by German Lopez
14 days ago
Drop Inn Center to move, sewer and water rates set to rise, CVG's losses cost region
The Drop Inn Center and 3CDC (Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation) on Friday announced a deal
to move the region’s largest homeless shelter from its current location
in Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate. The Drop Inn Center says the new
location represents “most of the things on our wish list, which is
fantastic.” And 3CDC has been pushing the shelter to move since it began
its efforts to revitalize the Over-the-Rhine and downtown area, which
some label gentrification. Josh Spring, executive director of the
Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in a statement that
government officials and developers should be helping maintain
affordable housing in all parts of the city instead of moving poor
people to other neighborhoods.
Local sewer rates could rise by 6 percent
and local water rates will skyrocket by 22.6 percent following proposed
price hikes from the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The higher
sewer rates are needed to help pay for a federally mandated sewer upgrade
that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, according to MSD officials.
MSD says the spike in water bills is necessary because water use is
declining and treatment costs are increasing.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has lost more flights and seats since 2005
than any other major airport across the country, which effectively cost
the Cincinnati area 33,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in annual
economic activity in the same time span, according to an analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The 78-percent drop in flights — far higher than the national average
of 19 percent — comes even as CVG’s average fares increased by 26 percent,
which were also above the national average of 4 percent.
Commentary from The Business Courier: “(Mayor-elect John) Cranley doubles down on streetcar cancellation.”
Supporters of Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project
will meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cincinnati Hyatt Regency Ballroom
to discuss their options to prevent Cranley from stopping the streetcar
project. Supporters were recently reinvigorated by the current city
administration’s projections that canceling the streetcar project could cost nearly as much as completing it.
As Ohio’s Republican legislators move to adopt a stand-your-ground law, the research shows the controversial self-defense laws might increase homicides and racial disparities in the U.S. justice system.
Economists generally agree that state officials don’t play
a big role in changing the economy in the short term, but political
scientists say the economy will still play a major role in deciding Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial elections.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald argues Republican Gov.
John Kasich deserves the blame for Ohio’s economy, given that Kasich
initially credited his policies for Ohio’s brief economic turnaround
early on in his term. But now that the economy is beginning to stagnate,
Kasich refuses to take the blame and points to congressional gridlock at the federal level
as the reason for Ohio’s slowdown.
Ohio paid nearly $1.2 million
for a string of charter schools that closed weeks after they opened.
The schools, which all operated under the name Olympus High School, are
now facing an audit and have been ordered to pay back some of the money.
A state job program for disabled Ohioans could lose millions in federal funds
after the U.S. Department of Education warned the state it is
improperly spending the money on case management and other
administrative activities. But the head of Opportunities for Ohioans
with Disabilities insists the state program is under compliance.
Ohio’s number of uninsured children is below the national average, according to a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is fast tracking business permits to outpace neighboring states.
With Thanksgiving looming, Ohio gas prices rose in the past week.
Migraine sufferers who also deal with allergies and hay fever might suffer from more severe headaches, according to a study from three medical centers that include the University of Cincinnati.Would you ride the world’s tallest water slide?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
67 days ago
County shut down $3.2 billion MSD project in response to city rules
Councilman Chris Seelbach on Oct. 3 announced another
concession in the ongoing city-county dispute over contracting rules for the jointly operated Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).
At the heart of the issue is a federal mandate requiring
Cincinnati to retrofit and revamp its sewer system. The project
is estimated to cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, making it the largest
infrastructure undertaking in the city’s history.
But Hamilton County commissioners have put most of the
project on hold until the county resolves its conflict with City
Council, which unanimously passed in June 2012 and modified in May
“responsible bidder” rules that dictate how MSD contractors should train
Critics say the law’s apprenticeship program and
pre-apprenticeship fund requirements put too much of a burden on nonunion businesses. Supporters claim the requirements
help create local jobs and train local workers.
