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by Kevin Osborne 12.12.2011
Posted In: News, Business, Neighborhoods at 06:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sam adams

Local Brewery Gets State Aid

The state of Ohio has approved funds to help a Cincinnati brewery expand its operations, as well as assisting two other local companies with projects.

The state will spend $663,000 to assist the Samuel Adams Brewery Co. in expanding operations on Poplar Street in the West End. The money will go toward buying the property needed for the expansion, which is located next to the existing brewery.

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by German Lopez 12.20.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Ranks No. 2 for Highest Child Poverty

Three Ohio cities make Children Defense Fund’s top five

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.

The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.

With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46 percent), which rounded out the top five.

The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.

“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”

With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnatis disturbing levels of poverty.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.

Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.

 
 
by 06.23.2011
Posted In: News, Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Future Bleak for Metromix: The Paper (UPDATED)

(** UPDATE FOLLOWS AT END)

With another round of layoffs hitting The Enquirer and other Gannett newspapers nationwide, time will tell if a separate trend at the media company will occur soon in Cincinnati.

Gannett announced last week that it was pulling the plug on the print editions of two faux alt-weeklies, Metromixin Indianapolis and Noise in Lansing, Mich. Both will maintain an online presence, at least for now.

The move follows the cancellation of Metromix's print edition in Nashville last winter and the end of Velocity as a stand-alone paper in Louisville, which is being folded into The Courier-Journal.

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by 12.10.2009
Posted In: News, Business, Financial Crisis at 04:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)
 
 

Student Housing Faces Foreclosure

A private, off-campus apartment complex geared toward students and located just blocks away from the University of Cincinnati is facing possible foreclosure.

The Bank of America has filed legal action in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas against the owner of McMillan Manor, a five-story, 122-unit apartment building that opened in 2006.

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by Hannah McCartney 08.08.2013
Posted In: Energy, Environment, Ethics, News at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
first energy

FirstEnergy Penalized $43.3 Million for Overcharging Customers

Company overpriced renewable energy credits purchased from affiliate company

On Wednesday the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio unanimously ruled that Akron, Ohio-based energy supplier FirstEnergy Corp. must credit its Ohio customers $43.3 million for overcharging for renewable energy credits (RECs) from 2009-2011 that it purchased from its affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions.

RECs are tradable, non-tangible energy credits that represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sourced from an eligible renewable energy resource. First Energy Solutions is an energy generator and supplier, while First Energy Corp. is an electricity distributor, which means that it sources its electricity from elsewhere, which requires them to issue bids seeking the most competitively priced energy from a supplier such as First Energy Solutions.

According to the First Energy Corp. website, First Energy Solutions is the competitive subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. Both suppliers are based in Akron. An audit conducted by Exeter Associates Inc. revealed that FirstEnergy Corp. paid 15 times more than any other company in the country to purchase the RECs from FirstEnergy Solutions, and FirstEnergy Corp. passed that overcharge onto consumers. 

In a copy of the order issued yesterday by the PUC obtained by CityBeat, it states that, "The Companies contend that, given the nascent market, lack of market information available to the Companies, and uncertainty regarding future supply and prices, the Companies' decisions to purchase in-state RECs were reasonable and prudent."

In summary, FirstEnergy contends that because it was scrambling to find a way to meet the state's Clean Energy Law requirements, it had to buy these RECs no matter the cost, and that there are no legal specifications within the Clean Energy Law that requires RECs be purchased or sold at market price; and that the costs issued to them, and subsequently, customers, weren't unreasonable.

The Ohio Consumers Counsel, however, says that there were cheaper alternatives available and that FirstEnergy should have checked with the PUC prior to paying 15 times more for RECs than any other country had in the past. If they'd rejected the exorbitant bids, says OCC, and instead consulted with PUC and OCC, they could have come up with a solution to prevent from charging customers excessively high rates.

In June 2012, FirstEnergy Solutions was the winning bidder in Cincinnati's energy aggregation program, which is supposed to allow us to receive lower "aggregate" rates for buying in bulk. At the time, FirstEnergy touted the merits of its "100 percent green" energy supply, sourced from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable resources. The bid was expected to save homeowners around $133 annually.

What enabled FirstEnergy to provide the "clean" energy was its use of a system with non-tangible renewable energy credit (RECs) that each represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sources from a renewable energy resource.

Purchasing the credits from its subsidiary allows FirstEnergy Corp. to meet the state's renewable energy standard, which requires that by 2025 all Ohio utility companies provide at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable resources.

