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by German Lopez 11.22.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, Taxes at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar cancellation costs outlined, Ohio joblessness spikes, state to repay overpaid taxes

Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday revealed that the city might only keep $7.5-$24.5 million if it cancels the $132.8 million streetcar project, after accounting for $32.8 million in sunk costs through November, a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grant money. But Mayor-elect John Cranley flatly denied the numbers because he claims the current city administration “is clearly biased toward the project and intent on defying the will of the voters.” Meanwhile, at least two of the potential swing votes — incoming council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn — showed skepticism toward the estimates, although Mann said, “If they do hold up, that’s fairly persuasive.” Three elected council members already support the streetcar project, so only two of the three potential swing votes would need to vote in favor of it to keep it going.

Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in October, up from 6.9 percent a year before. The state added only 27,200 jobs, which wasnt enough to make up for the 31,000 newly unemployed throughout the past year. The numbers paint a grim picture for a state economy that was once perceived as one of the strongest coming out of the Great Recession. In comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate actually decreased to 7.3 percent from 7.9 percent between October 2012 and October 2013. (This paragraph was updated with the nonfarm numbers.)

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) will repay $30 million plus interest to businesses that overpaid taxes throughout the past three years. The announcement came after Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer found ODT had illegally withheld $294 million in overpayments over the years. Meyer’s findings were made through what was initially a probe into alleged theft at ODT.

Outgoing Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could request an automatic recount because she came tenth out of the nine elected council members, right after Councilwoman-elect Amy Murray, by only 859 votes. But Quinlivan and Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke agreed the recount would be a long-shot. Still, Quinlivan noted that a flip in the count could be a big deal because she supports the streetcar project and Murray opposes it.

Cincinnati Public Schools are trying to expand their recycling efforts.

Here is an interactive infographic of meat production in 2050.

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by German Lopez 11.21.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Streetcar at 04:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
election_streetcaressay_juliehill

City: Canceling Streetcar Could Nearly Reach Cost of Completion

Only $7.5-$24.5 million left after fully shutting down project, paying back feds

Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick on Thursday revealed that the city might only keep $7.5-$24.5 million if it cancels the $132.8 million streetcar project.

That means the city could potentially spend more than 94 percent of the project’s total costs before it manages to fully close down the streetcar project, which is currently undergoing construction and tied up to various federal grants and business contracts.

The presentation was given in advance of Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council taking office in December. Cranley is an ardent opponent of the streetcar project, and a majority of the City Council says it wants to pause the project and consider cancellation.

Cranley’s proposed alternative to the streetcar — a trolley bus system — would cost $10-$15 million in capital funds, according to supporters of the rubber-tire trolley alternative. If streetcar cancellation costs were to reach the high end of the city’s estimate and the trolley bus is paid for, the city could end up spending $140.3 million to cancel the streetcar project and build a considerably less ambitious trolley bus line about $7.5 million more than it would cost to simply complete the streetcar project.

If it’s completed, Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen says operating the streetcar would cost between $3.4-$4.5 million each year, which city officials say could come from various potential sources, including a special improvement district that would raise property taxes within three blocks of the streetcar route.

But the operating budget cost would be a wash if Cranley pursues the trolley bus system, which, according to advocates, will cost slightly more to operate than the streetcar. Cranley says the operating cost for the trolley bus is concerning if it holds true.

Following Deatrick’s presentation, Cranley held a press conference in which he flatly denied the current city administration’s estimates. He says he will tap new experts to run over the numbers while the project is put on pause.

We’re going to bring in new, objective leadership, not the current leadership that is clearly biased toward the project and intent on defying the will of the voters, which was clearly expressed a couple weeks ago in this election,” Cranley says.

Deatrick’s cancellation projections account for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November and a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs, which include construction to close the project — such as repaving torn-up roads — and orders on vehicles and other supplies that are already placed but not officially billed.

The federal government has also allocated $44.9 million in federal grants to the streetcar project. In a letter released by the city administration on Nov. 14, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) explicitly stated that $40.9 million would be taken back if the project didn’t adequately progress; the remaining $4 million would be left under the supervision of Gov. John Kasich, who could shift the money to other parts of the state.

