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by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Casino, Budget, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval

John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar, Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the bids will take a few more weeks.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that are no longer good for service.

The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company, to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s is currently $22 billion in debt.

Ohio legislators have a lot of questions about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.

Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials. 

Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.

CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.

Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.

Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.

Covington is getting a new city hall.

New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.30.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Pensions, Health care at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits

Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov. At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers. Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country — will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Organizations from around the state and country will be working over the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.

A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate: A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion, or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.

To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley, will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate, which CityBeat covered here.

Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today. He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology, worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.

Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.

The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing sports after a concussion.

Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.

AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.

Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.24.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, 2013 Election, Taxes at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

CityBeat endorsements unveiled, report slams JobsOhio, tax reform could hurt city budgets

CityBeat yesterday revealed its endorsements for the City Council and mayoral races. Check them out here. Also, early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

JobsOhio and similar privatized development agencies in other states create scandals and potentials of conflicts of interests instead of jobs, according to an Oct. 23 report from Good Jobs First. The report found that privatized development agencies in seven states, including Ohio, tend to also exaggerate job claims and resist basic oversight. JobsOhio in particular is chaired by people who donated to Gov. John Kasich’s campaign. The agency also received public money without informing the legislature, and it gained a legal exemption from full public audits, public records laws and open meeting rules. Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 established JobsOhio to replace the Ohio Department of Development. They argue JobsOhio’s privatized, secretive nature helps the agency establish job-creating development deals at the “speed of business.” But Democrats say JobsOhio is ripe for abuse, difficult to hold accountable and unclear in its results.

A bill that intends to bring uniformity to Ohio’s complex municipal income tax code got a makeover, but cities say the bill still reduces their revenues. Business groups are pushing for the bill so they can more easily work from city to city and county to county without dealing with a web of different forms and regulations, but cities are concerned they’ll lose as much as $2 million a year. Many cities already lost some state funding after Kasich and the Republican legislature slashed local government funding, which reduced revenues for Cincinnati in particular by $22.2 million in 2013, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney.

Opponents of Issue 4, the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, say it could force the city to cut services by 41 percent or raise taxes significantly. CityBeat analyzed the amendment in further detail here.

Converting Mercy Mt. Airy Hospital into a crime lab for the county coroner’s office could cost $21.5 million, well under the previously projected $56 million. Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco says it could be the most economical way for the county to get a crime lab, which the coroner’s office says it desperately needs. Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says he’s still concerned about operating costs, but he’ll review the new estimates and advise county commissioners on how to proceed.

An Over-the-Rhine business owner says Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) “dropped the ball” with incentives for retail businesses, and he’s now looking to move his store, Joseph Williams Home, to the suburbs. Specifically, Fred Arrowood says 3CDC has done a lot to accommodate restaurants and bars, but it failed to live up to promises to attract and retain retail businesses. But 3CDC points to its own numbers: Spaces in OTR are currently leased in contracts with 20 businesses, 15 restaurants or bars and 14 soft goods retailers.

Cincinnati State and the University of Cincinnati yesterday signed an agreement that will make it easier for students with two-year degrees at Cincinnati State to get four-year degrees at UC.

The Cincinnati Enquirer hosted a City Council candidate forum yesterday. Find their coverage here.

Northeast Ohio Media: “Ohio abortion clinic closings likely to accelerate under new state regulations.” (CityBeat reported on the regulations, which were passed with the two-year state budget, here.)

Gov. Kasich and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, two Republicans widely perceived as potential presidential candidates in 2016, don’t register even 1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, a key primary state.

Cincinnati-based Omnicare agreed to pay $120 million to resolve a case involving alleged kickbacks and false claims, according to lawyers representing a whistleblower. The company says the settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing.

Chef David Falk of Boca wrote a moving love letter to Cincinnati.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 02.20.2013
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls

Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates, operation hours and the placement of meters.

The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.

An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News. Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie” Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.

John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it, while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.

The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier. Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work, with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store after a workday.

Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged 26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county report is available here.

UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.

Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Transportation, Energy at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and cutting some routes.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22 percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to alternative sources.)

Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat, for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response, Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in, the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re marijuana and lots of free ice cream.

Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”

Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”: Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really favor downtown over neighborhoods.

Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block complex with 305 apartments.

State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”

Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.

The U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical housing and clinical services for homeless veterans.  The grants are part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for homeless veterans.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.

Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.

Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.

Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.14.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Health care, Commissioners at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Governor bypasses legislature, voter turnout historically low, museum price tag criticized

Gov. John Kasich will not look to the full legislature to expand Medicaid and is instead asking a seven-member legislative oversight panel to consider using federal funds for the next two years to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The Controlling Board, which is made up of one Kasich appointee, four Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators, will make its decision on Oct. 21. The expansion would allow Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program, to cover all Ohioans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Cincinnati’s 2013 mayoral and City Council elections may be on track for the lowest ever voter turnout. As of Friday, the Hamilton County Board of Elections had processed 3,173 absentee ballot applications in Cincinnati. At the same point in 2011, the board had processed 8,964 applications in the city. The numbers come just one month after a measly 5.68 percent of voters cast a ballot in the mayoral primary election, much lower than the mayoral primaries held on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and 2005.

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann acknowledges Union Terminal is in need of repairs, but he says the Museum Center must lower the estimated $180 million price tag on the project. “These are great facilities, but we don't have an unlimited amount of dollars, and I think taxpayers expect us to view their tax dollars in that way. I think that number for the Museum Center is too high right now. I've encouraged them to bring that number way down for (county commissioners) to consider having the property tax payers of this county pay for it,” Hartmann said.

Hamilton County judges say witness intimidation is on the rise, which could be making it more difficult to put criminals in prison. Judges are so concerned that they banned cellphones from their courtrooms after some residents used the devices to take pictures of witnesses and showed the photos in neighborhoods as an intimidation tactic, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Now, some witnesses are refusing to testify even when threatened with jail. To them, the threat of violent crime is so real that some jail time makes more sense in comparison.

City officials plan to break ground today for a new police station for District 3 on the west side of Cincinnati. The district serves East Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Lower Price Hill, Millvale, North Fairmount, Riverside, Roll Hill, Sayler Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, West Price Hill and Westwood.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the Ohio EPA to explain in writing why a proposed permit for Murray Energy’s coal slurry project doesn’t include certain pollution limits. Without the restrictions on specific toxic gases, the U.S. EPA could reject the project’s permit. Former Ohio EPA Surface Water Division Chief George Elmaraghy previously said his call to adhere to pollution limits for coal companies led the Kasich administration to fire him.

Part of Ohio’s electronic food stamp system temporarily shut down on Saturday after a glitch cropped up at Xerox, the company that handles the electronic benefit system. The partial shutdown affected 16 other states as well.

StateImpact Ohio recommends “eight must-read posts” on Ohio’s new Common Core education standards.

Ohio gas prices increased this week, edging toward the U.S. average.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble appeared in Reuters’ list of top 100 innovators for the third year in a row.

Popular Science hosts an in-depth look at what it will take to find life outside of Earth. Hint: It requires more funding and public support.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.11.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Health care at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley and Qualls win mayoral primary, state limits Obamacare, zoo levy renewal on ballot

Ex-Councilman John Cranley decisively defeated Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls as both Democratic mayoral candidates won the primary election and advanced to the general election. With all precincts reporting, Cranley got 55.9 percent of the vote and Qualls picked up 37.2 percent, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. But voter turnout for yesterday’s primary was especially low at 5.68 percent; in comparison, turnout was 15 percent during the primary held on Sept. 11, 2001 — the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon — and 21 percent in the 2005 mayoral primary. In the past two mayoral races with primaries, whoever won the primary election lost the general election. Voters will make the final choice for mayor between Qualls and Cranley on Nov. 5.

