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

City to Cut Ties with SoMoLend

Local startup accused of fraud by state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by German Lopez 08.08.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Poverty at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kids count 2013

Report: Childhood Poverty Worse in Hamilton County than State

Despite higher median income, county scores worse than various statewide averages

Hamilton County fares worse than Ohio overall in a series of measurements for children’s economic well-being, health, education and safety, according to a report released Aug. 7.

The 2013 “Ohio’s Kids Count” report from the Children’s Defense Fund and Annie E. Casey Foundation finds Hamilton County has a higher median income than Ohio does on average. But the county fares worse than the state in various categories, including childhood poverty, fourth-grade reading and math proficiency, felony convictions and the amount of babies with low birth weights, an early sign of poor health.

One example: Hamilton County’s childhood poverty rate is 27.7 percent, while Ohio’s overall rate is 23.9 percent. If the county brought the rate down to the state average, it would pull more than 3,000 local children out of poverty.

Hamilton County’s childhood poverty rate dropped from 28.5 percent to 27.7 percent between 2010 and 2011.

The report uses state data from between 2009 and 2011 to look at various indicators for children under the age of 18. Some of the data differs from findings from other groups, such as the National Center for Children in Poverty, which found about 48 percent of Cincinnati’s children are in poverty.

The report claims many of the measured indicators are socially and economically linked, so it should come as little surprise that Hamilton County is doing worse across the board. Still, it advises local, state and federal officials to continue taking action to bring down the troubling numbers.

In Cincinnati, City Hall has historically failed to meet its goals for human services funding, which in part helps homeless youth and other struggling children.

But local leaders, including city officials and business executives, have backed the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which aims to place more low- and middle-income Cincinnati children in early education programs. Shiloh Turner, vice president for community investment at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, today wrote in an email to CityBeat that Preschool Promise backers are currently looking at funding options and will iron out plans and partnerships through meetings scheduled for the next three months.

The Kids Count report credits Ohio officials in particular for approving a new voucher program that will subsidize preschool for families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The program is expected to reach 7,000 children in the state over the next two years.

But the state has generally cut education funding since Gov. John Kasich took office, leaving Cincinnati Public Schools with $15 million less state funding than it received in 2009.

At the same time, the federal government is set to cut its food stamp program in November, which progressive think tanks like the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities argue will hurt low-income families in Ohio.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Economy at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Incoming Federal Cuts to Hit Low-Income Ohio Families

Food stamp program losing temporary funding boost

With a temporary boost to the federal food stamp program coming to an end this November, more than 1.8 million Ohioans — 16 percent of the state’s population — will receive significantly less food aid, according to an Aug. 2 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

The report calculates that the cut is the equivalent to taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four. After the cut, the food stamp program will provide each person with less than $1.40 per meal, according to CBPP’s calculations.

Citing research from the USDA that shows many low-income families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, CBPP says the cuts will hit families that arguably need more, not less, help: “Given this research and the growing awareness of the inadequacy of the current SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit allotments, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefit levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.”

Although the federal food stamp program has been cut before, it’s never been cut to this extent, according to CBPP. “There have been some cuts in specific states, but these cuts have not typically been as large or affected as many people as what will occur this November,” the report reads.

The reductions could also have a broader economic impact: Every $1 increase in food aid generates about $1.70 in economic activity, according to progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.

“Ohio’s foodbanks and hunger charities cannot respond to increasing hunger on their own,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in a statement released by Policy Matters. “SNAP takes Ohioans out of our food pantry lines and puts them into grocery store checkout lines. It provides supplemental food to the most vulnerable among us. Now is not the time to further reduce this already modest assistance to struggling families.”

About 48 percent of Cincinnati children are in poverty, according to a 2011 study from the National Center for Children in Poverty. Despite that, city funding to human services that benefits low-income families has been cut throughout the past decade. CityBeat covered that issue in greater detail here.

The cut to the federal food stamp program kicks in automatically in November instead of the original April 2014 sunset date as a result of laws passed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats are now urging legislation that would remedy the situation, but it’s unlikely anything will pass the gridlocked Congress.

Republicans are preparing a bill that would further cut the food stamp program, which they see as too generous and expensive. From Fox News: “Reps. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, two Republicans who helped design the bill, said the legislation would find the savings by tightening eligibility standards and imposing new work requirements. It would also likely try to reduce the rolls by requiring drug testing and barring convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles from receiving food stamps.”

 
 
by German Lopez 07.24.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, LGBT, Economy at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
david pepper

Morning News and Stuff

Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears

Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together in dignity.”

The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June, gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.

Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are perceived as the leading contenders in the race.

University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.

Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.

BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the organization said in a statement.

Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than $155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border isn’t secure.

Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess. One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”

Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.

Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.23.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Receives Mixed Jobs Report for June

Metropolitan area adds jobs, but not enough to match population growth

The Cincinnati metropolitan area created more jobs in June, but the growth wasn’t enough to keep up with population trends, and it coincided with other negative factors.

The June numbers, released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, showed Cincinnati adding 3,300 more jobs between May and June. But the region only added 600 jobs in the past year, far short of the 3,000 it must add on an annual basis to match population growth.