But Deatrick’s estimates don’t consider the unknown cost of litigation, which would need to come out of a city operating budget that is already structurally imbalanced, according to Meg Olberding, the city’s spokesperson.

The estimates also don’t consider that the city could potentially forgo spending $7.4 million in contingency funds on the project if it goes through completion and remains within budget, which would lower the project’s effective cost to $125.4 million.

If the city cancels the project, Deatrick says it’s also more likely that the city would lose in its legal battle against Duke Energy, which could add up to $15 million in costs. That money is tentatively allocated from the sale of the Blue Ash Airport as the city and Duke argue in court as to who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar tracks.

Those are the potential financial costs, but city officials also warn that canceling the project could have a detrimental impact on the city’s image.

“That’s what the city would be known for forever,” says Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan. “To throw this away would be unconscionable.”

City officials also warn that canceling would be pulling back on a light rail project that President Barack Obama’s administration has clearly prioritized.

“The city-federal relationship is excellent right now,” Deatrick says. “There would be immediate damage to that.”

The 200-plus workers currently involved the project would also be displaced. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson points out pausing or canceling the project in December would leave those workers jobless for the holiday season.

Another concern is the impact of cancellation on the relationship between the federal government and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates the Metro bus system and will operate the streetcar if it’s completed. If the city is unable to pay back the grants to the federal government within 30 days, Deatrick says the FTA could cut SORTA grants for bus service and potentially halt some local bus services.

One concern raised by Councilman Chris Seelbach and Councilman-elect Kevin Flynn, one of the three potential swing votes in the incoming council of nine, is whether the project’s estimated return on investment is still 2.7-to-1 over 35 years. That number is derived from a 2007 study conducted by consulting firm HDR, which was later evaluated and affirmed by the University of Cincinnati.

Deatrick points out the numbers were re-evaluated by HDR in 2011, and they still seem to hold true. He says there are still plenty of vacant buildings along the 3.6-mile streetcar line that could use the encouraged investment, despite some of the revitalization seen in the Over-the-Rhine and downtown areas that the streetcar route would cover.

The 2.7-to-1 return on investment is also “a very, very conservative estimate,” says Deatrick. He claims HDR could have relied on numbers from other cities, such as Portland, Ore., that saw considerably better returns on their streetcar systems.

Still, Flynn and Councilman-elect David Mann, another potential swing vote, say they want to scrutinize the cancellation estimates before making a final decision on the project.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a long-time streetcar supporter who lost to Cranley in her mayoral bid, encourages a re-examination of the numbers. But she cautions, “If what has been presented today stands up to scrutiny, there’s absolutely no reason to cancel the project.”

Flynn won’t say whether he would reconsider his past opposition to the project if the numbers hold up. But Mann says, “If they do hold up, that’s fairly persuasive.”

Both Flynn and Mann also say that they would be willing to pause the project while clearer estimates are crunched.

But that could present a short time window. If the project doesn’t adequately progress, the federal government could take back its grant money. Based on city officials’ estimates, that provides a 30-day window to re-calculate cancellation costs and the potential return on investment.

Pausing the project would also impose its own set of costs as some workers and equipment are retained.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who’s also seen as a swing vote, could not be reached for comment. He’s currently in Washington, D.C., to meet with White House officials for an issue unrelated to the streetcar.

Three elected council members already support the streetcar project, so only two of the three potential swing votes would need to vote in favor of it to keep it going.

Updated with Mayor-elect John Cranley’s comments and clearer, corrected numbers.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.21.2013
Posted In: News, Guns, Governor, Privatization at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
eric kearney

Morning News and Stuff

Local senator to run for lt. governor, audit clears JobsOhio, House OKs "stand your ground"

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald selected State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati as his running mate for his bid against Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Although Kasich is widely perceived as a favorite as the incumbent, recent polling found the race is tied. (The poll was commissioned by Ohio Democrats, but the firm behind it was deemed the most accurate national pollster of 2012.)

