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by Danny Cross 06.21.2012
 
 
mallory

Morning News and Stuff

A local developer has offered to build a new jail adjacent to the Justice Center, a cost of $65 million, in return for the county leasing it for 30 years at $10 million a year, according to The Enquirer. The developer, Rob Smyjunas, said the offer isn’t about making a profit, just making the county better for his and other families. 

Mayor Mallory didn’t answer The Enquirer’s questions about the potential for a Council majority to block the property tax increase in City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed budget. A Mallory spokesman says he’ll work behind the scenes on a budget that will win a Council majority and that he’s off to New Orleans for a conference on reclaiming vacant properties. 

An environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro kicked off on Wednesday, with environmental groups and activists disappointed with the Rio+20’s lack of progress on creating clear goals for sustainable development. 

The Sanford, Fla., police chief who drew criticism for not investigating the shooting death of Trayvon Martin has been fired. Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte said he relieved Bill Lee of his duties because the police chief needs to have the trust and respect of the community. 

A video of middle school kids in upstate New York bullying a 68-year-old bus monitor has drawn international media attention. The woman says the kids are all pretty much normal and are OK to deal with one-on-one. 

The bullying continues unabated for about 10 minutes in the video, reducing Klein to tears as a giggling student jabs her arm with a book. Recorded by a student Monday with a cell phone camera, the brazen example of bullying went viral and spurred international outrage.

A population of chinstrap penguins in Antarctica has declined by 36 percent due to melting sea ice. 

"Actually, in the '90s it was thought that the climate change would favor the chinstrap penguin, because this species prefers sea waters without ice, unlike the Adelie penguin, which prefers the ice pack," study researcher Andres Barbosa told LiveScience. He added that at the time, chinstraps, named for the thin black facial line from cheek to cheek, seemed to increase in numbers, with some new colonies being established. The sea-ice decline in the winter, however, has become so big that it is now impacting krill populations, said Barbosa, of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid.

Researchers found evidence of ice on the moon. 

A new study has found that eating disorders are common among older women. Researchers say weight and eating concerns do not discriminate based on age.

College football BCS commissioners have endorsed a four-team playoff format to determine college football’s national champion instead of the current computer-human two-team system. The plan will go to the BCS presidential oversight committee on June 26 for approval.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat are one win away from winning the NBA championship after going up 3 games to 1 with a 104-98 win in Game 4 Tuesday. 

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.14.2012
 
 
120413_obama_romney_4x3.photoblog600

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio political season will be in full force today as Mitt Romney visits a manufacturing company in Carthage to discuss the manufacturing industry and trade, Barack Obama will be in Cleveland talking about the economy and Rob Portman, a candidate to be Romney's vice presidential running mate, will be in Washington D.C. telling the Faith and Freedom Coalition that it's still really important to have religious freedom.

Some Columbia-Tusculum residents are upset about the proposed design of new apartment buildings on the corner of Delta Avenue and Columbia Parkway. The 76-unit Delta Flats' design was apparently supposed to fit into the nearby business district, which includes the Precinct restaurant.

China doesn't want to have sanctions on Syria, and Russia is reportedly still selling Syria weapons.

OPEC has decided to keep oil output on hold, meaning Saudi Arabia gets to decide if gas costs go up.

A new poll suggests that Americans blame George W. Bush more for America's economic issues than President Obama.

HBO and showrunners for its new medieval show Game of Thrones have apologized for using Bush's head on a stake in a scene where one of the dudes shows someone a line of traitors' heads on stakes.

Surgeons replaced a 10-year-old girl's has blood vessel with one grown with her own stem cells. The vein was taken from a dead person, stripped of its cells and then coated in the girls' stem cells. Doctors says there has been a “striking” improvement in her quality of life, according to the BBC.

Nokia will cut 10,000 jobs by the end of 2013 after being hit hard by both expensive competitors like the iPhone and cheaper Android models.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain threw a perfect game against the Houston Astros last night. It included an awesome diving catch by outfielder Gregor Blanco in the 7th inning.

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.01.2012
 
 
kenwood

Morning News and Stuff

The FBI has been investigating the long-stalled Kenwood Towne Place development for the past year, and a grand jury will determine whether crimes were committed involving the improper use of funding for the project, according to The Enquirer. CityBeat on May 16 reported that Nathan Bachrach, host of local radio show Simply Money, was among those in heat over the development's debt.

