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by German Lopez 01.10.2014
Posted In: News, Development, Transportation, Streetcar at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

Streetcar Supporters Oppose Oasis Rail Line

HDR study finds low economic development along intercity line

At first glance, it might seem like a rail line between downtown Cincinnati and the city of Milford would earn support from the same people who back the $132.8 million streetcar project, but streetcar supporters, including advocacy group Cincinnatians for Progress, say they oppose the idea and its execution.

Critics of the overall project, called the Eastern Corridor, recently pointed to a November study from HDR. Despite flowery language promising a maximized investment, HDR found seven of 10 stations on the $230-$322 million Oasis rail line would result in low economic development, five of 10 stations would provide low access to buses and bikes, and the intercity line would achieve only 3,440 daily riders by 2030.

HDR’s findings for the Oasis line stand in sharp contrast to its study of Cincinnati’s streetcar project. The firm found the streetcar line in Over-the-Rhine and downtown would generate major economic development and a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years.

Given the poor results for the Oasis line, streetcar supporters say local officials should ditch the Oasis concept and instead pursue the 2002 MetroMoves plan and an expansion of the streetcar system through a piecemeal approach that would create a central transit spine through the region.

“To have (the Oasis line) be our first commuter rail piece in Cincinnati … just doesn’t make sense to me,” says Derek Bauman, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress.

MetroMoves spans across the entire city and region, with the rail line along I-71 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to downtown Cincinnati to King’s Island fostering particularly high interest.

Voters rejected the MetroMoves plan and the sales tax hike it involved in 2002, but streetcar supporters say public opinion will shift once the streetcar becomes reality in Cincinnati.

“That’s been proven in other cities, especially ones that have not historically been transit-oriented,” Bauman says, pointing to Houston and Miami as examples of cities that built spines that are now being expanded.

Opposition to the Oasis line is also more deeply rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project. The unfunded billion-dollar project involves a few parts: relocating Ohio 32 through the East Side, the Oasis rail line and several road improvements from Cincinnati to Milford.

Supporters of the Eastern Corridor claim it would ease congestion, at least in the short term, and provide a cohesiveness in transportation options that’s severely lacking in the East Side.

Opponents argue the few benefits, some of which both sides agree are rooted in legitimate concerns, just aren’t worth the high costs and various risks tied to the project.

“When it comes to widening roads and highways, it’s kind of like loosening your belt at Thanksgiving. Somehow traffic always fills to fit,” Bauman says. “Highway expansion, especially in urban areas, is not the future. It’s not even the present in some areas.”

The big concern is that the relocation of Ohio 32 might do to the East Side and eastern Hamilton County what I-75 did to the West Side, which was partly obliterated and divided by the massive freeway.

“It hurts the cohesiveness of our communities when you create these big divides,” Bauman argues. “You would see that repeat itself.”

Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.

This article was updated to use more up-to-date figures for the cost of the Oasis rail line.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.30.2013
Posted In: News, Gun Violence, Streetcar, Development at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

City manager defends streetcar, student who shot himself identified, city to sell defunct mall

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended the streetcar project at a special four-hour session of City Council yesterday, but the city manager did not reveal any specifics over how the project’s $17.4 million budget gap could be closed. Dohoney revealed the price of halting the project would be $72 million: the project has already cost the city $19.7 million, the city would have to spend another $14.2 million in close-out costs and another $38.1 million in federal grants would have to be returned to the federal government. Most of Dohoney’s presentation focused on the streetcar’s economic benefits, but opponents say the budget gap proves the streetcar project is unsustainable and its costs are too high.

The Cincinnati Enquirer identified the 17-year-old honors student at LaSalle High School who tried to commit suicide in front of a classroom of 22 other students yesterday, even though parents asked press to provide privacy. The student remains alive and in critical condition this morning. No other students were physically hurt, and classes are resuming as normal. (Update: The students name was removed from this post upon the familys request.)