Republican State Auditor Dave Yost’s long-awaited audit of JobsOhio found no substantial conflicts of interests at the privatized development firm established by Gov. Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the public Ohio Department of Development. But the audit found 113 items totaling nearly $69,000 in inadequately documented expenditures financed through the state’s leased liquor profits and insufficient safeguards to identify potential conflicts of interest. In a statement, John Patrick Carney, the Democratic candidate for state auditor running against Yost in 2014, claimed the audit was a whitewashed attempt that fails to give taxpayers a full accounting of JobsOhio” and touted it as evidence the state auditor’s office needs change. CityBeat previously wrote about criticisms towards JobsOhio in further detail here. (Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Rewrote paragraph to add Carney’s comments.)

The Ohio House yesterday approved sweeping gun legislation that would impose “stand your ground” rules in the state and automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. “Stand your ground” rules remove a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense when a person is in areas in which he’s lawfully allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat when a person is in his home or vehicle. The bill is particularly controversial following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial that let Zimmerman go free. The bill now requires approval from the Ohio Senate and Gov. Kasich to become law.

Commentary: “False Equivalency Confuses Streetcar Debate.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes new early voting limits that would shorten the in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days and remove a “golden week” that allows Ohioans to simultaneously register and vote in person. The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims the limits are necessary to establish uniform voting days across all counties without placing too much of a burden on smaller counties. But Democrats claim the limits aim to suppress voters. The Ohio Senate yesterday cleared the new early voting limits, which now require approval from the Ohio House and Gov. Kasich to become law.

If property and business owners along the planned streetcar line sue over the cancellation of the $133 million project, legal experts say they have a very slim chance of winning. The threat of litigation is one of the potential back-up options discussed by streetcar supporters if Mayor-elect John Cranley and the incoming City Council agree to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Hamilton County commissioners agreed to increase the tax return local property owners will get as part of the deal funding Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park. The deal boosts the rebate to $13 million in 2014, up from $10 million in 2013 but still below the $20.5 million promised to property owners after voters approved a sales tax hike to fund the stadiums. Commissioners estimate property owners will receive nearly $46 for each $100,000 of property value from the boosted rebate, up from $35 this year, but Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes told CityBeat that the exact number is unclear until the tax commissioner approves new tax rates.

College campuses generally struggle with too-frequent cases of sexual assault, but one lawsuit from an alleged victim is targeting Miami University for supposed negligence and a breach of the student code of conduct. The female student claims she was raped by former Miami University student Antonio Charles, but she says that multiple red flags could have prevented the alleged incident. Charles was eventually expelled from Miami University for “sexual misconduct” in response to the incident involving the plaintiff, but that was after he was investigated for multiple other accusations related to sexual misconduct. Miami University Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Rebecca Getson defends some of the university administration’s actions regarding sexual assault cases as a strict adherence to protocol and blames some of the public perception on the administration’s lack of awareness about the atmosphere.

Cincinnati’s economy will grow more slowly than the nation’s economy next year, according to Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development’s panel of five regional economists.

Al Neyer plans to build a $22 million luxury apartment tower in downtown Cincinnati.

Cancer research done on mice might get screwed up by standard laboratory temperatures.

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by German Lopez 11.20.2013
Posted In: News, Voting at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

ACLU Opposes New Limits on Early Voting

Proposed legislation removes five days in which voters can simultaneously register and vote

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days and repeal a five-day period in which Ohioans can simultaneously register to vote and vote in person.

“The five-day window offers major benefits to many voters, including those with disabilities or inflexible work schedules, and there is little evidence that it has created any major problems,” said ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner in a statement. “S.B. 238 throws away these critical, nonpartisan benefits for no good reason.”

The bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Nov. 13 by Republican State Sen. Frank Larose. It’s co-sponsored by six Republicans, including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati.

The bill’s introduction follows a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urging legislators to trim in-person early voting days.

The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims uniform voting hours are necessary to avoid legal challenges in case some counties set longer voting periods than others, which courts could deem unfair under equal protection grounds. The uniform voting periods reduce early voting days in some counties without their approval, the organization acknowledges, but it’s necessary to keep the standards uniform without placing an unfair burden on smaller counties.

Democrats, including State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, say the real reason behind such proposals is to suppress voters.

“The Secretary of State’s voter suppression agenda is extremely disappointing. As the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary Husted is tasked with the duty of ensuring that Ohio’s elections are fair and accessible to all citizens,” Reece said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the proposed changes are aimed at restricting voters’ access to the ballot box in 2014.”

