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by German Lopez 03.08.2013
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed

In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.

In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.

A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.

Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.

A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.

JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.

Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.

Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.

Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.

In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Mayor at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar supporters pack event, federal funds threatened, Dohoney to get severance pay

Supporters of the $133 million streetcar project packed Mercantile Library and Fountain Square last night to start a two-week campaign to prevent Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council from halting the ongoing project. The goal is to convince at least five of the nine newly elected council members to support the project. So far, streetcar supporters have at least three pro-streetcar votes: Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young. Now, they’re trying to convince another three — Kevin Flynn, David Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld — to support continuing the project; all three spoke against the streetcar on the campaign trail, but they’ve recently said they want a full accounting of the project’s completion costs, cancellation costs and potential return of investment before making a final decision. CityBeat covered the campaign and the people involved in greater detail here.

Hours before the event began, Mayor Mark Mallory released a letter from the Federal Transit Administration that explicitly stated canceling the project would cost Cincinnati nearly $41 million in federal funds and another $4 million would be left under the discretion of Gov. John Kasich, who could shift the money to other parts of Ohio. Cranley previously stated he could lobby the federal government to re-appropriate the money to other city projects, but the letter makes it quite clear that’s not in the plans right now. On the elevator ride up to the Mercantile Library event, Sittenfeld commented on the letter to CityBeat, “I will say that today's news is a big gain in the pro-streetcar column.”

City Council yesterday accepted the resignation of City Manager Milton Dohoney, just one day after Cranley announced Dohoney’s leave and his support for it. Although council members acknowledged they had to accept the resignation in lieu of the Nov. 5 election results, they said they were unhappy with the behind-the-scenes approach that was taken by Cranley throughout the process. For the year following his resignation, Dohoney will receive $255,000 in severance pay and health benefits through the city, which will cost an already-strained operating budget that’s been structurally imbalanced since 2001.

Flaherty & Collins, the Indianapolis-based developer that’s building a downtown apartment tower at Fourth and Race streets, said it’s interested in the retail space being left vacant by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Northern Kentucky residents last night got a look at a regional strategy to fight the growing heroin problem in the area. The report, put together by substance abuse and medical experts, law enforcement officials, governmental leaders and business representatives, calls for more physicians and long-term treatment options to address the issue. “We cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the problem,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, director of the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department. “The success of this plan really hinges on having sufficient treatment options and resources available so that everyone seeking and wanting treatment can easily access it.”

Union Township Rep. John Becker introduced a bill in the Ohio House this week that would ban most public and private health insurers from providing abortion coverage. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee. Becker describes himself as one of the most conservative members of the Ohio legislature. He’s also supported the Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected; called needle-exchange efforts part of the “liberal media agenda”; and lobbied for the impeachment of a judge who allowed the state to recognize the same-sex marriage of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who recently passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urged the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission to address politicized redistricting. Under the current system, the political party in charge — the last time around, Republicans — can use demographic trends to redraw congressional district boundaries to maximize the votes of supporters and split and dilute the votes of opponents. Although Husted is now calling for reform to make redistricting more representative of the state’s actual political make-up, he opposed a ballot initiative in 2012 that would have placed an independent committee in charge of redistricting.

Speaking at a Cleveland steel mill, President Barack Obama talked up U.S. manufacturing and its potential for economic growth.

The Christmas holiday tree arrives at Fountain Square tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also the day of the One Stop Drop recycling event, where anyone can drop off electronic and other waste — TVs, computers, cellphones and chargers, No. 5 plastics such as butter tubs and yogurt containers, single-use grocery bags and used writing instruments like pencils and pens — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Whole Foods Market in Rookwood Commons, 2693 Edmondson Road.

Five crashes in Covington, Ohio, left six horses dead and one injured.

More Ohioans also died on the road in 2012 than the year before.

The world’s oldest animal — a mollusk — missed Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas by 14 years.

