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by German Lopez 12.06.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Redistricting, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yesonissue2

Morning News and Stuff

Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes

Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close. The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week, and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely Republican.

A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level. Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.

Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback. For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund, which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when the original stadium deal was made.

The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25 union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation Center.

Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations. But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination. Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but, under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such information.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul. Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.

The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups. The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.

The Ohio Senate will rework a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The Ohio House passed a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for criminal activity.

More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.

A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more difficult.

The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt for not following a court order requiring the state agency to compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result, ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation cases within 120 days.

We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.05.2012
 
 
greg hartmann

County Commissioners Reduce Property Tax Rollback

Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit

Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums.

The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every $100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value.

The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.

“The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same thing we are doing today,” Portune said.

Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to 6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10 years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the first five. 

Portune said his proposal was more equitable. He said reducing the property tax rollback was going to affect only Hamilton County residential property owners, whereas a sales tax increase would affect everyone who spends money in the county, including visitors from neighboring Kentucky and Indiana.

Portune billed the tax increase as a long-term solution that would raise more than was needed currently but would keep the fund stable in years to come.

Board President Greg Hartmann, who authored the rollback reduction proposal, called Portune’s plan “a bridge too far.” He said it was too large of a tax increase and not a targeted approach to solve the deficit problem. He said he didn’t trust future commissions to allow the tax increase to expire.

Hartmann called the property tax rollback reduction flexible, scalable, clean, immediate and certain.

Commissioner Chris Monzel, who provided the deciding vote, said he didn’t like either and had to go against his principles with either choice.

“No way I walk out of this without breaking a promise. No way I walk out of this winning,” he said.

Monzel said he hopes that savings from the Affordable Care Act would allow the county to lower its property tax rates to make up for the rollback reduction.

Monzel also introduced a successful proposal that will include an annual review of the tax budget to make sure property taxes don’t change, a provision requiring parking revenue from The Banks to be used to develop The Banks and a directive for the county administrator to work with Cincinnati’s professional sports teams on concessions they can make to help out with the stadium funding burden.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.05.2012
Posted In: News, Government, Economy at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city-somolend partnership

City Partnership to Support Small Businesses, Startups

Cincinnati to work with SoMoLend in lending plan

The city of Cincinnati will be pairing up with a web-based lending platform to help out small businesses and startups. With the approval of the Small Business Advisory Committee, the city and SoMoLend will give up to $400,000 in loans to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

The partnership will aid small businesses and startups through crowd funding, which connects multiple potential lenders so no single investor, including the city government, is carrying the a bulk of the burden. Since crowd funding gets more investors involved, it can also raise more money for promising startups and small businesses.

Businesses will be picked through SoMoLend’s typical application process, which emphasizes startups and small businesses. Successful applicants usually have 15 or fewer employees, meet a few standards regarding business and personal finances and prove they actually need a commercial loan. In the past, businesses have raised as much as $1 million in loans with SoMoLend.

Applicants will also have to go through the city’s application process. The city government will look at how many jobs are created, what’s the capital investment involved, how much the city will give relative to private lenders and other similar metrics.

Even as the economy recovers, small businesses and startups are having a tough time getting loans in comparison to bigger businesses. So the focus on small businesses and startups is in part to bring beneficial fairness to the system, says Meg Olberding, city spokesperson. “Access to capital at all levels has to happen. And the city government feels like small businesses are key to growth in our local economy.”

The partnership’s focus on startups is economically sound. Governments and politicians love to herald small businesses as the drivers of economic growth, but studies suggest startups are more deserving of the praise. A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that young small businesses, or startups, are the key drivers to economic and job growth. 

As for why SoMoLend was picked over other platforms, Olberding says location and history played a role: “It’s a local small business, so it’s … demonstrating what we’re talking about. It’s also a demonstrated success in terms of bringing viable businesses to the market.”

The partnership is part of an ongoing effort to spur small businesses and startups in Cincinnati. SBAC was created in 2012 to pave a clearer, better path that encourages such businesses in the city. SBAC reviewed, gave feedback and approved the new partnership earlier today.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, head of SBAC, praised the partnership in a statement: “I am excited that the SBAC approved the city’s new partnership with SoMoLend today. By making city lending more efficient and expanding the network of small businesses receiving city assistance, this new partnership fits well into the SBAC’s goal of making Cincinnati a better place for small business.”