The city is moving to sell Tower Place Mall for $1 to Brook Lane Holdings, an affiliate of JDL Warm Construction, so the construction company can pour $5 million into the defunct mall and convert it into a garage with street-level retail space. Financing the project at Pogue’s Garage, which is across the street from Tower Place Mall, is still being worked out now that the parking plan has been delayed by court battles and a referendum effort.

Cincinnati’s police and firefighter unions are filing a lawsuit over the city’s health care dependent audit. The city is asking employees to verify whether spouses and children are legitimately eligible for health care benefits by turning over documents such as marriage licenses, birth certificates and tax returns. The unions’ attorney told WVXU the unions are willing to provide the necessary documents, but he said they’re concerned the process is too intrusive and difficult.

Two firms are getting tax credits for creating jobs in the Greater Cincinnati area: 5Me, which creates manufacturing software, and Festo Americas, which specializes in factory and process automation. Altogether, the credits could create 312 jobs in the region.

A Democratic state senator hinted yesterday at letting voters decide whether Internet sweepstakes cafes should be allowed in Ohio. State officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, claim Internet cafes are hubs for criminal activity. The Ohio House already passed a measure that would effectively ban the cafes, but some are cautious of the ban as the Ohio Senate prepares to vote.

An intelligent headlight makes raindrops disappear.

Some people may prefer death to being saved by this terrifying robot snake.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.27.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Neighborhoods, Urban Planning at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
church

Old St. George Gets Cited

Next month marks the fourth anniversary of a fire that destroyed parts of the historic Old St. George Church in Clifton Heights. But the structure remains vacant and building inspectors this week cited the owners for conditions at the site.

The city’s Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Division posted a citation Wednesday on the fence in front of the church. It was issued by Housing Inspector James Hatton, and states the building’s owner failed to comply with an order issued by the Buildings and Inspections Department on Aug. 31, 2010.

Read More

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 05.09.2012
Posted In: News, City Council, Development at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hail-a-cab

Council to Vote on Taxi Fare Increase Tonight

Potential taxi reform touted as response to city growth, development

Anyone who's ever tried to hail a cab in Cincinnati knows it's nothing like the experience you imagine in a big city — stepping out confidently onto the street and gracefully waving your arm isn't usually enough to garner the attention or interest of cab drivers around here. In fact, hailing a cab in the city was illegal until last spring, when City Council lifted the ban.

In line with the city's efforts to improve urban infrastructure and bolster methods of transportation, City Council today will vote on a proposal brought forth by Councilman Wendell Young, which would raise taxicab fares in an effort to improve taxi transportation standards across the city.

According to Young, the reform is a necessary measure to handle the growth and development in Cincinnati.

"I want to be sure that the first and the last impression of our city that these visitors have, which is often a cab ride, be a first-rate experience. Our taxi industry needs reform, and this event helped spark an urgency and an energy to get the work done," said Young in a news release last fall, according to the Business Courier.

If approved, the taxi reform would create additional taxi stands in areas with the greatest demand, including Over-the-Rhine, the Banks, University of Cincinnati, Mt. Lookout, Hyde Park Square and Oakley Square. Business standards would also be put into place, including mandating training for all taxi drivers, creating a "Bill of Rights and Expectations" for drivers and customers, standardizing signage and expanding an already-existing taxi hotline.

Fees would also increase significantly — the plan would implement a 40-cent jump in rates per mile, up to $2 per mile from $1.60. The initial "drop" fee would also change from $3.40 to $4.

City Council will vote on the reform tonight. If it's approved, the changes would take effect July 1, just three days before the beginning the World Choir Games, which is expected to bring an influx of thousands of international visitors. 

