0 Comments · Wednesday, August 14, 2013
City Council met on Aug. 7 for the first
time since June and passed a slew of development deals and projects
spanning six Cincinnati neighborhoods.
by German Lopez
CPS gets national attention, city might take Emery Theatre, SoMoLend accused of fraud
New York City mayoral candidates see Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) community learning centers as a model for their city’s schools.
The centers bring members of the community, including dental clinics,
mental health therapists and mentors from local banks and churches, to a school hub to
keep students engaged after traditional classroom hours end. But an
analysis from The New York Times also finds that progress has
been fairly modest, with some schools in the district still struggling
and graduation and attendance rates showing little sign of improvement.
Still, CPS officials argue the initiative has helped mitigate the
effects of poverty and hunger in the classroom. CityBeat covered CPS and its community learning centers back in October here.
The city of Cincinnati could take control of the Emery Theatre
following a legal dispute between the Requiem Project, a nonprofit
seeking to renovate the theater, and the University of Cincinnati, Emery
Center Apartments Limited Partnership and the Emery Center Corporation,
the group of leasers and owners trying to push Requiem out of the
building. Requiem stated in a letter Friday that it would approve of the
city taking over the building, a possibility currently being analyzed
by Cincinnati’s legal team. CityBeat first covered the Emery Theater situation in further detail here.
SoMoLend, the local startup and city partner that connects small businesses seeking loans and lenders, is being accused of fraud by the state of Ohio.
The charges could force the high-profile business to shut down; for the
time being, it’s not giving out any loans in the state. In December,
the city of Cincinnati teamed up with SoMoLend in a partnership that was meant to land local small businesses and startups much-needed loans through crowdfunding.
Ohio will spend $6.2 million this fiscal year to combat gambling addictions.
With casinos, racinos and gambling generally expanding in Ohio, the state government is directing more
money to county mental health and addiction boards to ensure problem
gamblers are treated.
The two officers who were on the clock when death row inmate Billy Slagle hung himself have been put on paid administrative leave
while the Ohio prisons department investigates what happened. Slagle
was convicted of murder and sentenced to death — a punishment the Ohio Parole Board and Gov. John Kasich upheld in July despite pleas from a county prosecutor — but he hung himself days
before he was supposed to be executed. CityBeat covered Slagle’s case in further detail here.
Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking Ohioans to be cautious of unsolicited phone calls offering medical alert devices.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino accidentally awarded two $1 million prizes
on Saturday night. It turns out the casino gave a $1 million check to
the wrong Kevin Lewis, so it decided to keep course with the original
check and give another $1 million to the Lewis the check was
originally intended for.
Cursive might get kicked from the classroom.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is directing federal prosecutors to minimize the use of mandatory minimum drug sentences.
The change will mostly benefit drug offenders with no ties to
large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels and no history of violence.
Ohio gas prices dropped this week and remain below the national average.
Actual headline: “Video shows thief stealing cigarettes.”
Check out Kings Island’s new roller coaster: Banshee.
Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN’s medical respondent, is now down with marijuana.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:55 AM | Permalink
Local startup accused of fraud by state
The city of Cincinnati is suspending its relationship with SoMoLend, the local startup that the city partnered with in December to connect small businesses and startups to $400,000 in loans.
The broken partnership comes in response to
accusations of fraud from the Ohio Division of Securities that have
forced SoMoLend to stop giving out loans in the state and could
lead to the business’s shutdown.
City spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat in an
email that although the city partnered with SoMoLend in December, it
has yet to give out any loans through the crowdfunding incubator.
The Ohio Division of Securities says SoMoLend failed to
gather the proper federal and state licenses for a peer-to-peer lending
business and falsely inflated its performance and financing figures.
SoMoLend gained local and national recognition for
supposedly helping foster startup and small businesses by linking them
to loans through crowdfunding — a particularly promising proposition
given the state of the economy and research from the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows startups are the best drivers for economic and job growth.
But with the extent of the charges, it’s questionable whether SoMoLend had any success to begin with.
Candace Klein, CEO of SoMoLend, told The Cincinnati Enquirer
on Sunday that the company is currently in talks
with the state. She stressed that the Ohio Division of Securities won’t
issue a final order against SoMoLend until after a hearing scheduled for
SoMoLend, which stands for Social Mobile Local Lending,
was founded in 2011. The business’s specialty is using crowdfunding
tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders. It then
packages the loans to sell them as notes and charges a fee or commission
for its services.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:20 AM | Permalink
Despite higher median income, county scores worse than various statewide averages
Hamilton County fares worse
than Ohio overall in a series of measurements for children’s
economic well-being, health, education and safety, according to a report released Aug. 7.
