City Council’s Livable Communities committee is expected to hear about and likely vote tonight on the city’s first master plan in more than 30 years. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered, seeks a renewed emphasis on Cincinnati’s urban core through new infrastructure and transportation options. It was put together largely based on public feedback.
The “fiscal cliff,” which is really more of a self-induced austerity crisis from the federal government, could seriously hurt Ohio schools. Educators around the state, including Cincinnati schools, are expecting a cut of about 8 percent in federal funding. A Cincinnati Public Schools levy was recently renewed after a decade of cuts and problems at the school district.
Gov. John Kasich has finally made a decision for Obamacare: The state will not run the health exchanges that are a big part of the plan. With the governor’s decision, managing the health exchanges now falls to the federal government. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, defended the governor’s decision by pointing out that even if the state managed the exchanges, the federal government would always have the final say, creating an arrangement “just doesn’t make sense for the state.” Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace.
Cincinnati’s economy is being carried largely by manufacturing, and that looks likely to continue.
Business schools at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University were found to be among the nation’s best, according to the Princeton Review. Still, none of the schools made the top 10 rankings for the review’s 11 categories.
City Council is holding a public hearing today to find out what the city should do with casino revenue. Some of the council members already have plans, but City Council wants public feedback to shape the final decision.
In other council news, the Human Services Advisory committee recommended funding for 56 out of 58 programs. The two programs left out are the Over-The-Rhine Kitchen and a social education program offered by the Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati.
Cincinnati’s Metro bus service will be getting a revamp in the next few years. The company released a comprehensive plan with short-term and long-term goals that focus on increasing travel speed and reach.
Charter schools are where a large amount of Ohio kids are getting their education. This is despite the fact that, in general, traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, according to state standards.
Food stamps for Ohio families are getting reduced by about $25 a month. The good news is the cut is lower than expected.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released a “re-inspection report” for the Lake Erie prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America. According to the new report, CCA has come a long way and corrected many of the violations the state originally found in the private prison. The last report found the prison, which CCA bought in 2011, was riddled with problems. CityBeat looked at private prisons, their problems and the shady connections between state officials and CCA in an in-depth report.
A report found more Ohioans are taking advantage of a national settlement that lets households refinance their mortgages. In total, more than 4,500 Ohioans have refinanced for $165 million in consumer relief. Still, many eligible Ohioans are not taking advantage of the opportunity.
Here are pictures of a tiny octopus, fighting female robots and an orange-powered battery.
City Council unanimously approved a development deal today to
build a grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage at Fourth and
Race streets downtown.
With council approval, construction could begin later this year, with developers hoping to finish the project in 2015.
The $80 million deal with Indianapolis-based development company Flaherty and Collins was approved following City Manager Milton Dohoney’s urging earlier today.
“If we wait any longer on the parking deal, we put this deal at risk. With the housing capacity issue downtown and decade-long cry for a grocery store, we must move forward,” Dohoney said in a statement.
The city’s share of the project will cost $12 million. As part of the deal, the city will provide the money through a five-year forgivable loan financed by urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for capital projects downtown. The funds can’t be used for operating budget expenses such as police and fire.
For more information on the project, read CityBeat’s original story on the Budget and Finance Committee hearing here.
On New Year’s Day, a fire broke out in a residential home near the University of Cincinnati that led to the deaths of UC students Chad Kohls and Ellen Garner, and their friends and family say the deaths could have been prevented by a better fire ordinance code. Now, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is heeding their call.
Speaking in front of the Livable Communities Committee
today, friends and family of Kohls and Garner asked City Council to pass changes to the fire ordinance, including more required fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning of each school semester and the removal of all exceptions in the code. They’re also asking the new ordinance be named in honor of Kohls and Garner.
Quinlivan says her office will work with the city administration to find possible changes that would help avert fire deaths, including a measure that would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on windows that are supposed to act as exits.
Quinlivan is also encouraging UC to restart a certified list of preferred rental locations around campus, which would only include housing properties that pass fire safety inspections.
