0 Comments · Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black signed a letter asking that footage from police body cameras not be public record, discussions in Cincinnati City Council’s Jan. 17 meeting revealed.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:42 AM | Permalink
Council passes tax deals; big announcement on Music Hall; this coffee has a little something extra
Hey y’all. Here’s a brief rundown of the news this morning before I have to fly out the door to cover a few things. • City Council yesterday voted to approve a number of property tax-related items we’ve already reported on. But here are the cliff notes. Among the bigger ones was a controversial move to create two tax increment financing districts around properties owned by Evanston-based developer Neyer. The group has said it will be making big improvements to the area and asked the city to create the TIF districts to fund infrastructure improvements in the districts. Some critics have called this a tax abatement, but in reality, Neyer will stay pay taxes — they’ll just end up in a fund earmarked for public works projects around their buildings instead of flowing into the general fund, where they could be used for police, transit, etc. Council also passed an amendment at the request of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson requiring council approval of all expenditures from the fund. Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the TIF districts.• City Council also unanimously passed a 15-year tax abatement for a project in Clifton Heights by Gilbane Development Co. that will bring 180 units of student housing to the neighborhood. The abatement, which could be worth up to $12 million, is for the building’s proposed environmentally-friendly Silver LEED certification. Council voted unanimously for the tax break. This project was also controversial, as a number of residents in Clifton Heights say such developments are changing the character of the neighborhood.• Believe in Cincinnati, the grassroots group responsible for pushing the streetcar forward last winter, is holding a rally today to launch an effort pushing council to make plans for the streetcar’s extension into uptown. City administration so far has no plans for such a study until the first phase of the project is complete and can be evaluated. Believe in Cincinnati would like to see the next phase planned soon so that the project can apply for grants and find other funding.The rally will be at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Race and Elder streets near Findlay Market. "Why shouldn't we get those scarce federal dollars for transit instead of another city? If we don't have a plan, we won't be considered," said the group’s leader Ryan Messer to the Cincinnati Business Courier.• Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, Mayor John Cranley will hold a news conference at Music Hall, where he’s likely to announce that the landmark has won an Ohio historic tax credit worth millions. Representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office and the Ohio Development Services Office will also speak at the press conference, along with state Sen. Bill Seitz. The grant is worth up to $25 million. Music Hall has been competing with Cleveland’s Huntington Building and May Co. department store and the former Goodyear Tire Co. headquarters in Akron. The historic hall, which is home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and a number of other cultural institutions, needs $123 million in renovations. Funding efforts so far are still $40 million short. The state tax credit could go a long way toward filling that gap.UPDATE: Music Hall will get the full $25 million tax credit.• The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is investigating a grant program for public schools recently put forward by Gov. John Kasich. The Community Connections mentorship program conditions receipt of the grant on public schools’ collaboration with religious institutions, something the ACLU says may be violate separation of church and state under the constitution. The group is investigating the program further. “The First Amendment of the Constitution provides very strong protection against the government imposing religion upon children in public schools,” said Heather Weaver of the ACLU Program on Religious Freedom and Belief in a news release. “This new program appears to disregard those protections and injects religion into our classrooms.”• Continually low wages and changes to federal food assistance programs have been a one-two punch for low-income families in Ohio, a new study finds. The combination of stagnant pay and cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enacted last year mean that Ohioans lost access to the equivalent of 195 million meals since November of last year, according to research by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, which provides food assistance across the state. The study showed that 50 percent of households receiving food assistance have at least one member who is employed; it also showed that many of those recipients are underemployed and received no boost in wages from the year prior. Tied to the $265 million cut to the SNAP program Congress enacted last year, that’s left many families worse off than they have been before. The cuts have other repercussions as well, according to the group.“Our network and the people we serve can’t afford to absorb any more spending tradeoffs, reductions, or harmful policy changes,” said OAF Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt. “The loss of $265 million in entirely federally-funded SNAP benefits has already had an astronomical economic impact. Every $5 in federal expenditures of SNAP benefits generates $9 in local spending, so this loss of SNAP benefits has not only impacted the food budgets of low-income families — it has also led to an estimated $477 million in lost revenue for grocers and retailers and lost economic growth.”• If you need a way to boost productivity around the office, well, this is one way to get that done. Or it might just start a ton of fights and paranoid ramblings. Actually, maybe just steer clear of this “enhanced” coffee shipped to Germany recently.
