The federal government is committing another $5 million to Cincinnati’s streetcar project, but the city must first close the budget gap that has recently put the project in danger. The U.S. Department of Transportation is also asking the city to restore certain aspects of the project, including a passenger information system and a screen or wall that would block power substations from public view. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is expected to vote on the project’s $17.4 million budget gap today. The latest proposed fixes from the city manager would pull funding from multiple capital projects, including improvements around the Horseshoe Casino, and issue more debt.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County announced a compromise Friday that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects. As a result, the city will be required to rework its “responsible bidder” ordinance and repeal the “local hire” and “local preference” laws that incited county commissioners into passing the funding hold in the first place. The city says its responsible bidder law creates local jobs and encourages job training, but the county argues that law’s rules favor unions and push up costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in further detail here.
Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials. For Cincinnati, the risks of megadeals are nothing new: In 2011, the city’s $196.4 million megadeal with Convergys collapsed when the company failed to keep downtown employment at or above 1,450, and the company agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city.
As of Friday, Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Port announced it had signed the lease Friday, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the agency was going to sign the lease at all. The city will get a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million a year from the deal, according to city estimates. Current plans call for using the money to help balance city budgets and fund economic development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.
The prison company that owns and operates a northeastern Ohio prison lost four contracts around the nation in June, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In May, CityBeat released an in-depth report looking at the Corrections Corporation of America’s handling of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, finding evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions.
About one in three Ohio children live in a home where neither parent has a full-time, year-round job, and a quarter now live in poverty. Although Ohio’s overall ranking improved in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual report card on the well-being of children, the state worsened in three out of four economic indicators.
President Barack Obama will make a speech tomorrow unveiling sweeping plans for climate change. The president is expected to impose a series of regulations, particularly on power plants, with executive powers, which means the plans won’t require congressional action.
Ohio gas prices are still coming down this week.
Plants apparently do math to get through the night.
Some diseases, including some types of cancer, are now being diagnosed by smell.
Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Today is the last day to submit your questions here. We’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email email@example.com.
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects, but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake. The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits. In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits, ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration, but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and redevelopment.”
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote — a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is coming to Cincinnati tomorrow. He will be speaking at Union Terminal at 10 a.m., with doors opening for the event at 8 a.m. Romney is expected to need Ohio to win the presidential election, but he is currently behind Obama in aggregate polling by 1.4 points. Romney gave his speech at the Republican National Convention last night with a focus on jobs and the economy. The speech has been generally well-received by political pundits. However, there has been some news recently that when he was in Bain Capital, Romney looted a dying company for executive bonuses when the company owed the government millions of dollars. The story puts a damper on Romney’s “We Built That” mantra, which claims entrepreneurs create businesses without any government assistance.Ohio’s texting-while-driving ban goes into effect today.
Strategies to End Homelessness is losing federal funding, but it will still continue efforts to combat homelessness in Cincinnati. The organization coordinates efforts between anti-homelessness groups in the area to prevent homelessness and assist people who have already fallen into homelessness.California-based iHerb could bring 600 jobs to Northern Kentucky in the near future. The company, which has been in business for 16 years, is a seller for food supplements.
In 2010, the University of Cincinnati spent $11.1 million on its football program, but it came out with about $13.3 million in revenue. In comparison, Ohio State spent $34.3 million, but it took in $61 million.A $10.4 million affordable housing program broke ground in Florence, Ky.
The Ohio House is getting ready to pass public pension reform. The reform will raise premiums, lower benefits and make eligibility more difficult. Republicans say the plan will keep pension funds solvent at a time when budgets are tight.Republican Speakers at the Republican National Convention have avoided two words: Tea Party.
Gina Rinehart, the world’s richest woman, says people are only poor because they’re lazy drunks. She says people should stop being lazy and work to become millionaires, although Rinehart inherited her wealth.Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair during his speech at the Republican National Convention last night.
Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment.
The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was
previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have
enough support from the district’s board. It might now.
Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools. Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to change the school funding formula.
seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9
percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs
and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down
from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from
the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300
in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500
left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from
6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October
and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate
of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4
percent in November. 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. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for
Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects. Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52 cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”
Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.
As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.
On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.
What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!
Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.
