by German Lopez
56 days ago
Local infant deaths remain high, pension fixes proposed, Seitz renews anti-efficiency efforts
Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s infant mortality rates
dropped to record lows in 2013, but the city and county’s rates of
infant deaths remain far above the national average. Over the past five
years, the city’s infant mortality rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live
births and the county’s rate reached 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In comparison, the national average in 2011 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000
live births. Cradle Cincinnati, a collaborative initiative formed in
2013, pointed to three possible factors to explain the troubling rates: short
time between pregnancies, maternal smoking during pregnancy and poor
sleeping habits, including deaths that could be easily prevented by
ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib.Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday proposed fixes
for Cincinnati’s ailing pension system, and the proposal includes a hit
to city retirees’ benefits. Unique to Smitherman’s plan is a new $100
million commitment to help shore up the city’s unfunded
liability of $870 million, but Smitherman could not say where council would get that
much money. Otherwise, the proposal would freeze cost of living
increases in the system for three years and reduce future cost of living increases from a
3 percent compounded rate to a 2 percent fixed rate, among other
changes. Smitherman hopes to get up-or-down votes on his plan within the
next two weeks, even if it requires splitting the plan into multiple
parts.State Sen. Bill Seitz plans to renew his efforts in the Ohio legislature to
dismantle the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. Seitz says
“devastating testimony” in support of his bill should invigorate a push
for his plan. But the testimony will apparently be based off a flawed
industry-financed report released yesterday. A separate study, based on
an economic model from the Ohio State University, found Ohio’s energy standards
will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014
and 2025.Cincinnati plans to begin marketing an 18-acre plot of
land in Lower Price Hill to bring 400 jobs to the
struggling neighborhood. After the city finishes environmental
remediation this month, it hopes to put the property on the market. CityBeat previously covered some of Lower Price Hill’s struggles with poverty in further detail here.The gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John Kasich and
Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald tightened from seven points in
November to five points this month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. But the
survey did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl as a choice —
an omission that could work to Kasich’s favor in the polling results.Gay families are being excluded from Obamacare benefits in
Ohio and other states in which same-sex marriage is not recognized.
That means Ohio’s gay families can’t get financial benefits going to
traditional families to help them get covered. President Barack Obama’s
administration says it’s aware of the issue, but it doesn’t plan a fix
until next year.Some Ohio lawmakers want an investigation into Kasich’s
administration after documents showed his administration planning to
work with oil and gas companies to promote fracking in state parks and
forests. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons
of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and
gas reserves. CityBeat covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.Bad news: A Chinese firm won’t bring an $80 million project to the Cincinnati area after all.An Ohio driver rescued a kitten found frozen on the road.A parasite commonly found in cats can now be found in
arctic beluga whales. Scientists say melting ice barriers — a symptom of
climate change — explains the pathogen’s increased migration.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013
City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting
location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov.
At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a
middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month
after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to
pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country —
will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Organizations from around the state and country will be working over
the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as
possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican
legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate:
A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would
reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the
same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion,
or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city
employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement
accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the
private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds
and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension
amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley,
will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select
Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but
they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both
of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate,
which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today.
He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to
take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised
Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he
reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology,
worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that
she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The
motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in
recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped
by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing
levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot
afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit
class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting
public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city
parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public
safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable
cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased
between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further
because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing
sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its
financial support from out-of-town tea party groups.
by German Lopez
Few local contributions to Issue 4, private prison mired in violence, Ohio could limit voting
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups,
according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County
Board of Elections on Oct. 24. Of the more than $231,000 raised for Issue 4 by
Cincinnati for Pension Reform, $229,500 came from groups in
West Chester, Ohio, and Virginia. Chris Littleton, a leading consultant
for Issue 4 and a long-time tea party activist involved in a few of the
listed groups, is also based in West Chester. City leaders unanimously
oppose Issue 4 because they argue it would force the city to cut
services and city employees’ retirement benefits — two claims that have
been backed by studies on Issue 4. Supporters say Issue 4 is necessary
to help fix the pension system’s $862 unfunded liability. Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that City Council will take up
further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election,
assuming voters reject Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional
Institution (LECI) found that, while the private prison has made some
improvements in rehabilitation, health services and staffing, it remains
on pace in 2013 to match the previous year’s increased levels of violence.
