3 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Voters saddled Hamilton County with debt just to watch the Cincinnati Bengals lose year after year in a publicly funded stadium.
by German Lopez
131 days ago
State job numbers mislead, Cranley didn't repay $75,000 loan, county to vote on budget
Many jobs the state government claims it’s creating don’t actually exist, according to The Toledo Blade.
The Ohio Development Services Agency claims it improved its process for
tracking the effects of taxpayer-financed loans, grants and subsidies,
but The Blade found errors led to more than 11,000 claimed jobs
that likely don’t exist. Part of the problem is that the state relies on
companies to self-report job numbers; although the Ohio Development
Services Agency is supposed to authenticate the reports, officials
almost never visit businesses that get tax incentives. The discrepancy
between claimed job creation and reality raises more questions about the
efforts of JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators that recommends
many of the tax subsidies going to Ohio businesses. CityBeat covered JobsOhio in further detail here.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley didn’t repay a $75,000 loan
for his Incline Village Project in East Price Hill that was meant to go
to a medical office and 77 apartments that never came to fruition. Kathy Schwab of Local Initiatives Support
Corporation (LISC), which loaned the money to Cranley’s former
development company, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that they
worked out terms to repay the loan after the news broke yesterday.
Supporters of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign say the news
casts doubt on whether Cranley is as fiscally responsible as he’s led on
while stumping on the campaign trail. As The Enquirer notes,
Cranley is very proud of the Incline Project and often touts it to show
off his experience building a successful project in the private sector.Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on a budget
on Nov. 6. This year’s budget is the first time in six years that the
county won’t need to make major cuts to close a gap. But the
commissioners also told WVXU that it’s unlikely they’ll take up the
county coroner’s plan for a new crime lab, which county officials say is a dire need.
A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the voter rolls,
less than two weeks after the board of elections ruled Simes is
eligible to vote in Cincinnati. The case has been mired in politics
since it was first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters
claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the
streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign.
Proponents of the lawsuit, who are backed by the attorney that regularly
supports the anti-streetcar, anti-Qualls Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), argue they’re just trying to
uphold the integrity of voting. The dispute hinges on whether Simes’
registered residence for voting — a condo owned by his friend and business
colleague, Travis Estell — is a place where he truly lived or just
visited throughout 2013. Currently, no hearing or judge is set for the
Pure Romance officially signed a lease for new headquarters in downtown Cincinnati,
which means the $100-million-plus company is now set to move from its
Loveland, Ohio, location starting in January 2014. Pure Romance
originally considered moving to Kentucky after Ohio reneged on a tax
deal, but council ultimately upped its offer to bring the company to
Cincinnati. As part of its deal with the city, Pure Romance will get $854,000 in tax breaks over the next 10 years,
but it will need to stay in Cincinnati for 20 years. The city
administration estimates the deal will generate $2.6 million in net tax
revenue over two decades and at least 126 high-paying jobs over three
One in six Ohioans lived in poverty in 2012, putting the state poverty rate above pre-recession levels, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Two Butler County students were arrested yesterday after they allegedly threatened to go on a shooting spree on Facebook.
Rachel Maddow accused Ky. Sen. Rand Paul of plagiarizing his speech off Wikipedia.
The Taste of Belgium’s next location: Rookwood Exchange.
Pollinating bees could deliver pesticides in the future.
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. 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
Cranley outraises Qualls, city pension recommendations stalled, layoffs at 'The Enquirer'
Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race by $124,000, but the
history and research of money in politics suggest the lead might not
matter much, if at all. Mayor Mark Mallory was outspent more than
three-to-one in the 2005 mayoral race by David Pepper, but Mallory won
the vote 52-48 percent. Political scientists argue fundraising and
campaigns generally have a marginal impact, while economic growth, the
direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship,
name likability and recognition, and political affiliation have much
bigger effects. [Correction: This originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.]
The board that manages Cincinnati employees’ struggling pension system won’t make a recommendation to City Council Monday,
as originally planned, because it can’t decide how much taxpayers and
employees should suffer to help fix the $862 million unfunded liability.
Board members couldn’t agree on the proper balance between benefit
cuts and increased funding from the city. Credit rating agency Moody’s
on July 15 downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating
from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.” Moody’s
stated one of the biggest causes of concern for Cincinnati’s debt
outlook is its pension fund.
There were massive layoffs at The Cincinnati Enquirer
and its parent company Gannett yesterday, including the reported
closing of the newspaper’s Kentucky office. As of the latest update from
more than 200 people were laid off nationwide and 11 lost their jobs at
the Cincinnati offices. The news comes just two weeks after Gannett CEO
Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.”
Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held and raped three women at his house for years, yesterday was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
A few dozen residents organized by a conservative group asked the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority
to kill Cincinnati’s parking lease at a meeting Thursday. The Port is
taking control over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages as
part of a controversial deal that will net the city $92 million up front
and $3 million or more a year afterward. CityBeat covered the lease in further detail here.
While the Port Authority meeting apparently warranted live
tweeting and various articles from several outlets, other local media outlets never covered a streetcar social that involved roughly 200 supporters of the Cincinnati streetcar and Mayor Mallory.
State officials claim average costs for health insurance
will soar by 41 percent for Ohioans who buy coverage online under
Obamacare, but experts say the state’s claims are misleading.
“These are sticker prices, and very few people will pay these prices,”
said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family
Foundation. “Many will qualify for subsidies.” The Republican officials
touting the claims of higher costs, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, have opposed
Obamacare from the start.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is once again asking for an ethics probe
of Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio, the privatized development
agency established by Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of
Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio is creating thousands of job in
the state, but Democrats argue the agency’s secretive nature makes it
difficult to verify whether taxpayer dollars are being effectively used.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced a
statewide Internet cafe investigation spanning to an establishment in
Middletown. “We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to
be a very lengthy investigation,” DeWine said in a statement. “While it
is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe
the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal
gambling.” Earlier in the year, Gov. John Kasich and the state
legislature effectively banned Internet cafes, which they claimed were
hubs for online gambling and illegal activity.
The Ohio crime lab received about 3,300 untested rape kits
from law enforcement around the state and found nearly 400 DNA matches
after testing more than 1,300 of the kits. DeWine says the extensive tests are
helping solve sexual assault crimes.
The Cincinnati Zoo has a region-wide economic impact of $143 million, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Just one day after announcing he’s quitting the mayoral race, Libertarian Jim Berns is asking to rejoin. Berns withdrew from the race
Wednesday in protest of the mayoral primary election and debate
schedule. In a statement, he said he had changed his mind because
staying in the race supposedly allows him to shed light on important issues.
Keeping Cincinnati Beautiful is offering a one-day free recycling event Saturday for hard-to-recycle items.
Evolution punishes selfish people, according to a game theory study.
by German Lopez
Ohio must recognize gay couple, Qualls knocks pension plan, 1.25 million in state uninsured
A federal judge ruled that a state death certificate must recognize the marriage of a newlywed same-sex couple,
but the order only applies to James Obergefell
and John Arthur. It’s the first time a same-sex marriage is recognized
in Ohio. The two men had the case expedited because Arthur is suffering
from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurological disease with
no known cure. Al Gerhardstein, the attorney for the two husbands, says
the ruling could be the beginning of legal challenges from gay couples
inspired by the Supreme Court’s ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which could put further pressure on Ohio to legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered ongoing efforts to legalize gay marriage in the state here,
although the group in charge of the movement is now aiming to put the
issue on the ballot in 2014, not 2013 as originally planned.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in a statement called the tea
party-backed charter amendment that would revamp the city’s pension
system “a wolf in sheep's clothing.” She is also requesting the city
administration study the amendment’s consequences and report back to
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Aug. 5. The amendment
would funnel new hires into a private retirement plan similar to what’s
typically found in the private sector — except, unlike private-sector
workers, city employees don’t pay into Social Security and don’t collect
Social Security benefits from their years with the city. The amendment
was announced less than a week after Moody’s, a credit ratings agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating in part because of the city’s increasing pension liability.
