Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help — a sign that homelessness may be trending up. Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate was 7.4 percent.
More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating development deals.
Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was elected.
Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation.
No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials and unions claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs, including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates.
Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving permitting services to one location, according to a statement from Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more efficiently and bring down costs.
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus. A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that, while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped in the past year.
The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall.
Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters.
A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
The Cincinnati area lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many people stopped looking for jobs.
The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people looking for work in comparison to the total civilian labor force, which means a decrease in the labor force can bring down the unemployment rate even if employment also drops.
Economists generally prefer looking at year-over-year numbers to control for seasonal factors, such as teachers leaving the work force at the end of the school year.
July’s job gains were largest in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and educational and health services, but the city lost jobs in mining, logging and construction, manufacturing and all levels of government.
Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July. The U.S. rate was 7.4 percent.
Since the job numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months.
Councilman Chris Smitherman told CityBeat he doesn’t support the pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this November, which means no council member approves of the controversial proposal.
The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are under a separate system — contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, the city pools pension contributions and manages the investments through an independent board.
City officials and unions claim the amendment will cost the city more and hurt retirement gains for public employees. Tea party groups say the amendment is necessary to address the city’s growing pension costs, including an $862 million unfunded liability.
“I do not support the amendment. I have introduced several solutions that have been ignored by council and your paper,” Smitherman wrote in an email.
The other eight members of City Council — seven Democrats and one Republican — on Aug. 7 approved a resolution that condemned the tea party amendment. But Smitherman, an Independent, wasn’t present at the meeting.
CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking lease.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials, lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a statement that the update is particularly timely because the Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2 billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses they represent.
New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the 2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.
Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval, it could get federal funding.
Investors are upset with SoMoLend, the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.
Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.
The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.
Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants
permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break
state and federal laws.
Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury instructions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.
Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.
Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
City Solicitor John Curp on Aug. 15 rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the city's parking lease without City Council's explicit approval.
With Curp's denial, the conservative group behind the request — the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) — is now legally able to once again sue the city over its plans to lease Cincinnati's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. It would be the second time COAST has taken major legal action over the parking plan.
In a letter to COAST's attorney, Curp writes that the two changes COAST called "significant and material" in its July 17 letter were shifts in dates and time limits that were necessary because a previous lawsuit from COAST forced the city to delay implementation of the parking lease for more than two months. In other words, COAST is trying to use the delays it forced to stop the parking lease once again.
Curp also argues in his letter that the lease gave the city manager the power to make changes that keep the lease "substantially in the form" approved by Council and authorizes city officials to "take all necessary and proper actions" to carry out the lease. Curp writes the disputed changes were within those terms.
In response to Curp's denial, COAST member and attorney Chris Finney told The Cincinnati Enquirer that COAST will pursue another lawsuit against the parking lease if Council doesn't vote on the disputed changes.
Although a majority of Council now says it opposes the parking lease, Mayor Mark Mallory has said he will hold any legislation trying to repeal or undo key elements of the deal.
Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92
million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according
to city estimates. Private operators will also be tasked with modernizing Cincinnati's parking assets so parking meters can accept credit cards and payment through a smartphone.
Supporters of the parking lease argue it's necessary to leverage the city's parking assets for development projects and modernize the city’s parking
Opponents say the lease gives up too much public control over the city’s parking assets and will hurt local residents and businesses by causing meter rates and operation hours to go up.
The parking plan has been engulfed in political controversies since it was first unveiled by the city manager in October. Most recently, the city administration withheld a memo that was critical of the plan from the public, City Council and Port Authority — a move that triggered outrage about the administration's lack of transparency.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls today unveiled a motion that calls for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials, lobbyists and contractors and task the city administration with posting the disclosed information on the city’s website.
Qualls said the proposal is particularly timely as the Metropolitan Sewer District begins working on a federally mandated $3.2 billion, 15-year revamp of the city’s sewer system. That project will presumably involve a bevy of lobbyists as businesses rush to grab lucrative contracts granted by city officials.
“For citizens to have confidence that their government is working on their behalf, it must be transparent,” Qualls said in a statement. “Sadly, it often takes a scandal to make these kinds of reforms happen. The good news is that we can take these responsible steps now to instill safeguards and promote integrity and accountability through a healthy dose of sunshine.”
Qualls claims the updates would be particularly prudent given the rise of the Internet in the past 16 years.
“Technology has brought us into the age of the Internet,” she said in a statement. “The public has heightened expectations for ready, convenient access to information about the decisions of their elected leaders.”
The motion asks for various new rules, including clarifications for current requirements, greater protections for whistleblowers, a two-year restriction on becoming a local lobbyist after leaving public office and a requirement that city officials make known through writing their potential conflicts of interest when they recuse themselves from votes.
If the motion is approved by City Council, the city administration would be required to present the formal ordinance that would take up the proposed measures.
The proposal comes in light of scandals in Chicago, San Antonio, Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that led to changes in those local governments.
In July, Cincinnati’s government was mired in its own controversy after the city administration withheld a memo that criticized the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
Qualls, a Democrat who’s running for mayor, sent out the motion just a few days after John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, announced his innovation plan, which calls for greater government efficiency and transparency.