Various state reports found the facility quickly deteriorated after it
became the first state prison to be sold to a private company,
Corrections Corporation of America, in 2011, under the urging of Gov.
John Kasich. In particular, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff
assaults rapidly rose between 2010 and 2012 and appear to remain at
similar increased levels in 2013, according to an audit conducted on
Sept. 9 and 10 by Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio’s
independent prison watchdog. CityBeat previously covered the deteriorating conditions at LECI in further detail here.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated trimming the amount of early voting days
in a letter to the state legislature yesterday. Husted says he wants
the rules passed to establish uniformity across all Ohio counties. But
Democrats — including State Sen. Nina Turner, who is set to run against
Husted in 2014 for secretary of state — say the measures attempt to
limit voting opportunities and suppress voters. In 2012, Doug Preisse,
close adviser to Gov. Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County
Republican Party, explained similar measures that limit early voting in
an email to The Columbus Dispatch: “I guess I really actually
feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Husted’s suggestions
also included measures that would allow online voter registration and
limit ballot access for candidates in minor political parties.
A Hamilton County judge yesterday dismissed another legal challenge
against the city’s parking plan, but the conservative group behind the legal dispute
plans to appeal. The plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots
and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which would then
use private operators to manage the assets. Supporters say the lease is
necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets for an $85 million
upfront payment that would help pay for development projects. Opponents argue
it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets to private
Several Medicaid overhaul bills began moving in the Ohio House
yesterday, following months of work and promises from Republican
legislators. The bills increase penalties for defrauding the state,
require the Department of Medicaid to implement reforms that seek to
improve outcomes and emphasize personal responsibility, and make
specific tweaks on minors obtaining prescriptions, hospitals reporting
of neonatal abstinence syndrome, behavioral health services and other
smaller categories. The overhaul bills follow Gov. Kasich’s decision to bypass the Ohio legislature
and expand Medicaid eligibility for at least two years with federal
funds approved by the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative
Ohio’s controversial facial-recognition program can be used by some federal and out-of-state officials, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a
photo to search state databases for names and contact information; previously,
law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such
databases. Shortly after the program was revealed, Gov. Kasich compared it to privacy-breaching national intelligence agencies.
Ohio students aren’t as good at math and science as students in China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, among other countries.
A bipartisan “open container” bill would allow cities, including Cincinnati, to legalize drinking alcohol in the streets. In the case of Cincinnati, the city could allow public drinking in up to two districts if the bill passed.
Supporters of the bill say it would boost economic activity in certain
areas, but some are concerned the bill will enable “trash and
Cincinnati leads the way on Twitter.
Vitamin B2, which is commonly found in cottage cheese, green veggies and meat, could be used to 3-D print medical implants.
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.
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.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Financial disclosures show mostly out-of-town contributions to pension privatization effort
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from
out-of-town tea party groups, according to financial disclosure forms
filed to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 24.
The report confirms concerns previously raised by city
officials, unions and mayoral and City Council candidates: The pension
privatization effort is coming from outside Cincinnati and, in some
Up to Oct. 16, Cincinnati for Pension Reform, which
successfully placed Issue 4 on the ballot, received more than $231,000
from campaign contributors. Of that money, $209,500 came from groups in West Chester, Ohio — organizations called Jobs and Progress Fund, A Public Voice,
Ohio 2.0 and Ohio Rising — and $20,000 came from the Virginia-based
Liberty Initiative Fund, which CityBeat previously reported as an early supporter of pension privatization schemes around the country.Chris Littleton, a leading consultant for Issue 4 and long-time tea party activist, is also based in West Chester. He’s blogged about his involvement in Ohio Rising and Ohio 2.0, and he helped create the Cincinnati Tea Party and Ohio Liberty Coalition, another tea party group.