Because the lawsuit issued by the PUC examines only the amount paid for RECs during compliance periods between 2009 and 2011, Cincinnati customers who switched to FirstEnergy Solutions last June should not be affected, although the FirstEnergy arms' ambiguous behavior, says Dan Sawmiller, a Sierra Club member who manages Ohio's Beyond Coal campaign, is a likely indicator that the company may be engaging in other unethical practices related to consumer transparency. 

The company has not been devoid of controversy in the past. In March, CityBeat reported on state environmental groups' concerns with the movement to lower requirements for defining renewable energy and energy efficiency; FirstEnergy was part of the bloc working to weaken Ohio's Clean Energy Law in hopes of keeping corporation costs low. FirstEnergy was also chastised by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2009 for distributing and charging customers for energy-efficient light bulbs without receiving customers' authorization.

Sawmiller commended the PUC for fining First Energy, although he suggests the fine is likely modest for the actual damages. He still expresses concern about the need for corporate separation between the two FirstEnergy arms. "
The commission left much to be desired in terms of transparency, leaving customers in the dark about what types of renewables are being provided, where are they coming from and at what cost," says Sawmiller in Sierra Club's press release.

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

Councilwoman Questions WCPO Source over Bigoted Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.30.2012
Posted In: News, Women's Rights, Racism, Equality at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
francie pepper 2

Francie Pepper Wins National YWCA Award

Other winners include U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

A well-known Cincinnati philanthropist is among four people selected to receive the first-ever Women of Distinction Award by the national YWCA.

 

Francie Pepper is being recognized for her years of work in support of issues involving women, girls and racial justice.

 

Pepper has served on the board of the Cincinnati YWCA since 1996, and also served as chair of its board from 2000-04. She has played a critical role for women who have experienced domestic violence, co-chairing a YWCA capital campaign that raised $7.5 million for a larger shelter that tripled the agency’s capacity to serve battered women and their children so they wouldn’t have to be put on a waiting list.

 

Also, some campaign funds were used to restore the YWCA’s historic headquarters, located on Walnut Street downtown, add a childcare center to the facility.

 

Further, Pepper has volunteered for numerous organizations and causes in Greater Cincinnati, and her work in support of domestic violence awareness programs has gotten national recognition. She is a major supporter of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, an internationally recognized repository of manuscripts, archives, photographs, periodicals and other primary sources in women's history, including all of the YWCA’s historical files.

 

Francie Pepper is the wife of John Pepper, who previously served as the chairman of the board at both Procter & Gamble and The Walt Disney Co.; she is the mother of David Pepper, a former Cincinnati city councilman and Hamilton County commissioner.

 

The Women of Distinction Award, bestowed by the YWCA USA, honors professional women from the private and public sectors across the United States who have demonstrated excellence, leadership and integrity in their fields and in the community, serving as role models for other successful women.

 

Nominations from YWCAs across the United States were solicited to find leaders whose work has made an impact on women’s economic empowerment and racial justice.

 

Other award recipients this year are:

 

• Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who survived an assassination attempt in January 2011, and is recovering from her injuries;

 

• Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and ex-Army helicopter pilot who combat wounds led to the amputation of her legs and cost her the use of her right arm; and


Elouise Cobell, a Native American leader who challenged the United States' mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 individual Native Americans, leading to a $3.4 billion settlement.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.21.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Health care at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
fernald

Study Finds Cancer Link Among Fernald Hourly Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by German Lopez 07.15.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Cincinnati Streetcar Scheduled to Open Sept. 15, 2016

Grand opening among several dates set after construction deal finalized

Following years of political controversy, the Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to open for service on Sept. 15, 2016.

The news was unveiled in a city memo this morning, which detailed the streetcar project’s future following a construction deal with Messer Construction, Prus Construction and Delta Railroad.

The news comes after Messer revealed it will need nearly $500,000 more to do construction work, which will be covered by the project’s $10 million contingency funds.

The memo detailed other upcoming milestones for the streetcar project:
• March 1, 2015: Substantial completion of a 3,000-foot test track and maintenance center.
• June 29, 2015: Substantial completion of Over-the-Rhine loop.
• March 15, 2016: Substantial completion of all work.

City Council recently approved $17.4 million in additional capital funding for the streetcar project, along with various accountability measures that will require the city manager to regularly update council and the public on the project’s progress. The projects estimated cost now stands at $133 million.

