Republican lawmakers say they won’t hold any votes on the Medicaid expansion until October or later, even though state officials say the expansion must be approved by October to have it in place by 2014. Implementing the expansion at the start of 2014 would coincide with the implementation of other major programs in Obamacare. Gov. John Kasich supports the expansion, but he’s had trouble convincing his fellow Republicans to join him. The expansion would be mostly funded by the federal government, which would pay for the entire policy for the first three years then phase down to indefinitely paying for 90 percent of the cost. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade. Michigan, which is also dominated by Republicans, on Tuesday approved its own Medicaid expansion.
An internal audit found the city of Cincinnati has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have gone toward improving the city-owned Lunken Airport through poor management and technology problems. In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach wrote on Twitter, “Lunken oversights completely unacceptable. Meeting w/ City & Lunken Mngr to work on detailed correction plan later this week.” The city is planning on making changes that should avoid losing revenue in the future.
Streetcar supporters plan to hold a fundraiser today for mayoral candidate Roxanne Qualls and City Council candidate Wendell Young. The fundraiser shows the extra steps now being taken by streetcar supporters, who have been proudly flaunting their support every month through “streetcar socials,” the latest of which Mayor Mark Mallory attended. Ever since its inception, the streetcar has been mired in controversy and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
A central Ohio lawmaker is renewing a legislative push for attaching drug tests to welfare benefits. The measure is meant to lower costs and ensure welfare money isn’t going to drug dealers. As CityBeat previously covered, the testing requirement can actually increase the cost of welfare programs: In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of $45,780 after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients of their drug tests. Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive, and most tested positive for marijuana, according to The Miami Herald.
Heavy construction and improvements that will modernize and widen Interstate 75 are expected to continue for the next decade.
Much of the work is being funded by Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which
sells bonds that will be repaid with excess Turnpike polls.
Jeff Ruby yesterday responded to a lawsuit filed on Monday against his restaurant chain. Ruby says his servers “are highly compensated — averaging $65,000 a year, with shifts that average seven hours a day.” The lawsuit alleges that management at Ruby’s restaurants took tips from three employees, which supposedly left them earning less than minimum wage.
Google Glass could be used to improve surgeries in the future.
Under Ohio law, petitions require signatures from both a supporter, who must reside in Cincinnati in the case of parking petitions, and a witness, who must be an Ohio resident and witness the act of someone signing the petition.
The video shows what seems to be parking petitions placed on business counters with limited supervision — potential evidence that some of the parking petitions were signed without a witness present.
Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the Board of Elections is currently looking into what process needs to be followed as a result of the video.
Traditionally, Burke says, someone has to file a challenge, which would then be investigated by the board. At that point, the board would rely on subpoenas to get testimony from witnesses to determine whether their petitions were valid.
“Under oath, circulators are likely to tell us the truth,” Burke says. “Did you witness all the signatures on that parking petition? If he says no or she says no, ... then none of those signatures are valid.”But Burke says it’s so far unclear whether that process will happen.
“The video is interesting, but it doesn’t prove anything,” he says. “Any challenger would have to link each one of those shots in the video to specific petitions that were signed by the circulator of the petition that was on those counters.”
Even if someone did bring a challenge, it would require nearly 4,000 invalid signatures to halt the parking plan referendum effort. Yesterday, the Board of Elections announced the referendum effort had gathered 12,446 valid signatures — considerably more than the 8,522 required.
“Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond those five or six sights shown in the video,” Burke says.
Circulators who mishandled the process would
not face charges; instead, the signatures would simply be
discarded, according to Burke.
City Solicitor John Curp says the city’s law department is taking “no side on whether there’s a vote,” and the city administration has not taken action based on the video.
Curp says he would like to confirm whether those are parking petitions and if the video is factual in its presentation.
“If those were parking petitions, that was certainly troubling,” he says. “I hope this gets worked out in a timely manner.”
The parking plan would lease the city’s parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the city’s operating budget deficits for the next two years and fund development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents say they’re concerned the plan will lead to higher parking rates and extended hours that will hurt the local economy. With 12,466 valid signatures, their referendum effort is expected to culminate in a vote this November.