Upon receiving the contributions, Cincinnati for Pension Reform used
more than $215,000 to circulate petitions, email blasts, advertisements
and other typical campaign expenses.
The infusion of cash from out-of-town sources also helps
explain why Cincinnati for Pension Reform managed to mobilize its
efforts so quickly and without the knowledge of many city officials, who
previously said they’re bewildered by the effort and don’t know where
it came from.
If approved by voters, Issue 4 would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s pension system so city employees hired after January 2014
would contribute to and manage individual retirement accounts, which
would also be supported by a proportional match from the city. That’s a
shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and
manages the investments through an independent board. The idea is to
move from a public plan and instead imitate a 401k plan that’s often
seen in the private sector.
The conservative Buckeye Institute, which supports Issue 4, previously studied the proposal and found it could greatly reduce retirement benefits for city employees.
Although the Buckeye Institute’s report claims Issue 4 could ultimately
save Cincinnati money, it was laced with caveats that could actually
lead to higher costs for the city.
Another study from a finance professor at Xavier University found
Issue 4, if approved, could force the city to cut services, excluding
police and firefighters, by up to 41 percent or increase taxes by a
similar amount in the near term by mandating that the city more
expediently pay off the current pension system’s $862 million unfunded
A major concern for critics of Issue 4 is that it could
cost the city its Social Security exemption. Under the current pension
system, the city doesn’t have to pay into Social Security. If Issue 4
passes, the city’s contributions to the pension system might not be
generous enough to keep the exemption, which could force the city to
make costly Social Security payments.
And if the city doesn’t lose its exemption, city workers
would be left with an individual retirement plan that wouldn’t have the
safety net of Social Security — unlike private-sector workers who get
both an individual retirement account and Social Security.
Supporters of Issue 4 dismiss the criticisms. They say
that Issue 4 is necessary to address Cincinnati’s large unfunded pension
liability, which credit ratings agency Moody’s cited as one of the reasons it downgraded the city’s bond rating in July.
The city’s leaders, who unanimously oppose Issue 4, say
they are working on solving the liability, but they argue it’s better to
reform the system, not scrap it altogether.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat
that pension issues for current city employees are covered by reforms
passed in 2011, and she says City Council will take up further reforms
to address the unfunded liability after the election in November.
Voters will make the final decision on Issue 4 on Nov. 5.The full financial report:
Updated with more information Chris Littleton and the involved groups.
by German Lopez
Streetcar track arrives, thousands to get new ballots, "right to work" supporters aim for 2014
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.
City leaders will host an event today to lay down the
first streetcar track. The event will take place at 11 a.m. near Music
Hall at Elm and 12th streets. The moment has been years in the making
for Cincinnati, which continued pursuing the streetcar project through
two referendums, Gov. John Kasich’s decision to pull $52 million from
the project and a separate $17.4 million budget gap. Meanwhile, ex-Councilman John Cranley, citing costs, says he would cancel the project
if he wins the mayoral election against streetcar supporter Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls on Nov. 5, even though canceling at this point could cost more than completing the project.
More than 3,000 Cincinnatians who already voted early will get new ballots in the mail
after an Ohio Supreme Court decision forced the Hamilton County Board
of Elections to change the ballot language for Issue 4, the tea
party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s pension system. Sally Krisel, deputy director of the
Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the old ballots will at least
count for every candidate and issue except Issue 4, but the 3,000-plus
voters could have to refile their ballots to have their votes counted on
the controversial pension issue. The board will make the final decision
on whether to count the old votes for or against Issue 4 after it hears from state officials and
reviews election law, Krisel says.
