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by German Lopez 09.16.2013
Posted In: News, Business, City Council at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Disparity Study Moves Forward

Committee unanimously approves city manager’s proposal

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Sept. 16 unanimously approved a proposal that will allow the city administration to study whether city contracts should favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses and report back with the results in February 2015.

City officials support the measures because reported city contract participation rates have plummeted for minority-owned businesses and remained relatively flat for women-owned businesses since Cincinnati dismantled its previous minority- and women-owned business program in 1999.

The study, which the city now estimates will cost $450,000 to $1 million, is necessary because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires governments to empirically prove there is a racial or gender-based disparity before enacting policies that favorably target such groups.

It’s also unclear if the latest participation numbers are accurate. As part of the city’s previous business program, minority- and women-owned businesses were required to report as minority- and women-owned businesses. But the classification has been voluntary since the program was terminated, which could be leaving out businesses who choose not to report.

In August, council members supported funding the disparity study with money from the parking lease or any other funds the city administration could locate.

“We need to put all of Cincinnati to work building Cincinnati,” said Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who introduced the August motion, in a statement. “To make sure that the city has an open, fair, inclusive process that ensures everyone benefits from our public investments and from private development that we support with public money, we need an updated disparity study.”

Cincinnati hasn’t undertaken a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.

Officials claim they couldn’t conduct another study until the city administration finished implementing suggestions from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 to reform the city’s small business program after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were accused of neglect.

The study has also been stalled by cost concerns. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere, but, in an uncommon moment of consensus, all council members have backed funding.

The city manager’s proposal calls for conducting the study between February 2014 and January 2015. The city administration will report the results to City Council and take public comments on the study in February 2015.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.16.2013
Posted In: News, JobsOhio, Health care, Business at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Medicaid expansion petition certified, more tax credit secrecy, disparity study in 2015

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified a petition effort that, if approved by voters, would require the state to expand its Medicaid program. The effort now must gather roughly 116,000 signatures to be approved by the Ohio Ballot Board and eventually end up on the 2014 ballot. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs; if they accept, the federal government will pay for the full expansion through 2016 then indefinitely phase down its payments to 90 percent after that. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and generate $1.8 billion in extra revenue. But the expansion has been so far rejected by Republican legislators, who tend to be opposed to government-run health care programs and say they’re concerned the federal government won’t be able to uphold its commitment to Medicaid as it has for nearly four decades. CityBeat covered the expansion in greater detail here.

In another example of rising secrecy surrounding JobsOhio, state tax credit estimates are now exempt from public records law, which means the public will no longer be able to see the value of tax credits granted to new and expanding businesses. The estimate is used by JobsOhio to gauge whether it should propose granting a tax break to a certain business, but the Ohio Development Services Agency says it’s concerned the numbers aren’t accurate in the long term. In the past few months, JobsOhio has been mired in controversy because of its lack of transparency. Republicans argue that JobsOhio’s secretive nature allow the privatized development agency to move more quickly with job-creating development deals, but Democrats argue tax dollars are being used with little accountability.

The final results of Cincinnati’s disparity study for city contracts aren’t expected until 2015. The city is pursuing the study, which is estimated to cost between $500,000 and $1.5 million, to gauge whether Cincinnati should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses. The study is necessary before making such changes because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires governments to empirically prove there is a racial or gender-based disparity before favorably targeting such groups.

Meet Cincinnati’s new police chief: Jeffrey Blackwell. He’s currently deputy chief at the Columbus Division of Police, where he’s been for 26 years. Blackwell was picked over three other finalists: Paul Humphries, who’s been acting Cincinnati Police chief since June; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio criticized Debe Terhar, president of the State Board of Education, for calling Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye “pornographic” and demanding it be removed from the state’s teaching guidelines. Terhar and others have criticized the book because it contains a scene in which a father rapes his daughter. The Common Core standards adopted by Ohio suggest The Bluest Eye as an example of reading text complexity, quality and range for high school juniors who are typically 16 or 17 years old, but it’s ultimately up to school districts to decide whether the novel belongs in the curriculum. Removing mention of the book from the state’s guidelines wouldn’t explicitly ban the book in Ohio schools, but it would weaken the novel’s prominence as a teaching tool.