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by German Lopez 12.06.2013
Posted In: News, Mayor, City Council, Streetcar at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Might Veto Ordinance Continuing Streetcar Project

Decision means City Council might need a supermajority to continue streetcar project

Mayor John Cranley might veto an ordinance continuing the $132.8 million streetcar project, even if a majority of City Council wants the project to continue after its costs are reviewed through an independent audit, said Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s chief of staff, on Friday.

The decision means six of nine council members — a supermajority — might be required to overturn a mayoral veto and continue the streetcar project. With only two perceived swing votes on council, that could prove a considerably higher hurdle than a simple majority of five council members.

“Of course he reserves the right to veto the legislation,” Kincaid said.

If Cranley reviews the numbers and decides that the project is too costly, he will use the veto powers provided to him through the city charter, Kincaid explained.

Kincaid’s response came after CityBeat confirmed with City Solicitor John Curp that continuing the streetcar project would require a new ordinance that, in theory, could be vetoed by the mayor. City Council can overcome a mayoral veto with a supermajority, or six of nine total council votes.

When CityBeat talked to Kincaid the day before he confirmed Cranley’s willingness to veto, Kincaid speculated that Cranley would not veto legislation continuing the streetcar project.

“I have not talked to (Cranley) about it. I assume that he would let it go forward since he gave (Councilman) David Mann his word that he would give this time to review it, and he gave the same assurance to (Councilman) Kevin Flynn,” Kincaid previously said.

Five of nine council members on Wednesday agreed to allocate $1.25 million to indefinitely pause the streetcar project and pay for an independent study that will gauge how much it will cost to continue or permanently cancel the project.

Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick previously warned the costs of completely canceling the streetcar project could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grants that would be lost if the project were terminated.

Almost immediately, a majority of council voiced distrust toward Deatrick’s numbers. In a press conference following Deatricks presentation, Cranley called city officials in charge of the streetcar project “incompetent.

Council members Flynn and Mann vocally opposed the streetcar project on the campaign trail. But both said they’ll make a final decision on the project once the cancellation and completion numbers are evaluated through an independent review.

Mann previously told CityBeat, “If they do hold up, that’s fairly persuasive.”

Flynn wouldn’t speculate on what stance he will take if the numbers stand to scrutiny. He said a pressing concern for him is how the city will pay for $3.4-$4.5 million in annual operating costs for the streetcar, which could hit an already-strained operating budget.

If Cranley vetoes an ordinance continuing the streetcar project, both Flynn and Mann would likely need to agree to continue — or at least overturn a mayoral veto — to keep the streetcar alive.

City officials estimate the review will take at least two weeks. Once the audit is finished, council members are expected to announce their final positions on continuing or canceling the project.

Update: Mayor John Cranley on Friday announced the federal government is giving Cincinnati until Dec. 19 to make a decision on the streetcar project. Read more here.

This story was updated to better explain that Jay Kincaid’s second direct quote came from a separate conversation on Thursday, the day before he announced Mayor John Cranley’s willingness to veto.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.29.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Streetcar, Government at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
coal-miners-rally-at-the-century-mine-near-beallsville-ohio-for-republican-presidential-mitt-romney

Morning News and Stuff

The City of Cincinnati and Duke Energy are still fighting over the streetcar. The city and company are both disputing who is required to relocate utility lines and pipes in order to accommodate for the streetcar. Cincinnati officials say Duke Energy is required to do it under state law, but the company disagrees. The city is considering legal action, so the feud might soon be heading to court.

A recent campaign event might have been mandatory for workers at a mine in Beallsville, Ohio. The miners were allegedly pulled from work, refused pay and required to attend the event with presidential candidate Mitt Romney and senatorial candidate Josh Mandel. Romney, Mandel and the mine owner have all been criticized for the move.

Cincinnati Bell and StarTek plan on bringing back 200 outsourced jobs to Cincinnati. StarTek will also hire another 136 workers.

President Barack Obama’s administration finalized new regulations yesterday requiring the average gas mileage of new cars to be at 54.5 mpg by 2025. The new standard is double today’s standard. Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, said on Twitter the new standards will reduce national oil consumption by two million barrels a day. The United States currently uses about 20 million barrels a day. That reduction in consumption could help combat climate change, which is partly blamed for Arctic Sea ice hitting record lows this summer.