The 2013 “Ohio’s Kids Count” report
from the Children’s Defense Fund and Annie E. Casey Foundation finds
Hamilton County has a higher median income than Ohio does on average. But
the county fares worse than the state in various categories, including childhood poverty, fourth-grade
reading and math proficiency, felony convictions and the amount of
babies with low birth weights, an early sign of poor health.
One example: Hamilton County’s childhood poverty rate is
27.7 percent, while Ohio’s overall rate is 23.9 percent. If the county
brought the rate down to the state average, it would pull more than 3,000
local children out of poverty.
Hamilton County’s childhood poverty rate dropped from 28.5 percent to 27.7 percent between 2010 and 2011.
The report uses state data from between 2009 and 2011 to
look at various indicators for children under the age of 18. Some of the
data differs from findings from other groups, such as the National
Center for Children in Poverty, which found about 48 percent of
Cincinnati’s children are in poverty.
The report claims many of the measured indicators are
socially and economically linked, so it should come as little surprise
that Hamilton County is doing worse across the board. Still, it advises
local, state and federal officials to continue taking action to bring
down the troubling numbers.
In Cincinnati, City Hall has historically failed to meet its goals for human services funding, which in part helps homeless youth and other struggling children.
But local leaders, including city officials and business executives, have backed the Cincinnati Preschool Promise,
which aims to place more low- and middle-income Cincinnati children in
early education programs. Shiloh Turner, vice president for community
investment at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, today wrote in an email
to CityBeat that Preschool Promise backers are currently looking
at funding options and will iron out plans and partnerships through
meetings scheduled for the next three months.
The Kids Count report credits Ohio officials in particular
for approving a new voucher program that will subsidize preschool for
families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The
program is expected to reach 7,000 children in the state over the next
But the state has generally cut education funding
since Gov. John Kasich took office, leaving Cincinnati Public Schools
with $15 million less state funding than it received in 2009.
At the same time, the federal government is set to cut its food stamp program
in November, which progressive think tanks like the Center for Budget
and Policy Priorities argue will hurt low-income families in Ohio.
by German Lopez
Council OKs development deals, racial disparity study advances, no MSD compromise yet
City Council met yesterday for the first time since June and passed various development deals
that span six Cincinnati neighborhoods. The deals include a 15-year tax
abatement for the second phase of The Banks, which will produce 305
apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space; several other
apartment projects; new Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, a
small business and startup incubator; the redevelopment of Emanuel
Community Center; and a new homeless shelter for women in Mt. Auburn. The deals are expected to lead to 575 new apartments around the
city, which could help meet the high demand for new residential space
City Council also approved a motion
that asks the city administration to begin preparations for a disparity
study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting
policies to favor minority- and women-owned businesses. The motion asks
the administration to either use part of the upfront money from
leasing the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority or find an alternative source of funding. The
study is required because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, which
declared that governments must prove there’s racial or gender-based
disparity before changing policies to favor such groups. Since the city
disbanded its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999,
contract participation rates have plummeted for minority-owned
businesses and remained relatively flat for women-owned businesses.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials still have not reached a compromise
on several local hiring and bidding policies for the Metropolitan Sewer
District (MSD), which is owned by the county but run by the city. A
moratorium on the controversial city policies expired on Aug. 1,
prompting county commissioners to block an upcoming MSD project in a
vote Wednesday. Councilman Chris Seelbach told WVXU that those working on a compromise just need a little more time, but he’s confident they’ll
be able to reach an agreement. City Council passed hiring and bidding
rules in May this year and June 2012 that require MSD contractors to
meet certain job training requirements that council members say will
lead to more local jobs, but county commissioners argue the standards
are too strenuous and favor unions. CityBeat covered the dispute in further detail here.
State Reps. Connie Pillich and Denise Driehaus of
Cincinnati will hold a press conference today asking Gov. John Kasich to
launch an ethics investigation into JobsOhio, the privatized
development agency. State Democrats have been particularly critical of JobsOhio
since a Dayton Daily News report
found six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to
companies that have taken state aid from the development agency.
Republicans argue that JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature allows it
to expedite deals that bring businesses and jobs to the state, but
Democrats claim the set-up lacks transparency and fosters corruption.
Only one-third of Ohio school levies were approved in a special election Tuesday. Despite an increase in funding in the most recent two-year state budget, state funding to schools has been slashed since Gov. John Kasich took office.
The Charter Committee’s second round of endorsements for
this year’s City Council elections went to Democrats Greg Landsman and
David Mann and Republican Amy Murray. Previous endorsements went to Independents Kevin Flynn and Vanessa White and Democrat Yvette Simpson. The Charter Committee isn’t generally seen as a traditional political party, but it holds a lot of sway in local politics.
The Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino’s monthly revenue for July was higher than it was in June but lower than March. For local and state officials, the trend up is a welcome sign as they hope to tap into the casino for tax revenue.
Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s are facing a boycott for opposing legislation in Texas that would make it easier for women to sue over wage discrimination.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is finding a niche with smaller airlines like Ultimate Air.
An app dubbed “lockout insurance” lets users scan keys then 3-D print them.
by German Lopez
Mayor Mark Mallory praises day's work as "huge day of progress for Cincinnati"
City Council met today for the first time since June and passed several development deals and projects spanning six Cincinnati neighborhoods.The approved deals include a 15-year tax abatement for the second phase
of The Banks, which will produce 305 apartments and 21,000 square feet
of retail space; several other apartment projects; new Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, a small
business and startup incubator; the redevelopment of Emanuel Community Center; and a new
homeless shelter for women in Mt. Auburn.The projects are expected to lead to 575 new apartments around the city. That could prove particularly timely for downtown Cincinnati, which is currently struggling to meet high demand from a growing market of aspiring property renters, leasers and buyers."Today is a huge day of progress for Cincinnati," Mayor Mark Mallory
said in the statement. "The momentum has been building in our city for a
while. And now, developers and businesses are lining up to do projects
in the city because they see all of the progress and they want to be a
part of it. This is the vision — our success is leading to more
success."Among the other items, Council passed a motion asking the city administration to look into a disparity study and a resolution condemning a ballot initiative that would change the city's pension program by pushing future public employees into a less generous 401K-style plan.Today's meeting was Council's only full session for July and August, which is why the agenda was so packed. That's irked some council members and critics, who argue Council should be in session for more of the summer."Council has no shortage of issues to consider and challenges to address — this should NOT be our only Council meeting of the summer," tweeted Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld during today's meeting.Council is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 11.
by German Lopez
Proposal uses parking lease funds to measure disparity among contracted businesses
Cincinnati council members and community leaders today explained and defended plans to use the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.But before City Council unanimously passed the motion at today's meeting, it was amended to allow the city administration to find alternate sources of funding.Since the city dismantled its last minority- and
women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates for
minority-owned businesses have plummeted, while rates for women-owned
businesses have remained relatively flat.But because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, governments must conduct a study to prove there's a race- or gender-based disparity before policies can be adjusted to favor such groups.Cincinnati has not taken up a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time."This is an opportunity to respond to a complaint and
concern that has been around for as long as I can remember," Councilman
Wendell Young said.City officials claim they couldn't conduct another study until the administration finished implementing recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city's small business program.But the holdup has also been brought on by the study's cost, which city officials currently estimate between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere.Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, defended the cost by explaining a disparity study can potentially lead to economic development by lifting minority groups, who currently face unemployment rates higher than white Cincinnati residents. She said it's on the city to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, benefit from Cincinnati's economic growth.Other critics, particularly mayoral candidate John Cranley, have criticized the motion's suggestion for funding. The motion asks the city administration to fund the study with part of the upfront money that will come from leasing the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it does allow the city administration to find other funding options if possible.Cranley, who supports conducting a disparity study but opposes the parking lease, says the money should come from other, unnamed sources because parking funds are currently being held up while the city hashes out legal uncertainty surrounding the lease and the Port Authority works out contracts with private operators that will manage Cincinnati's parking assets.In response to those concerns, Qualls said that "money doesn't grow on trees" and Council has to make do with what it has.Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the parking lease, but he supports using parking funds for the disparity study. He says that, while he may have voted against the lease, the vote is done and the money is there.The amended motion was unanimously passed by City Council today. It asks the city administration to present a budget and timetable for the study at the Budget and Finance Committee's first October meeting.Updated at 3:18 p.m. with results of City Council meeting.
5 Comments · Wednesday, August 7, 2013
It’s impossible to separate what happened
in Washington Park on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 from the economic
revitalization Cincinnati has achieved in the past few years.
by German Lopez
Voting begins for mayoral primary, Cintrifuse to get OTR home, The Banks moves forward
Early voting for the mayoral primary election begins
today. The top two winners of this round of voting will go head-to-head in the
Nov. 5 election. The candidates: Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who supports the streetcar and parking lease; ex-Councilman John Cranley, a Democrat who opposes the streetcar and parking lease; Jim Berns, the Libertarian who attempted to withdraw from the race but changed his mind a day later; and Sandra “Queen” Noble, an eccentric Independent candidate who sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers.
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved the construction of Over-the-Rhine headquarters
for Cintrifuse, the startup incubator. The company has been working
from a temporary location downtown, but it claims it needs a better space
to continue attracting businesses, particularly those in the tech
field. Cintrifuse will be joined in its new home by CincyTech and the
Brandery. Although all council members voiced support for Cintrifuse,
Councilman Chris Seelbach disputed using Focus 52 funds to build the new
headquarters. The city administration previously told Seelbach that the
Focus 52 money wouldn’t be used to further develop Over-the-Rhine,
which has received a disproportionate amount of city funding to spur the
The committee also approved changes for the next phase of The Banks,
which will include retail space and a nine-story apartment building with about 305
apartments. The first phase of The Banks filled
up fast and won a top award
— two big positives the city and county obviously hope to replicate with the next leg of the project.