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center is part of an international effort involving clinical trials to cure Alzheimer’s, the neurodegenerative disease with no known cure that causes long-term memory loss, confusion, mood swings and other symptoms typical of dementia.

Police are searching for an active shooter on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in the District of Columbia. The shooter has barricaded himself in a room after allegedly shooting at least three people.

Ohio gas prices are back down.

An unarmed drone club for children with autism might teach the children to view things from different perspectives.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.13.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Business, Pensions at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
vote logo

Morning News and Stuff

Pension amendment to appear on ballot, city cuts ties with SoMoLend, heartbeat bill returns

A tea party-backed pension amendment yesterday cleared the hurdle of 7,443 petition signatures required to appear on the November ballot. Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the group behind the amendment, had previously paid nearly $70,000 to petitioners to gather signatures. The amendment would privatize pension plans so the city and city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to individual retirement accounts that the employee would then manage by independently selecting investments. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. But unlike private-sector employees, city workers might not qualify for Social Security, which means they’ll lack the safety net that typically comes with risky 401k-style plans. If workers do qualify for Social Security, the city would have to pay into the federal entitlement program, which would cost the city more money, according to an Aug. 5 report from the city administration.

Cincinnati is cutting ties with SoMoLend, the local startup that had previously partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with $400,000 in loans. SoMoLend has been accused of fraud by the Ohio Division of Securities, which says the local company exaggerated its performance and financial figures and lacked the proper licenses to operate as a peer-to-peer lending business. The Division of Securities won’t issue a final order until after a hearing in October. SoMoLend’s specialty is using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders.

Ohio Republicans are considering bringing back the “heartbeat bill,” the controversial anti-abortion bill that would ban induced abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which could happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill could be reintroduced next week. That would come just a couple months after Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved a slew of anti-abortion measures through the two-year state budget.

The Ohio Senate will today hear testimony from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio about projections that show the state could save money if it takes up the Medicaid expansion. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government will pay for the expansion for the first three years and wind down to paying 90 percent of the costs after that. The Health Policy Institute previously estimated the expansion would save Ohio roughly $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is touting Cincinnati Safe Student Housing, a website that allows university students to pick from housing options that passed a free fire inspection. The website was unanimously approved by City Council following several university students’ deaths to fires, which council members argue could have been prevented with stronger standards.

The new owner of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel says he will reopen the building as a hotel. Alan Friedberg, managing principal of the company that bought the building earlier this year, says the process of bringing back the building will take a lot of time and work, considering it’s now been vacant for three years.

Four Greater Cincinnati hospitals have been recognized for protecting the LGBT rights of patients and employees by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation: Bethesda North Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, the Veterans Affairs Cincinnati Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana in Ohio. DeWine claims the summary for the ballot initiative is untruthful and leaves out various important details.

Mason, a Cincinnati suburb, was ranked one of the top 10 places to live by CNNMoney. Maybe CNN really likes Kings Island.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to call on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expedite processing on benefit claims. The VA currently has a backlog of 500,000 veterans, according to a press release from Brown’s office.

Introducing Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a proposal for a railway system that would use high-pressure tubes to shoot passengers around the country. It’s estimated traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which normally takes about five and a half hours, would only take 30 minutes in the tubes.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.12.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Economy at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
somolend

City to Cut Ties with SoMoLend

Local startup accused of fraud by state

The city of Cincinnati is suspending its relationship with SoMoLend, the local startup that the city partnered with in December to connect small businesses and startups to $400,000 in loans.

The broken partnership comes in response to accusations of fraud from the Ohio Division of Securities that have forced SoMoLend to stop giving out loans in the state and could lead to the business’s shutdown.

City spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat in an email that although the city partnered with SoMoLend in December, it has yet to give out any loans through the crowdfunding incubator.

The Ohio Division of Securities says SoMoLend failed to gather the proper federal and state licenses for a peer-to-peer lending business and falsely inflated its performance and financing figures.

SoMoLend gained local and national recognition for supposedly helping foster startup and small businesses by linking them to loans through crowdfunding — a particularly promising proposition given the state of the economy and research from the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows startups are the best drivers for economic and job growth.

But with the extent of the charges, it’s questionable whether SoMoLend had any success to begin with.