The city of Cincinnati used eminent domain to secure a piece of Over-the-Rhine property to build its streetcar maintenance facility.

So, uh, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan rewrote the lyrics to John Fogerty’s “Proud Mary” (“Rolin' on the River”) as part of a promotion for the World Choir Games. Celebrities such as Bootsy Collins, Nick Lachey and Jerry Springer participated. Cool? Awkward? The city does look pretty nice — shots were filmed at Fountain Square, Great American Ballpark, Findlay Market, the School for Creative and Performing Arts and the Serpentine Wall.


John Edwards is basically off the hook after jurors returned from nine days of deliberations believing that the government did not prove its case. Edwards was found guilty one one charge of accepting illegal campaign contributions to hide his pregnant mistress, but a mistrial was declared on five charges.

President Obama and Mitt Romney reportedly spoke on the phone yesterday. Romney says they exchanged pleasantries and congratulations. Obama apparently gave Romney some credit for his health care bill, which sounds kind of passive aggressive.

The nation's unemployment rate is up to 8.2 percent; apparently a third month of disappointing payroll led to the addition of only 69,000 jobs.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being called “Nanny Bloomberg” in response to his proposed ban on extra large sodas by people such as 18-year-old Johnny Ojeda of Kansas City, who reportedly pounded a 21-ounce soda and its 240 calories in front of Kansas City Star reporters.

“A lot of teenagers get them,” said Ojeda,

On the other hand, today is National Donut Day.

And cancer is expected to increase worldwide by 75 percent by 2030, partly due to poor nations adopting unhealthy Westernized lifestyles.

DC Comics' Green Lantern is revealed to be gay in an issue that comes out next week. Green Lantern is one of the comics' oldest heroes and the latest in a growing number of out superheroes. From the San Jose Mercury News:

In May, Marvel Entertainment said super speedster Northstar will marry his longtime boyfriend in the pages of "Astonishing X-Men." DC comics has other gay characters, too, including Kate Kane, the current Batwoman.

And in the pages of Archie Comics, Kevin Keller is one of the gang at Riverdale High School and gay, too.

Some groups have protested the inclusion of gay characters, but Robinson isn't discouraged, noting that being gay is just one aspect to Scott.

"This guy, he's a media mogul, a hero, a dynamic type-A personality and he's gay," Robinson said. "He's a complex character."

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.23.2012
 
 
we_are_ohio_400

Morning News and Stuff

We Are Ohio, the organization that helped repeal SB5 last year, says it will team up with nonpartisan Ohio Voters First to help put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment that would change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn. The effort is in response to Republican-drawn redistricting maps that attempted to create 12 solidly GOP districts and four Democratic districts. The proposal calls for a nonpartisan commission to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries rather than letting politicians and anyone who gives them money do it.

The University of Cincinnati has released a study showing a considerable economic impact from construction of The Banks. Between construction contractors, new residents and visitors to the area's restaurants, the development reportedly will impact the local economy by more than $90 million a year.

The parent company of Cincinnati's Horseshoe Casino will host two informational sessions this week to offer local vendors information on how to bid on contracts for supplies and services the entertainment complex will need. The first takes place 6 p.m. tonight at Bell Events Centre near the casino site at 444 Reading Road, and the second is 9 a.m. Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

The Enquirer on Tuesday reported that the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University have agreed to move the Crosstown Shootout to U.S. Bank Arena for two years in response to last year's massive brawl. NBC Sports today reported that the presents of both universities issued a press release in response, stating that no final decision had been made.

The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University were both surprised to see today’s announcement concerning the future of the Crosstown Shootout. While both schools are committed to the future of the Crosstown rivalry, specific discussions are ongoing and no details have been finalized. We look forward to sharing our plans with the community at an appropriate time in the coming weeks.

If it does happen, The Enquirer's Bill Koch says it's reasonable, while Paul Daugherty says that's fine but kind of dumb.

President Obama is finding it rather difficult to even win primaries against nobodies in the South. Not that it's surprise or really matters, though.

Of course, there are reasons for these kinds of returns. Few Democrats are voting in these primaries where Obama faces only token opposition; only protest voters are truly motivated.

There's also the fact that Obama is an underdog to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the states of Kentucky, Arkansas, and West Virginia; Obama lost all three in 2008 to John McCain.

