Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley focused most of their disagreement on the streetcar and parking lease at yesterday’s first post-primary mayoral debate. No matter the subject, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar project and his belief that it’s siphoning city funds from more important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay for debt. Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage for more development projects; that claim has been backed by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one. On the parking lease, Qualls claimed money raised through the lease could be used to leverage economic development projects, while Cranley said the lease would hurt an entire generation by shifting control of Cincinnati’s parking assets from the city to the unelected Port Authority and private companies.
State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, both of Cincinnati, called on the state government to reverse its decision to not give local company Pure Romance tax credits. Pure Romance, a $100 million-plus company whose product lineup includes sex toys, was planning on moving from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati with local and state support, but because the state declined the tax breaks, the company is now considering moving to Covington, Ky. Gov. John Kasich’s administration has said Pure Romance doesn’t fit into the traditional industries the state invests in, but Democratic legislators argue Kasich’s social conservatism is getting in the way of keeping jobs in Ohio.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he has “literally no thoughts” about the possibility of the state expanding Medicaid without the legislature and through the state Controlling Board — a possibility that Kasich hinted at earlier in the week. Kasich has been pleading with the Ohio General Assembly to take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion, but Republican legislators have so far refused. If the Controlling Board does expand Medicaid, Batchelder said the state legislature will likely pass some protections in case the federal government reneges on its funding proposal. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; if they accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016 then phase its payments down to an indefinite 90 percent.
Documents uncovered by USA Today further show the IRS, particularly through its offices in Cincinnati, targeted tea party groups by looking at “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.
The Cincinnati area’s economy grew by 2.7 percent in 2012, slightly higher than the country’s 2.5-percent growth in the same year.
In perhaps another sign of growing local momentum, venture capitalists appear to be investing more in Cincinnati’s entrepreneurs.
Following two high-profile suicides at Ohio’s prisons, an expert on inmate suicides will inspect the state’s facilities and protocols.
Saks Fifth Avenue might move to Kenwood Collection.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble and TriHealth are among the top 100 companies for working mothers, according to the magazine Working Mother.
A very rare genetic mutation makes subjects immune to pain.
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CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email email@example.com.
A new poll from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati found a majority of Ohioans support expanding Medicaid coverage, but state legislators have passed on a federally funded expansion in their latest budget bills and other legislation. About 63 percent of 866 Ohioans asked between May 19 and June 2 supported the expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent. The question was part of the Ohio Health Issues Poll, which the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research has conducted for the Health Foundation each year since 2005.
An Ohio bill would ease restrictions on semi-automatic magazines, making it so gun owners can more easily purchase high-round clips for their semi-automatic weapons. Supporters of the bill say the change helps differentiate between automatic and semi-automatic weapons — a differentiation that doesn’t currently occur under state law. Critics argue the bill makes it easier for offenders to carry out violent shootings, such as the recent massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Councilman Chris Smitherman is stepping down
as president of the local branch of the NAACP while he runs for
re-election. If he wins the election, Smitherman will then offer his resignation, which the NAACP's local executive committee can accept or reject. James Clingman, a vice president of the NAACP and founder
of the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce, will
take Smitherman's spot for the time being. Before the move, Smitherman was criticized for engaging in
partisan political activity as he ran for re-election, which is
generally looked down upon by the NAACP and federal rules regarding
501(c)(3) organization like the federal branch of the NAACP.
The world’s most advanced solar plane touched down in Cincinnati Friday before continuing its record-breaking journey across the nation to Washington, D.C.
The Columbus Dispatch says Internet cafes make gambling more convenient and accessible to problematic gamblers. As a result of recently passed legislation, Internet cafes are being effectively shut down around the state.
Ohio gas prices are coming back down.
If someone wants to get away from the U.S. government, Popular Science has a few suggestions.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology built a robot that helps people be less awkward.
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.
Health insurance premiums for the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The report, released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), comes less than one week before online marketplaces are set to open on Oct. 1.
