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by German Lopez 03.08.2013
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed

In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.

In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.

A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.

Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.

A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.

JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.

Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.

Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.

Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.

In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.05.2012
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Energy, Mayor, Budget, Fracking at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls to run for mayor, city budget proposal raises taxes, local fracking control demanded

It will soon be official. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will announce her mayoral campaign on Thursday at 10 a.m. Qualls has already announced her candidacy and platform on her website. Qualls will be joined by term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, which could indicate support from the popular mayor. Right now, Qualls’ only known opponent is former Democratic city councilman John Cranley, who has spoken out against the streetcar project Qualls supports.

As part of City Manager Milton Dohoney’s budget proposal, anyone who lives in Cincinnati but works elsewhere could lose a tax credit. The budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rollback and moves to privatize the city’s parking services, which Dohoney says is necessary if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The mayor and City Council must approve Dohoney’s budget before it becomes law. City Council is set to vote on the budget on Dec. 14. Public hearings for the budget proposal will be held in City Hall Thursday at 6 p.m. and in the Corryville Recreation Center Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.

Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan are pushing a resolution that demands local control over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activity. But the resolution will have no legal weight, so the state will retain full control over fracking operations even if the resolution is passed. Qualls and Quinlivan will also hold a press conference today at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall to discuss problems with fracking, which has come under fire by environmentalist groups due to concerns about air pollution and water contamination caused during the drilling-and-disposal process.

Greater Cincinnati hospitals had mixed results in a new round of scores from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group.

In an effort to comply with cost cutting, the Hamilton County recorder is eliminating Friday office hours.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for feedback for the Tristate’s transportation and economic plans.

This year’s drought is coming to an end in a lot of places, but not southwest Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed a concussion bill that forces student athletes to be taken off the field as soon as symptoms of a concussion are detected.

As the state government pushes regulations or even an outright ban on Internet cafes, one state legislator is suggesting putting the issue on the ballot. State officials argue unregulated Internet cafes are “ripe for organized crime” and money laundering. An Ohio House committee is set to vote on the issue today. If passed, the bill will likely put Internet cafes that use sweepstakes machines out of business.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be preparing for a 2016 campaign. Kasich was caught privately courting Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who spent millions on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney’s failed campaigns for the presidency. The early meetup shows how valued super PAC funders are to modern political campaigns. State Democrats criticized the meeting, saying it was Kasich “actively positioning to be the next Ohio darling of the special interests.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had a bit of trouble giving a speech on the federal debt yesterday. Hecklers repeatedly interrupted Portman, a Republican, as he tried to speak. The final protesters were escorted out of the room as they chanted, “We’re going to grow, not slow, the economy.” Portman says his plan is to promote growth. But both Democrats and Republicans will raise taxes on the lower and middle classes, according to a calculator from The Washington Post. Tax hikes and spending cuts are typically bad ideas during a slow economy.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is facing the wrath of his tea party comrades. The far right wing of the Republican Party is apparently furious Boehner purged rebellious conservative legislators out of House committees and proposed $800 billion in new revenue in his “fiscal cliff” plan to President Barack Obama.

To help combat fatigue at space stations, NASA is changing a few light bulbs.

Does this dog really love or really hate baths? You decide:


 
 
by German Lopez 10.29.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Economy, 2013 Election at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

State job numbers mislead, Cranley didn't repay $75,000 loan, county to vote on budget

Many jobs the state government claims it’s creating don’t actually exist, according to The Toledo Blade. The Ohio Development Services Agency claims it improved its process for tracking the effects of taxpayer-financed loans, grants and subsidies, but The Blade found errors led to more than 11,000 claimed jobs that likely don’t exist. Part of the problem is that the state relies on companies to self-report job numbers; although the Ohio Development Services Agency is supposed to authenticate the reports, officials almost never visit businesses that get tax incentives. The discrepancy between claimed job creation and reality raises more questions about the efforts of JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators that recommends many of the tax subsidies going to Ohio businesses. CityBeat covered JobsOhio in further detail here.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley didn’t repay a $75,000 loan for his Incline Village Project in East Price Hill that was meant to go to a medical office and 77 apartments that never came to fruition. Kathy Schwab of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which loaned the money to Cranley’s former development company, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that they worked out terms to repay the loan after the news broke yesterday. Supporters of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign say the news casts doubt on whether Cranley is as fiscally responsible as he’s led on while stumping on the campaign trail. As The Enquirer notes, Cranley is very proud of the Incline Project and often touts it to show off his experience building a successful project in the private sector.

Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on a budget on Nov. 6. This year’s budget is the first time in six years that the county won’t need to make major cuts to close a gap. But the commissioners also told WVXU that it’s unlikely they’ll take up the county coroner’s plan for a new crime lab, which county officials say is a dire need.

A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the voter rolls, less than two weeks after the board of elections ruled Simes is eligible to vote in Cincinnati. The case has been mired in politics since it was first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit, who are backed by the attorney that regularly supports the anti-streetcar, anti-Qualls Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting. The dispute hinges on whether Simes’ registered residence for voting — a condo owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell — is a place where he truly lived or just visited throughout 2013. Currently, no hearing or judge is set for the lawsuit.

Pure Romance officially signed a lease for new headquarters in downtown Cincinnati, which means the $100-million-plus company is now set to move from its Loveland, Ohio, location starting in January 2014. Pure Romance originally considered moving to Kentucky after Ohio reneged on a tax deal, but council ultimately upped its offer to bring the company to Cincinnati. As part of its deal with the city, Pure Romance will get $854,000 in tax breaks over the next 10 years, but it will need to stay in Cincinnati for 20 years. The city administration estimates the deal will generate $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades and at least 126 high-paying jobs over three years.

One in six Ohioans lived in poverty in 2012, putting the state poverty rate above pre-recession levels, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Two Butler County students were arrested yesterday after they allegedly threatened to go on a shooting spree on Facebook.

Rachel Maddow accused Ky. Sen. Rand Paul of plagiarizing his speech off Wikipedia.

The Taste of Belgium’s next location: Rookwood Exchange.

Pollinating bees could deliver pesticides in the future.

Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, 2013 Election, Media at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley outraises Qualls, city pension recommendations stalled, layoffs at 'The Enquirer'

Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race by $124,000, but the history and research of money in politics suggest the lead might not matter much, if at all. Mayor Mark Mallory was outspent more than three-to-one in the 2005 mayoral race by David Pepper, but Mallory won the vote 52-48 percent. Political scientists argue fundraising and campaigns generally have a marginal impact, while economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and political affiliation have much bigger effects. [Correction: This originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.]

The board that manages Cincinnati employees’ struggling pension system won’t make a recommendation to City Council Monday, as originally planned, because it can’t decide how much taxpayers and employees should suffer to help fix the $862 million unfunded liability. Board members couldn’t agree on the proper balance between benefit cuts and increased funding from the city. Credit rating agency Moody’s on July 15 downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.” Moody’s stated one of the biggest causes of concern for Cincinnati’s debt outlook is its pension fund.

There were massive layoffs at The Cincinnati Enquirer and its parent company Gannett yesterday, including the reported closing of the newspaper’s Kentucky office. As of the latest update from Gannett Blog, more than 200 people were laid off nationwide and 11 lost their jobs at the Cincinnati offices. The news comes just two weeks after Gannett CEO Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.”

Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held and raped three women at his house for years, yesterday was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years.

A few dozen residents organized by a conservative group asked the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to kill Cincinnati’s parking lease at a meeting Thursday. The Port is taking control over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages as part of a controversial deal that will net the city $92 million up front and $3 million or more a year afterward. CityBeat covered the lease in further detail here.

While the Port Authority meeting apparently warranted live tweeting and various articles from several outlets, other local media outlets never covered a streetcar social that involved roughly 200 supporters of the Cincinnati streetcar and Mayor Mallory.