Democrats have some evidence to their claims. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch in an email regarding early voting, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.20.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Guns, Taxes at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

Poverty skews school funding, "stand your ground" advances, tax-free weekend proposed

Urban schools spend less on basic education for a typical student than previously assumed after accounting for the cost of poverty, according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups. After weighing the extra cost of educating an impoverished student, the report finds major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly 24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14 percent. In the report, Cincinnati Public Schools drop from a pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil education funding out of 605 school districts in the state to No. 55, while Indian Hills Schools actually rise from No. 11 to No. 4.

An Ohio House committee approved sweeping gun legislation that would enact “stand your ground” in the state and automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. The “stand your ground” portion of the bill would remove a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in all areas in which a person is lawfully allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat in a person’s home or vehicle. The proposal is particularly controversial following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial that let Zimmerman go free. To become law, the proposal still needs to make it through the full House, Senate and governor.

A state senator is proposing a sales-tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping to encourage a shot of spending in a stagnant economy and lure shoppers from outside the state. Eighteen states have similar policies, but none border Ohio, according to University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. Michael Jones of UC’s Economics Center says the idea is to use tax-free school supplies to lure out-of-state shoppers, who are then more likely to buy other items that arent tax exempt while they visit Ohio.

An Ohio Senate committee approved new limits on the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel that has grown controversial following its approval of the federally funded Medicaid expansion despite disapproval from the Ohio legislature. Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board after he failed to persuade his fellow Republicans in the legislature to back the expansion for much of the year. The proposal now must make it through the full Senate, House and governor to become law.

Cincinnati’s Metro bus service plans to adopt more routes similar to bus rapid transit (BRT) following the success of a new route established this year. Traditional BRT lines involve bus-only lanes, but Metro’s downsized version only makes less stops in a more straightforward route. CityBeat covered the lite BRT route in further detail here.

Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.

A bill approved by U.S. Congress last week could direct millions in federal research dollars to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

A UC study found a higher minimum wage doesn’t lead to less crime.

Gov. Kasich will deliver UC’s commencement address this year.

The new owner of the Ingalls Building in downtown Cincinnati plans to convert some of the office space to condominiums.

Here are some images of the Cincinnati that never was.

Someone invented a hand-cranked GIF player.

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by German Lopez 11.19.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT at 05:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati's 'Equality Index' Score Improves

City gains 13 points in HRC’s index ranking treatment of LGBT community

Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on Tuesday, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.

The city aced categories for its relationship with the LGBT community, law enforcement and non-discrimination laws, which ban employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also fared well with municipal services and opportunities provided to city workers.

The index also gave Cincinnati various bonus points, including three for the election of Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly gay elected official.

But the city was docked for failing to recognize LGBT relationships through a domestic partner registry. Seelbach told CityBeat last week that establishing a registry will be one of his priorities in his upcoming four-year term.

This year, establishing a domestic partner registry would have been enough to give Cincinnati a perfect overall score in the Municipal Equality Index — a strong upward shift from the 77 out of 100 the city received in 2012.

The 90 out of 100 was enough to place Cincinnati in the top 25 percent of cities. The top 10 percent got a 96 or higher, and 25 of 291 cities got perfect scores in 2013.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.19.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Report: Poverty Skews Urban School Funding

Study filters spending on poverty and other special needs to allow better comparisons

Urban schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than previously assumed after accounting for miscellaneous expenditures related to poverty, according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups.

If it’s accepted by state officials and taxpayers, the report could give way to a reorientation of how school funds are allocated in Ohio — perhaps with a more favorable approach to urban and rural school districts.

The report’s formula acknowledges that some students, particularly those in poverty, take more resources to educate, typically to make up for external factors that depress academic performance. After those higher costs are taken into account, the report calculates how much money schools have left over for a typical student.

“If under-funded, districts with concentrations of poverty will not have the resources left over for the educational opportunities we want to see for all students,” said Howard Fleeter, the report’s author, in a statement.

The report finds urban school districts like Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and Lockland Schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than wealthy suburban school districts like Indian Hill Schools and Sycamore Community Schools.

