WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 10.07.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Commissioners, Budget at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
shutitdownflag-banner

Morning News and Stuff

Shutdown continues, council candidates meet at forum, county considers sales tax hike

Reminder: Today is the last day to register to vote in the 2013 mayoral and City Council elections. Since early voting is currently underway, it’s possible to register and vote on the same day. Get a registration form here and find out when and where to vote here. The federal government shutdown is closing in on its second week. The shutdown has forced some services in Cincinnati to seriously cut back, ranging from Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety inspections to small business loans. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in further detail here. City Council candidates met at a forum on Oct. 5 to discuss their different visions for the city’s future. 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 forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Check out CityBeat’s candidate-by-candidate breakdown of the forum here. Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman plans to propose a quarter-cent hike of the county sales tax to pay for lower property taxes, the elimination of permit and inspection fees paid by businesses, or the construction of a new coroner’s lab and addition of nearly 300 jail beds, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Hamilton County’s sales tax is currently 6.75 percent, which is lower than 65 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Sigman says the plan would refocus the county and allow it “to transition from a posture of where to cut to where to invest.” Councilman Chris Seelbach agreed to pay more than $1,200 to dismiss a lawsuit from an anti-tax group that would have cost the city $30,000. Seelbach’s payment reimburses the city for a trip he took to Washington, D.C., to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his accomplishments in protecting Cincinnati’s LGBT community. City officials said the trip also helped Seelbach market Cincinnati and learn what other cities are doing to attract and retain LGBT individuals. The lawsuit was threatened by the hyper-conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims to protect taxpayers from government over-spending and high taxes but simultaneously forces the city to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight off lawsuits. Starting today, residents must use city-delivered trash carts if they want their garbage picked up. To save space in the carts, city officials are advising recycling. If city workers didn’t deliver a trash cart to your home, contact them here. A bill in the Ohio legislature would ban licensed counselors from attempting to change a youth’s sexual orientation. The practice, known as “conversion therapy,” is widely perceived as unscientific and psychologically damaging and demeaning. California and New Jersey banned conversion therapies in the past year. Ohio’s legislative leaders on Friday promised to make a Medicaid overhaul a focus of the ongoing fall session. It’s so far unclear what exactly the overhaul will involve. Meanwhile, the Ohio legislature has refused to take up a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would expand eligibility for the federal-state health care program to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio estimates the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans, and it’s supported by Gov. John Kasich. But Republican legislators are skeptical of expanding a government-run health care program and claim the federal government wouldn’t be able to meet its obligations to the program, even though the federal government has met its payments since Medicaid was created in 1965. Although insurance plans in Obamacare’s online marketplace (HealthCare.gov) offer lower premiums, the reduced prices come with less options for doctors and hospitals. But supporters argue some health care coverage is better than no health care coverage. The Ohio branch of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the country, today announced a slate of Democratic endorsements for state offices, including Ed FitzGerald for governor, David Pepper for attorney general, Nina Turner for secretary of state, Connie Pillich for treasurer and John Patrick Carney for auditor. A registry helps connect University of Cincinnati Medical Center researchers with people with a personal or family history of breast cancer. About 5,600 people are currently on the list, which researchers can tap into to collect data or solicit individuals for studies. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is investing its single largest contribution ever on treatments for mental health and behavioral issues. Ohio gas prices dipped further this week. A grandfather chastised his daughter in a letter for kicking out his gay grandson: “He was born this way and didn't choose it more than he being left-handed. You, however, have made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So while we are in the business of disowning children, I think I'll take this moment to say goodbye to you.” Designing an anti-poaching drone could earn someone $25,000.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.26.2013
Posted In: News, Police, Budget, LGBT at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ramundo photo

Morning News and Stuff

Meet Roger Ramundo, city budget cuts could be reduced, AG won't appeal marriage order

Meet Roger Jeremy Ramundo, the man police shot and killed on July 24 after what’s now being called a “life or death struggle.” Police say they first tried to subdue Ramundo, who had a history of mental health problems. But when Ramundo fired his gun once, an officer retaliated by firing two fatal shots into Ramundo’s left back. For family members and colleagues, Ramundo’s death came as a shock; none of them seemed to expect that he could turn violent. Ramundo was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, according to the health care worker who notified police that Ramundo left home with his licensed gun, but he had been refusing to take his medication for either illness at the time of his death. Budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas could be retroactively reduced or eliminated with higher-than-projected revenues from the previous budget cycle, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced yesterday. When City Council passed the city’s operating budget in May, it had not yet received the full revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. With the full numbers expected to come in higher than originally projected, Council will be able to evaluate options for what and how much can be restored. Human services funding was cut by roughly one-third in the city budget, putting it at 0.3 percent of overall spending — far below the city’s historic goal of 1.5 percent. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won’t appeal the temporary restraining order that forces the state to recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple on their death certificate, but DeWine says he’ll continue defending the state’s ban on gay marriage. Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokesperson, noted that such restraining orders are normally not susceptible to appeal. Hackley’s explanation contradicts an earlier report from The Cincinnati Enquirer that the order was going to be appealed. Meanwhile, FreedomOhio says it will try to put an amendment legalizing marriage equality on the November 2014 ballot, which CityBeat covered here when the group was still aiming for the 2013 ballot. The I-71/MLK Interchange yesterday moved closer to its $107.7 million funding goal when Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council gave preliminary approval to Gov. John Kasich’s transportation plan, which will use $3 billion raised through Ohio Turnpike revenues to fund infrastructure projects around the state. The Ohio Supreme Court will review whether anti-gambling opponents of racinos have standing to sue. Among other issues, critics argue that Kasich’s legalization of video lottery terminals didn’t represent an actual extension of the Ohio Lottery, which is why the state claims it was allowed to legalize the gambling machines without voter approval. The state’s Supreme Court says it will decide the issue after it rules on a similar case involving privatized development agency JobsOhio. Democrats are voicing uncertainty about whether Republicans will actually take up a Medicaid expansion bill in September. Republican legislators rejected the expansion in the state budget, but they’ve said they will take up the issue in the fall. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion, which is funded mostly through federal funds from Obamacare, would insure half a million Ohioans and save the state money over the next decade. Charter schools’ big challenge: finding space to house their facilities. An Ohio gun group raised $12,000 to buy George Zimmerman a gun or security system. Drivers, beware: Hackers could soon be crashing your cars. Drinking coffee has been linked to a 50 percent lower risk of suicide.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.25.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Parking, Infrastructure at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_pgsittenfeld_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Behind the parking plan drama, state budget cuts local funding, bridge to get federal bump

Being one of the first to discover a critical memo put Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at the center of an ongoing drama regarding the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The memo criticized the financial details of the lease, but it was kept from the Port, City Council and the public for nearly a month. Ever since the controversial parking plan passed City Council and was upheld in court, concerned citizens, business leaders and critics like Sittenfeld have been calling on the city and Port to rework or halt the deal. So far, the city and Port have stuck to their support. The city will get a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million a year from the lease, which it currently plans to use to help balance city budgets and fund development projects, such as the I-71/MLK Interchange. The latest state budget secured more cuts to city and county governments, putting local governments at a $1.5 billion shortfall in the next two years compared to 2010 and 2011, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio. Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. For Cincinnati, the original cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenue. The Brent Spence Bridge was bumped up in a federal funding priority list through a successful amendment from Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican. The amendment prioritized $500 million for obsolete and structurally unsound bridges, but it’s so far unclear how much of the money will go to the Brent Spence Bridge project, which state officials estimate will cost $2.7 billion. Currently, Ohio and Kentucky officials plan to pay for the bridge project by enacting tolls. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor this year, is calling on the city manager to produce a plan that would structurally balance Cincinnati’s operating budget by 2016. “To build on the momentum Cincinnati is now experiencing, we must set a course now for a fiscally sustainable future,” Qualls said in a statement. “That’s why I’m urging that we have a plan to reach structural balance by 2016, restore reserves and increase the city’s pension contribution, minimize using the parking lease payment to restore budget cuts and continue to invest in neighborhoods and jobs to grow revenue.” The announcement comes more than one week after Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating and criticized the city for its exposure to unsustainable pension liabilities and reliance on one-time sources to fix budget gaps. Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who’s also running for mayor, is rolling out his jobs plan today. The initiative will provide a job training program for individuals facing long-term unemployment or underemployment, which the Cranley campaign estimates will result in 379 individuals per year obtaining full-time, permanent jobs. The program will be mainly paid for by pulling funds from the city’s Office of Environmental Quality, Department of Finance, travel and the state lobbyist. “My deepest conviction is that there is dignity in work. I believe all able-bodied adults should work and be self-sufficient. And I believe society has an obligation to ensure the opportunity to work exists,” Cranley said in a statement.On Second Thought: “Facts vs. Perceptions in Trayvon Martin Coverage.” Police yesterday shot and killed Roger Ramundo, an allegedly armed Clifton resident. Officers had been called to the area of Clifton and Ludlow avenues by a mental health provider, who said there was a person with mental health issues armed with a gun, according to interim Cincinnati Police Chief Paul Humphries. Police said they tried to first subdue Ramundo with Tasers during an ensuing struggle, but they were unsuccessful and the man pulled out his gun and fired a shot. That’s when one officer fired two shots that hit Ramundo, who was then taken to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Gov. Kasich isn’t providing clemency to a Cleveland killer who stabbed his victim 17 times, overruling a rare plea for mercy from prosecutors but siding with a majority of the state parole board. Billy Slagle will be executed on Aug. 7. Ohio will take a hands-off approach to promoting Obamacare, even though outreach will be crucial for the controversial health care law. President Barack Obama’s administration estimates it will have to enroll millions of young adults into health care plans to turn the law into a success. Meanwhile, Hamilton County is investigating if Obamacare could result in lower property taxes by allowing the county to shift costs to the federal government. A Cincinnati money manager is being accused of running an “elaborate Ponzi scheme” that cost investors “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to a July 20 complaint filed in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The average price of a flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport dropped, but the airport is still the second-most expensive in the nation. CityBeat gave Internet cat-celebrity Lil Bub an in-depth look in this week’s issue. Find it online here. Want to maximize your tan? Here is how close you could get to the sun and survive.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.24.2013
Posted In: News, Budget at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