The city law requires bidders to follow specific
standards for apprenticeship programs, which are used by unionized and
nonunion businesses to teach an employee in a certain craft, such as
plumbing or construction. It also asks contractors to put 10 cents for
each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will help teach
applicants in different crafts.
The concession announced on Oct. 3 would replace a mandate with an incentive program.
The mandate tasked contract bidders to prove their
apprenticeship programs have graduated at least one person a year for
the five previous years.
The incentive program would strip the mandate and
replace it with “bid credits,” which would essentially give a small
advantage to bidders who prove their apprenticeship programs are
graduating employees. That advantage would be weighed along with many other
factors that go into the city’s evaluation of bidders.
Seelbach says the concession will be the sixth the city has given to the county, compared to the county’s single concession.
The city has already added several exemptions to its
rules, including one for small businesses and another for all contracts
under $400,000, which make up half of MSD contracts. The city also
previously loosened safety training requirements and other apprenticeship rules.
Meanwhile, the county has merely agreed to require
state-certified apprenticeship programs, although with no specific
standards like the city’s.
The five-year graduation requirement was the biggest
sticking point in the city-county dispute. It’s now up to commissioners
to decide whether the concession is enough to let MSD work go forward.
If not, the dispute could end up in court as the federal government
demands its mandate be met.
by German Lopez
87 days ago
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
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.
by German Lopez
Kasich pushes Medicaid expansion, county to repeal sewer hold, riverfront link coming
It’s not even two weeks since Gov. John Kasich signed the two-year state budget, and he’s already pushing for the federally funded Medicaid expansion again.
Kasich, a Republican, called on fellow advocates and Democrats to lobby
Republican legislators into supporting the expansion. The
administration says it would need legislation passed by the end of the
summer if it’s to get federal approval for an expansion by Jan. 1.
Studies found the expansion would save the state money and insure nearly
half a million Ohioans in the next decade. But Republican legislators passed on
it, claiming the federal government can’t afford the expansion even though the federal government has long upheld its commitment to Medicaid. CityBeat covered the state budget and Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners are expected later today to repeal a funding hold on sewer projects, just a couple months after the hold was passed in response to controversial
city laws. The city and county originally reached a compromise over the
laws, but the deal appeared to have fallen through when City Council failed to approve its end of the bargain. Still, commissioners are moving forward with removing the funding hold, according to WVXU. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in greater detail here.
Designers, engineers and architects will compete over how they’ll cover Fort Washington Way in a few months, and Business Courier has some possibilities
for where the project may go. The project is supposed to connect
downtown and the riverfront, maximize economic development, encourage
recreational activities, preserve openness and more. Although the first
phase is just finishing, The Banks has already won awards, making the final connection between the area and downtown all the more important to city and county officials.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) will hold a meeting tonight for its regional strategic plan.
Details are sparse, but OKI’s first plan since 2005 will likely put a
big emphasis on Cincinnati. A draft of the plan will likely be available
in 2014. The meeting will be at Memorial Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow was caught in a “pants on fire” statement by Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer after she claimed Ohio’s budget mandates women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe. The budget imposes new limits on legal abortions in Ohio
and effectively defunds contraceptive care, cancer screenings and other
non-abortion medical services at family planning clinics like Planned
Parenthood, but it doesn’t require women undergo a transvaginal
Cincinnati topped Terminix’s annual bed bug list for most calls related to the critters, but it avoided a spot on another list for the highest increase in calls.
Warren County’s racino is now hiring.
One good thing that came out of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: swag for needy Kenyan youth.
Antimatter particles were detected erupting from solar flares.
One major problem in brain training studies: People always realize they’re being tested, particularly if they’re playing Tetris for hours.
by German Lopez
Streetcar moves forward, sewer compromise hits impasse, Kasich's approval at all-time high
The streetcar project is moving forward
following yesterday’s votes from City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee, which approved increased capital funding and accountability
measures that will keep the public updated on the project’s progress.
The increased funding fixes the project’s $17.4 million budget gap by
issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects,
including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The
accountability measures will require the city administration to report
to City Council on the streetcar's progress with a timeline of key
milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing
assessments and monthly progress reports.
