by German Lopez
Medical marijuana advances, commissioners threaten streetcar, voter fraud report released
If you have any questions about Cincinnati, CityBeat’s staff will do its very best to answer if you submit them here.
The Ohio Ballot Board certified an amendment
that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio.
Petitioners will now have to gather 385,253 signatures to get the issue
on the ballot — most likely this year or 2014. CityBeat previously covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement in greater detail here.
Republican county commissioners are asking the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments to pull $4 million in streetcar funding,
but the city says OKI can’t legally do it. Commissioners Greg Hartmann
and Chris Monzel, who are also members of the OKI board, made the
request in a letter. City spokesperson Meg Olberding says OKI was simply
an agency that passed the money along as it worked through the Federal
Transit Administration (FTA) to OKI to the Southwest Ohio Regional
Transportation Authority (SORTA), and the agreement doesn’t allow OKI to
interfere any further. This morning, the city’s Twitter account
tweeted, “City has confirmed with Feds that OKI cannot pull streetcar $
bc funds are already obligated to this federal project.”
Ohio released its first ever statewide report on voter fraud yesterday, called the “Post-2012 General Election Voter Fraud Report.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted said the report shows voter fraud exists,
but it’s “not an epidemic.” That coincides with previous findings from
researchers: An extensive study of the nation’s databases by News21, a
Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Ohio Democrats are proposing more accountability rules
for JobsOhio, including adherence to public record laws, open meeting
laws, state ethics laws for employees and full state audits. JobsOhio is
a privatized nonprofit agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of
Development. They claim the privatized nature of the agency allows it to
respond to economic problems more quickly, but Democrats say the agency
redirects public funds with minimal oversight.
Cincinnati will host a march against genetically modified organisms
Saturday as part of the international March Against Monsanto. The
movement’s organizers are calling on participants that explain the facts
of genetically modified organisms, encouraging “no slandering, no
opinions or paper — just facts.” The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at
A.G. Lafley is reclaiming the top spot at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. The company says the change is not part of a deeper issue.
The 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati begins tomorrow.
Win or lose, the University of Cincinnati baseball team has a lot of fun.
An adorable Labrador Retriever puppy had her heart cured after a minimally invasive heart procedure — the first ever in the Tri-State.
Salamanders have some lessons for humans when it comes to regrowing limbs.
by German Lopez
Group ordains woman priests, Quinlivan suggests budget plan, county halts sewer projects
A group is ordaining Roman Catholic women priests despite Vatican opposition, and Debra Meyers will be Cincinnati's first woman to go through the ordination on May 25. Meyers told CityBeat the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests' movement is about pressuring the Catholic Church to be more inclusive, including with women, LGBT individuals and other groups that may feel left out by the Church's current policies. The full Q&A with Meyers can be read here.In the latest budget plan, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is asking all city employees, including cops and firefighters, to take eight furlough days, which she says would save enough money to prevent all layoffs. That plan follows a motion co-sponsored by council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach, which would eliminate all fire layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25.Hamilton County commissioners voted to stop all sewer projects yesterday in opposition to the city's "responsible bidder" policy, which requires most contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to have apprenticeship programs. City Council, spearheaded by Seelbach, passed the measure to encourage more job training options for workers, but the county government says the measure is unfair and puts too much of a strain on businesses working with MSD. The issue will likely head to court.Commentary: "Good News Reveals Budget Deception."At last night's budget hearings, Councilman Charlie Winburn repeatedly brought up the city's so-called "credit cards," which are really procurement cards that are often used by the mayor to entertain and attract businesses to Cincinnati. Winburn says the use of the cards is outrageous when the city is considering laying off cops and firefighters, and Councilman Chris Smitherman says the system needs more controls. The cards are set up so they can only be used by city employees for certain services, and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says the cards make the system more efficient, which means lower prices for the city.A bill in the Ohio House revives the Medicaid expansion, which was previously opposed by Republicans as part of the budget process. Gov. John Kasich is one of the top Ohio Republicans who supports the expansion, but it's unclear how far the bill can move this time, considering many Republicans are still opposed. CityBeat
covered the expansion, which would insure half a million Ohioans and
save the state money in the next decade, in further detail here.The Ohio General Assembly passed a bill
yesterday that would effectively ban Internet "sweepstakes" cafes,
which state officials say are prone to illegal gambling activity. State
Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says the bill is a "shoot ‘em
and let God sort it out" approach because the bill generalizes against
all Internet cafes instead of imposing specific regulations that would
only target offenders. If Kasich signs the bill, it will become law.The Ohio Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, submitted 589 petitions to the Ohio Senate opposing a measure that would force Ohio's public universities to decide between $370 million in out-of-state tuition revenue and giving out-of-state students documents required for voting. The measure was originally sneaked into the Ohio House budget plan, but Senate officials are removing it from the budget bill and appear likely to take it up in a standalone bill. CityBeat covered the original measure here.Greater Cincinnati home sales are continuing picking up. There 2,388 homes
sold in the region in April, up 22.65 percent from the year before —
even better than March's 13.5-percent year-over-year rise.Researchers are now suggesting rubbing a certain kind dirt on wounds.
