by German Lopez
Downtown project gets path forward, feds to pay for firefighters, health board defies mayor
Flaherty & Collins, the developer that wants to tear
down a garage as part of its downtown grocery and apartment tower
project, offered to pay for a tenant’s move to keep the deal moving
forward. The tenant, Paragon Salon, recently announced its intent to sue
the city after Mayor John Cranley’s refusal to pay for the salon
business’s move left the development project and Paragon in a limbo of
uncertainty. With Flaherty & Collins’ offer, the development deal
should be able to advance without extra costs to the city.But Cranley says he still wants 3CDC to review the downtown development project to set the best path forward.Federal money will help Cincinnati keep and hire more
firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response
(SAFER) grant provides nearly $8.1 million — about 2 percent of the
city’s $370 million operating budget — to pay the salaries and benefits
of 50 firefighters for two years. Afterward, the city will need to pick
up the costs, which could worsen an operating budget gap that currently
sits at $22 million for fiscal 2015. The move would increase the
Cincinnati Fire Department’s staffing levels from 841 to 879 and help prevent brownouts, according to the firefighting agency.The Cincinnati Board of Health defied Mayor Cranley by
unilaterally pursuing a $1.3 million grant that will provide
preventative and primary care services to underserved populations. Rocky
Merz, spokesperson for the board, says the grant application complies
with guidance from the city’s top lawyer. Cranley opposes the grant because the extra services it enables could push up costs for the city down the line.Hamilton County officials will look for outside legal help in
their fight against the city’s job training rules for Metropolitan Sewer
District projects. CityBeat covered the rules, known as “responsible bidder,” in further detail here.Smale Riverfront Park will receive $4.5 million in federal
funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control erosion and
prevent flooding.Crime around Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino never
materialized, despite warnings from critics prior to casinos’
legalization in Ohio.Ohio’s prison re-entry rate declined and sits
well below the national average, according to a study from the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The study found 27.1
percent of inmates released in 2010 ended up back up in prison, down
from 28.7 percent of individuals released in 2009. In comparison, the
national average is 44 percent.Hundreds of Ohio school districts plan to test out the
state’s new online assessments for math, language arts, social studies
and science.The cold winter is pushing up natural gas prices, according to Ohio’s largest natural gas utility.A second baby might have been cured of HIV, the sexually
transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Even with the potential successes,
doctors caution it’s still very much unclear whether the treatment
provides a definitive cure for the deadly disease.Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind intravaginal ring could prevent pregnancy and HIV.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 5, 2014
City officials announced an initiative that promises to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and do more to reach out to youth.
by German Lopez
City to add more cops, bill enables needle exchanges, Portune drops gubernatorial bid
Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and several other local leaders expect to announce a $1 million plan to add more cops, including a new recruit class, to help fight a local rise in homicides and violent crime. Besides the additional officers, the plan will also restart a unit focused on gangs and put more emphasis on "hot spots" of potential crime. The announcement follows a rough start to the year that's already experienced higher-than-normal levels of violence. CityBeat will cover the announcement in further detail as the news breaks.A bill in the Ohio legislature could enable more clean needle exchanges. The bill wouldn't supply state or federal funding, but it would let any local health authority establish a syringe-exchange program without declaring a health emergency. Although some conservatives take issue with providing needles to drug users, officials say the program in Portsmouth, Ohio, cut countywide hepatitis C rates, nearly eliminated the number of needles found in parks and on sidewalks, and provided addicts a legally safe resource for help. CityBeat previously covered attempts to establish a local needle-exchange program in further detail here.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Friday officially dropped his long-shot bid for governor. Although Portune received a lot of attention from local media, he never mounted a credible campaign and drew harsh criticisms from fellow Democrats, who accused Portune of complicating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald's campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.While some in the media focus on the horse race and fundraising goals, political scientists say partisan ties, national politics and the state of the economy play a much bigger role in deciding elections.Southwestern Ohio should expect light snow today and a winter storm tomorrow.Young women who take the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex or take part in unsafe sexual practices, a study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.Denver Broncos fans yesterday got a taste of what it's like to support the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose.January birthed a few cute zoo animals.A study found 1,300 airborne microbes in Beijing's smog.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department
testified in front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee on
Jan. 6 to address the local increase in homicides.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: Health
at 02:33 PM | Permalink
Collection hopes to curb prescription drug abuse
If your medicine cabinet could use a good fall cleaning, think about de-cluttering tomorrow during National Drug Take-Back day so you can properly dispose of the pills and make sure they don't get into the wrong hands. The local prescription take-back is sponsored by the Hamilton Country Sheriff Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Prescription drug abuse is a rampant public safety and health issues, and take-back programs are one of a number of public health measures communities can take to reduce prescription drug abuse in their neighborhoods. Even flushing the pills down the toilet poses its own risks; the chemicals could make their way into our water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that fish have suffered serious deformities from pharmaceutical-tainted water supplies, and it could affect humans, too, although the research isn't strong enough to draw any solid conclusions yet. There are three locations around the city where you can bring old prescriptions (all locations are open from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.): Miami Township Community Center, 3780 Shady Lane, North Bend, OH 45052Symmes Township Safety Center, 8871 Weekly Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45249Anderson Center, Five Mile Road, Cincinnati, OH 45230The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for reasons other than which they were prescribed. In 2010, 7 million Americans abused a prescription drug; pain relieving medications like Vicodin and Oxycontin are the most commonly abused drugs. Unintentional drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Ohio. The state has experienced a 440 percent growth rate in accidental overdose deaths from 1999 to 2011. According to DrugAbuse.gov, teenagers are especially likely to abuse medications because of their easy accessibility and a lack of awareness about the consequences of abuse. Needles, IV bags and radioactive medicines will not be accepted.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:13 AM | Permalink
Texting while driving eludes police, parking lease stalled, Ohio tax code still complex
Even though it’s now illegal under local and state law, texting while driving often eludes punishment
in Greater Cincinnati. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department has
issued no tickets so far to vehicular texters, while the Cincinnati
Police Department has given out 28, with only four going to teenagers.