by German Lopez
Local infant deaths remain high, pension fixes proposed, Seitz renews anti-efficiency efforts
Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s infant mortality rates
dropped to record lows in 2013, but the city and county’s rates of
infant deaths remain far above the national average. Over the past five
years, the city’s infant mortality rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live
births and the county’s rate reached 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In comparison, the national average in 2011 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000
live births. Cradle Cincinnati, a collaborative initiative formed in
2013, pointed to three possible factors to explain the troubling rates: short
time between pregnancies, maternal smoking during pregnancy and poor
sleeping habits, including deaths that could be easily prevented by
ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib.Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday proposed fixes
for Cincinnati’s ailing pension system, and the proposal includes a hit
to city retirees’ benefits. Unique to Smitherman’s plan is a new $100
million commitment to help shore up the city’s unfunded
liability of $870 million, but Smitherman could not say where council would get that
much money. Otherwise, the proposal would freeze cost of living
increases in the system for three years and reduce future cost of living increases from a
3 percent compounded rate to a 2 percent fixed rate, among other
changes. Smitherman hopes to get up-or-down votes on his plan within the
next two weeks, even if it requires splitting the plan into multiple
parts.State Sen. Bill Seitz plans to renew his efforts in the Ohio legislature to
dismantle the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. Seitz says
“devastating testimony” in support of his bill should invigorate a push
for his plan. But the testimony will apparently be based off a flawed
industry-financed report released yesterday. A separate study, based on
an economic model from the Ohio State University, found Ohio’s energy standards
will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014
and 2025.Cincinnati plans to begin marketing an 18-acre plot of
land in Lower Price Hill to bring 400 jobs to the
struggling neighborhood. After the city finishes environmental
remediation this month, it hopes to put the property on the market. CityBeat previously covered some of Lower Price Hill’s struggles with poverty in further detail here.The gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John Kasich and
Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald tightened from seven points in
November to five points this month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. But the
survey did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl as a choice —
an omission that could work to Kasich’s favor in the polling results.Gay families are being excluded from Obamacare benefits in
Ohio and other states in which same-sex marriage is not recognized.
That means Ohio’s gay families can’t get financial benefits going to
traditional families to help them get covered. President Barack Obama’s
administration says it’s aware of the issue, but it doesn’t plan a fix
until next year.Some Ohio lawmakers want an investigation into Kasich’s
administration after documents showed his administration planning to
work with oil and gas companies to promote fracking in state parks and
forests. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons
of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and
gas reserves. CityBeat covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.Bad news: A Chinese firm won’t bring an $80 million project to the Cincinnati area after all.An Ohio driver rescued a kitten found frozen on the road.A parasite commonly found in cats can now be found in
arctic beluga whales. Scientists say melting ice barriers — a symptom of
climate change — explains the pathogen’s increased migration.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Early voting location debated, schools could get more snow days, execution investigated
Local early voting could move from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, following a split, party-line vote from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Democrats oppose the move because they say it will make early voting less accessible to people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans support the move as part of a plan to consolidate some county services, particularly a new crime lab, at the Mount Airy facility. With the board split, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, could step in to break the tie vote.But Husted's spokesperson said the secretary of state might encourage the Board of Elections to "take another look" at the issue, and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county will not move the Board of Elections without a majority vote.Gov. John Kasich called for a one-time increase in the number of school calamity days to cope with the unusually severe winter weather this year. Under state law, schools are normally allowed five calamity days before extra days off start chipping into summer break. The state legislature must approve legislation to enact the temporary increase.Ohio officials found no substantial evidence
that a public defender coached convicted killer Dennis McGuire to fake
suffocation during his execution. Eye-witness accounts report McGuire
visibly struggled, snorted and groaned as he took 26 minutes to die — the longest execution since Ohio restarted using the death penalty in 1999.Despite what a local state senator says, there are a lot of differences between Ohio's Clean Energy Law and Stalinism.Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate continues working on a proposal that would weaken Ohio's renewable energy and efficiency standards. But it's unclear if the new attempt will be any more successful than State Sen. Bill Seitz's failed, years-long crusade against the Clean Energy Law.Local Democrats endorsed Christie Bryant for an open seat in the Ohio House, even though five interviewed for the position and could run in the Democratic primary. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke previously told CityBeat local Democrats endorse prior to a primary in some special situations. In this case, the party wanted to guarantee a black candidate, and Bryant is the most qualified, according to Burke. A new report found Ohio's prison population ticked down by nearly 2 percent since 2011, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) says it is now trending back up. To address the recent rise, ODRC Director Gary Mohr says legislators need to provide more opportunities for community-based drug treatment, mental health care and probation programs to help reduce prison re-entry rates.More than 112,000 Ohio students dropped out of high schools between 2006 and 2010.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will shape plans this year to remake some of Queensgate and Camp Washington into manufacturing, engineering and laboratory hubs with high-paying jobs.Hamilton County might sell some of its six downtown buildings.Former Mayor Mark Mallory took a job with the Pennsylvania-based Chester Group, which provides "energy, water and wastewater solutions to public and industrial clients across the United States and internationally," according to a press release.Councilman Chris Seelbach's vegan chili won the Park+Vine cook-off.Confirmed by science: Walking while texting or reading a text increases chances of injury.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Local state senator continues comparing energy law to Stalinism
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, continues
comparing Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency law to Stalinism and
other extreme Soviet-era policies.
