Democrats see a chance to regain a majority on the Hamilton County Commissioners board. Sort of.
0 Comments · Tuesday, September 2, 2014
After last month's battle between the city and Hamilton
County's Republican Commissioners over funds to fix Music Hall and
Union Terminal, Democrats sense an
opportunity to unseat Commissioner Chris Monzel in the upcoming November
by Nick Swartsell
28 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:25 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati hit hard by recession, still recovering; Horseshoe Casino hit with lawsuit; Judges strike down abortion laws
So let's get to what's happened in the past three days in the real world while we were all busy watching fireworks and drinking beers, shall we?The Great Recession dropped incomes in 111 of 120 communities in the Greater Cincinnati area, according to a report today by The Cincinnati Enquirer. The recession lasted from 2007 to 2009, though its reverberations are still being felt today. The drop hit wealthy neighborhoods like Indian Hill and low-income areas like Over-the-Rhine alike. The average drop in income was more than 7 percent across the region, though reasons for the loss and how quickly various neighborhoods have recovered are highly variable. Wealthier places like Indian Hill, where income is tied more to the stock market, are well-positioned to continue an already-underway rebound. Meanwhile, places with lower-income residents like Price Hill still face big challenges.• A Centerville man filed a lawsuit against Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino Friday, charging that the downtown gambling complex engaged in false imprisonment and malicious prosecution last year. Mark DiSalvo claims that he was detained while leaving the casino after a dispute over $2,000 in video poker winnings. DiSalvo wasn’t able to immediately claim the winnings because he didn’t have the proper identification, but was told he would receive paperwork allowing him to claim the money later. He says he waited two hours before receiving the forms. Afterward, as he stopped to check the nametag of an employee who was less than kind to him, he was confronted by casino security officers, who called police. Three Cincinnati police officers were originally named in the suit as well, but the department settled out of court. DiSalvo claims casino employees and police gave false testimony about him and his prior record.• Sometimes, something is better than nothing. At least, that appears to be the thinking for groups supporting the Hamilton County Commissioners’ compromise icon tax plan to renovate Union Terminal. The Cincinnati Museum Center board decided to back the commissioners’ version of the plan last week, despite earlier misgivings. That plan replaced a proposal by the Cultural Facilities Task Force that would have also renovated Music Hall. Now the task force, led by Ross, Sinclaire and Associates CEO Murray Sinclaire, is regrouping and looking for ways to fund the Music Hall fixes without tax dollars. “Initially we were very disappointed and somewhat frustrated because of all the time we spent” on the initial proposal, Murray said, but “we’ve got an amazing group of people with a lot of expertise and we’ll figure it out.”Meanwhile, Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel, who helped orchestrate the new, more limited deal, has said he supports it. Initially, he indicated he wasn’t sure if he would vote for the plan himself. The backing of the Museum Center board has swayed him, however, and he now says he’s an enthusiastic supporter of the effort to shore up Union Terminal.• The Cincinnati Cyclones have a new logo, which is exciting, at least in theory. The team’s prior logo looked a lot like a stack of bicycle tires brought to life by a stiff dose of methamphetamines, and the one before that looked Jason Voorhees fan art. Neither of which is really all that bad if you want to strike fear and confusion (mostly confusion) into the hearts of your opponents. But the team, making a bid for a higher level of professionalism, tapped Cincinnati-based design and branding firm LPK for a new look. The results are slick and clean, with the team’s colors adorning a sleek sans-serif font and a big “C” with a kind of weather-report tornado symbol in the middle. The team’s marketing reps call the new logo “versatile,” while fans have taken to the team’s social media sites to call it boring and generic and to compare it to water circling a toilet bowl. Personally, they can put just about whatever they want on their jerseys and I’d still hit up any game on $1 dollar hotdog night. Not a lot of hockey options around here.• In the past three days, federal judges have stayed or struck down some of the nation’s strictest laws against women’s health facilities that provide abortions, enacted last summer in Texas and Louisiana. The laws stipulated very specific standards for clinics. The Louisiana law, which was put on hold by a federal judge Sunday night, set requirements that facilities have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles, a rule that could have shut down every clinic in the state. The Texas law stipulated that clinics had to meet the same standards applied to hospitals, which would have dictated how wide hallways had to be in the facilities and other burdensome rules. That law was struck down by a federal judge Friday. The law would have caused the closure of 12 clinics in the state. Ohio has laws similar to Louisiana’s requiring hospital admitting privileges. That has caused problems for many facilities here, including one in Sharonville which a Hamilton County magistrate ordered to stop providing abortion services last month.
by Nick Swartsell
33 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:41 AM | Permalink
Museum Center board backs revised icon tax, streetcar money wrangling goes on and Obama's D.C. fashion faux-pas
There is so much happening today and I'm going to tell you about all most of it.
