WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 06.28.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Budget, 2013 Election at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

State tax plan favors wealthy, state budget limits abortion, mayoral primary incoming

The Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly yesterday passed its state budget for the next two years, and Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the bill this weekend. Part of the budget is a tax plan that would cut income taxes but raise sales and property taxes in a way that Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning public policy think tank, says would ultimately favor the state’s wealthiest. On average, individuals in the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan, while those in the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or 0.1 percent, more in taxes, according to Policy Matters’ analysis. The state budget also includes several anti-abortion measures: less funding for Planned Parenthood, more funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, regulations that could be used by the state health director to shut down abortion clinics and a requirement for doctors to do an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and inform her whether a heartbeat is detected. Republicans claim they’re protecting the sanctity of human life, while abortion rights advocates are labeling the measures an attack on women’s rights. Cincinnati will have a mayoral primary on Sept. 10. Five candidates vying for the highest elected position in the city: Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns, self-identified Republican Stacy Smith and Sandra Queen Noble. Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the favorites, with each candidate splitting on issues like the parking lease and streetcar. Qualls supports the policies, while Cranley opposes both. A recent poll from the Cranley campaign found the race deadlocked, with Cranley and Qualls both getting 40 percent of the vote and the rest of polled voters claiming they’re undecided. Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will appear at the Northside Fourth of July parade. Giffords will be in Cincinnati as part of a nationwide tour on gun violence. Elmwood Place’s speed cameras are being confiscated by the Hamilton County Sheriff Department. Judge Robert Ruehlman originally told operating company Optotraffic to turn the cameras off, but when the company didn’t listen, the judge ruled the cameras should be confiscated. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments released its new bike map for southwest Ohio. President Barack Obama signaled on Thursday that the federal government will extend marriage benefits to gay and lesbian couples in all states, even those states that don’t allow same-sex marriage. That may mean a gay couple in Ohio could get married in New York and Massachusetts and still have their marriage counted at the federal level, but state limitations would still remain. The administration’s plans follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that struck down a federal ban on same-sex marriage. The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. Ohio’s two senators were split on the bill: Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown voted for it, while Republican Sen. Rob Portman voted against it. A Congressional Budget Office report previously found the bill would reduce the nation’s deficit and boost the economy over the next decade. Scientists cloned a mouse with a mere blood sample. CityBeat won a bunch of awards at Wednesday’s Society of Professional Journalists Cincinnati chapter awards banquet and hall of fame induction ceremony. Read about them here.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Streetcar, City Council at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Council Approves Streetcar Budget Fixes

Funding for development at Fourth, Race streets also gets approval

City Council today approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing the project to move forward.On Monday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved the measures, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The funding ordinance closes the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The accountability motion will require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the measures. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against both. Councilwoman Pam Thomas voted against the funding ordinance, but she voted for the accountability motion.City Council also unanimously approved funding for a development project on Fourth and Race streets, which includes a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue's Garage. CityBeat covered that project in further detail here.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.24.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Project to Move Forward

Council measures increase capital funding, require more transparency

The streetcar project remains on track following today's votes by City Council's Budget and Finance Committee, which approved increased capital funding and accountability measures that aim to keep the public informed on the project's progress.The increased funding was previously proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney to fix a $17.4 million budget gap. The money will come from more issued debt and pulled funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. Under state law, none of the capital funding could be used for operating budget expenses, such as police and fire.The accountability measures also require the city administration to report to City Council on the streetcar's progress with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports."The progress reports should be easy-to-understand and made available online to ensure transparency and accountability to City Council and to citizens," the motion reads.Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the measures. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against both. Councilwoman Pam Thomas voted against the funding ordinance, but she abstained from voting on the motion imposing accountability measures.Qualls, who revealed the accountability measures in a press conference prior to today's committee meeting, said the measures will move the streetcar forward and help keep the public informed."I will vote today to continue the streetcar project because we need to continue moving Cincinnati forward," she said. "At the same time, while I remain a supporter, it is with the recognition that it is time for a reboot on the project to instill public confidence in its management."Smitherman did not seem convinced."I believe the administration will be back asking for more money on the streetcar," he claimed, pointing to pending litigation with Duke Energy over who is legally obligated to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate the project.Smitherman and Sittenfeld also criticized their colleagues for not bringing the accountability measures to a vote earlier in the process."You would think seven years ago there would have been a motion like this in front of us," Smitherman said, referencing when City Council first approved the streetcar project.Among the accountability motion's items is an operating plan, which streetcar critics have long demanded. The city administration estimates operating the streetcar will cost about $3.5 million a year, indicating in the past that casino tax revenue would be used to pay for the costs.Supporters say those costs will be outweighed by the city's estimated three-to-one return on investment for the streetcar project — an estimate backed by studies from advising company HDR and the University of Cincinnati. Simpson in particular argued the costs will be made up through increased revenue as the streetcar brings in more businesses and residents to Cincinnati.Still, Simpson says those estimates don't matter to streetcar opponents."If it was $5, there would be individuals who don't support this project," she said.Winburn responded by saying he supports the streetcar as a concept, which roused laughter from streetcar supporters in the audience. Throughout the project's many hearings, opponents of the streetcar have often said they support streetcars as a concept — at least until they have to put their support to a vote or commit funding.Still, Winburn added, "Even if you all are wrong, I want to commend you for fighting for what you believe in."The streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap is a result of construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a result of "errors in bid documents," according to Qualls.Besides increasing funding, the city is also hiring John Deatrick, project manager of The Banks, to head the streetcar project. Multiple city officials, including Qualls and Quinlivan, have praised Deatrick for his ability to bring down project costs and put large projects on track.The funding currently set for the streetcar will only go to the first phase of the project. The final plan calls for tracks stretching from The Banks to the Cincinnati Zoo."If the intent of the streetcar would only be to go from The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, then I never would have said it's a project worth doing," Dohoney previously told City Council. "The intention has always been to connect the two major employment centers of the city and go beyond that."But Smitherman says talk of another phase is financially irresponsible: "I want to indicate to the public that they (the city administration) don't have a budget for the second leg."The funding ordinance and accountability motion must now be approved by a full session of City Council, which has the same voting make-up as the Budget and Finance Committee.If it's approved, the federal government has committed another $5 million to the streetcar that will help restore certain aspects of the project previously cut because of budget concerns.
 
