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by German Lopez 11.29.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Privatization, LGBT Issues at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Port Authority could buy parking assets, county may raise sales tax, Cincinnati's LGBT score

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is making a move to buy up the city’s parking services. Cincinnati is pursuing parking privatization as a way of balancing the budget. If it accepts the Port Authority’s deal, the city will get $40 million upfront, and $21 million of that will be used to help plug the $34 million deficit in the 2013 budget. Port Authority also promised 50 percent of future profits. The Port Authority proposal is only one of nine Cincinnati’s government has received since it announced its plan. CityBeat criticized the city’s budget plan in this week’s commentary.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners might raise the sales tax instead of doing away with the property tax rebate to stabilize the stadium fund. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune suggested the idea, and Board President Greg Hartmann says it might be the only solution. Republican Chris Monzel is against it. Sales taxes are notoriously regressive, while the property tax rebate disproportionately favors the wealthy. Portune claims the 0.25-percent sales tax hike would be more spread out than a property tax rollback, essentially impacting low-income families less than the alternative. CityBeat previously covered the stadium fund and its problems here.

While Cincinnati has made great strides in LGBT rights in the past year, it still has ways to go. The Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign scored Cincinnati a 77 out of 100 on city services, laws and policies and how they affect LGBT individuals. Cleveland tied with Cincinnati, and Columbus beat out both with an 83. It's clear Ohio is making progress on same-sex issues, but will Ohioans approve same-sex marriage in 2013?

Some conservatives just don’t know when to quit. Even though Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus pronounced the heartbeat bill dead, Janet Porter, president of the anti-abortion Faith2Action, wants to force a vote in the Ohio legislature. CityBeat previously wrote about Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.

Some people are not liking the idea of new fracking waste wells. About 100 protesters in Athens were escorted out of an information session from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for loudly disputing a proposal to build more waste wells. Fracking, which is also called hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling technique that pumps water underground to draw out oil and gas. Waste wells are used to dispose of the excess water.

One reason Ohio's online schools are so costly is advertising. CityBeat previously looked into online schools, their costs and their problems.

Divorce in Ohio might soon get easier to finalize, as long as it’s mutual and civil.

A new bill would give Ohio schools more flexibility in making up snow days and other sudden disruptions in the school year. The bill changes school year requirements from day measurements to hour measurements.

A new study found 60 percent of youth with HIV don’t know they have the deadly disease. CityBeat covered a new University of Cincinnati push meant to clamp down on rising HIV rates among youth in this week’s news story.

Tech jobs are seeing a boom due to Obamacare, according to Bloomberg.

Scientists have discovered a quasar that glows brighter than our entire galaxy.

They’ve also invented a chocolate that doesn’t melt at 104 degrees.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.25.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Parking, Infrastructure at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_pgsittenfeld_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Behind the parking plan drama, state budget cuts local funding, bridge to get federal bump

Being one of the first to discover a critical memo put Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at the center of an ongoing drama regarding the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The memo criticized the financial details of the lease, but it was kept from the Port, City Council and the public for nearly a month. Ever since the controversial parking plan passed City Council and was upheld in court, concerned citizens, business leaders and critics like Sittenfeld have been calling on the city and Port to rework or halt the deal. So far, the city and Port have stuck to their support. The city will get a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million a year from the lease, which it currently plans to use to help balance city budgets and fund development projects, such as the I-71/MLK Interchange.

The latest state budget secured more cuts to city and county governments, putting local governments at a $1.5 billion shortfall in the next two years compared to 2010 and 2011, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio. Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. For Cincinnati, the original cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenue.

The Brent Spence Bridge was bumped up in a federal funding priority list through a successful amendment from Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican. The amendment prioritized $500 million for obsolete and structurally unsound bridges, but it’s so far unclear how much of the money will go to the Brent Spence Bridge project, which state officials estimate will cost $2.7 billion. Currently, Ohio and Kentucky officials plan to pay for the bridge project by enacting tolls.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor this year, is calling on the city manager to produce a plan that would structurally balance Cincinnati’s operating budget by 2016. “To build on the momentum Cincinnati is now experiencing, we must set a course now for a fiscally sustainable future,” Qualls said in a statement. “That’s why I’m urging that we have a plan to reach structural balance by 2016, restore reserves and increase the city’s pension contribution, minimize using the parking lease payment to restore budget cuts and continue to invest in neighborhoods and jobs to grow revenue.” The announcement comes more than one week after Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating and criticized the city for its exposure to unsustainable pension liabilities and reliance on one-time sources to fix budget gaps.

Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who’s also running for mayor, is rolling out his jobs plan today. The initiative will provide a job training program for individuals facing long-term unemployment or underemployment, which the Cranley campaign estimates will result in 379 individuals per year obtaining full-time, permanent jobs. The program will be mainly paid for by pulling funds from the city’s Office of Environmental Quality, Department of Finance, travel and the state lobbyist. “My deepest conviction is that there is dignity in work. I believe all able-bodied adults should work and be self-sufficient. And I believe society has an obligation to ensure the opportunity to work exists,” Cranley said in a statement.

On Second Thought: “Facts vs. Perceptions in Trayvon Martin Coverage.”

Police yesterday shot and killed Roger Ramundo, an allegedly armed Clifton resident. Officers had been called to the area of Clifton and Ludlow avenues by a mental health provider, who said there was a person with mental health issues armed with a gun, according to interim Cincinnati Police Chief Paul Humphries. Police said they tried to first subdue Ramundo with Tasers during an ensuing struggle, but they were unsuccessful and the man pulled out his gun and fired a shot. That’s when one officer fired two shots that hit Ramundo, who was then taken to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Gov. Kasich isn’t providing clemency to a Cleveland killer who stabbed his victim 17 times, overruling a rare plea for mercy from prosecutors but siding with a majority of the state parole board. Billy Slagle will be executed on Aug. 7.

Ohio will take a hands-off approach to promoting Obamacare, even though outreach will be crucial for the controversial health care law. President Barack Obama’s administration estimates it will have to enroll millions of young adults into health care plans to turn the law into a success.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County is investigating if Obamacare could result in lower property taxes by allowing the county to shift costs to the federal government.

A Cincinnati money manager is being accused of running an “elaborate Ponzi scheme” that cost investors “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to a July 20 complaint filed in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

The average price of a flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport dropped, but the airport is still the second-most expensive in the nation.

CityBeat gave Internet cat-celebrity Lil Bub an in-depth look in this week’s issue. Find it online here.

Want to maximize your tan? Here is how close you could get to the sun and survive.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, News at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

County Commissioners Approve 2013 Budget

Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts

For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.

The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs, according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least affected by cuts.

With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession. 

Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.

By law, the county is required to balance its budget.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.26.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Taxes at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Sheriff Jim Neil

Morning News and Stuff

Sheriff wants more staff, businesses get tax credits, Ohio Senate to look at gambling bill

Even as it faces budget cuts, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office says it wants more staff to keep up with higher jail populations — especially in light of a new measure that will keep more people detained until they appear in court. The measure is in response to some people never showing up to court after being released from jail. Staff are crediting the feasibility of the measure to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil encouraging them to think “outside the box.” Still, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel says the cost of the program might require Neil to think “inside the box.”

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is giving tax breaks to 13 businesses around the state in hopes of creating 1,417 jobs and spurring $83 million in investment. Seven of the projects are in the Hamilton, Butler and Clinton counties, with one in Cincinnati.

The Ohio House easily passed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, but the Ohio Senate is including the measure in a more comprehensive gambling bill. Senate President Keith Faber says there are a lot of issues related to gambling in Ohio, and the cafes are just one part of the problem.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is one of many being targeted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control ad campaign. Bloomberg is a leader in supporting more restrictive gun measures, and he’s planning on airing the ads in 13 states during the ongoing congressional spring break to push for stricter background checks and other new rules.

Ohio failed to show improvement in the latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In both 2009 and 2013, Ohio got a C- for its infrastructure, which translates to 2,462 structurally deficient bridges and puts about 42 percent of roadways as “poor” or “mediocre” quality. But the report might not be as bad as it sounds. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer argues that the ASCE is notoriously too harsh.

