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by Danny Cross 08.24.2012
Posted In: News, Social Justice, Homelessness, Development at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Anna Louise Inn

Zoning Approval Recommended for Anna Louise Inn

Inn could get go-ahead for renovation Monday, but Western & Southern expected to appeal

The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board will receive a recommendation on Monday to approve a conditional use permit for the Anna Louise Inn, which would allow the Inn to move forward with a multimillion-dollar renovation of its building. 

The Conservation Board staff reviewed the standards required for conditional use and the Anna Louise Inn’s application, concluding that the facility should be allowed to operate as a “special assistance shelter.” 

The Board is expected to rule on the permit Aug. 27 after receiving the recommendation and hearing testimony from the Inn’s administrators and supporters. Representatives from Western & Southern Financial Group, which sued the Anna Louise Inn over zoning violations in 2011, will also have an opportunity to testify. 

CityBeat last week reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers", issue of Aug. 15). 

Tim Burke, lawyer for the Anna Louise Inn, is pleased with the staff’s determination that the renovation met all qualifications for conditional use. 

“I was certainly optimistic that we would get a positive recommendation,” Burke says. “This is obviously an extremely positive recommendation and we agree with it.”

The staff recommendation states that the Anna Louise Inn “creates, maintains and enhances areas for residential developments that complement and support the downtown core” and that “no evidence has been presented of any negative public health, safety, welfare or property injury due to the current use.” It also notes that “the Anna Louise Inn is a point of reference from which all other new and renovated buildings must be designed in order to be compatible with the district.”

The Anna Louise Inn only applied for the conditional use permit because Judge Norbert Nadel ruled in Western & Southern’s favor on May 4, determining that the Inn is a “special assistance shelter” rather than “transitional housing,” which froze $12.6 million in city- and state-distributed loans for the Inn’s planned renovation. The Anna Louise Inn appealed that decision but also applied for the conditional use permit from the Conservation Board under the judge’s definition, because special assistance shelters qualify for conditional use permits under the city’s zoning code. 

Francis Barrett, lawyer for Western & Southern, appears to have taken exception to the Anna Louise Inn’s application. He sent a letter to the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision.”

Barrett didn't return a message left by CityBeat with the receptionist at his law firm after a Western & Southern media relations representative directed CityBeat to contact him there. Francis Barrett is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John F. Barrett.

UPDATE: Francis Barrett returned CityBeat’s call after this story was published. His comments are at the end.

Burke doesn’t know what Barrett meant by suggesting that the proposed uses in the Anna Louise Inn’s application for conditional use don’t follow Nadel’s May 4 ruling. 

“We’re doing what they argued in court,” Burke says. “Judge Nadel’s decision doesn’t ever exactly say ‘you’re a special assistance shelter.’ It certainly refers to the Off the Streets program that way and it certainly refers to (the Anna Louise Inn) as a single unified use. It says ‘go back to the appropriate administrators and seek conditional use approval.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

Stephen MacConnell, president and CEO of Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Anna Louise Inn, says the hearing will involve testimony from himself and Mary Carol Melton, CUB executive vice president, along with supporters of the Anna Louise Inn. 

“We’ll bring a few witnesses just to basically lay out the situation,” MacConnell says. “The board will already have the staff recommendation, so the witnesses that we’ll bring will briefly testify about how we meet the required standards.”

Western & Southern will have a chance to appeal if the Historic Conservation Board grants the conditional use permit. Burke expects that to happen. 

“What I’m pissed about is Western & Southern, they don’t give a damn,” Burke says. “We can do exactly what Judge Nadel told us to do and get it approved as a conditional use. They will appeal it to the zoning board of appeals. We can win it there and they will appeal it and get it back in front of Judge Nadel and then I don’t know what will happen.” 

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27 at Centennial Plaza Two, 805 Central Ave., Seventh Floor.

UPDATE 5:36 P.M.: Regarding the letter Francis Barrett sent the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision,” Barrett said Friday evening: “I just felt that the description in the submission was different from the description in the decision. I would say it was just not complete.” 

When asked for specifics, Barrett said: “I’d have to get the decision out and look at it carefully. I don’t have it in front of me I just thought in general.”

