by Nick Swartsell
80 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:22 AM | Permalink
Faux out as planning commission head; Silicon Cincy; Congressional budget has big deals for big banks, big donors
Morning all. It’s Friday, I’m almost finished with a couple big stories for next week and I’m warm and cozy next to my portable fireplace (read: space heater). Things are looking up.Let’s talk about news. Mayor John Cranley recently announced he is replacing Planning Commission Chair Caleb Faux with former Pleasant Ridge Community Council President Dan Driehaus. Last month, Faux and Cranley got into a tiff after City Manager Harry Black removed a provision from the planning commission’s agenda that would have preserved the possibility of commuter rail in the city’s plans for Wasson Way on the East Side. Faux accused Cranley, who is no fan of rail projects, of trying to block future light rail along Wasson Way. Cranley said he simply wanted to give more time for consideration of the measure.Cranley said the move wasn't a reflection on Faux and that Driehaus is simply a better fit for the board. Council voted unanimously to approve Driehaus’ appointment.Faux fired back yesterday after Cranley announced his replacement. While Faux said Driehaus is capable and will do a good job, he painted the mayor as a foe of city planning attempts to create pedestrian-friendly, walkable neighborhoods and a friend of big developers. Faux and Cranley have been at odds for years on the subject of form-based versus use-based codes, going back to Oakley’s Center of Cincinnati development last decade. That development put a Target, Meijers and other big box stores in the neighborhood. Faux opposed the project."What the mayor seems to want is a planning commission that will accept his direction and won't be independent,” Faux told the Business Courier yesterday. “I think he has a philosophy that we need to be friendly to developers and that using land-use regulations as a way to shape the city is not a good idea."Cranley spokesman Kevin Osborne brushed off that criticism. He pointed to Cranley’s involvement in the creation of tax-increment financing districts for Over-the-Rhine and downtown while he was on City Council as evidence the mayor is invested in creating urban spaces. Pointing to redevelopment in OTR as a sign you’re not cozy with big developers is an interesting way to go. But I digress.• Also in City Hall news, Cranley announced yesterday he will appoint former congressman and Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken to the city’s port authority board. Luken, who was instrumental in creating the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, has strong ties in the Cincinnati business community. He’s also close with Cranley, and the move may be a way to improve strained relations between the port and City Hall.• Councilman Chris Seelbach yesterday announced a proposal to add people who are homeless to a list of those protected by the city’s hate crime laws. He also announced a second proposal adding $45,000 in funding for the city’s winter shelter in OTR. You can read more about both here.• Is Cincinnati the next Silicon Valley? The Huffington Post seems to think it’s possible. The blog cited Cincinnati as one of eight unexpected cities where investors are flocking. OTR-based business incubator The Brandery got a specific shout out, as did the city’s major Fortune 500 companies and its “All American Midwest” feel. Trigger warning: The term “flyover city” is used in reference to Cincy in this article.• Last night, the Ohio State Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would amend the state’s constitution and change the redistricting process for elections to the Ohio General Assembly. It took until 4 a.m. to reach the agreement, because the Senate parties hard. The amendment would create a seven-member board composed of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state and two legislators from each party. That is two more members than the current board, which is made up of two statewide office holders and three legislators. The 10-year district maps drawn by the board would need two votes from the minority party or they would come up for review after four years. The bill next goes to the Ohio House, where it is expected to pass.• Finally: Congress has agreed upon a budget, it seems, and the government won’t come to a grinding, weeks-long shutdown like it did last year. If you just leave it there and don’t think about it more than that, that’s good news. But looking into some of the budgetary sausage being made is a bit terrifying. Rolled up in the massive “CRomnibus” spending proposal (meaning continuing resolution plus omnibus spending bill) is a measure that would increase rich donors’ ability to give money to political parties. Currently, donors are limited to $97,200 as individuals. The new limit would be a seven-fold boost: $776,000. A married couple would be able to donate a jaw-dropping $3.1 million under the rule changes tucked into the shutdown-averting measure. Another worrisome measure would dismantle certain parts of the Dodd-Frank Act, which holds big banks accountable for reckless, risky financial dealings. In the simplest terms, the rules change would allow banks to keep certain risky assets in accounts insured by the federal government, leaving taxpayers on the hook for huge potential losses. As if we didn’t learn our lesson in 2008. The measures were last-minute concessions needed to win the votes of a number of conservative congressmen. It’s depressing to think that our options are either a complete lapse into governmental dysfunction or these gimmes to the nation’s most powerful financial interests, but there you have it. Have a fun Friday!
Redistricting helped the GOP win the House, and it almost caused the fiscal cliff
0 Comments · Thursday, January 3, 2013
Over the past few weeks, the political
drama in Washington, D.C., has circulated around the “fiscal cliff,” a
series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in for 2013. On Jan.
1, U.S. Congress narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff. But the close call
left some wondering: Could it have been more easily prevented,
particularly through redistricting reform?
by German Lopez
Streetcar gets path forward, redistricting reform under works, federal budget deal approved
In what could be another chance of survival for the $132.8 million streetcar project, Mayor John Cranley on Thursday announced he's willing to continue the project if private contributors cover annual operating expenses that would hit an already-strained operating budget. Although Cranley gave private-sector leaders and streetcar supporters only one week to get a legally binding plan together, Eric Avner of the Haile Foundation said he is quite confident that private contributors could pull together some assurances for the 30 years in operating expenses in the short time span. The potential operating costs have long been a concern for opponents of the streetcar project, even though supporters insist that they would be more than made up by the economic development spurred by the streetcar.Commentary: "Cincinnati's Impoverished Continue to be Underserved and Undercovered."A constitutional review panel seems to agree on a few key points regarding redistricting reform, which could fix a system that's long been abused by politicians on all sides of the aisle to give their political parties an advantage during elections. The panel agreed to create a seven-member board that would redraw Ohio's congressional and legislative districts after the next census is taken in 2020, but it's undecided how much power the minority party should hold on the board. In the last round of redistricting, Republican leaders redrew Ohio's political maps to deemphasize demographics that typically support Democrats and provide stronger spreads for demographics that typically support Republicans. CityBeat covered the issue and its potential impacts in greater detail here.House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, was the only federal legislator from the Cincinnati area to approve a budget deal that will avoid the threat of future government shutdowns. The deal replaces some of the controversial, blunt budget cuts known as "sequestration" with revenue from hiked fees and savings from cuts elsewhere. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, both Republicans from Cincinnati, voted against the deal because it makes cuts over a long period of time. But many economists agree long-term cuts are necessary to avoid the negative effects of budget cuts on today's already-weak economy. The Washington Post ran through the budget deal in further detail here.Weigh in on the Eastern Corridor project here.An Ohio House bill would eliminate the license requirement for carrying a concealed handgun in the state.Health Care Access Now, which helps low-income people in Ohio and Kentucky get health care, obtained a $600,000 grant that could reach 4,500 more patients in the Cincinnati area.Drug abusers might be intentionally injuring their pets to obtain painkillers.Expect more snow tonight, according to The Weather Channel.The University of Cincinnati filed a lawsuit against Crayola
that claims the toy company uses technology invented and patented by UC
without the university's permission.A former Miami University president is now warning of the potential issues caused by recruiting too many wealthy, out-of-state students.A public memorial will be held for William Mallory Sr., a prominent
local politician and ex-Mayor Mark Mallory's father, at the Cincinnati
Museum Center on Sunday. RSVP here.The Cincinnati Parks Foundation received a $1.5 million gift from the Anderson Foundation to underwrite the pavilion in Smale Riverfront Park.A climatologist argues nuclear power is the only way to curb global warming.Scientists created a pen that allows doctors to 3-D print bones right onto patients.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
5 Comments · Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Politicized redistricting is impacting yet another important state issue.
by German Lopez
City manager proposes budget plan, budget hearings set, redistricting reform in 2014
The city manager unveiled his budget plan
to solve the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit yesterday. The plan includes less layoffs than expected — particularly to cops and
firefighters — but it proposes an increase to
property taxes. The plan also includes a series of other cuts, including
to all arts funding and subsidies that go to parades, and new fees. The
release for the budget plan says many of the cuts could have been
avoided if the city obtained revenue from the proposed parking plan, which is currently being held up by a referendum effort and court challenges.
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which uses
capital funds that can’t be used to balance the operating budget because
of limits established in state law.
The budget plan still has to be approved by Mayor Mark
Mallory and City Council to become law, and City Council will hear the
public’s opinion before a vote at three public hearings: May 16 at the
Duke Convention Center, May 20 at College Hill Recreation Center and May
22 at Madisonville Recreation Center. All the hearings will begin at
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he hopes the Constitutional Modernization Commission will produce a ballot initiative for redistricting reform in 2014. Politicized redistricting — also known as “gerrymandering” —
has been traditionally used by politicians in power to redraw
congressional district borders in a way that favors the political party
in charge, but reform could change that. Gerrymandering was used
by national and state Republicans to blunt losses in the 2012 election,
as CityBeat detailed here.
As Ohio struggles to expand Medicaid, our more conservative neighbor to the south is moving forward. CityBeat
covered the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which the Health Policy
Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million people and
save millions of dollars by 2022, here.