Supporters of a type of anti-union law infamously dubbed “right to work” say they’re gathering petitions
to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. The anti-union proposal
wouldn’t ban unions, but it would significantly weaken them by banning
agreements between companies and unions that mandate union membership
for employees and allow unions to collect dues and fees from nonunion
members. The proposal first lost in Ohio in 1958, and it’s been a
“flashpoint” for union politics ever since, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Cranley says he’d pick a Democrat as his vice mayor
if elected to office. The announcement came on the same day a group of
Democratic ward chairs pressured him to announce he’d pick a Democrat as
his vice mayor. It was previously rumored that Cranley would choose
Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman over any of the Democrats on
City Council. The news is the second time in a week Cranley attempted to
rebuke the idea that he’s the conservative alternative to Qualls. Previously, Cranley told CityBeat
he doesn’t want and would reject an endorsement from the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group
with a history of anti-gay causes.
In a 3-1 vote, the Hamilton County Board of Elections decided to keep Randy Simes, the pro-streetcar founder of UrbanCincy.com,
on the local voter rolls. Tea party groups contested Simes’ ability to
vote in Cincinnati because he’s currently on assignment in South Korea
and they believed he lived in Chicago when he voted in the Sept. 10
mayoral primary. But Simes says he intends to return to Cincinnati once
he completes his assignment in South Korea, leading election officials
to conclude that the case is similar to when Procter & Gamble or
General Electric employees work abroad but retain their right to vote in
Cincinnati. Simes’ supporters said the whole case reeked of politics;
the tea party groups behind the charges oppose Qualls for mayor, who
Simes openly supports.
Cincinnati yesterday broke ground
on its new police headquarters in District 3, which
covers 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
Westwood on the West Side.
WCPO will host a mayoral candidate debate between Qualls and Cranley tonight at 7 p.m. Submit questions for the candidates here.
The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday hosted an online chat with streetcar project executive John Deatrick. Check out the replay here.
Mercy Health hopes to sell two hospitals to consolidate its medical services on the West Side of Cincinnati.
Headline: “Man grabs attacking black bear’s tongue.”
Here’s an army robot firing a machine gun:
by German Lopez
Ohio Supreme Court forces board to change ballot language for pension amendment
More than 3,000 Cincinnatians who already voted early will
get new ballots in the mail after an Ohio Supreme Court decision forced
the Hamilton County Board of Elections to change the ballot language
for Issue 4, the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s pension system.
It remains unclear whether the early voters, who represent
roughly 1.5 percent of registered Cincinnati voters, will have their
old votes for or against Issue 4 counted if they fail to send in a new ballot with
the new language. The board will decide on that issue after hearing
back from state officials and reviewing election law, according to Sally
Krisel, deputy director of Hamilton County Board of Elections.
The Ohio Supreme Court on Oct. 10 upheld most of the
ballot language for Issue 4, including portions that claim the amendment
could lead to higher taxes and cut city services. But the court also
ordered the Board of Elections to add language describing how much
Cincinnati can contribute to retirement accounts under the new system
and how the amendment will affect future retirees.
The court’s decision came after the Board of Elections received more than 3,000 ballots from early voters. Those voters will now get new ballots with revised language for Issue 4.
Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the
tea party group behind Issue 4, sued the Board of Elections to get the
ballot language changed. The organization complained that the ballot language included speculation not included in the actual city charter amendment, but the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the language to remain.
Krisel says the original ballot language was suggested by
the city, approved by the board and signed off by Ohio’s secretary of
Although the Ohio Supreme Court asked the board to add new sections, Krisel notes the additions have very little to do with the
tax and spending portions that led Cincinnati for Pension Reform to sue
in the first place. The court’s ruling instead took issue with how the board used its discretion on other issues.
If approved by voters, the charter
amendment would move future city employees into individual retirement
accounts similar to 401k plans that are common in the private sector.
Currently, the city pools pension funds into a public system and manages
the investments through an independent board.
City officials and other opponents of Issue 4 argue the
amendment could increase costs and cut benefits for city employees. Both
the concerns were acknowledged in a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute, even though the think tank actually backs Issue 4.
Supporters of Issue 4 argue it’s necessary to address
Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability, which reached $862 million
in 2013 after the city underfunded the pension system for years and
economic downturns shrunk investments financing the system. Moody’s
named the liability as one of the reasons it downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating.
City officials acknowledge the enormous financial problems posed by the unfunded pension liability,
but they say it would be better to make reforms within the system
instead of scrapping it altogether.