 
 
by German Lopez 12.03.2012
Posted In: Budget, Economy, News, Fracking, Environment, Energy at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_fracking

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio's fracking boom disappoints, war on babies declared, Cincinnati's economic triumph

Ohio’s fracking boom might not be living up to the hype. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources originally estimated that 250 fracking wells would be built by the end of the year, but only 165 have been completed and 22 are currently being built. The disappointing results are being blamed on low natural gas prices and a backlog in work needed to connect wells to customers. Maybe the state’s claim had as much basis as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s claim that the state’s fracking boom would be worth $1 trillion.

By killing the heartbeat bill and a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, apparently declared a war on babies, according to anti-abortion groups. Niehaus is term-limited, so he will not be in the Ohio Senate in the next session, which begins next year. Incoming senate president Keith Faber already said the heartbeat bill could come up to vote in the next Senate session. CityBeat previously wrote about Ohio Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.

Between 2011 and 2012, Cincinnati had the 12th best economic performance in the United States, according to a Brookings Institute study. Out of the 76 metropolitan areas looked at, only Dallas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pittsburgh have recovered from the recession, and 20 areas lost more ground throughout the year.

Media Bridges, Cincinnati’s public access media outlet, is the latest victim of the 2013 budget proposal from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. The budget plan suggests slashing $300,000 from the organization’s funding. When coupled with state funding cuts, Media Bridges is losing $498,000 in funding, or 85 percent of its budget. Tom Bishop, executive director of Media Bridges, compared the cuts to a “meteor” hitting Media Bridges’ budget. The city says cuts were suggested in part due to public feedback.

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is pushing the public to speak out against $610,770 in cuts to human services funding in Dohoney’s proposed budget. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council have already agreed to continue 2013 funding at 2012 levels, but homeless advocates want to make sure the funding, which largely helps the homeless and low-income families, remains. The group is calling for supporters to attend City Council meetings on Dec. 5 at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Corryville Recreation Center.

It’s commonly said Cincinnati is Republican territory, but after the latest elections, that’s looking more and more false.

The University of Cincinnati is stepping up safety efforts around campus. The university held a summit to gather public feedback on possible improvements in light of recent incidents in and around campus. Beginning in January, UC will increase patrols by 30 percent.

Crime around Columbus’ Hollywood Casino has ticked up. Could Cincinnati face a similar fate when the Horseshoe Casino is up and running? A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring in jobs, but also bankruptcy, crime and even suicide.

Results equal funding. That’s the approach Gov. Kasich is taking to funding higher education, but Inside Higher Ed says the approach is part of “an emerging Republican approach to higher education policy, built largely around cost-cutting.” Kasich’s approach is meant to encourage better results by providing higher funds to schools with higher graduation rates, but schools with funding problems and lower graduation rates could have their problems exacerbated.

Josh Mandel, state treasurer and former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, insists his big loss in November does not make him a political has-been. Mandel will be pursuing a second term at the Ohio treasurer’s office in 2014. Mandel lost the Senate race despite getting massive amounts of funding from third parties — Democrats estimate $40 million — to support his campaign.

The auto industry is still chugging along with impressive numbers from November.

Gas prices moved down in Ohio this week.

One geneticist says people are getting dumber, but he doesn’t seem to have much to back his claims up.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.28.2012
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-abortion agenda on hold, court upholds redistricting, blacks falling behind in school

The Ohio Senate will not take up the heartbeat bill and a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the lame-duck session. The heartbeat bill was called the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country when it was first proposed. It sought to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. However, there have been some rumblings of bringing a new version of the heartbeat bill to the Ohio legislature, and recent moves by Ohio Republicans show a clear anti-abortion agenda. In a statement, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio cautioned the bills will come up again next year: “Make no mistake about it, the threat to women’s health may be delayed, but it remains. We fully expect anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women’s health when the legislature reconvenes in January.”

In a 4-3 ruling, the Ohio Supreme court upheld the state’s redistricting map. Democrats claimed the Ohio House and Senate districts were unconstitutional, while Republicans insisted the map was fine. The Republican-controlled government redrew the districts in a way that favors Republican candidates for public office. The Ohio Supreme Court is skewed heavily in favor of Republicans; six justices are Republicans, while only one is a Democrat.

Ohio high schools have a bit of work to do, according to federal data. Apparently, the state has worse graduation rates for blacks than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. Ohio did manage to improve its graduation rates by more than 2 percent over four years, as required by the federal program Race to the Top.

