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by 05.07.2010
Posted In: County Commission, Development, Business at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

AMOS Seeks More Local Hiring

A group of clergy say Hamilton County’s recent analysis of workers on the massive Banks project along Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront vindicates its concern that not enough local residents are being used.

During a Hamilton County Commission meeting Wednesday, Banks project manager John Deatrick unveiled an analysis that revealed the numbers of people employed who live in Cincinnati and Hamilton County are lower than previously reported.

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by German Lopez 03.04.2014
Posted In: News, Development, Budget, City Council, Mayor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor blocks downtown development, city leaders push for Google Fiber, budget gap grows

Mayor John Cranley could dismantle a deal that would produce a grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a new parking garage downtown. Cranley says he doesn’t want millions put toward the deal, even though the developer involved plans to invest another $60 million. Councilman Chris Seelbach says the deal isn’t dead just because of the mayor’s opposition, and City Council could act to bypass the mayor, just like the legislative body did with the streetcar project and responsible bidder. To Seelbach, the deal is necessary to bring much-needed residential space and an accessible grocery store downtown.

Cincinnati officials and startup executives will try to bring Google Fiber, which provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than normal broadband, to Cincinnati. Google plans to hold a national competition to see which cities are most deserving of its fiber services. “Over the last several years, Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem has made tremendous strides,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “We’re increasingly becoming a magnet for talented entrepreneurs across the country who want to come here to bring their big ideas to life. We need to ensure that we have the modern technological infrastructure to make Cincinnati nationally competitive.”

Cincinnati’s operating budget gap for fiscal 2015 now stands at $22 million, up from an earlier forecast of $18.5 million, largely because of extra spending on police pushed by Cranley and a majority of City Council. The city must balance its operating budget each year, which means the large gap will likely lead to layoffs and service cuts.

Commentary:Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.

Cranley won’t re-appoint the chair of Cincinnati’s Board of Health. When asked why, Chairwoman Joyce Kinley told City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee that Cranley told her “he had to fulfill a campaign promise.” Some city officials say they worry Cranley is putting politics over the city’s needs.

Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s needs to pay back rent or move out, The Banks’ landlord declared Monday. The deciding moment for Mahogany’s comes after months of struggles, which restaurant owner Liz Rogers blames on the slow development of the riverfront.

Kathy Wilson:Mahogany’s: Turn Out the Lights.”

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino supports 1,700 workers, making it the largest of Ohio's four voter-approved casinos.

At least one airline, Allegiant Air, plans to add flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Headline:Man wakes up in body bag at funeral home.”

“A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

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by German Lopez 03.03.2014
Posted In: News, Taxes, Budget, Development at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Tax abatements benefit wealthy, group to market Cincinnati, winter raises city’s costs

About 1 in 20 Cincinnatians, many of them in the wealthiest neighborhoods, pay less in taxes because their home renovations and constructions are subsidized by a local tax program. While the program benefits the wealthy, it also hits Cincinnati Public Schools and other local services through lost revenue. The tax abatement program aims to keep and attract residents and businesses by lowering the costs of moving and living in Cincinnati. Anastasia Mileham, spokeswoman for 3CDC, says the tax abatements helped revitalize Over-the-Rhine, for example. Others say the government is picking winners and losers and the abatement qualifications should be narrowed.

With hotel room bookings back to pre-recession levels, Source Cincinnati aims to sell Cincinnati’s offerings in arts, health care, entrepreneurism and anything else to attract new businesses and residents. The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau established the organization to reach out to national journalists and continue the local economic momentum built up in the past few years. “Successful cities are those that have good reputations,” Julie Calvert, interim executive director at Source Cincinnati, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “Without reputation it’s difficult to get businesses to expand or relocate or get more conventions or draw young diverse talent to work for companies based here.”

The harsh winter weather this year pushed Cincinnati’s budget $5 million over, with nearly $3 million spent on salt, sand and chemicals alone. . The rest of the costs come through increased snow plowing shifts and other expenses to try to keep the roads clean. The extra costs just compound the city’s structurally imbalanced budget problems. The need for more road salt also comes despite Councilman Charlie Winburn’s attempts to undermine the city’s plans to stockpile and buy salt when it’s cheap.