A study from NerdWallet found Cincinnati is the No. 1 city in the nation for consumer banking.

Duke Energy rolled out a new logo yesterday.

A former Miami University student is facing charges for allegedly changing his grades.

More options aren’t always a good thing, according to some science. A new study found more choices can lead to bad, risky decisions.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Guns, Budget, Streetcar at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover streetcar misrepresentations

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar project misrepresented, gun control battle continues, Media Bridges closing down

Ever since the Cincinnati streetcar has been envisioned, the mass transit project has been mired in misrepresentations driven largely by opponents and politicians. CityBeat has a breakdown of the misrepresentations here, showing some of the silliest and biggest falsehoods claimed by opponents and supporters.

The national battle over gun control came to Cincinnati on July 4 when former Rep. Gabby Giffords stopped at the Northside parade to call for new restrictions on firearms. Giffords is part of a slew of national leaders calling for stronger regulations and enforcement for background checks — a policy more than nine in 10 Americans support. Still, the call seems to be politically unheard so far: Federal legislation is stalled in Congress, and Ohio legislators are working to loosen gun restrictions.

Facing city budget cuts, public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down by the end of the year. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the organization lost state funding that had been provided through an agreement with Time Warner Cable. But city officials claim the local funding was supposed to act as a one-year reprieve and nothing more — a claim Media Bridges was apparently never made aware of until it was too late. To justify the cut, the city cites public surveys that ranked budget programs in terms of importance, but a look at the citizen surveys shows the demographics were skewed against low-income people who make the most use out of programs like Media Bridges.

Check out CityBeat’s editorial content for this week’s issue:
• German Lopez: “Meet Daniela,” the hypothetical victim of Republican policies at the state and national level.
• Ben Kaufman: “‘Enquirer’ Takes Questionable Approach to Covering Meyers Ordination,” which analyzes the questionable apathy to a supposedly “illegal” ordination of a woman Catholic priest.
• Kathy Wilson: “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” a look at the life story of South African leader Nelson Mandela and the hurdles he faced as he helped end discriminatory apartheid policies.

If you’re headed to Fountain Square today, expect to see some images of bloodied fetuses and fetal limbs. An anti-abortion group is showing a video with the gruesome visuals as part of a protest against what it sees as “the greatest human rights injustice of our time.” The group defends its tactics by citing its First Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has so far refused to rule one way or the other on the issue, but, barring some restrictions for airwave broadcasts, the court typically protects all kinds of political speech as long as it’s not pornographic.

The Cincinnati Police Department is changing how it responds to calls to focus on what it sees as the most important issues, such as impacting violent crime, youth intervention efforts, long-term problem solving projects, traffic safety and neighborhood quality-of-life issues. The biggest change will come with how the department reacts to minor traffic accidents: It will still respond, but it may not file a report.

The so-far-unnamed Greater Cincinnati coalition working to reduce the local infant mortality rate set a goal yesterday: zero. It’s a dramatic vision for a region that, at 13.6, has an infant mortality rate more than twice the national average of six, as CityBeat covered here.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced in a statement yesterday that he will be gathering local leaders and health officials to encourage the state to expand Medicaid. The expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here, would save Ohio money and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, according to an analysis by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

Fish oils may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study.

A measure that would disallow employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals made it through a U.S. Senate committee yesterday.

Cadillac’s Super Cruise could have the features to making self-driving cars viable.

A device trains blind people to see by listening.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Education at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project, according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling.

Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council to get the city administration to answer questions about budget alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere.

The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality.

The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe, chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare, health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty.

Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year.

A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church.

Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month.

Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28 employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916 Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati.

President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain.

By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them.

Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.25.2013
Posted In: Budget, Economy, News, Transportation, Spending at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio unemployment standards, state approves projects, Cincinnati's transparent spending

A new analysis found Ohio has some of the toughest requirements for unemployment benefits. The Policy Matters Ohio report shows Ohio is the only state besides Michigan where a worker who makes minimum wage for 29 hours a week would not qualify for unemployment compensation. Ohio’s standards require workers to earn an average of at least $230 a week for at least 20 weeks of work to qualify for benefits. The state also does not allow unemployed workers seeking part-time work to receive benefits, which is permissible in most other states. Every state must set qualification standards for unemployment compensation, which is supposed to hold people over while they search for work if they’re laid off.

Ohio’s transportation projects council unanimously approved 32 different projects totaling more than $2 billion. The projects approved by the Transportation Review Advisory Council come amidst debate over Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which leverages the turnpike’s profits for renewed infrastructure spending. Ohio Department of Transportation officials say they’re optimistic about the turnpike plan and the bond revenue it will produce in the short term.

A new report from the Ohio Public Interest Research Group found Cincinnati is a lot more transparent about spending than Cleveland. Cincinnati got a B+ for spending transparency, while Cleveland got an F.

The city of Cincinnati and a union representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court settlement over a lawsuit involving the city's pension program. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city is not meeting funding requirements set by the Cincinnati Retirement System Board of Trustees.

The local branch of the NAACP is facing increased tensions. Three former presidents are calling for a national investigation to look into the local branch’s relationship with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a local conservative group. City Council Member Chris Smitherman, current president of the NAACPs local branch, has close ties with COAST, but the three former presidents say partnering with COAST is the wrong direction for the NAACP.

Some Ohio schools need to do more to protect students from concussions. Many schools are already improving standards in anticipation of a state law that goes into effect in April, but some large school districts are falling behind. The new law requires school districts educate parents and families about concussions, train coaches in recognizing symptoms of head injuries and pull injured or symptomatic students from the field until a doctor clears a return. CityBeat wrote about head injuries and how they relate to the NFL and Bengals here.

President Barack Obama renominated Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general, to head the Consumers Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination could have repercussions for the 2014 governor’s race; Cordray was seen as a potential Democratic candidate.

Lightning could be a source of headaches and migraines, according to a new University of Cincinnati study.

Catholic Health Partners and Mercy Health are looking to fill 80 positions.

The Ingalls Building, which was the world’s first reinforced-concrete skyscraper when it was built in downtown Cincinnati in 1903, was sold for $1.45 million.

A Catholic hospital chain killed a lawsuit by arguing a fetus is not a person.

IBM developed a warmth-activated gel that could kill superbugs and break up tough bacterial biofilms. Maybe humans won’t need panda blood after all.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.08.2013
Posted In: Economy, News, Budget, Mayor, Taxes at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking vandalism, Cranley demands debate, Kasich plan limits counties

Damaged parking meters in Over-the-Rhine are causing problems for residents and local businesses. For months, thieves have been cutting off the top of meters to steal change. The vandals directly steal revenue from the city, ensure the damaged meters won’t collect revenue until they’re fixed and force the city to shell out more money to fix the meters. Businesses and residents are also worried the damaged meters cause confusion for drivers and make the area look unattractive.

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley wants to debate Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who’s also running for mayor, over the city’s plan to privatize parking services. Cranley, a former council member, has pushed the city to find an alternative to the privatization plan — sometimes leading him to make claims with little backing. Qualls isn’t ecstatic about the privatization plan, but she seems to side with City Manager Milton Dohoney’s position that it’s necessary to avoid the layoff of 344 city employees.

County officials around the state are peeved at Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan because it limits how much they can leverage in county sales taxes. The proposal bars counties from changing their sales tax rates for three years starting July 2013, and it also adjusts county’s rates to force a 10 percent revenue increase over the prior year beginning December 2013. The Kasich administration claims the move is necessary to prevent county governments from using the governor’s plan to subtly raise the sales tax, but county officials argue the move infringes on local rights. Kasich’s plan lowers the state sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, but it expands what’s affected by the tax.

CityBeat analyzed Kasich’s budget proposal yesterday:

  • CPS Still Loses Funding Under Kasich Administration: The budget does increase school funding for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), but it’s not enough to make up for the last state budget cuts to CPS.
  • Kasich Tax Cut Favors Wealthy: Kasich claims he’s giving a tax cut to every Ohioan, but a new report from Policy Matters Ohio shows the poor and middle class will pay more on average under his plan.

