by German Lopez
16 days ago
Bill weakens energy standards, groups rally against global warming, county could cut taxes
Cincinnati’s State Sen. Bill Seitz says he will introduce a “compromise” bill
that still weakens Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards but
allows some of the current requirements for in-state renewable sources
to remain for a few years. Environmental and business groups argue
Seitz’s original bill would effectively gut the state’s energy standards
and, according to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy, force Ohioans to pay an extra $3.65 billion in electricity bills over 12 years.
But some utility companies, particularly Akron-based FirstEnergy, claim
the current standards are too burdensome and impose extra costs on
Meanwhile, Ohioans on Nov. 16 rallied in front of the Ohio Statehouse
to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal
regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.
The regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to
limit carbon emissions from power plants, which Environment Ohio says
are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary
contributor to global warming. Although some conservatives deny
human-caused global warming, scientists stated in the 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.
Hamilton County commissioners will vote on Wednesday on a plan that would increase the tax return received by property taxpayers.
Republican Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s proposal would increase the
rebate from $10 million to $12 million, or $35 for each $100,000 of
property value in 2013 to $42 in 2014. But Democratic Commissioner Todd
Portune, the lone Democrat in the three-member board, says he would
rather focus on increasing the sales tax to make the stadium fund
sustainable and not reliant on casino revenue, which could go to other
Commissioners also agreed to not place a property tax levy renewal for the Cincinnati Museum Center on the ballot
until there’s a plan to fix Union Terminal. The informal decision followed the
recommendations of the Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee,
which reported that it will only support the levy renewal if the city,
county and museum develop a plan to transfer ownership of Union Terminal
from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and locate public and
private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Monday that he’s forming a heroin unit
to tackle what he describes as a drug epidemic sweeping across Ohio’s
communities. The effort, which is estimated at $1 million, will focus on
education, outreach and law enforcement. David Pepper, DeWine’s likely
Democratic opponent for the attorney general position in 2014, argues
DeWine, a Republican, moved too slowly on the issue; Pepper says the
problem began in 2011, more than two years before DeWine’s proposal.
Cincinnati council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman yesterday reiterated their opposition to the city’s responsible bidder policy,
which requires bidders for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) work to
follow specific standards for apprenticeship programs. The law has
caused an impasse between the county, which owns MSD, and the city,
which is in charge of management. The conflict comes in the middle of a
federal mandate asking MSD to retrofit Cincinnati’s sewer system — a
project that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.
Cincinnati’s Department of Public Services will expedite the delivery of bigger trash carts.
The deliveries are part of Mayor Mark Mallory’s controversial trash
policy, which limits each household to one trash cart that can be picked
up by automated trucks in an effort to save money and avoid workers’ injuries.
Mayor-elect John Cranley says the policy is too limiting and causing people to
dump trash in public areas.
Cincinnati’s Metro is the most efficient bus service
compared to 11 peer cities, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when
it comes to level of service, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.
Metro plans to announce today that it will balance its operational
budget without fare increases or service cuts for the fourth year in a
For Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run
on a holiday schedule. The sales office will also be closed for Thanksgiving
and the day after.
Ohio will receive nearly $717,000
in a multi-state settlement involving Google, which supposedly overrode
some browsers’ settings to plant cookies that collect information for advertisements.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Stan Chesley,
which means the local attorney can no longer practice law in front of
the nation’s highest court. The controversy surrounding Chesley began
more than a decade ago when he was accused of misconduct for his
involvement with a $200 million fen-phen diet-drug settlement.
Some organisms might evolve the ability to evolve.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
17 days ago
JobsOhio benefits Columbus, property tax return could grow, museum levy gets conditions
JobsOhio, the state-funded privatized development agency, grants more tax credits around Columbus, the state capital, than anywhere else in the state. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer,
the discrepancy might be driven by Columbus’ high growth rate and the
city’s proximity to the state government, which could make Columbus officials more aware of tax-credit opportunities. But
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann also blames local governments
in southwest Ohio for failing to act in unison with a concerted
economic plan to bring in more tax credits and jobs.