City Council passed reforms in 2011 that address future
costs, and council is expected to take up reforms that address the
unfunded liability after the November election, Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls previously told CityBeat.
Voters will make the final decision on Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
by German Lopez
Pension language mostly upheld, Cranley rejects COAST, Ky. group criticizes housing facility
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld most of the controversial ballot language
for Issue 4 — the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system — but the court also
concluded that the Hamilton County Board of Elections must add language
about how much the city can contribute to the new retirement accounts.
The amendment would require future city employees to contribute to and
manage individual 401k-style retirement accounts, instead of placing
them under the current pension system in which the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. Voters
will make the final decision on the amendment on Nov. 5, although some
already voted early on ballots that included the full controversial
language. CityBeat analyzed the amendment — and how it could reduce benefits for city employees and raise costs for the city — in further detail here.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject and doesn’t want
an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of
anti-LGBT causes. The response came just two days after COAST on Oct. 8
tweeted that it supported — but not endorsed — Cranley and council
candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a
“change of direction.” In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach,
Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, called on all candidates
to reject COAST’s support because the conservative group’s most public
members previously opposed LGBT rights and backed efforts to make it
illegal for the city to deem gays and lesbians a protected class in
anti-discrimination statutes.A historic preservation society in Ludlow, Ky., is attempting to block
a transitional housing facility that provides low-cost housing for
recovering addicts as they get their lives back in order. Even though
the facility’s two buildings aren’t designated as “historic,” the Ludlow
Historic Society wrote in an email that it’s “concerned because we are
striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and
especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their
homes and raise their families.” There’s not much information on the
ripple effect transitional housing has on communities, but a 2010 study found residents of transitional housing were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence.Ohio officials are considering rules
that would allow oil and gas drillers to store fracking wastewater in
lagoons the size of football fields then recycle the wastewater for further use.
Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water,
chemicals and sand are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas
reserves, but the technique produces potentially toxic wastewater that
has to be deposited or recycled somewhere. CityBeat covered fracking and the environmental controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
A state senator proposed a bill
that attempts to keep the monthly per-member growth of Medicaid costs at
3 percent or lower, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. But the bill doesn’t specify how it would reach the savings required and
instead calls on the legislature and state administration to find a
solution. The bill also doesn’t take up the federally funded Medicaid
expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a
million Ohioans in the next decade.
A national reporting project will track the accessibility of Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” now that emergency contraception is a court-upheld right for all women of childbearing age.
The death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive and raping them for a decade, may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, not suicide.
Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she got a double mastectomy may have inspired more Cincinnati women to seek a cancer screening.
Scientists discovered an exoplanet whose mass is 26 percent water. In comparison, Earth is only 0.023 percent water, by mass, according to Popular Science.
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
Eighteen of 21 candidates participated in Oct. 5 forum
Just one month before voters pick nine council members at the ballot box on Nov. 5, 18 of 21 City Council candidates on Oct. 5 participated at a candidate forum that covered issues ranging from better supporting low-income Cincinnatians to expanding downtown's growth to all 52 neighborhoods.During the event, 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 three City Council candidates not in attendance were Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn, Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman and Independent challenger Tim Dornbusch. The absences prompted forum moderator Kathy Wilson, who's also a columnist at CityBeat, to remind the audience that "a vote is a precious thing" and candidates should work to earn support by engaging the public.Councilman Chris Seelbach and challenger David Mann, both Democrats, had surrogates stand in for them. Seelbach was attending a wedding, and Mann was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his family.The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area.Here are the highlights from the 18 participating candidates, in order of their appearance:Wendell Young (Democrat, incumbent): Young said Cincinnati should put basic services and public safety first, but he added that the city should also help address "quality of life issues" such as providing "world-class parks." He also said Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget, which