Although almost everyone acknowledges the dangers of texting while
driving, police say it’s very difficult to catch texters in the act,
especially since most of them claim they were just making phone calls.
Otto Budig, board chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, apparently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Port Authority won’t sign the parking lease
until it gets assurances about city funding. City Council considered pulling $100,000 from the Port
Authority while putting together the budget for fiscal year 2014. Now,
Budig says the Port Authority wants some sort of financial assurance,
perhaps as part of the parking lease, that the city won’t threaten
future funding. The city announced Tuesday it had signed the lease, but some opponents, including Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, are still looking for ways to repeal the plan.
A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state’s tax code remains complicated
under the Ohio Senate budget plan and the budget actually added tax breaks, despite earlier promises of simplification from House and Senate leaders. Meanwhile, Mike Dittoe, spokesperson
for Ohio House Republicans, says the General Assembly will take up tax
reform later in the year. The Ohio Department of Taxation says the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2015, and Policy Matters says many of the exemptions, deductions and credits are wasteful.
Commentary: “Republican Medicaid Opposition Ignores Ohio’s Best Interests.”
JobsOhio topped a ranking
from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) that looks at government
agencies’ “unrelenting commitment to undermining the public's right to
know.” IRE mocked JobsOhio and the state Republicans for making it
increasingly difficult to find out how the agency uses its public funds.
Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, have also criticized
Republicans for blocking a public audit of JobsOhio, which was
established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to
eventually replace the public Ohio Department of Development. JobsOhio’s
supporters argue the agency’s privatized, secret nature allows it to move
at the “speed of business” to better boost the economy.
The Cincinnati Museum Center is looking to ask Hamilton County residents to renew its operating levy
in May 2014, even though the museum promised in 2009 that it wouldn’t
do so. The museum argues circumstances have changed, with Union Terminal
crumbling and in need of about $163 million in repairs. When the museum
originally made its promise against more operating levies, it was
expecting to make repairs through a capital levy, but Hamilton County
commissioners dismissed that idea. Hamilton County commissioners will
have to approve the operating levy before it goes on the ballot.
An Ohio bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from tanning at a salon
unless a doctor gives permission for medical reasons. This is the third
time Ohio legislators have proposed measures against indoor tanning in recent years.
Personhood Ohio, the anti-abortion group trying to ban abortions in Ohio by defining life as beginning at conception, is fundraising by selling assault rifles.
Here is a map showing how green Earth is in the most literal terms.
We now have an explanation for why everyone is so nice and loving to CityBeat’s Hannah McCartney: A study found people are mostly mean to their unattractive coworkers.
Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and 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.