City officials previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
The full video is embedded below:
The numbers came in yesterday as political candidates from around the state filed their finance reports. So far, Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to Qualls’ $348,000. Of that money, Cranley has about $264,000 still in hand, and Qualls has nearly $193,000.
The disparity is unsurprising to the campaigns. The Cranley campaign has always said it needs $1 million to win. Qualls, who’s been polled as the slight favorite, has a tamer goal of $750,000.
The City Council races are similarly sprawled with cash. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading the pack with nearly $279,000, while newcomer Greg Landsman topped challengers and even some council members with a total raised of $165,000.
Given all the cash pouring into the campaigns, many people assume it plays a pivotal role. But a look at the history and research shows fundraising might not matter all that much.
Money clearly didn’t matter in the 2005 mayoral race. During that campaign, former State Sen. Mark Mallory spent nearly $380,000. Ex-Councilman David Pepper spent $1.2 million — more than three times his opponent. Mallory still won the vote 52-48 percent.
In contrast, money might have boosted Sittenfeld to second place in the 2011 Council races, putting the relatively new challenger only behind the widely known Qualls. Sittenfeld raised $306,000 for that campaign, the most out of anyone in the race.
Still, most political science points to money having a marginal, if any, electoral impact. Jennifer Victor, a political science professor at George Mason University, explains the research in her blog: “Campaigning may help voters focus their attention (see this), be persuasive in some cases (see this), and help deliver successful message (see this). Frequently, macro-economic trends are the best predictors of presidential elections. History tells us that all that money spent by outsiders may not affect the outcome of the election — because campaigns (generally) don’t matter (see political science research here, here, and here, for example).”
Instead, political scientists cite other factors as much more important indicators: economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and political affiliation.
The mayoral primary election is Sept. 10, followed by the final election on Nov. 5. The next finance reports are due Oct. 24.
[Correction: This story originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.]
It’s Election Day. Polls will remain open today until 7:30 p.m. Find your voting location here. Check out CityBeat’s election coverage and endorsements here. Regardless of who you plan to support, go vote. The results will decide who runs Cincinnati for the next four years.
A gathering in Covington, Ky. over the Brent Spence Bridge signaled the community is still divided about using tolls to pay for the $2.5 billion bridge project, even as public officials admit tolls are most likely necessary to complete the project. Many local and state officials believe the federal government should pay for the interstate bridge, but they’re also pessimistic about the chances of receiving federal funds. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran says she’s concerned about safety at the functionally obsolete bridge, but she says tolls could have a negative impact on Covington.
On Wednesday, Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on an annual budget that nearly matches the county administrator’s original proposal. The budget is
the first time in six years that county officials don’t have to carry
out major cuts or layoffs to close a gap.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and three other community organizations found idling school bus and car motors might pose a serious health risk to students. The most problematic pollutants are particularly concentrated when cars and buses are standing, and the toxic particles linger around schools and playgrounds for hours after the vehicles leave, according to the study. For researchers, the findings are evidence buses and cars should turn off their motors when dropping off children at school.
The Cincinnati Enquirer and other major newspapers lost thousands of readers in the past year, even though some newspapers managed to buck the trend and gain in certain categories, according to a circulation audit from the Alliance for Audited Media. Between September 2012 and September 2013, The Enquirer’s circulation dropped by more than 10 percent, while The Toledo Blade and Dayton Daily News increased their circulation. The drop coincides with readers resorting to the Internet and other alternate sources in the past few years. The losses have cost newspapers advertising revenue, and many have responded with cutbacks in staff and overall news coverage.More than half a million Ohioans qualify for tax subsidies under Obamacare, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Anyone between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four, is eligible. But for Ohioans to take full advantage of the benefits, the federal government will first need to fix HealthCare.gov, which has been mired in technical problems since its launch on Oct. 1.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was one of seven Republicans to support a federal ban on workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S. Senate yesterday. All Senate Democrats backed the bill. But the bill faces grim prospects in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it’s expected to fail. CityBeat covered state-level efforts to ban workplace and housing discrimination against LGBT individuals in further detail here.
