3 Comments · Wednesday, March 5, 2014
This is my last article as a staff writer at CityBeat.
At the end of the week, I will be leaving Cincinnati for Washington,
D.C., to join a new journalistic venture.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Mayor says incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to
receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City
by German Lopez
97 days ago
City looks at railroad sale, sex trafficking mapped, youth prisons combat sexual assault
Councilman Charlie Winburn, City Council’s new budget and
finance chair, suggested selling the Cincinnati Southern Railroad to
help pay for the city’s $870 million unfunded pension liability. But
other city officials, including Mayor John Cranley, Councilman Chris
Seelbach and Councilwoman Amy Murray, voiced doubts about the idea,
saying it would cost the city annual revenue when there are other
options for fixing the pension problem. Meanwhile, the city and state’s
retirement boards appear to be looking into what it would take to merge
Cincinnati’s pension system into the state system, although that
solution could face political and legal hurdles.
A new report from The Imagine Foundation found sex
trafficking in the Cincinnati area follows the region’s spine on I-75
from Florency, Ky., to Sharonville, I-275 through Springfield and
Fairfield and I-74 to Batesville, Ind. “This is real,” foundation
Executive Director Jesse Bach told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“There are women and girls who are being bought and sold for sex in the
Cincinnati area. The average person needs to take responsibility for
what they might see. To use a sports adage, the average citizen has to
be willing to say, ‘Not in our house.’ ”
Gov. John Kasich and other state officials yesterday
launched a public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking in Ohio
at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov. “We may not want to admit it — it’s
almost too horrific to imagine — but the fact is that human trafficking
is real and is happening across Ohio. Over the past two years we’ve
improved our laws to fight trafficking and begin getting victims the
help they need, but we must do more,” Kasich said in a statement.In light of the public awareness campaign, some activists say human trafficking should be addressed by going after the source of demand: men.The head of the Ohio Department of Youth Services told a
federal panel that his agency responded quickly and aggressively to
reports of high sexual assault rates at the state’s juvenile-detention
facilities. A June report found three of Ohio’s facilities had sexual
assault rates of 19 percent or above, with the Circleville Juvenile
Correctional Facility estimated at 30.3 percent — the second highest
rate in the nation. Since the report, the agency increased training,
hired a full-time employee devoted to the Prison Rape Elimination Act
and installed a tip line for prisoners, their families and staffers,
according to Director Harvey Reed.A northern Kentucky man was the first flu death of the season, prompting some tips from the Northern Kentucky Health Department.Some national Democrats see Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld as a potential
congressional candidate in 2022, assuming the next round of
redistricting makes the First Congressional District more competitive
for Democrats. The district used to be fairly moderate, but state
Republicans redrew it to include Republican stronghold Warren County in
the last round of redistricting.Billions of health-care dollars helped sustain Cincinnati’s economy during the latest economic downturn, a new study found.Downtown traffic came to a crawl this morning after burst pipes sent water gushing out of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel.
The U.S. economy added a measly 74,000 jobs in December in a particularly weak end to 2013.
Dayton Daily News: “Five things you need to know about butt selfies.”If the law catches up, robot ships could soon become reality.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Voters elect anti-streetcar majority, pension privatization rejected, turnout at record low
Voters last night elected an anti-streetcar City Council majority and mayor,
which raises questions about the $133 million project’s future even as
construction remains underway. Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who ran
largely on his opposition to the project, easily defeated streetcar
supporter Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls 58-42 percent, while non-incumbents
Democrat David Mann, Charterite Kevin Flynn and Republican Amy Murray
replaced Qualls, Laure Quinlivan and Pam Thomas on council to create a
6-3 anti-streetcar majority with Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican
Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman. Democrats Chris
Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young — all supporters of the
project — also won re-election. It remains unclear if the new government
will actually cancel the project once it takes power in December, given concerns about contractual obligations and sunk costs that could make canceling the project costly in terms of dollars and Cincinnati’s business reputation.
Other election results: Cincinnati voters rejected Issue
4, which would have privatized Cincinnati’s pension system for city
employees, in a 78-22 percent vote. Hamilton County voters
overwhelmingly approved property tax levies for the Cincinnati Zoo and
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 80-20 percent votes.
In the Cincinnati Public Schools board election, Melanie Bates, Ericka
Copeland-Dansby, Elisa Hoffman and Daniel Minera won the four available
At 28 percent, citywide voter turnout was at the lowest since 1975, Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Ohio Libertarians are threatening to sue
if Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature pass a bill that would limit ballot access for minor
parties. Although many of the new requirements for signatures and votes were
relaxed in the Ohio House, minor parties claim the standards are still
too much. Critics, who call the bill the “John Kasich Re-election
Protection Act,” claim the proposal exists to protect Republicans,
particularly Kasich, from third-party challengers who are unhappy with
the approval of the federally funded Medicaid expansion. CityBeat covered the Ohio Senate proposal in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the Kasich administration stands by its decision to bypass the legislature
and go through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel,
to enact the federally funded Medicaid expansion despite resistance in
the Ohio House and Senate. The Ohio Supreme Court recently expedited hearings over the constitutional conflict,
presumably so it can make a decision before the expansion goes into
effect in January. Opponents of the expansion, particularly Republicans,
argue the federal government can’t afford to pay for 90 to 100 percent
of the expansion through Obamacare as currently planned, while
supporters, particularly Kasich and Democrats, say it’s a great deal for
the state that helps cover nearly half a million Ohioans over the next
Across the state, voters approved most school levy renewals but rejected new property taxes.
Maximize your caffeine: The scientifically approved time for coffee drinking is between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Even above the City Council and mayoral
races, Issue 4 could be the most decisive ballot item in the 2013
election. If voters approve it, Cincinnati could be ravaged by the city
Conservative study suggests tea-party backed pension amendment would reduce benefits
2 Comments · Wednesday, October 2, 2013
A conservative group’s report helps explain why most of Cincinnati’s political establishment strongly opposes a tea party-backed pension amendment.
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Just like a binging consumer who continues using credit cards to buy new items while making only minimum payments on the bills, Cincinnati officials now face the harsh reality of a financial problem they've tried to ignore for the past decade: properly funding the troubled pension fund for retired city employees.