by German Lopez
48 days ago
Tax abatements benefit wealthy, group to market Cincinnati, winter raises city’s costs
About 1 in 20 Cincinnatians, many of them in the
wealthiest neighborhoods, pay less in taxes because their home
renovations and constructions are subsidized by a local tax program.
While the program benefits the wealthy, it also hits Cincinnati Public
Schools and other local services through lost revenue. The tax abatement
program aims to keep and attract residents and businesses by lowering
the costs of moving and living in Cincinnati. Anastasia Mileham,
spokeswoman for 3CDC, says the tax abatements helped revitalize
Over-the-Rhine, for example. Others say the government is picking winners and losers
and the abatement qualifications should be narrowed.With hotel room bookings back to pre-recession levels,
Source Cincinnati aims to sell Cincinnati’s offerings in arts, health
care, entrepreneurism and anything else to attract new businesses and
residents. The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau
established the organization to reach out to national journalists and
continue the local economic momentum built up in the past few years.
“Successful cities are those that have good reputations,” Julie
Calvert, interim executive director at Source Cincinnati, told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Without reputation it’s difficult to get businesses to expand or
relocate or get more conventions or draw young diverse talent to work
for companies based here.”The harsh winter weather this year pushed Cincinnati’s
budget $5 million over, with nearly $3 million spent on salt, sand and
. The rest of the costs come through increased snow
plowing shifts and other expenses to try to keep the roads clean. The
extra costs just compound the city’s structurally imbalanced budget
problems. The need for more road salt also comes despite Councilman Charlie
Winburn’s attempts to undermine the city’s plans to stockpile and buy
salt when it’s cheap.Mayor John Cranley says the success of The Incline Public
House in East Price Hill, which he helped develop, speaks to the pent-up
demand for similar local businesses in neglected Cincinnati
neighborhoods.Less than a month remains to sign up for health insurance plans on HealthCare.gov.
The estimated 24,000 students who drop out of Ohio schools
each year might cost themselves and the public hundreds of millions a
year, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says meth abuse has reached “epidemic” levels in the state.Ohio gas prices continued to rise this week.Developers say they have funding for the first phase of a Noah’s Ark replica coming to Williamstown, Ky.There’s a Netflix hack that pauses a movie or TV show when the viewer falls asleep.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
75 days ago
City to add more cops, evolution “debate” today, Winburn considers State Senate race
Mayor John Cranley, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other city
officials yesterday announced a police plan to put more cops on the
streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and reach
out to youth. Blackwell acknowledged more cops alone won’t solve or
prevent the city’s heightened levels of violent crimes and homicides,
but he said changing the level of enforcement through new tactics, such
as hot spot policing, could help. A lot of research supports hot spot
policing, although the practice can sometimes backfire, as “stop and
frisk” did in New York City, if it targets minorities.Bill Nye the Science Guy today will debate Creation Museum
owner Ken Ham. The debate will focus on evolution, which is
overwhelmingly supported by science, and biblical creationism, which has
no scientific evidence to support it. The debate will be streamed live
here.Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn is considering a run
for the Ohio Senate. Winburn would run in the heavily Democratic 9th
Senate District. So far, there are two likely Democratic opponents:
former Councilman Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Dale Mallory. The seat is
open because State Sen. Eric Kearney, the Democratic incumbent, is term
limited.Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel might
get two Democratic opponents in this year’s election: Sean Feeney, a
North College Hill resident who already filed, and potentially Paul
Komerak, a member of the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive
committee. If both Komerak and Feeney run, they could face off in a
Democratic primary.City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously
approved tax credits for Tom + Chee to entice the grilled cheese and
tomato soup chain to keep its headquarters downtown as it expands
nationally. Councilman Kevin Flynn questioned whether tax breaks
should be given so leniently, but other council members argued the tax
deals keep jobs in the city.City Council might structurally balance the budget and fix the underfunded pension system to stabilize Cincinnati’s bond rating.The Ohio Senate is still mulling over ways to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. CityBeat covered the standards in greater detail here and here.Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper wants
to reform how the state picks outside law firms to avoid appearances of
pay-to-play that have mired Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. A
previous Dayton Daily News investigation found firms lobbying for state assignments contributed $1.3 million to DeWine’s campaign.Attorneys for the Ohio inmate next scheduled for execution
asked for a stay to avoid a “lingering death” similar to the 26-minute,
seemingly painful execution of Dennis McGuire. CityBeat covered McGuire’s execution and the concerns it raised in further detail here.Enrollment in Ohio’s public colleges and universities dropped by 2 percent in the latest fall semester.Ohio gas prices ticked up at the start of the week, but the lowest average was in Cincinnati.Scientists claim space-grown vegetables are safe to eat.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Tea party activists and fiscal conservatives are securing
seats on local school boards across the Tristate and taking their anger
over big government and Obama out on tax levies and Common Core
standards. CINCINNATI -1
by German Lopez
88 days ago
Board debates moving early voting, Winburn shelves rail sale, abortion clinic could close
The Hamilton County Board of Elections remains split on
whether to move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount
Airy. The two Democrats on the board oppose the move because it could
make voting more difficult for Over-the-Rhine and downtown residents.