Limitations imposed by Ohio lawmakers who oppose the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) have forced Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to give up a $124,419 federal grant that would have gone toward helping uninsured Ohioans navigate new online marketplaces for health insurance. State legislators say the regulations are supposed to clarify who qualifies as a “navigator” under Obamacare to avoid potential abuses and conflicts of interest, but Obamacare’s supporters say Republicans are just trying to make the law more difficult to implement. Under Obamacare, participating organizations are classified as navigators so they can help promote new online marketplaces and tax subsidies to meet the law’s enrollment goals. By losing its classification as a navigator, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital can no longer help in that outreach effort.

After getting approval from county commissioners, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is asking voters to renew a levy that will appear as Issue 2 on the Nov. 5 ballot. The renewal wouldn’t increase taxes from today’s rates, but it would keep property taxes $10 higher for every $100,000 of home value. It will go to the care, feeding and maintenance of the zoo’s animals and botanical gardens. A study from the University of Cincinnati Economic Center found the zoo had a $143 million impact on the Cincinnati area in 2012 — representing nearly 3.9 times the zoo’s total spending — and produced 1,700 jobs and nearly $1.6 million in tax revenue for Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

State Rep. John Carney announced yesterday that he will run for state auditor. Carney, a Democrat, will aim to replace Republican Dave Yost. He says his run will “bring much-needed bipartisanship and transparency back to our state government,” particularly by ending the one-party rule in many state offices. Carney also took aim at JobsOhio, the privatized development agency that has been mired in scandals in the past few months. Yost split with his fellow Republicans when he pursued a full audit of JobsOhio’s public and private funds, but Republican state legislators cut the debate short by passing a law that made the agency insusceptible to a full audit.

Two Ohio prison guards are suspended with pay after the apparent suicide of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who was convicted to a life sentence for holding three women captive and beating and raping them. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is investigating whether proper protocols were followed to avoid Castro’s death.

Campaign contributions to Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald came from people the gubernatorial candidates appointed to government positions. In the case of Kasich, the contributions are legal under state law. But the $1,000 contribution to FitzGerald was returned because it was deemed illegal under a county ethics law that FitzGerald helped establish as Cuyahoga County executive. Still, Kasich’s campaign has criticized FitzGerald for the illegal contribution, even though Kasich isn’t applying the same standard to his own campaign.

The panel reviewing the state’s controversial facial recognition program will actually review the entire web-based, decade-old Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway for proper protection protocols. Gov. John Kasich and the American Civil Liberties Union are among two of many who criticized the facial recognition program for potential breaches of privacy. The facial recognition program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program was online for two months without an independent review of its protocols and before the public was notified of its existence.

President Barack Obama nominated former Gov. Ted Strickland to be one of five alternative representatives to the United Nations delegation.

People can often remember events early in life better than more recent events, and that might explain why they usually enjoy their parents’ favorite music.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.10.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, 2013 Election, LGBT at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Mayoral primary today, groups to push same-sex marriage, JobsOhio likely to remain

Today is the mayoral primary election between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. The big difference between the two candidates: Qualls supports and Cranley opposes the streetcar project and parking lease. Polls will be open until 7:30 p.m. tonight. To find out more information and where to vote, visit the Hamilton County Board of Elections website here.

LGBT groups, civil libertarians and legislators came together in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus yesterday to announce Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a new statewide effort to educate and persuade Ohioans to support legalizing same-sex marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Equality Ohio, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign are all involved. The efforts have also been endorsed by faith and business community leaders, according to the groups. The groups say the campaign is partly in response to public polling. The 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found Ohioans evenly divided on same-sex marriage: 47 percent supported it and 47 opposed it. But the survey went against earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University, which found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.

If he’s elected governor, Democrat Ed FitzGerald says he would make changes to JobsOhio to make it more transparent and open to a public audit, but he says he wouldn’t dismantle the privatized development agency altogether. FitzGerald acknowledges he would prefer a public agency to land the state’s development deals, but he says it’s unrealistic to expect the Republican-controlled General Assembly to repeal JobsOhio. The agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and fellow Republicans in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Democrats have criticized JobsOhio for a lack of transparency that has mired it in several scandals and potential conflicts of interest lately, while Republicans insist the agency’s privatized, secretive nature help it establish job-creating development deals more quickly.