In Ohio, the average 27-year-old making $25,000 a year will have to pay $145 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, the designation given to the middle-of-the-pack plans under Obamacare. Without tax credits, the second cheapest silver plan would cost the 27-year-old $212 a month.
Meanwhile, the average Ohio family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest silver plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits.
Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase health insurance plans in the individual market. Participants with an annual income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals making between $11,490 and $45,960, will also be eligible for tax subsidies, with the highest incomes getting the smallest subsidies and the lowest incomes getting the largest.
The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies.
HHS estimates the average Ohioan will be able to choose between 46 different plans, excluding catastrophic options.
Some states will be less fortunate, with Alabamians in particular only having an average of seven plans to choose from.
The plans will be designated as bronze, silver, gold or platinum, with bronze covering less services but costing the least and platinum covering more services but costing the most.
The federal government was originally expecting states to set up most of the online marketplaces, but it’s had to carry some or the entire burden in 36 states, including Ohio, after state governments refused the full task.
Beating projections doesn’t necessarily make Obamacare a success. That’s why outreach campaigns plan to advertise the law’s benefits to Ohioans and others across the nation through March, after which enrollment will temporarily close until October 2014.
The outreach efforts are important to the law’s success because the federal government estimates it will need to enroll 2.7 million young adults out of the 7 million it expects to sign up overall. Otherwise, Americans who are older — and therefore less likely to be healthy — will fill up the marketplaces, exhaust health services and drive up costs.
At the same time, Republican legislators in Ohio and other states have put restrictions on some of the outreach efforts to avoid what Republicans call potential abuses and conflicts of interest. In Cincinnati, the state-level restrictions have blocked Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center from participating as a “navigator,” or a group that will help guide the uninsured and others through the enrollment process.
CityBeat covered the outreach efforts and Republican efforts to obstruct them in further detail here.
Update: Clarified metal-based classifications for different health care plans.
As the Oct. 1 opening date approaches for the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, outreach campaigns are beginning to take root and aim at states with the largest uninsured populations, including Ohio and its more than 1.25 million uninsured. But the campaigns have run into a series of problems in the past few months, with many of the issues driven by regulatory changes and opposition from Republican legislators at the state and federal level. So far, none of the state’s “navigators” — the federally financed organizations that will participate in outreach campaigns and help enroll people into marketplaces — have been certified by the Ohio Department of Insurance as they await completion of 20-hour federal training courses. Meanwhile, some organizations have been shut out of the process entirely, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, because of regulations enacted by state Republicans.
Strategies to End Homelessness yesterday released its first annual progress report detailing how the organization intends to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County by half from 2012 to 2017. The main strategies, according to the report: prevention, rapid rehousing that lasts six to 12 months, transitional housing for up to 24 months and permanent supportive housing that targets the chronically homeless and disabled. The goal is to reduce homelessness by using supportive services to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s joblessness, mental health problems or other causes, and ensure shelter services aren’t necessary in the first place.
A new study found Ohio school performance is strongly tied to student poverty. Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association says the results shouldn’t make excuse for low-performing schools, but he claims there are other factors the state government should consider when grading schools, including whether low-performing schools actually need more, not less, funding to make up for a lack of resources. Greg Lawson of the conservative Buckeye Institute seems to agree, but he says his organization, which supports school choice and vouchers, will soon release a study showing no correlation between state and local funding and student performance.
The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday held its endorsement interviews with mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, with some of the highlights posted here. Also, check out CityBeat’s previous Q&A’s with the candidates: Qualls and Cranley.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the state’s Identity Theft Unit has received 600 complaints and helped adjust $250,000 in disputed charges since its creation last year.
Libertarian Charlie Earl yesterday announced he’ll run in the 2014 gubernatorial race. Earl served in the Ohio House from 1981 to 1984 and ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2010.
Cincinnati State is getting a $2.75 million federal grant to expand the school’s manufacturing program in the region.
Cincinnati Children’s is testing a new bird flu vaccine.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received the Auditor of State Award with Distinction for a clean audit report.
A new study suggests people act more selfishly when interacting with wide-faced men.