has relied on one-time funding sources since at least 2001, and make further adjustments to the underfunded pension system. Young also explained that the city needs to strengthen its partnerships with local organizations to help combat homelessness, affordable housing, child poverty and infant mortality.Laure Quinlivan (Democrat, incumbent): Quinlivan proudly pointed out she's the "only elected mom" on City Council. She said her goal is to make Cincinnati "cleaner, greener and smarter" by focusing on population and job growth and thriving neighborhoods. To spur such growth, Quinlivan claimed the city needs the streetcar project and more bike and hike trails, both of which she argued will attract more young adults to Cincinnati. Unlike other candidates, Quinlivan publicly supported potentially "rightsizing" — or cutting — Cincinnati's police and fire departments to structurally balance the budget. She also said the city should provide more options for health insurance to city employees so they don't all get a so-called "Cadillac plan" that's expensive for the city.P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat, incumbent): Sittenfeld touted downtown and Over-the-Rhine's turnaround as a model for economic growth that Cincinnati should expand to all neighborhoods. He argued the model is what attracts companies like Pure Romance to Cincinnati, as the company mentioned the city's recent urban growth as one reason it decided to stay here. (Of course, the nearly $699,000 in tax incentives over 10 years probably help as well.) When asked about his opposition to the current streetcar project, Sittenfeld said the current project is fiscally irresponsible because of its previous budget problems, which City Council fixed in June, and reduction in funding from the state government, which forced the city to pick up more of the funding share. Sittenfeld said his past two years on council were a success, but he added, "I'm not done yet."Amy Murray (Republican and Charterite, challenger): Murray said her campaign is focused on creating a fiscally sound city by structurally balancing the budget and fixing the underfunded pension system. But she said she would do both without increasing taxes, which could force the city to cut services and retirement benefits. When asked about her opposition in 2011 to extending city employee benefits to LGBT spouses, Murray said she never had a problem with extending the benefits to LGBT individuals — which City Council did in 2012 — but was simply acknowledging that providing the extra benefits requires making cuts elsewhere to balance the budget. (Opponents previously said the issue should be about equality and fairness, not costs.)Vanessa White (Charterite, challenger): White said her main goals are reducing poverty in Cincinnati, providing more education opportunities to residents and expanding citizen access to city officials. When specifying her goals for education, White said Cincinnati needs to do a better job incentivizing internships for youth at local businesses and touted the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which seeks to expand preschool education opportunities in Cincinnati. To increase transparency and outreach, White said she would assign City Hall staffers to answer citizens' questions after council meetings.Michelle Dillingham (Democrat, challenger): Dillingham said the role of local government is to spur growth in abandoned areas that have been failed by the private sector. But to successfully do this, she said the city needs to engage and reach out to its citizens more often. As an example, she cited the development of an affordable housing complex in Avondale, which has been snared by sudden public outcry from a neighborhood group. Dillingham said supporting affordable housing is also more than just providing expanded services; she explained that she supports creating more jobs that would provide a living wage, which would then let more locals own or rent a home without exceeding 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs. At the end, Dillingham touted her 10-point plan to give more Cincinnatians "a seat at the table" and make the city government more inclusive.Mike Moroski (Independent, challenger): Moroski said he intends to focus on growing Cincinnati's population, reducing re-entry into the criminal justice system and lowering child poverty. He also touted support for development projects and infrastructure, including the streetcar project. At the same time, Moroski argued some development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown is pricing low-income people out of the city's booming areas — an issue he would like to address. Moroski also said he backs efforts to increase Cincinnati's human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years. When asked about his lack of government experience, Moroski said he sees it as a "gift" and "blessing" that's given him a fresh, outside perspective. "I will be the voice for the voiceless," he said.Melissa Wegman (Republican, challenger): Wegman opened by showing off her business credentials and neighborhood advocacy. When asked what she means when she says she'll bring a "business perspective" to council, she said she would like to see the city put more support toward small businesses. In particular, Wegman said underserved neighborhoods need more city help and funding. She also told panelists that she opposes Issue 4, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot and would semi-privatize Cincinnati's pension system.Kevin Flynn (Charterite, challenger): Flynn said Cincinnati's budget problems are by far the most important issues facing the city, but he also trumpeted the local government's lack of transparency and engagement as major issues. He explained he's particularly opposed to the mayor's pocket veto, which allows the mayor to entirely dictate what legislation is voted on by council and potentially block any legislation he or she disagrees with. Flynn said he would like to see more citizen engagement on budget issues and more open debate between council members during public meetings.Greg Landsman (Democrat and Charterite, challenger): Landsman stated his focus is on population, job and revenue growth, which could help him achieve his goal of a structurally balanced budget. He said the city needs to do more to attract and retain young people. Although Landsman acknowledges the city's progress, he said Cincinnati is undergoing a "tale of two cities" in which some neighborhoods prosper and others flounder. Landsman also suggested increasing human services to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years and improving city management in other areas, including the budget, pension system and roads.Kevin Johnson (Independent, challenger): Johnson said the role of government should be to balance out the private sector and provide a safety net for those who fall through the system. He said the city needs to do more to tackle income inequality by "investing in people." Johnson said he supports recent efforts to create a land bank system for struggling neighborhoods, which aim to increase homeownership by making it more affordable and accessible. Johnson also claimed that people are tired of party politics and would like to see more transparency in government.David Mann (Democrat and Charterite, challenger), represented by campaign manager John Juech: Speaking for Mann, Juech said his candidate got into the campaign to address Cincinnati's budget problems. Juech explained Mann will leave "all options on the table," whether it's revenue increases or service cuts, to structurally balance the budget. When asked whether Mann, who previously served 18 years on council, really deserves more time in the local government, Juech explained that Mann's experience makes him a "walking Cincinnati historian." He also argued that Mann has great relationships with county officials, particularly Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, that could make it easier to jointly manage some city services in a way that would drive down costs.Yvette Simpson (Democrat and Charterite, incumbent): Simpson said she measures progress in Cincinnati by "how well the least of us do," which drove her to start the Cincinnati Youth Commission and other partnerships that help connect the city's youth to jobs. Although Simpson said she supports boosting funding to human services and building better relationships with human services agencies, she said providing more funding is hindered by a "simple math problem" and the city needs to balance its budget before it can provide more and better services. Simpson also said the city could and should do a better job engaging the public with big ideas.Chris Seelbach (Democrat, incumbent), represented by legislative director Jon Harmon: Reading a statement from Seelbach, Harmon said Cincinnati is on the rise but still needs to improve in various areas. In particular, he said the city needs to do a better job funding all 52 neighborhoods, providing more opportunities for low-income Cincinnatians and eventually increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget. Harmon also touted City Council's progress with infrastructure issues, including increased road paving and bridge funding. By addressing these issues and occasionally making "tough choices," Harmon said Seelbach hopes to continue growing the city.Pam Thomas (Democrat, incumbent): Thomas claimed she wants local government to be open, honest and transparent. She said the city's progress should be gauged through education metrics, particularly local graduation rates and, starting next year, the city's success in meeting state-mandated third-grade reading proficiency standards. Thomas replaced her husband on council after she was appointed by him and other council members earlier in 2013, but Thomas said that, unlike him, she opposes the current streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to fund development projects and help balance the budget.Shawn Butler (Democrat, challenger): To Butler, progress means reducing income inequality, creating jobs and growing the city's population. Although Butler, who is Mayor Mark Mallory's director of community affairs, said he's generally supportive of the mayor's policies, he said the city could do a better job selling itself and reaching out to the business community. Butler also touted his experience, particularly how he's gone through eight budget cycles during his time with the mayor. To structurally balance the budget, Butler said he wouldn't increase the earnings tax and would instead pursue other options, such as tapping into money from the parking plan and cutting services.Angela Beamon (Independent, challenger): Beamon said she would ensure city services are spread out to all citizens and neighborhoods. She suggested struggling neighborhoods are underserved — not "underperforming," a term she doesn't adhere to — and the city should do more to reach out to them. Beamon also stood firm on her opposition to the streetcar project. Instead of funding the streetcar, she said city resources should go toward promoting business ownership and services that help the underprivileged.Sam Malone (Republican, challenger): Malone said his goal is to make all of Cincinnati's neighborhoods thrive with more businesses. He said since he lost his re-election to City Council in 2005, he's managed a small business and learned how it feels to be on the other side of the government-business relationship. Malone said his campaign slogan ("I love everybody, I come in peace") best exemplifies how he's led his life. When asked about a 2005 incident in which he disciplined his son with a belt, Malone claimed he's "running on issues" and his parenting tactics were deemed lawful by a court.
by German Lopez
Pension proposal could reduce benefits, energy bill contested, needle exchanges approved
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.
Local business groups, unions, progressive organizations,
the mayor and all council members are united against a tea party-backed
ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system,
and a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute helps explain the opposition.
The report echoes concerns from both sides: It finds new employees
would have their benefits cut by one-third under the tea party’s
proposed system, but it also shows that, when measured differently,
Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability might currently stand at $2.57
billion, more than three times the $862 million estimate city officials
typically use. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees contribute to and manage their own individual
retirement accounts; under the current system, the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea
is to move workers from a public system to private, 401k-style plans.
Voters will decide on the amendment when it appears on the ballot as
Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
Environmental and business groups argued in front of the Ohio Senate yesterday that a new deregulatory bill would effectively gut Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and hurt the state’s green businesses,
but the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), claims
it’s “not as loosey-goosey” as environmental and business groups make it
seem. The biggest point of contention: Seitz’s bill would allow utility
companies to count energy savings that are seen as “business as usual”
toward energy efficiency standards. That, green groups argue, would let
businesses claim they’re becoming more energy efficient without making
any real energy-efficiency investments. It could also cost Ohioans more
money: A previous report from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy coalition found the bill could increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by
$3.65 billion over 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s bill in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the deregulatory attempts here.
The Ohio House yesterday approved a bill
that expands local authority to pursue needle-exchange programs that
would provide clean needles to drug addicts. Supporters of the bill say
it would help local communities reduce drug-related infections and
perhaps drug addiction, but opponents claim it surrenders to drug pushers by enabling more
drug activity. A 2004 study from the World Health Organization
found “a compelling case that (needle-exchange programs) substantially
and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among (injection drug
users) and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at
either the individual or societal level.” CityBeat covered the war on drugs and the changing approach to combating Ohio and the nation’s drug problems in further detail here.
Some help for voting: “2013 City Council Candidates at a Glance.”
The Cincinnati Bengals want a new high-definition scoreboard
that could cost county taxpayers $10 million. But taxpayers don’t have
much of a choice in the matter; the stadium lease requires taxpayers
purchase and install new technology, including a scoreboard, at the
Bengals’ request once the technology is taken up at 14-plus other NFL
Women gathered at the Ohio Statehouse
yesterday to protest measures in the recently passed state budget that
restrict access to legal abortions and defund family planning clinics,
including Planned Parenthood. CityBeat covered the state budget, including the anti-abortion restrictions, in further detail here.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says Republican legislators should forget their fight against Obamacare
and instead focus on a deficit-reduction package. Republicans helped
cause a federal government shutdown by only passing budget bills that
weaken Obamacare, but Democrats have refused to negotiate over the
health care law, which is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s
legacy-defining domestic policy. Meanwhile, Obamacare’s online
marketplaces opened on Tuesday, allowing participants to compare and
browse subsidized private insurance plans. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote them in further detail here.
The $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project will require tolls,
according to a study released by Kentucky and Ohio transportation
officials on Thursday. Officials at every level of government have been
pursuing a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge as concerns mount
over its economy-damaging inadequacies.
A $26 million residential and retail development project is coming just north of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino.Greater Cincinnati Water Works is using an extra layer of ultraviolet disinfection treatment to make local water cleaner.
The second round of Ohio’s job training program offers $30 million to help businesses train workers so they can remain competitive without shedding employees.
“Project Censored” analyzes the stories the mainstream media failed to cover in the past year. Check the list out here.
A new study found eye contact makes people less likely to agree with a persuasive argument, especially if they’re skeptical in the first place.