WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 02.20.2014
Posted In: News, Parking, Economy, Voting at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Parking debate continues, mayors work to bring manufacturing, voting bills pass legislature

City Council watered down Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to just two proposals: upgrading parking meters and increased enforcement. Council and public opposition ultimately proved too much for increasing neighborhood rates and expanded evening hours at major hubs. The changes mean less revenue for the city but reduced parking costs for residents. Still, with the parking plan changing almost daily, it’s unclear whether the current iteration will be the final proposal that the Neighborhood Committee and City Council ultimately pass.Compare: Cranley’s original parking plan versus the parking privatization plan.Meanwhile, Xerox, the private operator that took over Cincinnati’s parking meters in the parking privatization plan, proposed its own version of a parking plan in which the company manages parking meters while City Council retains control over setting hours, rates and enforcement. Xerox says its plan will generate more revenue. But Cranley rejected Xerox’s plan weeks ago.Commentary: “County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law.”Cranley yesterday announced he’s partnering with Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley to get a share of $1.3 billion in federal funds that would help attract manufacturing. The two cities will compete as one community for the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership. The competition’s 12 winners will each receive part of the $1.3 billion pot. Even if Cincinnati and Dayton don’t win, Cranley said the competition will at least get them thinking about working together as a community for manufacturing jobs.The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday approved controversial election bills that reduce the state’s early voting period by one week and restrict counties’ abilities to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Democrats say the measures are meant to suppress voters, but Republicans argue the changes are supposed to set uniform standards across the state. At least one top Ohio Republican previously admitted the measures were supposed to suppress voters, particularly “the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Gov. John Kasich is now the only person that stands between the bill becoming law.The city plans to undertake a pothole-fixing blitz in March.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will begin its 14-neighborhood rehabilitation plan in Evanston, where the agency will target about 100 properties.With a “virtual online menu” and access to vocational education in the seventh grade, Gov. Kasich says he wants to get Ohio students planning their careers much earlier.The Ohio House approved a plan that will give schools four more calamity days — more popularly known as “snow days” — for the current school year. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate and Kasich.U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown wants to close a loophole in Medicare that costs seniors thousands of dollars in unexpected medical bills.Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll found Ohioans would choose Hillary Clinton over Kasich and other Republicans for president.Whooping cough appears to be evolving in response to its vaccine.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 

County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The debate over responsible bidder is Cincinnati’s opportunity to switch the dynamic between workers and bigger businesses.  
by German Lopez 02.13.2014
 
 
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What Is Responsible Bidder?