Seitz’s latest comparison, according to Columbus’ Business First, claims Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell didn’t need “Stalinist” mandates to pursue their inventions.“It was not some Stalinist government mandating, ‘You must buy my stuff,’” Seitz said.
It’s not the first time Seitz made the comparison. In
March, he said Ohio’s Clean Energy Law reminds him of “Joseph Stalin’s
five-year plan.”Seitz, a director of the conservative, oil-backed American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), remains unsuccessful in his
years-long push to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency
standards. He says the law picks winners and losers in the energy market
by favoring Ohio-based efficient, renewable sources.Environmentalists and other supporters of the law claim it
helps combat global warming and encourages economy-boosting innovations
in the energy market, including the adoption of more solar power in
Cincinnati.Seitz’s references to Stalin continue the long-popular Republican
tactic of comparing economic policies conservatives oppose with
socialism, communism and other scary-sounding ideas.While Seitz’s argument makes for catchy rhetoric, there are a few key differences between Stalinism and Ohio’s Clean Energy Law:Stalinism is a framework of authoritarian, communist policies
pursued in the 20th century by Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin. It
involves a state takeover of various aspects of private life and the
economy.The Clean Energy Law is a policy established in 2008 by
the democratic state of Ohio. The law sets benchmarks requiring utility
companies to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable
sources, such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar, and save 22 percent of
electricity through new efficiency efforts by 2025.Stalinism pushes out private markets and replaces them with an authoritarian government’s total command.The Clean Energy Law sets standards and regulations for existing private businesses.Stalinism saves Ohioans no money.The Clean Energy Law will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on
their electricity bills over the next 12 years, according to a 2013
report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy
Economy.To enforce his policies, Stalin killed millions of people —
a number so high that historians have trouble calculating exactly how
many died under the Soviet leader’s reign.To enforce the Clean Energy Law, Ohio officials have killed zero people.Stalinism and other communist policies are widely
considered unsustainable by economists and historians and a primary
reason for the Soviet Union’s downfall.The Clean Energy Law follows regulatory and incentive
models established in various states and countries with
flourishing economies, including Colorado and Sweden.The differences are pretty clear. Ohio’s Clean Energy Law
might require some refining, and there might be better solutions to
global warming, such as the carbon tax. But comparisons to Stalinism go
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:40 AM | Permalink
Proposed legislation removes five days in which voters can simultaneously register and vote
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes
Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s in-person early voting
period from 35 to 29 days and repeal a five-day period in which Ohioans
can simultaneously register to vote and vote in person.
“The five-day window offers major benefits to many voters,
including those with disabilities or inflexible work schedules, and
there is little evidence that it has created any major problems,” said
ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner
in a statement. “S.B. 238 throws away these critical, nonpartisan
benefits for no good reason.”
The bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Nov. 13 by
Republican State Sen. Frank Larose. It’s co-sponsored by six Republicans,
including State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati.
The bill’s introduction follows a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urging legislators to trim in-person early voting days.
The Ohio Association of Election Officials claims
uniform voting hours are necessary to avoid legal challenges in case
some counties set longer voting periods than others, which courts could
deem unfair under equal protection grounds. The uniform voting periods
reduce early voting days in some counties without their approval, the
organization acknowledges, but it’s necessary to keep the standards
uniform without placing an unfair burden on smaller counties.