A federal judge ruled Ohio boards of elections must count defective provisional ballots if the ballots were counted defective due to errors from poll workers. The ruling protects voters from mistakes by poll workers. Secretary of State Jon Husted is expected to appeal the ruling because he says it disagrees with state law.

Husted ended up firing the two Democrats on the Montgomery Board of Elections that voted for extending in-person early voting to include weekends. Democrats say not allowing weekend voting is voter suppression, but Republicans cite racial politics and costs as deterrents.

New rules for juries stop the use of Twitter and Facebook during cases.

The Republican national convention is underway in Tampa, Fla. Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio will be there. For coverage, check out Twitter’s Republican convention page, which tracks all mentions of the convention.

Romney apparently agrees with Mandel that fact checkers don’t matter. This is despite Romney’s claim that President Barack Obama should stop running ads after fact checkers find them to be false or misleading. Mandel previously said he will continue saying wrong statements even after they’re declared false or misleading by fact checkers.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland criticized Romney on his plans for Medicare. The former governor said the Romney-Ryan budget plan would “destroy Medicare as we know it.”

Republicans like to say that Obamacare will get employers to drop health insurance, but a new survey has found zero out of 512 employers plan on dropping health insurance.

The U.S. economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter. The growth isn’t great, but it slightly beat expectations.

Apparently computer grading programs are judging student essays better than teachers.

And some scientists want to use HIV to fight cancer.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.24.2012
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Budget at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

City Council Moves Streetcar Refinancing Plan Forward

Budget committee agrees to shift $29m to keep streetcar on track

City Council’s budget committee voted 6-3 Monday to use $29 million from other projects in part to move utility lines and pipes to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The plan will use $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal and $14 million from a new financing plan to ensure the streetcar’s opening is not delayed further from the current 2015 deadline.

The city claims it will eventually get the $15 million back. That money, which was originally promised to neighborhood projects, will be used to move utility lines and pipes. The city is currently trying to resolve a dispute with Duke Energy over who has to pay to move utility lines and pipes. If the city wins out, Duke will reimburse the costs. If Duke wins out, the money will be lost in the streetcar project.

At the public meeting that preceded the vote Monday, neighborhood officials and streetcar supporters clashed. Opponents to the plan claimed the money should stay in neighborhood projects as originally promised, while streetcar supporters pointed to the benefits of the streetcar for neighborhoods and insisted the money will eventually come back.

Chris Smitherman, Independent; Charlie Winburn, Republican; and P.G. Sittenfeld, Democrat, voted against the plan. Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach — all Democrats — approved the plan.

Jason Barron, spokesperson for Mayor Mark Mallory, says the mayor is in favor of the plan moving forward.

Although the vote included all City Council members, it was not the formal City Council vote. Instead, it was only the budget committee vote. The City Council vote will take place Wednesday.

CORRECTION: This story originally said the entire $29 million plan will be reimbursed by Duke. Only the $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal will be reimbursed if the city wins in the dispute.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.17.2012
 
 
hunter

Morning News and Stuff

More than 17 months after the election occurred, officials finally are ready to count some disputed ballots in a race for a judicial seat on the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. A federal appeals court Monday upheld an earlier ruling that 286 provisional ballots should be tallied in the 2010 race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams. Hunter seemingly lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table.

Hamilton County commissioners met with state lawmakers Monday to discuss their legislative priorities for this year. They include trying to restore some of the cuts to Ohio's local government fund and reauthorizing a countywide 911 user fee, which is set to expire soon.

Monthly customers at the large Central Parking System lot along Cincinnati's riverfront are angry about a provision involving Reds games. Parkers must be out of the garage by 5 p.m. on game days or their key cards won't work, subjecting them to an additional event fee. A county official said monthly customers can get 24-hour access cards, but those cost $25 more than the regular $100 fee. (Just call it death by a thousand cuts.)

Northern Kentucky University will make what it calls an "historic" announcement today regarding the schools presidential search. Various reports indicate NKU's trustees have selected Cleveland State University Provost Geoffrey Mearns for the job. Current president Jim Votruba announced last month that he would retire at the end of this school year.