The two Republicans on the board support the plan because
it will consolidate operations with the county, which plans to move the county crime lab to the Mount Airy site, and add free parking. If the board
remains split, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will break the
tie.Councilman Charlie Winburn shelved his idea to sell the city-owned
Southern Railway to help shore up Cincinnati’s underfunded pension
system. It’s unlikely the idea would have made it through City Council
or Mayor John Cranley. The proposal seemed a bit hypocritical coming
from Winburn, who criticized the previous city administration for
attempting to sell off or lease long-term revenue sources, such as the
city’s parking system, for lump sums. Still, the pension issue remains a major concern for local officials; Winburn asked council members to help find a solution to the problem this year.The Ohio Department of Health ordered a Cincinnati-area
abortion clinic to close after it failed to reach a patient transfer
agreement with a local hospital, as required by law. The clinic, located
in Sharonville, plans to appeal the ruling. The facility has failed to
establish a patient transfer agreement since 2010, but previous
Democratic administrations exempted the clinic from the regulations. At
the current rate of closures, Ohio could soon fall below 10 available
abortion clinics for the first time in decades. For several clinics,
part of the issue stems from anti-abortion restrictions in the 2014-2015 state
budget approved by Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the
Ohio legislature.Council last week approved form-based code for a third
neighborhood, Walnut Hills. The regulation allows neighborhoods to bring
in new development while hopefully keeping the historic charm and
character of the city.The Cincinnati Bengals asked Hamilton County to hand over
sole ownership of naming rights for Paul Brown Stadium, but county
commissioners don’t seem keen on the idea.Over-the-Rhine residents have mobilized to save two old
buildings that the Freestore Foodbank originally planned to tear down.
Ryan Messer, who is leading the charge to save the buildings, said on
Facebook today that the Freestore Foodbank agreed to hold off on the
demolitions while both parties meet with residents willing to buy and
renovate the buildings.Federal authorities questioned an Ohio man wearing Google
Glass at a movie theater over fears he was attempting to record the
film. No action was taken after the man confirmed the Google Glass is
also a pair of prescription glasses and the recording function was
turned off.Robots could replace one-fourth of U.S. combat soldiers by 2030, according to a general.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
103 days ago
Posted In: News
at 12:28 PM | Permalink
Gang-related activity driving increase in violence, according to police
Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department testified in
front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday to
address the local increase in homicides.
The city’s homicide rate hit 25 per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, following a spike in homicides in
Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati, according to
“The concern has been the sheer number of homicides we
experienced in 2013 and the number of juvenile victims we had this
year,” said Assistant Chief Dave Bailey.
Councilman Christopher Smitherman also highlighted the
high levels of black-on-black crime, which Chief Jeffrey Blackwell
agreed are unacceptable across the country.
“My fear is that my son, who’s African-American … is
going to be killed by another African-American,” Smitherman said.
“That’s what those stats are saying.”
The key driver of the increases, according to police, is
gang-related activity, particularly activity involving the Mexican drug cartel that
controls the heroin trade.
“If our theory is correct, most of these homicides involve narcotic sales, respect and retaliation,” Bailey said.
Chief Blackwell explained the increase in homicides
appears to be particularly related to disruptions in criminal organizations and their
“Criminal territories have been disrupted, and we’ve seen
an increase in turf wars and neighborhood situations between young
people,” he said. “Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two
known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn asked what council could do to help remedy the situation.
“We are significantly short of police officers, so we
desperately need a recruit class,” Blackwell responded. “We need to
improve our technology platform here in the police department.”
Blackwell cautioned that there’s not a direct correlation
between more police officers and less homicides, but he said another
recruit class could help the city meet basic needs.Flynn claimed council is very willing to meet those needs, given the importance of public safety to the city’s prosperity. “If we’re not safe and we don’t have the perception that
we’re a safe city, none of the rest of the great things we do as a city
are going to help,” he said.How council meets those needs while dealing with fiscal concerns remains to be seen, considering Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council members ran on the promise of structurally balancing the city’s operating budget for the first time in more than a decade. City officials have vowed to avoid raising taxes and cutting basic services, which makes the task of balancing the budget all the more difficult. Advancing promises of more spending for the police department further complicates the issue, even if it’s politically advantageous in a city seriously concerned about public safety.Cincinnati Police will hold several town hall meetings in
the next week to hear concerns from citizens. The meetings will span
across all local districts:• District 2: Jan. 7, Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way.• District 3: Jan. 8, Elder HS Schaeper Center, 3900 Vincent.• District 1 and Central Business District: Jan. 9, River of Life Church, 2000 Central Parkway.• District 5: Jan. 13, Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave..• District 4: Jan. 14, Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.Correction: The local homicide rate for 2013 was 25 per 100,000 residents, contrary to the 15.5 per 100,000 rate cited by police officials to City Council.
