In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation can’t be used on the streetcar.
The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds. SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose, but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any transportation project.
At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.
Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the streetcar.
“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that we do it,” he said.
The resolution has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their intentions.
Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the streetcar.
He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money for the operation of the streetcar.
Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.
Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the streetcar.
Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.
However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer money to sue the city.
City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are used, not the city.
It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize
the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase
tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s
profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To
ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips
using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video
unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an
estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval
from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use
a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large,
statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan
because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses
that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!
City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously, all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here. The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.
Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.
A study found a gap in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.
The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.
In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform 32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.
Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”
A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.
A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.
NASA discovered the largest river ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez River here.
Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.
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.
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.
The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his full plans Thursday and Friday.
The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed. The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.
City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees. But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue, and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement, and more parking tickets.”
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group. In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252 companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent, American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a 0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.
The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects. In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on transportation projects every year.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.
The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees have been determined to be infected.
Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.
Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform, but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.
Ohio employers are more aware of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found. Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.
However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.
Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.
Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business. State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them as a breeding ground for criminal activity.
The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.
Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow. State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue, but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a right-to-work law.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.
In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.
Metro is nearing completion of its new comprehensive transit plan. Throughout the year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company has worked on Way to Go, a plan with short-term and long-term goals meant to revamp lines for faster, wider-ranging travel.
The plan, which is the first comprehensive plan since the late 1990s and early 2000s, has a short-term part and a long-term portion. Both parts came together with a lot of community feedback gathered through on-board surveys, stop-by-stop analyses, online surveys, special event surveys and public meetings.
Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for Metro, says the plan has a lot of little changes to stops and lines, but she emphasized some key parts. In the short term, the plan will establish more crosstown connections, which will bring together different parts of Cincinnati so traveling requires fewer downtown transfers. Metro will also make a few changes to improve frequency of travel in major corridors like Montgomery Road, Reading Road and Vine Street, while shortening travel times all around.
For the short term, “We don’t have a lot of big changes,” Hilvers says. “No routes are going away. There’s no fare increase associated with this. It’s simply reallocating the resources.”
The long-term plan has bigger, more expansive changes. The biggest part is probably the bus rapid transit system (BRT), which will allow quicker travel in major corridors by using traffic signal priority, fewer stops and special bus lanes. Stops will be getting a makeover in some areas to be more comfortable for passengers waiting for transfers. There will also be changes to improve service at current stops, add more crosstown routes and add more routes that go beyond downtown and into dense areas with lots of jobs. The long-term plan is currently unfunded, but public opinion will help establish and reshape priorities before any money is attached.
Hilvers says Metro will be doing a “demonstration project”
for BRT next year. In the demo, buses will “dart across” the
Montgomery Road corridor, Xavier University, the University of
Cincinnati and downtown. The plan will help gauge the popularity of the
idea, says Hilvers: “It gives us a test to see how people like this. If
they really like the concept, then we can maybe go for federal funding,
etc. to go for the full-blown BRT in the future.”
“You just have to have a vision of where you’re going,” Hilvers says. “This is our vision of where we’re going. We have to know from the community what it wants to ultimately support.”
Metro is still taking public feedback for the Way to Go until the end of the year. More information on the plan and how to provide feedback can be found at www.go-metro.com/about-metro/way-to-go.
Meanwhile unemployment in Cincinnati dropped to 7.5 percent in August, down from 8.2 percent in July. Unemployment in Hamilton County dropped to 6.8 percent in August, down from 7.3 percent. The Greater Cincinnati’s jobless rate for the month was 6.7 percent, putting it below that of the state (7.2 percent) and the nation (8.1 percent).
Speaking of numbers, a new poll released today shows Obama leading Romney in Ohio – the third such poll in the last four days. The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll shows Obama leading Romney 53 to 43 percent in Ohio, and by similar large margins in the battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania.
The typically media-shy Republican Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel proposed three new rules for members of the U.S. Congress in a rare Tuesday news conference. He said he wants members of Congress to lose their pensions if they became lobbyists, be limited to 12 years in the House and Senate and not be paid if they failed to pass a budget. Mandel says his opponent, sitting Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, broke his promise to voters that he would only serve 12 years in Congress. Mandel himself promised to fill his entire term as state treasurer, but would leave halfway through if he wins the Senate race.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky continue to move toward jointly supporting a financing study for a replacement of the functionally-obsolete Brent Spence Bridge, and both governors favor a bridge toll to fund construction. The Kentucky Legislature would have to approve a measure to allow tolling on the bridge.
Forty percent of Hamilton County’s septic systems are failing, and homeowners and utilities are arguing over who should foot the $242 million bill. The Enquirer has an analysis of the ongoing battle.
The Associated Press reports that Andy Williams, Emmy-winning TV host and “Moon River” crooner, has died.
The Enquirer is still doing all it can to keep the Lacheys relevant instead of letting them die off like all bad 90s trends like Furby and Hammer pants. The paper blogged that Lachey finished in the bottom three in the first week of the new Dancing with the Stars: All Stars.
Speaking of those replacement NFL refs, apparently some of them were fired by the Lingerie Football League for incompetence. Yes, there are totally unrelated pictures of women playing football.
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann wants Mayor Mark Mallory to live up to past promises of county-city collaboration. In a letter to Mallory, Hartmann criticized the mayor for failing to stick to his pledge of supporting the City-County Shared Services Committee. The committee seeks to streamline county and city services to end redundancies and make the services more competitive and efficient.
Cincinnati Economic Development’s director asked City Council to create a “mega incentive” for “huge impact” development. He also asked City Council to pledge $4 million of casino revenue a year to a local neighborhood project. If City Council agrees, casino revenue will be used to boost local businesses.
Metro is looking at the world’s quickest-charging electric bus. It supposedly can charge in 10 minutes and travel 40 miles.
The day before Pennsylvania’s voter ID law faced trouble in court, Secretary of Jon Husted suggested a “more strict” voter ID law for Ohio. Husted said the current ID system needs to be streamlined and simplified. Democrats criticized the suggestion for its potential voter suppression.Sept. 22 will be the “Global Frackdown,” a day where activists will protest around the world in a push to ban hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. Cincinnati will have its own “Frackdown” at Piatt Park. Activists are generally against fracking because it poses too many risks, which CityBeat covered here. But Gov. John Kasich and other supporters of fracking insist it can be made safe with proper regulations. Some have also suggested that natural gas, which is now plentiful due to the spread of fracking, can be used as part of a bigger plan to stop global warming.
A new survey says Cincinnati companies will continue hiring through the fourth quarter.It wasn’t as good as last year, but it was better than the month before. A new state report says 7,341 new businesses filed to do work in Ohio in August, down from 7,423 in August 2011.
A state commission approved $1.5 million for the Cincinnati Art Museum and a $600,000 reimbursement for the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
More than half of Ohioans could be obese by 2030, a new report found. The rise in obesity could push up medical costs by $23.8 billion.
But screw worrying about weight. Taste of Belgium (writer’s note: best restaurant in the land) is thinking about expanding.
The full footage for Mitt Romney’s controversial comments
at a May 17 fundraiser has become available here. The footage shows why
Romney prefers to be dishonest most of the time. More importantly,
Romney’s comments about Obama voters are not accurate. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has an explanation for why Romney insists on unleashing gaffe after gaffe.
One astrophysicist says there is no such thing as time.