Hartmann today plans to introduce a partial restoration of the property tax return
that voters were promised when they approved a half-cent sales tax hike
to build Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. The return
was reduced when there wasn’t enough money in the sales tax fund to pay
for the stadiums last year, but there might be enough money now to give
property taxpayers more of their money back. It was unclear as of Sunday
how much money someone with a $100,000 home would get back under Hartmann’s plan.
Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee will recommend a tax levy for the Cincinnati Museum Center only if a few conditions are met,
including transfer of ownership of the Union Terminal from the city to a
new, to-be-formed entity and allocation of public and private funds to
renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable fashion.City Council last week asked the city administration
to find and allocate $30,000 for the winter shelter, which would put
the shelter closer to the $75,000 it needs to remain open between
mid-to-late December and February. The shelter currently estimates it’s
at approximately $32,000, according to Josh Spring, executive director
of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The city administration
now needs to locate the money and turn the transaction into an
ordinance that needs City Council approval and would make the allocation of funds official. To
contribute to the winter shelter, go to tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati and type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional)” before making a donation.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced Thursday that it plans to cut about 500 jobs
in Akron, Ohio. State officials were apparently aware of the plan
in October but underestimated how quickly Lockheed Martin would carry
out the cuts. Ohio Democrats jumped on the opportunity to mock JobsOhio
for failing to move at the “speed of business,” as Republicans claim
only the privatized development agency can, to develop an incentive
package that could have kept Lockheed Martin in Akron. But state
officials say they were led to believe Lockheed Martin’s move would take
Intense storms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest over the weekend, killing at least six.
Ohio has issued a record-breaking amount of concealed-weapons licenses
this year. The state issued 82,000 licenses in the first nine months of
2013, more than the 64,000 in 2012 that set the previous record. About
426,000 permits have been issued since the state began the program in
This week, Ohio gas prices jumped back up but remained lower than the national average.
Popular Science looks at how artificial meat could “save the world.”Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
30 days ago
It's Election Day, tolls appear inevitable for Brent Spence Bridge, county to pass budget
It’s Election Day. Polls will remain open today until 7:30 p.m. Find your voting location here. Check out CityBeat’s election coverage and endorsements here. Regardless of who you plan to support, go vote. The results will decide who runs Cincinnati for the next four years.A gathering in Covington, Ky. over the Brent Spence Bridge signaled the community is still divided about using tolls
to pay for the $2.5 billion bridge project, even as public officials admit tolls are most likely necessary to complete the project. Many local and state
officials believe the federal government should pay for the interstate
bridge, but they’re also pessimistic about the chances of receiving
federal funds. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran says she’s concerned about
safety at the functionally obsolete bridge, but she says tolls could
have a negative impact on Covington.On Wednesday, Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on an annual budget that nearly matches the county administrator’s original proposal. The budget is
the first time in six years that county officials don’t have to carry
out major cuts or layoffs to close a gap.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
and three other community organizations found idling school bus and car
motors might pose a serious health risk to students. The most problematic pollutants are particularly
concentrated when cars and buses are standing, and the toxic particles
linger around schools and playgrounds for hours after the vehicles
leave, according to the study. For researchers, the findings are evidence buses and cars should
turn off their motors when dropping off children at school.
The Cincinnati Enquirer and other major newspapers lost thousands of readers in the past year,
even though some newspapers managed to buck the trend and gain in
certain categories, according to a circulation audit from the Alliance
for Audited Media. Between September 2012 and September 2013, The Enquirer’s circulation dropped by more than 10 percent, while The Toledo Blade and Dayton Daily News
increased their circulation. The drop coincides with
readers resorting to the Internet and other alternate sources in the
past few years. The losses have cost newspapers advertising revenue, and
many have responded with cutbacks in staff and overall news coverage.More than half a million Ohioans qualify for tax subsidies under Obamacare,
according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Anyone
between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four, is eligible.
But for Ohioans to take full advantage of the benefits, the federal
government will first need to fix HealthCare.gov, which has been mired in technical problems since its launch on Oct. 1.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was one of seven Republicans to support a federal ban on workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians
in the U.S. Senate yesterday. All Senate Democrats backed the bill. But
the bill faces grim prospects in the U.S. House of Representatives,
where it’s expected to fail. CityBeat covered state-level efforts to ban workplace and housing discrimination against LGBT individuals in further detail here.