State Budget Cuts Local Government Funding

Policy Matters Ohio finds cities, counties will receive $720 million less from state

The recently passed state budget means cities and counties will get even less money from the state, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio. The report looks at “three blows” of cuts to local governments: less direct aid, no money from a now-repealed estate tax and the beginning of the end of a state subsidy that supported local property taxes. The cuts add up to at least $720 million less over the next two years than cities and counties got in the past two years, the report finds. It’s even less money when looking further back in Ohio’s history — specifically before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. “Local governments will see $1.5 billion less in tax revenues and state aid compared with” fiscal years 2010 and 2011, said Wendy Patton, the report’s author, in a statement. “Fiscal crisis will continue in many communities.” Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. The Republican-controlled state government repealed the estate tax in the last budget, but some Democrats and local governments were hopeful at least some of the lost money could be restored this year. Casino revenue was supposed to curtail some of the cuts, but Policy Matters concludes it’s not enough. Casino revenue has also consistently come under expectations: The state government in 2009 estimated Ohio’s casinos would take in $1.9 billion a year, but that projection was changed in February to roughly $1 billion a year. For Cincinnati, the previous round of budget cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenues — nearly two-thirds of the budget gap the city faced for fiscal year 2014. Although the city managed to avoid laying off cops and firefighters as a result, it still had to slash other city services and raise property taxes. Some city and county officials are trying to persuade the state government to undo the cuts. In March, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld gathered officials around the state to launch ProtectMyOhio.com, which lets citizens write directly to the state government about the cuts.
 
 

Get Out of Jail Fee

ACLU: Pay-to-stay policies harm low-income inmates, raise little money for county jails

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Hamilton County Jail charges its inmates a fee for incarceration, and a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) suggests the practice harms low-income inmates and raises little money for the county.   
by German Lopez 06.18.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Development at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_parkingmeters

Morning News and Stuff

Court refuses delay on parking, interchange needs city support, final budget mixes tax cuts