Another potential factor: Race.

Just when you thought Sarah Palin was super reliable, she goes and backs a Utah Republican incumbent over a tea party supported candidate.

The John Edwards jury entered its fourth day of deliberations today because they need to see more prosecution exhibits.

A white supremacist was sentenced to 40 years in jail by a federal judge for a 2004 package bomb attack that injured a black city administrator in Arizona.

European researchers say they can figure out if Bigfoot really existed, if they can just get one of his hairs.

The film version of On the Road premiered at the Cannes Film Festival today, 55 years after Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation-defining novel was published. London's The Guardian says the “handsome shots and touching sadness don't compensate for the tedious air of self-congratulation in Walter Salles's road movie.”

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.16.2012
 
 
james craig

Morning News and Stuff

The ongoing saga involving Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig and his nonexistent policing powers will continue into July, as a hearing scheduled for Thursday has been continued. Craig's attorneys will argue in front of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission that his prior experience, and certification in three other states, should exempt him from a state rule requiring all officers pass a certification exam before earning police powers. Craig believes he was hired to do things other than study for an entry-level policing test, and some states would already have certified him.

A statewide ban on texting while driving moved through the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. The law makes the writing, sending or reading of a text message while driving a secondary offense, meaning officers may not pull over an adult driver for the act. Teens, however, under House Bill 99 will be prohibited from using any electronic device other than GPS and may be pulled over for it.

Kasich on Tuesday followed through with the GOP plan to overturn its own controversial election law that was to go before voters in November. State Republicans and election officials now say there's no reason for the law to go in front of voters thanks to the 300,000 signatures gathered by President Obama's re-election campaign and other opponents, but opponents of the election law point out that the repeal still reaffirms an election law change that would end early voting the weekend before an election. Democrats plan to keep the issue on the ballot.

But people on both sides of the issue say there's no precedent for a legislative repeal of a bill that also is the subject of a referendum, so it's unclear how a court might rule if a legal challenge is filed.

Jennifer Brunner, a former Democratic secretary of state and a leader in the Fair Elections Ohio campaign that brought the referendum, said Tuesday that the action taken by Gov. John Kasich and Legislature doesn't force the removal of the question from November ballots.

"Since this issue is a case of first impression for any court, we do not see the statement of the Secretary of State to be determinative on this issue," Brunner said in an email. "The issue remains on the ballot."

More drama from Columbus: Republicans are moving forward with a test program requiring some welfare recipients to submit to drug testing in order to continue receiving benefits. Opponents say the process stigmatizes the poor, while the GOP says it's just a simple process involving poor people paying the upfront costs for drug tests, being reimbursed if they pass and living on the streets for six months if they fail.

Northern Kentucky leaders plan to use the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine as a model for reinvesting in their urban core. A nonprofit organization has raised $10 million during the past five years to get started spurring commercial and residential investment.

Two Kentucky high school students who were turned away from their senior prom for arriving as a same-sex couple have argued that if their Catholic high school wants to ban students based on upholding the church's teachings, such a ban should include couples who have had premarital sex and kids who plan to get wasted after the prom.

Apparently viewers of Harry's Law, which was set in Cincinnati and used a stage-version of Arnold's as the lawyer gang's regular hangout, are too old to attract advertising dollars despite their relatively high numbers.

The show ranked very low among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic most advertisers care about. In fact, its young-adult numbers were beneath those for "Prime Suspect," a cop show that NBC canceled earlier this season, and roughly on par with those of "Off Their Rockers," the Betty White show about senior citizens pulling pranks on younger people.

"It was a difficult decision," an NBC executive said Sunday, quoted by the site Deadline.com. "Everyone here respects 'Harry's Law' a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old and it is hard to monetize that."

President Obama raised $44 million during April for his and other Democratic campaigns.

John Boehner says that when the federal government raises the debt limit again America can expect another prolonged fight about cuts.

George W. Bush has found “freedom” wherever he ended up after having little to offer the GOP after his tumultuous two terms as president. From ABC News:

We don't see much of Bush these days. He's the president that a lot of people would like to forget, still so toxic that he's widely considered more likely to hurt than help the Republican Party by participating in the 2012 campaign.