Mitt Romney’s code name for Portman, a potential running mate for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket, was Filet-O-Fish.
One in five sun-like stars host Earth-like planets.
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.
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.
Early reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections indicate Election Day is proceeding with minimal problems and voter turnout is considerably better than it was for the Sept. 10 mayoral primary.
“There’s always bumps in every election … but nothing highly unusual,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of the board of elections.
Countywide voter turnout was estimated at 20 percent around noon, with turnout in Cincinnati stronger than the rest of the county, according to Krisel. But she cautions that the numbers are still unclear and could completely change, particularly after work hours.
Turnout is particularly strong in wards one, four and five, according to Krisel. That could be good news for mayoral candidate John Cranley, who handily won all three wards in the primary against opponents Roxanne Qualls, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.
But since citywide voter turnout was an abysmal 5.74 percent in the
primary election, it remains uncertain how much primary results will
ultimately reflect on Tuesday’s election. Historically, Cincinnati’s mayoral primaries failed to predict the winner of the general election.
Cranley obtained nearly 56 percent of the vote on Sept. 10, while Qualls got slightly more than 37 percent. Both candidates received enough support to advance to Tuesday’s ballot, but the Qualls campaign acknowledged the lopsided results were disappointing.
To obtain the Election Day numbers, the county is for the first time tracking ballot usage. Krisel says the measure allows the county to gauge countywide voter turnout and whether more ballots are needed in different voting locations.
Tuesday’s votes come in addition to 20,500 absentee and early voters across the county, about 90 percent of who already submitted ballots to the board of elections. Krisel claims that’s about half the amount of early voters from two years ago, but she says she doesn’t know whether that will reflect on the final turnout numbers.
The election is the first time Cincinnati voters will elect City Council members for four-year terms, which means Tuesday’s results will effectively set the city’s agenda for the next four years. Voters are also deciding on a new mayor, the Cincinnati Public Schools board, two property tax levies for the local library and zoo, and a proposal that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees.
Polls will remain open until 7:30 p.m. To find out where to vote, visit the board of elections website.
For more election coverage and CityBeat’s endorsements, go to the official election page here.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is asking Ohioans to take up a long, complicated petitioning process that could lead to the repeal of some of the anti-abortion measures in the state budget. The process could force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing some of the measures unrelated to appropriating state funds, or it could put the repeal effort on the ballot in November 2014. FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal campaign through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. CityBeat covered the state budget and its anti-abortion provisions, which Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law, in further detail here.
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA), Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. CCPA is set to receive $6 million from the state in 2014, up 3 percent from the previous year.
The state’s prison watchdog released a new report that found force is more often used against blacks in Ohio prisons. Nearly 65 percent of “use of force” incidents in 2012 involved blacks, even though they only make up about 46 percent of the total prison population.
After analyzing reports from the first quarter, Hamilton County revised its estimates for casino revenue downward. That means $500,000 less in 2014 for the stadium fund, which has long presented problems for the county’s budget. Still, the county says the revision isn’t a big problem and the focus should instead be on the bigger problem: a looming $30 million budget gap.
Following an approved transfer from the governor and his staff, Ohio’s “rainy day fund” hit an all-time record of $1.5 billion. The fund is typically tapped into during emergency economic situations in which the state must spend a lot of extra money or take extraordinary measures to fix a sudden budget shortfall.
Cincinnati area exports reached a record high in 2012.
Ohio is No. 4 in the nation for foreclosures, according to a report from real estate information company RealtyTrac. The report adds more doubt to claims that Ohio is undergoing some sort of unique economic recovery, following a string of reports that found year-over-year job growth is lacking in the state. Still, Ohio added more jobs than any other state in May. If the robust growth holds in the June job report due next week, it could be a great economic sign for the state.
Early streetcar work is leading to a downtown street closure this weekend, presenting yet another sign that the project is moving forward. Earlier this week, CityBeat published the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project.
New evidence suggests a fraction of disposable wells used during the hydraulic fracturing process — also known as “fracking” — cause earthquakes, but the risk can be averted with careful monitoring, according to the researchers. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to free up oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered its effects in Ohio in further detail here.