At the same committee meeting, council members failed to carry out a repeal of “local hire” and “local preference” laws,
which was part of an earlier announced compromise
between the city and county that would allow work on sewer projects to
continue. At this point, it’s unclear whether the Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners will repeal the funding hold on sewer projects. The
commissioners passed the hold after City Council modified its
“responsible bidder” law in May. The city says the laws encourage local
job creation and training, but the county claims the rules favor unions
and impose extra costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects.
Republican Gov. John Kasich’s approval ratings hit an all-time high of 54 percent
in a new Quinnipiac University poll, helping him hold a 14-point lead
against likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald. “All in all, at this
stage, Kasich has done a pretty good job appealing to voters across the
state,” said Quinnipiac's Peter Brown. “FitzGerald remains pretty much
an unknown to most Ohioans, with only one in four voters knowing enough
about him to have formed an opinion. The election is a long way away,
but the next stage will be the race to define FitzGerald, positively by
the candidate himself and negatively by the Kasich folks.”
The Cincinnati office for the Internal Revenue Service also targeted liberal groups,
particularly those who used the terms “progressive” and “occupy.” The
IRS has been under scrutiny in the past few months for targeting
conservative groups by honing in on terms such as “tea party” and
Ohio gave tax incentives
to four more Cincinnati-area businesses. Overall, 15 projects received
the breaks to supposedly spur $379 million in investment across Ohio.
Miami University banned smoking in cars on campus and raised tuition.
Headline: “Columbus man rips off his penis while high on drugs.”
Here is a history of red panda escapes.
A study found people find others more attractive after getting a shock to the brain.
As city and county clash on “responsible bidder” law, $3.2 billion sewer project looms
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Cincinnati's biggest sewer project in history is being threatened by a city-county conflict over how contracts should be awarded and whether job training is part of the government's role.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
EPA approves sewer plan, anti-union law gets hearing, DeWine to speed synthetic drug bans
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Mill Creek sewer overhaul plan
that includes bringing back a long-buried creek in the area. The
unconventional strategy is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
attempt at dealing with storm overflow in a green, sustainable manner
that also saves taxpayers money — particularly in comparison to an
expensive deep underground tunnel that the EPA originally suggested. CityBeat previously covered MSD’s green plans in further detail here.
A law that would ban mandatory union membership is temporarily back on the Ohio House agenda,
leaving union advocates worried that Republicans are trying to push the
anti-union law, which supporters of the change call “right to work,” once again.
Still, lawmakers say they’re only giving the law one hearing as
required by House rules for legislation introduced early on in the
session. Under current law, employers and unions are allowed to agree to mandating union membership for employees, but the anti-union law would
bar that agreement. Many states have already taken up similar laws, and
they’ve been linked to a significant decline of unions around the
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is partnering with Ohio
State Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Kyle Parker to continue the
fight against synthetic drugs. In a statement, DeWine’s office said the
partnership will help state officials expedite the process of banning
synthetic drugs as they are found. “Despite the success of House Bill 334,
which outlawed a multitude of synthetic drugs in 2012, rogue chemists
continue to create new, dangerous chemicals that fall outside of Ohio's
controlled substances law,” DeWine said in a statement.
Cost for vehicle registration in Ohio could go up under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.
Two more alleged voter fraud cases were sent to the county prosecutor.
So far, most of the Hamilton County voter fraud cases involve people voting twice —
supposedly on accident — by first early voting and then voting on
A Gillette commercial is at the center of the most important question of our time: How does Superman shave?
The “cutest couple” at a suburban New York school is two boys.
Being from Ohio may have ruined Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote.
In case you missed it, here is the news section for the latest issue of CityBeat:
Cover story: “From
the Inside: Inmates told CityBeat about violence, staff ineptitude and
unsanitary conditions inside Ohio’s private prison. Then came the
surprise inspections.”News: “What’s On the Books?: Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state”Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics”