WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
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 Hannah McCartney 06.13.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Equality, Family, Community, Commissioners at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
german cute

Local Leaders Collaborate to Combat Infant Mortality

Cincinnati infants are dying at an alarmingly high rate

Some parts of Cincinnati suffer from higher infant mortality rates than third-world countries. In the city as a whole, infants die at rates more than twice the national average. We’ve been asking, “Why?” for a long time; this mysterious plague wiping out our infants hasn’t been solved even as our hospitals are recognized worldwide and as it continues to be at the forefront of our public health discussions. Local politicians, hospitals, health experts and advocates are hoping the answer is one that's been lying in front of them the whole time: collaboration. Today marked the official conjoining of local politicians, health experts, advocates and Cincinnati’s top hospitals providing birthing services in hopes of working together to reduce the areas’ infant mortality rate to below that of the national average within the next five years. The new partnership is comprised of Hamilton Country Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel, who co-chair the effort; the Center for Closing the Health Gap; Mayor Mark Mallory; Councilmember Wendell Young; and hospitals including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ Hospital, Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and the UC College of Nursing. While the hospitals are typically competitors, the disturbing, long-standing statistics Monzel described as an "embarrassment" have fueled area health providers to set aside competition and unite Cincinnati’s top health experts to bring Cincinnati's infant mortality levels below the national average within the next five years. “We’re checking egos and names and brands at the door,” said Commissioner Portune. "Enough is enough." Efforts to reduce infant mortality, Portune explained, have been active for years; however, because they've been fragmented — disconnected from one another — establishing best practices just hasn't been possible. Initial funding comes from an agreement that County Commissioners Portune and Monzel made with Jim Kingsbury, UC Health president and CEO, as part of the county's sale of Drake Hospital. Representatives plan to meet on a regular basis to share best practices, exchange ideas and report data. In February, Mayor Mark Mallory entered the city into the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a national competition to inspire city leaders to solve urban problems. His proposal involved the creation of the Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which would have followed new mothers in high-risk areas through pregnancy, creating a database of new mothers and monitoring pregnancies.   In Mallory’s submission, he put the problem into perspective: “In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital, and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate.”Although Cincinnati was named one of the top 20 finalists out of more than 305 cities, it was not selected as one of the five to receive up to $5 million in funding to jump-start the initiative. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6; the national average is 6. Cincinnati’s black community is especially afflicted by infant mortality. In Ohio, black infants die at more than twice the rate of white infants. To look at a map of infant mortality rates in Greater Cincinnati by zip code or to read about some of the leading causes of infant mortality, visit the Cincinnati Health Department's website.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.05.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Privatization, Streetcar at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Another anti-abortion amendment, Kasich prevents JobsOhio audit, streetcar funds remain

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.The Ohio Senate proposed a budget amendment yesterday that would ban abortion providers from transferring patients to public hospitals. The rule continues a series of conservative pushes on social issues in the ongoing budget process that began in the Ohio House. The Ohio House budget bill effectively defunded Planned Parenthood and funded anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, while the Ohio Senate accepted those measures and added another rule that potentially allows the health director to shut down abortion clinics. Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that will prevent a full public audit of JobsOhio, the private nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The bill defines liquor profits, which were public funds before JobsOhio, and private funds in a way that bars the state auditor from looking into any funding sources that aren’t owed to the state. Last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald called on Kasich to veto the bill, claiming, “The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill, which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable.” The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) says the $4 million going to the streetcar is a done deal. Republican county commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann tried to get OKI to pull the funds, but there now seems to be a general consensus that the money is contractually tied to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and, therefore, the streetcar project. City Council is likely to consider a plan to plug the streetcar project’s budget gap later this month. Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is handing out marijuana plants at a campaign event today, even though the event may run foul of state law. Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally considered the top contenders in this year’s mayoral race, but Berns has differentiated himself by putting marijuana legalization in his platform. While drug prohibition policies are generally dictated at state and federal levels, cities can decriminalize or legalize certain drugs and force police departments to give prohibition enforcement lower priority. Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is retiring July 1 following controversial remarks about “those damn Catholics,” the University of Notre Dame and others. Gee, a Mormon, says he has regrets, but the gaffes didn’t compel him to retire. In a statement, OSU credited Gee with helping the school build an academic profile of a “highly selective, top-tier public research institution.” Local officials cut the ribbon yesterday for the Roebling Bridge, the latest piece of infrastructure to debut at The Banks. Fort Hamilton Hospital has a new president. Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has loaned more than any other big bank in the country, according to a new study. How do mosquitoes survive storms? Popular Science has the answer. Researchers unveiled a drone that can be controlled by thoughts. Next stop: the Iron Man suit.
 