Barrett said Western & Southern will give a presentation to the Historic Conservation Board on Monday but declined to elaborate because it wasn’t finalized. 

When asked if Western & Southern will appeal a ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn, Barrett said: “It all depends what the decision states.”

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 05.03.2012
Posted In: News at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
medicaid

Changes in Ohio Medicaid Coming Next January

Experts weigh pros and cons in transition

In yet another effort to save tax dollars and fill holes in the state budget, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his health care advisers will streamline the state’s Medicaid system by altering the availability to care plans and condensing care regions.

There are currently 38 health plans and 10 regions in the state of Ohio, which provide services to more than 1.6 million Ohioans each year. When changes in the system are implemented January 1, 2013, the availability will condense to five statewide plans and only three geographic regions, according to a press release from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). 

The change is billed by Kasich's office as a way to simplify the way it offers coverage, eventually making a more sustainable, efficiently run program, which will supposedly trump the short-term inconveniences caused by the switch.

According to The Enquirer, Medicaid costs the state of Ohio around $4.8 billion each year — nearly one fifth of the state’s budget. Those costs continue to grow.

Bloomberg Businessweek
reports that the new plan will also mandate higher care standards and offer financial incentives to doctors, hospitals and other providers to help improve care quality and patient health.

Selected managed care organizations include: Aetna Better Health of Ohio, CareSource, Meridian Health Plan, Paramount Advantage and United Healthcare Community Plan of Ohio. Managed care organizations who lost the bid include incumbent providers Centene, AmeriGroup and Molina Healthcare, among others.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the loss of business marks a blow for those providers, who have benefited from covering "dual-eligible" patients — those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid services. WSJ reports that dual-eligible patients are seen as a $300 billion opportunity for managed care firms. Because Ohio is pushing to start better coordinating care for dual-eligible patients, dropped insurers will likely lose a piece of that pie.

Streamlining the selection of managed care organizations available should help, in turn, streamline processes for dual-eligible patients, who often encounter difficultly in coordinating coverage with both Medicaid and Medicare services, says Jim Ashmore, performance improvement section chief for Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCJFS).

ODJFS reports that the new providers were selected using a fair, through and open application process that was “based on applicants’ past performance in coordinating care and providing high-quality health outcomes.” Although the changes are generally perceived as a positive move forward, service providers, including doctors and health centers, acknowledge that the disruption in services could cause serious confusion when recipients are forced to find new providers and obtain new Medicaid cards. In Kentucky, the three private managed care companies which provided Medicaid services to more than 500,000 patients have received an influx of care-related complaints, including inefficiency in authorizing services and payment issues. 

Ashmore challenges the notion that the transition will be a bumpy one, noting patients have little to worry about: When the transition is made, everyone will likely receive an enrollment package in the mail that will outline steps to switch over new care providers.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.05.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor, City Council at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
john cranley

Streetcar Loses in Mayoral and City Council Elections

John Cranley wins mayoral race; three non-incumbents win City Council seats

Cincinnati’s streetcar project lost big on Tuesday as voters ushered in ex-Councilman John Cranley over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race and three non-incumbents who oppose the project to City Council, according to unofficial election results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

With all precincts reporting, Cranley handily defeated Qualls 58-42 percent. Cranley ran largely on his opposition to the $133 million streetcar, while Qualls promised to expand the project.

Voters also elected three non-incumbents to City Council: Democrat David Mann, Charterite Kevin Flynn and Republican Amy Murray. The three non-incumbents oppose the streetcar project, which means re-elected Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman are now part of a 6-3 majority on council that opposes the project.

Democrats Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young — all supporters of the streetcar project — also won re-election. Incumbent Democrats Laure Quinlivan and Pam Thomas lost.

It’s unclear if the newly elected council and mayor will stop current construction on the streetcar once they take power in December, given concerns about contractual obligations and sunk costs that could make canceling the project costly in terms of dollars and Cincinnati’s business reputation.

But Cranley and the six anti-streetcar elects on City Council vested much of their campaigns on their opposition to the project, which they claim is too costly and the wrong priority for Cincinnati.

Supporters argue the project will produce a three-to-one return on investment — an estimate derived from a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR and a follow-up assessment to the HDR study from the University of Cincinnati.