Bush's speech Tuesday morning was a rare exception. He spoke in a small, nondescript room to about 200 people about democracy activists, promoting a human rights campaign that's part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

His presence on the national stage is perhaps best seen in his presence on the small stage at 1777 F Street. At the end of the affair, Bush and his wife were called back up to be presented with writings by Czech human rights icon Vaclav Havel. They posed for pictures as the audience clapped, and when they were done, Bush glanced around as if unsure what to do next.

He walked back to his seat, but then quickly walked back onto the stage and behind the lectern. He leaned forward into the microphone, paused, and said slyly, "Thanks for coming."

Bush waited a second or two. Then he said, "See ya later."

He waved, and then he left.

Is U.S. energy independence a pipe dream? This article says no.

Apple might soon give you a larger iPhone screen.

A private rocket launch this week could be the start of commercial space travel.

Here are some important tips about sunscreen as summer approaches and the circle in the sky threatens to burn off our skin.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 05.09.2012
Posted In: News, City Council, Development at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hail-a-cab

Council to Vote on Taxi Fare Increase Tonight

Potential taxi reform touted as response to city growth, development

Anyone who's ever tried to hail a cab in Cincinnati knows it's nothing like the experience you imagine in a big city — stepping out confidently onto the street and gracefully waving your arm isn't usually enough to garner the attention or interest of cab drivers around here. In fact, hailing a cab in the city was illegal until last spring, when City Council lifted the ban.

In line with the city's efforts to improve urban infrastructure and bolster methods of transportation, City Council today will vote on a proposal brought forth by Councilman Wendell Young, which would raise taxicab fares in an effort to improve taxi transportation standards across the city.

According to Young, the reform is a necessary measure to handle the growth and development in Cincinnati.

"I want to be sure that the first and the last impression of our city that these visitors have, which is often a cab ride, be a first-rate experience. Our taxi industry needs reform, and this event helped spark an urgency and an energy to get the work done," said Young in a news release last fall, according to the Business Courier.

If approved, the taxi reform would create additional taxi stands in areas with the greatest demand, including Over-the-Rhine, the Banks, University of Cincinnati, Mt. Lookout, Hyde Park Square and Oakley Square. Business standards would also be put into place, including mandating training for all taxi drivers, creating a "Bill of Rights and Expectations" for drivers and customers, standardizing signage and expanding an already-existing taxi hotline.

Fees would also increase significantly — the plan would implement a 40-cent jump in rates per mile, up to $2 per mile from $1.60. The initial "drop" fee would also change from $3.40 to $4.

City Council will vote on the reform tonight. If it's approved, the changes would take effect July 1, just three days before the beginning the World Choir Games, which is expected to bring an influx of thousands of international visitors. 

Want to see how Cincinnati's proposed fares stack up? A look at cab fares in a few other cities around the country:

New York City : $2.50 upon entry, plus $0.40 for each 1/5 mile, plus several applicable surcharges

Chicago : $2.25 upon entry (first 1/9 mile), plus $0.20 for each 1/9 mile, plus applicable surcharges

Los Angeles: $2.85 upon entry (first 1/9 mile) plus $0.30 for each 1/9 mile, plus applicable surcharges.

Portland : $2.50 upon entry, $2.50 per additional mile, plus applicable surcharges

Atlanta: $2.50 upon entry, $2 per additional mile 

* Keep in mind it's customary everywhere to tip your cab driver 15 to 20 percent.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 05.02.2012
 
 
econocide

New Book Criticizes OTR's Development

Author will hold book signing on Thursday

A social worker that has written a new book criticizing Cincinnati’s development efforts in Over-the-Rhine will conduct a book signing Thursday.

 

Alice Skirtz, a Cincinnati native, is the author of Econocide: Elimination of the Urban Poor. She will host a book signing from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Skirtz & Johnston bakery at Findlay Market, 113 West Elder St.

 

Proceeds from book sales at the event will be given to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Skirtz is the founding organizer of the coalition.

 

The book profiles growing economic inequalities in the city that is reflected in policy debates over contentious issues like panhandling, homelessness, planning and funding for affordable housing, zoning for social service agencies and site selection for shelters.

 

Written from a social worker’s perspective, Econocide focuses on advocacy for people who are most vulnerable in society to promote and make sure they’re included in the socio-economic policies of local government.