It’s now up to the development team behind
the project and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to approve the next phase.
Council members and city officials voiced opposition yesterday to a tea party campaign to change Cincinnati’s pension system.
Council members acknowledged the current pension system has problems, but they
called the campaign, which is currently gathering petitions to get a proposal
on the November ballot, misguided and flawed. The proposal would change
the city’s pension system to use a defined contribution model similar to
401k plans that are common in the private sector. But just like private
sector plans, the new system might require paying into Social Security, which would
make the plan more expensive for Cincinnati.
Ohio House Republicans are being asked to hold oversight hearings
for JobsOhio, the state-funded, privatized development agency that has
been mired in controversy in the past few weeks. Most recently, Dayton Daily News
discovered that some members of the JobsOhio board are employed by, on
the board of or stockholders in companies that are receiving state aid
through JobsOhio. Republicans say JobsOhio’s privatized and secretive
nature allow it to move faster with deals that attract businesses and
jobs to the state, but Democrats argue the agency is too unaccountable
and might be wasting and misusing taxpayer money.
Billy Slagle, the convicted murderer who apparently hung himself over the weekend, died without knowing of a plea deal that could have prevented his scheduled execution. CityBeat wrote about Slagle’s case in further detail here.
The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is upset that charges have been dropped against an allegedly abusive Amish dog breeder.
The group had pushed for charges against Jonas Beachy, the breeder,
after 52 dogs were pulled from his central Ohio farm with dental disease, feces-smeared coats and paws mangled by wire mesh
cages. Circleville Law Director Gary Kenworthy conditionally dismissed
the charges because of problems securing veterinarian records for the
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS)
announced in a statement today that the Ohio Human Trafficking Task
Force, the Ohio Department of Public Safety and ODJFS will be working
with the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers to help minors who
are victims of human trafficking. The new collaboration is seen as
another step to stop human trafficking in Ohio, an issue that has haunted the state in the past.
Metro’s bus service is adding routes and changing connections on Aug. 18.
BuzzFeed has a list of “31 Ways To Tell You’re From Cincinnati,” but the list reads like something from 2001. Who’s avoiding Over-the-Rhine with all its new restaurants and after LumenoCity?
Popular Science has a rundown on how 3-D printing body parts will revolutionize medicine.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:50 PM | Permalink
Food stamp program losing temporary funding boost
With a temporary boost to the federal food stamp program
coming to an end this November, more than 1.8 million Ohioans — 16 percent of the state’s population — will receive significantly less food aid, according to an Aug. 2
report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
The report calculates that the cut is the equivalent to
taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four. After the cut,
the food stamp program will provide each person with less than $1.40 per meal,
according to CBPP’s calculations.
Citing research from the USDA that shows many low-income
families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, CBPP says
the cuts will hit families that arguably need more, not less, help:
“Given this research and the growing awareness of the inadequacy of the
current SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit
allotments, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefit
levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor
households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.”
Although the federal food stamp program has been cut
before, it’s never been cut to this extent, according to CBPP. “There
have been some cuts in specific states, but these cuts have not
typically been as large or affected as many people as what will occur
this November,” the report reads.
The reductions could also have a broader economic impact:
Every $1 increase in food aid generates about $1.70 in economic
activity, according to progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
“Ohio’s foodbanks and hunger charities cannot respond to
increasing hunger on their own,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive
director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in a statement released
by Policy Matters. “SNAP takes Ohioans out of our food pantry lines and
puts them into grocery store checkout lines. It provides supplemental
food to the most vulnerable among us. Now is not the time to further
reduce this already modest assistance to struggling families.”
About 48 percent of Cincinnati children are in poverty, according to a 2011 study from the National Center for Children in Poverty. Despite that, city funding to human services that benefits low-income families has been cut throughout the past decade. CityBeat covered that issue in greater detail here.
The cut to the federal food stamp program kicks in
automatically in November instead of the original April 2014 sunset date
as a result of laws passed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and
Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats are now urging legislation
that would remedy the situation, but it’s unlikely anything will pass
the gridlocked Congress.
Republicans are preparing a bill that would further cut
the food stamp program, which they see as too generous and expensive.
From Fox News:
“Reps. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, two
Republicans who helped design the bill, said the legislation would find
the savings by tightening eligibility standards and imposing new work
requirements. It would also likely try to reduce the rolls by requiring
drug testing and barring convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles
from receiving food stamps.”