A nanoparticle device can kill germs with sunlight.
Following Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s announcement Friday to increase city contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses once elected, fellow Democratic mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls echoed support for the proposals, although she disputed Cranley’s record on the issue. One issue in particular is the Croson study that would allow the city to prepare for a broader inclusion plan for minorities and women. Qualls has repeatedly proposed a Croson study during her time in City Council and previous time in the mayor’s office, but she says Cranley failed to publicly raise the issue at all during his time on council between 2000 and 2009.
Cincinnati’s streetcar project cleared another hurdle Friday when Messer Construction announced it needed $500,000 to carry out construction work, which is easily covered by the project’s $10 million contingency fund. With a construction contract, new funding and accountability measures now moving forward, the only potential issue is who has to pay to move utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The city claims Duke Energy does, while the energy company puts the onus on the city. That issue is currently being worked out in court, although the city has already set aside $15 million to carry out the work for now and just in case Duke isn’t forced to carry the costs. Throughout the streetcar’s history, the project has been mired in misrepresentations and exaggerations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
The recently approved two-year state budget provides about $517 million less local government funding than the budget did in 2011, even though it pays for $2.7 billion in new tax cuts. Democrats have been highly critical of the cuts, but the governor’s office says local governments are effectively getting more funding through other sources not particularly geared for city and county governments. CityBeat covered local government funding in greater detail here and the state budget here.
Some state officials are pushing to establish an online, searchable database that would allow Ohio taxpayers to track state spending penny-by-penny. The state treasurer’s office already maintains a database for teacher and state employee salaries.
The Health Careers Collaborative, an organization working to increase health care employment in Greater Cincinnati, has a new leader.
Amish communities in Ohio are questioning whether they should take royalties for land that would be used for fracking, an oil and gas extraction process that environmentalists claim is dangerous for surrounding air and water. For the Amish, the issue is spiritual, rooted in their religious restrictions against technology and many facets of the modern world. CityBeat covered fracking and its ongoing effect on some Ohio communities in greater detail here.
Ohio gas prices are starting up this week.
Twinkies are returning to store shelves today.
HD 189773b, a blue exoplanet, may look hospitable, but the planet has a bad habit of raining glass sideways.
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
Even without the parking plan, the city passed a budget with no public safety layoffs and is moving forward with plans for the Uptown interchange project, a downtown grocery store, a new garage to replace Pogue’s Garage, Wasson Way and the Smale Riverfront Park. The turnaround has prompted some critics to question whether city officials were being honest when they cited a list of potential problems if the city failed to semi-privatize its parking assets to raise funds, but Mayor Mark Mallory and supporters say a lot changed between the time the threats were made and now, including tax revenues coming in at $4.5 million better than projected.
The Columbus Dispatch says Gov. John Kasich has found himself “playing defense” in the current budget cycle — a sharp contrast to the budget cycle in 2011. Both the Ohio House and Senate have greatly changed Kasich’s original budget plan. Instead of taking up Kasich on his plan to expand the sales tax while lowering the rate, cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board and cut small business taxes, the House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut and the Senate replaced the House plan with a tax cut aimed at small businesses. Both chambers also rejected the Kasich-backed, federally funded Medicaid expansion and the governor’s education funding plan.
Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach says he was yelled and sworn at for several minutes by Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s campaign manager following open questions about whether Cranley is still a Democrat. Cranley has long opposed the city’s streetcar project and parking plan, which have both received support from a majority of Democrats in City Council, and tacitly supports Amy Murray, a Republican City Council candidate.
Estimates for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino improved last month, coming in at $2 million more than April’s estimates. The $20 million estimate is still nearly $2 million less than the casino received on opening month.
Former mayor Eugene Ruehlman died Saturday night at the age of 88.
Ohio gas prices remain at nearly $4 this week, above the national average.
The self-proclaimed “whistleblower” who leaked details about two NSA surveillance programs has revealed himself in Hong Kong.
Apparently Kings Island is open, and Adventure Express was evacuated due to a “mechanical problem.”
The latest design for skateboard wheels is a square.
Cold War-era radiation apparently has the answer for whether adults keep making new brain cells.
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.