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.
by German Lopez
Mandel may have broken campaign law, Medicaid overhaul coming, endorsements roll out
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel was involved in two car crashes and reported neither,
and one of the crashes may have violated federal campaign
finance law. During a March accident, Mandel, a Republican, was riding
in a vehicle owned by his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign months after he
lost to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Federal law states Senate
campaign property can't be used for personal use or to campaign for a
different office, such as state treasurer. Mandel’s state treasurer
campaign says it rented out the car from the Senate campaign, but The
Associated Press found the check didn’t clear out until June 30 — seven
months after the Senate campaign and four months after the crash — and
the rent wasn’t fully paid for until reporters started asking questions.
Republican state legislators are drafting a bill that would overhaul Ohio’s Medicaid program. The legislation isn’t the Medicaid expansion,
which Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder now says isn’t a good idea.
Instead, the upcoming bill would make changes to attempt to control Medicaid’s rising costs, which
have put an increasing strain on the state budget in the past few years. Batchelder
says the bill will be introduced in the fall and likely voted out of the
House by the end of the year.
Mayoral candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are rolling out their latest endorsements.
Yesterday, State Rep. Alicia Reece said she’s backing Cranley. On
Friday, Qualls touted support from Equality Ohio, the Miami Group of the
Sierra Club, the National Organization of Women Cincinnati, Plumbers
and Pipefitters Local 392 and the Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District
Council of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers. Endorsements rarely influence the outcome of elections.
The Ohio Parole Board rejected a killer’s plea for mercy.
Harry Mitts Jr. is scheduled to die by injection on Sept. 25 for
killing two men, including a police officer, at an apartment. Court
records claim Mitts uttered racial slurs before killing his first
victim, who was black. Mitts’ defense says he was blacked out from
alcohol the night of the slayings and didn’t know what he was doing.
With the board’s rejection, Mitts’ fate is now up to Gov. John Kasich,
who could commute the sentence to life in prison.
Susan Castellini, wife of the Cincinnati Reds CEO, will join the Cincinnati Parks Board after being appointed earlier in August by Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council.
Hospice of Cincinnati obtained a $2.3 million grant from
from Bethesda Inc. and Catholic Health Initiatives to launch an
initiative that will encourage doctors, terminally ill patients and their families to discuss end-of-life planning.
Three former employees are suing Cincinnati-based Jeff Ruby eateries for allegedly taking tips from staff, which supposedly caused employees to earn less than minimum wage.
Between Sept. 19 and Sept. 30, Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino will become the first venue in Ohio to host a World Series of Poker circuit event.
Popular Science claims it met the world’s smartest dog.
by German Lopez
Jim Berns blames local media for his campaign’s failure
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns today pronounced his campaign dead and claimed local media, including CityBeat, is to blame.
“From day one, the Cincinnati Print Media (especially the
Enquirer) have thrown Libertarian candidate for mayor, Jim Berns, under
the bus,” Berns wrote in an email, listing Carl Weiser, Jane
Prendergast, Ryan Hoffman and Ben Goldschmidt of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Howard Wilkinson of WVXU, German Lopez of CityBeat and Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier as the main culprits.
In the email, Berns complains that the two frontrunners in the
mayoral race — Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley — have nearly
identical records. Those candidates’ biggest points of disagreement are
the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes.
The email claims the media should call Berns “courageous, innovative, a real choice” instead of a “perennial
Berns then attached this picture:The latest stunt is just one of many that have been part of Berns’ campaign.
On July 31, Berns declared he was quitting the mayoral race
in protest of the city’s primary system, which Berns says favors Qualls
and Cranley. A day later, he changed his mind and said he’s back in.
On June 4, Berns, who supports marijuana legalization, said he was going to hand out free marijuana plants at a campaign event. The gifts turned out to be tomato plants, not marijuana.
In general, the Libertarian’s campaign has focused a lot
on giving stuff away. His campaign card proudly touts his intent to give
out free ice cream, which he has repeatedly done at events.As a Libertarian, Berns supports lower taxes and smaller government and opposes drug prohibition. He was endorsed by the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST).
Cincinnati is generally considered a Democratic stronghold, which has kept Berns’ chances of winning the mayoral race very low. The city hasn’t had a non-Democratic mayor since Charterite Arnold
Bortz left office in 1984. Back then, the local Democratic Party and the Charter
Committee were working together through a coalition.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls on Aug. 19
unveiled a motion that calls for the first expansion of local disclosure
and reporting requirements since 1997.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Cincinnati mayoral candidate and ex-Councilman John Cranley
on Aug. 15 announced his two-part innovation plan.
by German Lopez
City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll
City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group
that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the
city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp
wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed
to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms
and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay
leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have
been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion
calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting
requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials,
lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post
the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a
statement that the update is particularly timely because the
Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2
billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably
involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses
New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now
stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents
still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t
sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is
affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the
2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.
Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley
that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The
trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar
to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major
garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton
County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval,
it could get federal funding.
Investors are upset with SoMoLend,
the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state
investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that
the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the
state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati
announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.
Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.
The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.
Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants
permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break
state and federal laws.
Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill
currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has
been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was
acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old
Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law,
which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal
defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.
Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.
Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
by German Lopez
P.G. Sittenfeld, Mike Moroski renewing drives
Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and City Council
candidate Mike Moroski are both facing issues that could keep them off
the ballot this November, but both candidates are renewing their
petition drives to correct the issues before it’s too late.
Council candidates must file 500 valid petition signatures
to the Hamilton County Board of Elections by Aug. 22 to get on the ballot, but two different
circumstances are putting those prospects in doubt for Moroski and
In Moroski’s case, he fell 46 signatures short of the 500
needed. Because the petitions were already filed, he now has to regather
all of the necessary signatures and file them to the Board of
Moroski told CityBeat that he’s already collected
more than 200 signatures in the past 24 hours and intends to turn in a batch of 800 to 900 before the filing deadline.
“We’re determined to get on the ballot, and we’re determined to win,” he says.
For Sittenfeld, the circumstances are a little more
technical: Because dates were crossed out on various petitions and
corrected on the back of the forms, the board isn’t sure whether the
rules allow them to accept the signatures. If the petitions aren’t
accepted, Sittenfeld would fall under the 500-signature threshold, even
though more than 700 valid signatures were confirmed, according to
To avoid the problems entirely, Sittenfeld is now regathering the necessary signatures.
“The four board members of the (Board of Elections) will
make the final decision on the validity of my petitions and I hope and
believe it is unlikely that they will invalidate my signatures,”
Sittenfeld said in an emailed statement to supporters. “However, I am
leaving nothing to chance and am determined to continue serving the
citizens of our community.”
Both candidates are asking supporters who signed the old
petitions to come back to them and sign the new ones. If not, they might
not appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the 2013 mayoral race by roughly $124,000, but the fundraising lead might have little electoral impact.
by German Lopez
Council to fund disparity study, pension reform signatures turned in, Goetz House might fall
Six out of nine City Council members signed a motion to use money from the city’s parking lease
to conduct a disparity study that would gauge whether minority- and
women-owned businesses should be favorably targeted by the city’s
contracting policies. Democrats Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Wendell
Young, Chris Seelbach, Pam Thomas and P.G. Sittenfeld signed the motion.
The study, which could cost between $500,000 and $1 million, is
required to change city contracting policies after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that governments must
prove there is a racial or gender-based disparity before changing rules to favor any specific race or gender. CityBeat first covered a disparity study in further detail here. Council members will hold a press conference about the issue at noon today.
Petitioners pushing to reform Cincinnati’s public retirement system with a controversial city charter amendment turned in almost 16,000 signatures to City Hall yesterday.
Of those signatures, 7,443 have to be validated by the Hamilton County
Board of Elections. The plan would put future city workers in individual
retirement accounts similar to 401K plans used in the private sector.
But city officials argue that, unlike private workers, public employees
don’t get Social Security benefits on top of their pensions, which means
public workers could get considerably less retirement money under
the amendment than someone would in the private sector. Supporters of the amendment point to the city’s struggles with properly funding its pension system, which led to a bond rating downgrade from credit rating agency Moody’s. Opponents of the
amendment plan to hold a press conference in front of City Hall at 3
p.m. today or after today’s Council meeting, whichever is later.
A majority of City Council on Tuesday sided with the Windholtz family,
who will now be able to sell and demolish the old Lenhardt’s
restaurant building — also known as the Goetz House — in Clifton
Heights. Only Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sided with community members
who argued that the building should be declared a historical landmark
and preserved. “If I were counting votes, I would go with the community.
There are a whole bunch of you and a very few people named Windholtz,”
Councilman Wendell Young said. “I believe that the courage to do what’s
right this time is to side with the family.”
Election results from yesterday: The Norwood tax levy failed, the Arlington Heights levy failed with a tie vote and the Cleves tax levy passed.
Gov. John Kasich says there’s no need to change oversight over JobsOhio, the privatized development agency that has been mired in controversy in the past few weeks. Most recently, a story in the Dayton Daily News
found six of nine members on the JobsOhio board had direct financial
ties to companies receiving state aid. Republicans argue JobsOhio’s
privatized nature allows it to move quickly with deals that bring in
businesses and jobs to the state, but Democrats say the secretive agency
is too difficult to hold accountable and could be wasting taxpayer
Former Gov. Ted Strickland is calling on Ohioans
to act now and reduce the effects of global warming. Strickland is
apparently siding with the near-unanimous scientific consent that global
warming is real and man-made. Scientists generally want to reduce
carbon and other greenhouse-gas emissions enough so global warming
doesn’t exceed two degrees Celsius,
but the planet is currently on a path to warm by five degrees Celsius.
If that trend continues, there could be devastating effects, including
more drought and other extraordinary weather events.
The second phase of The Banks might include a grocery store.
Procter & Gamble plans to move 50 customer service jobs from Cincinnati to San Jose, Costa Rica.
The house of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held captive and raped three women for more than a decade, was demolished
today. The neighborhood is still celebrating the capture of Castro, who
was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years last week, but many in the area
are wondering how the man got away with his crimes for so long.
Entrepreneurs were more likely to cause trouble than teenagers, according to a new study.
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.