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:
New casino revenue numbers are well below 2009 estimates. State officials previously estimated Ohio’s casinos would bring in $1.9 billion a year once they were built and functional, but the latest state budget cuts that prediction by half. The new estimates are due to competition with racinos and lower-than-expected performance at casinos that are already up and running.
Gov. John Kasich announced his 2014-2015 budget, unveiling a few pleasant and unpleasant surprises for progressives. As part of the budget, Ohio is going ahead with expanding Medicaid to meet Obamacare’s financial incentives, despite Kasich’s past criticism of the national health care program. But the budget also directs higher revenues to cutting taxes, instead of making up for past spending cuts enacted by Kasich.
A Miami University fraternity’s $10 million lawsuit has been dismissed. The lawsuit accused the university of “malice, hatred and ill will” for the suspension of Phi Kappa Tau after it had a fireworks battle with another fraternity. The battle led to police discovering marijuana inside the fraternity.
Looks like Ohioans are returning to school. Some universities, including Miami, have seen a spike in the number of applications recently, despite Ohio having fewer high school graduates in the past few years. The spike is likely due to out-of-state recruiting.
City Council will vote tomorrow on whether to provide tax breaks for neighborhood projects in Walnut Hills and Linwood. The projects are focused on buildings that are apparently uninhabitable, according to the developer.
PNC Bank is set to announce a “major gift” to Smale Riverfront Park. The gift would continue a stream of private contributions to the park. Last year, Procter & Gamble donated $1 million to fund the P&G Vibrant Playscape.
Cincinnati’s tree fee will not change this year. The tree fee is paid by homeowners so the city can take care of trees in public rights of way.
Cincinnati was awarded the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association for contributing to the renovations of the Villages at Roll Hill.
An unhappy defendant punched his own lawyer in court.
The 3-D print revolution has taken an unexpected turn: Scientists can now print human embryonic cells. The researchers hope to use the cells as ink for printed organs and tissues.
The Medicaid expansion would add more Ohioans to the state-federal health care program by raising the eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 90 percent. The budget summary claims the expansion makes financial sense for the state as long as the federal government picks up most of the tab. As part of Obamacare, the federal government takes all the costs for newly insured Medicaid recipients for the first three years. After that, the federal government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased down to 90 percent. If the federal government reneges on its promise to pay for the bulk of the share, Kasich’s budget has a trigger to wind down the Medicaid expansion.
The budget also proposes income and sales tax cuts, which would come with some trade-offs. The state income tax would be brought down by 20 percent across the board, and the sales tax would be cut from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. To balance the cuts, Kasich has proposed broadening the sales tax to include other “economic activity,” while keeping exemptions for education, health care, rent and residential utilities.
In another slew of tax changes, Kasich’s plan proposes revamping the oil and gas severance tax. It would eliminate the tax for “small, conventional natural gas producers,” but imposes a 4 percent tax for bigger oil and gas producers.
In the past, liberals have voiced opposition to tax cuts — instead favoring investments elsewhere. Policy Matters Ohio released its own budget proposals Jan. 31, which emphasized “education, health care and human services.” The plan would also increase the income tax for top earners.
City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement criticizing Kasich’s budget for not using the extra revenue to scale back local government and education cuts enacted in the 2012-2013 budget: “At a time when local governments around the state are being forced to slash basic services, lay off safety personnel, raise taxes, and sell off assets just to stay afloat, it's out of touch for Gov. Kasich not to reverse his raid on our local government fund. We don’t pay taxes to pad the governor’s soundbites, we pay them to maintain our roads and keep cops on the street. This should not be a partisan issue. It's simply illogical governance to make the state look good while in the process hurting Ohio's cities.”
There’s even more bad news coming from Ohio’s newly privatized prison. Violence last week forced Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to call in the state’s special response team, according to Plunderbund. Two teams from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation were dispatched. Gov. John Kasich pushed prison privatization in his 2012-2013 budget to save costs. CityBeat covered private prisons and the shady connections CCA had to the current state government prior to the sale here.
There might be a court case disputing JobsOhio’s constitutionality, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from moving forward with implementing the private, nonprofit agency. On Friday, the state announced it transferred $500 million in state liquor funds to JobsOhio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to take up a case from ProgressOhio disputing whether state funds can be used for the private agency. Kasich established the agency in an effort to encourage job growth in Ohio.
Kasich will reveal the blueprint for his 2014-2015 budget plan later today. According to Gongwer, his proposed budget will cut personal income taxes across the board
and offset the cuts by closing loopholes and broadening the sales tax
base. The governor has long been eying an income
tax cut. He previously suggested raising the oil and gas severance tax
to help pay for a tax cut, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition.
In the 2013 mayoral race, John Cranley is currently outraising
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, but both Democrats are fairly close. Qualls has raised $134,188, while Cranley
has raised $170,877. Most of the race has focused on the streetcar so far, with Qualls supporting and Cranley against the twice-voter-approved transit project.
The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy have reached a limited agreement to meet in court to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar’s tracks. As part of the agreement, Duke will begin moving lines in the next few weeks, even while the city and Duke wait for courts to decide who will pay for moving the lines. Mayor Mark Mallory also announced the city will try to finish the streetcar project in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, but he added there are no guarantees. For more on the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race, check out CityBeat’s cover story.
Libertarian Jim Berns recently forced a mayoral primary by entering the race.