City Council’s new make-up will be five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent. That’s a shift from the current make-up of seven Democrats, one Republican and one Independent.

The new council slate will be the first to take up four-year terms following a city charter amendment voters approved in 2012.

Sittenfeld also landed a huge win and easily topped the City Council race with 10,000 more votes than Winburn, who, at 27,000 votes, got the second most ballots cast in his favor out of the nine council victors. Sittenfeld netted nearly 5,000 more votes than Cranley did in the mayoral race, although Cranley ran in a head-to-head race with Qualls while Sittenfeld was one of nine candidates voters could pick out of a pool of 21.

Citywide voter turnout ended up at roughly 28 percent.

Other election results:

Cincinnati voters rejected Issue 4, which would have privatized Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees, in a 78-22 percent vote.

In the Cincinnati Public Schools board election, Melanie Bates, Ericka Copeland-Dansby, Elisa Hoffman and Daniel Minera won the four seats up for grabs.

Hamilton County voters overwhelmingly approved property tax levies for the Cincinnati Zoo and Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 80-20 percent votes.

This story was updated with the final reported results.

 
 
by Stephen Carter-Novotni 04.08.2009
Posted In: News at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)
 
 

Death: Cincinnati Writer Whitney Holwadel Smith

Cincinnati native Whitney Holwadel Smith, born April 10, 1984, died April 4, 2009, of suicide at the United States Penitentiary (USP) in Terre Haute. Smith had reportedly been depressed and emotionally broken after being forced to spend more than a year in the Segregated Housing Unit (The Hole).

Smith grew up in Mount Lookout and was sentenced to the Dayton Correctional Institution as an adult for his first robbery at 17-years-old. From 2002-2003 he wrote a regular column on prison life and his struggle to rehabilitate for XRay Cincinnati Magazine which I published. Smith was released in 2005 and convicted the same year for bank robbery. He was sentenced to more than six years at the USP Terre Haute. Smith's blog, Super Friends: The life and times of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute has been published since November 2008. It was notable for being an unusually lucid and frank account of prison life. Smith's writing was variously acerbic, humorous, brutal and hopeful.

After his 2005 release, Whit lived in my home. He was a kind young man with a good heart and a broken one, too. He was my friend. After many discussions in both the outside world and behind barbed wire fences, I still don't fully understand why he committed the crimes he did. He walked through his short life with a corrupted mind that led him to poor choices again and again. His choices to be a criminal were his and he deserved his time, but I also earnestly believe he was let down by a justice system that should help offenders rehabilitate — that is to restore dignity — rather than beat them down into someone more jaded and injured than they were at the time of their arrest. My 2005 CityBeat article Prisoners Forever articlewas inspired by Whit's journey through the prison system.

A memorial for Whit will be held on Wednesday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Civic Garden Center, 2715 Reading Rd. at 2:30 p.m. It is open to the public.

If you would like to make a donation in Whit's memory, the family has asked that those be made to Circle Tail, an animal shelter in Loveland, Ohio. Whit had recently told his father, Jeff Smith, that he hoped to volunteer at an animal shelter when he got out of prison. Circle Tail works with a several prisons to foster their shelter animals before they are placed in a permanent home.


 
 
by German Lopez 12.20.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Ranks No. 2 for Highest Child Poverty

Three Ohio cities make Children Defense Fund’s top five

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.

The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.

With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46 percent), which rounded out the top five.

The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.

“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”

With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnatis disturbing levels of poverty.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.

Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.06.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Humor, LGBT Issues, Marijuana at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
nuclear explosion

Gay Marriage, Marijuana Legalized; Still No Apocalypse

With voter approval, Washington state embraces new freedoms

This morning, social conservatives around the world dug themselves into Armageddon-resistant bunkers, preparing for what they knew was coming. Today, marijuana and same-sex marriage were being legalized in Washington state.

But the bunkers may have been a waste of time and money, considering the end of the world didn’t occur. In fact, it seems like a lot of people are happy with the legal changes, which voters approved on Nov. 6.

