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by German Lopez 03.11.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council, Taxes, Privatization, Parking at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan on hold, mall renovations to go ahead, Kasich's sales tax plan under fire

Cincinnati’s plan to lease parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains on hold as a lawsuit arguing the law should be subject to referendum works through the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and takes away the possibility of a referendum. Emergency clauses are routinely deployed in City Council, but opponents of the parking plan say that doesn’t make them right.

Whether the parking deal does go through or not, the Tower Place Mall renovations will be carried out. The city originally included the renovations as part of the plan, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the city is planning on selling the the property to a subsidiary of JDL Warm Construction for an undisclosed sum, and the company will then pay an estimated $5 million for the redevelopment.

Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand the sales tax to fund tax cuts is being heavily criticized by some members of the business community, but Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance & Appropriations Committee, says he is looking into ways to save the proposal. Kasich’s plan would expand the application of the sales tax to include more services, including cable TV and admission to sport events, but it would lower the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and carry out 20-percent across-the-board income tax cuts. CityBeat wrote about Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.

As part of Kasich’s education plans, the state’s school voucher program is expanding to help students meet a Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-graders pass a test in reading proficiency before they can move onto fourth grade. Supporters argue the voucher program provides more choice and control for parents, but opponents say the state should not be paying for private educations. A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found expanded school choice through more vouchers can have negative effects on education, including worse results for students and teachers.

State Auditor Dave Yost is pushing for a full audit of JobsOhio, the publicly funded private, nonprofit agency, but Republican state legislators are joining Kasich in opposition. The opposing Republicans say the state auditor can track any public funds used for JobsOhio, but they say the agency is allowed to keep its private funds under wraps. Kasich says he plans to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited by the state auditor at any time, with JobsOhio.

The Ohio Department of Education apparently knew or should have known of ongoing data scrubbing in schools as early as 2008, according to The Toledo Blade. Emails acquired by The Blade show officials analyzed and discussed data reports that year after media reports detailed how urban districts excluded thousands of test scores on state report cards.

Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn gathered Friday in celebration of International Women’s Day and to stand against Western & Southern’s repeated efforts to run the Inn out of the neighborhood.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Cincinnati commutes are much shorter than the national average, with only 2.9 percent of Cincinnatians spending more than 60 minutes one-way during their commute, as compared to the 8.1 percent national average.

The Cincinnati Enquirer unveiled its new tabloid format today. Ben Kaufman says it looks nice and arrived on time.

The Killers are coming to the Horseshoe Casino.

A new study says results from fMRI scans are unintentionally distorted and inaccurate — to the point that some studies on the human brain that use fMRI results may be seriously questionable.

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

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 07.23.2013
Posted In: LGBT, News, Budget, Health care at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio must recognize gay couple, Qualls knocks pension plan, 1.25 million in state uninsured

A federal judge ruled that a state death certificate must recognize the marriage of a newlywed same-sex couple, but the order only applies to James Obergefell and John Arthur. It’s the first time a same-sex marriage is recognized in Ohio. The two men had the case expedited because Arthur is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurological disease with no known cure. Al Gerhardstein, the attorney for the two husbands, says the ruling could be the beginning of legal challenges from gay couples inspired by the Supreme Court’s ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which could put further pressure on Ohio to legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered ongoing efforts to legalize gay marriage in the state here, although the group in charge of the movement is now aiming to put the issue on the ballot in 2014, not 2013 as originally planned.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in a statement called the tea party-backed charter amendment that would revamp the city’s pension system “a wolf in sheep's clothing.” She is also requesting the city administration study the amendment’s consequences and report back to City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Aug. 5. The amendment would funnel new hires into a private retirement plan similar to what’s typically found in the private sector — except, unlike private-sector workers, city employees don’t pay into Social Security and don’t collect Social Security benefits from their years with the city. The amendment was announced less than a week after Moody’s, a credit ratings agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating in part because of the city’s increasing pension liability.

A poll analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati suggests more than 1.25 million Ohioans are uninsured, with about 17 percent of the working-age population lacking insurance. It also found that Ohioans are increasingly reliant on public programs to obtain health benefits. The analysis looked at the Health Foundation’s 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll. The results could spur further efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found would save the state money and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade. Republican legislators rejected the Medicaid expansion in the state budget, citing concerns that the federal government wouldn’t be able to uphold its 90-percent funding commitment.