The board of the Cincinnati Museum Center yesterday voted to support
county commissioners’ plan to fund renovations of historic Union Terminal, which houses the museum. Officials for the Museum Center originally
criticized the plan, which replaced an earlier proposal that included Music
Hall, because it seemed to put some funding sources for renovations to both
Union Terminal and Music Hall in jeopardy. Republican Commissioners Chris
Monzel and Greg Hartmann voted to put the new plan on the November ballot despite
these concerns. Now officials with the Museum Center say their concerns have
been addressed and they’re comfortable putting their support behind the new,
Union Terminal-only deal, which will raise about $170 million through a .25
percent sales tax increase. The renovation project is expected to cost about
$208 million. The gap will need to be covered by private donations and possible
historic tax credits.
• Speaking of lots of money (seems like we’re always talking
about lots of money around here, but hey, cities are expensive) the streetcar
battle continues as the city searches for funds to pay operating costs. Right
now, the city needs to account for a slightly less than $4 million a year to
run the streetcar plus another $1 million in startup funds, which will need to
be raised by next July. Supporters on city council say this shouldn’t be a
problem and that multiple options exist for ways to raise the funds, including
sponsorships and advertising, selling gift cards for rides on the streetcar,
different property tax districts, possible grants and private donations. But
opponents of the project, including Mayor John Cranley, are more doom and
gloom, saying that the shortfall is just the kind of scenario they had in mind
when they spoke out against the streetcar. Either way, the city is committed at
this point. It agreed to run the streetcar for 25 years when it accepted millions
in federal grant money for its construction. Is there a really large couch
somewhere in the city with lots of change under the cushions? I’d start there.
• Ah, the early days of presidential campaigns, when the
candidates are about as committal as those tentative, nascent romances you had
your freshman year of college. Sen. Rob Portman has officially decided
he wants to think about the possibility he might run for president in 2016 and
is considering setting up an exploratory committee so he can raise and spend
money should he decide he wants to try for the big gig. That’s basically the
campaign equivalent of texting someone, “hey, ‘sup?” The presidency has yet to
text him back, but I’ll keep you updated. Portman has been also non-committal in his statements, saying he’ll think about a run for the White House
if no other Republican candidates seem capable of winning but that right now
he’s just working on his Senate campaign. He’s raised $5 million toward
that end, money he could shift that over toward a national campaign.
• California lawmakers have passed a law requiring its
colleges to adopt the most precise standards yet for what constitutes sexual
consent as part of a drive to curb the sexual assault crisis sweeping college
campuses. The so-called "yes means yes" bill is controversial, which is kind of mind-boggling since its
provisions sound like common sense when you read them.
The prospective law says that consent is "an
affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual
activity" and that lack of struggle, silence or the use of drugs or
alcohol do not invalidate claims of sexual abuse. Opponents say the bill is an overreach and
too politically correct and that it could open up universities to lawsuits.
California Gov. Jerry Brown must still sign the bill into law, and has until
September to do so.
• A while back we talked about New York City’s mixed-income
developments and so-called “poor doors,” or separate entrances the buildings’
low-income residents must use. The battle over those doors rages on, and the
New York Times has an in-depth look at the fight. As large-scale public housing
goes the way of the dodo across the country and affordable housing becomes more
a private enterprise, it’s a debate worth check out.
• So. There are a lot of important things going on in the
world. We’re struggling with how to handle ISIL, a militant, fundamentalist insurgent group in Iraq,
and the UK just raised its terror alert level due to threats from the group.
Russia continues to dance all over the Ukraine. Our economy is struggling to
support America’s middle class. Racial tensions in the U.S. continue to simmer
and our police forces are becoming more militarized. But the most breathtaking
news of all happened yesterday, when President Barack Obama wore a tan suit.
