WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 10.14.2014 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
county administration building

County Budget Proposal Could Further Shift Tax Burden

Proposal would lower property taxes and raise sales taxes, disproportionately affecting the low-income

Hamilton County’s tax structure could become more regressive next year if a new proposal to increase sales tax while decreasing property taxes is put into effect. A budget proposal by Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman unveiled Oct. 13 called for a .25 percent increase in sales taxes and a decrease in property taxes for the county. The decrease would amount to $38 for every $100,000 worth of property, meaning homeowners would generally see a wash or net savings on the deal while low-income and middle class residents pay more in taxes. Sigman says the budget represents a big change in the way the county funds itself. The benefit of relying more on sales tax, he says, is that it raises much more money from those who live outside the county but buy things here. The budget proposal would provide $210 million in 2015. That’s short of the $222 million needed by county departments, but a big jump from the $200 million available under the current budget. Democratic County Commissioner Todd Portune said the proposal was “bound to be controversial,” since sales taxes place a higher burden on the poor. Unlike income or property taxes, everyone pays the same sales tax rates regardless of income or assets. But lower income residents generally spend more of their money on necessities, including those subject to sales tax, meaning they end up paying a larger portion of their income in sales taxes. The bottom fifth of workers in Ohio, those making less than $17,000 a year, pay 7 percent of their income in sales taxes under the state’s current tax structure. Meanwhile, top earners, those making more than $138,000, pay as little as 1 percent in sales tax. And Ohio’s tax structure has gotten more regressive over the years due to cuts in the state’s income tax. At 6.75 percent, Hamilton County’s sales tax is about average for the state. Even if the .25 percent increase were to pass on the ballot in November, it would still be lower than other major cities in Ohio. Franklin County, where Columbus is located, has a 7.5 percent sales tax, and in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is, it’s 8 percent.The sales tax increase was first proposed last summer as part of a plan to renovate Music Hall and Union Terminal. Republican County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voted to strip Music Hall out of that plan, but the tax hike will be on the November ballot for Union Terminal. That hike could also be used to provide for a number of other county needs, including a proposed move for the county Board of Elections office from downtown to Mount Airy.Commissioners have not said whether they support the budget proposal.
 
 

Hamilton County Commissioners OK High-Speed Rail Study

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A high-speed rail line from Cincinnati to Chicago became an inch closer to reality when Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to fund a feasibility study for it.   

Uphill Battle

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 election.   
by Nick Swartsell 08.06.2014 74 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Black likely to hew close to Cranley's agenda; gay marriage demonstrations downtown; monkey selfie legal imbroglio