After weighing spending on poverty and other miscellaneous programs, major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly 24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14 percent.

Following the deductions, CPS drops from a pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil funding out of 605 school districts in the state to No. 55. Lockland Schools falls from No. 64 to No. 234.

The report similarly drops New Miami Schools, a poor rural district in Butler County, from No. 327 to No. 588.

Indian Hill actually gains in overall state rankings, going from No. 11 to No. 4. Sycamore Community Schools also rise from No. 22 to No. 14.

The Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials commissioned the report through the Education Tax Policy Institute, an Ohio-based group of researchers and analysts.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.19.2013
Posted In: News, Energy, Environment, Taxes at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_angrypowerplant_ashleykroninger

Morning News and Stuff

Bill weakens energy standards, groups rally against global warming, county could cut taxes

Cincinnati’s State Sen. Bill Seitz says he will introduce a “compromise” bill that still weakens Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards but allows some of the current requirements for in-state renewable sources to remain for a few years. Environmental and business groups argue Seitz’s original bill would effectively gut the state’s energy standards and, according to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, force Ohioans to pay an extra $3.65 billion in electricity bills over 12 years. But some utility companies, particularly Akron-based FirstEnergy, claim the current standards are too burdensome and impose extra costs on consumers.

Meanwhile, Ohioans on Nov. 16 rallied in front of the Ohio Statehouse to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming. The regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which Environment Ohio says are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary contributor to global warming. Although some conservatives deny human-caused global warming, scientists stated in the 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.

Hamilton County commissioners will vote on Wednesday on a plan that would increase the tax return received by property taxpayers. Republican Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s proposal would increase the rebate from $10 million to $12 million, or $35 for each $100,000 of property value in 2013 to $42 in 2014. But Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat in the three-member board, says he would rather focus on increasing the sales tax to make the stadium fund sustainable and not reliant on casino revenue, which could go to other investments.

Commissioners also agreed to not place a property tax levy renewal for the Cincinnati Museum Center on the ballot until there’s a plan to fix Union Terminal. The informal decision followed the recommendations of the Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee, which reported that it will only support the levy renewal if the city, county and museum develop a plan to transfer ownership of Union Terminal from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and locate public and private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable fashion.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Monday that he’s forming a heroin unit to tackle what he describes as a drug epidemic sweeping across Ohio’s communities. The effort, which is estimated at $1 million, will focus on education, outreach and law enforcement. David Pepper, DeWine’s likely Democratic opponent for the attorney general position in 2014, argues DeWine, a Republican, moved too slowly on the issue; Pepper says the problem began in 2011, more than two years before DeWine’s proposal.

Cincinnati council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman yesterday reiterated their opposition to the city’s responsible bidder policy, which requires bidders for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) work to follow specific standards for apprenticeship programs. The law has caused an impasse between the county, which owns MSD, and the city, which is in charge of management. The conflict comes in the middle of a federal mandate asking MSD to retrofit Cincinnati’s sewer system — a project that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.

Cincinnati’s Department of Public Services will expedite the delivery of bigger trash carts. The deliveries are part of Mayor Mark Mallory’s controversial trash policy, which limits each household to one trash cart that can be picked up by automated trucks in an effort to save money and avoid workers’ injuries. Mayor-elect John Cranley says the policy is too limiting and causing people to dump trash in public areas.

Cincinnati’s Metro is the most efficient bus service compared to 11 peer cities, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to level of service, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center. Metro plans to announce today that it will balance its operational budget without fare increases or service cuts for the fourth year in a row.

For Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run on a holiday schedule. The sales office will also be closed for Thanksgiving and the day after.

Ohio will receive nearly $717,000 in a multi-state settlement involving Google, which supposedly overrode some browsers’ settings to plant cookies that collect information for advertisements.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Stan Chesley, which means the local attorney can no longer practice law in front of the nation’s highest court. The controversy surrounding Chesley began more than a decade ago when he was accused of misconduct for his involvement with a $200 million fen-phen diet-drug settlement.

Some organisms might evolve the ability to evolve.

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by German Lopez 11.18.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Energy at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
environment rally

Ohioans Rally for Global Warming Regulations

Environmental groups call on Sen. Brown to show support

More than 200 Ohioans gathered at the Ohio Statehouse on Saturday to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.

