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by German Lopez 01.15.2013
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote

Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.

Chris Monzel is now in charge of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.

City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000.

Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.

King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.

Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.

An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.

Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.

Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world. 

Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.28.2011
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Headline: "Stadium tax rebate favors wealthy." Analysis: "No shit." Owners of the county's most-expensive homes reportedly receive more savings from the property tax rollback than they pay in the sales tax increase that was supposed to pay for the sports stadiums. An Enquirer analysis of last year's property tax payout found that the half-cent sales tax increase amounts to a maximum of $192 annually, while some high-value homeowners received tax rebates of $1,175 or more.

• Million-dollar homes account for less than 1 percent of households, yet they received nearly 5 percent of the total rebates — or one out of every $20 paid out.

• One out of four homeowners - those with a home worth $200,000 or more - got $8.8 million in rebates - more than half the total rollback.

• The median Hamilton County homeowner with a property worth $106,700 is eligible to get a $50.15 rebate under the rollback.

• The 132 Hamilton County homeowners with houses worth $2.5 million or more get at least $1,175 apiece.

• Property owners with homes worth $150,000 or less account for nearly six out of 10 households, but collectively they received less than 23 percent of the benefits.

County commissioners have four days to tell the auditor to go ahead and tax homeowners at the previous rate, but Chris Monzel and Todd Portune are up for reelection this year and won't dare change take it away from the powerful rich people.

[Correction: Monzel is not up for reelection.]

Said former commissioner David Pepper:"At its core, the property tax rollback creates a reverse-Robin Hood scheme, where middle-class homeowners and renters are not only the ones paying for the stadium, but also footing the bill for a tax break for high-value property owners. Those high-end property owners are not paying for the stadium at all."

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by Danny Cross 06.05.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy. The lawsuit accuses Duke of paying kickbacks to local companies in order to gain support for a 2004 electric rate increase. The lawsuit alleges that Duke appeased the more powerful opposing companies by including rebate deals for them. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and seeks to represent all Ohioans affected by the rate increase.

Todd Portune is continuing his quest to become the East Side's county's property tax rebate savior, yesterday offering a new idea to bail out the stadium fund: extend the half cent sales tax past 2032. The revenue created by extending the sales tax, which has no sunset clause, would repay loans the county could use to pay for maintenance and projects at the stadiums now. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel is open to “any ideas,” though Democratic Commissioner Greg Hartmann says otherwise:

“Todd, here we go again,” snapped Commissioner Greg Hartmann. “Walking away from these leases is just fantasyland.

“How many times are we going to do this?” he asked.

Rob Portman will test out his GOP rallying cries at the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. next week.

Bill Clinton says a Mitt Romney presidency would be “calamitous” for the U.S.

The Senate will vote on a gender pay equity bill today.

China and Russia say they'll help the UN more going forward, though they've been supporting Syria more than anyone really wants them to.

Here's an explanation of the Transit of Venus, for those who don't get it yet.

Nintendo has revamped its Wii to try to lure gamers from free Internet games they play on iPads.

A new PC virus can infect computers by imitating a Windows update.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.09.2012
Posted In: News, County Commission, Human Rights, Religion at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

Morning News and Stuff

The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners yesterday voted to keep senior and mental health levies flat. As a result, senior and mental health services will lose funding. Commissioner Todd Portune, the Board’s sole Democrat, offered an alternative measure that would have raised funding to levels providers requested, before voting with the two Republicans. Portune’s measure would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 of property worth.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a new report detailing human trafficking in Ohio. The report found one-third of trafficking victims got involved in trafficking as minors. In all of Ohio, law enforcement officials topped the list of buyers for human trafficking. In Cincinnati, the most common buyers were drug dealers, factory workers and truckers. Forty percent of trafficking victims in Cincinnati reported being raped.