A federal judge ruled that in-person early voting in Ohio must be extended to include the weekend and Monday before Election Day for all voters. The ruling is a result of President Barack Obama’s campaign team and the Democrats filing a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted to extend early voting. Attorney General Mike DeWine has vowed to appeal the ruling. Republicans have consistently blocked all attempts to expand early voting in Ohio, citing costs and racial politics.
Cincinnati manufacturing is on a big rebound, according to a new survey. The Cincinnati Purchasing Management Index, which is used to measure manufacturing in the area, showed some decline in July, but it is now bouncing back. The news could indicate a wider economic recovery.Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in town Saturday. During his speech, Romney pointed fingers to “cheaters” like China, which Romney believes is unfairly manipulating its currency. (China has not been manipulating its currency for some time now.) Romney also rolled out his plan to restore America’s economy by emphasizing small businesses and cutting government spending. But the Brookings Institute says the unemployment rate would be at 7.1 percent if it wasn’t for government cuts passed by state and federal governments in the past few years. Romney also wants to cut back on the Environmental Protection Agency, which he says is hurting local jobs with too many regulations.
Some Democrats are calling for Husted to resign. Dennis
Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, both who were fired for attempting to expand
in-person early voting to include weekends despite Husted’s uniform
rules demanding no weekend hours, said in a press release Husted should resign for missing a
critical deadline. The deadline was to establish the ballot language and
argument against Issue 2, a ballot initiative supported by Ohio Voters
First that would place redistricting in the hands of an independent
citizens committee. If Issue 2 is not passed, politicians will continue
drawing district boundaries, which typically leads to a process known as
“gerrymandering” that politicians use to redraw districts in
politically beneficial ways. In Cincinnati, gerrymandering has been used
to de-emphasize the urban vote — or African-American vote, according to
Doug Preisse, adviser to Gov. John Kasich — by redrawing district
boundaries to include Warren County. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting issue here.
The Obama campaign will open its offices in Cincinnati tomorrow. The Obama team promises to use the offices for a large ground game.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland might run again to knock Gov. John Kasich out of the spot. Strickland is expected to speak at the Democratic National Convention today.Rep. John Boehner of Ohio seems to have his geography confused. At a speech, he said he wants senatorial candidate Josh Mandel of Ohio to win to "run Harry Reid back to Nevada.” Reid is a U.S. senator for Nevada.
U.S. home prices rose in July by the most in six years. The news could indicate a recovery in the housing market. The housing crash is generally attributed as the primary cause of the Great Recession.The Democratic National Convention is heading into day two today. The convention is touting the new Democratic platform, which now includes support for same-sex marriage. At the Ohio delegation in the convention, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is often cited as a potential presidential candidate for the 2016 election, criticized Kasich.
A cure for baldness could be in stores as soon as five years from now.
Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is circulating a small business petition to stop Cincinnati from privatizing parking services. Sittenfeld threw his support behind the petition in a statement: “Individual citizens have made clear that they are overwhelmingly against outsourcing our parking system. Now we're going to show that small businesses feel the same way. I hope that when council sees that the small businesses that are the engine of our city are strongly against outsourcing our parking, we can then nix the proposal immediately.” The petition asks city officials “to find a smart, resourceful, sustainable alternative to address the budget situation.” City Manager Milton Dohoney says parking privatization is necessary to avoid laying off 344 city workers.
Gov. John Kasich’s expanded sales tax is going to hurt a lot of people. The tax is being expanded to apply to many items included in households’ monthly budgets, such as cable television, laundry services and haircuts. The revenue from the sales tax expansion will be used to cut the state income tax by 20 percent across the board, lower the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and slightly boost county coffers.
City Council and local residents are not impressed with the USquare development. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls described the development: “I have to say that it is underwhelming. And that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it. And also really repeats, on many different levels, virtually all of the mistakes that have ever been made in the city and in neighborhoods when it comes to creating public spaces.” But architect Graham Kalbli said he’s excited about the plan: “Because we’ve taken a vacant strip of land and really made kind of a living room for the Clifton Heights community. We wanted to do that, that was one of our overriding goals.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is subpoenaing 19 voters who are suspected of voting twice in the November election. Most of the voters being investigated filed provisional ballots then showed up to vote on Election Day.
David Mann is officially running for City Council. The Democrat has served as a council member, mayor and congressman in the past.
Traffic congestion isn’t just bad for drivers; it’s also bad for the environment and economy. The Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found traffic congestion cost Cincinnati $947 million in 2011 and produced an an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide.
