by German Lopez
60 days ago
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
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
133 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:18 AM | Permalink
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
134 days ago
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
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
135 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:17 PM | Permalink
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
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.
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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.
Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state
0 Comments · 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.