At the commissioners meeting Wednesday, a Jehova’s Witnesses group clashed with Harrison Township over land. The religious group wants to build a hall that they say will attract Jehova’s Witnesses to the area and bring in tax revenue, but Harrison Township is worried the building will cause too much disruption. The board will reach a decision in a few weeks, Commissioner Greg Hartmann said.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised Cincinnati Children’s accomplishments during a visit to a local medical center Wednesday. She also said the medical progress in Cincinnati “can now be mirrored across the country.”

The Ohio State Bar Association has declared opposition to the Voters First redistricting amendment. The association says it has “deep concerns” over getting the judicial system involved in the redrawing process.

Local political group COAST has been misinforming its followers about the Blue Ash Airport deal. The misinformation continues COAST’s campaign to stop anything streetcar-related.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is among the top choices for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential list, but a new analysis from the New York Times shows Portman might not benefit Romney much. Apparently, Ohio voters either don’t know Portman well enough or feel completely apathetic about him.

Ohio’s mortgage delinquency rates are falling. The rate fell from 4.73 percent to 4.54 percent. However, the average mortgage debt for individual borrowers went up in the second largest jump in the country. The average Ohio mortgage debt holder now owes $131,701, up from $126,503.

The number of swine flu cases in Butler County is still going up.

Ohio school levies apparently struggled in the special Aug. 7 election.

The U.S. trade deficit is at its lowest in 18 months.

Apparently, the Olympic Village is a giant orgy.

A new study is linking eyes to sexual orientation.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.06.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Election Day is today. Find your correct polling booth here. Check out CityBeat’s endorsements here.

After a year of campaigns, the race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is almost over. All eyes are on Ohio to decide the presidential election. In aggregate polling, Obama leads Romney by 2.9 points in Ohio and 0.7 points nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ electoral forecast model, gives Obama a 91.4 percent chance to win Ohio and a 91.6 percent chance to win the election. The New York Times also has an interactive flowchart to gauge both Obama's and Romney's paths to victory.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown leads Republican challenger Josh Mandel by 5 points in aggregate polling. CityBeat covered the policy and campaign differences between the two candidates in coverage of the first, second and third debate and a cover story.

Gov. John Kasich has taken a noticeable shift to the center and considered less divisive ideas in recent months, and some of that might be to help Romney’s electoral chances in Ohio. In the past two years, Kasich went from supporting SB 5, which would have limited collective bargaining for public employees, to focusing almost entirely on jobs.

While we focus on voting on Earth, astronauts in space also vote.

Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, laid out his budget plan yesterday. Hartmann touted “austerity” as a prominent theme in the budget. Austerity measures actually led Europe into a second recession, according to prominent economist Robert Reich. This matches the opinion of other economists, such as Nobel-winning Paul Krugman, who argue governments should try to make up for shortfalls in the private sector through increased spending during recessions. Recently, the International Monetary Fund admitted it underestimated the bad economic impact of austerity measures. Still, Hamilton County is required to balance its budget, so the commissioners don’t have many options. Todd Portune, the lone Democratic commissioner, says he will unveil his plan later.

The new Jungle Jim’s at Eastgate is having a large, positive impact on its neighbors. The exotic grocery store has apparently brought a lot of new paying customers to the area.

Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood might soon put its traffic problems in the past. City Council is expected to vote on a plan Wednesday that would block three streets in the neighborhood. Residents have complained traffic is out of control because of development at the Rookwood Exchange in Norwood, and traffic could get worse due to the holiday shopping season.

Workers injured during the construction of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino are looking for a way around workers comp rules. The exemption-seeking lawsuit filed by four workers against 13 defendants is typical in Ohio law, which generally prevents workers from suing employers over workplace injuries since Ohio’s compensation rules provide ways to obtain missing wages and other potential damages.

Time Warner Cable is hiring for more than 50 positions in Cincinnati.

A new partnership between the Memorial Hall Society, 3CDC and Hamilton County’s commissioners may revitalize Hamilton County’s Memorial Hall. The hall is one of Hamilton County’s architectural treasures, but a lack of renovations has left it behind modern developments, including air conditioning.