Democrats, including State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, say the real reason behind such proposals is to suppress voters.
“The Secretary of State’s voter suppression agenda is
extremely disappointing. As the state’s chief elections officer,
Secretary Husted is tasked with the duty of ensuring that Ohio’s
elections are fair and accessible to all citizens,” Reece said in a
statement. “Unfortunately, the proposed changes are aimed at restricting
voters’ access to the ballot box in 2014.”
Democrats have some evidence to their claims. Doug
Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close
adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch
in an email regarding early voting, “I guess I really actually feel we
shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read
African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
by German Lopez
Bill weakens energy standards, groups rally against global warming, county could cut taxes
Cincinnati’s State Sen. Bill Seitz says he will introduce a “compromise” bill
that still weakens Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards but
allows some of the current requirements for in-state renewable sources
to remain for a few years. Environmental and business groups argue
Seitz’s original bill would effectively gut the state’s energy standards
and, according to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy, force Ohioans to pay an extra $3.65 billion in electricity bills over 12 years.
But some utility companies, particularly Akron-based FirstEnergy, claim
the current standards are too burdensome and impose extra costs on
Meanwhile, Ohioans on Nov. 16 rallied in front of the Ohio Statehouse
to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal
regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.
The regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to
limit carbon emissions from power plants, which Environment Ohio says
are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary
contributor to global warming. Although some conservatives deny
human-caused global warming, scientists stated in the 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.
Hamilton County commissioners will vote on Wednesday on a plan that would increase the tax return received by property taxpayers.
Republican Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s proposal would increase the
rebate from $10 million to $12 million, or $35 for each $100,000 of
property value in 2013 to $42 in 2014. But Democratic Commissioner Todd
Portune, the lone Democrat in the three-member board, says he would
rather focus on increasing the sales tax to make the stadium fund
sustainable and not reliant on casino revenue, which could go to other
Commissioners also agreed to not place a property tax levy renewal for the Cincinnati Museum Center on the ballot
until there’s a plan to fix Union Terminal. The informal decision followed the
recommendations of the Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee,
which reported that it will only support the levy renewal if the city,
county and museum develop a plan to transfer ownership of Union Terminal
from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and locate public and
private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Monday that he’s forming a heroin unit
to tackle what he describes as a drug epidemic sweeping across Ohio’s
communities. The effort, which is estimated at $1 million, will focus on
education, outreach and law enforcement. David Pepper, DeWine’s likely
Democratic opponent for the attorney general position in 2014, argues
DeWine, a Republican, moved too slowly on the issue; Pepper says the
problem began in 2011, more than two years before DeWine’s proposal.
Cincinnati council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman yesterday reiterated their opposition to the city’s responsible bidder policy,
which requires bidders for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) work to
follow specific standards for apprenticeship programs. The law has
caused an impasse between the county, which owns MSD, and the city,
which is in charge of management. The conflict comes in the middle of a
federal mandate asking MSD to retrofit Cincinnati’s sewer system — a
project that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.
Cincinnati’s Department of Public Services will expedite the delivery of bigger trash carts.
The deliveries are part of Mayor Mark Mallory’s controversial trash
policy, which limits each household to one trash cart that can be picked
up by automated trucks in an effort to save money and avoid workers’ injuries.
Mayor-elect John Cranley says the policy is too limiting and causing people to
dump trash in public areas.
Cincinnati’s Metro is the most efficient bus service
compared to 11 peer cities, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when
it comes to level of service, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.
Metro plans to announce today that it will balance its operational
budget without fare increases or service cuts for the fourth year in a
For Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run
on a holiday schedule. The sales office will also be closed for Thanksgiving
and the day after.
Ohio will receive nearly $717,000
in a multi-state settlement involving Google, which supposedly overrode
some browsers’ settings to plant cookies that collect information for advertisements.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Stan Chesley,
which means the local attorney can no longer practice law in front of
the nation’s highest court. The controversy surrounding Chesley began
more than a decade ago when he was accused of misconduct for his
involvement with a $200 million fen-phen diet-drug settlement.
