by Nick Swartsell
140 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:46 AM | Permalink
Court upholds Ohio same-sex marriage ban; McConnell says likely no tolls for Brent Spence; this 100-year-old transit map is crazy
Hey all. Here’s what’s going on around the city and beyond this morning.The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled yesterday to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee. You can read more right here about that ruling, and whether it means a Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage.• Freshly reelected Sen. Mitch McConnell has weighed in again on the Brent Spence Bridge dilemma. The bridge, which is 50 years old and functionally obsolete, though still structurally sound, will need replacing. That comes with a hefty $2 billion price tag, however, which neither Kentucky nor the federal government seems eager to pay for. One solution proposed has been a toll road over the bridge, but that idea has met with stiff opposition from a cadre of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati-area politicians, business leaders and others. McConnell said yesterday that opposition isn’t likely to fade anytime soon, but that there may be a possible solution… corporate tax breaks. He sees the potential for more highway funds that could be used for projects like the bridge through a corporate tax fix that he says could lure more companies back to the U.S.• McConnell’s fellow Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul dreamed up that highway funds proposal, and McConnell says he’s “intrigued.” There’s another news item here entirely, and one perhaps more interesting on the national stage. McConnell and Paul, who have had some cold relations in the past, have been pretty warm to each other lately, and McConnell has signaled he’d be supportive of a Paul presidential bid in 2016.• A bill to simplify Ohio’s tax system may also cost the state’s municipalities a ton of cash. The potential law would change the way businesses like construction companies are taxed, possibly cutting into municipal tax receipts. Mayor John Cranley, along with other regional political leaders, are fighting the bill, and may try to introduce a statewide ballot initiative should the bill pass in the Ohio Statehouse. • Kentucky’s Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson is on his way out of the state, heading for the White House. He’ll be a deputy assistant to President Obama, helping the prez and the federal executive branch coordinate with other governmental bodies, including state, county, city and tribal governments. Given the huge ideological divide between supporters of local and federal power, that sounds like a really, really fun job.• A small group of protesters have gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today to draw attention to what they say is a serious problem: drug overdoses in area jails and prisons. Many attendees are members of anti-heroin groups who have had family members of friends die of overdoses. They’re questioning how the drug is able to make its way to people behind bars. The region is suffering from a severe heroin crisis, with overdose deaths increasing significantly in the past few years.• So, now that Republicans control the Senate, will the new top Senator on science be Texas' Ted Cruz, a noted climate-change denier? Could happen. Cruz looks to be next in line for chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space. Republican Sen. James Inhofe, another doubter when it comes to climate change science, looks likely to chair the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which is also going to be a big change-up.• Finally in our truncated Friday edition of morning news, I have a confession: There are many things in this world I’m a huge dork about, but history, maps and public transit are all near the top. That said, I just want you to take a look at this amazing, 100-year-old 3-dimensional transit ridership map from Germany. Dang man.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:35 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati-Chicago high speed rail gets more boosters; VLT auction under investigation; Kasich says part of the ACA helped people... but we should repeal the ACA
Good morning y’all! Here’s a quicker than usual rundown of the day’s news before I jet for an interview. There is yet another version of the Union Terminal restoration deal being passed around. The deal, which Hamilton County Commissioners are expected to vote on soon, doesn’t make many changes to the sales tax hike on the November ballot, but would hold the Cincinnati Museum Center responsible for any cost overruns the project might incur while allowing its leaders to seek financing for the project. Voters will still have to approve the .25 percent sales tax increase before that deal would go into effect.• VLT Academy might be gone, but there’s at least one more bit of turbulence related to the troubled former charter school. VLT closed in August after losing its sponsoring organization, required by Ohio law, and falling behind on its rent. It seems computers sold at an auction to pay off the school’s debts may not have been scrubbed of private personal information. The Ohio Department of Education says it has launched an investigation to make sure that information was erased properly and didn’t fall into the wrong hands.• The push for a high-speed rail route between Chicago and Cincinnati has gained more supporters. The mayor and city manager of Hamilton recently sent a letter to OKI, the region’s planning office asking for the office to fund a feasibility study for the potential project. They join Hamilton County Commissioners, who voted in September to request that study. The rail line could have big economic benefits, but would also be a huge, long-term undertaking. • Speaking of transit, you can tell the Ohio Department of Transportation what you’d like to see in the future at a public discussion from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Oct. 31. Yes, that’s in the middle of a workday. It’s also in Lebanon for some reason, which you can’t really get to by public transit. That has some people kind of miffed. The meeting is for the entire Southwestern Ohio region, ODOT says, and that’s why it has to be held in a central location. Come on, guys, you couldn’t have two meetings in Dayton and Cincinnati on a couple Saturdays? I’ll bring the donuts and coffee. Anyway, the event is part of a statewide outreach effort by ODOT to get input about transit options in the state. Meetings have also been conducted in Columbus, Cleveland, Athens and Findlay.