Say you’ve got a friend from out of town coming to Cincinnati. You really want to give them a warm welcome. What’s the best party in town for a newcomer? That’s right: a 2.5 hour hang sesh with city council! Yesterday, members of council grilled Mayor John Cranley’s pick for city manager Harry Black about his specific vision for the city. Black already gave some broad outlines of his approach last week, but council wanted to get down to brass tacks. It was the predictable theater production these kinds of appointment hearings usually are, with Black providing careful, not terribly specific answers to questions from council members, most notably Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson, about specific ideas he would implement as the second-most powerful member of city government. Black says he would need to assess where the city stands before making any drilled-down proposals. But as the Business Courier points out in its story today, he did tip his hand a bit on the streetcar, saying the city has limited amounts of money and that anything after the current phase of the project is something for future discussions. Black looks as if he’ll play pretty close to Cranley’s game plan for the city, which could well pit him against some members of council on a number of issues. That should make this afternoon’s full-council discussion and vote on his appointment interesting.• As I mentioned yesterday, Cincinnati’s 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today will hear challenges to gay marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. Demonstrations against gay marriage bans took place last night downtown and will continue today outside the courthouse. Religious groups supporting the bans are also encouraging followers to turn out. Stay tuned for more on the court’s rulings.• Also happening today — Hamilton County Commissioners will decide whether to put a .25 percent sales tax increase on the ballot to fund the renovation of Union Terminal and Music Hall. There has been a lot of wrangling about this proposal as the commissioners and anti-tax groups look for more financial input from the city. Meanwhile, supporters of the tax say it’s now or never for the renovations. Various alternative proposals have been floated, including cutting Music Hall from the deal or charging fees on tickets to events at the landmarks. We’ll report the commissioners’ decision when it comes down. They meet at 11 a.m.• Also also happening today — Rev. Jesse Jackson will be at City Hall discussing a proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding voting rights in commemoration of today’s 49th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Mayor John Cranley and State Rep. Alicia Reece will introduce Jackson at 1 p.m.• Toledo’s toxic algae woes may not be over, according to scientists. Last weekend the city advised citizens not to drink or bathe with water from the municipal water supply due to high levels of toxins from algae in Lake Erie. The algae has been increasing intensely due to runoff from large-scale farming and other industries. Scientists warn that it’s still early in the season for the algae, which usually peaks in late August. They also say the underlying conditions that caused the water emergency are nowhere near mitigated, though the city has taken extra precautions in purifying municipal water.• When it comes to economics, it’s hard to get more mainstream than Standard and Poor’s, the financial analysis giant owned by McGraw-Hill. S&P authors the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is one of the few elite credit-rating agencies. Not exactly a leftist revolutionary group, then. But even this Wall Street giant has begun raising alarms about income inequality, releasing a report yesterday about the pragmatic hazards of the growing gap between the rich and the rest in the United States. The report sheds moral considerations about inequality, of course, in favor of cold, hard economics. And here, the gap has slowed growth and hindered our economy, the report says.“Our review of the data, as well as a wealth of research on this matter, leads us to conclude that the current level of economic inequality in the U.S. is dampening GDP growth, at a time when the world’s biggest economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population,” the report summarizes.  • Finally, the world has come to this: There’s a big fight brewing over who owns the rights to a selfie a monkey took back in 2011. Selfies weren’t quite the phenomenon they are now, so first and foremost I applaud the crested black macaque who snapped a pretty great pic of herself for being ahead of the curve. The photo happened when a British photographer set up his gear to trigger remotely as he was trying to get a candid photo of a group of the wild macaques in Indonesia. The monkey in question grabbed the gear and eventually found the shutter button, snapping hundreds of pics of herself and her surroundings. Most were blurry, but a couple are crisp and colorful, and really, much better looking than any selfie I’ve ever attempted, which is depressing. Anyway, Wikimedia has posted the photo in its collection of more than 20 million royalty-free images. The photographer has sued Wikimedia to take the photo down, but the group, which runs Wikipedia, has claimed that since the monkey took the picture, it owns the copyright to the image the photographer doesn't own the image. The group has yet to receive a cease-and-desist letter from said monkey, though rumor has it the macaque has asked that her Instagram and Tumblr handles be included when the photo is used online.UPDATE: I pride myself on rarely having to do corrections, but they got me on this one. Apparently, Wikimedia isn't claiming that the monkey has the copyright, though I haven't checked to see if the monkey is feeling litigious. From the company: "We don't agree that the photographer in question has copyright over the images. That doesn't mean the monkey owns the copyright: it just means that the human who owns the camera doesn't.  For example, under US copyright law, copyright claims cannot vest in to non-human authors (that is, non-human authors can't own copyrights) -- and the monkey was the photographer. To claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they'd only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image."Noted, corrected. Sorry 'bout that.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.23.2014 119 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Let's talk about the future, pro-life groups make battle plan and why we call it soccer