Mayor John Cranley says the success of The Incline Public House in East Price Hill, which he helped develop, speaks to the pent-up demand for similar local businesses in neglected Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Less than a month remains to sign up for health insurance plans on HealthCare.gov.

The estimated 24,000 students who drop out of Ohio schools each year might cost themselves and the public hundreds of millions a year, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says meth abuse has reached “epidemic” levels in the state.

Ohio gas prices continued to rise this week.

Developers say they have funding for the first phase of a Noah’s Ark replica coming to Williamstown, Ky.

There’s a Netflix hack that pauses a movie or TV show when the viewer falls asleep.

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by German Lopez 02.12.2013
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, Courts, Development, News at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
anna louise inn

Anna Louise Inn, Western & Southern Returning to Court

Hearings set with Judge Norbert Nadel for April

The Anna Louise Inn and Western & Southern will meet again in court in April to begin the next chapter of the ongoing zoning dispute between the longtime neighbors. 

In a Feb. 8 ruling, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, filed an incomplete permit application. The ruling asks CUB to resubmit the funding requests to the city of Cincinnati — except this time CUB will have to include details about previously omitted parts of the Anna Louise Inn and the Off the Streets program. 

But Tim Burke, attorney for CUB, says CUB already carried out the court’s requirements. After Judge Norbert Nadel ruled May 4 that the Inn didn’t properly fill out its original application, CUB started a second chain of applications to obtain a conditional use permit to meet Nadel’s zoning specifications. The new applications have been approved by Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board and the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals, but Western & Southern is appealing those rulings as well.

Last week’s appeals court ruling sent the case back down to the lower court on a legal technicality. With the ruling, all the Anna Louise Inn cases, including the separate chain of zoning appeals, are essentially consolidated to Nadel. 

The dispute began in 2010, when Western & Southern sued the Anna Louise Inn over zoning issues to block $13 million in city- and state-distributed federal loans to renovate the building. Western & Southern declined an opportunity to purchase the building in 2009, but now seems interested in turning it into a luxury hotel. 

The Anna Louise Inn is a 103-year-old building that provides shelter to low-income women. Its Off the Streets program helps women involved in prostitution turn their lives around.

For more information about this ongoing dispute, visit CityBeat's collection of coverage here.

by German Lopez 03.06.2014
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown project gets path forward, feds to pay for firefighters, health board defies mayor

Flaherty & Collins, the developer that wants to tear down a garage as part of its downtown grocery and apartment tower project, offered to pay for a tenant’s move to keep the deal moving forward. The tenant, Paragon Salon, recently announced its intent to sue the city after Mayor John Cranley’s refusal to pay for the salon business’s move left the development project and Paragon in a limbo of uncertainty. With Flaherty & Collins’ offer, the development deal should be able to advance without extra costs to the city.

But Cranley says he still wants 3CDC to review the downtown development project to set the best path forward.

Federal money will help Cincinnati keep and hire more firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant provides nearly $8.1 million — about 2 percent of the city’s $370 million operating budget — to pay the salaries and benefits of 50 firefighters for two years. Afterward, the city will need to pick up the costs, which could worsen an operating budget gap that currently sits at $22 million for fiscal 2015. The move would increase the Cincinnati Fire Department’s staffing levels from 841 to 879 and help prevent brownouts, according to the firefighting agency.

The Cincinnati Board of Health defied Mayor Cranley by unilaterally pursuing a $1.3 million grant that will provide preventative and primary care services to underserved populations. Rocky Merz, spokesperson for the board, says the grant application complies with guidance from the city’s top lawyer. Cranley opposes the grant because the extra services it enables could push up costs for the city down the line.

Hamilton County officials will look for outside legal help in their fight against the city’s job training rules for Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the rules, known as “responsible bidder,” in further detail here.

Smale Riverfront Park will receive $4.5 million in federal funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control erosion and prevent flooding.

Crime around Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino never materialized, despite warnings from critics prior to casinos’ legalization in Ohio.

Ohio’s prison re-entry rate declined and sits well below the national average, according to a study from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The study found 27.1 percent of inmates released in 2010 ended up back up in prison, down from 28.7 percent of individuals released in 2009. In comparison, the national average is 44 percent.

Hundreds of Ohio school districts plan to test out the state’s new online assessments for math, language arts, social studies and science.

The cold winter is pushing up natural gas prices, according to Ohio’s largest natural gas utility.