Want to see how Cincinnati's proposed fares stack up? A look at cab fares in a few other cities around the country:

New York City : $2.50 upon entry, plus $0.40 for each 1/5 mile, plus several applicable surcharges

Chicago : $2.25 upon entry (first 1/9 mile), plus $0.20 for each 1/9 mile, plus applicable surcharges

Los Angeles: $2.85 upon entry (first 1/9 mile) plus $0.30 for each 1/9 mile, plus applicable surcharges.

Portland : $2.50 upon entry, $2.50 per additional mile, plus applicable surcharges

Atlanta: $2.50 upon entry, $2 per additional mile 

* Keep in mind it's customary everywhere to tip your cab driver 15 to 20 percent.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.21.2012
 
 
towing

Morning News and Stuff

If you've ever felt like your car was held hostage by a towing company wanting an exorbitant fee before it would release your vehicle, this will sound like sweet justice. The city of Cincinnati's prosecutor has begun a criminal investigation of Kenwood Towing, based on allegations of overcharging. The firm, which has locations in Northside and South Cumminsville, also has been indefinitely suspended from its city contracts pending the investigation's outcome. Ohio law limits how much towing companies can charge, but residents have complained that Kenwood routinely violates the law, in some cases charging 400 percent more than is allowed.

Leasing issues with some current tenants at Corryville Plaza could delay parts of a major redevelopment project near the University of Cincinnati. The $78 million first phase of U Square @ The Loop is underway, with construction of shops and apartments along William Howard Taft Road. But plans to demolish and revamp the plaza where a Kroger grocery store and a Walgreen's pharmacy are located might be postponed. That's because three tenants — a chiropractic center, furniture store and clothing retailer – remain under lease under 2015. Developers are negotiating for their earlier departure.

The recent, unexpected death of Hamilton County Coroner Anaht Bhati means local Democratic officials have until Thursday to find a replacement candidate to put on the November ballot. Besides investigating suspicious deaths, the coroner can act as a de facto commissioner if two of the three Hamilton County commissioners are unavailable to conduct business for some reason.

Ongoing construction at the Horseshoe Casino on downtown's eastern edge will cause some detours for motorists. Beginning today, the work will close Eggleston Avenue between Central Avenue and East Court Street for about four months.

In news elsewhere, the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raised $6.6 million last month and spent $13.9 million, according to a report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission. Politico reports the paperwork reveals 25 six-figure donations, many from repeat donors, which accounted for $4.9 million of Restore Our Future’s January haul. Money might not buy love, but it can give new life to a lackluster candidate.

More than 2,000 angry Afghans gathered outside a US military base to protest the allegedly inadvertent burning of Korans and other Islamic religious materials. The items are thought to have been burned as part of routine disposal of garbage at Bagram Air Field. (Yep, we're winning hearts and minds over there, don'tcha know.)

DSK is in trouble yet again. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is being detained for questioning by French police investigating a prostitution ring. Strauss-Kahn, once a front-runner for the French presidency, was charged last year in New York with the attempted rape of a hotel maid. Prosecutors later dropped the case, stating it would be difficult to win a conviction.

Government officials are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in Mexico on Sunday. The governor said the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape. The fugitives are gang members involved in the Mexican drug trade, he added.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.27.2013
 
 
downtown grocery

City Manager Lists Alternatives to Parking Plan

Plan B would lay off 344 city employees, eliminate Human Services Funding

If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, but critics argue there are better alternatives.

In a memo dated to Feb. 26, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote that the city will also have to close three community centers and six pools; eliminate Human Services Funding, which aids the city’s homeless and poor; and reduce funding for local business groups, parks, nature education for Cincinnati Public Schools and environmental regulations, among other changes. In total, the cuts would add up to $25.8 million — just enough to balance the deficit that would be left in place without the parking plan.

In addition to the cuts, failing to approve the parking plan, which leases the city’s parking meters for 30 years and lots and garages for 50 years to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, would displace plans to convert Tower Place Mall, construct a 30-floor tower with a grocery store downtown, accelerate the the I-71/MLK Interchange project, acquire the Wasson Line right-of-way for a bike trail and add $4 million to the next phase of Smale Riverfront Park (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).

Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor, has come out in favor of the parking plan, but John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, says he opposes the deal because it will hurt downtown businesses.

“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” Cranley says. “In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and firefighters, and it never happened.”

Cranley says he would rather take $10 million from projected casino revenue and $7 million from current parking revenues to help clear the deficit. For the remaining $8.8 million, he would cut non-essential programs, which would exclude police, fire, garbage collection, health, parks and recreation, street pavement and Human Services Funding, across the board by 10 to 15 percent. If that wasn’t enough, he would then move to the essential programs, which he says make up about $300 million in the $368.9 million budget, with a 1-percent across-the-board cut.

He says his solution would have the upside of fixing structural deficit problems in Cincinnati’s General Fund, whereas the one-time lease of the city’s parking assets will only take care of the deficit for the next two years.

Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says City Council could use the casino revenue to pay for the deficit, but $4 million of it is already set for the Focus 52 program, which funds neighborhood development projects.

“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” Olberding says. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another plan.”

Cranley says he would not do away with the Focus 52 program, but he would instead find funding for it in the Capital Budget, which is separate from the General Fund.

Olberding says City Council could approve the use of about $3 million in parking meter revenue for the General Fund, but the rest of the parking money, which comes from lots and garages, is tied to an enterprise fund, which, by state law, means the city would have to sell its parking lots and garages before it could obtain money for the General Fund.

Cranley, who also opposes the streetcar project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23), says it would be possible to pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange and other projects if the streetcar wasn’t taking up funds. If it was up to him, he says he would remove streetcar funding and use it on other development projects “without batting an eye.”

In the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said the Budget and Finance Committee will likely vote on the city manager’s parking plan on March 4 or March 11.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.27.2012
 
 
clooney

Morning News and Stuff

One of the biggest attractions at The Banks shopping and residential district opens to the public today. The Moerlein Lager House restaurant and microbrewery, next to the still under-development Smale Riverfront Park, features 19th Century-inspired food and a large selection of beers including craft brews and more than 100 international beers, all meant to evoke Cincinnati's rich brewing history.

Frustrated about dog owners who won't clean up after their pooches, managers at an apartment complex in West Chester Township are going all Forensic Files to stop the problem. The Lakes at West Chester Village told residents all dogs must submit a mouth swab so managers have a DNA database to use so it can match up poo left on the lawns with the rightful dog and its owner.

With Opening Day about a month away, the Cincinnati Reds are poised to win the division title this season, according to the Associated Press. With a revamped pitching staff and star first baseman Joey Votto, the team's prospects look better than they have in years, said AP sports writer Tom Withers. The season opener against the Miami Marlins will begin at 4:10 p.m. on April 5, after the annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade through Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

Budget cuts at the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) could mean the end for Hamilton County's 4-H program. County commissioners have ordered MSD to cut 10 percent of its budget, and some of that probably will come from the $400,000 the agency gives to programs like 4-H, which helps young people learn animal husbandry and life sciences activities like raising sheep and cattle. Some critics, however, question why sewer funds were being used to support an unrelated program in the first place.

In news elsewhere, hometown boy George Clooney largely was shut out of winning awards at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony. Clooney was nominated as Best Actor for The Descendants and for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ides of March, but lost in both categories – to Jean Dujardin for The Artist and to the writers of The Descendants, respectively. Remember, George: It's an honor just to be nominated, and you still have that gorgeous hair. Other big winners last night included Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer.

In more of his over-the-top invective, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum dropped a couple of doozies over the weekend while campaigning in Michigan. First, Santorum said President Obama was “a snob” for saying he wanted all Americans to go to college. Then, he disparaged a 1960 speech by President Kennedy on the separation of church and state by saying he “almost threw up” while reading it. Oh, Republicans: Please nominate this guy, so we can all bet on just how many states he will lose in November.