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan. Six out of nine City Council members say they want to repeal or rework the deal, but City Solicitor John Curp says Mayor Mark Mallory, who supports the plan, has the power to hold any repeal attempts until Nov. 30, which means he can effectively stop any repeal attempts until the end of his final term as mayor. City Manager Milton Dohoney told City Council yesterday that the state government will not pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange if the city doesn’t pick up some of the cost. Dohoney made the statement when explaining how he would use the $92 million upfront money from the parking plan. The interchange project has long been sought out by city and state officials to create jobs and better connect uptown businesses to the rest of the area and state. State officials told The Cincinnati Enquirer the final budget plan may include downsized versions of the tax cut plans in the Ohio House and Senate budget bills. The House bill included a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut, while the Senate bill included a 50-percent income tax deduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 worth of income. Democrats have criticized the across-the-board income tax cut for cutting taxes for the wealthy and the business tax cut for giving a tax cut to passive investors, single-person firms and partnerships that are unlikely to add jobs. Republicans claim both tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs. Ohio ranked No. 46 out of the 50 states for job creation in the past year, according to an infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts. Both Ohio and Alaska increased their employment levels by 0.1 percent. The three states below Ohio and Alaska — Wisconsin, Maine and Wyoming — had a drop in employment ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced 8,229 new entities filed to do business in Ohio in May, up from 7,687 the year before.StateImpact Ohio has an ongoing series about “value-added,” a state-sanctioned method of measuring teacher performance, here. The investigation has already raised questions about whether value-added is the “great equalizer” it was originally made out to be — or whether it largely benefits affluent school districts.The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency awarded $5,690 to the Cincinnati Nature Center for its teacher training program Nature in the Classroom. The grant will help continue the program’s goals of training first through eighth grade teachers about local natural history, how to implement a science-based nature curriculum and how to engage students in exploring and investigating nature. Controversial Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley yesterday was suspended from arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kings Island and Cedar Point were among the top 15 most visited amusement parks in the nation in 2012 — after the obvious hotspots in California and Florida. Meet NASA’s astronaut class of 2013. Google is launching balloon-based Internet in New Zealand. Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue. CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 

Ohio Senate Budget Keeps Conservative Issues at Forefront

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Ohio Senate Republicans unveiled a budget plan on May 28 that would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans.   
by German Lopez 05.30.2013
Posted In: News, Prisons, Budget, Tea Party at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
from the inside

Morning News and Stuff

Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget

Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA accountable. To read the full story, click here. A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state. The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code, potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes. If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to considerably less funding for the public institutions. City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters, but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs, increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway. Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.” A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion, while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans. The Ohio legislature is moving to take away the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development. A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital sex rules against women than men. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here. Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain. CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here. To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.29.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Budget Set to Pass with No Public Safety Layoffs

Final plan makes cuts elsewhere, raise taxes and fees

City Council approved a budget motion today that will avert all public safety layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget. But if the overall operating budget plan is approved by a majority of council tomorrow, many city services will be cut and property taxes and numerous fees will go up.The operating budget plan, which passed with an 8-1 vote, comes after months of city officials threatening to lay off cops and firefighters if the city did not approve a plan to lease Cincinnati's parking assets to the Port Authority, which city officials previously claimed was necessary to raise funds that would help balance the operating budget for two years and fund economic development projects. But the parking plan is currently being held up in court, and the public safety layoffs are being avoided anyway.Last week, council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach announced a budget motion that would avoid all fire layoffs and all but 25 police layoffs. The remaining 25 police layoffs are being undone through the budget motion approved today, which increases estimates for incoming revenues with $1 million that is supposed to be paid back to the city's tax increment financing fund.Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan did not sign onto the plan, articulating concerns that the budget maneuver will make the deficit worse in 2015 and fail to structurally balance the budget.Even with the motion, the overall operating budget plan would make cuts elsewhere and raise fees and property taxes. If the plan is approved, about 60 city employees are expected to lose their jobs in the next couple weeks.The cuts swept through most of the city government, hitting parks, the arts, human services, parades, administrative budgets and outside agencies, among many other areas.The operating budget portion of the property tax will also climb from 5.7 mills in 2014 to 6.1 mills in 2015, which comes out to an extra $34 for every $100,000 in property value. The latest property tax increase comes after City Council approved a hike in 2013, pushing the property tax from 4.6 mills in 2013 to 5.7 mills in 2014.The plan would also raise fees for several city services, including fire plan reviews and admission into the Krohn Conservatory.Multiple council members claimed the austerity was necessary because of the state government, which has cut local government funding by about 50 percent during Gov. John Kasich's time in office ("Enemy of the State," issue of March 20).Still, Lea Eriksen, the city's budget director, previously pointed out Cincinnati has not passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001.City Council will vote on the overall budget plan May 30. Council members Qualls, Seelbach, Pam Thomas, Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson are expected to vote in favor of the plan, giving it enough votes to pass City Council.
 
 

What's On the Books?

Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state

1 Comment · Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Today, a tea party-backed lawsuit based on the wording of a 1979 law has Kentuckians wondering what life would be like with a weakened public library system — or, worse, with no library at all.     

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