While some Democrats want to attach party labels to Ohio Supreme Court elections, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants to do away with party primaries for judicial elections.
Former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger, the second longest-serving president at UC, died at 76 yesterday.
New York City could soon become the first major city to let non-citizens vote in local elections.
The legislation would allow non-citizens to vote if they are lawfully
present in the United States, have lived in New York City for six months
or more on the date of a given election and meet other requirements
necessary to vote in New York state.
When one simple question makes a huge difference: “When Did You Choose to Be Straight?”
Blood may be the key to seeing how long brain tumor patients have to live and whether their treatment is working.
A new study found oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sickened fish for at least a year.
Here is a compilation of adorable animals trying to stay awake.
by German Lopez
State unemployment drops, GOP embraces redistricting, Cincinnati climate-friendly
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.8 percent in November, according to new numbers
from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In comparison, the
U.S. unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent in December. The amount of
unemployed dropped from 391,000 to 388,000. Unfortunately, the amount of
employed also dropped, indicating that some people are leaving the
The Republican State Leadership Committee admitted the only reason Republicans kept a House majority was politicized redistricting.
The admission from a memo titled “How a Strategy of Targeting State
Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in
2013.” The report even singled out Ohio as a state that benefited
Republicans due to redistricting. CityBeat previously covered the issue in-depth here.
Cincinnati is among three finalists in the World Wildlife
Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour City Challenge. The contest judges efforts to
combat global warming. Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco were chosen
by WWF and global management consultancy Accenture for
preparing their cities for a “climate-friendly future,” according to a
statement from WWF.
At this point, it’s looking like Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposals will take months for legislators to sort through. The proposals include major changes to taxes, the Ohio Turnpike, education and Medicaid.
Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky signed a landmark water agreement to leverage Greater Cincinnati’s water technologies. The agreement seeks to spur legislation, according to the Business Courier.
The Cincinnati Zoo may need a levy to stay afloat.
Ohio hospitals spent $3.1 billion in free health care in 2010, up from $2.9 billion in 2009, according to an Ohio Hospital Association report.
On the bright side, overall crime is down in Cincinnati.
Bad news, everyone. Chipotle is likely to raise prices this year.
To avoid Obamacare’s health care requirements for businesses, some businesses may begin cutting jobs.
Some in the scientific community want to establish national parks on Mars.
by German Lopez
Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes
Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but
will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a
Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close.
The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform
the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week,
and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional
redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as
politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First
Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during
the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren
County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning
urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely
A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level.
Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve
Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making
more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional
district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what
they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the
wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study
that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative
impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.
Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback.
For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a
home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback
or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund,
which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the
Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when
the original stadium deal was made.
The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal
on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
(AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised
not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25
union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned
into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking
privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid
The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6
p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation
Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations.
But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will
retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who
see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination.
Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but,
under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul.
Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for
tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers
are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown
Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to
deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.
The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering
to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups.
The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory
Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.
The Ohio Senate will rework
a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to
enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on
improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards
are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping
from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a
D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its
top mark with an A.
The Ohio House passed
a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the
Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for
More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.
A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared
the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from
victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more
The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt
for not following a court order requiring the state agency to
compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result,
ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation
cases within 120 days.
We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.
by German Lopez
Anti-abortion agenda on hold, court upholds redistricting, blacks falling behind in school
The Ohio Senate will not take up the heartbeat bill and a
bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the lame-duck session. The
heartbeat bill was called the most radical anti-abortion legislation in
the country when it was first proposed. It sought to ban abortion after a
heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into
pregnancy. However, there have been some rumblings of bringing a new
version of the heartbeat bill to the Ohio legislature, and recent moves
by Ohio Republicans show a clear anti-abortion agenda.
In a statement, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio cautioned the
bills will come up again next year: “Make no mistake about it, the
threat to women’s health may be delayed, but it remains. We fully expect
anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women’s
health when the legislature reconvenes in January.”
In a 4-3 ruling,
the Ohio Supreme court upheld the state’s redistricting map. Democrats
claimed the Ohio House and Senate districts were unconstitutional, while
Republicans insisted the map was fine. The Republican-controlled
government redrew the districts in a way that favors Republican
candidates for public office. The Ohio Supreme Court is skewed heavily
in favor of Republicans; six justices are Republicans, while only one is
a Democrat.Ohio high schools have a bit of work to do, according to federal data. Apparently, the state has worse graduation rates for blacks
than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. Ohio did
manage to improve its graduation rates by more than 2 percent over four
years, as required by the federal program Race to the Top.
To avoid an estimated $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, a coalition wants to speed up the Brent Spence Bridge project.