Gov. John Kasich wants to fast track the I-71/MLK Interchange in part by using revenue from the Ohio Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich’s recommendations, which must be approved by the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, add up to $107.7 million in state funds.

State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican who’s facing 16 felony charges of fraud, won’t resign his seat.

Twenty-eight people have applied to become Cincinnati’s next police chief. With a recent uptick in violence, many have called on the city to expedite the process of replacing James Craig, the former police chief who left for Detroit earlier in the year.

Despite rising interest rates, Cincinnati-area home sales in June continued their strong trend up.

For-profit entities are opening more online schools in Ohio, with the process set by state legislators to shut out public educators. A previous investigation by CityBeat found online schools tend to do worse and cost more than their peers.

The city administration and social media network Nextdoor are partnering up to better link Cincinnati’s neighborhoods with the local government. The network will provide a free website for each of the city’s neighborhoods, which the city says will allow residents to “to get to know their neighbors, ask questions and exchange local advice and recommendations.” City officials plan to use the websites to regularly reach out to local citizens.

Computer software from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could make the Internet three times faster.

by German Lopez 11.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Election Day is today. Find your correct polling booth here. Check out CityBeat’s endorsements here.

After a year of campaigns, the race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is almost over. All eyes are on Ohio to decide the presidential election. In aggregate polling, Obama leads Romney by 2.9 points in Ohio and 0.7 points nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ electoral forecast model, gives Obama a 91.4 percent chance to win Ohio and a 91.6 percent chance to win the election. The New York Times also has an interactive flowchart to gauge both Obama's and Romney's paths to victory.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown leads Republican challenger Josh Mandel by 5 points in aggregate polling. CityBeat covered the policy and campaign differences between the two candidates in coverage of the first, second and third debate and a cover story.

Gov. John Kasich has taken a noticeable shift to the center and considered less divisive ideas in recent months, and some of that might be to help Romney’s electoral chances in Ohio. In the past two years, Kasich went from supporting SB 5, which would have limited collective bargaining for public employees, to focusing almost entirely on jobs.

While we focus on voting on Earth, astronauts in space also vote.

Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, laid out his budget plan yesterday. Hartmann touted “austerity” as a prominent theme in the budget. Austerity measures actually led Europe into a second recession, according to prominent economist Robert Reich. This matches the opinion of other economists, such as Nobel-winning Paul Krugman, who argue governments should try to make up for shortfalls in the private sector through increased spending during recessions. Recently, the International Monetary Fund admitted it underestimated the bad economic impact of austerity measures. Still, Hamilton County is required to balance its budget, so the commissioners don’t have many options. Todd Portune, the lone Democratic commissioner, says he will unveil his plan later.

The new Jungle Jim’s at Eastgate is having a large, positive impact on its neighbors. The exotic grocery store has apparently brought a lot of new paying customers to the area.

Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood might soon put its traffic problems in the past. City Council is expected to vote on a plan Wednesday that would block three streets in the neighborhood. Residents have complained traffic is out of control because of development at the Rookwood Exchange in Norwood, and traffic could get worse due to the holiday shopping season.

Workers injured during the construction of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino are looking for a way around workers comp rules. The exemption-seeking lawsuit filed by four workers against 13 defendants is typical in Ohio law, which generally prevents workers from suing employers over workplace injuries since Ohio’s compensation rules provide ways to obtain missing wages and other potential damages.

Time Warner Cable is hiring for more than 50 positions in Cincinnati.

A new partnership between the Memorial Hall Society, 3CDC and Hamilton County’s commissioners may revitalize Hamilton County’s Memorial Hall. The hall is one of Hamilton County’s architectural treasures, but a lack of renovations has left it behind modern developments, including air conditioning.

Some of Ohio’s exotic animal owners are not happy with a new law that requires registering and micro-chipping exotic animals, so they are suing the state.

A Cleveland woman that drove on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was unloading children will have to wear a sign that says, “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She will have to wear the sign at an intersection for one hour a day for two days next week.