 

Stalemate at MSD

As city and county clash on “responsible bidder” law, $3.2 billion sewer project looms

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Cincinnati's biggest sewer project in history is being threatened by a city-county conflict over how contracts should be awarded and whether job training is part of the government's role.  
by German Lopez 01.29.2013
 
 
debeterhar

Morning News and Stuff

Democrats sue over Terhar, JobsOhio ignores lawsuit, Monzel to change county mission

Ohio Democrats are moving to sue the state if it continues blocking access to texts from State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati. The school board leader has been facing criticism for making a Facebook post that compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The post was a picture with the caption, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” There is no historical evidence Hitler made that quote. Despite ongoing litigation questioning its constitutionality, JobsOhio intends to move ahead with plans to sell liquor-backed bonds. The Supreme Court agreed to take up ProgressOhio’s challenge of JobsOhio last week. JobsOhio is a nonprofit private agency set up by Gov. John Kasich to drive economic growth, but bipartisan questions have surrounded its legality and constitutionality since its conception. Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel wants to change the county’s mission statement. His proposed changes would remove references to equity and add conservative language about the county government living within its means. The county is already required to balance its budget. Ohio State University expects to save nearly $1 million a year due to wind power. The university signed a 20-year agreement in October to buy 50 megawatts annually from Blue Creek Wind Farm, the state’s largest commercial wind farm. The city of Cincinnati is tearing down hundreds of blighted houses. The demolitions, which are being funded by a grant, are meant to make neighborhoods safer. A Cleveland man was the first to benefit from a law that expedites payouts to those who were wrongfully imprisoned. After being imprisoned for 16 years, Darrell Houston will receive a partial judgment of nearly $380,000. The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking at removing 34 positions. One of the potentially affected jobs is a counselor position that helped apprehend a man suspected of kidnapping two teenaged girls. Ohio may soon require the replacement of old license plates. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is assisting eleven companies in investing more than $51 million across Ohio. In Hamilton County, Jedson Engineering will spend an additional $2.8 million to create 30 full-time jobs. StateImpact Ohio has an in-depth look at Nate DeRolph, one of the leaders in school funding equality. A new gun shoots criminals with DNA tags, which lets cops return to a suspect during less confrontational times. The guns will be particularly useful during riots, when attempting an arrest can result in injuries.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote

Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education. Chris Monzel is now in charge of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000. Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges. King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions. Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea. An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring. Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president. Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.  Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.05.2012
 
 
greg hartmann

County Commissioners Reduce Property Tax Rollback

Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit

Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums. The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every $100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value. The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting. “The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same thing we are doing today,” Portune said. Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to 6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10 years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the first five.  Portune said his proposal was more equitable. He said reducing the property tax rollback was going to affect only Hamilton County residential property owners, whereas a sales tax increase would affect everyone who spends money in the county, including visitors from neighboring Kentucky and Indiana. Portune billed the tax increase as a long-term solution that would raise more than was needed currently but would keep the fund stable in years to come. Board President Greg Hartmann, who authored the rollback reduction proposal, called Portune’s plan “a bridge too far.” He said it was too large of a tax increase and not a targeted approach to solve the deficit problem. He said he didn’t trust future commissions to allow the tax increase to expire. Hartmann called the property tax rollback reduction flexible, scalable, clean, immediate and certain. Commissioner Chris Monzel, who provided the deciding vote, said he didn’t like either and had to go against his principles with either choice. “No way I walk out of this without breaking a promise. No way I walk out of this winning,” he said. Monzel said he hopes that savings from the Affordable Care Act would allow the county to lower its property tax rates to make up for the rollback reduction. Monzel also introduced a successful proposal that will include an annual review of the tax budget to make sure property taxes don’t change, a provision requiring parking revenue from The Banks to be used to develop The Banks and a directive for the county administrator to work with Cincinnati’s professional sports teams on concessions they can make to help out with the stadium funding burden.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.03.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, County Commission, Stadiums at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
greg hartmann

Hartmann Considers Reducing Property Tax Rollback

Board president still unsure of how he'll vote; Portune's sales tax increase still on the table

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting today to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund. Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, on Nov. 28 proposed a 0.25-percent sales tax hike. At the meeting, Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, suggested reducing the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he said he was unsure which way he would vote. Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two options that none of us like at all.” Commissioners mostly repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.” Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast, eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in Hamilton County.The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes that disproportionate burden even larger. One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a “terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals. Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund. The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, News at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

County Commissioners Approve 2013 Budget

Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts

For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes. The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs, according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least affected by cuts. With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession.  Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes. By law, the county is required to balance its budget.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.05.2012
 
 
hartmann1

County Commission President Lays Out Budget Plan

"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases

The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes. Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday. “It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.  He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls. Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000  or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department. Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it. Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman. Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions. Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget. Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well. “An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said. The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week. He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal. “Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.”  Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger. Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results. “I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”
 
 

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