Cincinnati officials have selected an empty industrial site in Over-the-Rhine as the location for a streetcar maintenance facility. The property is located on Henry Street, between Elm and Race streets. Based on an independent appraisal, City Hall has offered to buy the site for $1.4 million but the owner is seeking an unspecified higher price, according to The Enquirer.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department is under fire for remaining quiet about problems in the testing of forensic evidence at the FBI's crime laboratory. Officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled, The Washington Post reported.

President Obama is being accused of ignoring a 2008 campaign pledge to impose a “windfall profits tax” on oil companies. As a candidate, Obama said he would tax large oil company profits that would flow back to families in $1,000 rebate checks, but hasn't mentioned the idea since taking office. An Obama aide told Politico the White House decided that it had a better chance at persuading Congress to repeal tax subsidies than enact the tax on oil and gas company profits.

Groundbreaking on homes fell unexpectedly in March, but permits for future construction rose to their highest level in nearly four years, Commerce Department data showed today. March's decline in housing starts was the biggest percentage drop since April of last year, although most of the fall was in the volatile multi-unit category, which declined 16.9 percent. Starts for single-family homes dropped 0.2 percent.

Australia has announced that its troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan nearly a year ahead of a previously scheduled 2014 withdrawal date. Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minster, said today that most of 1,550 remaining Australian troops in the nation were expected to return home by the end of 2013. The timetable means the largest force provided by any nation outside of the NATO alliance would leave Afghanistan a year ahead of the proposed December 2014 withdrawal date for all international forces. The United States currently has 90,000 troops stationed there.

A right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a gun and bomb rampage in Norway last year has called his attack "spectacular,” claiming he would do it again if he could. As his trial continued for a second day, Anders Behring Breivik, 33, called himself a commander in an anti-Communist, anti-Islamic militant resistance movement called the Knights Templar.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.06.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget, Streetcar, Taxes, Privatization at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Petition against privatization, Kasich sales tax hurts many, USquare development criticized

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is circulating a small business petition to stop Cincinnati from privatizing parking services. Sittenfeld threw his support behind the petition in a statement: “Individual citizens have made clear that they are overwhelmingly against outsourcing our parking system. Now we're going to show that small businesses feel the same way. I hope that when council sees that the small businesses that are the engine of our city are strongly against outsourcing our parking, we can then nix the proposal immediately.” The petition asks city officials “to find a smart, resourceful, sustainable alternative to address the budget situation.” City Manager Milton Dohoney says parking privatization is necessary to avoid laying off 344 city workers.

Gov. John Kasich’s expanded sales tax is going to hurt a lot of people. The tax is being expanded to apply to many items included in households’ monthly budgets, such as cable television, laundry services and haircuts. The revenue from the sales tax expansion will be used to cut the state income tax by 20 percent across the board, lower the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and slightly boost county coffers.

City Council and local residents are not impressed with the USquare development. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls described the development: “I have to say that it is underwhelming. And that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it.  And also really repeats, on many different levels, virtually all of the mistakes that have ever been made in the city and in neighborhoods when it comes to creating public spaces.” But architect Graham Kalbli said he’s excited about the plan: “Because we’ve taken a vacant strip of land and really made kind of a living room for the Clifton Heights community. We wanted to do that, that was one of our overriding goals.”

The Hamilton County Board of Elections is subpoenaing 19 voters who are suspected of voting twice in the November election. Most of the voters being investigated filed provisional ballots then showed up to vote on Election Day.

David Mann is officially running for City Council. The Democrat has served as a council member, mayor and congressman in the past.

Traffic congestion isn’t just bad for drivers; it’s also bad for the environment and economy. The Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found traffic congestion cost Cincinnati $947 million in 2011 and produced an an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide.

Leslie Ghiz is taking the judge’s seat a little early. The former city council member was elected to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in November, but she was appointed to the seat early by Gov. John Kasich to replace Dennis Helmick, who retired at the end of 2012.