To avoid an estimated $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, a coalition wants to speed up the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is successful, the project will begin in 2014 — four years ahead of schedule. But the organization is pushing a public-private relationship that would likely involve tolls, and Kentucky lawmakers oppose that idea.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County were picked to participate in a program that puts the long-term unemployed back to work. The program was originally started in southwest Connecticut in 2011 by WorkPlace with some success. It placed 70 percent of participants in jobs, with 90 percent moving to full-time employment.

Tourism is boosting Greater Cincinnati’s economy. An impact study from the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network found tourism is responsible for one in 10 local jobs. Visitors to Cincinnati spent $4.1 billion in the area last year.

Another good sign for the economy: Personal income went up in Greater Cincinnati and nationwide. In Cincinnati, personal income went up by 4.6 percent in 2011, lower than the nationwide rise of 5.2 percent.

Unfortunately, Greater Cincinnati still has a lot of vacant homes. On Numbers ranked the area No. 31 out of 109 in terms of vacant homes.

The Cincinnati Police Department is encouraging fitness through intra-department competition.

The University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning is one of the five best design schools in the world.

Councilman Chris Smitherman was re-elected to the presidency of the local chapter of the NAACP.

Seven AIDS activists protested nude in U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office yesterday. The protesters were part of ACT-UP, and they were protesting federal budget cuts to HIV programs that are set to kick in next year.

The bill regulating puppy mills passed the Ohio Senate. Animal advocates claim lax regulations and oversight have made Ohio a breeding ground for poor practices. CityBeat previously covered puppy mills and how they lead to Ohio’s dog auctions.

The Ohio inspector general released a report criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for mismanaging stimulus funds going to southwest Ohio. The findings echoed a lot of what was found in previous reports for other regions of the state.

The Earth’s core may have clues about our planet’s birth.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.21.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Health care at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
odjfs

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati unemployment drops, Ohio standardized test to be replaced, gas prices rise

Public service announcement: There will be no Morning News and Stuff Thursday and Friday due to Thanksgiving break. Happy Thanksgiving, and CityBeat will see you again on Monday!

With gains in the civilian labor force, Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent. The city’s unadjusted unemployment rate is below the nation’s rate of 7.5 percent, but it’s above Hamilton County’s 6.2 percent rate and Ohio’s 6.3 percent rate.

The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. As part of broader reform, state education leaders have agreed to establish new standardized tests with a focus on college and career readiness. But the reform faces some concerns from Democrats, who worry the new standards, particularly the school report cards that evaluate schools and districts, may be unreasonably tough. An early simulation of the new school report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D- under the new system, with 23 CPS schools flunking.

Gas prices in southwest Ohio appear to be on the rise. Since Monday, they have moved up 10 to 20 cents.

The Horseshoe Casino is hiring again. This time, the casino is looking for people experienced in restaurant management, hosting, banquet, finance, marketing and guest services.

One problem Ohio must consider in its decision to expand Medicaid or not: a doctor shortage. Still, one study found states that expanded Medicaid had notable health gains. Contrary to the fiscal reasons normally cited by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office, another report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found expanding Medicaid would actually save the state money by lowering the amount of uncompensated care.

Thirteen people are going for the Ohio Supreme Court. The vacant slot needs to be filled after Justice Evelyn Stratton announced she was stepping down earlier in the year. Her replacement, who will be picked by Gov. Kasich, will finish the two years of her six-year term. Some of the candidates are from the Cincinnati area, including Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, the newly elected First District appellate judge. Surprisingly, Republican Justice Robert Cupp did not submit an application despite recently losing re-election.

A ban on internet sweepstakes cafes is on its way. The cafes are allegedly susceptible to illegal activities such as money laundering, racketeering and sex trafficking.

Marc Dann, the Democrat formerly in charge of the Ohio attorney general’s office, lost his law license for six months. Dann resigned from the role of attorney general in 2008 after 17 months of scandal-ridden service.

Three staffers at Gov. Kasich’s office were cleared by the Ohio inspector general’s office of engaging in political activity during work hours.

The mediation between Hostess and a striking union failed. The company is blaming the union for shutting down, but the free market is a likelier culprit.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is some science on weight gain.

A new way to give drugs to patients: injectable sponges that expand inside the body.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.20.2012
Posted In: Economy, News at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Unemployment Ticks Down to 6.8 Percent

City remains ahead of nation, behind state, county

The City of Cincinnati’s unemployment rate moved down a notch between September and October, from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County followed suit; Greater Cincinnati dropped from 6.4 to 6.3 percent, and the county dropped from 6.4 to 6.2 percent.

