WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Cranley Losing Credibility on Projections

5 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Mayor-elect John Cranley has been confidently wrong before, and the same could be playing out with the streetcar project.  
by German Lopez 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down

Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling — a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5 billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise, given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done. Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget. The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state budgets. A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here. Cincinnati Gardens is for sale. Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.” At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November. In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family. As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in a different kind of public service here. Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal. Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.08.2013
at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anna louise inn

Morning News and Stuff

Anna Louise Inn rally today, casino revenue drops, Ohio's business climate improves

Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western & Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of $17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to $12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more accurate. Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation, with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year, according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013. But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs, considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.” If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have to rework the City Charter to restore the powers. A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter. Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade. A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie. News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act, which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun homicides began. Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers. A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.09.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_casino_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month, translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan. Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project. The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of structural deficit problems. House Republicans are poised to reject Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here. PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes, the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from the local EZ-Pass freeze.” Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign. One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit, where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth. New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.01.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Sports, Immigration at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_aroldischapman_thecincinnatireds

Morning News and Stuff

Opening Day today, BMV to offer licenses to DACA recipients, Cranley suggests budget plan

It’s Opening Day today, which means it’s time for a citywide celebration of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball. At the City Council meeting last week, Mayor Mark Mallory declared today a local holiday, so if you need an excuse to sneak in a few beers while watching the parade at work, say the mayor made you do it. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will allow the children of illegal immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to obtain driver’s licenses. DACA was signed by President Barack Obama to give recipients the opportunity to remain in the country legally without fear of prosecution, but until Friday, the BMV wasn’t sure that qualified recipients for driver’s licenses. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his budget plan Thursday that he says will avoid layoffs and the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, but critics say the plan is unworkable and some of its revenue sources are “fantasy.” Cranley’s proposal calls for $21 million in casino revenue that Horseshoe Casino General Manager Kevin Kline previously said will be available to City Council, but Jon Harmon, legislative director for Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the number is using an outdated model and the city’s estimate of $10 million is more in line with recent turn of events. The budget proposal also claims to make its cuts and raise revenue without layoffs, but even Cranley was uncertain about whether that’s possible. Opponents of the city’s parking plan say they’ve gathered more than 10,000 signatures — more than the 8,500 required — but the signatures still need to be verified before the plan is placed on the ballot. Last week, the mayor told Cincinnati residents to not sign the petition because he says it will force the city to make budget cuts and layoffs. A ruling from Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler opened the parking plan to referendum by essentially striking down the city’s use of emergency clauses. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is backing a wider religious exemption for contraceptive coverage in health plans. As part of Obamacare, health insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and 12 other Republican state attorney generals argue the mandate infringes on religious liberty. It’s not just charter schools that do poorly under the state’s new report card system; most urban schools would flunk too. An analysis by StateImpact Ohio found urban schools actually perform worse in some areas, supporting arguments from charter school advocates that the report cards’ harsh grades show a demographic problem in urban areas, not a lack of quality in education. An analysis of old data by CityBeat in 2012 found Cincinnati Public Schools would fall under the new system. A new study found bedbugs are afflicting less Cincinnati residents — suggesting the reversal of a trend that has haunted local homeowners for years. In the past few years, Cincinnati was marked as one of the worst cities for bedbugs around the country. The last two generations are falling behind their parent’s wealth. The trend shows a generational divide behind rising income inequality in the United States. Ohio gas prices are starting to go down this week. Scientists still don’t know what’s killing up to half of America’s bees.
 
 

A Neighborhood of One’s Own

Opening of Horseshoe Casino is just the latest step for up-and-coming Pendleton neighborhood

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The neighborhood of Pendleton is not what it once was, and if the newly minted Horseshoe Casino has anything to do with it, nor what it will be in the next few years.   

I Have a Gambling Problem: I Don't Enjoy Playing Poker

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
 Most people who play poker know more terminology than applicable math, which you might be surprised to learn is essential to the game. But because anyone at the table can win any hand at any time, there’s a misleading allure to the contest. People who play badly sometimes beat people who play well.  
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening

City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton Dohoney unveiled Plan B to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead. Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here. Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections. On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools. Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only to traditional public schools, not charter schools. Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150. The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons. U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests. Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.” If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Casino, Budget, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval

John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar, Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the bids will take a few more weeks. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that are no longer good for service. The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company, to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s is currently $22 billion in debt. Ohio legislators have a lot of questions about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements. Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials.  Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion. CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional. Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today. Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator. Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus. Covington is getting a new city hall.New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped 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 governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project. The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide. Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected. Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition. With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here. The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end. Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs. But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today. With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws. Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways. Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
 
 

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