Candace Klein, CEO of SoMoLend, told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday that the company is currently in talks with the state. She stressed that the Ohio Division of Securities won’t issue a final order against SoMoLend until after a hearing scheduled for October.

SoMoLend, which stands for Social Mobile Local Lending, was founded in 2011. The business’s specialty is using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders. It then packages the loans to sell them as notes and charges a fee or commission for its services.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.12.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Education, Development at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

CPS gets national attention, city might take Emery Theatre, SoMoLend accused of fraud

New York City mayoral candidates see Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) community learning centers as a model for their city’s schools. The centers bring members of the community, including dental clinics, mental health therapists and mentors from local banks and churches, to a school hub to keep students engaged after traditional classroom hours end. But an analysis from The New York Times also finds that progress has been fairly modest, with some schools in the district still struggling and graduation and attendance rates showing little sign of improvement. Still, CPS officials argue the initiative has helped mitigate the effects of poverty and hunger in the classroom. CityBeat covered CPS and its community learning centers back in October here.

The city of Cincinnati could take control of the Emery Theatre following a legal dispute between the Requiem Project, a nonprofit seeking to renovate the theater, and the University of Cincinnati, Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership and the Emery Center Corporation, the group of leasers and owners trying to push Requiem out of the building. Requiem stated in a letter Friday that it would approve of the city taking over the building, a possibility currently being analyzed by Cincinnati’s legal team. CityBeat first covered the Emery Theater situation in further detail here.

SoMoLend, the local startup and city partner that connects small businesses seeking loans and lenders, is being accused of fraud by the state of Ohio. The charges could force the high-profile business to shut down; for the time being, it’s not giving out any loans in the state. In December, the city of Cincinnati teamed up with SoMoLend in a partnership that was meant to land local small businesses and startups much-needed loans through crowdfunding.

Ohio will spend $6.2 million this fiscal year to combat gambling addictions. With casinos, racinos and gambling generally expanding in Ohio, the state government is directing more money to county mental health and addiction boards to ensure problem gamblers are treated.

The two officers who were on the clock when death row inmate Billy Slagle hung himself have been put on paid administrative leave while the Ohio prisons department investigates what happened. Slagle was convicted of murder and sentenced to death — a punishment the Ohio Parole Board and Gov. John Kasich upheld in July despite pleas from a county prosecutor — but he hung himself days before he was supposed to be executed. CityBeat covered Slagle’s case in further detail here.

Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking Ohioans to be cautious of unsolicited phone calls offering medical alert devices.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino accidentally awarded two $1 million prizes on Saturday night. It turns out the casino gave a $1 million check to the wrong Kevin Lewis, so it decided to keep course with the original check and give another $1 million to the Lewis the check was originally intended for.

Cursive might get kicked from the classroom.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is directing federal prosecutors to minimize the use of mandatory minimum drug sentences. The change will mostly benefit drug offenders with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels and no history of violence.

Ohio gas prices dropped this week and remain below the national average.

Actual headline: “Video shows thief stealing cigarettes.”

Check out Kings Island’s new roller coaster: Banshee.

Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN’s medical respondent, is now down with marijuana.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.08.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council OKs development deals, racial disparity study advances, no MSD compromise yet

City Council met yesterday for the first time since June and passed various development deals that span six Cincinnati neighborhoods. The deals include a 15-year tax abatement for the second phase of The Banks, which will produce 305 apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space; several other apartment projects; new Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, a small business and startup incubator; the redevelopment of Emanuel Community Center; and a new homeless shelter for women in Mt. Auburn. The deals are expected to lead to 575 new apartments around the city, which could help meet the high demand for new residential space downtown.

City Council also approved a motion that asks the city administration to begin preparations for a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favor minority- and women-owned businesses. The motion asks the administration to either use part of the upfront money from leasing the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority or find an alternative source of funding. The study is required because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, which declared that governments must prove there’s racial or gender-based disparity before changing policies to favor such groups. Since the city disbanded its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates have plummeted for minority-owned businesses and remained relatively flat for women-owned businesses.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials still have not reached a compromise on several local hiring and bidding policies for the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), which is owned by the county but run by the city. A moratorium on the controversial city policies expired on Aug. 1, prompting county commissioners to block an upcoming MSD project in a vote Wednesday. Councilman Chris Seelbach told WVXU that those working on a compromise just need a little more time, but he’s confident they’ll be able to reach an agreement. City Council passed hiring and bidding rules in May this year and June 2012 that require MSD contractors to meet certain job training requirements that council members say will lead to more local jobs, but county commissioners argue the standards are too strenuous and favor unions. CityBeat covered the dispute in further detail here.