Mitt Romney’s code name for Portman, a potential running mate for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket, was Filet-O-Fish.
One in five sun-like stars host Earth-like planets.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
36 days ago
Posted In: Museum
at 08:57 AM | Permalink
Mallory touts city's turnaround, museum could get off taxes, county gets break on legal bill
During his final state of the city address yesterday, Mayor Mark Mallory touted Cincinnati’s nationally recognized economic turnaround, which began during his eight years as mayor. He also fought back
against the neighborhoods-versus-downtown rhetoric that has permeated on
the campaign trail in the past year; he pointed out that throughout his past
two terms the city government both invested $529 million in
neighborhoods and oversaw the revitalization of downtown and
Over-the-Rhine. Looking to the future, Mallory said the city should use
its federally mandated overhaul of the sewer system as an opportunity to
bring in private investment that could revitalize the West Side and
help build a bridge from the West Side to Kentucky, near the airport.
A new report found the Museum Center could wean itself off taxes,
but the report says it should first more than triple its endowment and,
perhaps by applying for historic tax credits, rebuild its crumbling
Union Terminal home. The report comes at the request of county
commissioners, who are discussing whether they should allow a property tax levy
on the May ballot to help the museum. It finds that if Union
Terminal is repaired and restored, the museum could afford to operate
without taxpayer help.
If county commissioners agree to make the payment today, Hamilton County could get a 4-percent break
on its $920,501 legal bill to Democratic Juvenile Court Judge Tracie
Hunter and her legal team. The Hamilton County Board of Elections racked
up the bill for the county after the board decided to contest Hunter’s
legal challenge to count more than one-third of previously discarded
provisional ballots, which were enough to turn the juvenile court
election in Hunter’s favor. Hunter’s opponent at the time, Republican
John Williams, eventually won a seat on the juvenile court through a
City Council candidates have raised $2 million in the ongoing election cycle.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says that his office, with the help of county boards of election, has virtually eliminated duplicate voters from the rolls.
Traffic deaths in Ohio could hit a record low in 2013.
Graeter’s plans to open an ice cream parlor in Over-the-Rhine.
Here are seven gorgeous images of space from NASA.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here.
Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are
extended. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day
(Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
45 days ago
Port advances parking plan, board could expand Medicaid, county to gauge tourist revenues
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Saturday approved bond sales and contract agreements
for the controversial parking plan. The approval is the final major
step necessary for the Port Authority and its private partners to take
over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages after the city leased
the assets to the nonprofit development agency earlier in the year. The
deal is supposed to raise $85 million in upfront funds and at least $3
million in annual payments for the city, which the city administration previously planned to use for development projects and operating budget gaps. But opponents of the deal say the city is giving up far too
much control over its parking assets, which they argue could cause
parking rates to skyrocket as private operators attempt to maximize
Ohio’s Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, is expected to decide
today whether it will use federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid
program to more low-income Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich opted to bypass the
legislature and put the decision to the Controlling Board after months
of failing to convince his fellow Republicans in the Ohio House and
Senate to take up the expansion. But critics of the expansion have
threatened to sue the Kasich administration if it bypasses the
legislature. Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for the
full expansion for the two years being considered; if Ohio ends up
accepting the expansion beyond that, the federal government will pay for
the entire expansion through 2016 then phase down its payments to an
indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Hamilton County commissioners could consider today whether to use excess tourist tax revenues
on more funding for tourism-related infrastructure projects. The tourist tax was previously
used to help build the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention centers and fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the county administrator intends to lay out more options in his meeting with commissioners.
In the mayoral race between Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, black voters could make the big decision.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday warned about so-called sweetheart scams
in which a con artist develops a relationship with a victim, typically
through the Internet, before asking for money. The Attorney General’s
Consumer Protection Section has received about 70 complaints involving
the scams since October 2011, resulting in an average loss of more than
$14,000 with the highest reported loss coming in at $210,000, according
to the attorney general.