• An Ohio man arrested in North Korea in May finally returned home today. Officials in the isolated country detained Jeffery Fowle after leaving a bible in a nightclub there. He was held until recently on charges of Christian evangelism, a crime in North Korea. His release might have been hastened by repeated appeals by President Obama to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. • We’ve reported a bit about Common Core in the past. Controversy continues over the new federal academic standards, and the fight is coming to the state board of education elections. Seven candidates are running for election to the 19 member board, and several of them have made repealing the standards a key point in their campaigns. Mary Prichard, who is running to represent Butler, Preble, Montgomery and Miami Counties on the board, has made the issue the centerpiece of her candidacy. She calls the standards “a government takeover.” Zac Haines, running to represent Hamilton and Warren Counties, has promised to work to repeal them in the state. His opponent, Pat Bruns of Price Hill, supports the standards. Ohio is one of 40 states to implement Common Core.• Wait. Did Gov. John Kasich really say that? He did, and he didn’t. The Associated Press reports that in a speech Monday, Kasich said a repeal of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is “not gonna happen.” Then Kasich, either backtracking or clarifying, ran them down and asked the AP to make a correction. He was only referring to the Medicaid expansion of the ACA, he said. That’s been a controversial issue all its own, with many conservative governors refusing to take the federal dollars to increase eligibility for residents of their states. Kasich did take the money, though, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Ohioans get medical coverage. Kasich’s correction is a bit of a small distinction, since most conservatives roll the ACA up in one big, evil ball. Rejecting the Medicaid expansion has been something of a litmus test for conservative governors. But Kasich has not only taken it, he’s praised the program. Opposition to expanding Medicaid, which governors like Texas’ Rick Perry have worn like a badge of honor, “was really either political or ideological," Kasich said in the same speech. "I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood and real improvements in people's lives.” That alone is a noteworthy thing for a conservative governor to say. But have no fear, Kasich still hates the program, saying in his clarification that it “can and should be repealed.” Wait, even the part you said helps people?
by German Lopez
Streetcar fight continues, state evaluating transit services, parking plan moving ahead
A small group of Over-the-Rhine homeowners is preparing for a possible lawsuit and other actions
should Mayor-elect John Cranley try to cancel the $133 million
streetcar project. Ryan Messer says the fight is about protecting his
family’s investment along the streetcar route. Streetcar supporters plan
to host a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to discuss
possible actions to keep the project on track, including a referendum
effort on any legislation that halts construction of the ongoing
project. While Cranley says canceling the streetcar is at the top of the agenda, questions remain about how much it would cost to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here and here.
As Cincinnati debates canceling the streetcar project, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is evaluating transit systems around the state
to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness. The agency is
particularly focused on how different transit services are dealing with
rising demand and shrinking budgets. But if that’s the case, ODOT might
carry some of the blame: When Gov. John Kasich took office, ODOT’s
Transportation Review Advisory Council pulled $52 million from the
Cincinnati streetcar project despite previously scoring the streetcar
the highest among Ohio’s transportation projects. The Kasich
administration also refused $400 million in federal funding for a
statewide passenger light rail system, and the money ended up going to
California and other states that took on light rail projects.
Cranley’s other major campaign promise is to stop the
city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, but the Port intends to finalize the lease by the end of the month — before Cranley takes office in December — by selling bonds that will finance the deal. The outgoing city administration pushed the parking plan through City Council in a matter of months for an upfront payment of $92 million. But following unsuccessful litigation and a due diligence process, the Port Authority cut the payment to $85 million,
and the city is now responsible for paying $14-$15 million to build a
new parking garage that the Port was originally supposed to finance
under the deal. Cranley and other opponents of the parking plan say it
gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets, while
supporters argue it’s necessary to modernize the assets and help fund
economic development projects.
Several of Cincinnati’s power brokers and building owners are working on a plan
that would create a retail corridor in the city’s center and hopefully
keep Saks Fifth Avenue in the city. Some of the efforts apparently
involve financial incentives from the city, according to details
provided to the Business Courier.
In the past decade, Ohio students have shown limited improvement in reading and math scores.The Cincinnati area could become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic following new regulations imposed by the state budget signed into law in June by Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature. CityBeat covered the regulations and the rest of the state budget in further detail here.
The Hamilton County Association of Chiefs of Police released a report outlining stricter guidelines for Taser use.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who has led lawsuits on behalf of families
who lost loved ones after they were Tased, told WVXU he’s encouraged by
the report, but he said he would also require annual tests of the
devices and a ban on chest shots.
