by German Lopez
33 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
34 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
75 days ago
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
111 days ago
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
City Council on June 24 approved
increased funding along with additional accountability measures that
will close a $17.4 million budget gap and keep the streetcar project on
by German Lopez
Parking lease signed, council discusses highway project, Medicaid bills introduced in House
City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement Monday to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority, but the mayor and City Council may still make changes
to the controversial parking plan before it’s implemented. In the past
week, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s
ruling, made the parking plan insusceptible to a referendum and refused
to delay enforcement on the ruling, which allowed the city manager to
sign the lease within days. Still, the city won’t spend the $92 million
lump sum from the lease until there is legal certainty, meaning until
appeals from opponents are exhausted. (Correction: The city
signed the lease Monday, not Tuesday as originally reported in the story.
The city made the announcement Tuesday, which caused confusion and
City Council is discussing whether it needs to set funds for the I-71/MLK Interchange project. The state is asking the city to contribute $20 million, but
some council members are questioning whether the state would pursue the
project without city support. The city administration says the state is insisting on the city’s participation. City Council originally planned
to use funds from the parking lease to pick up the city’s share of the
tab for the project, which officials estimate will produce thousands of
jobs in the region.
After introducing two competing Medicaid bills in the Ohio House, leaders said they’re unlikely to vote on the bipartisan measures before the General Assembly’s summer recess. One of the bills would create a
Medicaid oversight committee and instruct the state Medicaid director to
find cost savings without cutting benefits. The other bill would take
up the federally funded Medicaid expansion while taking measures to diminish access to
narcotics through the health care system and encourage cost sharing and
private sector plans among Medicaid recipients. Gov. John Kasich is
still pushing the General Assembly to pass the Medicaid
expansion, whether it’s through the budget, these bills or other means.
Ohio will end the current budget year with an unused surplus of $397 million,
according to the state budget director. Kasich says the money should go
toward tax cuts. The Ohio House and Senate are currently discussing
merging their tax plans in the 2014-2015 budget, which could mean taking up smaller versions of the House’s 7-percent across-the-board income
tax cut and the Senate’s 50-percent income tax reduction for business
owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income.
Sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, will cost Ohio $284 million
in fiscal year 2013, according to a Policy Matters Ohio report. For the
state, that means slower economic growth, furloughed defense
workers, cuts to county funds for social services, public health service
reductions and further downsizing of the Head Start program, which supports
preschool. CityBeat covered the early impact of sequestration in Ohio here.
The American Medical Association will soon decide if obesity is a disease.
The U.S. House passed an anti-abortion bill that would restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks since conception. The bill is unlikely to move past the House.
Landlords are less likely to respond to rental inquiries from gay couples.
The Congressional Budget Office says immigration reform would save money and boost economic growth.
Researchers have apparently mastered the art of the bat and can now “hear” the size of a room.
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.