City’s rule for MSD projects attempts to increase local employment, job training

Following county commissioner’s Feb. 12 meeting, the dispute between Cincinnati and Hamilton County over contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects appears to be heading to court. The court battle comes after the county dismissed multiple concessions from the city and put MSD’s revamp of the local sewer system on hold in protest of the city’s rules. With a federal mandate looming, both sides agree a resolution is needed soon to avoid costly fines from the federal government. For many across the city and county, the conflict is understandably confusing. The debate has often been mired down by biased media reports and political talking points that obfuscate the issue. Jargon referencing “responsible bidder,” “local hire,” “local preference,” unions, apprenticeship programs, a pre-apprenticeship fund and contractors make it even more difficult to grasp what is going on. Cutting through the politics, here is what the responsible bidder rules actually do and why the city and county seem incapable of compromise. What is responsible bidder?It’s a city ordinance that essentially forces MSD contractors to adopt job training measures known as apprenticeship programs and pay for a pre-apprenticeship fund. By requiring the training options, the city hopes workers will be able to improve their skills and successfully transition to other jobs once their MSD work is finished. Apprenticeship programs take workers through extensive on-the-job and classroom-based training in which they can hone their skills in a specific craft, such as electrical or plumbing work. Because workers get paid for their work while participating in an apprenticeship, the programs are typically characterized as an “earn-while-you-learn” model. The pre-apprenticeship fund will put money toward programs that will teach newcomers basic skills, such as math and reading, so they can eventually move up to an apprenticeship program. The rules don’t apply to every MSD contractor. Contracts worth less than $400,000, which make up roughly half of MSD’s sewer revamp, are exempted. What about local hire and local preference?Those are ordinances separate from responsible bidder that give preference to Cincinnati-based businesses. They try to keep MSD contracts within local companies. What’s the conflict about? The conflict is between Cincinnati and Hamilton County, which jointly run MSD. The Democrat-controlled city supports the rules, while the Republican-controlled county opposes them. The city and county also dispute which governing body can set policy for MSD. Under a 1968 agreement, the county owns and funds MSD, and the city operates and maintains it. City Council argues the agreement allows the city to set policy for MSD, but the county disagrees. Both sides acknowledge the set-up is far from ideal. So, did the city’s rules halt MSD projects? No. Nothing in the city’s ordinances forces MSD projects to stop. County commissioners singlehandedly halted MSD projects in protest of the city’s rules. If it were up to the city, work would continue today. Why are these projects so important? By federal decree, the city needs to revamp the sewer system to bring it up to environmentally safe standards. The project will cost $3.2 billion over 15-20 years, making it one of the most expensive in the city’s history. If the city and county don’t carry on with the revamp soon, the federal government will begin issuing fines. By some guesses, the fines could begin rolling in by the end of the year. Why does a majority of City Council support responsible bidder? Councilman Chris Seelbach, the Democrat who championed the rules, says they will boost local employment and create more job training options for the city’s struggling workforce. Other Democrats on council agree, although some, like Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, believe the ordinance is “imperfect.” Does responsible bidder benefit workers? Some research suggests it would. The left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) in a December report argued apprenticeship programs provide an opportunity to revitalize the U.S. workforce.“By 2020, America is projected to experience a shortage of 3 million workers with associate’s degrees or higher and 5 million workers with technical certificates and credentials,” the report claimed. “Compounding our inadequate workforce development system, research shows that employers are now spending less on training than they have in the past. At the same time, industry surveys show that a lack of qualified workers is a top concern for many employers.”Citing a 2012 study from Mathematica Policy Research, CAP estimated apprenticeship programs alone can boost a worker’s lifetime earnings and benefits by more than $300,000. Over 36 years of employment, that’s an average gain of nearly $8,400 a year.Why do county commissioners oppose the rules? In terms of policy, county commissioners say the responsible bidder rules favor unions and burden businesses. On a legal basis, the county argues the city’s responsible bidder rules conflict with state law and the local hire and preference rules enforce unconstitutional geographic preferences. Does responsible bidder actually favor unions? Since unions tend to offer better and more apprenticeship programs, yes. But the rules don’t exclude non-union businesses from participating. For example, Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors maintains some non-union apprenticeship programs that would qualify under the law. Still, most of the union favoritism debate centered around a regulation the city actually offered to give up. Specifically, under current rules employers are only eligible to contract with MSD if they have apprenticeship programs that have graduated at least one person a year for the past five years. In October, Seelbach offered to strip the mandate and replace it with an incentive program. The county seemed unmoved by the proposal.What about businesses? Does responsible bidder burden them? By requiring businesses to adopt apprenticeship programs and put 10 cents for each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund, the law certainly places more regulations on businesses. Whether the requirements are a burden is subjective.John Morris, president of the Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors and an opponent of the law, told CityBeat the pre-apprenticeship fund’s requirement will increase business costs by $2-3 million over 15-20 years.Citing MSD estimates for the cost of labor, Rob Richardson, regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the fund will cost businesses $1.5 million.Even if someone accepts Morris’ estimate, the requirement adds up to at most 0.1 percent of the $3.2 billion project. More broadly, some supporters of the city’s rules question whether placing a burden on businesses is innately a bad thing. The basic point of government regulations is to make the economy and businesses work better for the public. In that sense, regulations are always going to burden businesses to some extent.For example, financial regulations burden big banks and financial institutions. But many Americans agree the regulations are necessary to avoid another financial crisis like the one that plunged the country into the Great Recession.Still, critics argue the extra regulations would increase the cost of business, and the impact could ultimately be felt by MSD ratepayers.Why don’t the city and county just compromise? They kind of tried, but it seems the philosophical split between Hamilton County Republicans and Cincinnati Democrats is too strong to reach a substantial agreement.The city, for example, has offered multiple concessions to the county. In May, City Council modified the law to ease some requirements and add an exemption for contracts worth less than $400,000, which covers half of the contracts involved in MSD’s sewer revamp. In October, Seelbach offered to replace a strict mandate with a looser incentive program. Seelbach also told CityBeat on Feb. 6 that he would consider raising the contract exemption from $400,000 to $750,000.In return, the county rejected the concessions and instead offered to establish aspirational inclusion goals and some funding for local job training programs — as long as the city repealed its rules altogether.Which side would win the court battle? It’s hard to say. Both sides — and their lawyers — seem pretty confident about their legal standing. So what’s next? At the current rate, it looks like the city and county are heading to court. Whether the process involves a full-on legal battle or mediation between the city and county’s lawyers remains uncertain, but it’s clear something will eventually have to give.This blog post will be regularly updated as the situation develops.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.07.2014
Posted In: News, Education, MSD, The Banks at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