State Reps. Connie Pillich and Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati will hold a press conference today asking Gov. John Kasich to launch an ethics investigation into JobsOhio, the privatized development agency. State Democrats have been particularly critical of JobsOhio since a Dayton Daily News report found six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have taken state aid from the development agency. Republicans argue that JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature allows it to expedite deals that bring businesses and jobs to the state, but Democrats claim the set-up lacks transparency and fosters corruption.

Only one-third of Ohio school levies were approved in a special election Tuesday. Despite an increase in funding in the most recent two-year state budget, state funding to schools has been slashed since Gov. John Kasich took office.

The Charter Committee’s second round of endorsements for this year’s City Council elections went to Democrats Greg Landsman and David Mann and Republican Amy Murray. Previous endorsements went to Independents Kevin Flynn and Vanessa White and Democrat Yvette Simpson. The Charter Committee isnt generally seen as a traditional political party, but it holds a lot of sway in local politics.

The Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino’s monthly revenue for July was higher than it was in June but lower than March. For local and state officials, the trend up is a welcome sign as they hope to tap into the casino for tax revenue.

Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s are facing a boycott for opposing legislation in Texas that would make it easier for women to sue over wage discrimination.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is finding a niche with smaller airlines like Ultimate Air.

An app dubbed “lockout insurance” lets users scan keys then 3-D print them.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.07.2013
Posted In: City Council, News, Business, Racism, Parking at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
disparity study

Council Members Rally Behind Racial Disparity Study

Proposal uses parking lease funds to measure disparity among contracted businesses

Cincinnati council members and community leaders today explained and defended plans to use the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.

But before City Council unanimously passed the motion at today's meeting, it was amended to allow the city administration to find alternate sources of funding.

Since the city dismantled its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses have plummeted, while rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively flat.

But because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, governments must conduct a study to prove there's a race- or gender-based disparity before policies can be adjusted to favor such groups.

Cincinnati has not taken up a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.

"This is an opportunity to respond to a complaint and concern that has been around for as long as I can remember," Councilman Wendell Young said.

City officials claim they couldn't conduct another study until the administration finished implementing recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city's small business program.

But the holdup has also been brought on by the study's cost, which city officials currently estimate between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, defended the cost by explaining a disparity study can potentially lead to economic development by lifting minority groups, who currently face unemployment rates higher than white Cincinnati residents. She said it's on the city to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, benefit from Cincinnati's economic growth.

Other critics, particularly mayoral candidate John Cranley, have criticized the motion's suggestion for funding. The motion asks the city administration to fund the study with part of the upfront money that will come from leasing the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it does allow the city administration to find other funding options if possible.

Cranley, who supports conducting a disparity study but opposes the parking lease, says the money should come from other, unnamed sources because parking funds are currently being held up while the city hashes out legal uncertainty surrounding the lease and the Port Authority works out contracts with private operators that will manage Cincinnati's parking assets.

In response to those concerns, Qualls said that "money doesn't grow on trees" and Council has to make do with what it has.

Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the parking lease, but he supports using parking funds for the disparity study. He says that, while he may have voted against the lease, the vote is done and the money is there.

The amended motion was unanimously passed by City Council today. It asks the city administration to present a budget and timetable for the study at the Budget and Finance Committee's first October meeting.

Updated at 3:18 p.m. with results of City Council meeting.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.06.2013
Posted In: News, Business, 2013 Election, The Banks at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Voting begins for mayoral primary, Cintrifuse to get OTR home, The Banks moves forward

Early voting for the mayoral primary election begins today. The top two winners of this round of voting will go head-to-head in the Nov. 5 election. The candidates: Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who supports the streetcar and parking lease; ex-Councilman John Cranley, a Democrat who opposes the streetcar and parking lease; Jim Berns, the Libertarian who attempted to withdraw from the race but changed his mind a day later; and Sandra “Queen” Noble, an eccentric Independent candidate who sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers.

Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved the construction of Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, the startup incubator. The company has been working from a temporary location downtown, but it claims it needs a better space to continue attracting businesses, particularly those in the tech field. Cintrifuse will be joined in its new home by CincyTech and the Brandery. Although all council members voiced support for Cintrifuse, Councilman Chris Seelbach disputed using Focus 52 funds to build the new headquarters. The city administration previously told Seelbach that the Focus 52 money wouldn’t be used to further develop Over-the-Rhine, which has received a disproportionate amount of city funding to spur the neighborhood’s revitalization.

The committee also approved changes for the next phase of The Banks, which will include retail space and a nine-story apartment building with about 305 apartments. The first phase of The Banks filled up fast and won a top award — two big positives the city and county obviously hope to replicate with the next leg of the project. It’s now up to the development team behind the project and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to approve the next phase.

Council members and city officials voiced opposition yesterday to a tea party campaign to change Cincinnati’s pension system. Council members acknowledged the current pension system has problems, but they called the campaign, which is currently gathering petitions to get a proposal on the November ballot, misguided and flawed. The proposal would change the city’s pension system to use a defined contribution model similar to 401k plans that are common in the private sector. But just like private sector plans, the new system might require paying into Social Security, which would make the plan more expensive for Cincinnati.

Ohio House Republicans are being asked to hold oversight hearings for JobsOhio, the state-funded, privatized development agency that has been mired in controversy in the past few weeks. Most recently, Dayton Daily News discovered that some members of the JobsOhio board are employed by, on the board of or stockholders in companies that are receiving state aid through JobsOhio. Republicans say JobsOhio’s privatized and secretive nature allow it to move faster with deals that attract businesses and jobs to the state, but Democrats argue the agency is too unaccountable and might be wasting and misusing taxpayer money.

Billy Slagle, the convicted murderer who apparently hung himself over the weekend, died without knowing of a plea deal that could have prevented his scheduled execution. CityBeat wrote about Slagle’s case in further detail here.

The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is upset that charges have been dropped against an allegedly abusive Amish dog breeder. The group had pushed for charges against Jonas Beachy, the breeder, after 52 dogs were pulled from his central Ohio farm with dental disease, feces-smeared coats and paws mangled by wire mesh cages. Circleville Law Director Gary Kenworthy conditionally dismissed the charges because of problems securing veterinarian records for the dogs.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced in a statement today that the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, the Ohio Department of Public Safety and ODJFS will be working with the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers to help minors who are victims of human trafficking. The new collaboration is seen as another step to stop human trafficking in Ohio, an issue that has haunted the state in the past.

Metro’s bus service is adding routes and changing connections on Aug. 18.

BuzzFeed has a list of “31 Ways To Tell You’re From Cincinnati,” but the list reads like something from 2001. Who’s avoiding Over-the-Rhine with all its new restaurants and after LumenoCity?

Popular Science has a rundown on how 3-D printing body parts will revolutionize medicine.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.30.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Health care, Parking at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City mulling disparity study, Medicaid expansion bill underway, parking hours criticized

City Council could use leftover revenue from the previous budget cycle and money from the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether minority- and women-owned businesses should be favorably targeted by the city’s contracting policies. The study could cost between $500,000 to $1 million, according to city officials. Because of a U.S. Supreme Court case, the city must carry out the study before it can impose policies that favorably target minorities or women with business contracts. Since the city's last race- and gender-based program was dismantled in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses dropped from a high of 22.4 percent in 1997 to a low of 2.7 percent in 2007, but rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively unchanged. But the numbers could be understating how many minority-owned businesses there are because classifying as one is now voluntary, while it was mandatory in the 1990s.

State Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee, says he wants to move on a package of bills that would include the Medicaid expansion by early October. The bills will also tackle other issues, such as how to deal with growing concerns about opiate addiction in Ohio. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the federally funded Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and generate roughly $1.8 billion for the state in the next year. But Republican legislators in the General Assembly say they're concerned the federal government won't be able to uphold its commitment to the expansion. Recent polling found about 63 percent of Ohioans support expanding Medicaid.