 

"Based on over 40 years of experience in working with the urban poor, I wrote this book to call attention to how they have become increasingly at risk of being removed permanently from the community and civic life," Skirtz said. "The growth of privatization has led to increasing economic inequities, lessening influence in administrative and legislative affairs, and decreasing access to housing and even public spaces. I intend for this book to lead to a change in how we treat the urban poor."

 

The book includes a blurb by David Mann, a local attorney who also is an ex-Cincinnati mayor and former congressman.

 

“You cannot read her book without tears coming to your eyes at some point and without wondering why a supposedly enlightened society cannot better balance the needs of the least among us with overall economic health and viability,” Mann wrote. “You will ask yourself why we cannot do better.”

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.01.2012
 
 
news_western_ann_louise_by_anna_bentley.widea

Mock Rally For Western & Southern Scheduled For Wednesday

Group will show support for ‘bullying’ of Anna Louise Inn

UPDATE: The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless has canceled its Wednesday mock rally for Western & Southern Financial Group. The Coalition Tuesday evening released the following statement: "Due to a change in plans the mock 'Rally to Support Western and Southern' has been canceled. Stay tuned for upcoming gatherings and events to support the Women of the Anna Louise Inn as we fight for the right of self determination."

The following is CityBeat's Tuesday afternoon blog post in response to the event announcement:

The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless is helping to organize a mock rally to support what it believes is the bullying of the Anna Louise Inn women’s shelter by Western & Southern Financial Group. The mock group will be called “Citizens for Corporate Bullies” and will hold signs that say “Greed is Good,” “We Support Corporate Bullies,” “Poor Women Not Welcome” and “W&S Take Whatever You Want.” The event begins a noon May 2 at 4th and Sycamore streets.

The Coalition has created a fake persona who supports W&S’s desire to build condos to attract a more desirable class of residents and rhetorically asks, “Besides, what gives the Anna Louis Inn the right to stay in that building just because they own it and it’s been there for a hundred years?”

The protest is in response to ongoing legal issues surrounding the Inn’s proposed expansion and W&S’s development efforts in the neighborhood. CityBeat last October reported on the situation in a story titled, “Putting on the Pressure: Western & Southern won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” The following is an excerpt summarizing the situation then:

Last summer the facility’s owners rebuffed an offer from the powerful Western & Southern Financial Group to buy their property, triggering a heated legal battle. The company, located near the Anna Louise Inn in the affluent Lytle Park district on downtown’s eastern edge, wanted the site so it could demolish or redevelop the Inn and build upscale condominiums.

After the offer was rejected, the Anna Louise Inn continued with a long-planned renovation and was awarded a $2.7 million loan by Cincinnati City Council. That’s when Western & Southern filed a lawsuit against the Inn and the city, alleging zoning violations. 

The showdown pits the Inn, opened in 1909 with the help of prominent attorney Charles P. Taft, against a company that ranks in the Fortune 500 and is headed by CEO John Barrett, an ex-chairman of the Cincinnati Business Committee who is widely considered one of the most powerful men in the city.

The facility’s owners and some city officials say Western & Southern is trying to use its sizable financial resources publicly, along with its political clout behind the scenes, to strong-arm opponents and get what it wants.

Representatives for W&S have stated that the company's $3 million offer to purchase the building is fair and have also offered to aid the Inn in finding a new location.

WVXU reported that supporters of the Inn held a rally April 4 calling for a quick judgment in a court case that could delay funding for the renovation.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Media, Media Criticism, Ethics at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
buchanan

Enquirer Publisher Explains Lack of Disclosure

Buchanan says 3CDC is covered fairly, despite her ties

The Enquirer’s top boss has told CityBeat that her connection to a major real estate development group was “overlooked” in a lengthy, front-page article about the organization that was published April 15.

 

Publisher Margaret Buchanan wrote in response to an email that she didn’t influence the preparation, editing or placement of an article about the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC). Buchanan sits on 3CDC’s executive committee, and is in charge of overseeing publicity and marketing efforts for the organization.

 

The Enquirer published a 1,900 word-plus article about 3CDC, lauding the group for its efforts to redevelop Over-the-Rhine despite the economic downturn. Buchanan’s role with 3CDC wasn’t mentioned, but she told CityBeat it has been disclosed in past articles and will be done again in the future.

 

Buchanan’s response was sent the same day that CityBeat published a column criticizing the lack of disclosure, and questioning whether her role violates The Gannett Co.’s ethical guidelines for news-gathering.