Ever since its inception, the Cincinnati streetcar has been mired in political controversies and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

 
 
by Danny Cross 08.24.2012
Posted In: News, Social Justice, Homelessness, Development at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Anna Louise Inn

Zoning Approval Recommended for Anna Louise Inn

Inn could get go-ahead for renovation Monday, but Western & Southern expected to appeal

The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board will receive a recommendation on Monday to approve a conditional use permit for the Anna Louise Inn, which would allow the Inn to move forward with a multimillion-dollar renovation of its building. 

The Conservation Board staff reviewed the standards required for conditional use and the Anna Louise Inn’s application, concluding that the facility should be allowed to operate as a “special assistance shelter.” 

The Board is expected to rule on the permit Aug. 27 after receiving the recommendation and hearing testimony from the Inn’s administrators and supporters. Representatives from Western & Southern Financial Group, which sued the Anna Louise Inn over zoning violations in 2011, will also have an opportunity to testify. 

CityBeat last week reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers", issue of Aug. 15). 

Tim Burke, lawyer for the Anna Louise Inn, is pleased with the staff’s determination that the renovation met all qualifications for conditional use. 

“I was certainly optimistic that we would get a positive recommendation,” Burke says. “This is obviously an extremely positive recommendation and we agree with it.”

The staff recommendation states that the Anna Louise Inn “creates, maintains and enhances areas for residential developments that complement and support the downtown core” and that “no evidence has been presented of any negative public health, safety, welfare or property injury due to the current use.” It also notes that “the Anna Louise Inn is a point of reference from which all other new and renovated buildings must be designed in order to be compatible with the district.”

The Anna Louise Inn only applied for the conditional use permit because Judge Norbert Nadel ruled in Western & Southern’s favor on May 4, determining that the Inn is a “special assistance shelter” rather than “transitional housing,” which froze $12.6 million in city- and state-distributed loans for the Inn’s planned renovation. The Anna Louise Inn appealed that decision but also applied for the conditional use permit from the Conservation Board under the judge’s definition, because special assistance shelters qualify for conditional use permits under the city’s zoning code. 

Francis Barrett, lawyer for Western & Southern, appears to have taken exception to the Anna Louise Inn’s application. He sent a letter to the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision.”

Barrett didn't return a message left by CityBeat with the receptionist at his law firm after a Western & Southern media relations representative directed CityBeat to contact him there. Francis Barrett is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John F. Barrett.

UPDATE: Francis Barrett returned CityBeat’s call after this story was published. His comments are at the end.

Burke doesn’t know what Barrett meant by suggesting that the proposed uses in the Anna Louise Inn’s application for conditional use don’t follow Nadel’s May 4 ruling. 

“We’re doing what they argued in court,” Burke says. “Judge Nadel’s decision doesn’t ever exactly say ‘you’re a special assistance shelter.’ It certainly refers to the Off the Streets program that way and it certainly refers to (the Anna Louise Inn) as a single unified use. It says ‘go back to the appropriate administrators and seek conditional use approval.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

Stephen MacConnell, president and CEO of Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Anna Louise Inn, says the hearing will involve testimony from himself and Mary Carol Melton, CUB executive vice president, along with supporters of the Anna Louise Inn. 

“We’ll bring a few witnesses just to basically lay out the situation,” MacConnell says. “The board will already have the staff recommendation, so the witnesses that we’ll bring will briefly testify about how we meet the required standards.”

Western & Southern will have a chance to appeal if the Historic Conservation Board grants the conditional use permit. Burke expects that to happen. 

“What I’m pissed about is Western & Southern, they don’t give a damn,” Burke says. “We can do exactly what Judge Nadel told us to do and get it approved as a conditional use. They will appeal it to the zoning board of appeals. We can win it there and they will appeal it and get it back in front of Judge Nadel and then I don’t know what will happen.” 

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27 at Centennial Plaza Two, 805 Central Ave., Seventh Floor.

UPDATE 5:36 P.M.: Regarding the letter Francis Barrett sent the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision,” Barrett said Friday evening: “I just felt that the description in the submission was different from the description in the decision. I would say it was just not complete.” 

When asked for specifics, Barrett said: “I’d have to get the decision out and look at it carefully. I don’t have it in front of me I just thought in general.”

Barrett said Western & Southern will give a presentation to the Historic Conservation Board on Monday but declined to elaborate because it wasn’t finalized. 

When asked if Western & Southern will appeal a ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn, Barrett said: “It all depends what the decision states.”

 
 

 

 

 
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