Some of Ohio’s exotic animal owners are not happy with a new law that requires registering and micro-chipping exotic animals, so they are suing the state.

A Cleveland woman that drove on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was unloading children will have to wear a sign that says, “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She will have to wear the sign at an intersection for one hour a day for two days next week.

An Ohio woman broke into a family’s house, cleaned the house and left a $75 bill.

On Sunday, an amputee climbed 103 stories using a mind-controlled bionic leg. Oh, science.

 
 
by Danny Cross 12.01.2011
Posted In: News, Sports, Spending, County Commission at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

More details are coming out about Chris Monzel and Todd Portune working a behind-the-scenes deal to sell Drake Hospital for way less than it was worth in order to save rich people money on their property taxes for one year. Critics have called it a “fire sale” and questioned the legality of selling a public asset without competitive bidding, outside studies or input from county lawyers. From The Enquirer:

"The 2-1 vote ends 87 years of county ownership of the Hartwell rehabilitation hospital. UC Health will buy it for $15 million – a price negotiated in secret by one commissioner and approved with no outside studies, no input from county lawyers or the county administration, and little public discussion.

The money from the sale will bail out the stadium fund for one year, avoiding a $14.2 million deficit for next year. It also allows the county to restore a property tax rollback promised to voters in 1996 when they approved a new sales to build and maintain the stadiums – a rollback largely scrapped this year to pay for the stadiums."

Cincinnati City Council today will lose its longtime excuse that there are too many old conservatives involved to get anything done, as three of its new members are young, optimistic and representative of the community who aren't old guys or mean rich ladies. The Enquirer discusses Council's influx of YP energy here, including a nice photo of Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and P.G. Sittenfeld with the caption: “Before...” that seems rather ominous.

Ohio has reportedly offered Sears $400 million to relocate from Chicago to Columbus. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says the offer is about four times what Illinois has offered.

President Obama was in Scranton, Pa., yesterday to promise that he's trying to extend a payroll tax cut for workers.

Headline: “Amid Questions, Cain Stays Defiant.” Sounds like Karl Rove. Also, Cain would like to see the cell phone records of the woman accusing him of having an extramarital affair.

Dentists are having a tough time as people skip their visits due to the economic downturn. Now they're looking to marketing and social media to help. At least your teeths cleaned everybody!

An eastern Kentucky church voted to ban interracial marriages.

Wild donkeys are messing up Texas' ecology.

Michigan is about to allow the carrying of stun guns.

And horses could soon be slaughtered for meat in the U.S.

Isn't there any good news? The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are apparently giving the iPad a run for its money? The NFL hearing Detroit Lions player Ndamukong Suh's appeal over a two-game suspension for stomping on somebody's arm?

Eh, whatever. Just watch this Kenny Powers K-Swiss video and forget about the real world.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, News at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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County Commissioners Approve 2013 Budget

Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts

For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.

The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs, according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least affected by cuts.

With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession. 

Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.

By law, the county is required to balance its budget.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.15.2012
Posted In: County Commission, Business, City Council, Youth, War at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

In the works since December, Hamilton County commissioners completed the sale of the county-owned Drake Center rehabilitative hospital in Hartwell on Wednesday. Commissioners voted 2-1 to sell the facility for $15 million to the University of Cincinnati, with Greg Hartmann casting the sole “no” vote. Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune want to use the proceeds to fund a one-year extension of a property tax rebate promised to voters as part of the 1996 campaign to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to pay for new sports stadiums. Hartmann called the deal fiscally irresponsible, noting Drake is worth at least $45 million and possibly more.

