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by Danny Cross 09.20.2012
 
 
anna louise inn

Anna Louise Inn Wins Zoning Appeal

Western & Southern expected to appeal something else next week

In the ongoing saga of Western & Southern vs. the Anna Louise Inn, there have been several court cases and zoning rulings, most of which have been appealed by one side or the other. Today it was the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals’ turn to rule on something that’s already been ruled on, and it went in favor of the Anna Louise Inn. 

The Board upheld a certificate of appropriateness for the Anna Louise Inn’s planned renovation, which essentially also upholds the Historic Conservation Board’s right to issue a conditional use permit — at least for now. Western & Southern is expected to appeal that permit, granted by the Conservation Board Aug. 27, before its 30-day window to do so expires. 

Before this series of appeals can play out, the 1st District Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Anna Louise Inn’s appeal of Judge Norbert Nadel’s May 27 ruling, which set in motion the Inn’s attempts to secure zoning approval from the Historical Conservation Board in the first place. 

(All of this could have been avoided if Western & Southern would have purchased the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance. CityBeat previously reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Inn and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood here.)

About 40 people attended today’s hearing, including City Councilman Wendell Young, who said he supports the Anna Louise Inn but was not there to testify on its behalf. 

By upholding the certificate of appropriateness, the ruling keeps alive a conditional use permit that could allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a $13 million renovation of its historic building, once the expected appeals process plays out. (CityBeat covered the Aug. 27 Historical Conservation Board hearing here.)

The Board heard brief arguments from lawyers for both Western & Southern and Cincinnati Union Bethel and then entered executive session for about 15 minutes before ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn. 

Western & Southern lawyer Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett and a member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, told CityBeat after the meeting that he disagreed with the board’s finding because a designed expansion of the building’s fifth floor has not yet had its use approved. 

“With this case, the Historical Conservation Board is basically approving for the certificate of appropriateness the design of the building,” Barrett said. “But the design included an expansion of the fifth floor, and until that use issue is resolved the code reads, in my opinion, you can’t approve the design because the use hasn’t been approved.”

Barrett during the hearing read a written statement to the board arguing two main points: that the Historic Conservation Board didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the certificate of appropriateness; and even if it did, Barrett argued, the physical expansion planned makes it a non-conforming use which wouldn’t qualify for the building permit. 

Cincinnati Union Bethel attorney Tim Burke told the Board that the Anna Louise Inn is not seeking a permit for non-conforming use because it already received a conditional use permit from the Historic Conservation Board. 

“Western & Southern is doing everything it can to block this renovation from happening,” Burke told the Board.

At the Historic Conservation Board hearing last month Western & Southern tried paint a picture of the Anna Louise Inn’s residents contributing to crime in the area because a condition of the conditional use permit is that the building’s use will not be detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property values in the neighborhood. But the Board granted the permit, stating that the Anna Louise Inn will not be detrimental to public health and safety or harmful to nearby properties in the neighborhood and that the Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood. Western & Southern has until next week to appeal that ruling.

 
 
by 02.10.2010
Posted In: News, Financial Crisis, Business at 06:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)
 
 

COAST Chairman Faces Foreclosure

CityBeat doesn’t like to revel in anyone’s misery or misfortune. Sometimes, though, there’s a confluence between a person’s political philosophy and subsequent events that begs for attention and analysis. One such instance is the foreclosure and impending sale of the house owned by an anti-tax leader.

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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 05.14.2009
Posted In: News, Public Policy, Not-for-profit, NAACP at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 

Chris Finney Serves Two Masters

Chris Finney must be feeling rather schizophrenic lately.

The local attorney and arch-conservative activist is offering his services free of charge to the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter, where he is chair of legal redress. His duties include assisting the chapter’s efforts at advancing the interests of the area’s African-American residents.

At the same time, Finney continues his legal work for ex-State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. and their political group, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). His latest effort there is a lawsuit trying to overturn the Ohio law prohibiting former state lawmakers from lobbying in Columbus for one year after they leave office.

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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 German Lopez 09.19.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Poverty at 02:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

More Than Half of Cincinnati Children Live in Poverty

Census shows poverty on the rise in Cincinnati

More than half of Cincinnati’s children live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey released Thursday.

The 2012 rate represents a roughly 10-percent increase in the city’s child poverty rate in the past two years. In 2010, 48 percent of Cincinnatians younger than 18 were considered impoverished; in 2012, the rate was 53.1 percent.

If the number was reduced back down to 2010 levels, approximately 4,500 Cincinnati children would be pulled out of poverty.

Overall poverty similarly increased in Cincinnati from 30.6 percent in 2010 to 34.1 percent in 2012.

Black residents were hit hardest with 46.4 percent classified as in poverty in 2012, up from 40.8 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, the poverty rate among white residents went from 19.8 percent in 2010 to 22.9 percent in 2012.

Hispanics of any race were placed at a poverty rate of 51 percent in 2012, but that number had an extraordinary margin of error of 15.5 percent, which means the actual poverty rate for Hispanics could be up to 15.5 percent higher or lower than the survey’s estimate. In 2010, 42 percent of Hispanics were classified as impoverished, but that number had an even larger margin of error of 17.9 percent.

The other local numbers had margins of error ranging from 2.2 percent to 4.9 percent.

The child poverty rates for Cincinnati were more than double Ohio’s numbers. Nearly one in four Ohio children are in poverty, putting the state at No. 33 worst among 50 states for child poverty, according to the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio.

In 2012, the U.S. government put the federal poverty level for a family of four at an annual income of $23,050.

Some groups are using the numbers to make the case for new policies.

“Too many Ohioans are getting stuck at the lowest rung of the income ladder and kids are paying the price,” said Hannah Halbert, workforce researcher for left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “Policymakers — at both the state and federal levels — are making a clear choice to not invest in workers, families or kids. This approach is not moving our families forward.”