The Cincinnati branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is filing a federal complaint
against the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., after DHL
allegedly fired 24 of its employees on Oct. 9 in a dispute over prayer
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino reported $18.2 million in gross revenue in October, down from $19.8 million in September.
The revenue reduction also cost Cincinnati’s casino the No. 1 spot,
which is now held by Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. For Cincinnati and
Ohio, the drop means lower tax revenue.
The Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center plans to close its physical space,
but it’s sticking around as a virtual organization and will continue
hosting Pride Night at Kings Island. A letter from the center’s board of
directors stated that the transition was based on a need to “evolve
with the times.”
The U.S. Senate passed a bill
that would ban discrimination against gay and transgendered workers,
but the bill’s chances are grim in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman —
voted in favor of the Senate bill. CityBeat previously covered efforts in Ohio to pass workplace protections for LGBT individuals here.
Watch a homeless veteran’s aesthetic transformation, which apparently helped push his life forward:
The popular video of a baby’s reaction to his singing mom might actually show conflicting feelings of fear and sociality, not sentimentality.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Study looks at rising demand and shrinking budgets
While Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project remains in limbo,
the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is taking a deep look at
the state’s existing transit systems to encourage more efficiency and cost
Specifically, ODOT says the “Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study” is
necessary to evaluate the performance of different transit systems around the state as
demand grows and budgets shrink.
“Travel trends show that there is a definite rise in the
need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical
appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Our transit agencies
are struggling to fund this existing service, let alone meet the
increased demand,” ODOT’s website states.
Starting the last week of October, ODOT began sending out
rider surveys to people who use transit services to collect
their thoughts on current services and input on possible improvements. The surveys are being conducted with the help of 61
transit agencies around Ohio, and ODOT expects to complete them in
“The rider survey is just the first step of our public
outreach and technical effort,” said Marianne Freed, administrator of
ODOT’s Office of Transit, in a statement. “Our goal is to evaluate the
unique transportation needs for communities statewide, whether it’s a
large city or a rural county.”
The ultimate goal, according to ODOT, is “to develop a
long-term strategy to determine how to best stretch limited dollars
while meeting the demands of Ohio’s riders today and in the future.”
ODOT will release the study’s findings at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov.
If ODOT does find inadequate budgets for rising demand, the agency also might find itself partly culpable.It was ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council
that pulled $52 million in federal funding from the streetcar
project once Gov. John Kasich came into office, even though the project
previously received the highest score among transportation
projects in the state. The massive cut forced local officials to scale
back the original streetcar line and seek other federal funds.
Kasich also declined $400 million in federal funds for the
3C passenger rail line, which would have connected Cincinnati, Dayton,
Columbus and Cleveland. The federal funds ended up going to California
and other states that embraced light rail, The Plain Dealer previously reported.
ODOT’s study also arrives as Cincinnati debates its own transit needs. On Tuesday, the city elected a mayor and City
Council majority that opposes to the ongoing streetcar project.
If the streetcar project is canceled, it wouldn’t be the
first time Cincinnati gave up on a new transit system in the middle of
construction. The city also pulled out of building a subway system in
the 1920s. The defunct subway tunnels now serve as a tourist attraction.
The subway failure and political threats to the streetcar
project are two of the reasons Urbanophile, a national urbanist blog,
described Cincinnati’s culture as “one of smug self-regard and
self-sabotage” in a blog post on Thursday.At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor-elect John Cranley denied that Cincinnati holds an anti-transit mentality. Cranley pointed out that local voters in the 1970s decided to increase their earnings tax to support the Metro bus system. He says it comes down to weighing the costs and benefits.
by German Lopez
Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media
As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward
with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding
shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is
Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free
through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step
toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited
stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly
federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost
hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal
grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and
cutting some routes.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation
capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and
scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major
moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the
changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their
electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22
percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of
Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from
Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to “alternative sources.”)
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat,
for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him
over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have
similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking
plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response,
Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The
stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has
included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in,
the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re
marijuana and lots of free ice cream.
Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”
Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”:
Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the
lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really
favor downtown over neighborhoods.
Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel
if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned
space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block
complex with 305 apartments.
State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase
in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous
spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for
people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places
people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”
Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday
announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical
housing and clinical services for homeless veterans. The grants are
part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative
called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside
local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor
John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin
Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.
Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.
Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.
Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 7, 2013
In its two years in existence, the Contemporary Arts Center’s performance season — curated by Drew Klein — has grown in importance, if not become equal in interest to the museum’s exhibition season. Now, Klein has announced the third season.
2 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I’ve been a longtime supporter of the
streetcar project, but I have to admit I’m a bit worried after finding
out the streetcar might be delayed once again because construction bids
for the project were way over budget.