Some organisms might evolve the ability to evolve.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Medicaid expansion challenged, jails go uninspected, local senator's energy bill criticized
Republican legislators filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s two-year, federally funded Medicaid expansion
after Republican Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board,
an obscure seven-member legislative panel, instead of the
Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate to get approval for the
expansion. The lawsuit, filed to the Ohio Supreme Court, claims, “Each
representative is disenfranchised in his legislative capacity through
the Controlling Board’s exercise of legislative authority.” Kasich put his request to the Controlling Board
to bypass the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling
legislators in his own party to approve the expansion. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio previously found
the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through
fiscal year 2015; if legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the
institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly
half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Meanwhile, some state senators plan to use the savings from the Medicaid expansion to cut taxes. For Ohioans making up to $50,000 a year, the 4-percent income tax cut would mean annual savings of less than $50.
State officials haven’t inspected southwest Ohio jails for five years,
which means the jails could be breaking minimum standards set by the
state without anyone knowing. The inspections were supposed to occur each
year, but a lack of resources, which left only one inspector in the
department, forced the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
(ODRC) to stop the practice and instead ask jails to inspect themselves —
with limited checks on jails fabricating claims. The inspections are
starting back up now that ODRC has a second jail inspector on its staff,
but the inspections are announced beforehand, meaning jails can plan
for them, and the punishment for failing to meet standards is
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce two amendments
to walk back controversial provisions of an even more controversial
bill that weakens Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards.
Critics say the bill would water down and effectively eliminate Ohio’s
cost-saving energy standards, but Seitz, who has ties to a national conservative group that opposes energy standards,
argues the rules impose too many costs on utility companies. A previous
study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found
repealing the standards would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by
$3.65 billion over the next 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
City Solicitor John Curp and Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said in an Oct. 22 email exchange
that it was ethically OK for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to retain her
job as a realtor and vote in support of the streetcar project, even
though the project could indirectly benefit Qualls by increasing
property values — and therefore her compensation as a realtor — along
the route. The exchange was provided to CityBeat and various
media outlets after mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized Qualls,
who is also running for mayor, for the alleged ethical violation at an
Oct. 22 press conference. But Curp and Nick, who cited two previous
opinions from the Ohio Ethics Commission, agreed that Qualls’ financial
connection to property values was too indirect and speculative because
she only picks up a flat fee for the “arms-length transactions between
private parties.” Curp also noted that Qualls had asked about the
potential ethical conflict two times before.
A state prison in Toledo is no longer accepting new inmates
after reports of increasing violence. The goal is to cut down on the
amount of prisoners sharing a cell, ODRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told
The Associated Press. Smith said the change was already in the works
before a recent bout of killings. The facility holds roughly 1,300 prisoners, which
is close to capacity.
Former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is heading a state committee created by Gov. Kasich that’s trying to figure out how to curb college costs while improving quality.
Gallup says a majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. CityBeat previously covered legalization and how it could affect Ohio in further detail here.
Women’s breasts apparently age more quickly than the rest of their bodies, according to a new study.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Ohio could weaken energy rules, city wins green award, Obamacare beats projections
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations
after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company
FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly
energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity,
cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups
and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own
self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A
study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy
coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards
would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the
next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the
regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award
from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local
efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean
sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million
kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel
out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s
purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate
the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at
the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in
2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.
Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected,
according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on
Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will
have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest
“silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax
credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to
compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual
market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the
majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an
employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system
and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.
Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?”
The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third
party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement
comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the
Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased
it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and
ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors
to the public.
Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former
Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State
Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for
state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John
O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.
This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.
A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man
for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim
Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the
campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by
the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.
A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.
A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.
by German Lopez
Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media
As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward
with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding
shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is
Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free
through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step
toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited
stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly
federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost
hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal
grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and
cutting some routes.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation
capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and
scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major
moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the
changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their
electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22
percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of
Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from
Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to “alternative sources.”)
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat,
for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him
over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have
similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking
plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response,
Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The
stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has
included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in,
the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re
marijuana and lots of free ice cream.
Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”
Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”:
Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the
lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really
favor downtown over neighborhoods.
Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel
if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned
space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block
complex with 305 apartments.
State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase
in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous
spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for
people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places
people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”
Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday
announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical
housing and clinical services for homeless veterans. The grants are
part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative
called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside
local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor
John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin
Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.
Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.
Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.
Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.