Balanced budget, pension reform among tough tasks facing incoming council members hoping not to raise taxes
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
of newly elected council members say they’re committed to structurally
balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget — a promise repeated by
Mayor-elect John Cranley on the campaign trail and following the Nov. 5
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Support for the uptown interchange project reveals the hypocrisy of streetcar opponents.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Americans have been desensitized by years
of whining in the news about how bad of a job our nation’s schools are
doing at educating children.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Noble Maseru said the city intends to
work toward greater equity in life expectancy among races, though he refused to admit
that reducing the life expectancy of whites would make this happen
by German Lopez
Conservative group has history of anti-LGBT causes
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes.“I don’t want it. I’m not a member of COAST,” Cranley says.
The response comes just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie
Winburn for a “change of direction.” The group later claimed the tweets weren’t endorsements, but not before
progressives called on candidates to reject COAST’s support.Councilman Chris Seelbach responded to COAST’s apparent interest in influencing the mayoral and City Council races on his Facebook page: “Regardless of the politics involved, anyone who wants my
support should make it clear: COAST is a hate-driven, fringe
organization that should not be apart (sic) of any conversation on how
to make Cincinnati a better place.”CityBeat couldn’t immediately reach
Murray, Smitherman or Winburn for comment on whether they would accept
COAST's support for their campaigns. But Smitherman, who is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he’s not campaigning, often teams up with COAST on local issues.
Seelbach, who has been a favorite target of COAST, tells CityBeat there’s no doubt the group’s vitriolic opposition is at least partly based on hate.
“Without question, I believe COAST targets me because I’m
gay,” Seelbach says. “In some ways, I’m a symbol of everything that they
hate, which is LGBT progress.”Cranley agrees the group is hateful. He points out that some COAST members have criticized him over the years for supporting LGBT causes, including hate crime legislation in 2003.
In the 1990s, Chris Finney, chief legal crusader for
COAST, authored Article XII, the city charter amendment approved by
voters in 1993 that barred the city from deeming gays a protected class
in anti-discrimination statutes.
In a June 1994 Cincinnati Post article,
Finney said landlords should not be legally required to rent to gay or
lesbian tenants. Finney explained, “Because there may be some who don’t
want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they
find offensive.” To critics, the remarks seemed fairly similar to
arguments leveled in support of racial segregation in the 1960s.COAST chairman Tom Brinkman and member Mark Miller were also part of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which defended Article XII in court in 1997.
When City Council passed hate crime legislation protecting
gays and lesbians in 2003, Brinkman criticized the Catholic members of City Council at the time — including Cranley, who sponsored the legislation — for sending “the message that you openly approve of homosexuality.”Back then, Cranley responded, “We have a little something in this
country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked
me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution.”
Around the same time, Seelbach prepared and then helped lead the 2004
campaign that did away with Article XII. For Cincinnati, the repeal of
the city charter amendment, just 11 years after voters approved it,
exemplified the more tolerant, open direction the country was moving in regards to the LGBT community.
But while the country has embraced greater equality for
LGBT individuals, Seelbach says COAST hasn’t done the same. Even though
Seelbach voted against the parking plan that COAST also opposes, the
conservative organization has regularly targeted Seelbach in blog posts
and emails criticizing the plan, which leases the city’s parking meters,
lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
In March, COAST sent out a doctored image that compared
Seelbach to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ in the Christian
religion, for approving an emergency clause on the parking plan that
effectively exempted the plan from a voter referendum. Seelbach voted
against the parking plan itself when it came to a vote.
“I don’t believe in running our city by referendums,”
Seelbach says. “What we currently have is a representative democracy. We
elect people that we hold accountable by either re-electing them or
not, and we trust the people that we elect to research the policies and
make informed decisions. I think that’s the best system.”
Most recently, COAST went after Seelbach for his trip to
Washington, D.C., where he received the Harvey Milk Champion of Change
award for his efforts to protect and promote Cincinnati’s LGBT
community. The city paid more than $1,200 for the trip, which COAST
called into question with legal threats. Even though City Solicitor John
Curp, the city’s top lawyer, deemed the allegations frivolous, Seelbach
agreed to reimburse the funds to stave off a lawsuit that could have
cost the city more than $30,000.
At the same time, media outlets, including WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer,
have closely covered COAST’s allegations and commonly turned to the
group to get the conservative side of different issues, ranging from the
streetcar project to the pension system. Both media outlets have
characterized COAST as a “government watchdog group,” ignoring the organization’s history of conservative activism and crafting legislation.
The favorable attention might be turning around. The Enquirer recently scrutinized COAST’s lawsuits against the city, which revealed the group, which frames itself as an
anti-tax, anti-spending watchdog, could cost the city more than $500,000
in legal fees. The city solicitor also estimated his office puts the
equivalent of one full-time employee on COAST’s cases, with the typical
city civil attorney making about $65,000 a year, according to The Enquirer.
Seelbach acknowledges the vast differences between the
black and LGBT civil rights movements, but he says a group with a
similarly discriminatory past wouldn’t get the kind of media coverage and
attention COAST does, at least without the proper context.
“If there was a group that had a history of fighting for
segregation, … there is absolutely no way anyone, much less media, would
quote or accept support in any form,” Seelbach says.This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. with more context.