 

Here’s the full text of Buchanan’s response:

Over several years, The Cincinnati Enquirer has fully covered the pro's and con's (sic) of 3CDC's development efforts in Over-the-Rhine for our readers and we are very proud of that coverage.

 

As publisher, I sit on 3CDC's executive committee — and did not influence any of the reporting on this issue. Our editor is completely responsible for all editorial decisions. Typically my participation on this committee is disclosed, although it was overlooked for the article that ran on Sunday, April 15. It will continue to be disclosed in the future.

 

Margaret Buchanan

A search using the ProQuest database of The Enquirer’s archives found that the newspaper has published 481 articles and news briefs mentioning 3CDC since the group began its efforts in 2004. (Given how the database is organized, however, it’s likely that some of the entries might be duplicative.)

 

Of the 481 entries, Buchanan was mentioned in 15 articles. That equates to about 1/32nd of the articles.

 

Most of the published mentions about Buchanan’s ties to 3CDC weren’t in articles about the group’s retail and residential development projects. Rather, they mostly occurred in articles about 3CDC’s efforts to move a homeless shelter away from Over-the-Rhine.

 

Also, one mention was in an article about the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, while another occurred in a piece marking the 10th anniversary of the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas.

 

Interestingly, most of the mentions occurred after 2010, when local blogger Jason Haap and CityBeat began publishing items about the lack of disclosure.

 

This week’s Porkopolis column mentioned Gannett’s ethics code, which includes such admonishments as “We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report,” and “We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content.”

 

The code also states “When unavoidable personal or business interests could compromise the newspaper’s credibility, such potential conflicts must be disclosed to one’s superior and, if relevant, to readers.”

 

In her email, Buchanan didn’t address why these rules don’t apply to her connection to 3CDC.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012
 
 
layoffs

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.
 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 09.05.2014 15 days ago
Posted In: Development at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do 2-8 iconic market house photo, courtesy the corporation for findlay market

Cincinnati Developer Looks to Reshape Area Around Findlay Market

Proposed development would create 90,000 square feet of office and commercial space

One of Cincinnati’s biggest developers has plans to reshape an entire block of Race Street near Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine.

Model Group, which is based in Walnut Hills, has put in an application with Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation to develop city-owned properties on the 1800 block of Race Street. In addition, the developer has recently purchased a number of other properties on the block. The grand vision: more than 50,000 square feet of commercial space and 40,000 square feet of office space in the area just east of the historic market.

“We want it to feel like an extension of the market,” said Model Group COO Bobby Maly Sept. 5. But don’t call it Findlay Market II. “We’re not trying to be the market," he said.

The deal isn’t finalized yet, however. Model will still need approval from 3CDC and the city. On June 25, City Council approved 3CDC's request to be preferred developer of the area around the market. The non-profit development group is currently taking applications from developers who want in on the action in the rapidly changing neighborhood and advising the city about which projects should get the go-ahead. Except for a couple businesses such as Rhinegeist brewery, the area of OTR north of Liberty Street is still mostly untouched by redevelopment.

3CDC’s request that the city make it preferred developer in the area caused controversy. Critics, including Over-the-Rhine Community Council President Ryan Messer, say the group has too much power and shouldn’t be allowed to call the shots entirely in OTR. 3CDC has led the drive to reshape the part of the neighborhood south of Liberty Street, including the renovation of Washington Park, the enormous Mercer Commons project and a bevy of smaller retail, dining and residential spaces, especially along Vine Street. But Messer and others say smaller developers could move quicker than 3CDC, which has banked a number of buildings, shoring them up just enough to save them and then boarding them up. He has also expressed concerns that the development group isn’t serving the interests of everyone in the neighborhood and hasn’t paid close enough attention to the need for things like affordable housing there.

“A common thread in the neighborhood is the expressed desire to protect and expand our cultural diversity and this, in part, can be done by paying close attention to providing affordable housing options in both the rental and the purchase markets,” Messer said in a June 18 letter to the city asking it to not grant 3CDC preferred developer status.