A state lawmaker is proposing a bill that would ban new ownership of exotic pets like gorillas and lions. State Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) hopes the bill would prevent incidents like the one in eastern Ohio last year that led to 48 animals being shot to death after their suicidal owner let them loose.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday released its list of priorities for 2012 and it didn't contain any surprises. Once again, the business advocacy organization wants Cincinnati City Council to repeal its Environmental Justice Ordinance, despite offering no evidence that it has adversely affected any of its members' businesses. Also, the chamber opposes the taxation of stock options and supports a permanent extension of George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts.

Speaking of City Council, it will vote soon on a proposal to create a Youth Commission that would serve as an advisory group to the mayor and council members. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson introduced the proposal, and said the commission would make recommendations to address issues involving crime, poverty, education, employment, health and development. How this will differ from Mayor Mark Mallory's “Young Professional Kitchen Cabinet” or similar groups formed by council over the years is anybody's guess.

In honor of Cincinnati's storied history as “porkopolis,” two local companies are jointly creating a new sausage to commemorate St. Patrick's Day. Queen City Sausage Co. and Christian Moerlein Brewery created a new beer-flavored sausage, which contains Hudepohl Amber Lager.

In news elsewhere, today marks the one-year anniversary of the ongoing anti-government uprising in Syria. The conflict against President Bashar al-Assad's regime has resulted in at least 8,000 deaths so far, according to the United Nations.

Syrian activists gave a cache of more than 3,000 confidential emails allegedly hacked from Assad's private account to London's Guardian newspaper. The emails indicate the president took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule, and leads an opulent lifestyle while violence plagues the nation's cities.

The Pentagon is investigating more than 1,700 recruiters and hundreds of recruiting assistants for allegedly making $92 million in fraudulent transactions involving “bounties” paid to get people to enlist in the Army National Guard and Reserve. The alleged fraud involves programs that paid $2,000 bounties to soldiers or civilians who signed up as “recruiting assistants” and brought in new enlistees. Investigators have found evidence that recruiters for the Guard and Reserve who weren't eligible for the bounties worked with some assistants to secretly secure and split up the money.

Supposedly secret negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. government to end the decade-long war in Afghanistan have been suspended, the Taliban announced in a statement issued today. The statement said U.S. officials kept changing the terms of the negotiations, and had presented a "list of conditions" in their latest meeting that contradicted earlier arrangements. The announcement comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded foreign troops pull out of villages, a few days after a U.S. soldier’s shooting spree in southern Kandahar province left 16 civilians dead.

Closer to home, Senate Democrats are pushing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives. Some lawmakers want to expand financing for and broaden the scope of domestic violence programs, but conservatives dislike it because it would allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.
 
 
by Danny Cross 11.16.2011
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

The Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed Occupy Cincinnati yesterday at Piatt Park. Later in the day 15 individuals were arrested for staying in the park past its 10 p.m. closing time, the first arrests in weeks, as protesters have challenged the legality of the park closing at all. Jackson was reportedly scheduled to return to the park at noon on Wednesday to again speak with Occupy Cincinnati.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, County Commission, City Council at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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City, County Work Out Compromise on Sewer Projects

Council to rework "responsible bidder" ordinance

Cincinnati and Hamilton County today announced a compromise that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects, allowing the projects to move forward. As a condition, the city will have to rework and repeal the controversial laws that incited county commissioners into approving the hold in the first place.

As part of the deal, Commissioner Chris Monzel will ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to immediately repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.

On the city's side, Councilman Chris Seelbach will ask City Council to immediately repeal so-called "local hire" and "local preference" rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors' workforce be local residents.

The city, county and their partners will then work on changing the city's responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug. 1.

In May, City Council modified the responsible bidder ordinance originally passed in June 2012. The changes were supposed to trigger in August, but the compromise may alter those changes altogether.

Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.

The city argued the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county criticized the rules for supposedly favoring unions and imposing extra costs on MSD projects.

Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati's sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati's history.

But the project was effectively halted by the county commissioners' funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.

CityBeat covered the county-city conflict in further detail here.

 
 

 

 

 
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