In a letter to the city manager, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is calling on the city to host town hall meetings with the four final candidates for Cincinnati Police chief. Sittenfeld says the meetings would help assess how the next police chief responds to the community and takes feedback. City Manager Milton Dohoney announced on Sept. 5 that city officials had narrowed down its pool of candidates to four: acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.

Hamilton County commissioners are likely to keep property taxes higher to pay for the stadium fund, which is running in the positive for the next five years after years of shortfalls. Last year, commissioners agreed to reduce the property tax rollback by half, effectively raising property taxes by $35 for every $100,000 in a home’s value. With yesterday’s news, it’s looking like the property tax hike will remain permanent. Even without the full rollback in place, the stadium fund is expected to start producing shortfalls again in 2019. The rollback disproportionately benefits the wealthy, who end up getting much more money back than low- and middle-income residents.

Meanwhile, county commissioners might take up an insurance policy with PNC Bank to meet debt obligations on the stadium fund for the next three years. Commissioner Greg Hartmann says the plan would give the county enough time to refinance, which could help reduce the fund’s problems.

City Council committees moved forward with two major pieces of legislation yesterday:
• Qualls’ plan would enforce stricter regulations on the city’s lobbyists and expand disclosure requirements for city officials to make the political process more transparent.
• Councilman Chris Seelbach’s proposal would help address cellphone theft by making it more difficult to sell the stolen devices.

As it stands, the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund needs more money to stay solvent. Still, officials say the fund needs time for newly implemented changes to start making an impact.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino now stands as the top earner among Ohio casinos, according to the latest state data.

New hybrid engines could lead to a new era of more affordable spaceplanes.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.18.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Economy, Health care at 08:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Mayoral candidates debate, legislators back Pure Romance, board could expand Medicaid

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley focused most of their disagreement on the streetcar and parking lease at yesterday’s first post-primary mayoral debate. No matter the subject, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar project and his belief that it’s siphoning city funds from more important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay for debt. Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage for more development projects; that claim has been backed by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one. On the parking lease, Qualls claimed money raised through the lease could be used to leverage economic development projects, while Cranley said the lease would hurt an entire generation by shifting control of Cincinnati’s parking assets from the city to the unelected Port Authority and private companies.

State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, both of Cincinnati, called on the state government to reverse its decision to not give local company Pure Romance tax credits. Pure Romance, a $100 million-plus company whose product lineup includes sex toys, was planning on moving from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati with local and state support, but because the state declined the tax breaks, the company is now considering moving to Covington, Ky. Gov. John Kasich’s administration has said Pure Romance doesn’t fit into the traditional industries the state invests in, but Democratic legislators argue Kasich’s social conservatism is getting in the way of keeping jobs in Ohio.

Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he has “literally no thoughts” about the possibility of the state expanding Medicaid without the legislature and through the state Controlling Board — a possibility that Kasich hinted at earlier in the week. Kasich has been pleading with the Ohio General Assembly to take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion, but Republican legislators have so far refused. If the Controlling Board does expand Medicaid, Batchelder said the state legislature will likely pass some protections in case the federal government reneges on its funding proposal. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; if they accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016 then phase its payments down to an indefinite 90 percent.

Documents uncovered by USA Today further show the IRS, particularly through its offices in Cincinnati, targeted tea party groups by looking at “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and emotional statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.

Cincinnati’s newest police chief will be sworn in on Sept. 30. The city manager on Friday officially picked Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus Division of Police.

The Cincinnati area’s economy grew by 2.7 percent in 2012, slightly higher than the country’s 2.5-percent growth in the same year.

In perhaps another sign of growing local momentum, venture capitalists appear to be investing more in Cincinnati’s entrepreneurs.

Following two high-profile suicides at Ohio’s prisons, an expert on inmate suicides will inspect the state’s facilities and protocols.

Saks Fifth Avenue might move to Kenwood Collection.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble and TriHealth are among the top 100 companies for working mothers, according to the magazine Working Mother.