Ohio’s school chief ordered two Columbus charter schools to shut down for health and safety reasons and inadequate staffing.
Findlay Market is tapping into crowdsourcing to decide three new storefronts.
Ohio gas prices increased for the second week in a row.
A thermal wristband promises to keep the user’s body at the perfect temperature.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
49 days ago
Simon Leis’ reign kept sheriff’s office “largely frozen in time,” audit finds
A scathing audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) suggests former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff fiercely loyal during his 25-year reign over the sheriff’s office.According to the Oct. 15 audit, the result was an agency “largely frozen in time” that failed at adopting modern standards and practices for policing and corrections facilities.As one example, the audit found the agency still uses what it colloquially calls “The Book,” a single, massive paper-based trove of financial data and other information, instead of modern technologies, such as computer spreadsheets. Not only did the agency insist on sticking to the old ways of keeping records, but one unit head reportedly told auditors that she simply does not trust computers.The audit presents various consequences for Hamilton County: outdated policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked, under-trained staff.“A mid-level supervisor indicated that in his twenty-plus year career, he has never had updated use of force training beyond the initial academy. This is inconsistent with the best practices and exposes the HCSO, the County, and officeholders to unnecessary legal liability,” the audit found.Leis’ policies also had a negative effect on newcomers trying to build a career on the county force, according to the audit.“The command staff was comprised exclusively of personal and political associates of the former sheriff, some with no true law enforcement experience except at that level,” the audit noted. “Almost no career employees were promoted above the rank of lieutenant, despite advanced training including degrees and other training (e.g. Southern Police Institute) directly related to their careers.”One staff commander interviewed for the audit reportedly said the failure to identify, train and promote new leaders created “The Lost Generation” at HCSO.One explanation for the dire circumstances, according to the audit, is that the agency completely lacked inspection and planning functions that would have examined policies and practices for certain standards and established plans to fix discovered errors.Another possible cause: The audit found that five years of cuts created staffing gaps in several areas, particularly correctional facilities. Still, the audit found the sheriff’s staff is so loyal that its members would quickly embrace and adapt to changes given through the chain of command. “This is a key advantage, and we have no doubt that both sworn and non-sworn HCSO members will readily and rapidly implement chosen reforms and changes,” the audit claimed.The audit recommends various new investments and changes in standards for HSCO. It notes that some of the investments, such as a greater focus on modern technology, could help make the agency’s work more efficient and allow a reduction of non-sworn staff — and the costs associated with them — through attrition.But the investments would involve a substantial policy shift for Hamilton County, which carried out major budget cuts in the past six years just to get to a point this year where large reductions or tax increases aren’t necessary to balance the annual budget.Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil promised the audit during his 2012 campaign. It was conducted by former American Civil Liberties Union attorney Scott Greenwood and former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher.The HCSO audit:
by German Lopez
52 days ago
Governor bypasses legislature, voter turnout historically low, museum price tag criticized
Gov. John Kasich will not look to the full legislature to expand Medicaid
and is instead asking a seven-member legislative oversight panel to
consider using federal funds for the next two years to expand Medicaid
eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The Controlling Board, which is
made up of one Kasich appointee, four Republican legislators and two
Democratic legislators, will make its decision on Oct. 21. The expansion
would allow Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program, to
cover all Ohioans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or
individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. The Health
Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Cincinnati’s 2013 mayoral and City Council elections may be on track
for the lowest ever voter turnout. As of Friday, the Hamilton County
Board of Elections had processed 3,173 absentee ballot applications in
Cincinnati. At the same point in 2011, the board had processed 8,964
applications in the city. The numbers come just one month after a measly 5.68 percent of voters cast a ballot in the
mayoral primary election,
much lower than the mayoral primaries held on Sept. 11, 2001, the day
of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann acknowledges Union Terminal is in need of repairs,
but he says the Museum Center must lower the estimated $180 million
price tag on the project. “These are great facilities, but we don't have
an unlimited amount of dollars, and I think taxpayers expect us to view
their tax dollars in that way. I think that number for the Museum
Center is too high right now. I've encouraged them to bring that number
way down for (county commissioners) to consider having the property tax
payers of this county pay for it,” Hartmann said.