State Rep. John Becker, a Cincinnati Republican, is pushing to expand the death penalty to include some sex-related crimes. His proposal, made Friday, would allow the state to consider execution in cases of rape, sexual battery and improper sexual contact if the suspect has a previous sex crime conviction and there are aggravating circumstances. Becker says he was inspired to propose the death penalty expansion after hearing about three Cleveland women who were kidnapped, held and raped for years by Ariel Castro before they escaped in May. But Castro, who was convicted earlier this month, wouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty under Becker’s plan because he didn’t have a previous sex crime conviction.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) officials are developing a 10-year plan for the school district, following in the footsteps of the Columbus and Cleveland systems and their unique plans. The school district is asking for more community support and $29 million from the state to, among other plans, boost its community learning center initiative, a nationally recognized program that turns schools into community hubs with extra services such as dental care and college preparation; expand early education, which is often heralded as one of the best economic investments; and provide more options through charter schools, which have generally performed worse than public schools but provide more choices for students. Unlike the other big city systems, CPS has posted decent academic ratings in the past few years, so the changes might not be as drastic or require legislative involvement.The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was found to be the busiest central library in the country for the second year in a row by a report from the Public Library Association. Overall, the report found the Cincinnati system is the seventh busiest public library system in the country and second busiest in Ohio right after Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.
The Over-the-Rhine Foundation will use an $8,000 grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency and Ohio Historic Preservation Office to help revitalize approximately 13 buildings in the neighborhood. The grant will allow the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to research and apply for federal designation on the National Register of Historic Places, which would unlock more tax credits for the buildings and area. The rest of the money for the project will come from private funds. “Exciting things are happening in Over-the-Rhine,” said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in a statement. “Helping the neighborhood receive this historic designation will allow the continued revitalization of this growing community.”With a state ban lifted, Ohio is getting more online schools for the first time in eight years. Three e-schools were approved to open this fall, and five more could be approved this year. The moratorium on new e-schools was held until the state approved e-school standards, which were drafted by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, an association funded in part by e-schools, and include no mention of proper budgeting or attendance tracking. A CityBeat look at e-schools last year found e-schools generally perform much worse but get more state funding than traditional public schools.
Five Miami University students helped install a wheelchair-accessible swing in Hanover Township.
Ohio gas prices are rising but still below the national average.
Ohio is among 24 states asking the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drone manufacturers to test unmanned flying vehicles within state borders.
The Western & Southern Open had record attendance this year, with nearly 200,000 people turning up.
A 12-year-old electronics prodigy and teacher is working on a plan to revamp the U.S. education system to make it more fun.
Members of the media are, unsurprisingly, pretty tapped into places on the web where we can find all sorts of useless and not-so-useless information, depending on whether or not we're complementing our BuzzFeed time on lunch break or looking for something worthy long-form investigative coverage.
The fact is there are way more sources of useful information to be dug up on the Internet than even we know of or have time for, even when it's our job to dig it up. If you're into sometimes digging things up for yourself — or verifying claims you hear on the news (always smart) — it's a good idea to be tapped into those kinds of resources; you never know when they might come in handy.
Listed below is a sort of starter kit to get you interested in (perfectly legal) snooping online.
1. OpenSecrets.org - Even if you're not a politics nerd, OpenSecrets.org is a resource you should keep in mind particularly around election season, when politicians are making boastful claims that can sometimes are nearly impossible for the average human being to verify. Run by the Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org is the result of the group's research into how money is spent among U.S. politicians and its effects on elections and policy. You can learn where politicians are getting the bulk of their campaign contributions, which can be incredibly telling when interpreting a candidate's platform or assessing his or her morality for yourself. You won't always like what you learn, but, well, it's better to learn it.
2. Glassdoor.com - If you've ever filled out a job application and experienced mega-stress over the "desired salary" box trying to decide whether high-balling it will hurt or help your chances, Glassdoor.com can be useful in figuring out what some realistic salary expectations are, whether you're looking to shift fields or just move up the ladder a little. The salaries are submitted by actual current or former employees, so the numbers are much more accurate than a Princeton Review-type database that might give you median salaries for a certain field. Employees can also submit anonymous, detailed company reviews, so you can have an idea of what you're getting into before you say "yes" when you get the offer.
3. EPA Toxic Release Inventory - A database that tracks the management of toxic chemicals facilities release into the air that threaten human health or the environment. It's a little difficult to master at first if you don't browse over the tutorials — there's a lot of complex information to digest — so be sure to do that first. But when you get the hang of it, you can find out what industries are releasing dangerous chemicals in your community — what kind, how much. If you want some broader information on polluters around your neighborhood, enter your zip code at Scorecard.org for an easy-to-read overview of your county's top polluters and how it stacks up compared to pollution and toxic chemical emission rates across the U.S.
