Nothing new onstage
this week, but lots of good work continues as we head toward the summer
when theater gets scarce. Now's the time to stock up.
This is the final weekend for Cock at Know Theatre. (Some publications call it The Cockfight Play, but Cock is Mike Bartlett's actual title for his play.) It's the story of a man who thought he was gay but now finds himself powerfully drawn to a woman. (CityBeat review here.) His former lover and his new passion both push him to make a choice, and he's torn. It's a great piece of theater, fueled by strong acting and interesting staging. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The city manager unveiled his budget plan to solve the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit yesterday. The plan includes less layoffs than expected — particularly to cops and firefighters — but it proposes an increase to property taxes. The plan also includes a series of other cuts, including to all arts funding and subsidies that go to parades, and new fees. The release for the budget plan says many of the cuts could have been avoided if the city obtained revenue from the proposed parking plan, which is currently being held up by a referendum effort and court challenges. The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which uses capital funds that can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of limits established in state law.
The budget plan still has to be approved by Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council to become law, and City Council will hear the public’s opinion before a vote at three public hearings: May 16 at the Duke Convention Center, May 20 at College Hill Recreation Center and May 22 at Madisonville Recreation Center. All the hearings will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he hopes the Constitutional Modernization Commission will produce a ballot initiative for redistricting reform in 2014. Politicized redistricting — also known as “gerrymandering” — has been traditionally used by politicians in power to redraw congressional district borders in a way that favors the political party in charge, but reform could change that. Gerrymandering was used by national and state Republicans to blunt losses in the 2012 election, as CityBeat detailed here.
As Ohio struggles to expand Medicaid, our more conservative neighbor to the south is moving forward. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million people and save millions of dollars by 2022, here.
While some Democrats want to attach party labels to Ohio Supreme Court elections, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants to do away with party primaries for judicial elections.
Former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger, the second longest-serving president at UC, died at 76 yesterday.
New York City could soon become the first major city to let non-citizens vote in local elections. The legislation would allow non-citizens to vote if they are lawfully present in the United States, have lived in New York City for six months or more on the date of a given election and meet other requirements necessary to vote in New York state.
When one simple question makes a huge difference: “When Did You Choose to Be Straight?”
Blood may be the key to seeing how long brain tumor patients have to live and whether their treatment is working.
A new study found oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sickened fish for at least a year.
Here is a compilation of adorable animals trying to stay awake.
Tonight, dynamic Northern Kentucky group Kenny Peck & the Smoky Jack Band will celebrate the release of their new album, Country Jack, at the Thompson House in Newport.
Following up last year’s Naked Jack, which explored various forms of Pop/Rock, Country Jack focuses on the Country and Folk sides of Peck's schizo musical personality. Steeped in a vintage Roots style (and peppered with engaging lyrics that range from bittersweet to comedic), the new album includes some top-shelf local players, including Harold Kennedy, Bob Nyswonger, Lisa Biales, Marcos Sastre and Jeff Roberts, as well as a few musicians from Nashville, Tenn.
Peck grew up in Dixie Heights, Ky., and was drawn to the regional sounds of Bluegrass and Folk. Peck started writing and publishing songs in high school and college, before heading off to serve in Vietnam. Peck moved to San Diego after he was discharged and kicked off his music career with the original Smoky Jack Band in the early ’70s. From there, Peck played in various duos, including a comedy/musical act with his wife called The Special K. Peck settled in Greater Cincinnati in 1989 and continued writing and recording music. Naked Jack was his first album release in a dozen years.
Tonight's release party starts at 7 p.m. The $15 cover charge also includes a copy of the new album on CD.
Read more about Peck and find details on his releases at smokyjackband.com.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.
The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.
Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s bill each quarter.
The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other departments, 64 would be laid off.
The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.
About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with changes in revenue.
The budget release says the cuts are a result of the city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”
With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance. Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10 million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to $3.5 million in the revised budget plan.
The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would further challenge departments that have already experienced significant funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”
The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and senior level management positions, including the city manager. The changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the budget release.
Other cuts in the budget were selected through the Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation. Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.
Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be eliminated, along with all arts funding.
The budget plan would also eliminate various other services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a 50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special events.
The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.
The city was originally planning to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.
But if the city is successful in court, the budget release claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the parking plan.
The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within 30 days.
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall. The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established in state law.
With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem. The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp Washington.
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement, Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded, it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy. The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled price data today for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals, revealing large price variations between hospitals around the nation, including in Cincinnati.
For treating chest pain, charges from three Cincinnati hospitals varied by thousands of dollars: Bethesda North charged on average $17,696, Christ Hospital charged $12,000 and University Hospital charged $10,130.
But the initial charge seems to have little relation to what Medicare ultimately paid out. In the three cases for chest pain, Medicare on average paid $3,242 to Bethesda North, $3,657 to Christ Hospital and $5,463 to University Hospital.
In other words, University Hospital charged about 57 percent of what Bethesda North charged, but University Hospital was ultimately paid 68 percent more.
The price variation wasn’t exclusive to chest pain, either. For major joint replacement or reattachment of a lower extremity without major complications, Bethesda North charged $61,947 and was paid $12,712 on average, Jewish Hospital charged $38,465 and was paid $14,069 on average and University Hospital charged $46,463 and was paid $20,116 on average.