East side residents pleaded with Greater Cincinnati Port Authority officials yesterday to reduce enforcement hours for parking meters under the city's controversial parking lease. The plan allows for enforcement until 9 p.m., but residents say it should only go to 6 p.m. to avoid hurting local businesses that might rely on free parking during the evening. The city is leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then manage the assets through private operators from around the country. The city administration estimates the deal will produce $92 million up front and at least $3 million a year afterward for Cincinnati, which officials plan to use for development projects and to help close budget gaps.

Meanwhile, opponents of the parking lease appealed their legal challenge to the Ohio Supreme Court. Opponents argue the lease should be susceptible to voter referendum. The city claims Cincinnati's emergency clause powers allow council members to expedite laws and remove the possibility of referendum altogether. The legal challenge was initially successful in a lower court, but the appeals court ultimately sided with the city. It's unclear whether the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the challenge.

Legal experts say it's unclear which, if any, of Ohio's new abortion restrictions could survive a court battle. The anti-abortion measures, which were passed in the state budget by Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich, impose a series of regulatory hurdles that require extra medical procedures prior to getting an abortion and could be used to shut down abortion clinics.

An internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report suggests that fracking, an oil- and gas-extraction process, can contaminate underground drinking water. The findings could have implications for Ohio, which is currently undergoing a fracking boom as companies rush to tap into oil and gas reserves in northeastern parts of the state. CityBeat covered Ohio’s fracking boom in further detail here.

Councilwoman Pam Thomas and ex-Councilman Cecil Thomas want everyone to know that they have not endorsed anyone for mayor.

Ryan Widmer's mother, who gained notoriety for defending Widmer during his three trials, was found dead yesterday. There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play. Widmer is currently serving 15 years for drowning his wife in a bathtub in 2008.

Scientists may have to genetically modify oranges to save them from a deadly disease.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.29.2013
Posted In: News, Business, Equality at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
qualls

City to Consider Funding for Disparity Study

Minority-owned businesses struggle to regain foothold

City Council could use leftover revenue from the previous budget cycle and money from the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether minority- and women-owned businesses should be favorably targeted by the city’s contracting policies.

“Once we conclude the parking lease agreement and see the results of the close-out of the last budget year, I believe there may be a majority (of Council) that would support funding a Croson study,” Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls told CityBeat.

The disparity study — named a “Croson study” after a U.S. Supreme Court case — could cost between $500,000 and $1 million, according to city officials.

Qualls expects to see the final revenue numbers from the previous budget cycle sometime this week. The numbers are expected to come in higher than projected, which would give Council some leftover money to allocate for newer priorities, including a disparity study and human services funding.

Another potential funding source: the city’s parking lease agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will take over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages and manage them through various private companies from around the nation.

The announcement comes shortly after minority inclusion became a major issue in the 2013 mayoral race between Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.

Cranley announced his minority inclusion plan, which includes a disparity study, on July 12.

Because of a 1989 Supreme Court ruling, city governments are unable to enact programs that favorably target minorities or women without first doing a disparity study that proves those groups are underrepresented.

The city’s last disparity study was done between 1999 and 2002. It found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.

But since the city did away with its affirmative-action contracting policies in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses dropped from a high of 22.4 percent in 1997 to a low of 2.7 percent in 2007. Participation among women-owned businesses remained relatively stable, hitting a high of 6 percent in 2005 and otherwise fluctuating between 0.9 percent and 3.8 percent from year to year.

Rochelle Thompson, head of the city’s Office of Contract Compliance, points out that classifying as a minority- or women-owned business is now voluntary, whereas it was mandated through the city’s policies in the 1990s. That, she argues, might be understating how many contracted businesses are truly minority- or women-owned.

Still, business leaders are calling on the city to do more. They claim minority-owned businesses are more likely to hire minorities, which could alleviate an unemployment rate that’s twice as high for them as it is for white Cincinnatians.

Qualls says City Council hasn’t pursued a disparity study until now because it was waiting for the full implementation of recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city’s small business program. The resulting policies forced the city administration to be more transparent and accountable for the program’s established goals.

Thompson claims OPEN Cincinnati’s changes “breathed life” into the small business program, but none of the changes specifically targeted minority- and women-owned businesses. Instead, the program broadly favors and promotes small businesses, which Thompson calls the drivers of job and economic growth.

 
 

 

 

 
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