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Metro is nearing completion of its first
comprehensive plan since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Throughout the
year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company has worked on Way to Go,
a plan with short-term and long-term goals meant to revamp lines for
faster, wider-ranging travel.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:52 AM | Permalink
Transit company calls for public feedback
Metro is nearing completion of its new comprehensive transit plan.
Throughout the year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company
has worked on Way to Go, a plan with short-term and long-term goals
meant to revamp lines for faster, wider-ranging travel.
The plan, which is the first comprehensive plan since the
late 1990s and early 2000s, has a short-term part and a long-term
portion. Both parts came together with a lot of community feedback gathered through on-board surveys, stop-by-stop
analyses, online surveys, special event surveys and public meetings.
Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for Metro, says the plan has a
lot of little changes to stops and lines, but she
emphasized some key parts. In the short term, the plan will establish
more crosstown connections, which will bring together
different parts of Cincinnati so traveling requires fewer downtown transfers.
Metro will also make a few changes to improve frequency of travel in major
corridors like Montgomery Road, Reading Road and Vine Street, while
shortening travel times all around.
For the short term, “We don’t have a lot of big changes,”
Hilvers says. “No routes are going away. There’s no fare increase
associated with this. It’s simply reallocating the resources.”
The long-term plan has bigger, more expansive changes. The
biggest part is probably the bus rapid transit system (BRT), which will
allow quicker travel in major corridors by using traffic signal
priority, fewer stops and special bus lanes. Stops will be getting a
makeover in some areas to be more comfortable for
passengers waiting for transfers. There will also be changes to improve
service at current stops, add more crosstown routes and add more routes
that go beyond downtown and into dense areas with lots of jobs. The long-term plan is currently unfunded, but public
opinion will help establish and reshape priorities before any money is
Hilvers says Metro will be doing a “demonstration project”
for BRT next year. In the demo, buses will “dart across” the
Montgomery Road corridor, Xavier University, the University of
Cincinnati and downtown. The plan will help gauge the popularity of the
idea, says Hilvers: “It gives us a test to see how people like this. If
they really like the concept, then we can maybe go for federal funding,
etc. to go for the full-blown BRT in the future.”
“You just have to have a vision of where you’re going,”
Hilvers says. “This is our vision of where we’re going. We have to know
from the community what it wants to ultimately support.”
Metro is still taking public feedback for the Way to Go until the end of the year.
More information on the plan and how to provide feedback can be found at
by Hannah McCartney
Potential taxi reform touted as response to city growth, development
Anyone who's ever tried to hail a cab in Cincinnati knows it's nothing like the experience you imagine in a big city — stepping out confidently onto the street and gracefully waving your arm isn't usually enough to garner the attention or interest of cab drivers around here. In fact, hailing a cab in the city was illegal until last spring, when City Council lifted the ban.In line with the city's efforts to improve urban infrastructure and bolster methods of transportation, City Council today will vote on a proposal brought forth by Councilman Wendell Young, which would raise taxicab fares in an effort to improve taxi transportation standards across the city.According to Young, the reform is a necessary measure to handle the growth and development in Cincinnati. "I want to be sure that the first and the last impression of our city
that these visitors have, which is often a cab ride, be a first-rate
experience. Our taxi industry needs reform, and this event helped spark
an urgency and an energy to get the work done," said Young in a news release last fall, according to the Business Courier. If approved, the taxi reform would create additional taxi stands in areas with the greatest demand, including Over-the-Rhine, the Banks, University of Cincinnati, Mt. Lookout, Hyde Park Square and Oakley Square. Business standards would also be put into place, including mandating training for all taxi drivers, creating a "Bill of Rights and Expectations" for drivers and customers, standardizing signage and expanding an already-existing taxi hotline. Fees would also increase significantly — the plan would implement a 40-cent jump in rates per mile, up to $2 per mile from $1.60. The initial "drop" fee would also change from $3.40 to $4. City Council will vote on the reform tonight. If it's approved, the changes would take effect July 1, just three days before the beginning the World Choir Games, which is expected to bring an influx of thousands of international visitors. Want to see how Cincinnati's proposed fares stack up? A look at cab fares in a few other cities around the country: New York City : $2.50 upon entry, plus $0.40 for each 1/5 mile, plus several applicable surcharges Chicago : $2.25 upon entry (first 1/9 mile), plus $0.20 for each 1/9 mile, plus applicable surcharges Los Angeles: $2.85 upon entry (first 1/9 mile) plus $0.30 for each 1/9 mile, plus applicable surcharges. Portland : $2.50 upon entry, $2.50 per additional mile, plus applicable surcharges Atlanta: $2.50 upon entry, $2 per additional mile * Keep in mind it's customary everywhere to tip your cab driver 15 to 20 percent.