In fact, all of the 100 metrics tracked by CMS had at least some degree of variation in charges and payments. Whether it was chest pain, joint replacement, diabetes or cardiovascular complications, prices always varied between hospitals — sometimes greatly, other times by a little.
The data from fiscal year 2011 shows how much hospitals initially charged Medicare for the 100 most frequently billed discharges and how much Medicare ultimately paid out. The difference between charges and payments is usually large because Medicare negotiates prices down.
CMS says the price discrepancy is happening at hospitals all around the nation: “As part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more affordable and accountable, data are being released that show significant variation across the country and within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient services.”
Still, some health care advocacy groups say Ohio is doing worse than other states. A study from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a “D” for health care price transparency, based on the states’ laws and regulations. That was actually better than 29 other states, which flat-out flunked with an “F.” Only New Hampshire and Massachusetts received an “A,” the highest grade possible.
Even then, the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute cautioned in the study that their grades were given on a curve, which means all states would likely fare worse if the organizations measured them based on ideals instead of comparatively.
Many health care experts and advocacy groups claim the price variation is caused by a lack of transparency in the health care system, which gives hospitals free reign to charge without typical market checks (“Healthy Discussion,” issue of April 10).
Remember when we blogged a couple of weeks ago about how Greater Cincinnati has some of the worst air pollution in the nation? Yep, the American Lung Association's report, "State of the Air," gave us an "F" for ozone pollution, a "D" for 24-hour particle pollution and a "fail" for year-round particle pollution. That put us at the 10th worst spot in the country for year-round particle pollution and 14th worst for ozone pollution.
Solar and wind energy provider Pear Energy, which currently operates in all 50 states, released yesterday its "Dirty Dozen" compilation, a list of the 12 utility providers emitting the greatest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a type of greenhouse gas. CO2 emissions, of course, are the gunk released into our atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like gas, coal or oil. Excess CO2 in our atmosphere is directly linked to global warming.
Coming from a company that wants to sell you energy itself, it's good to approach the list with a little skepticism, but the methodology seems transparent; according to the website, all rankings were determined by total CO2 emissions in 2010 of power producers with retail operations that have carbon intensities above the national average emissions rate (stats were sourced from Environmental Protection Agency data).
While Duke Energy was pinpointed as the nation's worst offender, several other Ohio energy providers also earned accolades, including American Electric Power (No. 2), NRG (No. 8) and First Energy (No. 11).
First Energy is the utility provider that in 2012 partnered with Duke Energy locally to bring Cincinnati an electric aggregation program, allegedly useful for both lowering electricity rates and increasing use of renewable energy sources with group buying power. Last month, CityBeat covered allegations that First Energy was focused on weakening energy efficiency standards under Ohio's Clean Energy Law, supposedly to protect prices from shooting up for its customers.
At a White House
ceremony this afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama will present the 2013
National Medal for Museum and Library Service to The Public Library of Cincinnati
and Hamilton County and nine additional libraries and museums. She will join
Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan Hildreth in recognizing 10 exceptional institutions making important contributions to their
communities and implementing creative approaches to outreach and public
Obama will present the award to the directors and local community members of these institutions, highlighting the impact each facility has had on individual lives and community growth. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred upon libraries and museums for service to individuals, families and communities.
selected from an extensive list of nationwide nominations of libraries and
museums exceeding the average standards of community outreach.
This year, the 10 diverse institutions represent seven states and include outstanding facilities such as a Santa Ana, Calif., science center; a Boston, Mass., children’s museum; a Clarksdale, Miss. Blues museum dedicated to exploring the unique musical genre; a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Czech and Slovak museum that successfully re-emerged after a catastrophic flood in June 2008; and various public and county library systems. Representing The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are The Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director Kimber L. Fender and library patron Amina Tuki. The award will recognize the value the library has brought to the Cincinnati and surrounding community as well as its dedication and innovation in the field of public service.
Later this year, StoryCorps — a nonprofit committed to recording, sharing and celebrating a diverse array of American voices — will visit each of the winning institutions to collect information and personalized stories from individuals of the honored communities. The organization, founded in 2003, has pioneered such initiatives asthe Military Voices Initiative, the National Teachers Initiative, the September 11th Initiative and the Memory Loss Initiative, and continues to celebrate its National Day of Listening (NDL), which takes place the day after Thanksgiving as a noncommercial alternative to “Black Friday” shopping mania. Their upcoming focus on libraries and museums across the country could serve as a contender for the NDL theme this November.
With its 21,000 programs, workshops and classes, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County stands out among 140,000 libraries and museums across the United States. There is no word yet on what immediate effects this award will have on the local community, but a library spokesperson attributes the honor to its patrons and visitors, saying, “It’s because of your commitment to the Library that gives us the privilege of saying we’re one of the busiest and best library systems in the nation. This award belongs to all of us.”
The ceremony will be streamed live beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Follow The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County on Facebook for photos and updates.
Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western & Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of $17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to $12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more accurate.
Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation, with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year, according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013. But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs, considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.”
If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have to rework the City Charter to restore the powers.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter.
Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade.
A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie.
News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act, which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun homicides began.
Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers.
A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.