A rare alignment of the stars (or at least schedules) makes today a crazy day to be a general-assignment reporter. And while I wouldn’t normally just give you a list of really exciting, awesome meetings that are happening, there are lots of issues that could decide the city’s future being debated around town. I prefer to think of it like a civics-themed pub crawl. In the middle of the day. On Monday. And there’s no drinking (at least until afterward).• Hamilton County Commissioners meet at noon to hear a presentation from the Cultural Facilities Task Force, a cadre of 22 business leaders who are working on ways to renovate Union Terminal and Music Hall. They’ll be talking about a proposed sales tax increase as well as other options for funding the renovations before the commissioners decide whether the proposal should go on the ballot. • Then, at 1 p.m., council’s Budget and Finance Committee meets to discuss development in Over-the-Rhine north of Liberty Street, as well as funding for two affordable housing developments. 3CDC would like the rights to develop 20-35 buildings in the area around Findlay Market, though OTR Community Council has asked the city to find ways to get more small developers and resident input into the development process there. Council will also consider a debate over how to fund some affordable housing units in Pendleton and Avondale — council had voted to support the development in Avondale, but some neighborhood resistance to the project has stalled it for the moment. Meanwhile, the city is debating moving some money for that project to one in Pendleton. Advocates say both are necessary and should be funded.The council meetings are at City Hall, and the Commissioners’ meeting is at the county building on Court Street. • Another big meeting today involves the city’s deal with General Electric that will bring 2,000 of the company’s employees to The Banks. Council and the commissioners meet at Great American Ball Park at 10 a.m. to discuss incentives for the company for its move, including a 100 percent abatement on property taxes at the site for the next 15 years. The expected package is one of the sweetest deals the city has ever offered a company. GE has also been mulling relocation to other sites, including Norwood, and is asking for the incentives because moving to The Banks could cost more than other options.• An increasing number of foreign students attend Ohio’s 13 public universities, making Ohio eighth in the nation for international enrollment. Toledo University had the most international students last year, followed by Miami University.• Pro-choice and pro-life groups are both pointing to 2015 as a big year for the fight over women's health in Ohio. Ohio Right to Life, a very active pro-life activist group, has indicated it’s putting together an aggressive legislative agenda for next year in an effort to curtail the availability of abortions in the state. The group says they’ll be pushing five or six bills to that end and has expressed confidence that many of the incumbents in the Ohio General Assembly, as well as Gov. John Kasich, will be re-elected and support their goals. Meanwhile, NARAL Ohio Pro-Choice, a pro-choice advocacy group in the state, has sounded alarms, saying Ohio is becoming “one of the most dangerous states for women’s health.”• Finally, with World Cup fever reminding Americans that, oh yeah, soccer is a thing, it’s a great time to check out this Atlantic article on why we call it that in the first place when the rest of the world calls it football. (Hint: It's the Brits' fault.)
 
 

Worst Week Ever!: Oct. 17-23

3 Comments · Wednesday, October 24, 2012
TUESDAY OCT. 23: Like Galileo, Christina Aguilera’s recent bomb of an album, Bionic, was “ahead of its time” ... at least according Aguilera.   

Rolling Back Time

Commissioners could spend $300K to keep property tax rollback with no stadium fund solution in sight

1 Comment · Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners is poised to approve spending almost $300,000 on an insurance policy to help cover the stadium bonds.   

Commissioners Hear Arguments for Fully Funding Social Services

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The message at a July 18 County Commission public hearing: Don’t reduce funding for mental health and senior services.  
by Andy Brownfield 07.18.2012
at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Commissioners Asked to Fully Fund Senior Services

Lack of levy increase would reduce funding

The message at a Wednesday County Commission public hearing: Don’t reduce funding for mental health and senior services. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners must determine the levy amounts by Aug. 8. Last week the county’s Tax Levy Review Committee determined that the levies that fund services such as Meals on Wheels, home care and counseling for 30,000 county residents should remain at their current rate — an effective cut to their funding. Property owners currently pay $77.70 in taxes from the levy on a $100,000 home. Maintaining the current levy would represent a reduction in funding because of declining property values. Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls urged commissioners to make sure senior services were fully funded. “When families have to make the choice between caregiving and work, that some families, without this levy fully funded, would have to choose not to work in order to provide care,” Qualls said. “That is a terrible choice to put families in the midst of.” Doris VanLouit, who has been a member of the Sycamore Senior Center for more than 10 years and volunteered at the front desk, told commissioners that many seniors depend on the services funded by the levy. “Sometimes the Meals on Wheels drivers are the only folks that these shut-ins see all week long,” VanLouit said. “And transportation to the center is so vital because I see them come in … on walkers and canes, and this is the only social atmosphere that they get all week.” The Tax Levy Review Committee recommended that the agencies receiving funding from the levies find areas to cut and operate more efficiently. In a letter to the Board of County Commissioners, the committee said it tried to balance the needs of the service recipients with the ability of taxpayers to take on additional burden. The Enquirer reported that committee member Dan Unger during a Monday board meeting said the committee was trying to protect “people who invest in housing and choose to live here.” Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Chairman Thomas Gableman said creating efficiencies might not be possible. Gableman said over the last 5 years there has been a 10 percent decrease in levy revenue, while there’s been a 16 percent increase in clients served over that same period. He said the board has implemented nearly $4 million in cuts over the last year. “We operate at 2.3 percent administrative cost. When the Tax Levy Review Committee talks about increase in efficiencies, we’ve gone through that exercise over and over again — there are no further cuts in administrative costs,” Gableman said. “When we start talking about cuts, it will be in services.” Pat Tribbe, Mental Health Board president and CEO, said it would only require an additional $6 per year in property taxes to keep the board’s funding level. The Board of County Commissioners plans to have two more public hearings on the levies before they vote — at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 1.  Ultimately it is up to Hamilton County voters in November to approve or strike down the levies.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.09.2012
 