While Model Group has played a relatively smaller role in OTR than the nonprofit 3CDC, it has also been very active in the area, especially in the Pendleton District to the east. Model has been working on Pendleton Square, a $26 million residential development just north of the Horseshoe Casino. That project could create about 40 new market-rate residential units and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space in the neighborhood, which is also experiencing a surge in redevelopment efforts.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.23.2014 89 days ago
Posted In: Development at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
master-plan

GE Moving to The Banks

City and county seal the deal, offer sweet incentives

General Electric is officially moving 1,800 employees to The Banks, the entertainment and retail complex on Cincinnati's riverfront. But it took some deal-sweetening by the city to make it happen. City Council and Hamilton County Commissioners on Monday approved a landmark deal that incentivizes the company to consolidate some administrative and finance jobs at the site, which will be 10 stories tall and cost about $90 million to build.

The city's bid beat out Norwood and other locations, though the city and county had to offer one of the most generous deals in the region's history. The company will receive a 75-percent property tax abatement for the next 15 years, with the other 25 percent of those taxes going to Cincinnati Public Schools. Eighty-five percent of employees' city earnings taxes will also flow back to the company over that period of time.

GE said the incentives are needed because moving to The Banks will be about 15 percent more expensive than other bids it considered. The city hopes the deal will lead to a long-term payoff. County officials tout studies showing big benefits. The Economics Center for Education and Research at UC ran the numbers on the deal and suggest that the project could bring in $1 billion in overall economic activity
. The site should reach full capacity by 2018.

The estimated average salary of an employee at the site will be about $79,000, company officials say.

Despite some questions about how quickly the deal came together, both council and county commissioners passed it unanimously during an unusual joint meeting at Great American Ball Park. Council member P.G. Sittenfeld praised the project but noted the city will need to remember to balance fairness and overall impact in the future. Council member Chris Seelbach used the occasion to tout the streetcar, tweeting that it was a big factor in GE's choice to move to The Banks.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2014
Posted In: News, Drugs, Voting, Development, Mayor at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting agreement sought, downtown project scrutinized, drug abuse reportedly drops

Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016 general election, as some Republicans in the county government have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the existing disagreement.”

With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier: The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery store downtown in decades.

A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to verify the trend.

Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.

To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.

Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.

Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat. After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.

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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 German Lopez 03.05.2014
 
 
greenpeace P&G

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-P&G protesters face court, 3CDC to resolve project, mayor denies politics in board pick

A group of Greenpeace protesters face burglary and vandalism charges after a stunt yesterday on the Procter & Gamble buildings. Protesters apparently teamed up with a helicopter to climb outside the P&G buildings to hang up a large sign criticizing the company for allegedly enabling the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia by working with an irresponsible palm oil supplier. P&G officials say they are looking into the protesters’ claims, but they already committed to changing how they obtain palm oil by 2015.

Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) will step in to resolve the status of a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. The previous city administration pushed the project as a means to bring more residential space downtown, but Mayor John Cranley refuses to pay to move a tenant in the parking garage that needs to be torn down as part of the project. Following Cranley and Councilman Chris Seelbach’s request for 3CDC’s help, the development agency will recommend a path forward and outline costs to the city should it not complete the project.

Meanwhile, the tenants in the dispute announced today that they will sue the city to force action and stop the uncertainty surrounding their salon business.

Cranley insists politics were not involved in an appointment to the Cincinnati Board of Health, contrary to complaints from the board official the mayor opted to replace. Cranley will replace Joyce Kinley, whose term expired at the end of the month, with Herschel Chalk. “Herschel Chalk, who(m) I’m appointing, has been a long-time advocate against prostate cancer, who's somebody I’ve gotten to know,” Cranley told WVXU. “I was impressed by him because of his advocacy on behalf of fighting cancer. I committed to appoint him a long time ago.”

The costs for pausing the streetcar project back in December remain unknown, but city officials are already looking into what the next phase of the project would cost.

Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s must fully pay for rent and fees by March 10 or face eviction.

Through his new project, one scientist intends to “make 100 years old the next 60.”

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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 01.29.2014
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, News, Development at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anna louise inn

City to Break Ground on New Anna Louise Inn Location

New facility follows Inn’s intense legal battle with Western & Southern

City leaders will break ground Thursday for the Anna Louise Inn’s new location at Mount Auburn.

The start of construction begins the next phase for the Anna Louise Inn and owner Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) after a failed legal battle against financial giant Western & Southern forced the Inn to move.

CUB sought to keep the Inn at the Lytle Park location that has housed struggling women since 1909. Western & Southern demanded the property so it could round out its development vision for the Lytle Park neighborhood. (CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.)