An Ohio woman broke into a family’s house, cleaned the house and left a $75 bill.

On Sunday, an amputee climbed 103 stories using a mind-controlled bionic leg. Oh, science.

by German Lopez 07.02.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Voting, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto

Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”.

Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency personnel to enter.

Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is “silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here.

A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid. The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here.

The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here.

Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?”

It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways.

Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine.

The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation.

Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).

by German Lopez 10.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Economy, Budget, Education, Environment at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
sherrod brown

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The last debate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat took place last night. The debate between Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel mostly covered old ground, but the candidates did draw contrasting details on keeping Social Security solvent. Mandel favored raising the eligibility age on younger generations, while Brown favored raising the payroll tax cap. Currently, Brown leads Mandel in aggregate polling by 5.2 points.

Mitt Romney was in town yesterday. In his speech, he criticized the president’s policies and campaign rhetoric and touted support for small businesses. The Cincinnati visit was the first stop of a two-day tour of Ohio, which is the most important swing state in the presidential race. But senior Republican officials are apparently worried Romney has leveled off in the state, which could cost Romney the Electoral College and election. President Barack Obama is expected to visit Cincinnati on Halloween. In aggregate polling, Obama is ahead in Ohio by 2.1 points, and Romney is up nationally by 0.9 points. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio says the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio schools should be phased out by 2016. The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Education are currently taking feedback on a new policy draft that says schools can only use seclusion rooms in cases of “immediate threat of physical harm,” but the policy only affects traditional public schools, not charter schools, private schools or educational service centers. Seclusion rooms are intended to restrain children who become violent, but recent investigations found the rooms are used to punish children or as a convenience for staff. Currently, Ohio has no state laws overseeing seclusion rooms, and the Department of Education and Board of Education provide little guidance and oversight regarding seclusion rooms.

The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati and a City Council task force have a plan to make Cincinnati’s water infrastructure a little greener.

A study found Cincinnati hospitals are good with heart patients but not-so-good with knee surgery. The names of the hospitals that were looked at were not revealed in the study, however.

An economist at PNC Financial Services Group says 10,000 jobs will be added in Cincinnati in 2013.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble has new details about its effort to reduce costs and make operations more productive. The company announced a “productivity council” that will look at “the next round of productivity improvements.” The company also said it will reach 4,200 out of 5,700 job cuts by the end of October as part of a $10 billion restructuring program announced in February.

The world just got a little sadder. Chemicals in couches could be making people fatter.

On the bright side, we now know how to properly butcher and eat a triceratops.

by German Lopez 06.03.2013
Posted In: Privatization, News, Mayor, Budget at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich to block full JobsOhio audit, Senate to vote on budget, Democrats endorse no mayor

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald called on Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s running for re-election in 2014, to veto a bill that will prevent a full audit on JobsOhio, but Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the governor will sign the bill. The bill will define JobsOhio’s liquor profits, which the agency gets from a lease deal with the state government, as private funds, closing the profits to an audit. The bill will also prevent State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican who’s been pursuing an audit of JobsOhio, from looking into private funds in publicly funded agencies. The new limits on state audits could have repercussions beyond JobsOhio, making it more difficult to hold publicly funded agencies accountable. JobsOhio is a private nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development.

The Ohio Senate will vote on a budget bill Thursday that continues to push conservative stances on social issues and aims to cut taxes for small businesses. The bill will potentially allow Ohio’s health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion. The bill does not cut taxes for most Ohioans, unlike the Ohio House budget bill that cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent.

Local Democrats are unlikely to endorse a candidate in this year’s mayoral race, which will likely be against Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Even though both candidates are Democrats, they have two major policy differences: Qualls supports the streetcar project, while Cranley opposes it. Qualls also supports the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, which Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously did Q&As with Cranley and Qualls.

The parties’ slates of City Council candidates are mostly set. This year, Democrats are running 10 candidates — more than the nine seats available in City Council. Meanwhile, Republicans are running four candidates and the Charter Committee is looking at three potential candidates.

Cincinnati already has some of the cleanest water in the nation, but Water Works is making improvements to its treatments. One new treatment will use an ultraviolet process to kill 99.9 percent of germs.