Community leaders around Greater Cincinnati are mapping out veteran services programs.
Ohio is expanding its foreclosure prevention program. The maximum benefit possible has increased from $25,000 to $35,000, and the highest annual household income allowed to participate in the program is now $112,375.
The Ohio Board of Regents finished moving to the Ohio Board of Education building.
Looks like Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich’s Twitter account was hacked.
Smokers will pay higher prices under Obamacare.
Physicists have created crystals that are nearly alive.
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.
School superintendents will hear about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”
Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers following a late December report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff, affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has held for years.
A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate for drug testing to lower the costs, while others argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users. Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and harmful.
The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary.
The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding. The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons.
A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff.
The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data.
A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16.
Ohio gas prices are still rising.
Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.
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 NAACP’s 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.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city government isn’t meeting funding requirements. A Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas motion filed Jan. 4 and accepted Jan. 23 gives the city and AFSCME until April to settle the case out of court.
By law, Cincinnati is required to heed to the Cincinnati Retirement System (CRS) Board of Trustees when setting the percent of payroll the city must contribute to retirees. But the AFSCME lawsuit argues the city hasn’t been making contributions dictated by the board.
The lawsuit, which dates back to June 2011, cites minutes from a CRS Board of Trustees meeting on July 20, 2010 to show the board accepted a report from Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting, LLC. The report asked the city to contribute 46.22 percent of payroll to retiree benefits — 12.32 percent to retiree health benefits and 33.9 percent to other CRS benefits — during the 2011 fiscal year.
Instead, the city biennial budget for 2011 and 2012 established a contribution rate of 17 percent — way below the recommended sum.
The AFSCME lawsuit alleges the low contributions reflect a
“longstanding pattern” from city government. It points to a 2002
report from the CRS Board of Trustees that found the city was not meeting requirements set by the board then, either.
The lawsuit asks for a court mandate requiring city government to find out how much it needs to contribute, establish a mechanism for collecting the amounts required and appropriate and contribute the required amounts.
City Solicitor John Curp says the debate is between long-term and short-term interests. On AFSCME’s side, the union wants to get as much from payroll contributions as possible for represented retirees, even if it means a short-term economic and budget shock for the city. On the city’s side, City Council is more interested in meeting long-term requirements for the pension fund, instead of keeping up with shifting annual numbers that could negatively impact the city economy and budget.
City government’s approach attempts to balance short-term and long-term needs with a long-term goal. It means the city pension is underfunded during some years, particularly when the economy is in a bad state. But it keeps rates steady, letting the city avoid sudden funding changes that would require spending cuts or tax hikes to keep the budget balanced.
By adopting a large short-term contribution rate, the city would likely hurt its budget in ways that would negatively affect city employees represented by AFSCME. If the city was forced to contribute 46.22 percent of payroll to CRS — up from 17 percent — it would probably be forced to cut spending elsewhere, which would lead to layoffs.
This story was updated on Jan. 25 at 12:40 p.m. to reflect comments from City Solicitor John Curp.
Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.
The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision, President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most inclusive when it comes to the military.
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up to drive economic growth in the state.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring $60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.
Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that. Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.
American Military Partner Association, a national organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.
Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.
New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.
Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Health and Aging Chairman Lynn Watchman said anti-abortion legislation could come back in the current legislative session. That includes the heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and a plan to defund Planned Parenthood. CityBeat wrote about the anti-abortion legislation last time Ohio Republicans tried to bring it up here.
One Ohio Now, a group focused on the state budget, has a few requests
for Gov. John Kasich. They don’t want an income tax cut when the
revenue could be used to expand Medicaid and raise school funding. In other states, a Medicaid expansion correlated with better health results, and one study found expanding Medicaid could save Ohio money. More school funding could also make up for the last budget's massive cuts to education, which are explained on a county-by-county basis at Cuts Hurt Ohio.
While the state government is tearing down solar power initiatives, Cincinnati is working to update Green Cincinnati. Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin told WVXU, “We’re broadening the plan to be not just focused on climate protection, but more broadly on all areas of sustainability.” He added, “It’s going to show us how Cincinnatians can live a better lifestyle using less resources.” The plan was originally drafted in 2007 and adopted a year later to prepare the city for changing environmental realities.
Last year was good for local home sales. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says home sales were at the highest levels since 2008.
A federal judge ended most of his court-mandated oversight of Ohio’s youth prisons last Friday. The ruling shows how much progress has been made in state youth facilities, according to Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates.
Ohio Democrats are now calling for Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar to resign. Terhar is facing criticism for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”
Amy Murray is running for City Council. Murray was appointed to City Council in 2011 when Chris Monzel left and became Hamilton County commissioner. But she lost her seat in the 2011 election, which swept Democrats into City Council.
Cincinnati and Columbus airports saw a drop in traffic, but it seems Dayton International Airport more than made up for it.
The National Council of Teachers wants Ohio to make its colleges more accountable and selective.
An investigation into the massive accident on I-275 could take days. The accident, which is believed to have caused at least 86 cars to crash, led to the death of a 12-year-old girl.
Blockbuster still exists, and it’s shutting down stores and cutting jobs.
A smoke screen company wants to use its product to prevent more school shootings. The smoke screens fill up a room with non-toxic smoke on demand, which could obscure a shooter’s vision.
Update for any women looking to have a neanderthal baby: The Harvard scientist was only saying it’s a possibility someday.