As more people entered the job market, the amount of unemployed people looking for work rose month-over-month, while it slightly decreased in a year-to-year comparison.

Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year before.

With seasonally unadjusted numbers, economists typically prefer looking at year-over-year trends to control for seasonal factors, such as increased summer hiring. Job numbers at the state and federal levels are normally seasonally adjusted, but local numbers aren’t.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for Ohio was 7.5 percent in June, up from 7.4 percent last year. The U.S. seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, down from 8.4 percent.

Although the report was mixed for Cincinnati, the area has been getting good economic news lately. In June, local housing sales increased despite higher interest rates. In a July 22 segment, CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.19.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Economy, Taxes at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Port wants parking lease money, Ohio No. 2 for job losses, Kasich plans more tax cuts

New documents acquired by The Cincinnati Enquirer show the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority wants $27 million of the city’s $92 million parking lease. The Port Authority, a city-funded development agency, says it would use the money for various projects around the city. The request, which has been supported by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, may explain why the Port Authority inexplicably took four days to sign its lease agreement with the city: It wanted some of the money for itself. The city is leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then hire various private operators from around the country to manage the assets. The deal will provide $92 million up front and at least $3 million a year afterward, which the city plans to use for development projects and to plug budget gaps.

Ohio lost the No. 2 most jobs in the nation last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That pushed the state unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in June, up from 7 percent in May, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found. The state lost 12,500 jobs in June, with the private sector showing losses across the board. The month’s big losses mean the state has only added 15,000 jobs in the past year, even though the state actually topped job growth in May with more than 32,000 new jobs. In June, Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job growth between April 2012 and April this year.

Gov. John Kasich says he wants to further cut state taxes to reduce the bracket for the wealthiest Ohioans to less than 5 percent. Such a cut could require raising regressive taxes that put more of a burden on the state’s poorest, such as the sales tax. The latest two-year state budget, which Kasich signed into law, did just that, as CityBeat previously covered: It cut income taxes in a way that favored the wealthy, then it raised sales taxes in a way that forced the lowest-income Ohioans to pay more.

A report released yesterday suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation. The Environment Ohio report finds the state’s regulations on “fracking,” an oil and gas extraction process, require too little financial assurance from drilling companies to dissuade dangerous risks. In Ohio, fracking well operators are required to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well, but even those payments can be avoided through regulatory loopholes. At the same time, damage caused by fracking can cost communities and the state millions of dollars, and simply reclaiming the well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says he wouldn’t have prosecuted George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed an unarmed black 17-year-old last year in Florida. Zimmerman was found not guilty of manslaughter and second-degree murder by a jury on July 13 after he claimed self-defense.

A lack of local access to healthy foods was linked to higher obesity rates in a study released yesterday. That could be troubling news for Avondale and other Cincinnati neighborhoods that are deemed “food deserts,” areas that don’t have reasonable access to healthy foods. CityBeat covered the efforts of some city officials, including Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, to end food deserts here.

Cincinnati is looking for feedback on local bike projects.

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking Ohio to avoid shutting off electricity in state prisons, calling the practice “dangerous” as temperatures approach 100 degrees. Ohio’s prisons have already shut down electricity twice in the afternoon this week and relied on backup generators. The shutdowns are commonly deployed as part of a power agreement that’s generated $1.3 million for the state since 2010.

Harris Teeter Supermarkets shareholders are suing to stop a planned acquisition from Kroger.

Detroit yesterday became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.

An “invisibility wetsuit” hides people from sharks.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio No. 4 in Nation for Foreclosures

Another statistic adds doubt to state’s economic recovery

A new report shows Ohio has the fourth highest housing foreclosure rate in the nation — another troubling statistic for a state that, according to state officials, is supposed to be undergoing a major economic boom.

The report from RealtyTrac, a real estate information company, put Ohio’s foreclosure rate at 0.96 percent during the first half of 2013, a 2-percent increase from a comparable period in 2012.

Ohio’s foreclosure rate beat only Florida (1.74 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent) and Illinois (1.2 percent) in the rankings.

Ohio’s bump up in foreclosures defies the national trend: Foreclosure starts are on track to hit about 800,000 this year, down from 1.1 million in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. The recovery follows the 2007-2008 recession and the housing crisis that helped cause it, which led to a spike in foreclosures.

State officials, particularly Gov. John Kasich, often claim Ohio has led the nation in job and economic growth following the recession, but recent statistics have raised doubts about the claim.

A June 16 infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job creation between April 2012 and April of this year, supporting claims from liberal and conservative think tanks that Ohio’s job growth has been stagnating in the past year.

Still, Ohio had a 7 percent unemployment rate in May, lower than the national rate of 7.6 percent.

The state also added 32,100 jobs in May — more than any other state for that month. Whether that job growth holds up will be made clearer on July 19, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will release state job numbers for June.