Kasich’s school funding plan is also drawing complaints from school leaders. At a press conference, Kasich made his plan sound fairly progressive, but school leaders found the actual numbers underwhelming, and 60 percent of schools won’t get any increased funding.

City Council Member Chris Seelbach took to Facebook to slam Cranley for some recent comments regarding freestanding public restrooms. During an interview with Bill Cunningham, Cranley tried to politicize the issue by saying City Council wants to build a $100,000 freestanding restroom. In his Facebook post, Seelbach explained that’s not the case: “John Cranley, if you haven't heard (which I find surprising), NO ONE on City Council has ever said, in any capacity, that we should spend $100,000+ on a 24-hour public restroom facility. No one. In fact, I went on Bill Cunningham to make that clear. I'd appreciate if you'd stop trying to politicize the real issue: Finding a way to offer more public restroom choices in our urban core for our growing and thriving city. In case you didn't hear my interview with Cunningham, or my comments to almost every media source in this region, I'll post the interview again.” Seelbach’s interview with Cunningham can be found here.

Clifton’s new grocery store will begin construction next week. Goessling's Market-Clifton is finally replacing Keller's IGA on Ludlow Avenue.

A local high school’s prom was canceled to punish students for a massive water balloon fight at lunch. The giant fight was planned as a prank on social media, and school staff tried to prevent it by warning students of the repercussions on the day of the prank. Students did not listen. Prom was lame, anyway.

PNC Bank donated $450,000 to Smale Riverfront Park. The money will be used to build the PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground, which will have a swinging rope bridge for kids to walk across a canyon. PNC is among a handful companies to donate to the riverfront park; most recently, Procter & Gamble donated $1 million.

Cincinnati was called the most literate city in Ohio.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party endorsed the Freedom to Marry Amendment, which would legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat wrote about the amendment here.

Kasich’s latest budget proposal would privatize food services in prisons to save $16.2 million. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents prison staff, has come out against the plan.

A lawsuit has been filed to take down a Jesus portrait in Jackson Middle School in southern Ohio. The lawsuit is being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They argue the portrait is an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed.”

A new cure for color blindness: goofy glasses.

There’s new evidence that a giant asteroid really sparked earth’s last great mass extinction event, which killed the dinosaurs.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.17.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Budget Gap Threatens Streetcar Project

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls calls for public hearing to discuss project

After years of delays and obstructionism, a Tuesday memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7 million budget gap is threatening to put an end to the streetcar project, prompting Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to call for a public hearing to address the issue.

In the city manager’s memo, the city says it could bring down the potential budget gap to $17.4 million with budget cuts, but the rest would have to come from new funds. The memo says the budget gap is a result of construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget.

The memo says the city will continue working with “federal partners” to find solutions, but it makes no specific proposals — a sign the project will likely require new city funds and private donations to close the gap.

In response to the memo, Qualls, a Democratic mayoral candidate who has long supported the streetcar, called for a public hearing on April 29 in a statement sent out today. The statement says part of the meeting will help clarify what would happen with allocated funding if the project fell apart.

Qualls told CityBeat it’s too early to jump to conclusions about the project’s fate, but she says it’s time to have a serious discussion about the project. “We’re at the point where we need to have a very robust public conversation about this that is based upon fact,” she says.

At the public hearing, both council members and the public will have time to ask questions. Qualls says she’s interested in getting answers for how the project got to this point, what the cost issues are, whether the streetcar is still a good economic investment and what costs are associated with shutting down the project if it’s deemed necessary.

“Fundamentally, it’s an issue of what are the costs but also what are the benefits,” she says. “We need to clearly outline both for the public.”

But opponents, including Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, have responded to the budget gap by criticizing the streetcar project. Cranley, a longtime opponent of the streetcar, called for the project’s end in a statement today: “The streetcar has been a bad idea and a bad deal for the people of Cincinnati from the beginning. ... Ms. Qualls has already voted to raise property taxes three times to pay for the project. When is she going to say ‘enough is enough?”