The numbers, which were unadjusted for seasonal factors, seemed positive overall. Unlike last month, the unemployment rate did not move down due to people leaving the civilian labor force, which measures the amount of people looking for work in addition to the amount of people who have jobs. Instead, labor forces in Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati all grew. 

The city is now better across the board than it was in October 2011. The civilian labor force and amount of employed are larger, and the amount of unemployed is lower. The city’s current 6.8 percent unemployment rate is also a vast improvement from the 9.1 percent unemployment rate in October 2011.

Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County made similar improvements in all numbers. Back in October 2011, Greater Cincinnati was at 8.1 percent unemployment, and Hamilton County was at 8.3 percent.

However, Cincinnati remains below the state’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.3 percent. It does beat the nation’s seasonally unadjusted 7.5 percent rate, however.

Part of the recovery is likely fueled by improvements in the housing market. Cincinnati’s housing numbers from October showed a 16.5 percent year-over-year improvement, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.

Unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. State and federal numbers are typically adjusted to fit seasonal employment patterns to give a more consistent rate, while local numbers are not.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.20.2012
Posted In: Budget, Development, Economy, News, Energy, Environment at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
feature_banks_lede

Morning News and Stuff

Plan Cincinnati set for approval, Hamilton County's budget delayed, waste wells return

Plan Cincinnati is expected to be approved by City Council Wednesday, according to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. The plan was unanimously approved by the Livable Communities committee last night. Plan Cincinnati, which is Cincinnati’s first comprehensive plan in 30 years, emphasizes the city’s urban center through new infrastructure, transportation options and goals to make downtown residents stay in the area. CityBeat previously covered the plan in greater detail here.

At the request of the sole Democrat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, a vote on the 2013 budget is being delayed by one week. Commissioner Todd Portune asked Commission President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, for the vote delay to address funding to juvenile courts and plans for future financial stability. Hartmann agreed to the delay, noting consensus is important for budget issues. The budget won’t raise taxes, but it could put 150 Hamilton County employees out of jobs.

Wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of fluids used during the fracking process, will soon be popping up around Ohio again. The wells are the first to get state approval since earthquakes around Youngstown in December were blamed on nearby wastewater injection wells. It’s clear little — not even earthquakes — will stop Ohio’s fracking boom, but at what cost? It is generally accepted switching from coal to natural gas would bring down pollution that causes global warming, but some findings from Australia suggest problems still lay ahead. One study found an abnormal amount of greenhouse gases around an Australian fracking site. Methane leakage in particular is a problem at natural gas sites because over 100 years methane is 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Cincinnati home sales shot up in October, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. The report paints a great picture for the city’s housing economy. Housing was one of the biggest sectors hit by the financial crisis of 2007-2008, so a recovery in housing is a sign the economic downturn could soon be a thing of the past.

University of Cincinnati researchers want to know if testing emergency-room patients for HIV makes sense. ER doctors worry about longer wait times, disrupted operations and possible interference with emergency services, but the health benefits could outweigh the negatives.

FirstGroup America is looking into moving from its Cincinnati headquarters. The company originally got a million-dollar tax incentive from the city for moving to downtown.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich hopes his rejection of Obamacare’s health exchanges will ignite some re-election fundraising. Kasich is up for re-election in 2014. Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. With Kasich’s rejection, the federal government will manage Ohio’s exchange.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted finally had a good day in court on Saturday. In a reversal from the lower court’s ruling, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said ballots without proper identification should not be counted. It’s estimated that, at most, the ruling will affect about 2,000 votes.

A Dayton man allegedly robbed the same bank twice.

Behold, the greatest thing the internet has ever created: The Spice Kittens livestream.

With a nose cell transplant, paralyzed dogs are walking again.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.19.2012
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Plan Cincinnati hearing tonight, fiscal cliff threatens schools, Kasich declines exchanges

City Council’s Livable Communities committee is expected to hear about and likely vote tonight on the city’s first master plan in more than 30 years. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered, seeks a renewed emphasis on Cincinnati’s urban core through new infrastructure and transportation options. It was put together largely based on public feedback.

The “fiscal cliff,” which is really more of a self-induced austerity crisis from the federal government, could seriously hurt Ohio schools. Educators around the state, including Cincinnati schools, are expecting a cut of about 8 percent in federal funding. A Cincinnati Public Schools levy was recently renewed after a decade of cuts and problems at the school district.