The federal government temporarily increased aid to low-income Americans through the federal stimulus package in 2009, but some of that extra funding already expired or is set to expire later in the year. The food stamp program’s cuts in particular could hit 1.8 million Ohioans, according to an Aug. 2 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

At a local level, City Council has consistently failed to uphold its commitment to human services in the past decade, which human services agencies say is making the fight against poverty and homelessness more difficult.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.25.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Media at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
yvette simpson

Councilwoman Questions WCPO Source over Bigoted Posts

Yvette Simpson says man quoted in WCPO story harassed her with racist remarks

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used a man named Jim Kiefer as a source for a story after he harassed her on social media with racist insults.

WCPO’s Kevin Osborne quoted Kiefer in a story, identifying him as a supporter for John Cranley’s mayoral campaign. (Full disclosure: Osborne formerly worked for CityBeat.)

When Simpson saw the story with Kiefer as a source, she says she immediately recognized him as someone who has repeatedly harassed her with racist remarks on Facebook.

Kiefer's Facebook page was publicly viewable prior to Simpson calling him out on Twitter yesterday, but it has since been made private.

On Oct. 20, the day before WCPO's story was published, Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook wall that said, “For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati (sic).... Evette (sic) getto (sic) Simpson!” Although the post included various grammatical and spelling errors, Kiefer then attached an image that said, “No you may not ‘Axe’ me a question. I don't speak Walmart.”

Several of Simpson’s colleagues, including Councilman Chris Seelbach and City Council candidate Mike Moroski, have come to Simpson’s defense after she posted the image.

The issue for Simpson is whether a media outlet should be using Kiefer as a source, considering his images and posts were publicly viewable on Facebook. Simpson says Osborne never responded to her email asking whether he or WCPO is aware of Kiefer’s history. Osborne is Facebook friends with Kiefer.

CityBeat contacted WCPO News Director Alex Bongiorno by phone and email to ask about WCPO’s policy for vetting and identifying sources, but no response was given prior to the publishing of this story.

WCPO’s story detailed criticisms from Cranley supporters against opponent Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who Simpson supports. Specifically, the story questioned why Qualls allegedly never sought an opinion from the Ohio Board of Ethics over whether her work as a realtor presents a potential conflict of interest with her support for the streetcar project, which could increase property values — and perhaps Qualls’ compensation as a realtor — along its route.

It turns out Qualls had asked for a professional opinion on the ethical issue at least two times before, but the city solicitor deemed the connection between Qualls’ work and the streetcar project too indirect and speculative to present a conflict of interest, according to an email from City Solicitor John Curp copied to CityBeat and other media outlets.

Kiefer called CityBeat after people on social media discussed CityBeats various calls for comment for this story. Kiefer said the images were supposed to be jokes. You have to have a sense of humor, he said.

The Cranley campaign says it has and wants nothing to do with Kiefer.

“John (Cranley) wouldn’t know Jim Kiefer if he walked past him in the street right now. It’s not someone that he’s ever met. It’s not someone that he’s ever dealt with. It’s not someone that the campaign has ever dealt with, says Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s campaign director. “Whatever his views are don’t reflect those of John.”

Kincaid also points out that Cranley’s record goes against some of the bigotry perpetuated by Kiefer's posts. While on City Council, Cranley championed and helped pass an anti-racial profiling ordinance and LGBT protections in local hate crime laws.

Simpson’s history with Kiefer goes back to at least June, when Simpson says Kiefer went on a racist tirade against her on Facebook in the middle of an online discussion over the city’s parking plan. The discussion has been deleted since then, but Simpson says Kiefer told her to never return to the West Side of Cincinnati.

This is not the first time Kiefer touted images with bigoted connotations on his Facebook wall. In one instance, he liked an image of President Barack Obama in tribal regalia. In another, he posted an image of Barney Frank that mocked the former congressman’s homosexuality.


 
 
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 01.21.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Health care at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
fernald

Study Finds Cancer Link Among Fernald Hourly Workers

Researchers tracked more than 6,000 workers through 2004; salaried workers fared better

More than 18 years later, Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center is in the news again. This time, a study found a correlation between higher rates of cancer mortality and hourly workers, with some evidence of radiation causing intestinal cancer.

The study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found salaried workers fared much better than hourly workers, and all-cause mortality was below expectations for them despite increased malignancies in blood, bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes and thymus cells. 

Hourly workers weren’t so lucky, according to the study. They had above-average cancer mortality rates in comparison to the rest of the U.S. population, but tests only provided evidence for a connection between hourly workers and intestinal cancer.

Previous studies also found a link between non-malignant respiratory disease and exposure to radiation, but the NIOSH study found no such connection. The discrepancy could be due to “improved exposure assessment, different outcome groupings and extended follow-up” in the NIOSH study, according to the study’s abstract.

The NIOSH study followed 6,409 workers who were employed at Fernald for at least 30 days between 1951 and 1985, following them through 2004.

Fernald was initially surrounded by controversy in 1984 when it was revealed that it was releasing millions of pounds of uranium dust into the atmosphere, causing radioactive contamination in surrounding areas. The controversy was elevated when Dave Bocks, an employee at the factory, mysteriously disappeared and was later found dead at a uranium processing furnace. Some suspected Bocks was murdered for allegedly being a whistleblower, but no evidence of foul play was ever officially recorded.

 
 
by 12.12.2008
Posted In: News, 2008 Election at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
 
 

County Politics, Republican Style

Anyone familiar with Hamilton County government knows that a large segment of the jobs are essentially political appointments, given to cronies of whichever party controls the particular office doing the hiring.

Still, the political quid pro quo is usually kept somewhat discreet and hidden from public view. Not his time.

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