The magic of capitalism: Delta is already matching a low-cost carrier’s fares to Denver at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

The U.S. Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery starting Aug. 1. The Postal Service has been dealing with financial problems ever since a 2006 mandate from U.S. Congress forced the mail delivery agency to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. Riddled with gridlock, Congress has done nothing to help since the mandate was put in place. This will be the first time the Postal Service doesn’t deliver mail on Saturdays since 1863.

It’s unlikely zombies could be cured by love, but it’s possible they could be cured by science.

The next Michael Jordan has been discovered:

 
 
by German Lopez 12.17.2013
Posted In: News, Mayor, City Council, Streetcar at 05:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Private Groups Back Plan to Pay for Streetcar Operations

Foundation lists more than a dozen business, philanthropic leaders in support

More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) offer to develop a private-public partnership to fund the streetcar’s operating costs, Eric Avner, vice president of the Haile Foundation, told CityBeat on Tuesday.

If enough private contributors agree to finance the streetcar’s operating costs, they could address a major concern raised by streetcar opponents and provide the clearest path forward for the $132.8 million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took office early this month.

The Haile Foundation already contributed $1 million to an operating reserve fund for the streetcar, but Avner cautions that his organization’s donation is only the beginning, given all the other entities interested in moving the streetcar forward.

Avner says 14 other business and philanthropic leaders supported the SORTA concept in person or through writing in time for SORTA’s board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. Among other community leaders, Avner cites Otto Budig, Cathy Crain of Cincinnati State, William Portman of the University of Cincinnati, Jeannie Golliher of the Cincinnati Development Fund, Rick Greiwe of Greiwe Development and Jack and Peg Wyant of Grandin Properties.

In a letter to SORTA, the Haile Foundation offers to recruit and financially establish a commission of community leaders that will work with the agency to create an operating and revenue plan that will require no funds from the city of Cincinnati. The letter also promises to leverage the initial $1 million investment to secure additional contributors and build a fund that would pay for a full year of operating costs.

Mayor John Cranley called SORTA’s offer “woefully insufficient” in a press conference on Tuesday. Cranley said the city will need financial assurances far above the Haile Foundation’s $1 million to cover $3.4-$4.5 million in annual operating costs for the streetcar over 30 years.

Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of two potential swing votes on City Council, agreed with Cranley’s assessment, but he said the proposal could become a viable option if the city receives more assurances from SORTA and private entities that show the groups are serious in their offer.

At this point, private contributors might be necessary to save the streetcar project. Cranley and Flynn said on Dec. 12 that operating costs must be written off the city’s budget if the project is to move forward.

SORTA already agreed to help operate the streetcar if the project is completed, but its decision to take up the operating costs shows an additional commitment to the project.

The agency claims bus services will not be impacted by its increased commitment to the streetcar.

City Council expects to vote on Thursday on whether to restart the streetcar project. Council paused the project on Dec. 4 while the city audits the project’s completion, cancellation and operating costs.

Read the Haile Foundation’s full letter below:

 
 
by German Lopez 06.24.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, City Council, Commissioners at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar vote today, sewer project compromise reached, "megadeals" fail expectations

The federal government is committing another $5 million to Cincinnati’s streetcar project, but the city must first close the budget gap that has recently put the project in danger. The U.S. Department of Transportation is also asking the city to restore certain aspects of the project, including a passenger information system and a screen or wall that would block power substations from public view. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is expected to vote on the project’s $17.4 million budget gap today. The latest proposed fixes from the city manager would pull funding from multiple capital projects, including improvements around the Horseshoe Casino, and issue more debt.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County announced a compromise Friday that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects. As a result, the city will be required to rework its “responsible bidder” ordinance and repeal the “local hire” and “local preference” laws that incited county commissioners into passing the funding hold in the first place. The city says its responsible bidder law creates local jobs and encourages job training, but the county argues that law’s rules favor unions and push up costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in further detail here.

Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials. For Cincinnati, the risks of megadeals are nothing new: In 2011, the city’s $196.4 million megadeal with Convergys collapsed when the company failed to keep downtown employment at or above 1,450, and the company agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city.