by German Lopez
Streetcar budget fixes detailed, Senate kills 'right to work,' county fights infant mortality
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave his suggestions for fixing the streetcar budget gap Tuesday, and CityBeat analyzed the details here. The suggestion, which include temporarily using front-loaded Music Hall funds and pulling money from other capital projects, are capital budget items that can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits in state law, so if City Council approved the suggestions, the streetcar would not be saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget.Ohio Senate Republicans seem unlikely to take up so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation after it was proposed in the Ohio House. RTW legislation prevents unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership to be hired for a job, significantly weakening a union's leverage in negotiations by reducing membership. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically around the nation. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the RTW bills and compare them to S.B. 5, a 2011 bill backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining powers for public employees and significantly reduced public sector unions' political power.Hamilton County commissioners approved a county-wide collaborative between health and government agencies to help reduce the county's infant mortality rate, which has exceeded the national average for more than a decade. Funding for the program will come in part from the sale of Drake Hospital to UC Health.With a 7-2 vote yesterday, City Council updated its "responsible bidder" ordinance, which requires job training from contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District, to close loopholes and include Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the charge on the changes, which were opposed by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn.Ohio Senate Democrats are still pushing the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found would insure 456,000 Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade. Ohio House Republicans effectively rejected the expansion with their budget bill, which the Ohio Senate is now reviewing. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.The state's Public Utilities Commissions of Ohio approved a 2.9 percent rate hike for Duke Energy, which will cost customers an average of $3.72 every month.Concealed carry permits issued in Ohio nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, following a wave of mass shootings in the past year and talks of federal gun control legislation.Real headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: "How much skin is too much skin for teens at prom?"A Pennsylvania woman who had been missing for 11 years turned herself in to authorities in Florida.New research shows early American settlers at Jamestown, Va., ate each other.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners Feb. 27 unanimously approved a 40-year agreement with the
Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that will lease
the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the
by German Lopez
Agreement will provide renovations
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously
approved a 40-year agreement with the Cincinnati Center City Development
Corporation (3CDC) that will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations
to the 105-year-old building.
County officials have long said the building, which is
used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire need of
upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade work,
floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be
financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.
“The public-private partnership between 3CDC and Hamilton
County will result in the preservation of historic Memorial Hall without
the use of taxpayer dollars for the improvements,” Commissioner Greg
Hartmann, a Republican, said in a statement. “3CDC has an impressive
track record with development projects in downtown Cincinnati and will
be a great partner to manage this project.”
The partnership will also relinquish the county
government’s operational funding for insurance and utilities for
Memorial Hall, which cost the county about $200,000 annually.
In a statement, Hartmann’s office said the partnership
with 3CDC “extends only to the renovations at Memorial Hall,” and the
county will retain ownership and the final say over any increased
The city of Cincinnati has repeatedly partnered with 3CDC, a nonprofit company, for projects at Fountain Square, Washington Park, the
Vine Street streetscape project and ongoing developments throughout
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.
by German Lopez
Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes
Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but
will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a
Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close.
The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform
the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week,
and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional
redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as
politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First
Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during
the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren
County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning
urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely
A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level.
Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve
Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making
more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional
district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what
they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the
wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study
that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative
impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.
Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback.
For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a
home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback
or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund,
which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the
Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when
the original stadium deal was made.
The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal
on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
(AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised
not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25
union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned
into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking
privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid
The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6
p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation
Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations.
But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will
retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who
see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination.
Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but,
under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul.
Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for
tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers
are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown
Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to
deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.
The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering
to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups.
The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory
Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.
The Ohio Senate will rework
a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to
enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on
improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards
are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping
from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a
D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its
top mark with an A.
The Ohio House passed
a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the
Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for
More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.
A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared
the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from
victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more
The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt
for not following a court order requiring the state agency to
compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result,
ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation
cases within 120 days.
We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.
by German Lopez
Mandel hires political workers, county will raise taxes, city faces privatization or layoffs
Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is hiring political workers and friends at his job again.
His latest hires are Joe Aquilino, former campaign political director
to Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign, and Jared Borg, former campaign
political coordinator. During the 2010 campaign for the state
treasurer’s office, Mandel said, “Unlike the current officeholder, I
will ensure that my staff is comprised of qualified financial
professionals — rather than political cronies and friends — and that
investment decisions are based on what is best for Ohioans.” Mandel’s
spokesperson defended the hires by touting the treasurer’s
accomplishments in office.
With a vote set for tomorrow, it’s still unsure how the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will solve the stadium fund deficit, but it seems like both options require tax increases.
Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, proposed
increasing the sales tax by 0.25 percent. Board President Greg Hartmann,
a Republican, presented an alternative plan that reduces the property
tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he also said he’s not sure
how he’ll vote. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he
wants to find a plan that doesn’t raise taxes.
Either parking services are privatized or 344 city employees are laid off. That’s how City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. framed budget talks to City Council yesterday.
The city has already made drastic cuts since 2000, laying off 802
employees. Dohoney also pushed for repealing the property tax rollback
promised as part of the stadium deal in 1996, but City Council does not
want to raise taxes in the middle of a slow economy. The fact is any form of austerity will be painful,
so City Council should be as cautious of spending cuts as tax hikes. A
public hearing on the budget will be held Thursday at 6 p.m.
The city of Cincinnati’s plan to buy Tower Place Mall and the adjacent Pogue’s Garage in downtown is moving forward.
The city offered to buy the mall and garage for $8.5 million in order
to spur economic development in the area. The parking garage and
half-empty mall are currently in foreclosure.
Cincinnati State is looking to expand.
The Horseshoe Casino has begun its final round of hiring. The casino is set to open in spring 2013. A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and suicide.
One year later, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources hasn’t followed up on a court order to compensate flooded landowners.
The State Controlling Board approved three programs
that will provide transitional housing and other services to the
homeless. As part of the initiative, Habitat for Humanity of Ohio will
receive $200,000, the Homeless Crisis Response Program will receive
$12,680,700 and the Supportive Housing Program will receive $9,807,600
from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.Great numbers from November from auto companies could mean more hires.
The U.S. Supreme Court is delaying action on same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered gay marriage in Ohio and whether Ohioans are ready to embrace it in a Nov. 28 cover story.
A dissolving nanofabric could soon replace condoms for protecting against pregnancy and HIV.
by German Lopez
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.”
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
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.