If the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is successful, the project
will begin in 2014 — four years ahead of schedule. But the organization
is pushing a public-private relationship that would likely involve
tolls, and Kentucky lawmakers oppose that idea.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County were picked to participate in a program that puts the long-term unemployed back to work.
The program was originally started in southwest Connecticut in 2011 by
WorkPlace with some success. It placed 70 percent of participants in
jobs, with 90 percent moving to full-time employment.
Tourism is boosting Greater Cincinnati’s economy.
An impact study from the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network found
tourism is responsible for one in 10 local jobs. Visitors to Cincinnati spent $4.1
billion in the area last year.
Another good sign for the economy: Personal income went up in Greater Cincinnati and nationwide. In Cincinnati, personal income went up by 4.6 percent in 2011, lower than the nationwide rise of 5.2 percent.
Unfortunately, Greater Cincinnati still has a lot of vacant homes. On Numbers ranked the area No. 31 out of 109 in terms of vacant homes.
The Cincinnati Police Department is encouraging fitness through intra-department competition.
The University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning is one of the five best design schools in the world.
Councilman Chris Smitherman was re-elected to the presidency of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Seven AIDS activists protested nude in U.S. House Speaker
John Boehner’s office yesterday. The protesters were part of ACT-UP, and
they were protesting federal budget cuts to HIV programs that are set
to kick in next year.
The bill regulating puppy mills passed the Ohio Senate. Animal advocates claim lax regulations and oversight have made Ohio a breeding ground for poor practices. CityBeat previously covered puppy mills and how they lead to Ohio’s dog auctions.
The Ohio inspector general released a report
criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for
mismanaging stimulus funds going to southwest Ohio. The findings echoed a
lot of what was found in previous reports for other regions of the state.
The Earth’s core may have clues about our planet’s birth.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Ohioans might not realize it yet, but
Issue 2 could be the most important item on the ballot in 2012. If
voters approve Issue 2, it would place redistricting in the hands of an
independent citizens commission. Currently, elected officials handle the
redistricting process, and they have used it time and time again for
politically advantageous ways.
by German Lopez
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.Issue 2 is getting outraised quite badly. Protect Your Vote
Ohio, the group opposing Issue 2, has raised $6.9 million, while Voters
First Ohio, the group supporting Issue 2, has raised $3.6 million since July. If
Issue 2 is approved by voters, it will put an independent citizens
commission in charge of the redistricting process. Currently, the
process is handled by elected officials, who have used the process in
politically advantageous ways. Republicans redrew the First
Congressional District, Cincinnati's district, to include Warren
County. The move put more emphasis on rural and suburban voters, which
tend to side with Republicans, and less on urbanites, which tend to side
Not only will Ohio play a pivotal role in the presidential
election, but RealClearPolitics, a website that aggregates polling,
says Hamilton County is among two Ohio counties that will play the
biggest role. In light of that, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be in town
this week. Obama will visit Oct. 31, and Romney will be here Nov. 2.
Currently, Obama leads in Ohio by 2.1 points, while Romney leads nationally by 0.9 points.
A partnership between the University of Cincinnati and
U.S. State Department is going to Iraq. For the third year, UC will be
working with Salahaddin University in Iraq to help
redesign the Iraqi school’s curriculum and establish a career center.
The Ohio Board of Regents and Ohio Department of Education (ODE) may merge soon, says Board of Regent Chancellor Jim Petro. The Board of Regents is already moving to ODE's building later this year. Petro said
the building move will allow the Board of Regents, which focuses on higher
education, to cooperate more with ODE, which
focuses on elementary, middle and high school.
The Ohio legislature could be getting a big ethics
overhaul in the coming weeks. Specifics weren’t offered, but Senate
President Tom Niehaus said disclosure and transparency will be
Cincinnati’s United Way beat its fundraising goal of $61 million in 2012. The goal was originally seen as “a stretch.”
The nationwide meningitis outbreak is forcing some Ohio
officials to take a look at the state’s compounding pharmacies.
Compounding is when pharmacists make custom preparations for patients
under special circumstances. The Ohio State Board of Pharmacy has
already taken action against the New England Compounding Center, whose
compound was connected with starting the meningitis outbreak.
The FBI will join an investigation into fraudulent
attendance data reporting in Ohio schools. Previously, state Auditor
Dave Yost found five school districts were scrubbing data in his first
interim report, but a second interim report cleared every other district
checked so far, including Cincinnati Public Schools.
Romney is getting a bit of attention for offensive
remarks about the LGBT community he made when he was governor. On gay parents, Romney said: "Some
gays are actually having children born to them. ... It's not right on paper.
It's not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and