“I am touched that those close to Ellen and Chad contacted me, so that we can work with our city administration to prevent similar tragedies in the future,” Quinlivan said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that requires all rental properties be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors that are better at detecting slow, smoldering fires, which have been linked to more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving fires picked up by the more traditional ionization smoke detectors, according to the vice mayor’s office. CityBeat covered that legislation here.
Screw Cyber Monday; it’s budget day! The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on its 2013 budget today. The initial vote was delayed when commissioners couldn’t all agree on the full details. In City Council, a memo revealed the budget should be unveiled today. One part of the Cincinnati proposal has already been hinted at by a previous memo from the city manager: privatized parking.
On Wednesday, City Council approved Plan Cincinnati. The master plan, which is the first the city has undertaken in 32 years, creates short-, medium- and long-term goals. Built largely on public feedback, the plan emphasizes Cincinnati’s urban core with new transportation programs, community health initiatives, new housing options and more. CityBeat previously covered the plan in-depth here.
In Hamilton County, 81 people voted twice. The votes, which involved provisional ballots, only reflects about 0.2 percent of the county’s vote, but it shows some of the confusion and inefficiencies of modern elections. One particular problem is some elderly voters cast absentee ballots before the election and then filed provisional ballots on Election Day.
A California firm is using Alaskan pension dollars to buy hundreds of homes in Greater Cincinnati. The real estate will be used to provide corporate rentals.
Some education advocates are worried state education agencies won't have the proper time and resources to implement HB 555. A few provisions will have to be ready by mid-2013, which some advocates see as too little time; but the president of the Ohio Board of Education remains confident. HB 555 will radically reform the state’s school report card system, which evaluates and grades schools. Some state officials are worried the new standards, which will be measured in part by new standardized tests, will be too tough. An early simulation of the new report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.
State Medicaid costs are rising, but more slowly. The slowdown may be partially attributed to Gov. John Kasich’s reforms of the program, which is one of the most prominent costs in state budgets around the country.
Gas prices in Ohio have gone up in the last week. The prices were higher than they were in 2011, and some experts say instability in the Middle East is to blame.
Ohio is looking good for a revival of the pharmaceutical industry. That’s good news since the industry could be on the cusp of a “golden era of renewed productivity and prosperity,” according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Unfortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, the next generation of water pollution could be flushed drugs.
Here is the pope made out of condoms.
Science has been hard at work in 2012. Here is a list of the seven greatest engineering innovations of the year. The list includes the world’s largest semi-submersible vessel, which can be used as an offshore dock, and a carbon-neutral office building, which is arguably the most sustainable workplace ever.
The greatest public service announcement ever made:
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.
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.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other help from the agency and state government, an investigation from Dayton Daily News discovered. The members are connected in various ways: Some are employed by the companies, others sit on their boards and a few just own stocks. The conflicts of interest that could undermine JobsOhio’s goals. The privatized development agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized nature allows it to move at “the speed of business” when luring companies to the state. But Democrats argue that the agency is unaccountable and draining state funds without any clear indication of where the money is going.
Meanwhile, JobsOhio gave financial aid to a company that simply shifted jobs from one city to another. The agency gave Timbertech a 50-percent credit to create 85 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. The company is abiding, but it’s simultaneously closing down a Columbus factory at the loss of 58 jobs.
Cincinnati will end up not laying off any city employees after City Council undoes $4 million in budget cuts with leftover revenue from the previous budget year. The restorations will reverse some or all of this year’s cuts to human services, parks, the Health Department and other city programs. Council members called the higher-than-projected revenue evidence that Cincinnati’s economic strategy is working. But the reversals also raise questions about the city administration’s original claims: When the 2014 budget was first being considered, Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration said the city would have to lay off 344 workers, including many cops and firefighters, to balance the budget without the parking lease. But without any of the parking money allocated, the city managed to avert all layoffs and undo a bulk of cuts, largely by using better-than-expected revenues from the past budget year.
Fixing up the Great American Ball Park for the All-Star Game could cost county taxpayers $5 million. The All-Star costs are just one part of the $27 million taxpayers will pay to improve stadiums in Hamilton County over the next five years. Stadiums are often touted by local officials as a way to boost the economy, but economists and urban planners have found that publicly funded sports arenas don’t lead to sizable economic growth.