A poll analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati suggests more than 1.25 million Ohioans are uninsured,
with about 17 percent of the working-age population lacking insurance.
It also found that Ohioans are increasingly reliant on public programs
to obtain health benefits. The analysis looked at the Health
Foundation’s 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll.
The results could spur further efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility
in the state, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
would save the state money and insure nearly half a million Ohioans
over the next decade. Republican legislators rejected the Medicaid
expansion in the state budget, citing concerns that the federal government wouldn’t be able to uphold its 90-percent funding commitment.
Gov. John Kasich wants to fast track
the I-71/MLK Interchange in part by using revenue from the Ohio
Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich’s recommendations, which must be approved by
the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, add up to $107.7
million in state funds.
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican who’s facing 16 felony charges of fraud, won’t resign his seat.
Twenty-eight people have applied to become Cincinnati’s next police chief.
With a recent uptick in violence, many have called on the city to
expedite the process of replacing James Craig, the former police chief
who left for Detroit earlier in the year.Despite rising interest rates, Cincinnati-area home sales in June continued their strong trend up.
For-profit entities are opening more online schools in Ohio, with the process set by state legislators to shut out public educators. A previous investigation by CityBeat found online schools tend to do worse and cost more than their peers.
The city administration and social media network Nextdoor are partnering up
to better link Cincinnati’s neighborhoods with the local government.
The network will provide a free website for each of the city’s
neighborhoods, which the city says will allow residents to “to get to
know their neighbors, ask questions and exchange local advice and
recommendations.” City officials plan to use the websites to regularly
reach out to local citizens.
Computer software from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could make the Internet three times faster.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:49 PM | Permalink
Officials blame Moody’s downgrade on methodology changes, state policy
It might cost Cincinnati more to issue debt following a credit rating downgrade by Moody’s. In a report released on July 15, the credit ratings agency downgraded the city’s general bonds from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.”“The negative outlook reflects the expectation that the city will continue to face challenges in attaining structurally balanced operations, stemming from its unfunded pension liabilities and reliance on a number of one-time budgetary solutions in recent years,” the report reads.In a memo to the mayor and City Council, City Manager Milton Dohoney put the blame on Moody’s methodological changes that now account for state pension funds that Cincinnati has no direct control over. Specifically, Moody’s now looks at the state-managed Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and Ohio Police and Fire Retirement System (OP&F) when scoring Cincinnati, instead of just the Cincinnati Retirement System (CRS), which the city directly operates.“It is important to note the Ohio Revised Code provides the percentage each employer pays into OPERS and OP&F as its contribution. The City has paid 100 (percent) of this contribution each year as required. The City has no ability to impact the unfunded liability of OPERS or OP&F,” Dohoney wrote in the memo.Still, some of the blame lies on the city’s pension fund, which is lacking a long-term strategy for sustainability, according to Moody’s. The CRS board is currently looking at scenarios to address the city’s long-term liabilities. Its next meeting is on Aug. 1, and it could produce changes that would be presented to City Council, according to the city manager’s memo.The report also takes issue with the city’s repeated use of one-time sources to fix budget gaps. Since 2001, the city’s annual operating budgets have used one-time sources instead of achieving structural balance with long-term cuts and sources of revenue.Critics argue the one-time sources only delay fiscal woes instead of permanently fixing the budget shortfalls. Supporters claim the one-time methods allow the city to balance its budget without taking austere measures that would lead to city layoffs and hurt growth while the economy is in recovery.Moody’s also claims the city has relatively weak socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates. The report from Moody’s does give Cincinnati some good credit, citing a “pressured but still satisfactory financial position,” the recent stabilization of earnings taxes, financial flexibility provided by an available but untapped levy authority, the city’s economically diverse population and an above-average debt position. Bonds are typically issued when the city needs a temporary infusion of funds for capital projects, such as the Cincinnati streetcar.Updated with more context.
by German Lopez
City debt outlook worsens, Port apologizes for email about parking memo, fracking tax fails
It may become more expensive for the city to issue debt after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating.