Leslie Ghiz is taking the judge’s seat a little early. The former city council member was elected to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in November, but she was appointed to the seat early by Gov. John Kasich to replace Dennis Helmick, who retired at the end of 2012.
The magic of capitalism: Delta is already matching a low-cost carrier’s fares to Denver at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
The U.S. Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery starting Aug. 1. The Postal Service has been dealing with financial problems ever since a 2006 mandate from U.S. Congress forced the mail delivery agency to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. Riddled with gridlock, Congress has done nothing to help since the mandate was put in place. This will be the first time the Postal Service doesn’t deliver mail on Saturdays since 1863.
It’s unlikely zombies could be cured by love, but it’s possible they could be cured by science.
The next Michael Jordan has been discovered:
Between October and December, the U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies, particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending was actually strong.
Some Republicans want another go at reducing voting rights.
Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy &
Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that
crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting
times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud in the United States between 2000 and 2012.
That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason
Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority
voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were excluded by photo ID laws in 2012.
A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax hits the poor and middle class a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1 percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least $324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent. Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between $31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.”
Cincinnati is extending its contract with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really much ado about nothing. SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.
More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are expecting a net profit in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees, according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S. economy.
The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is driving economic growth in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties.
When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy Matters report found school choice may hurt education standards in the state.
Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is gearing up to run for the governor's race in 2014.
Scientists have taught bacteria to eat electricity. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.
The city’s Youth Job Fair needs more employers
to reach the city’s goal of 100, says Mayor Mark Mallory. The fair offers young people a chance to seek out jobs. Employers can sign up for the free booths at www.mayormallory.com.
The petition to stop the parking plan is at 4,000 signatures — nearly half of the 8,522 required before April 5. Under the plan, the city will lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the 2014 and 2015 budgets and foster economic development, but opponents say the semi-privatization plan will cede too much control of the city’s parking assets and cause rates to skyrocket. Whether the plan is subject to referendum is currently being debated in court.
JobsOhio, the privatized, nonprofit development agency, met the deadline on a subpoena issued by State Auditor Dave Yost to collect the agency’s full financial records, which include public and private funds. JobsOhio also said it will eventually pay back $1 million in public funds. Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans argued only public funds can be checked by the state auditor, but Yost says he’s allowed to seek a full audit. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved JobsOhio in part to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited.
In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote that the children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for a social security number and work permit. DeWine’s letter is not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal adviser, it could put pressure on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ legal team as it continues reviewing Ohio’s driver’s license policy.
Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, is pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC) that could act as a progressive replacement for Gov. John Kasich’s tax plan. The tax credit benefits low- and middle-income people, particularly those with kids. The Policy Matters report says the federal EITC has been one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in the United States.
A bill that will limit the referendum process was pushed through the Ohio House Policy and Oversight Committee, despite warnings from members of the League of Women Voters and Democrats that the bill might draw a constitutional challenge. The bill would give petitioners 10 days to collect additional signatures if their initial submission falls short. Under current law, members can continuously collect signatures while the secretary of state and boards of elections verify the initial batch. The Ohio Constitution gives petitioners 10 days to file, not collect, additional signatures.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled his three-pronged strategy for reducing city blight. The plan would encourage the passage of a state law that would allow people to trespass abandoned properties to remediate them, focus demolition resources on hazardous buildings and expand the city’s vacant foreclosed property registry.
A report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a D for health care transparency. Twenty-nine states got an F, and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts got A’s.
Ohio lawmakers are poised to raise the speed limit on interstates in rural areas to 70 mph.
When The Huffington Post asked Ohio Sen. Rob Portman if he wished it hadn't required a personal experience with gay marriage to alter his position to favor marriage equality, he responded, “Well, it did.” He added, “I'm more of an economic policy wonk. That's always been my background and focus: budget issues and economic growth issues. … That’s just where I was.” Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage two years after finding out his son is gay.
T.J. Lane, the convicted Chardon High School shooter, will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three Ohio students. At hearings yesterday, Lane smiled and mocked the victims’ families.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is looking to fill more than 1,000 jobs.
NASA's advice for a near-term meteor strike: “Pray.” Due to a severe lack of funding, NASA does not have the proper technology to detect all the small asteroids in orbit that could level cities. If a deadly asteroid is detected, the current plan is to crash a spacecraft on it to slow it down or alter its course.
Would you get a vampire facial?