A second baby might have been cured of HIV, the sexually transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Even with the potential successes, doctors caution it’s still very much unclear whether the treatment provides a definitive cure for the deadly disease.

Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind intravaginal ring could prevent pregnancy and HIV.

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by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012

Morning News and Stuff

In an effort to avoid an estimated $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education decided Wednesday to eliminate 237 teaching jobs for next school year. Of the job cuts, 35 are layoffs, 112 are retirements or resignations, and 90 are long-term substitutes. In March, the board also approved laying off 40 administrators. The actions are expected to create $20 million in savings, but officials say more cuts are needed.

Cincinnati City Council has approved an ordinance cracking down on so-called “predatory towing.” Some local towing companies haven't been following state guidelines about how much may be charged for the towing and impoundment of vehicles. The city law clarifies that they must be complied with, and companies that violate the fees can lose lucrative towing contracts with the Cincinnati Police Department.

As part of their standard procedures, state regulators are reviewing the background of a company slated to open the state's first casino next month and Cincinnati's casino next year. The Ohio Casino Control Commission meets this week to review a newly completed report on Rock Ohio Caesars. It will include details about the company's financial stability and whether it has any criminal background.

Although Earth Day isn't until Sunday, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is marking the holiday early by sponsoring an e-waste recycling drive today to collect and recycle unwanted electronic waste from guests. Collection is from 4-6:30 p.m., and all electronic devices will be recycled by 2trg, a certified recycler that operates under zero landfill and zero export policies. A $10 cash fee will be charged for each TV set, and all other acceptable items will be recycled for free. Other acceptable items include cables, CD-ROM drives, cellular phones, DVD players, keyboards, laptops, LCD monitors, microwave ovens, printers and more.

Locally-based Fifth Third Bank says its first-quarter net income quadrupled, thanks in part to its stake in the payment processor Vantiv, which had its initial public offering. The company reported net income of $421 million today, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $88 million, or 10 cents per share, reported in the same period last year. Apparently, there's only a recession going on for some of us.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is dismissing criticism brought against the Republican budget plan by Catholic bishops. Referencing Matthew 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on Congress to put the poor first in budget priorities and rethink cuts to programs that help them. But Boehner, a Catholic, said at a press conference Wednesday the cuts were necessary, despite the impact they may have on the poor. “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t start to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order there won’t be a safety net,” he said. “There won’t be these programs.” (Hey, John: Maybe you should take another look at the Pentagon's budget.)

Six former employees of a company connected to a firm founded by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney filed a federal lawsuit this week, alleging they were fired because they weren't Mormon. The plaintiffs worked for Sorenson Capital Partners, whose managing directors and officers are former partners or executives at Bain Capital and Bain & Co. Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984 after working for Bain & Co. The plaintiffs seek $5.35 million in damages for breach of contract, discrimination and retaliation.

If the CIA gets its way, acting suspicious will be enough to get you killed in Yemen. The spy agency is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said. Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives. Remember: They hate us because we love freedom.

Syria and the United Nations have reached a tentative deal to deploy observers to monitor the nation's ceasefire, officials from both sides said. A spokesman for peace envoy Kofi Annan said the agreement covered the observers' functions and Syrian government's responsibilities. It came after the U.N. secretary general said Syria was failing to comply with its peace plan obligations. The plan seeks to end unrest which has killed at least 9,000 people.

The global economic downturn is even visible in China, where large amounts of retail and office space sit vacant, in nearly pristine condition, having never been used. Part of the problem is Chinese industry has been producing massive amounts of steel, cement, and aluminum, so much that its economy cannot absorb all of the output. For example, the seven-story Global Furnishing Design and Exhibition Center in Shanghai, the most populous city in the world, is known as “the ghost mall of China” due to its empty corridors and vacant stores.
by Kevin Osborne 02.20.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Today is Presidents' Day and even though it's a federal holiday, most readers probably don't have the day off from work. You can console yourself about this affront to George and Honest Abe by learning all about the holiday's quirky history. For example, it was the first holiday authorized to commemorate an American citizen (Mr. Washington) and was split among three different holidays until President Nixon decided to consolidate them in 1971. (Thanks for that, Dick.) And here's CityBeat contributer Ryan Carpe's account of interesting anecdotes involving several presidents from Ohio.