State officials claim average costs for health insurance will soar by 41 percent for Ohioans who buy coverage online under Obamacare, but experts say the state’s claims are misleading. “These are sticker prices, and very few people will pay these prices,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Many will qualify for subsidies.” The Republican officials touting the claims of higher costs, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, have opposed Obamacare from the start.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is once again asking for an ethics probe of Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio is creating thousands of job in the state, but Democrats argue the agency’s secretive nature makes it difficult to verify whether taxpayer dollars are being effectively used.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced a statewide Internet cafe investigation spanning to an establishment in Middletown. “We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to be a very lengthy investigation,” DeWine said in a statement.  “While it is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal gambling.” Earlier in the year, Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature effectively banned Internet cafes, which they claimed were hubs for online gambling and illegal activity.

The Ohio crime lab received about 3,300 untested rape kits from law enforcement around the state and found nearly 400 DNA matches after testing more than 1,300 of the kits. DeWine says the extensive tests are helping solve sexual assault crimes.

The Cincinnati Zoo has a region-wide economic impact of $143 million, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.

Just one day after announcing he’s quitting the mayoral race, Libertarian Jim Berns is asking to rejoin. Berns withdrew from the race Wednesday in protest of the mayoral primary election and debate schedule. In a statement, he said he had changed his mind because staying in the race supposedly allows him to shed light on important issues.

Keeping Cincinnati Beautiful is offering a one-day free recycling event Saturday for hard-to-recycle items.

Evolution punishes selfish people, according to a game theory study.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.22.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City could raise rate cap, Cranley's website against parking plan, superintendent pays up

While fact checking an interview, CityBeat discovered it will be possible to circumvent the parking plan’s cap on meter rate increases through a multilayer process that involves approval from a special committee, the city manager and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The process adds a potential loophole to one of the city manager’s main defenses against fears of skyrocketing rates, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says raising the cap requires overcoming an extensive series of hurdles: unanimous approval from a board with four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by the city manager, affirmation from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. Olberding says the process is necessary in case anything changes during the 30-year time span of the parking deal, which CityBeat covered in detail here.

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley launched DontSellCincinnati.org to prevent the city manager’s parking plan, which semi-privatizes the city’s parking assets. The website claims the plan gives for-profit investment companies power over enforcement, guarantees 3-percent rate increases every year and blows through all the money raised in two years. The plan does task a private company with enforcement, but it will be handled by Xerox, not a financial firm, and must follow standards set in the company’s agreement with the Port Authority. While the plan does allow 3-percent rate increases each year, Olberding says the Port Authority will have the power to refuse an increase — meaning it’s not a guarantee.

Arnol Elam, the Franklin City Schools superintendent who sent an angry letter to Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan, is no longer being investigated for misusing county resources after he paid $539 in restitution. CityBeat covered Elam’s letter, which told parents and staff about regressive funding in Kasich’s school funding proposal, and other parts of the governor’s budget in an in-depth cover story.

To the surprise of no one, Ohio’s oil lobby is still against Kasich’s tax plan, which raises a 4 percent severance tax on oil and wet gas from high-producing fracking wells and a 1 percent tax on dry gas.

Local faith leaders from a diversity of religious backgrounds held a press conference yesterday to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights all attended the event. CityBeat covered the amendment and its potential hurdles for getting on the 2013 ballot here.

Vanessa White, a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, is running for City Council. White is finishing her first four-year term at the board after winning the seat handily in 2009. She has said she wants to stop the streetcar project, but she wants to increase collaboration between the city and schools and create jobs for younger people.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) policy on providing driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants remains unclear. Since CityBeat broke the story on the BMV policy, the agency has shifted from internally pushing against driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to officially “reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.” DACA is an executive order from President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for permits that enable them to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.

A survey from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments found locals are generally satisfied with roads, housing and issues that affect them everyday. The survey included 2,500 people and questions about energy efficiency, infrastructure, public health, schools and other issues.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed 7,000 Ohioans have received more than $280 million in consumer relief as part of the National Mortgage Settlement announced one year ago. The $25 billion settlement between the federal government and major banks punishes reckless financial institutions and provides relief to homeowners in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Ohio received a $3 million federal grant to continue improving the state’s health care payments and delivery programs.