The opposition is nothing new to the project, which has undergone multiple bouts of obstructionism, including two failed referendum efforts in which a majority of voters came out in favor of the streetcar. Qualls says these delays have only made the project’s implementation more difficult.

The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing the two Democrats running for mayor this year, making it a contentious political issue (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).

The city recently approved two motions to prepare to hire John Deatrick, the current project manager for The Banks, to help bring the streetcar’s costs in line (“City Moves to Hire New Streetcar Manager,” issue of April 10). Deatrick was involved in finding savings in the streetcar project, according to the memo.

The hire and shortfall announcement came in the middle of an ongoing local budget crisis that may lead to the layoff of 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. The crisis is a result of legal and referendum efforts holding up the city’s plan to lease parking assets to the Port Authority, which would have opened up funds to help balance the budget for the next two years and carry out development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).

But the streetcar project, including Deatrick’s hire, is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget that employs cops and firefighters. Capital budget funds can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.

A statement from Cincinnatians for Progress defended the streetcar, despite the higher costs now facing the project: “These are challenging moments for Cincinnati's administration and City Council regarding the streetcar. Bids came in higher than anticipated. However, even at a slightly higher cost, the economic benefits of the system far outweigh these costs. This is a reality that has been outlined in study after study and confirmed in results from other cities across the country.

“Nearly 100 years ago, political leaders were having these same discussions before tragically losing resolve and abandoning the proposed subway and rail system that was nearly complete. Times have changed. A new attitude of positivity has taken over our city. We must continue the pattern of success that encompasses many recent projects that were difficult and not inexpensive, but well worth the investment.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Voting, Development at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

City and county budgets moving forward, Cincinnati master plan approved, few voted twice

Screw Cyber Monday; it’s budget day! The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on its 2013 budget today. The initial vote was delayed when commissioners couldn’t all agree on the full details. In City Council, a memo revealed the budget should be unveiled today. One part of the Cincinnati proposal has already been hinted at by a previous memo from the city manager: privatized parking.

On Wednesday, City Council approved Plan Cincinnati. The master plan, which is the first the city has undertaken in 32 years, creates short-, medium- and long-term goals. Built largely on public feedback, the plan emphasizes Cincinnati’s urban core with new transportation programs, community health initiatives, new housing options and more. CityBeat previously covered the plan in-depth here.

In Hamilton County, 81 people voted twice. The votes, which involved provisional ballots, only reflects about 0.2 percent of the county’s vote, but it shows some of the confusion and inefficiencies of modern elections. One particular problem is some elderly voters cast absentee ballots before the election and then filed provisional ballots on Election Day.

A California firm is using Alaskan pension dollars to buy hundreds of homes in Greater Cincinnati. The real estate will be used to provide corporate rentals.

Some education advocates are worried state education agencies won't have the proper time and resources to implement HB 555. A few provisions will have to be ready by mid-2013, which some advocates see as too little time; but the president of the Ohio Board of Education remains confident. HB 555 will radically reform the state’s school report card system, which evaluates and grades schools. Some state officials are worried the new standards, which will be measured in part by new standardized tests, will be too tough. An early simulation of the new report cards in 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.

State Medicaid costs are rising, but more slowly. The slowdown may be partially attributed to Gov. John Kasich’s reforms of the program, which is one of the most prominent costs in state budgets around the country.

Gas prices in Ohio have gone up in the last week. The prices were higher than they were in 2011, and some experts say instability in the Middle East is to blame.

Ohio is looking good for a revival of the pharmaceutical industry. That’s good news since the industry could be on the cusp of a “golden era of renewed productivity and prosperity,” according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Unfortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, the next generation of water pollution could be flushed drugs.

Here is the pope made out of condoms.

Science has been hard at work in 2012. Here is a list of the seven greatest engineering innovations of the year. The list includes the world’s largest semi-submersible vessel, which can be used as an offshore dock, and a carbon-neutral office building, which is arguably the most sustainable workplace ever.

The greatest public service announcement ever made:


 
 

 

 

 
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