A very rare genetic mutation makes subjects immune to pain.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.20.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Economy, Poverty at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

State unemployment rises, local poverty trending up, Qualls unveils platforms

Ohio added 32,500 jobs between August 2012 and August 2013, but a larger amount of unemployed workers helped push the unemployment rate to 7.3 percent in August this year, up from 7.2 percent the month and year before, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The amount of unemployed workers climbed by 9,000 to 419,000 over the year and 3,000 throughout the previous month, while month-over-month employment decreased by 8,200. The biggest losses for the month were in educational and health services and leisure and hospitality, which were too high for month-over-month gains in trade, transportation, and utilities, professional and business services and government employment to overcome.

More than half of Cincinnati’s children live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey released yesterday. 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. Overall poverty similarly increased in Cincinnati from 30.6 percent in 2010 to 34.1 percent in 2012. The increases hit black residents and perhaps Hispanics harder than white Cincinnatians, although a large margin of error makes it hard to tell if the results are accurate for the city’s Hispanic population.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled “The Qualls Plan to Grow Cincinnati,” an outline of her platforms and what she would do during her first 100 days as mayor if she’s selected by voters on Nov. 5. The plan proposes three major changes that Qualls would pursue within 100 days of taking office: She would reinstitute the Shared Services Commission to see which city services can be managed in conjunction with Hamilton County or other political jurisdictions; she would propose a job tax credit for businesses that create jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits; and she would “renew business districts” by making unused city property available at a “nominal fee” to local startups and small businesses. The plan also outlines various platforms that focus on providing new opportunities to businesses, leveraging partnerships and making the city more inclusive and transparent.

Four-fifths of companies approved for Ohio tax credits this year said they’d create jobs paying less than the $65,000 a year promised by Pure Romance, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Pure Romance was originally planning on moving from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati with state and local support, but the company might instead move to Kentucky following the state’s decision to not grant tax credits. State officials say they rejected Pure Romance because the company isn’t part of industries the state usually invests in, but companies like Kroger don’t meet the traditional standards and still get tax credits. Democrats say the Republican-controlled state government is afraid to financially support a company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.

Two Hamilton County agencies were reprimanded in a state audit released yesterday. But Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) spokesperson Brian Gregg says the findings relied on two-year-old data and were largely managerial problems that the agency will fix. Meanwhile, a $2,400 overcharge at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office led to an investigation and criminal charges against the property officer supervisor as well as new policies to protect payment systems in the future.

The ballot initiative that would pursue the Medicaid expansion yesterday got the green light to start collecting signatures from the Ohio Ballot Board. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; if they accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016 then phase down its payments to an indefinite 90 percent. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and generate $1.8 billion for the state over the next decade. But Republican legislators have so far resisted calls from Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrats to take up the expansion, which has forced advocates to pursue the issue for the 2014 ballot. CityBeat covered Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.

Although Attorney General Mike DeWine said the threat of felony charges is enough to deter someone from misusing the state’s expansive law enforcement database, the state failed to bring charges to the system’s lead attorney when he resigned in 2009 after misusing the database. Still, the abuse happened before DeWine was in office and the controversial facial recognition program was in place. Gov. Kasich previously said he was concerned about the facial recognition program, which allows law enforcement to use a simple photo to search for someone’s address and contact information.

From the Associated Press: “The Ohio attorney general’s multi-state case against a man accused of fraud after collecting as much as $100 million in the name of Navy veterans doesn’t address the man's donations to a who’s who of mostly Republican politicians, including the attorney general himself.”

On the same day a Libertarian announced he’s running for governor in 2014, State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) proposed new state restrictions for minor parties. The standards are less stringent than state rules that were struck down by a federal court in 2006, but the Libertarian Party of Ohio denounced the bill as an attempt to protect Gov. Kasich’s re-election bid in 2014.

Cincinnati home sales were up 24 percent in August — another sign that the local economy is recovering.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble was rated No. 1 in the world for leadership by global management consulting Hay Group.

Here is a list of 11 terrifying childcare inventions from the early 20th century.

 
 

 

 

 
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