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by German Lopez 01.09.2013
Posted In: Casino, Education, News, Government, Economy at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio holding bond sale, schools get casino profits, rape flier case remains sealed

Despite challenges to its constitutionality, JobsOhio is moving forward with a bond sale. The agency, which is meant to create jobs, is holding a bond sale Jan. 23 to raise money for economic development. But ProgressOhio, which is suing Gov. John Kasich’s administration over JobsOhio, says the governor should halt the sale until legal issues are resolved: “There are serious legal questions about the funding of JobsOhio. Gov. Kasich's own commerce director said his duty to uphold the Ohio Constitution was stopping him from moving JobsOhio forward until these questions were resolved.”

Ohio will give schools $37.9 million in casino profits. When casinos were approved by voters, one of the caveats was that some of the tax revenue raised would go into improving the state’s education system. Cincinnati will get its own casino in March 2013.

To avoid rules regarding how to properly seal a case, charges have been dropped in the rape flier case. That’s despite the fact the student who allegedly posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” previously pleaded guilty. Judge Robert Lyons, who was presiding over the case, was previously criticized by The Enquirer for not following proper procedure, but dropping the charges and letting the student withdraw his guilty plea may put the judge in the legal clear. Lyons says he regularly seals cases for students.

The old building for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts will be converted into 170 apartments.

Northern Kentucky University could soon ban smoking on campus. Several other schools in Kentucky are already tobacco-free. The Ohio Board of Regents encouraged Ohio campuses to ban smoking on July 23. 

Applications for Gov. Kasich’s worker training vouchers are going fast. The program is meant to improve Ohio’s business climate. It reimburses businesses for eligible employee training expenses in an effort to make Ohio companies more competitive and improve workers’ skills.

A portrait of Jesus will remain in an Ohio school after 300 people showed up in support at a school board meeting. An atheist group is already planning on suing the school over the portrait. In a letter, Freedom from Religion Foundation claims that “if a district were to promote a religion over non-religion, it would impermissibly turn any non-believing student, parent, or staff member into an outsider.”

With former governor Ted Strickland dropping out of the governor’s race, The Washington Post posted an early look at whether Gov. Kasich can survive re-election. At this point, Kasich’s most likely opponent is Ed FitzGerald, former mayor of Lakewood and Cuyahoga County’s executive.

Apparently, Australia is so hot meteorologists had to add two new colors to heat maps to properly show the country’s temperature. Americans can probably relate, considering 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the United States.

The cure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be panda blood. Will pandas abuse their newfound powers to take over the world?

 
 
by German Lopez 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down

Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling — a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5 billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise, given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done.

Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget. The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state budgets.

A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here.

Cincinnati Gardens is for sale. Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.”

At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November.

In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family.

As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in a different kind of public service here.

Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal.

Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Casino, Budget, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval

John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar, Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the bids will take a few more weeks.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that are no longer good for service.

The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company, to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s is currently $22 billion in debt.

Ohio legislators have a lot of questions about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.

Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials. 

Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.

CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.

Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.

Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.

Covington is getting a new city hall.

New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.05.2013
Posted In: Casino, News, Budget, Economy, Governor, Education at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Casino revenue estimates drop, Kasich's budget unveiled, fraternity's lawsuit dismissed

New casino revenue numbers are well below 2009 estimates. State officials previously estimated Ohios 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.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.25.2013
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison

The White House released a list of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.

Community Council President David White told WVXU that the streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area. With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6 million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to new businesses.

A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog. The CIIC report found enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools. The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.

Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog. The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of making the pick.

Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and train staff in the cars use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.

The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009. The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.

Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a parking garage and grocery store.

The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.

On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.

Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.

 
 

 

 

Latest Blogs
 
by German Lopez 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down

Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling — a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5 billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise, given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done.

Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget. The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state budgets.

A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here.

Cincinnati Gardens is for sale. Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.”

At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November.

In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family.

As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in a different kind of public service here.

Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal.

Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening

City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton Dohoney unveiled Plan B to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.

Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.

Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.

On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools. Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only to traditional public schools, not charter schools.

Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.

The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.

U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.

Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”

If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.25.2013
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison

The White House released a list of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.

Community Council President David White told WVXU that the streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area. With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6 million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to new businesses.

A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog. The CIIC report found enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools. The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.

Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog. The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of making the pick.

Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and train staff in the cars use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.

The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009. The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.

Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a parking garage and grocery store.

The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.

On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.

Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Casino, Budget, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval

John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar, Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the bids will take a few more weeks.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that are no longer good for service.

The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company, to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s is currently $22 billion in debt.

Ohio legislators have a lot of questions about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.

Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials. 

Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.

CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.

Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.

Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.

Covington is getting a new city hall.

New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.05.2013
Posted In: Casino, News, Budget, Economy, Governor, Education at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Casino revenue estimates drop, Kasich's budget unveiled, fraternity's lawsuit dismissed

New casino revenue numbers are well below 2009 estimates. State officials previously estimated Ohios 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.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.09.2013
Posted In: Casino, Education, News, Government, Economy at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio holding bond sale, schools get casino profits, rape flier case remains sealed

Despite challenges to its constitutionality, JobsOhio is moving forward with a bond sale. The agency, which is meant to create jobs, is holding a bond sale Jan. 23 to raise money for economic development. But ProgressOhio, which is suing Gov. John Kasich’s administration over JobsOhio, says the governor should halt the sale until legal issues are resolved: “There are serious legal questions about the funding of JobsOhio. Gov. Kasich's own commerce director said his duty to uphold the Ohio Constitution was stopping him from moving JobsOhio forward until these questions were resolved.”