Cincinnati home sales reached a six-year high after a 27-percent jump in January.

CityBeat’s Hannah “McAttack” McCartney interviewed yours truly for the first post of her Q&A-based blog, Cinfolk.

Crows have a sense of fairness, a new study found.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.25.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, 2013 Election, Education at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Ohioans support same-sex marriage, Portman's son explains coming out, charter schools fail

A new Saperstein Poll suggests Ohioans have dramatically shifted on same-sex marriage, with 54 percent now supporting a new amendment to legalize gay marriage and only 40 percent against it. FreedomOhio’s amendment would repeal Ohio’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban and instead grant marriage rights to the state’s many LGBT individuals. CityBeat covered the same-sex marriage amendment in further detail here and the inevitability of gay rights here. Last week, Gov. John Kasich reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions, which likely holds bad political consequences because of changing demographics.

Will Portman, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s son, wrote about coming out to his father and the experiences that followed in today’s Yale Daily News. In the column, Portman explained why his father took two years to shift on same-sex marriage: “Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.”

If the Ohio Department of Education adopts the more rigorous school report cards demanded by lawmakers, many of the state’s charter schools will get F’s. Most schools would fall under the new standards, but 72 percent of charter schools would fail — an unwelcome sign for alternative schools often touted by Republicans for offering more school choice. The schools’ advocates claim the discrepancy between charter schools and other traditional public schools is driven by demographics and greater diversity.

But Ohio’s charter schools are also safer for LGBT individuals than traditional schools, according to StateImpact Ohio.

City Councilman Chris Seelbach announced Friday that City Council is poised to support a motion that will prevent companies and other groups from discriminating if they take public funds. The initiative is coming together after the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was prevented from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Western & Southern has launched the next phase of its ongoing legal attack to run the Anna Louise Inn out of the Lytle Park neighborhood: The financial giant is now accusing ALI and the city of lying and discrimination. In a letter to City Solicitor John Curp, Western & Southern’s attorneys claimed ALI can’t take federal funds and continue refusing services to men. The city and ALI are so far unsure whether Western & Southern has a case.

Cincinnati’s Catholic schools have grown into the sixth largest Catholic schools network in the nation, serving 44,732 students in preschool through 12th grade.

New condos are opening in Over-the-Rhine.

Thousands of jobs are opening at Ohio’s insurance companies.

Ohio gas prices are up this week.

A comet, not an asteroid, may have killed the dinosaurs. The study may provide fuel to those worried about an impending apocalypse: There are about two million asteroids more than one kilometer wide in the solar system, but scientists estimate that there are up to one trillion comets.

 
 
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 08.15.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Unveils Innovation Plan

Mayoral candidate hopes to continue Cincinnati’s tech startup momentum

Cincinnati mayoral candidate and ex-Councilman John Cranley today announced his two-part innovation plan, which he said would boost government transparency and help continue the nationally recognized momentum Cincinnati has recently gained as a tech startup hub.

The plan would take $5 million over four years from the capital budget and ask local startup incubators Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech where they would like to see the money going. As one example, Cranley said the money could help host an annual “hackathon” in which savvy innovators compete to create apps that could better connect residents and city services.

When asked specifically where the money would come from, Cranley said it would be part of the $30 million the city allocates each year to capital projects. Cranley also remarked that the city will have more capital funds if he dismantles the streetcar project, which he has long opposed.

Cranley’s innovation plan also calls 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.”

“This is about improving customer service for city services,” Cranley said.

The CIO and CincyData would also help find new ways to carry out city services in the hopes of running the local government more efficiently.

Cranley said he’s in preliminary talks with Cincinnati Bell to see what it would take and how much it would cost to establish CincyData.