City, schools to collaborate, protesters call for MSD work, some question The Banks’ success

Cincinnati officials and Cincinnati Board of Education leaders yesterday announced a new collaborative that aims to share and align the city and Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy goals. The initiative will focus on five areas: population growth, workforce development, safe and livable neighborhoods, wellness and access to technology. City and school officials say the collaborative alone won’t hit their budgets, but future joint initiatives could obviously carry their own costs.Councilman Chris Seelbach and union supporters yesterday gathered outside the Hamilton County Administrations Building to call on county commissioners to open bidding on several Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. County commissioners blocked the work in protest of Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules, which require MSD contractors to meet more stringent job training requirements and pay into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will train new workers in different crafts. The Republican-controlled county says the rules are illegal, favor unions and burden businesses, but the Democrat-controlled city says the standards help train local workers and create local jobs.Meanwhile, county commissioners appear ready to take the city-county dispute to court. If the conflict isn’t resolved by the end of the year, the federal government could impose fines to force work on a mandatory overhaul of the local sewer system to fully continue, according to Commissioner Chris Monzel.Cincinnati’s riverfront has come a long way, but The Cincinnati Enquirer and others seem unhappy The Banks is taking so long to fully develop. A lot was promised with the initial plan for the riverfront, but the Great Recession and other hurdles slowed down the development of condos, office and retail space and a hotel. For some business owners, the slowdown has made it much harder to get by unless a major event — a Reds or Bengals game, for example — is going on, particularly during bad winters. In particular, struggling Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers says she “would like to see more retail, a hotel, a movie theater.”Following Councilman Charlie Winburn’s warnings that the city wastefully bought too much road salt, the city is actually running low on salt and waiting on an order of 3,500 tons. Over the past couple months, Winburn accused the city of wasting money when he “discovered” a pile of unused road salt. Despite Winburn’s attempts to make “saltgate” into a thing, it turns out the city bought the salt when it was cheaper and planned to use it in the future.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center plans to reopen a pediatric health clinic that abruptly closed down when Neighborhood Health Care Inc. shut down operations. The clinic expects to see 500 needy children and teenagers each month.Local Republicans are still looking to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald asked Republican Gov. John Kasich to pledge he would serve his full four years if he won re-election, meaning Kasich would be unable to run for president in 2016.Doctors say technology must prevent texting while driving.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.06.2014
Posted In: News, Marijuana, MSD, 2014 election, Governor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Medical marijuana effort underway, MSD battle continues, FitzGerald challenger questioned

The Ohio Rights Group could get medical marijuana legalization on the ballot this November, but the group first must gather enough petition signatures. Although the campaign has medical research and polling in its favor, it’s also struggled to raise a significant amount of cash to support a statewide campaign. At the same time, many entrepreneurs see the legalization of medical marijuana as inevitable; over the past weekend, Comfy Tree Cannabis Collective held a seminar to advise potential businesses on the inner workings of selling legalized marijuana.Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county is willing to go to court to fight Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The county says the rules are illegal, burden businesses and favor unions. But city officials, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the rules help train workers and create local jobs. The rules impose stricter job training requirements on MSD contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.Larry Ealy, a Dayton-area man, could challenge gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, but the chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party cautions that Ealy consistently fails to gather enough signatures for his election bids. In the past, Ealy attempted to run for various offices in Dayton.City officials and the Cincinnati Public Schools Board plan to announce a new collaboration today. The initiative intends to align and better implement the city and school district’s shared policy goals. “We want to establish the framework and make sure the right culture is there,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who announced the collaboration, previously told CityBeat. “Then people can do what elected officials are supposed to do: roll up your sleeves and come up with smart, viable policies.”Following the demolition of the University of Cincinnati’s Wilson Auditorium, it’s unclear what, if anything, will replace the building.The Ohio Supreme Court reminds state judges that the conditions for jailing people over unpaid fines are limited.As people turned up the heat to deal with the polar vortex, they also drove gas prices — and future bills — up.LED lights make cities look cooler on camera.A new mind-controlled robotic hand comes with a sense of touch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.16.2014
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

New puppy mill laws, Democrats guide council, county proposes sewer compromise

Ohio now bans abusive dog breeding practices that previously earned the state a reputation as one of the laxest for dog breeding rules in the nation. With the new rules, dog breeders must maintain improved living conditions for the dogs, including standards for cage size, regular grooming, veterinary examinations and socialization. The rules earned praise from many animal activists as a step forward, but some say the bill should act as a start that leads to even stronger regulations.City Council advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion. Specifically, the Democratic majority on council acted as the foundation in keeping controversial contracting rules for sewer contracts, continuing support for a permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale and approving a new study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts. With the Democratic coalition seemingly established on most issues facing the city, it’s now much clearer what direction council will take the city over the next four years.Hamilton County commissioners yesterday proposed a compromise with the city over controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Although both sides agree the issue must be resolved soon to avoid a costly legal battle and allow MSD to carry on with work on a federally mandated overhaul of the local sewer system, the Democratic-controlled city and Republican-controlled county have failed to reach a resolution. Since the county put MSD projects on hold in protest of the city’s rules, $152 million worth of sewer projects and 649 potential jobs have been put on hold, according to data from Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the rules.Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach questioned whether recent personnel changes at City Hall violated the city charter. The concern is whether Mayor John Cranley pushed Interim City Manager Scott Stiles to move John Curp from his previous role as city solicitor to chief counsel of the city’s utilities. Sittenfeld and Seelbach noted the charter prevents the mayor and council members from interfering with personnel decisions. But Stiles declined to answer and sidestepped Seelbach and Sittenfeld’s questions.Commentary: “Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot.”Cincy Bike Share still needs more funds to launch.Cincinnati has the most unhappy employees in the country, according to an analysis by CareerBliss.Ohio Democrats and Republicans have begun a push for a May 6 ballot initiative that would expand state spending on road, bridge, water, sewer and other local public works projects.Micah Kamrass yesterday filed petition signatures with the Hamilton County Board of Elections, making him the likely Democratic candidate to replace State Rep. Connie Pillich, a Democrat, as she runs for state treasurer. Kamrass will likely face off against Republican Rick Bryan.A condemned Ohio killer will be executed with a new, never-tried lethal injection method adopted after the state’s previous drug supplies dried up.Ohio high-school students could receive some school credit for off-campus religious education attended during regular school hours, thanks to a new bill passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives.If damage related to potholes is $10,000 or less, drivers can file a complaint at the little-known Ohio Court of Claims and get their money back. In the past five years, reimbursements for more than 1,300 Ohioans cost the state nearly half a million dollars.The secretary of state’s office announced early voting hours for the upcoming primary election here. If Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune decides to stay in the gubernatorial race and challenge Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the primary election would decide which Democrat will face off against Republican Gov. Kasich in November.Most Americans avoided vaccinations during the previous flu season — a trend experts attribute to increased complacency toward the virus.University of Cincinnati researchers say they wants to dispel the belief that drones are only used to kill.For example, a collapsible, camera-toting drone currently in development could be used just to spy on people.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 01.15.2014
 
 
city hall

City Council Tackles Progressive Agenda

Democratic majority pushes initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion

City Council on Wednesday advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion. The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project. The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years. Responsible bidder Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system. The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts. Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training. But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules. The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules. With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives. “We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules. Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.” The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose. “Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully continues.Supportive housing project in AvondaleA supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.Disparity study City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts. The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support. But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced doubts that the study’s findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses. Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete. “I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city. Other notable actions • Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials. • Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth. • Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities. • Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the mayor and council originally established to look into halting the project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.18.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Infrastructure, City Council at 06:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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City Keeps Controversial MSD Contracting Rules

Democratic council members stand together against repeal of "responsible bidder" law

City Council on Wednesday dismissed legislation that would have repealed controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.Council's decision could put Cincinnati and Hamilton County on a collision course over rules governing a federally mandated revamp of the city's sewer system. The city and county jointly manage MSD.Democrats David Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young voted to move the repeal ordinance back to committee. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, Charterite Kevin Flynn and Independent Christopher Smitherman voted to keep the ordinance in front of council. Hamilton County commissioners previously halted most of the $3.2 billion, 15-year sewer revamp in protest of the city's "responsible bidder" law. As long as the hold remains in place, the city and county risk violating a federal mandate to revamp Cincinnati's inadequate sewer system.The city rules require contractors to follow stricter standards for apprenticeship programs, which unionized and nonunion businesses use to train workers in crafts, such as electrical work or plumbing. The rules also ask contractors to put 10 cents for each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will help train newcomers in different crafts. Supporters of the law claim it will foster local jobs and local job training. Opponents claim the law favors unions and places a costly burden on MSD contractors.The city already gave various concessions to resolve its conflict with the county, including exemptions for small businesses and contracts worth less than $400,000. But the county has so far refused to budge.Smitherman, who opposes the law, argued the issue will end up in court and the city will lose."What was passed on May 1 is not constitutional," he said.But the city's law department says the law is legal and could be defended in court.Seelbach, who spearheaded the law, said he's in talks with Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to bring both parties into mediation and resolve the conflict. "I'm asking for some more time," he said.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.13.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Economy, Development at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