The regulations would impose stricter pollution limits on power plants across the nation, which Environment Ohio says are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary contributor to global warming.

The new rules are part of the climate plan President Barack Obama proposed in June to skip legislative action from a gridlocked Congress and slow down global warming by using the already-established regulatory arm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Our message today is clear. The time is now to act on climate,” said Christian Adams, state associate with Environment Ohio, in a statement. “Global warming threatens our health, our environment and our children’s future. Ohioans support President Obama’s plan to clean up the biggest carbon polluters.”

The Obama administration proposed regulations on new power plants on Sept. 20 that effectively prevent any new coal power plants from opening up if they don’t capture and sequester carbon pollution. Experts argue those limits will have little effect on future carbon emissions because new coal power plants are already being phased out by natural gas.

But the statehouse rally asked Ohio’s senators to support incoming regulations that will impose further restrictions on existing power plants and — if they’re effective — reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere.

The regulations could have large implications for Ohio. A previous report from Environment Ohio found Ohio’s power plants pollute more than those in any state except Texas.

Coal companies warn the regulations could cost jobs. St. Louis-based Patriot Coal says “burdensome environmental and governmental regulations” have already “impacted demand for coal and increased costs.”

But the regulations could simply shift jobs to cleaner energy sectors. A 2012 report from Environment Ohio found Cincinnati could become the regional capital of solar power and help revitalize its economy with new jobs in the process.

Scientists have historically called for reducing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That would involve greatly reducing the amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere over the next few decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In the IPCC’s 2013 report, scientists said they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.

Many economists argue a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system are better ways to tackle climate change than regulations. But those policies would require legislative action that is unlikely in the current political climate, especially since many Republican legislators deny the science behind human-caused global warming.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.18.2013
Posted In: News, JobsOhio, Taxes, Commissioners at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio benefits Columbus, property tax return could grow, museum levy gets conditions

JobsOhio, the state-funded privatized development agency, grants more tax credits around Columbus, the state capital, than anywhere else in the state. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the discrepancy might be driven by Columbus’ high growth rate and the city’s proximity to the state government, which could make Columbus officials more aware of tax-credit opportunities. But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann also blames local governments in southwest Ohio for failing to act in unison with a concerted economic plan to bring in more tax credits and jobs.

Hartmann today plans to introduce a partial restoration of the property tax return that voters were promised when they approved a half-cent sales tax hike to build Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. The return was reduced when there wasn’t enough money in the sales tax fund to pay for the stadiums last year, but there might be enough money now to give property taxpayers more of their money back. It was unclear as of Sunday how much money someone with a $100,000 home would get back under Hartmanns plan.

Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee will recommend a tax levy for the Cincinnati Museum Center only if a few conditions are met, including transfer of ownership of the Union Terminal from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and allocation of public and private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable fashion.

City Council last week asked the city administration to find and allocate $30,000 for the winter shelter, which would put the shelter closer to the $75,000 it needs to remain open between mid-to-late December and February. The shelter currently estimates it’s at approximately $32,000, according to Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The city administration now needs to locate the money and turn the transaction into an ordinance that needs City Council approval and would make the allocation of funds official. To contribute to the winter shelter, go to tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati and type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional)” before making a donation.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced Thursday that it plans to cut about 500 jobs in Akron, Ohio. State officials were apparently aware of the plan in October but underestimated how quickly Lockheed Martin would carry out the cuts. Ohio Democrats jumped on the opportunity to mock JobsOhio for failing to move at the “speed of business,” as Republicans claim only the privatized development agency can, to develop an incentive package that could have kept Lockheed Martin in Akron. But state officials say they were led to believe Lockheed Martin’s move would take months longer.

Intense storms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest over the weekend, killing at least six.

Ohio has issued a record-breaking amount of concealed-weapons licenses this year. The state issued 82,000 licenses in the first nine months of 2013, more than the 64,000 in 2012 that set the previous record. About 426,000 permits have been issued since the state began the program in 2004.

This week, Ohio gas prices jumped back up but remained lower than the national average.

Popular Science looks at how artificial meat could “save the world.”

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