WikiLeaks has begun publishing more than five million confidential emails from Stratfor, a U.S.-based security firm. Stratfor's computers were hacked by the activist group Anonymous in December. The company provides analysis of world affairs to subscribers which include major corporations, military officials and international government agencies.

Two people were arrested in a foiled plot to kill Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after next week's presidential election, according to Russian state TV. The men said they prepared the attack in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and were planning to carry it out in Moscow. Meanwhile, Putin warned Western leaders against a military strike on Iran. He said if such an attack happens, “the fallout would be truly catastrophic.”
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.23.2012
 
 
enquirer

Morning News and Stuff

In a move that's been expected for months, the parent company of The Enquirer informed investors Wednesday that all of its websites will implement a paywall model by year's end. Under the switch, online users will be able to access a limited number of articles for free every month, then must subscribe if they want to see additional digital content. Gannett Co. executives said it would probably offer between five and 15 articles for free per month, and compared the change to a system implemented by The New York Times last year. That newspaper, however, offers 20 free articles per month.

Hamilton County will soon have its first female coroner. The local Democratic Party's central committee will meet tonight to vote on the appointment of Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, a radiologist who lives in Indian Hill. She will replace Dr. Anant Bhati, who died last week from injuries sustained in a fall.

In a sign that the economy might be improving, local home sales increased in January. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says sales last month rose almost 11 percent over January last year.

The city manager and his staffers at City Hall seem to be keeping pertinent facts from Cincinnati City Council. First, council members said they weren't aware that a Hamilton restaurant in line to get almost $1 million in grants and loans to open a location at The Banks just paid off a delinquent property tax bill that was almost two years old on their eatery in Butler County. Then, council members learned the city's recently hired human relations director had to resign from her previous position in Detroit over a controversy involving a severance payment. Although Georgetta Kelly said she had nothing to do with a $200,000 payout to a woman who voluntarily left a county job to become CEO of an airport, her signature appears on some of the documents.

In news elsewhere, a Georgia lawmaker who is disturbed by Republicans' increasing attempts to pass new legislation involving abortion and birth control has offered a proposal of her own. State Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat, wants to begin regulating vasectomies. If approved, her bill would ban the practice of male sterilization except in cases where a man faces serious health risks without one. It was crafted as a response to a so-called “fetal pain bill” proposed by Republicans, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Even though he wants to end the Afghanistan war and impose a more isolationist foreign policy, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received more donations from members of the military than all of his GOP rivals and President Obama combined during 2011's fourth quarter. Paul raised more than $150,000 from active-duty military personnel.

As banks foreclose on an increasing number of properties nationwide, tenants are discovering many of those lending institutions are neglectful landlords, NPR reports.

The United Nations has a secret list of top Syrian officials who could face investigation for crimes against humanity for their violent crackdown against anti-government protestors, according to a U.N. report. The list includes Syrian President Bashar Assad, said London's The Independent. Sources tell the newspaper as many as 500 children have been killed in the violence.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2014
Posted In: News, Drugs, Voting, Development, Mayor at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting agreement sought, downtown project scrutinized, drug abuse reportedly drops

Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016 general election, as some Republicans in the county government have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the existing disagreement.”

With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier: The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery store downtown in decades.

A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to verify the trend.

Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.

To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.

Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.

Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat. After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.

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by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Streetcar, City Council at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Council Approves Streetcar Budget Fixes

Funding for development at Fourth, Race streets also gets approval

City Council today approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing the project to move forward.

On Monday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved the measures, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The funding ordinance closes the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino.

The accountability motion will require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.

Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the measures. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against both. Councilwoman Pam Thomas voted against the funding ordinance, but she voted for the accountability motion.

City Council also unanimously approved funding for a development project on Fourth and Race streets, which includes a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue's Garage. CityBeat covered that project in further detail here.

 
 

 

 

 
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