Xavier University is facing yet another federal investigation for possible civil rights violations. The probe, the third since December, again involves allegations that campus officials didn't appropriately investigate and punish complaints of sexual assaults filed by female students. In the latest incident, 2011 XU graduate Caitlin Pinciotti charges that she was sexually assaulted in late 2008. She says the university allowed the student found responsible in a March 2009 campus disciplinary hearing to flout terms of his one-semester suspension and frequently return to campus.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. looks back on his 41-year political career as he prepares to retire later this year. Leis, 77, was county prosecutor and a judge before being elected to his first term as sheriff in 1987. He is perhaps best known for his 1977 prosecution of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, which was later thrown out on a technicality, and his temporarily shutting down a photographic exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1990, both of which helped solidify Cincinnati's image as a backwards, culturally inept burg on the national scene.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is in town today, stumping before Ohio's March 6 primary. Romney will visit Meridian Bioscience in Newtown this afternoon, then hold a $2,500-a-plate fundraising dinner at downtown's Great American Tower at 5 p.m.

Do you plan on using the bridge that replaces the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River whenever it's finally built? Then you'd better have some change ready. Greater Cincinnati business leaders said tolls likely will be part of whatever financing plan eventually is cobbled together for the $2.3 billion project.

In news elsewhere, a Washington Post analysis of various speeches and documents from years past reveals that GOP presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich criticized President Reagan and often took moderate positions on some issues until it became more politically expedient to portray himself as a staunch conservative.

Nuclear inspectors from the United Nations are visiting Iran to verify that its uranium enrichment work is peaceful in purpose and isn't designed to make weapons. International tensions have risen due to speculation that Israel may soon carry out a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

It's not just the United States and Europe that's having problems with deficits. Japan is posting a record trade deficit in January as fuel imports rose sharply following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster. January's deficit totaled $18.5 billion, the highest since the nation began record-keeping in 1979, officials said.

Canada is threatening a trade war with the European Union over the bloc's plan to label oil from Alberta's vast tar sands as highly polluting in a key vote scheduled for Thursday. Canadian officials believe it would set a global precedent and derail its ability to exploit its tar sands, which are the biggest fossil fuel reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia.
by Kevin Osborne 02.29.2012

Morning News and Stuff

One headline about Tuesday's bitterly-contested primary in Michigan summarizes events succinctly: “Mitt wins ugly.” Mitt Romney won the contest in his native state, giving him the edge in the battle over the Republican presidential nomination, but not by a large margin. Romney received 41.1 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum's 37.9 percent. They were separated by 32,393 votes — respectable, but nothing to gloat about as Mitt outspent his rival by a large margin. Romney won a much more convincing victory in Arizona, where he got 47.3 percent of the vote compared to Santorum's 26.6 percent.

All of this means next week's “Super Tuesday” will be even more closely watched. There are seven primaries (Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia) and three caucuses (Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota) slated for March 6 and — once again — the Buckeye State could be a bellwether for the race. “While Santorum’s own super PAC will help him remain viable in Ohio, a Romney win there, combined with some other key states that day (Virginia will not not be seen as a clean victory since only Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot), could start winding down the race,” Politico reported.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended his recommendation to give a Hamilton soul food restaurant nearly $1 million in grants and loans to create a second location at The Banks district in downtown Cincinnati. Some officials have criticized the pending deal after learning Liz and Trent Rogers, owners of Mahogany’s Cafe and Grill, owe about $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government. In a memo to City Council sent Tuesday afternoon, Dohoney wrote that city financing is the only way to attract small, minority-owned businesses like Mahogany’s to The Banks, and fits with the developers’ vision to include some locally owned restaurants in the project.

With Cincinnati Public Schools facing a $43 million deficit, Superintendent Mary Ronan said some layoffs are likely. If there are layoffs, affected staffers will be informed during the last week of April. “Everyone has balanced their budget by taking money away from the district," Ronan told WLWT-TV (Channel 5). "So now, we're looking at layoffs."

It's time to get rid of that ratty old sofa sitting next to your garage. Cincinnati City Council will vote today on a proposed ordinance that will place restrictions on what residents can store outside of their homes. Any item intended for use in the interior of a house, like appliances and most furniture, won't be able to be left outside for an extended period of time. Violators would have 10 days to correct problems. If the person doesn't, he or she would face fines ranging from $250 to $1,000, along with up to one year in jail.