It’s National Internet Safety Month, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking Ohioans to be safe out there.

A 131-year-old historic building in the West End collapsed after a car crashed into it. The driver’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

Ohio State’s president, who’s a Mormon, is in trouble for making fun of Catholics.

Mason and Sophia are Ohio’s most popular baby names.

Dogs are currently the best bomb detectors, but scientists are aiming to do better.

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 06.11.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget, Voting at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying $12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed.

The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should contribute to the pension fund continues to go up. The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102 million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.

As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2), which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an investigation.

Following a report that found Ohios juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region.

Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008.

The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.

An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light.

Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.

by German Lopez 10.17.2013
Posted In: News, Emery Theatre, Homelessness, Budget at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Shutdown ends, homeless sue county, Requiem makes demands in battle for Emery Theatre

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

Congress last night voted to end a partial government shutdown that lasted for more than two weeks and avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. In the end, House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner and local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, got less than nothing for their threats of default and shutdown: Obamacare wasn’t repealed or delayed, taxes weren’t cut and federal spending remained flat. Instead, Republicans were left with the worst polling results Gallup measured for either political party since it began asking the question in 1992. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats got the clean budget and debt ceiling bills they were asking for all along. But the funding measures only last until Jan. 15 and the debt ceiling increase remains until Feb. 7, leaving some groups on both sides of the aisle to ask whether the dramatic showdown will happen all over again in a few months.

Four local homeless sued Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil over his attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time. Homeless advocates argue the policy punishes homeless people for being homeless; they say the county should focus on creating jobs and housing opportunities, not arresting people who are just trying to find a safe spot to sleep. But the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says it’s addressing a public health issue; Major Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.

In the ongoing legal battle for the Emery Theatre, the Requiem Project amended its lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati and lessees and asked the courts to remove UC from ownership of the building. Requiem argues UC has failed to live up to the goals of Mary Emery’s charitable trust by allowing the building to fall into disrepair and non-use over the years. Courts originally approved the development of apartments in the building as long as the profits went toward renovating the theater, but after 14 years apartment operators say there are multiple mortgages on the property and no profits. The trial is scheduled for February.

Commentary: “Governor Finally Accepts Federal Funds.”

Now in print: Mayoral candidate John Cranley, who’s running for mayor against fellow Democrat and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, rejected support from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), and the conservative organization’s history of anti-LGBT causes helps explain why.

Qualls scored higher across the board than Cranley in the scorecard released today by the African-American Chamber of Commerce. Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University, previously told CityBeat that the black vote will likely decide the mayoral election. Council candidates Charlie Winburn, P.G. Sittenfeld, Vanessa White, Yvette Simpson, David Mann and Pam Thomas also topped the scorecard.

Ohio House Republicans may sue Gov. John Kasich for his decision to bypass the legislature and instead get approval from a seven-member legislative panel for the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would use Obamacare dollars to extend eligibility for the government-run health insurance program to more low-income Ohioans for at least two years. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade. CityBeat covered Kasich’s decision in further detail here.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House and Senate are debating three different ways to approach an overhaul of Medicaid and bring the program’s costs down. State Rep. Barbara Sears’ bill pushes for a swathe of reforms and cost controls, while State Rep. John Becker’s bill aims to significantly weaken the program to the absolute minimums required by the federal government. Becker’s proposal would likely leave hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans without health insurance.

Speaking in Cincinnati yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the federal government is working to correct the many errors plaguing Obamacare’s online marketplaces. The glitches and traffic overload have made HealthCare.gov, which acts as Obamacare’s shopping portal for Ohio and 35 other states, practically unusable for most Americans since the website launched on Oct. 1.

Ohio’s prison agency reassigned the warden and second-in-command at the Correctional Reception Center weeks after Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was found dead in his cell.

A 20-year-old woman is expected to recover after her car crashed into a Winton Hills building while she overdosed on heroin, according to Cincinnati police.

Cincinnati is the only Ohio city to make Livability.com’s top 100 places to live.

Headline: “Bad sperm? Drop the bacon.”

A new study argues ancient climate change led early humans to adapt and evolve.