Gov. John Kasich has finally made a decision for Obamacare: The state will not run the health exchanges that are a big part of the plan. With the governor’s decision, managing the health exchanges now falls to the federal government. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, defended the governor’s decision by pointing out that even if the state managed the exchanges, the federal government would always have the final say, creating an arrangement “just doesn’t make sense for the state.” Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace.

Cincinnati’s economy is being carried largely by manufacturing, and that looks likely to continue.

Business schools at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University were found to be among the nation’s best, according to the Princeton Review. Still, none of the schools made the top 10 rankings for the review’s 11 categories.

City Council is holding a public hearing today to find out what the city should do with casino revenue. Some of the council members already have plans, but City Council wants public feedback to shape the final decision.

In other council news, the Human Services Advisory committee recommended funding for 56 out of 58 programs. The two programs left out are the Over-The-Rhine Kitchen and a social education program offered by the Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Cincinnati’s Metro bus service will be getting a revamp in the next few years. The company released a comprehensive plan with short-term and long-term goals that focus on increasing travel speed and reach.

Charter schools are where a large amount of Ohio kids are getting their education. This is despite the fact that, in general, traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, according to state standards.

Food stamps for Ohio families are getting reduced by about $25 a month. The good news is the cut is lower than expected.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released a “re-inspection report” for the Lake Erie prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America. According to the new report, CCA has come a long way and corrected many of the violations the state originally found in the private prison. The last report found the prison, which CCA bought in 2011, was riddled with problems. CityBeat looked at private prisons, their problems and the shady connections between state officials and CCA in an in-depth report.

A report found more Ohioans are taking advantage of a national settlement that lets households refinance their mortgages. In total, more than 4,500 Ohioans have refinanced for $165 million in consumer relief. Still, many eligible Ohioans are not taking advantage of the opportunity.

Here are pictures of a tiny octopus, fighting female robots and an orange-powered battery.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.16.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Anna Louise Inn at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City manager gets raise despite deficit, GE food regulations, Ohio unemployment drops

Cincinnati may have a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million, but that didn't stop City Council from voting 6-2 Thursday to approve a $23,000 raise and one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney, the highest-paid city employee. The raise brings his salary up from $232,000 to $255,000. Council members Chris Seelbach and Chris Smitherman voted against the raise. P.G. Sittenfeld also opposed the raise and bonus, but he missed the vote because he was out of town for personal reasons. If City Council balances the budget for the next year and fires someone making $58,000 or less to help do so, the raise and one-time bonus could have meant one person’s job.

City Council also voted 8-0 to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food. Alison Auciello, Ohio-based organizer for Food & Water Watch, praised the move in a statement: “Genetically engineered foods are potentially unsafe, and consumers should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to eat GE foods. It took regulation to get food processors to label ingredients and nutrition facts on labels, and now we’re calling for federal lawmakers to require the labeling of GE food.”

Ohio’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October, down from 7.1 percent in September, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The numbers were mostly positive with the amount of unemployed dropping by 10,000 and the amount of employed rising by 13,900. The civilian labor force also grew, although it was still below Oct. 2011 levels. Most gains were seen in service-providing industries, professional and business services and government. In comparison, the federal unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October, up from 7.8 percent in September.

The Anna Louise Inn won another zoning appeal yesterday. The victory upheld a conditional use permit for the Inn, which will allow Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, to carry on with $13 million renovations. Western & Southern has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Income inequality in Ohio is wide and growing. A new study found the gap between the rich and poor is widening, with the lower and middle classes actually losing real income since the 1990s. 

After Thanksgiving, the Cincinnati Zoo team will be studying penguins off the coast of Chile.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is having no part in the good unemployment news. The company announced another round of job cuts as part of a large restructuring program. It’s unclear how the cuts will impact Cincinnati.

Hostess, maker of Twinkies, is going out of business. The company blamed a workers’ strike for the move, but Hostess has been having problems for a long time. The company has already filed for bankruptcy twice this decade.

The Ohio Board of Regents launched OhioMeansSuccess.org, a website meant to place students on a path to college and a successful career.

Russia can get pretty hardcore. While herding sheep, one grandmother fended off and killed a wolf with an axe.

The U.S. Navy is retiring its mine-sweeping dolphins and replacing them with robots.

 
 

 

 

 
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