As for the CIO, paying for the position’s salary would cost the city about $50,000 to $60,000 a year, according to Cranley. That’s about 0.01 to 0.02 percent of the city’s operating budget.

Cranley said he currently has no one in mind for the CIO position.

Cranley is running for mayor against fellow Democrat Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who has publicly supported Cincinnati’s startup incubators during her time in City Council; Libertarian Jim Berns; and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble.

Cincinnati recently gained national recognition for its tech boom in Entrepreneur and CNBC, with Entrepreneur calling the city “an unexpected hub for tech startups.”

City Council on Aug. 7 approved using $4.5 million to help move Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech to new Over-the-Rhine headquarters. Cintrifuse claims the new home will make it easier to attract and keep businesses in Cincinnati, especially since Over-the-Rhine is currently undergoing its own economic revitalization.

An Aug. 14 study from Engine and the Kauffman Foundation found high-tech startups add jobs more quickly than new businesses in other sectors, but the startups are also just as likely to fail as other businesses in the long term. The study also found that tech startups are more likely to cluster, so establishing a city or other location as a hub can help bring in more similar businesses.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.28.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Governor at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs

The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff, who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged, however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here.

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, and eliminate Human Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives. Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.

Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time, and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here.

The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program.

With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights when the opposite is true.)

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.” In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26 categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities remains unacceptably low.”

The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the 105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building, which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.

The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development.

The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with startup and relocation costs paid for.

Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued.

Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News.

With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem.

A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it.

Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.14.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, 2013 Election at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
tea party pensions

Thousands of Early Voters to Get New Ballots

Ohio Supreme Court forces board to change ballot language for pension amendment

More than 3,000 Cincinnatians who already voted early will get new ballots in the mail after an Ohio Supreme Court decision forced the Hamilton County Board of Elections to change the ballot language for Issue 4, the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system.

It remains unclear whether the early voters, who represent roughly 1.5 percent of registered Cincinnati voters, will have their old votes for or against Issue 4 counted if they fail to send in a new ballot with the new language. The board will decide on that issue after hearing back from state officials and reviewing election law, according to Sally Krisel, deputy director of Hamilton County Board of Elections.

The Ohio Supreme Court on Oct. 10 upheld most of the ballot language for Issue 4, including portions that claim the amendment could lead to higher taxes and cut city services. But the court also ordered the Board of Elections to add language describing how much Cincinnati can contribute to retirement accounts under the new system and how the amendment will affect future retirees.

The court’s decision came after the Board of Elections received more than 3,000 ballots from early voters. Those voters will now get new ballots with revised language for Issue 4.

Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the tea party group behind Issue 4, sued the Board of Elections to get the ballot language changed. The organization complained that the ballot language included speculation not included in the actual city charter amendment, but the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the language to remain.

Krisel says the original ballot language was suggested by the city, approved by the board and signed off by Ohio’s secretary of state.

Although the Ohio Supreme Court asked the board to add new sections, Krisel notes the additions have very little to do with the tax and spending portions that led Cincinnati for Pension Reform to sue in the first place. The court’s ruling instead took issue with how the board used its discretion on other issues.

If approved by voters, the charter amendment would move future city employees into individual retirement accounts similar to 401k plans that are common in the private sector. Currently, the city pools pension funds into a public system and manages the investments through an independent board.

City officials and other opponents of Issue 4 argue the amendment could increase costs and cut benefits for city employees. Both the concerns were acknowledged in a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute, even though the think tank actually backs Issue 4.

Supporters of Issue 4 argue it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability, which reached $862 million in 2013 after the city underfunded the pension system for years and economic downturns shrunk investments financing the system. Moody’s named the liability as one of the reasons it downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating.

City officials acknowledge the enormous financial problems posed by the unfunded pension liability, but they say it would be better to make reforms within the system instead of scrapping it altogether.

City Council passed reforms in 2011 that address future costs, and council is expected to take up reforms that address the unfunded liability after the November election, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat.

Voters will make the final decision on Issue 4 on Nov. 5.

 
 

 

 

 
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