The credit rating agency pinned the blame on the city’s exposure to
local and state retirement systems, as well as the city’s reliance since
2001 on one-time sources to balance the operating budget. Still,
Moody’s does give the city some credit for its economically diverse
population and recently stabilized earnings tax, despite docking the city for bad socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner is apologizing to the public and council members
following the exposure of an email that implied she was trying to keep a
critical parking memo away from public sight. Brunner says she was just trying
to buy time so she could directly show the memo to the Port Authority’s
board before it was reported by news outlets, but she acknowledges that
her email was ill-conceived and came off as an attempt to stifle
transparency. The memo suggests Cincinnati is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Port Authority and several private operators, but the Port Authority and city officials argue the memo is outdated and full of technical errors.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report detailing political contributions from oil and gas companies
that may have helped bring down a state “fracking tax,” which was supposed to
raise state revenue from Ohio’s ongoing oil and gas boom. Apparently,
many of the Republican legislators who staunchly opposed the oil and gas
severance tax also took in a lot of money from the same companies who
would have to pay up. The tax proposal was effectively dead on arrival,
even with the hyperbolic support of Republican Gov. John Kasich. Fracking is an
extraction technique that pumps millions of gallons of water underground
to free up oil and gas. CityBeat covered its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
Water utility leaders are meeting in Cincinnati this week to discuss sustainable business models.
In Cincinnati, water usage has dropped while expenses to treat water
and waste water have escalated, causing the Metropolitan Sewer District
to take in less money. The conference will discuss models that can
adjust around this trend while keeping rates low for customers.
The owners of The Hanke Exchange, a collection of buildings in Over-the-Rhine, say occupancy is going up
as a result of the promise of the Cincinnati streetcar. The property is
now at 84 percent occupancy rate, up from 28 percent three years ago.
Dayton and Cincinnati will hold rallies Saturday showing support for Trayvon Martin,
the unarmed black 17-year-old who was killed by George Zimmerman last
year. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury last Saturday.
Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general, was confirmed to direct the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the top agency that will regulate the financial institutions that played a role in causing the Great Recession.
The Hamilton County Young Democrats are hosting a free event
today to meet Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who’s also running for
secretary of state next year against Republican incumbent Jon Husted.
If the sun suddenly went out, humanity could take a few weeks to die out and perhaps live in Iceland.
by German Lopez
Kasich tax plan criticized, JobsOhio records due today, workers demand prevailing wage
The Ohio House is looking to rewrite
parts of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal after dissent has focused
on the governor’s tax plan. The chamber’s leaders are looking to set
aside the tax plan from the bill so they can better focus on other
complicated parts of the budget, including the Medicaid expansion and
school funding. Even without the governor’s controversial sales tax
expansion plan, Kasich’s budget proposal contains enough leftover money
to pass some income tax cuts, with about $280.4 million in general
revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and $690.2 million available in
fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis in the Bluebook. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he expects to get the subpoenaed financial records from JobsOhio
today by the noon deadline, even though the audit has come under
criticism from Gov. Kasich and other state officials. Yost says he
should be allowed to look into JobsOhio’s full financial records, which
include private funds, but Kasich and other Republicans argue only
public funds are open to audit. JobsOhio is a publicly funded nonprofit,
privatized development agency that was set up by Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development,
which is susceptible to a full audit.
Workers for the $78 million U Square project near the University of Cincinnati allege they are being underpaid.
In a lawsuit, union workers are claiming they should be paid prevailing
wage established in state law because the project is using public funds
and 50 percent owned by a public authority.
