by German Lopez
55 days ago
State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics
Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked
tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run
in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The
Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the
stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new
law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was
put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers
upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County
Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight
felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court
documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s
already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long
Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be
replaced while the legal battle unfolds.Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and
the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point
to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate
low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of
supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local
officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps
through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that
voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a
broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted
in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say
would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking
feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at
EasternCorridor.org.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might
challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary,
discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the
right to sue in a local case that could have broader
implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight
between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could
resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.As local and state officials work to address the opiate
epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati
proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges
are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen
O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold
courts’ attempts at impartiality.Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
58 days ago
HDR study finds low economic development along intercity line
At first glance, it might seem like a rail line between
downtown Cincinnati and the city of Milford would earn support from the
same people who back the $132.8 million streetcar project, but streetcar
supporters, including advocacy group Cincinnatians for Progress, say
they oppose the idea and its execution.
Critics of the overall project, called the Eastern
Corridor, recently pointed to a November study from HDR. Despite flowery
language promising a maximized investment, HDR found seven of 10
stations on the $230-$322 million Oasis rail line would result in low economic
development, five of 10 stations would provide low access to buses and
bikes, and the intercity line would achieve only 3,440 daily riders
HDR’s findings for the Oasis line stand in sharp contrast
to its study of Cincinnati’s streetcar project. The firm found the streetcar line in Over-the-Rhine and downtown would generate major
economic development and a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years.
Given the poor results for the Oasis line, streetcar
supporters say local officials should ditch the Oasis concept and
instead pursue the 2002 MetroMoves plan and an expansion of the
streetcar system through a piecemeal approach that would create a central transit spine through the region.
“To have (the Oasis line) be our first commuter rail piece in
Cincinnati … just doesn’t make
sense to me,” says Derek Bauman, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress.MetroMoves spans across the entire city and region, with
the rail line along I-71 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky
International Airport to downtown Cincinnati to King’s Island fostering
particularly high interest.
Voters rejected the MetroMoves plan and the sales tax hike
it involved in 2002, but streetcar supporters say public opinion will
shift once the streetcar becomes reality in Cincinnati.
“That’s been proven in other cities, especially ones that
have not historically been transit-oriented,” Bauman says, pointing to
Houston and Miami as examples of cities that built spines that are now
being expanded.Opposition to the Oasis line is also more deeply rooted in a
general movement against the Eastern Corridor project. The unfunded
billion-dollar project involves a few parts: relocating Ohio 32 through
the East Side, the Oasis rail line and several road improvements from
Cincinnati to Milford.
Supporters of the Eastern Corridor claim it would ease
congestion, at least in the short term, and provide a cohesiveness in
transportation options that’s severely lacking in the East Side.
Opponents argue the few benefits, some of which both sides
agree are rooted in legitimate concerns, just aren’t worth the high
costs and various risks tied to the project.
“When it comes to widening roads and highways, it’s kind
of like loosening your belt at Thanksgiving. Somehow traffic always
fills to fit,” Bauman says. “Highway expansion, especially in urban
areas, is not the future. It’s not even the present in some areas.”
The big concern is that the relocation of Ohio 32 might do
to the East Side and eastern Hamilton County what I-75 did to the West Side, which was partly obliterated and divided by the massive freeway.
“It hurts the cohesiveness of our communities when you
create these big divides,” Bauman argues. “You would see that repeat
Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.This article was updated to use more up-to-date figures for the cost of the Oasis rail line.
by German Lopez
121 days ago
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
122 days ago
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
So far, Cincinnati’s mayoral and City Council elections are on track to experience the lowest voter turnout ever. CINCINNATI -2
by German Lopez
Conflicts of interest at JobsOhio, transportation projects approved, Ohio women fare poorly
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he will investigate
the potential conflicts of interest found by the Ohio Ethics Commission
for nine of 22 top JobsOhio officials, including six of nine board
members. For critics, the conflicts of interest add more concerns about JobsOhio, the
privatized development agency that proposes tax breaks for businesses
and has been mired in controversy ever since it was set up by Gov. John
Kasich and Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Because the agency is privatized and deals with private businesses, many
of its dealings are kept from the public under state law. Republicans
argue the secrecy is necessary to allow JobsOhio to more quickly
establish job-creating development deals, but Democrats say the secrecy
makes it too difficult to hold JobsOhio accountable.A state board approved nearly $3 billion in transportation projects
proposed by Kasich, including work on the MLK/I-75
Interchange in Cincinnati that city and state officials say will create
thousands of jobs in the region. The projects will require additional
state and local money to be fully funded over the next few years.
In comparison to men, Ohio women have lower incomes, hold
fewer leadership roles and disproportionately suffer from the state’s
high infant mortality rate. The issues placed Ohio at No. 30 out of 50 states for women’s issues
in a Sept. 25 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP). The report analyzed 36
indicators for women in the categories of economic security, leadership
and health; it then graded the states and ranked them based on the
grades. CAP, a left-leaning organization, is touting the report to
support progressive policies that could help lift women out of such
disparities, including the federally funded Medicaid expansion and an
increase to minimum wages.Commentary: “Ohio legislator worried a same-sex marriage case will turn the country socialist, make him cry.”
Mayoral candidate John Cranley, who’s running against fellow Democrat and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, says he doesn’t know if he can stop the parking plan if he’s elected.
Cranley explained it will only be possible if the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority doesn’t set up contracts and sell bonds for the deal
before the election. Under the parking plan, the city is leasing its
parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then
hire various private operators to manage the assets. Qualls supports the
plan because it will raise money and resources to fund development
projects and modernize the city’s parking services, but Cranley argues
it cedes too much control over the city’s parking assets.
It turns out Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye won’t be removed
from Ohio’s education guidelines. State Board of Education
President Debe Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican, initially called the
book “pornographic” and demanded its removal from the state guidelines,
which led the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to criticize Terhar and ask her to reconsider her comments.
With the latest delay, small businesses won’t be able to enroll online for Obamacare’s marketplaces until November. Until then, small businesses will
only be able to sign up by mail, fax or phone. The delay is the latest of a
few setbacks for Obamacare, but the rest of the federally run online marketplaces will still launch on Oct. 1 as planned. CityBeat covered statewide efforts to promote and obstruct the marketplaces in further detail here.Gov. Kasich is donating to charity more than $22,000 that he received in campaign contributions from an indicted man.
The city has begun work on a retail corridor that will start on Fourth Street and run north through Race Street. The corridor will take years to complete, but city officials say it will be different than previous failed plans.
The number of passengers whose trips originate at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has increased for six straight months, according to airport officials.
Data-analysis company Dunnhumby is looking to invest in Cincinnati startups.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center landed federal money to test vaccines. The contract could prove the largest the hospital has ever obtained, according to The Business Courier.
Police in the Netherlands use trained rats to catch criminals.
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.
Metro celebrates 40 years, looks ahead to new possibilities
1 Comment · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
As it commemorates its 40th anniversary,
Greater Cincinnati’s bus service is making changes it hopes will improve
a system that has dealt with funding shortfalls and service cuts in the
past few years.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
City Council June 26 approved funding and
accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing
the project to move forward.