After nearly two years of litigation held up CUB’s renovations at the Lytle Park location, both sides abruptly reached a settlement and announced the Anna Louise Inn would move. Many supporters of the Anna Louise Inn saw the settlement and decision to move as a huge loss.

The $14 million project comes through the collaboration of various organizations, according to the city. It’s expected construction will finish in the spring of 2015.

The facility will consist of four stories with 85 studio apartments, the Off-the-Streets program’s residential dormitory-style units, community space and CUB’s office.

The city’s attendee list for the groundbreaking includes CUB, Mayor John Cranley, City Council, Mount Auburn Community Council, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, U.S. Bank, Model Group and various other officials and organizations from the city and state.

But there is one notable omission: Western & Southern.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2014
 
 
news_gentrification_jf3

Morning News and Stuff

Group protests gentrification, streetcar fares revealed, FitzGerald supports death penalty

An anti-gentrification organization says development in southern Over-the-Rhine and downtown is leaving out low- and middle-income residents. The People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice (TPCEJ) cautions it’s not against development, but it supports policies that would seek to help more people take advantage of the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine and downtown, such as more affordable housing, protections for renters’ rights, rent control and the formation of tenants’ unions. The agency behind much of the development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation), says “people tend to over-romanticize what this neighborhood was” and points to some examples of 3CDC-developed affordable housing as evidence the agency is trying to keep the neighborhood mixed-income.

Related: Some studies found gentrification could benefit longtime residents.

A two-hour streetcar pass could cost $1.75, and a 24-hour pass could cost $3.50, according to a new model unveiled yesterday by Paul Grether, Metro’s rail manager. The same model set streetcar operating hours at Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 6 a.m.-midnight. Under the model, city officials expect 3,000 daily boardings, but Grether cautioned that’s a very conservative estimate and excludes special events, such as Reds and Bengals games.

But the City Council-enforced streetcar delay could cost more than expected after the steel company originally contracted for the $132.8 million project took another job while council members decided the fate of the project. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick told council the company’s decision could push construction of a maintenance facility by two months if the city doesn’t hire a steel supplier from outside the region.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald yesterday clarified he supports the death penalty, which aligns him with his Republican opponent, incumbent John Kasich, on the issue. FitzGerald’s remark comes after the debate over the death penalty re-ignited in Ohio following the execution of convicted killer and rapist Dennis McGuire, who took 26 minutes to die after state officials used a new cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told CityBeat it’s reviewing McGuire’s death, as it does following every execution.

Commentary: “Death Penalty Brings More Costs than Benefits.”

After receiving support from family planning services and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, Democrats running for Ohio’s executive offices re-emphasized their support for abortion rights.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he’ll challenge FitzGerald’s gubernatorial campaign in a Democratic primary. (Update: Despite previously telling The Cincinnati Enquirer he already made up his mind, Portune canceled his announcement and said he has no final decision yet, according to Carl Weiser, politics editor at The Enquirer.)

Hamilton County commissioners showed openness to keeping some early voting downtown even if the county moves its Board of Elections to a Mount Airy facility. Moving the board along with the county’s crime lab would allow commissioners to consolidate government services.

Cincinnati’s economy should grow faster than previously expected, one economist says.

Plan Cincinnati, the city’s master comprehensive plan, won a national planning award. CityBeat previously covered the master plan in further detail here.

Ten major projects worth more than $1.4 billion are in the planning stages or underway in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Ohio meets voting standards set by President Barack Obama’s bipartisan election commission, with the one exception of online voter registration, according to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced the creation of a statewide taskforce to combat heroin abuse.

Virtual reality could help people see what gender swaps would be like.

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by German Lopez 01.15.2014
 
 
city hall

City Council Tackles Progressive Agenda

Democratic majority pushes initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion

City Council on Wednesday advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion.

The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project.

The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years.

Responsible bidder

Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.

The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system.

The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training.

But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules.

The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives.

“We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.”

The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose.

“Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.

If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully continues.

Supportive housing project in Avondale

A supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.

Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.

Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.

Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.

National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.

“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.

Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.

Disparity study

City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts.

The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support.

But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced doubts that the studys findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses.

Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete.

“I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city.

Other notable actions

• Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials.

• Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth.

• Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities.

• Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the mayor and council originally established to look into halting the project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.

 
 
 
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