As of Friday, Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Port announced it had signed the lease Friday, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the agency was going to sign the lease at all. The city will get a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million a year from the deal, according to city estimates. Current plans call for using the money to help balance city budgets and fund economic development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.

The prison company that owns and operates a northeastern Ohio prison lost four contracts around the nation in June, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In May, CityBeat released an in-depth report looking at the Corrections Corporation of America’s handling of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, finding evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions.

About one in three Ohio children live in a home where neither parent has a full-time, year-round job, and a quarter now live in poverty. Although Ohio’s overall ranking improved in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual report card on the well-being of children, the state worsened in three out of four economic indicators.

President Barack Obama will make a speech tomorrow unveiling sweeping plans for climate change. The president is expected to impose a series of regulations, particularly on power plants, with executive powers, which means the plans won’t require congressional action.

Ohio gas prices are still coming down this week.

Plants apparently do math to get through the night.

Some diseases, including some types of cancer, are now being diagnosed by smell.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Today is the last day to submit your questions here. We’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Streetcar, Health care at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar's cancellation unlikely, parking payment shrinks, Kasich could expand Medicaid

By the time a new mayor and City Council candidates take office in December, the city will have laid out roughly half a mile of track and spent or contractually obligated at least $117 million for the streetcar project. The contractual obligations mean it could cost more to cancel the project than to finish it, which will cost the city an estimated total of $88 million after deducting $45 million in federal grants. Still, mayoral candidate John Cranley and several council candidates insist they will try to cancel the project upon taking office. Check out CityBeat’s full in-depth story here.

The parking plan’s upfront payment has been reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city, as opposed to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, could be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets, according to an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney. The city manager claims the lump sum payment dropped as a result of rising interest rates and the Port Authority’s decision to relax parking meter hours outside Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District. The parking plan leases Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which plans to hire private companies to operate the assets. CityBeat covered the plan in greater detail here and the controversy surrounding it here.

Gov. John Kasich is considering using an executive order to expand the state’s Medicaid program with federal funds. The executive order would expand eligibility for the government-run health insurance program so it includes anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $15,900 in annual income for an individual. Kasich would then on Oct. 21 ask Ohio’s seven-member legislative-spending oversight panel to approve federal funds for the expansion. Kasich, a Republican, has aggressively pursued the Medicaid expansion, which the federal government promises under Obamacare to completely fund through 2016 then phase down and indefinitely hold its payments at 90 percent of the expansion’s total costs. But Republican legislators claim the federal government might not be able sustain the payments, even though the federal government has met its payments for the much larger overall Medicaid program since it was created in 1965.

At its final full session before the November election, City Council approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits for Pure Romance to bring the company to downtown Cincinnati for at least 20 years. Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on council, was the only one to vote against the tax incentives. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Gov. John Kasich’s administration was originally supposed to provide some tax incentives to the company, but it ultimately reneged after supposedly deciding that the company isn’t part of an industry the state typically supports. Critics say Kasich’s administration is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio yesterday announced it’s suing Ohio over anti-abortion restrictions passed in the 2014-2015 state budget. The ACLU claims the restrictions are unrelated to the budget and therefore violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language. CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.

Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says he’s monitoring the impact of the federal government shutdown with some concerns. “I’m more concerned if this goes more than four weeks or so, when we start talking about reimbursement programs for our larger social programs such as food stamps and cash assistance to the needy and those types of things. We just don’t have the money to front that type of thing,” he said. CityBeat covered the shutdown in further detail here.

Hamilton County’s government shrunk by more than one-third in the past decade.

City Council yesterday passed a resolution condemning State Sen. Bill Seitz’s attempts to weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. A study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend $3.65 billion more on their electricity bills over the next 12 years if the mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.

Early voting turnout is so far “anemic,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Ohio has the No. 12 worst tax environment among states, according to a report from the Tax Foundation. The rank is unchanged from the previous year’s report.

A central Ohio school might ban Halloween.

Bill Nye explains Jupiter’s big red spot:

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

 
 

 

 

 
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