If you think corporate executives are coddled or that bankers add little of true value to the economy, you might want to skip this blurb. Fifth Third Bank paid $7.1 million to CEO Kevin Kabat last year, giving him a 49 percent compensation increase. Kabat's pay hike is due, at least partially, to the bank’s repayment last year of $3.4 billion it borrowed through the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). That got Fifth Third released from federal restrictions on executive pay, The Business Courier reports.

In news elsewhere, three investigations have been launched into the Koran burnings at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan by the U.S. military. The event ignited days of deadly protests that caused the deaths of up to 30 Afghanis and might have caused the shooting deaths of four American soldiers.

A prisoner held at the Guantanamo Bay prison since 2003 is expected to plead guilty soon at a war crimes tribunal. Pakistani Majid Khan, 32, who had lived in the United States, will admit to terror-related charges in exchange for leniency. He faces five war crimes charges, including conspiring with al-Qaeda, murder and attempted murder.

Twenty-five suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement were arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America by Interpol, the international law enforcement agency. The suspects, aged between 17 and 40, are suspected of planning coordinated cyber-attacks against institutions including Colombia's defense ministry and presidential websites.
by Danny Cross 02.29.2012
Posted In: Development, Urban Planning at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

OTR Chamber Announces Award Recipients

Topic Design, A Tavola and dojo gelato among winners

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce today announced the winners of its annual Star Awards, which recognize organizations and individuals whose outstanding accomplishments contribute to the revitalization of its five distinct neighborhoods: Washington Park, Mohawk, Central, Pendleton and Findlay Market.

This year’s award winners:

Chairman’s Award: Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3cdc.org)

Norma Petersen Award: Topic Design (www.topicdesign.com)

New Business of the Year: A Tavola (1220 Vine St.; here’s a link to a recent CityBeat review of the modern and stylish pizza place.)

Business of the Year: dojo gelato (Findlay Market, dojogelato.com)

Non Profit Organization of the Year: Crossroad Health Center (crossroadhc.org)

Individual Contribution: Leslie Cook, First Lutheran/OTR Learning Center (www.firstlutherancincy.org/learning_center.html)

Special Recognition: Captain Douglas Wiesman, Cincinnati Police

Recipients will be honored at the OTR Chamber’s annual meeting and luncheon March 20 at Music Hall.


by Andy Brownfield 11.14.2012

U Square Worker Payment Investigation Continues

Committee members want to change way contracts are written to ensure fair wages

A City Council committee wants Cincinnati’s leadership to investigate whether workers in a Clifton Heights development project are being paid what they’re supposed to.

The Strategic Growth Committee on Wednesday passed a motion asking the city administration to report back on wage payments to workers on the U Square development. The project includes a parking garage as well as residential and commercial units.

Under Ohio law, workers on projects funded by cities must be paid a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project.

The city only has money invested in the garage, and the state  of Ohio recently ruled that workers on other parts don’t have to be paid prevailing wage.

Council members Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas and Laure Quinlivan produced a video in which they interviewed carpenters who said they were being paid less than the prevailing wage.

At issue is a letter from developer Towne Properties that says the company will pay all workers prevailing wage anyway. Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said his company cuts a check to subcontractors respecting that agreement, so if workers aren’t being paid the proper amount it’s their fault.

City Solicitor John Curp told members of the Strategic Growth Committee that under city and state law, the subcontractors are not required to pay workers a prevailing wage on parts of the project that are not getting public funding. He said the letter from the developer does not hold the weight as a legal contract.

Young, Thomas, Quinlivan and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld all expressed the need to overhaul the way the city enters into development contracts to better protect workers.

However, City Manager Milton Dohoney hinted that overzealous requirements for high wages could chase off some development projects.

He said that a project like U Square is tied to the Clifton location because of its proximity to the University of Cincinnati, but the city can’t be too restrictive when it comes to businesses that could expand elsewhere.

Dohoney said the city also doesn’t currently have the manpower to do the kind of aggressive enforcement that the council members were asking for.

Councilman Young countered that he would like to see the city be as aggressive with enforcement as they are with making economic development deals.

“We want to change the rules of the game to make sure everyone is treated equal,” Young said.