With the support of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Cincinnati is now looking to cash into its innovative water technology
with the formation of the Global Water Technology Hub, which will use
expert advice to identify market needs and sell the technology. The city
promises the hub will also help keep water rates low for users and find
new revenue sources.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will hold a press conference
today to introduce his Restoring Our Communities Initiative, which will
seek to fight blight and improve child safety in Cincinnati. The
initiative will include a push for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 16, which
would make it so individuals are not liable for trespassing convictions
if the person is remediating blight on abandoned personal property. In a
statement, Sittenfeld explained the purpose of the initiative: “Blight
is a complicated issue that impacts many aspects of life, and I think
this plan helps attack the problem from several angles.”
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved $10,000
for the Westwood Square project, which will involve a larger facility
for the Madcap Theater, green space and changes to the neighborhood’s
entryways to better encourage community pride and economic development.
A new $20 million, seven-story apartment tower with 110 high-end apartments is being planned for Downtown, above the Seventh and Broadway Garage.
Two weeks in, Horseshoe Casino’s executive says the casino is doing well and turnout has been good.
A report found auto insurance rates in Ohio are “a bargain,” with the state having the fourth lowest costs among other states and Washington, D.C.
A machine keeps human livers alive outside a body for 24 hours, which could double the amount of livers available for transplant and save thousands of lives.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a
presentation to City Council March 6 explaining how Cincinnati could
work to reduce its structural budget deficits.
by German Lopez
Previous cuts helped cause Cincinnati budget deficit
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government
funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took
office, leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding.
The report found local government funding dropped from
nearly $3 billion in the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years — the years budgeted
by former Gov. Ted Strickland — to about $2.2 billion in the 2012 and
2013 fiscal years — the first two years budgeted by Kasich. The governor’s most recent budget proposal would ensure
the continuation of the downward slide, with local government funding
dropping down to slightly more than $1.5 billion in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, according to the
Policy Matters concluded new revenue from the state’s
casinos and an expanded sales tax would not be enough to outweigh cuts
in the Local Government Fund, utility tax reimbursements, tangible
personal property reimbursements and the termination of the estate tax. By itself, the estate tax, which was phased out at the beginning of 2013, would have provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget, but it was repealed
in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Kasich.
The governor’s office has repeatedly argued that the cuts in Kasich’s first budget
were necessary to help balance an $8 billion budget deficit, but the
Policy Matters report says improving economic conditions have removed a need
for further local government funding cuts: “To encourage growth we need
good schools, reliable public safety and emergency services and strong
communities. During hard times, state and local policy led to cuts. But
further cuts in appropriations for local government are not helping
communities. Curtailing local control of local revenues will complicate
recovery – as the economy improves, it is time to restore the fiscal
partnership between state and community.”
When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
CityBeat previously covered Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal and how it affects taxpayers, schools and Medicaid recipients (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
West Chester lawmaker promises to tackle debt, jobs
In news that will surprise almost no one, John Boehner was
re-elected to the U.S. House of Representative’s top spot today.
Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, will now act as U.S. House
speaker for the 113th Congress.
Just moments after his re-election, Boehner pledged to tackle the U.S. debt and deficit. The line is nothing new. When President
Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office, the debt and deficit became top concerns
for Republicans after eight years of binge spending and tax cutting
under former president George W. Bush.
But focusing on the debt could hurt an already slow economy. In recent years, many economists, including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, have criticized budget austerity measures for dampening economic growth.In fact, Republicans recently embraced
the economic fact by joining the rest of the country in freaking out
about the fiscal cliff. The primary concern with the fiscal cliff was
that it would have cut spending and raised taxes so much and so quickly that
it would have thrown the country back into recession. The Congressional Budget
Office estimated the wave of austerity would have spiked the U.S.
unemployment rate to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013, up from November’s
rate of 7.7 percent.
In Europe, governments have learned the lessons of
austerity all too well. Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
was pushing Europe to balance its books. Now, top IMF economists are
releasing papers admitting the IMF greatly underestimated the negative impact austerity has on the economy.
In other words, if Republicans continue focusing on austerity measures to fix
the immediate deficit, the economy could get worse.
Boehner regained the top seat in the U.S. House largely thanks to redistricting. As CityBeat covered in this week’s issue, redistricting helped Republicans win the House despite losing the popular vote to Democrats.