From the perspective of this CityBeat writer, same-sex marriage would be great. It’s something I wrote about extensively before (“The Evolution of Equality,” Nov. 28 issue). As a refresher, not only does same-sex marriage bring a host of benefits to same-sex couples, but it also produces economic benefits for everyone. A recent study from Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics LLC, found that legalizing gay marriage would grow Ohio’s gross domestic product, which measures economic worth, by $100-$126 million within three years.

Marijuana has similar benefits. Not only does it give people the freedom to put a relatively harmless plant into their bodies, but it also provides a big boon to state budgets. For Washington, it’s estimated the marijuana tax will bring in as much as $500 million a year. 

Legalization also creates jobs and economic growth as businesses pop up to sell the product and customers buy the plant to toke up. Washington State’s Office of Financial Management estimates the marijuana market will be worth about $1 billion in the state. Considering the state is about 2 percent of the U.S. population, that could be extrapolated to indicate a potential $50 billion nationwide market.

Still, public use of marijuana and driving while intoxicated remain illegal. In a press conference Wednesday, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “If you're smoking in plain public view, you're subject to a ticket. … Initiative 502 uses the alcohol model. If drinking in public is disallowed, so is smoking marijuana in public.”

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) seems a bit friendlier. In an email today, SPD told officers to only give verbal warnings until further notice. The warnings should essentially tell people to take their marijuana inside, or, as SPD spokesperson Jonah Spangenthal-Lee put it on the SPD Blotter, “The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”

The Washington law also faces possible federal resistance. Even though the state legalized pot, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That means the feds can still shut down marijuana businesses and arrest buyers, just like they have with legal medical marijuana dispensaries in the past.

In fact, maybe the limitations are what’s keeping the apocalypse at bay. Maybe social conservatives will get to make use of those bunkers if the rest of the country catches on to Washington’s example.

 
 
by 06.25.2010
Posted In: News, Business, Protests at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 

PETA Again Asks for Kroger Change

An animal rights group had one of its members question executives of the Kroger Co. grocery store chain at its annual shareholders meeting held here Thursday.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had member Lindsay Rajt, who also is a Kroger shareholder, ask during the meeting whether Kroger has plans to move toward a less cruel method of poultry slaughter, called "controlled-atmosphere killing" (CAK), instead of its current practice.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 09.27.2012
Posted In: News, Prisons, Government at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

ODRC: No More Privatizing Ohio Prisons

State agency says Ohio will focus on lowering recidivism

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) on Tuesday said it will not seek further privatization of state prisons. The announcement was made less than a week after CityBeat published an in-depth story detailing the various problems posed by privatizing prisons (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). 

Gary Mohr, director of ODRC, made the announcement while talking to legislative reporting service Gongwer in Columbus Tuesday.

We're going to stay the course on those (sentencing reforms) and I think privatizing additional prisons would take away from that reform effort that we have, so I'm not anticipating privatizing any more prisons in the short term here,” he told Gongwer.

Ohio became the first state to sell one of its own prisons to a private prison company in 2011. The ACLU criticized the move for its potential conflict of interest. The organization argued that the profit goal of private prison companies, which make money by holding as many prisoners as possible, fundamentally contradicts the public policy goal of keeping inmate reentry into prisons and prison populations as low as possible.

In his comments to Gongwer, Mohr said the state will now focus on lowering recidivism, not increasing privatization: I don't think you can go through upheaval of a system and continue to put prioritization on reform at the same time. I think if we were to re-engage again on privatization of prisons, then we're going to take the eye off the ball a little bit, and I think we're making great progress. It's a matter of focus.

In the past, the ACLU and other groups criticized Mohr's previous ties to private prison companies — particularly his private work for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) before he became the director for ODRC. CCA in 2011 became the first private company in Ohio's history to purchase a state prison. The connection presents another possible conflict of interest, and it is only one of the many connections between CCA and Gov. John Kasich's administration.

Mike Brickner, ACLU researcher and director of communications and public policy, praised ODRC's decision in a statement: “Despite millions spent by private companies trying to convince policy makers and local governments otherwise, numerous studies have shown private prisons put their own profit ahead of good public policy. ODRC is wise to see that the privatization model distracts from their important efforts to shrink inmate population and reduce recidivism.”

But Brickner also made further demands from the state: “ODRC should go a step further by making a commitment not to privatize additional prison services such as food and medical care. Arguments for privatizing these services use the same faulty logic as the arguments for privatizing entire prisons.”

