make sure all people feel welcomed, valued and respected," Seelbach said in a statement.

The award recognizes Seelbach's accomplishments, but it also shows Cincinnati's progress in the past few years.

Seelbach led efforts to extend health benefits to all city employees, including gay couples, and require anyone accepting city funds or subsidies to agree to Cincinnati's non-discrimination policies.

During Seelbach's time in office, the city's police and fire departments created a LGBT liaison.

Most recently, Seelbach co-sponsored a motion that will help avert police and fire layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget plan. He also spearheaded "responsible bidder" changes that require bidders on most Metropolitan Sewer District projects to offer apprenticeship programs.

The Harvey Milk Champion of Change award is named after Harvey Milk, who became California's first openly gay elected official when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated on Nov. 10, 1978 — only 10 months after he was sworn into office.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.18.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Mayor at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Audit Finds High Costs to Cancel

Operating costs also lower than previously projected

Cincinnati would save just $7.8-$52.6 million in capital costs if it incurs tens of millions in additional expenditures to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar project, according to an audit from consulting firm KPMG released Wednesday.

By showing the potentially high costs of cancellation, the numbers could throw a lifeline to the streetcar project just one day before City Council decides whether to restart construction or permanently halt the project.

But Mayor John Cranley appears undeterred in his commitment to cancel the streetcar project. By accounting for the annual costs to operate the streetcar, Cranley estimates the city will actually save $102 million if it cancels the project.

The city already spent roughly $34 million on the project, according to the audit. Cancellation would add $16.3-$46.1 million in close-out costs, bringing the total costs of cancellation and money spent so far to $50.3-$80.1 million.

Completing the project would add $68.9 million in costs, after deducting $40.9 million in remaining federal grants, the audit found.

But the completion estimate assumes the city will need to pay $15 million in utility work — a cost that is currently being debated in court. If the city wins its case against Duke Energy, the utility company would be required to pay the $15 million and bring down the total completion costs to $53.9 million.

The audit also put the costs of operating the streetcar at $3.13-$3.54 million a year, lower than the previous $3.4-$4.5 million estimate. After revenues from fares, sponsorships and other sources, the city would need to pay $1.88-$2.44 million to operate the streetcar, according to the audit.

The reduced estimate for operating costs could become particularly important in deciding the project's fate as private contributors attempt to get the cost off the city's operating budget.

Delaying the streetcar project while KPMG conducted its audit also added $1.7-$2.8 million in costs, according to the audit. The city allocated another $250,000 to pay KPMG for its work.

The audit did not account for the potential costs of litigation if contractors and investors along the planned streetcar line sue the city to recoup costs.

City Council paused the streetcar project on Dec. 4 to obtain the cost estimates of completion, cancellation and annual operations. The full body of council will decide whether to restart the project on Thursday, before a Friday deadline set by the Federal Transit Administration for federal grants.

Read the full audit:


This post was updated at 12:59 p.m. with more information and details.

 
 
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 Kevin Osborne 04.10.2012
Posted In: Mayor, City Council, Republicans at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
winburn

Local GOP Has Dueling Responses to State of the City Address

Winburn, Murray will speak after Mallory's speech

In a replay of the Republican kerfuffle after President Obama’s State of the Nation address last year, there will be dueling GOP responses tonight to Mayor Mark Mallory’s State of the City address.

The Hamilton County Republican Party sent a press release this afternoon announcing that Amy Murray, an ex-Cincinnati City Council member, would provide the GOP’s formal response to Mallory’s speech.

A Democrat, Mallory will give his seventh State of the City address at 6:30 p.m. It will be presented in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, located at 650 Walnut St., downtown.

After the press release about Murray’s response arrived at 2:55 p.m., however, current City Councilman Charlie Winburn sent a notice from his council office at 3:39 p.m. In the notice, Winburn announced he “will be available to give the Republican response” immediately after the mayor’s speech.

Winburn’s release helpfully noted that he is “the only Republican on Cincinnati City Council,” in case anyone wasn’t sure.

The concurrent responses are similar to what occurred after Obama’s speech in January 2011. At that time, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was selected to give the GOP’s official response to the address. But U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), then a rising star in the Tea Party movement, decided to give her own response.

At the time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) called the move "a little unusual." 

Bachmann’s performance was widely lambasted, as she didn’t look directly at the camera but off to the side, and appeared disconnected and halting during her remarks. Bachmann later sought the GOP’s presidential nomination but dropped out of the race early after several disappointing primary finishes.

Murray is a former Procter & Gamble employee who now owns a consulting firm that tries to attract Japanese companies to Cincinnati. The party’s release stated she would give her response immediately following Mallory’s address in the Fifth Third Bank Theater’s lobby at the Aronoff Center.

A Hyde Park resident, Murray ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati City Council in 2009, finishing in 12th place out of 19 candidates. She then was appointed by party leaders in January 2011 to fill the remainder of Councilman Chris Monzel’s term, but lost election in her own right the following November. In that election, Murray again finished 12th, this time out of 22 candidates.

 
 
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 12.10.2013
Posted In: News, Homelessness, City Council at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
avondale housing

Committee Votes to Pull Support for Supportive Housing Facility

Commons at Alaska in Avondale snared by controversy

A City Council committee on Tuesday voted to rescind council’s support for state tax credits going to a 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale that would aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.

But since National Church Residences already obtained tax credits for the project from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in June, it’s possible the project could continue even if council stands in opposition, according to Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

Still, the decision from the Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee comes in the middle of a months-long controversy that has placed neighborhood activists and homeless advocates in a heated dispute. (CityBeat first covered the issue in greater detail here.)

Independent Christopher Smitherman and Republican Amy Murray, the two present members of the committee, both voted to pull support from the project. The issue will now go to a nine-member City Council, which consists of five Democrats, and Democratic Mayor John Cranley.

Smitherman, chair of the committee, claimed the project’s issues spawned from a lack of community engagement.

“I want everybody to take a pause,” Smitherman said. “Respecting our city, in my opinion, means that you do the community engagement at the level that reflects the magnitude of what you want to do.”

Smitherman’s comments followed testimony from neighborhood activists who oppose the facility and homeless advocates who support it.

Opponents insist they support policies addressing homelessness. But they argue the “massive” facility would alter the neighborhood, worsen Avondale’s problems with poverty and damage revitalization efforts.

Supporters claim the dispute stems from a not-in-my-backyard attitude that predominates so many supportive housing facilities.

“In our society, we have a tendency to say we don't want ‘those people’ in our neighborhoods. And history dictates to us that conversations that start with ‘we don't want those people here’ don't typically end well,” said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

Finn of Strategies to End Homelessness said the facility is part of his organization’s Homeless to Homes plan, which council previously approved to address Cincinnati’s struggles with homelessness.

Finn’s organization aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 in 2012 to roughly 3,500 in 2017.

The Avondale facility could also help reduce Cincinnati’s high levels of poverty. More than half of Cincinnati’s children and more than one-third of the city’s general population live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey.

The full body of City Council could take up the issue as early as Wednesday. Smitherman advised both sides to attend the council meeting and state their cases.

Updated with additional information from Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

 
 
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 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?”

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