Ohio’s job growth is so slow that it will take nearly five years to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading fundraising for this year’s Council campaigns.
The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is hosting two mayoral debates. This year’s candidates are Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, ex-Councilman John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are considered the two frontrunners.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is calling on community contributions to finish the second half of its renovations. The museum has raised $2.7 million out of the $6 million it needs.
Red Squirrel, a local restaurant chain, is closing down three of five eateries.
Internet-based psychotherapy apparently works.
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.
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
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.
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 study’s 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.
The Ohio Board of Education named Richard Ross, one of Gov. John Kasich’s top education advisers, to the state school superintendent position. Ross’ appointment links the Ohio Department of Education more closely with Kasich, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross is replacing Stan Heffner, who resigned in August after an ethics investigation found he had misused state resources for personal matters and testified in favor of legislation that could have benefited a company he planned to work for.
In a study that should be out next month, Ohio and Kentucky officials are reviewing the Brent Spence Bridge project to make it more affordable. Many officials want to use tolling to help pay for the bridge, but northern Kentucky residents and elected officials have pushed back because they’re concerned tolls will divert traffic to other bridges in Ohio and hurt the local economy.
In a press conference in front of the Ohio Statehouse yesterday, more than 100 educators and members of the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools (CORAS) asked Kasich to rework his education reform proposal in a way that would raise per-pupil funding, fully fund transportation, career technical and special education programs and pay for new initiatives like the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Under Kasich’s current proposal, the state is reducing aid from $5,700 for each student to $5,000, but CORAS says funding should be increased to $6,270. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes his education reform plan, here.
While funding in Kasich’s plan is mixed for traditional public schools, charter schools will get 4.5 percent more funding, according to the Legislative Service Commission. Conservatives typically tout charter schools for providing more “school choice,” but in a previous report, Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found more choices may bring down results from teachers and students.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan and friends and family of fire victims are pushing for a review of Cincinnati’s fire ordinance codes to avert fire deaths. The proposed changes include more required fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning of each school semester, the removal of all exceptions in the code and a measure that would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on windows that are supposed to act as exits. Quinlivan is also encouraging the University of Cincinnati to restart a certified list of preferred rental locations around campus, which would only include housing properties that pass fire safety inspections.
The first public hearings on Kasich’s budget proposal to expand Medicaid contained mixed testimony, with supporters touting greater accessibility to health care and improved health results and opponents claiming that Medicaid leads to worse outcomes and will discourage people from improving their economic situation. Previous studies, which CityBeat covered along with the rest of Kasich’s budget proposal here, found Medicaid expansions led to lower mortality rates and better health outcomes in certain states. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the Medicaid expansion will save the state money in the next decade and provide health insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has posted the full lawsuit filed against the city’s parking plan, which is set to have a hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Friday. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here.
Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled that Elmwood Place can’t collect on tickets from speed cameras that he recently deemed a violation of motorists’ due process. The city and police are filing an appeal to the initial ruling, which halted the use of the cameras.
Eighteen percent of Greater Cincinnati’s chief financial officers plan to hire for new professional-level positions in the second quarter, while 66 percent say they will only fill jobs that open in the next three months.
Ohio joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Google yesterday that is expected to net $162,000 for the state. The case centered around Google collecting data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide and taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.
The effort to effectively ban Internet sweepstakes cafes passed an Ohio House committee.
The federal government may not need to balance its budget at all, according to Bloomberg.
Trained Soviet attack dolphins with head-mounted guns are on the loose.
Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank is getting a little bit of local coverage after posting the following to his Facebook account on Sunday: “Turn out the lights on the Occupiers, I feel like going Taliban on them!!!” Frank yesterday explained in a grammatically challenged response the wildly circular logic behind his statement: “The taliban, through there (sic) eyes are resisting occupation. I'm resisting the Occupiers. I figured that the irony would be lost on most of the dummies in Occupation Nation that oppose the war because they see us as occupiers. I happen to oppose the war too but for highly different grounds.”