CityBeat was not able to immediately reach ODRC for comment on Mohr’s announcement. This story will be updated if comments become available.

During the course of researching and reporting last week's story on prison privatization in Ohio, CityBeat found the ODRC to be dismissive of our interest in speaking with Mohr or a spokesperson about private prisons. During two weeks of correspondence, CityBeat received numerous excuses as to why the ODRC couldn't grant an interview and eventually received two emails with the exact same statement — one from ODRC, a state department, and one from Management and Training Corporation, a private company that manages prisons in Ohio. The statement added a strange twist to the already-suspicious fact that the ODRC didn't want to talk about its prison privatization plan with the media. A full explanation of the issues ODRC posed to the reporting process can be found in the editor's note at the end of the cover story.

 
 
by 02.05.2010
Posted In: News, Protests, NAACP at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 

Tea Party Speaker: Revive 'Jim Crow'

For the past year, we’ve written occasionally about how many in the Tea Party movement are inspired by racism, fear and hate. When we have, we’ve gotten angry e-mails and blog comments telling us that just isn’t so. Like clockwork, Teabaggers then go and say something to prove our point.

Well, they have again. And this time it’s a doozie.

Read More

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 05.25.2012
Posted In: News at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cute_asian_baby

Cincinnati's Alarming Infant Mortality Rate Prompts Discussion

Health professionals organizing city-wide effort to reduce rates

Cincinnati babies don't get the same chance at seeing their first birthday as do infants in other states across the country, and area health professionals believe it's time to become more proactive about it.

On Wednesday, Noble Maseru, Cincinnati health commissioner, and Dr. Elizabeth Kelly, a maternal-infant health specialist at University Hospital, presented statistics to City Council in support of expanding city-wide efforts to reduce infant mortality rates (IMRs) and reconsider infant care and public health strategies.

Infant mortality rates are typically measured by the number of deaths of babies under one year of age per 1,000 live births. Statistics show that the overall IMR rate in counties across Cincinnati from 2006-2010 was 13.3. In 2010, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.8 —  just a little more than half of Cincinnati's alarming statistic.

According to the City of Cincinnati Health Department, infant mortality rates are currently the highest in the 45202 zip code; the rate between 2007-2009 was 24.2.

Other Hamilton County zip codes with high IMRs include 45203 (20.1), 45229 (17.5), 45214 (19.2) and others. Zip codes with the lowest rates included 45218 (0), 45226 (0), 45248 (3.7) and others. Click here to access a complete map with data for all Cincinnati zip codes.

Pinpointing causes for discrepancies in IMRs is difficult, but the following are common causes of death in infants under one year old, according to the Ohio Department of Health:

• Prematurity/low birth weight (prematurity is the No. 1 cause of infant death)

• Congenital anomalies

• Sudden infant death syndrome

These abnormalities are distributed differently across demographics, especially varying across race brackets.

According to Maseru, the key to reducing rates locally is uniting area hospitals in an effort to provide a comprehensive continuum of care, beginning with monitoring prenatal development and spanning across the delivery experience into post-partum care. That continuum should encompass post-partum home visits, psycho-social counseling and education on nutritional support, domestic violence, etc., especially focusing on families in "high-risk" zip codes. 

For the past several years, the Cincinnati Health Department has teamed up with University Hospital for  the Maternal/Infant Health Improvement Project, a partnership uses that continuum of care to meld public health strategies and medical expertise to reduce IMR rates in University Hospital, and according to the data presented to the Rules and Governance Committee on Wednesday, the system is working.

Maseru says that over the five-year span from 2006-2010, the Health Department/University Hospital partnership yielded a 10.6 IMR rate, which marks about a 20 percent difference from Cincinnati's overall rate. 

The next effort, Maseru says, will be expanding that partnership into a network that applies the strategies the Improvement Project has been using to other local area hospitals, such as Good Samaritan and Christ Hospital, who account for 85 percent of Cincinnati deliveries annually.

"It's all about achieving health equity," says Maseru. He hopes a successful parternship could bring IMR rates across every Cincinnati zip code down to single digits by 2014.

 
 

 

 

 
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