Kasich on June 30 signed a state budget approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that Republicans claim will spur further job growth, but a CityBeat analysis calls that claim into question.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: Abortion, News, LGBT Issues, Economy at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

DOMA struck down, more anti-abortion measures added to budget, local employment rises

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act today in a broad ruling that requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in a state where same-sex marriage is already legal. The ruling effectively extends equal protection rights to same-sex couples. For gay and lesbian Ohioans, that means same-sex marriage must be legalized in Ohio before the federal government is required to recognize it. FreedomOhio is already aiming to legalize same-sex marriage in the state with an amendment that could be on the ballot this year, which CityBeat covered in an in-depth report here.

Republican state legislators added another anti-abortion measure to the state budget yesterday, which will require doctors to perform an external ultrasound for a heartbeat then inform the patient if one is detected. The provision is in addition to other anti-abortion measures already in the budget, including less funding for Planned Parenthood, funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and regulations that will allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics. CityBeat covered those measures in further detail here. “This is continuing to go way overboard by a majority obsessed with abortion,” said Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland).

Cincinnati-area employment dramatically increased in May, up 6,400 from April and 5,400 from the year before, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Although the unemployment rate went up between April and May, it went down year over year — the measure economists prefer to look at to control for seasonal factors, such as hiring picking up during the summer because of outdoors work.

StateImpact Ohio says the new tax plan in the proposed 2014-2015 budget could make it more difficult to pass future school levies. The plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it raises sales and property taxes to balance the cuts. CityBeat covered the tax plan in further detail here.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is giving Cincinnati a $37 million loan guarantee for economic and housing development projects that aim to benefit the region’s neediest. In a statement, HUD estimated some of the economic development projects will create at least 350 new jobs.

Cincinnati is continuing efforts to obtain the Wasson Way line, which the city plans to develop into a bike and hike trail.

The other side of the river is getting some love, too: More luxury apartments are coming to Newport.

Cincinnati was ranked No. 9 smartest city in a recent Movoto blog list.

Ohioans may be souring on President Barack Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll found his approval ratings at 40 percent, his lowest grade ever in the state.

Obama proposed an extensive plan to combat climate change yesterday. The plan will not require congressional approval.

The cure for cancer could be found in space. Apparently, microgravity environments are optimal for cancer research.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.25.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Local Employment Grows in May

Cincinnati area added about 6,400 jobs

Cincinnati-area employment shot up in May, rising by 6,400 from April and 5,400 year-over-year, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, says the numbers show the local economy is still growing.

The unemployment rate rose from 6.5 percent in April to 6.8 percent in May, but Jones says it's better to look at year-over-year trends to control for seasonal factors.

Between May 2012 and May this year, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent, reflecting 200 less people unemployed.

Job numbers at the state and federal level are normally adjusted for seasonal factors — such as increased hiring in the summer as outdoors work picks up — but local numbers aren't.

At the state level, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate increased from 6.7 percent in April to 6.9 percent in May, while the nationwide rate rose from 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent.

Jones calls the general trend good, but he cautions that rising interest rates could make banks and other lenders skittish about loaning money to businesses and potential home buyers, which could cause the recovery to slow down.

Still, Jones remains optimistic.

"This month has been positive, and I think we've been seeing that this is a growing trend," he says.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.24.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, City Council, Commissioners at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar vote today, sewer project compromise reached, "megadeals" fail expectations

The federal government is committing another $5 million to Cincinnati’s streetcar project, but the city must first close the budget gap that has recently put the project in danger. The U.S. Department of Transportation is also asking the city to restore certain aspects of the project, including a passenger information system and a screen or wall that would block power substations from public view. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is expected to vote on the project’s $17.4 million budget gap today. The latest proposed fixes from the city manager would pull funding from multiple capital projects, including improvements around the Horseshoe Casino, and issue more debt.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County announced a compromise Friday that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects. As a result, the city will be required to rework its “responsible bidder” ordinance and repeal the “local hire” and “local preference” laws that incited county commissioners into passing the funding hold in the first place. The city says its responsible bidder law creates local jobs and encourages job training, but the county argues that law’s rules favor unions and push up costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in further detail here.

Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials. For Cincinnati, the risks of megadeals are nothing new: In 2011, the city’s $196.4 million megadeal with Convergys collapsed when the company failed to keep downtown employment at or above 1,450, and the company agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city.

As of Friday, Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Port announced it had signed the lease Friday, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the agency was going to sign the lease at all. The city will get a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million a year from the deal, according to city estimates. Current plans call for using the money to help balance city budgets and fund economic development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.

The prison company that owns and operates a northeastern Ohio prison lost four contracts around the nation in June, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In May, CityBeat released an in-depth report looking at the Corrections Corporation of America’s handling of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, finding evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions.

About one in three Ohio children live in a home where neither parent has a full-time, year-round job, and a quarter now live in poverty. Although Ohio’s overall ranking improved in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual report card on the well-being of children, the state worsened in three out of four economic indicators.

President Barack Obama will make a speech tomorrow unveiling sweeping plans for climate change. The president is expected to impose a series of regulations, particularly on power plants, with executive powers, which means the plans won’t require congressional action.

Ohio gas prices are still coming down this week.

Plants apparently do math to get through the night.

Some diseases, including some types of cancer, are now being diagnosed by smell.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Today is the last day to submit your questions here. We’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

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 glopez@citybeat.com.

 
 

 

 

 
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