Local authorities rarely cite drivers for texting, say proof is hard to find
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Greater Cincinnati are texting away. Men, women. Young, old. Smart and
not so. Texting behind the wheel is an indulgence that people just can’t
by Hannah McCartney
Bill would remove language monitoring sizes of magazines
Six months ago today, 26 children and adults were slaughtered at the hands of Adam Lanza and a semi-automatic Bushmaster XM12 E2S rifle inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one of the deadliest school shooting massacres in U.S. history. As parents, friends, family and gun control advocates around the country mourn and commemorate the loss of life, Ohio gun rights advocates are worried about something else. Their concern: how to make it easier for Ohio citizens to obtain high-round magazines for their semi-automatic weapons.A new Ohio House Bill introduced by State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) could, if passed, allow people to purchase high-round magazines for semi-automatic weapons, removing language from the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that currently restricts use of magazines exceeding 31 rounds for semi-automatic weapons. Specifically, the proposed bill would remove the definition of "automatic firearm" from section 2923.11 from the ORC that currently qualifies a weapon traditionally defined as a semi-automatic firearm (which operated by firing only once for each pull of the trigger) as an automatic firearm under Ohio law when used with a magazine holding greater than 31 rounds of ammunition. Gun rights advocates are in favor of deleting the line because qualifying a semi-automatic as an automatic weapon under Ohio law (dependent on magazine size) subjects gun owners to greater background checks and stricter purchasing restrictions, which they consider an unlawful hassle and burden. Jim Irvine, Chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, says that the sentence Becker has proposed to remove is one that inherently conflicts the actual definition of an automatic weapon; he says it doesn't make sense to qualify a semi-automatic weapon under the same umbrella as an automatic weapon when the two are entirely different types of firearms. He says that the issue is one of convenience for most semi-automatic gun owners, including himself. "Loading up magazines can take time," he says. "When I go to the shooting range I want to use my time up shooting, not reloading." That extra time, though, is exactly the point of the wording in the ORC, explains Toby Hoover, executive director for the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Limited magazines were what eventually stopped the Arizona gunman who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because a bystander was able to attack the shooter when he dropped a magazine while trying to reload. Hoover asserts that gun rights advocates like Irvine are being subversive in their reasons for wanting to change the changed law. She says the legal issue is not that the ORC is trying to directly equate semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons — they clearly operate differently — but that grouping them together using that magazine restriction is a common-sense way to define them both as dangerous, unnecessary forms of firearms that simply shouldn't be readily accessible to the average gun owner. Semi-automatic weapons are extremely easy to purchase in Ohio, she says, while purchasing automatic weapons involves many more complicated restrictions and regulations. "I'm just really upset with the way they [Ohio Republicans and gun lobbyists] are ignoring the fact that people in Ohio want gun restrictions. They're just going the opposite direction," she says. "If they're really concerned about the wording of the law, just have them maybe separate the definitions but keep the restrictions the same." Ohio is one of several states monitor magazine limits on semi-automatic weapons, she explains, so it's not unusual at all that the ORC does so. Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook's shooter, had several 30-round magazines on him and was also carrying two handguns. It's estimated he used somewhere between four and 10 magazines during the shootings, which took place over a matter of minutes. The bill has been assigned to the House's Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security committee, where it currently awaits hearing
by German Lopez
Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget
Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to
the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and
independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and
rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by
official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA
accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state.
The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code,
potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s
libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes.
If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to
set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to
considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters,
but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs,
increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public
safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city
officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan
to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront
and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The
bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down
abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion,
while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going
through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away
the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor
Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes
private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have
pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators
established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she
got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is
taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is
discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital
sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits
in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the
school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.
To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
by German Lopez
Final plan makes cuts elsewhere, raise taxes and fees
City Council approved a budget motion today that will avert all public safety layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget. But if the overall operating budget plan is approved by a majority of council tomorrow, many city services will be cut and property taxes and numerous fees will go up.The operating budget plan, which passed with an 8-1 vote, comes after months of city officials threatening to lay off cops and firefighters if the city did not approve a plan to lease Cincinnati's parking assets to the Port Authority, which city officials previously claimed was necessary to raise funds that would help balance the operating budget for two years and fund economic development projects. But the parking plan is currently being held up in court, and the public safety layoffs are being avoided anyway.Last week, council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach announced a budget motion that would avoid all fire layoffs and all but 25 police layoffs. The remaining 25 police layoffs are being undone through the budget motion approved today, which increases estimates for incoming revenues with $1 million that is supposed to be paid back to the city's tax increment financing fund.Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan did not sign onto the plan, articulating concerns that the budget maneuver will make the deficit worse in 2015 and fail to structurally balance the budget.Even with the motion, the overall operating budget plan would make cuts elsewhere and raise fees and property taxes. If the plan is approved, about 60 city employees are expected to lose their jobs in the next couple weeks.The cuts swept through most of the city government, hitting parks, the arts, human services, parades, administrative budgets and outside agencies, among many other areas.The operating budget portion of the property tax will also climb from 5.7 mills in 2014 to 6.1 mills in 2015, which comes out to an extra $34 for every $100,000 in property value. The latest property tax increase comes after City Council approved a hike in 2013, pushing the property tax from 4.6 mills in 2013 to 5.7 mills in 2014.The plan would also raise fees for several city services, including fire plan reviews and admission into the Krohn Conservatory.Multiple council members claimed the austerity was necessary because of the state government, which has cut local government funding by about 50 percent during Gov. John Kasich's time in office ("Enemy of the State," issue of March 20).Still, Lea Eriksen, the city's budget director, previously pointed out Cincinnati has not passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001.City Council will vote on the overall budget plan May 30. Council members Qualls, Seelbach, Pam Thomas, Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson are expected to vote in favor of the plan, giving it enough votes to pass City Council.