 
monzel

Morning News and Stuff

A plan by two Hamilton County commissioners to help solve a $14 million deficit in the stadium account by reducing operating expenses at the county-owned facilities for the Reds and Bengals and hosting more events there isn't feasible, county staffers said. In December Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune proposed the plan rather than reduce a property tax rebate for homeowners. Erica Riehl, the county’s sales tax fund specialist, wrote in a memo that most operational expenses are “non-negotiable” and establishing a revenue goal is not “practical or dependable” as an annual revenue source, The Enquirer reports. Time to find a real solution, guys.Today's sunny weather might put you in the mood for spring and some baseball. Although the Reds' Opening Day isn't until April 5, fans can begin camping out today at Great American Ball Park to score tickets to the opener against the Miami Marlins. Tickets will go on sale 9 a.m. Saturday; there are 1,000 view level seats for $35 each and 500 standing room only tickets for $25 each. Hurry up, though: Last year the tickets sold out in less than an hour.Speaking of sports, two special visitors will travel to Ohio next Tuesday to attend the first games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton. President Obama will bring British Prime Minister David Cameron to the Gem City to watch some hoops.The turnabout is now complete. Ohio Gov. John Kasich sent a letter Wednesday afternoon to President Obama asking for a presidential disaster declaration for Clermont County. Shortly after last Friday's tornado, Kasich had said he didn't believe federal aid was needed. Then, after public outcry and a personal appeal from U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), Kasich switched course earlier this week and allowed Federal Emergency Management Agency teams to inspect the area. Obama already issued a major disaster declaration Tuesday for Kenton and Pendleton counties in Northern Kentucky.An Ohio lawmaker from Greater Cincinnati wants to repeal daylight savings time in the Buckeye State. State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton) will introduce a bill today to keep Ohio on standard time throughout the year. Combs called the World War I-era practice outdated and unneeded. “While it may have made sense when the government was fighting a war, it has no place in a modern world. Nowadays, all it does is inconvenience people twice a year,” he said.The city of Cincinnati is preparing to sell historic Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine to a nonprofit group for just $1. Although the 134-year-old structure has an appraised value of $12.7 million, it needs major renovations and city officials say a private owner would have an easier time raising $165 million to upgrade and improve the facility. The private group, Music Hall Revitalization Co. Inc., also would be responsible for future operating and maintenance costs.In news elsewhere, emails obtained by hacker group Anonymous and posted by WikiLeaks indicate terrorist leader Osama bin Laden might not have been buried at sea last year by the U.S. military, as Obama and U.S. officials said. The emails, from high-profile intelligence service Stratfor, said bin Laden was flown to Delaware on a CIA plane, then taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda, Md. The official version of bin Laden's death had alleged he was wrapped in a sheet and “eased” off the decks of a naval ship into the North Arabian Sea just hours after he was killed on May 2 in a raid by Navy SEALs.Taliban fighters in Pakistan pledge to attack government, police and military officials if three of bin Laden's widows aren't released from Pakistani custody, a Taliban spokesman said today. Pakistan's government has charged bin Laden's three widows with illegally entering and staying in the nation, which observers said was probably done at the urging of U.S. officials.Many Republican political campaign professionals believe Mitt Romney will win the GOP's presidential nomination but is perceived as weak and needs to quickly and decisively recast his image. Otherwise, they add, Romney will suffer the same fate as Bob Dole in 1996, when he lost the election to Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton.U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February to complete three of the best months of hiring since the recession began. The unemployment rate was unchanged, largely because more people streamed into the work force. The Labor Department said today that the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent last month, the lowest in three years.European leaders are praising a recent Greek debt swap deal, adding it will pave the way for another eurozone bailout. Holders of 85.8 percent of debt subject to Greek law and 69 percent of its international debt holders agreed to a debt swap. Athens needed to get 75 percent to push through the deal, which is a condition of Greece's latest bailout. The Greek deal with its lenders is the largest restructuring of government debt in history.
 
 

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