Hamilton County judges say witness intimidation is on the rise,
which could be making it more difficult to put criminals in prison.
Judges are so concerned that they banned cellphones from their
courtrooms after some residents used the devices to take pictures of
witnesses and showed the photos in neighborhoods as an intimidation tactic, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Now, some witnesses are refusing to
testify even when threatened with jail. To them, the threat of violent
crime is so real that some jail time makes more sense in comparison.
City officials plan to break ground today for a new police
station for District 3 on the west side of Cincinnati. The district
serves East Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Lower Price Hill,
Millvale, North Fairmount, Riverside, Roll Hill, Sayler Park,
Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, West Price Hill and
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the Ohio EPA to explain in writing
why a proposed permit for Murray Energy’s coal slurry project doesn’t
include certain pollution limits. Without the restrictions on specific
toxic gases, the U.S. EPA could reject the project’s permit. Former Ohio
EPA Surface Water Division Chief George Elmaraghy previously said his
call to adhere to pollution limits for coal companies led the Kasich
administration to fire him.
Part of Ohio’s electronic food stamp system temporarily shut down
on Saturday after a glitch cropped up at Xerox, the company that
handles the electronic benefit system. The partial shutdown affected 16
other states as well.
StateImpact Ohio recommends “eight must-read posts” on Ohio’s new Common Core education standards.
Ohio gas prices increased this week, edging toward the U.S. average.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble appeared in Reuters’ list of top 100 innovators for the third year in a row.
Popular Science hosts an in-depth look at what it will take to find life outside of Earth. Hint: It requires more funding and public support.Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
by German Lopez
59 days ago
Shutdown continues, council candidates meet at forum, county considers sales tax hike
Reminder: Today is the last day to register to vote in
the 2013 mayoral and City Council elections. Since early voting is currently underway, it’s
possible to register and vote on the same day. Get a registration form here and find out when and where to vote here.
The federal government shutdown is closing in on its second week. The shutdown has forced some services in Cincinnati to seriously cut back, ranging from Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety inspections to small business loans. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in further detail here.
City Council candidates met at a forum
on Oct. 5 to discuss their different visions for the city’s
future. The candidates agreed Cincinnati is moving forward, but they
generally agreed that the city needs to carry its current economic
growth from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to all 52 neighborhoods.
Participating candidates particularly emphasized public safety and
government transparency, while a majority also focused on education
partnerships and human services for the poor and homeless, which have been funded below council’s goals since 2004. The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Check out CityBeat’s candidate-by-candidate breakdown of the forum here.
Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman plans to
propose a quarter-cent hike of the county sales tax to pay for lower
property taxes, the elimination of permit and inspection fees paid by
businesses, or the construction of a new coroner’s lab and addition of
nearly 300 jail beds, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Hamilton County’s sales tax is currently 6.75 percent, which is lower
than 65 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Sigman says the plan would refocus the
county and allow it “to transition from a posture of where to cut to
where to invest.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach agreed to pay more than $1,200
to dismiss a lawsuit from an anti-tax group that would have cost the
city $30,000. Seelbach’s payment reimburses the city for a trip he took
to Washington, D.C., to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award
for his accomplishments in protecting Cincinnati’s LGBT community. City
officials said the trip also helped Seelbach market Cincinnati and
learn what other cities are doing to attract and retain LGBT
individuals. The lawsuit was threatened by the hyper-conservative
Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims
to protect taxpayers from government over-spending and high taxes but simultaneously forces the city to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight
Starting today, residents must use city-delivered trash carts if they want their garbage picked up. To save space in the carts, city officials are advising recycling. If city workers didn’t deliver a trash cart to your home, contact them here.
A bill in the Ohio legislature would ban licensed counselors
from attempting to change a youth’s sexual orientation. The practice,
known as “conversion therapy,” is widely perceived as unscientific and psychologically
damaging and demeaning. California and New Jersey banned conversion
therapies in the past year.
Ohio’s legislative leaders on Friday promised to make a Medicaid overhaul a focus of the ongoing fall session.