4. Clandestine Lab Registry - This is where you can basically find out whether or not you've ever had (or will have) neighbors that were found out to be running a secret meth lab or any other illegal drug operation. The findings date back to 2000; if you're thinking of moving or buying a house, it might be wise to see if the neighborhood (or even your prospective place) was home to a meth lab in the past — the stuff leaves poisonous residue that's sometimes not totally removed by the DEA. Eek.
5. Ohio Prison Census - Find comprehensive statistics about Ohio's incarcerated population, including aggregated data sorted by gender, race/ethnicity, age, felony committed, length of sentence, etc.
6. PACER.gov - Stands for Public Access to Electronic Court Records. Once you make an account — which takes a little bit of time to be verified — you have access to case and docket information from an array of courts, including federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. Accessing court documents is 10 cents per page, but if you don't rack up more than $15 in a quarter, the fees are waived. Some people criticize PACER for charging and being difficult to use — so much, in fact, that the spinoff RECAP was launched to make it easier for non-lawyer types to access court records online and for free.
And, of course, you can request all kinds of other random bits of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Familiarize yourself with Ohio's Sunshine Laws to learn about what kind of government records you can and can't access. And here's the city of Cincinnati's guide to submitting a public records request yourself.
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent in July, unchanged from June, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The amount of employed Ohioans went up by 5,300 from month-to-month and 37,700 year-over-year, showing stronger signs of job growth than earlier in the year. But the amount of jobless Ohioans still looking for jobs went up by 3,000 between June and July. In the past year, the private service-providing sector, education and health services and leisure and hospitality have gained the most jobs, while local government and construction jobs have plummeted.
The Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati proposed keeping neighborhood parking meter hours the same under a lease agreement with Cincinnati in which the city is handing over control of its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port and the agency is tasking private companies with operating the assets. Keeping the meter hours the same as today, instead of expanding them as previously suggested, would lower Cincinnati’s upfront lease revenue from $92 million to $88.3 million and reduce annual payments, which were originally projected at $3 million but estimated to go up over the life of the lease. Still, the move would satisfy neighborhood residents and businesses who were worried the expanded hours would quickly become a financial hassle. CityBeat covered the parking lease and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
Republican legislators are reintroducing a bill that would ban abortions in Ohio as early as six weeks after conception, even though questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality. The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in North Dakota after deeming it unconstitutional. “The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002. Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
The Ohio Ethics Commission won’t investigate Gov. John Kasich’s relationship with a company that received $619,000 in tax credits from JobsOhio because Kasich supposedly made a clean break from the company upon taking office. JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Kasich and Republican legislators, has been mired in controversy in the past few weeks for providing state aid to companies that have direct financial ties to JobsOhio board members and the governor.
Meanwhile, Kasich is fueling speculation that he will run for president in 2016.
Cincinnati mayoral candidate and ex-Councilman John Cranley on Thursday unveiled an innovation plan that he says will boost government transparency and help foster Cincinnati’s newly gained reputation as a tech startup hub. The plan would take $5 million in capital funds over four years and ask local startup incubators Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech where they would like to see the money going. It would also call for hiring a chief innovation officer (CIO) and creating “CincyData,” a transparency initiative that would gather and publish city data to create “a more efficient, effective and user-friendly City government.” Under the plan, both the CIO position and CincyData would be leveraged to find new ways to carry out city services in the hopes of running the local government more efficiently.
Cincinnati Public Schools’ ratings are likely to dip as the school district transitions into Common Core standards and a new state report card system. Superintendent Mary Ronan says the district is doing well but needs to work on getting kids’ reading scores up to grade level. CityBeat originally covered the ratings drop here and some of the hurdles faced by CPS in the past few years here.
New data show the growth of health care costs is slowing down in the Cincinnati area.
Ohio will come up with a new plan to execute condemned inmates no later than Oct. 4 to deal with the state’s expiring supply of drugs used to carry out capital punishments. Specifics were not detailed in court filings.
Procter & Gamble is recalling dog and cat food because some of the product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Ohio legislators today reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, even as questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.
The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
In the past, some of Ohio’s anti-abortion groups,
including Ohio Right to Life, raised concerns about the heartbeat bill
because they said it could lead to legal challenges that would endanger
the anti-abortion movement.
So far, Ohio Right to Life’s concerns might be proving true in North Dakota. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in that state after deeming it unconstitutional.
“The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002.
Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
When contacted earlier today, Ohio Right to Life said it’s not providing comment on the bill yet.
Abortion-rights advocates are already standing against the proposal, which they call “the heartless bill” and an attack on women’s rights.
“Here we go again,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “A month after Gov. Kasich signed one of the worst anti-choice bills in the nation that is already closing abortion facilities, you’ve got this group coming back and saying, ‘No, no, no, that’s not good enough. You have to outlaw abortion before women even know they’re pregnant.’ ”
Forty of 99 legislators in the Ohio House have signed onto the bill, according to The Associated Press. The Ohio Senate majority caucus and Gov. John Kasich have so far declined to comment on the bill when asked by various reporters.
In June, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Kasich passed a two-year state budget
that imposes regulatory hurdles that make it more difficult
to get an abortion in Ohio and have already forced various abortion
clinics to shut down in Ohio.