Ohio will give schools $37.9 million in casino profits. When casinos were approved by voters, one of the caveats was that some of the tax revenue raised would go into improving the state’s education system. Cincinnati will get its own casino in March 2013.

To avoid rules regarding how to properly seal a case, charges have been dropped in the rape flier case. That’s despite the fact the student who allegedly posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” previously pleaded guilty. Judge Robert Lyons, who was presiding over the case, was previously criticized by The Enquirer for not following proper procedure, but dropping the charges and letting the student withdraw his guilty plea may put the judge in the legal clear. Lyons says he regularly seals cases for students.

The old building for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts will be converted into 170 apartments.

Northern Kentucky University could soon ban smoking on campus. Several other schools in Kentucky are already tobacco-free. The Ohio Board of Regents encouraged Ohio campuses to ban smoking on July 23. 

Applications for Gov. Kasich’s worker training vouchers are going fast. The program is meant to improve Ohio’s business climate. It reimburses businesses for eligible employee training expenses in an effort to make Ohio companies more competitive and improve workers’ skills.

A portrait of Jesus will remain in an Ohio school after 300 people showed up in support at a school board meeting. An atheist group is already planning on suing the school over the portrait. In a letter, Freedom from Religion Foundation claims that “if a district were to promote a religion over non-religion, it would impermissibly turn any non-believing student, parent, or staff member into an outsider.”

With former governor Ted Strickland dropping out of the governor’s race, The Washington Post posted an early look at whether Gov. Kasich can survive re-election. At this point, Kasich’s most likely opponent is Ed FitzGerald, former mayor of Lakewood and Cuyahoga County’s executive.

Apparently, Australia is so hot meteorologists had to add two new colors to heat maps to properly show the country’s temperature. Americans can probably relate, considering 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the United States.

The cure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be panda blood. Will pandas abuse their newfound powers to take over the world?

 
 
by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project.

The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.

Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.

Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.

With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.

The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.

Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.

But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.

Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.

With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.

Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.

Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.

Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Privatization, News, Budget, Courts, Economy, Casino at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops

The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However, the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?

The identity of the Miami University student who put up the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.

Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.

Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing. About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2 percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make the cut more progressive.

Gov. Kasich is ending the practice of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.

If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on fracking.

Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law, which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.

An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.

Ohio gas prices are still dropping.

The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2012
Posted In: Budget, Government, Casino, News, Education at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
casino

Casino Tax Not Enough

New casinos around Ohio won’t provide enough revenue for cuts to state aid

A new analysis suggests that tax revenue from Ohio’s new casinos will not be enough to make up for state spending cuts to cities and counties. The findings of the Oct. 1 analysis, by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, apply even to casinos and big cities that get extra casino tax revenue. They still lose twice in state aid what they get in new taxes, according to the report.

Overall, the analysis found that new casino revenue will provide $227 million a year to counties and cities. In total, state aid to counties and cities has been cut by about $1 billion. That means the tax revenue isn’t even one quarter of what cities and counties will need to make up for cuts.

The cuts also won’t be enough to make up for state cuts to schools. When casino plans propped up around the state, governments promised that revenue from casinos would be used to build up schools. However, state aid to K-12 education has been cut by $1.8 billion, and new tax revenue will only make up 0.5 to 1.5 percent of those cuts in most school districts, according to the Policy Matters report.

In 2013, Cincinnati will become the fourth Ohio city with a casino. Cleveland and Toledo have casinos, and a new casino opened in Columbus Oct. 8. 

Currently, the system is set up so each casino is taxed at 33 percent of gross revenues. That revenue is split into many pieces with approximately 34 percent going to the school fund. Each city with a casino also gets an exclusive 5 percent of its casino’s revenue.

For Cincinnati, that means about $12.1 million in new annual tax revenue. But even with that revenue, Cincinnati will still be losing about $17.7 million in state funding, according to calculations from Policy Matters.

In past interviews, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich, has repeatedly cited the constitutional requirement to balance Ohio’s budget to defend any state budget cuts: “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. We had to fix that.”

Cuts Hurt Ohio, a website showing cuts to state aid, was launched by Policy Matters earlier this year. That website found $2.88 billion in cuts to state aid with $1.8 billion in cuts to education and $1.08 billion in cuts to local governments. In Hamilton County, that translated to a $136 million cut to education and a $105 million cut to local government.

The report does caution that its findings are “necessarily tentative”: “Projected revenues have come down significantly since the 2009 campaign for the casino proposal, and the expected opening of numerous gambling facilities makes it hard to be sure what revenues will be. We estimate casino tax revenue based on several sources, including state agencies, casino operators, and former taxation department analyst Mike Sobul. Our numbers reflect a comparatively optimistic assessment.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.20.2012
 
 
streetcar

Council to Move Funds to Avoid Further Streetcar Delays

Project would still open in 2015

Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the $110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.

One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near the former Blue Ash Airport. 

The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar construction, so the city should foot the bill.

“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said. “It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate the cost.”

Another ordinance would change the municipal code to “confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according to a news release.

Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a change in the city’s position.

The final ordinance would change the funding source that is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to fund the streetcar. 

Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area. 

That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks.

Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.

The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.

 
 
 
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