It’s so far unclear what exactly the overhaul will involve. Meanwhile, the Ohio legislature has refused to take up a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would
expand eligibility for the federal-state health care program to include
anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Health
Policy Institute of Ohio estimates the expansion would generate $1.8
billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans, and it’s
supported by Gov. John Kasich. But Republican legislators are skeptical
of expanding a government-run health care program and claim the federal
government wouldn’t be able to meet its obligations to the program,
even though the federal government has met its payments since Medicaid
was created in 1965.
Although insurance plans in Obamacare’s online marketplace (HealthCare.gov) offer lower premiums, the reduced prices come with less options for doctors and hospitals. But supporters argue some health care coverage is better than no health care coverage.
The Ohio branch of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of
unions in the country, today announced a slate of Democratic
endorsements for state offices, including Ed FitzGerald for governor,
David Pepper for attorney general, Nina Turner for secretary of state,
Connie Pillich for treasurer and John Patrick Carney for auditor.
A registry helps connect
University of Cincinnati Medical Center researchers with people with a
personal or family history of breast cancer. About 5,600 people are
currently on the list, which researchers can tap into to collect data or
solicit individuals for studies.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is investing its single largest contribution ever on treatments for mental health and behavioral issues.
Ohio gas prices dipped further this week.
A grandfather chastised his daughter
in a letter for kicking out his gay grandson: “He was born this way and
didn't choose it more than he being left-handed. You, however, have
made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So while we
are in the business of disowning children, I think I'll take this moment
to say goodbye to you.”
Designing an anti-poaching drone could earn someone $25,000.
by German Lopez
63 days ago
County shut down $3.2 billion MSD project in response to city rules
Councilman Chris Seelbach on Oct. 3 announced another
concession in the ongoing city-county dispute over contracting rules for the jointly operated Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).
At the heart of the issue is a federal mandate requiring
Cincinnati to retrofit and revamp its sewer system. The project
is estimated to cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, making it the largest
infrastructure undertaking in the city’s history.
But Hamilton County commissioners have put most of the
project on hold until the county resolves its conflict with City
Council, which unanimously passed in June 2012 and modified in May
“responsible bidder” rules that dictate how MSD contractors should train
Critics say the law’s apprenticeship program and
pre-apprenticeship fund requirements put too much of a burden on nonunion businesses. Supporters claim the requirements
help create local jobs and train local workers.
The city law requires bidders to follow specific
standards for apprenticeship programs, which are used by unionized and
nonunion businesses to teach an employee in a certain craft, such as
plumbing or construction. It also asks contractors to put 10 cents for
each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will help teach
applicants in different crafts.
The concession announced on Oct. 3 would replace a mandate with an incentive program.
The mandate tasked contract bidders to prove their
apprenticeship programs have graduated at least one person a year for
the five previous years.
The incentive program would strip the mandate and
replace it with “bid credits,” which would essentially give a small
advantage to bidders who prove their apprenticeship programs are
graduating employees. That advantage would be weighed along with many other
factors that go into the city’s evaluation of bidders.
Seelbach says the concession will be the sixth the city has given to the county, compared to the county’s single concession.
The city has already added several exemptions to its
rules, including one for small businesses and another for all contracts
under $400,000, which make up half of MSD contracts. The city also
previously loosened safety training requirements and other apprenticeship rules.
Meanwhile, the county has merely agreed to require
state-certified apprenticeship programs, although with no specific
standards like the city’s.
The five-year graduation requirement was the biggest
sticking point in the city-county dispute. It’s now up to commissioners
to decide whether the concession is enough to let MSD work go forward.
If not, the dispute could end up in court as the federal government
demands its mandate be met.
by German Lopez
83 days ago
County blocks sewer projects, sex toy company welcomed in Kentucky, Kasich fights for coal
Hamilton County once again froze new work on a $3.2 billion project that will retrofit Cincinnati’s sewers
because of a dispute concerning the city’s established bidding
requirements. City Council in 2012 passed and in 2013 further adjusted
rules that require companies bidding for lucrative sewer contracts to
meet specific local hiring and training standards. City Council says the
requirements will produce more local jobs, but Hamilton County
commissioners argue that the rules favor unions and cost too much for
businesses. Councilman Chris Seelbach and Commissioner Chris Monzel were
originally working on a compromise, but prospects fell through after
City Council rejected the deal. CityBeat covered the conflict in further detail here.