TAN. In what only further proves that journalists on Twitter are the absolute
worst people on the planet, that little bit of ephemera went viral as
every reporter ostensibly paid to inform you about a news conference discussing some of the aforementioned
important events flipped their wig about Obama’s new fashion statement. The
suit was completely unremarkable– a little too baggy, a little too
buff-colored, maybe, but come on now. The response to Obama's suit even spawned an article
about the response, because that’s journalism now. Someone got paid to write that article about journalists' response to Obama's suit, and now I’m writing about
the article about the response. Sigh.
• In other important national news, forget those cases of beer
that have like, 30 beers in them. Reuters reports that a small brewery has invented the 99-pack of
beer. Alas, it’s only available in Texas, where gas station beer caves are the
size of airplane hangers and the average Super Bowl party attracts 500
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The recent Hamilton County Commissioners’
quarter-cent sales tax dust-up that booted Music Hall from the original
package deal is a perfect storm of class, political finger-pointing and
by Nick Swartsell
55 days ago
County Commissioners leave 136-year-old landmark out of renovation funding plan
Hamilton County Commissioners voted today to axe Music Hall from a proposed sales tax increase designed to pay for renovations to that structure and Union Terminal. Now, only Union Terminal will benefit from the potential tax hike, which county voters will decide on in November. Voters won't get a chance to decide whether a similar hike will pay for Music Hall. Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council are not happy about the change-up.“As mayor of this city, I’m deeply offended when we’re treated as second-class citizens in our own county,” Cranley said during a vote approving the city’s contribution to renovations at today’s council meeting. “We have done our part. We will pay the tax if it is passed. In no other jurisdiction, not even Hamilton County, is being asked to cut its budget … for these institutions.” Cranley said asking city taxpayers for more money represents a kind of double taxation, since they would also be paying the county sales tax increase. Ostensibly, council was voting to approve annual payments toward upkeep of both Union Terminal and Music Hall for 25 years. The $200,000 yearly commitment to each building adds up to $10 million. Cranley floated the plan last week as a demonstration of the city’s commitment to the landmark buildings. Council approved that money unanimously, but that vote is mostly symbolic now that the fragile plan to fund both renovations with a tax hike, first proposed by a cadre of area business leaders called the Cultural Facilities Task Force, has fallen through. Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel said the proposed contributions, which the city already makes, don’t represent a renewed effort to fix the buildings. The city has also pledged another $10 million toward Music Hall repairs. Those contributions weren’t enough for Hartmann, who had been the swing vote on the three-member commission. He signaled he would not vote for the original 14-year, .25 percent sales tax increase designed to raise much of the $331 million needed to repair the buildings. Instead, he voted with fellow Republican Monzel today for an alternate tax measure that left Music Hall out of the deal, raising $170 million over five years for renovations to Union Terminal only. Democrat Todd Portune, who supported the original plan, voted against the new deal.Former P&G CEO Bob McDonald, who led the task force designing the original deal, said the new plan jeopardizes more than $40 million in private donations, as well as historic preservation tax credits. "The idea that somehow there’s going to be more money falling from space
or that this money will be put forward for an alternate plan is a
fallacious assumption," McDonald told the Cincinnati Business Courier. "That money has been committed to us personally
for this plan.”Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called the development “frustrating.”“I’m not here to add gasoline to the fire, but I think logic is a fair expectation of our elected leaders, and after people have said repeatedly that plans haven’t been vetted, that questions haven’t been answered, they’ve now moved forward with something that has no vetting,” Sittenfeld said, referring to criticisms of the original plan by anti-tax groups like COAST. “I hope people don’t forget what happened eight blocks from City Hall anytime soon.” Monzel said that the plan's details would
be worked out in the coming weeks, and that he wants to keep the county
from overextending itself. “If we limit the scope and focus on the one building that we do have a
history with and limit it to five years, we limit our exposure and can
be able to handle some of these other issues down the road,” he said. Council members said that the city has stepped up to take care of the buildings in the past. “Going back through the real-estate records, it’s clear that time and time again the city has stepped forward,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn. He highlighted the city’s rescue of Union Terminal from a failed plan to turn it into a mall in the 1980s. The city bought the building from a developer after the plan crashed and burned. Flynn also said the city has made significant contributions to 136-year-old Music Hall's upkeep since the 1800s.
by German Lopez
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
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
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 email@example.com.
by Hannah McCartney
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
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.
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
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.