County blocks sewer projects, sex toy company welcomed in Kentucky, Kasich fights for coal

Hamilton County once again froze new work on a $3.2 billion project that will retrofit Cincinnati’s sewers because of a dispute concerning the city’s established bidding requirements. City Council in 2012 passed and in 2013 further adjusted rules that require companies bidding for lucrative sewer contracts to meet specific local hiring and training standards. City Council says the requirements will produce more local jobs, but Hamilton County commissioners argue that the rules favor unions and cost too much for businesses. Councilman Chris Seelbach and Commissioner Chris Monzel were originally working on a compromise, but prospects fell through after City Council rejected the deal. CityBeat covered the conflict in further detail here. Covington, Ky., is publicly welcoming Pure Romance to the other side of the Ohio River, which could cost Cincinnati and Ohio up to 120 jobs and $100 million in revenue. Pure Romance was initially planning to move from Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati with some tax support from the city and state, but after the state’s tax credit agencies rejected the plan, the company has been getting better offers from out-of-state sources, including Covington. Ohio officials say they denied Pure Romance because the company isn’t part of a target industry such as biotech, energy or logistics, but emails have suggested that the Republican state government is worried about the deal coming off as politically embarrassing because some of Pure Romance’s products include sex toys. Ohio coal officials repeatedly complained about the state’s water pollution rules to Gov. John Kasich, whose administration then carried on the complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kasich’s office insists it was just trying to collect “different viewpoints and then work together to challenge each other to do the best job possible,” but environmental advocates say the governor was putting unfair pressure on a state agency just trying to do its job. The conflict might explain why the Ohio EPA’s top water-quality official, George Elmaraghy, was forced to resign after claiming that coal companies are pursuing permits “that may have a negative impact on Ohio streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.” The tea party-backed pension reform effort on Thursday sued to change ballot language approved by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The lawsuit says the current ballot language is making “conjecture and partisan argumentation” by claiming the pension amendment will force the city to raise taxes, fees or other revenues to cope with stricter requirements for paying back Cincinnati’s $872 million pension liability. If it’s approved by voters, the amendment would effectively privatize the city’s pension system so future city employees, minus police and firefighters, would be required to contribute to and manage an individual 401k-style plan; currently, the city pools city employees’ retirement funds, makes its own contribution and invests the funds through an independent board. CityBeat covered the tea party-backed pension amendment in further detail here. Hamilton County sheriffs are rolling out a three-phase plan to move homeless squatters out of county buildings and especially the Hamilton County Courthouse, where much of the city’s homeless population has been sleeping and defecating. Sheriffs will first set up bathrooms, such as portable potties, and try to identify the needs of the squatters and whether they should be connected to mental health or other services; during the month of the first phase, homeless people will be allowed to remain in the buildings. Then sheriffs will get more strict and forcibly remove people but still connect them to special services. Finally, the affected buildings will be cleaned up. An upcoming report will likely place legislators and police and fire officials in conflict over the state’s police and fire pension system. Supporters of the pension system claim it’s financially stable, but a state consultants predicted that an actuarial report will soon show the pension system is failing to make its required commitments and will be unable to play for health care benefits beyond 15 years. Despite the problems, pension officials say they want to avoid more changes until the most recent changes are in place for one year. The most recent reforms will be officially in place for one year on July 2014, but they won’t show up on actuarial reports until late 2015, which means further changes would have to be held off until 2016 at the earliest under pension officials’ suggestion. A lengthy, scathing report from the state’s independent prison watchdog found skyrocketing violence and drug use, high staff turnover and low staff morale at the Toledo Correctional Institution. Two private organizations and the city of Cincinnati are working to place 21 bike share stations with 10 bicycles each in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati by spring 2014. The reason reported mayoral primary results seemed to stall midway through counting: a memory card mix-up. Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy says the memory cards were never in an insecure environment, but some memory cards were locked up and left behind, while others were accidentally taken to a warehouse instead of the Board of Elections. At four times their usual number, bats are forcing health officials to recommend rabies vaccinations and other disease-avoiding precautions to people in Kenton County in northern Kentucky. Cincinnati’s largest mall, currently known as Forest Fair Village and previously named Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and Forest Fair Mall, is apparently not for sale, despite early reports from The Business Courier. Social robots can easily replace humans as dogs’ best friend, according to a new study in Animal Recognition.
 
 

Council Rejects Compromise on Sewer Projects

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
City Council on June 24 turned down a compromise between Cincinnati and Hamilton County that would have ended the county’s funding hold on sewer projects, which would have allowed the projects to move forward.   

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