Covington, Ky., is publicly welcoming Pure Romance to the other side of the Ohio River,
which could cost Cincinnati and Ohio up to 120 jobs and $100 million in
revenue. Pure Romance was initially planning to move from Loveland,
Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati with some tax support from the city and
state, but after the state’s tax credit agencies rejected the plan, the
company has been getting better offers from out-of-state sources,
including Covington. Ohio officials say they denied Pure Romance because the
company isn’t part of a target industry such as biotech, energy or
logistics, but emails have suggested that the Republican state government is worried about the
deal coming off as politically embarrassing because some of Pure
Romance’s products include sex toys.
Ohio coal officials repeatedly complained about the state’s water pollution rules
to Gov. John Kasich, whose administration then carried on the
complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kasich’s
office insists it was just trying to collect “different viewpoints and then work
together to challenge each other to do the best job possible,” but
environmental advocates say the governor was putting unfair pressure on a
state agency just trying to do its job. The conflict might explain why
the Ohio EPA’s top water-quality official, George Elmaraghy, was forced
to resign after claiming that coal companies are pursuing permits “that
may have a negative impact on Ohio streams and wetlands and violate
state and federal laws.”
The tea party-backed pension reform effort on Thursday sued to change ballot language
approved by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The lawsuit says
the current ballot language is making “conjecture and partisan
argumentation” by claiming the pension amendment will force the city to
raise taxes, fees or other revenues to cope with stricter requirements
for paying back Cincinnati’s $872 million pension liability. If it’s
approved by voters, the amendment would effectively privatize the city’s
pension system so future city employees, minus police and firefighters,
would be required to contribute to and manage an individual 401k-style
plan; currently, the city pools city employees’ retirement funds, makes
its own contribution and invests the funds through an independent board.
CityBeat covered the tea party-backed pension amendment in further detail here.
Hamilton County sheriffs are rolling out a three-phase plan
to move homeless squatters out of county buildings and especially the
Hamilton County Courthouse, where much of the city’s homeless population
has been sleeping and defecating. Sheriffs will first set up bathrooms,
such as portable potties, and try to identify the needs of the
squatters and whether they should be connected to mental health or other
services; during the month of the first phase, homeless people will be
allowed to remain in the buildings. Then sheriffs will get more strict
and forcibly remove people but still connect them to special services.
Finally, the affected buildings will be cleaned up.
An upcoming report will likely place legislators and police and fire officials in conflict
over the state’s police and fire pension system. Supporters of the
pension system claim it’s financially stable, but a state consultants
predicted that an actuarial report will soon show the pension system is
failing to make its required commitments and will be unable to play for
health care benefits beyond 15 years. Despite the problems, pension
officials say they want to avoid more changes until the most recent
changes are in place for one year. The most recent reforms will be
officially in place for one year on July 2014, but they won’t show up on
actuarial reports until late 2015, which means further changes would
have to be held off until 2016 at the earliest under pension
A lengthy, scathing report from the state’s independent prison watchdog found skyrocketing violence and drug use, high staff turnover and low staff morale at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Two private organizations and the city of Cincinnati are working to place 21 bike share stations with 10 bicycles each in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati by spring 2014.
The reason reported mayoral primary results seemed to stall midway through counting: a memory card mix-up.
Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy says the memory
cards were never in an insecure environment, but some memory cards were
locked up and left behind, while others were accidentally taken to a
warehouse instead of the Board of Elections.
At four times their usual number, bats are forcing health officials to recommend rabies vaccinations and other disease-avoiding precautions to people in Kenton County in northern Kentucky.
Cincinnati’s largest mall, currently known as Forest Fair
Village and previously named Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and
Forest Fair Mall, is apparently not for sale, despite early reports from The Business Courier.
Social robots can easily replace humans as dogs’ best friend, according to a new study in Animal Recognition.