 

The Little Engine That Could

3 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Against all the odds, naysaying and obstructionism it’s faced, Cincinnati’s streetcar project is moving forward.  

Streetcar Plan Moves 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 track.    

Get Out of Jail Fee

ACLU: Pay-to-stay policies harm low-income inmates, raise little money for county jails

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Hamilton County Jail charges its inmates a fee for incarceration, and a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) suggests the practice harms low-income inmates and raises little money for the county.   
by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: Abortion, News, LGBT Issues, Economy at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

DOMA struck down, more anti-abortion measures added to budget, local employment rises

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act today in a broad ruling that requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in a state where same-sex marriage is already legal. The ruling effectively extends equal protection rights to same-sex couples. For gay and lesbian Ohioans, that means same-sex marriage must be legalized in Ohio before the federal government is required to recognize it. FreedomOhio is already aiming to legalize same-sex marriage in the state with an amendment that could be on the ballot this year, which CityBeat covered in an in-depth report here. Republican state legislators added another anti-abortion measure to the state budget yesterday, which will require doctors to perform an external ultrasound for a heartbeat then inform the patient if one is detected. The provision is in addition to other anti-abortion measures already in the budget, including less funding for Planned Parenthood, funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and regulations that will allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics. CityBeat covered those measures in further detail here. “This is continuing to go way overboard by a majority obsessed with abortion,” said Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland). Cincinnati-area employment dramatically increased in May, up 6,400 from April and 5,400 from the year before, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Although the unemployment rate went up between April and May, it went down year over year — the measure economists prefer to look at to control for seasonal factors, such as hiring picking up during the summer because of outdoors work.StateImpact Ohio says the new tax plan in the proposed 2014-2015 budget could make it more difficult to pass future school levies. The plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it raises sales and property taxes to balance the cuts. CityBeat covered the tax plan in further detail here. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is giving Cincinnati a $37 million loan guarantee for economic and housing development projects that aim to benefit the region’s neediest. In a statement, HUD estimated some of the economic development projects will create at least 350 new jobs. Cincinnati is continuing efforts to obtain the Wasson Way line, which the city plans to develop into a bike and hike trail. The other side of the river is getting some love, too: More luxury apartments are coming to Newport. Cincinnati was ranked No. 9 smartest city in a recent Movoto blog list. Ohioans may be souring on President Barack Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll found his approval ratings at 40 percent, his lowest grade ever in the state. Obama proposed an extensive plan to combat climate change yesterday. The plan will not require congressional approval. The cure for cancer could be found in space. Apparently, microgravity environments are optimal for cancer research.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.25.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Commissioners, Governor at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news2_streetcar_coast_rs

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar moves forward, sewer compromise hits impasse, Kasich's approval at all-time high

The streetcar project is moving forward following yesterday’s votes from City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, which approved increased capital funding and accountability measures that will keep the public updated on the project’s progress. The increased funding fixes the project’s $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The accountability measures will require the city administration to report to City Council on the streetcar's progress with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports. At the same committee meeting, council members failed to carry out a repeal of “local hire” and “local preference” laws, which was part of an earlier announced compromise between the city and county that would allow work on sewer projects to continue. At this point, it’s unclear whether the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will repeal the funding hold on sewer projects. The commissioners passed the hold after City Council modified its “responsible bidder” law in May. The city says the laws encourage local job creation and training, but the county claims the rules favor unions and impose extra costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s approval ratings hit an all-time high of 54 percent in a new Quinnipiac University poll, helping him hold a 14-point lead against likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald. “All in all, at this stage, Kasich has done a pretty good job appealing to voters across the state,” said Quinnipiac's Peter Brown. “FitzGerald remains pretty much an unknown to most Ohioans, with only one in four voters knowing enough about him to have formed an opinion. The election is a long way away, but the next stage will be the race to define FitzGerald, positively by the candidate himself and negatively by the Kasich folks.” The Cincinnati office for the Internal Revenue Service also targeted liberal groups, particularly those who used the terms “progressive” and “occupy.” The IRS has been under scrutiny in the past few months for targeting conservative groups by honing in on terms such as “tea party” and “9/12.” Ohio gave tax incentives to four more Cincinnati-area businesses. Overall, 15 projects received the breaks to supposedly spur $379 million in investment across Ohio. Miami University banned smoking in cars on campus and raised tuition. Headline: “Columbus man rips off his penis while high on drugs.” Here is a history of red panda escapes. A study found people find others more attractive after getting a shock to the brain.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.24.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, City Council, Commissioners at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar vote today, sewer project compromise reached, "megadeals" fail expectations

The federal government is committing another $5 million to Cincinnati’s streetcar project, but the city must first close the budget gap that has recently put the project in danger. The U.S. Department of Transportation is also asking the city to restore certain aspects of the project, including a passenger information system and a screen or wall that would block power substations from public view. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is expected to vote on the project’s $17.4 million budget gap today. The latest proposed fixes from the city manager would pull funding from multiple capital projects, including improvements around the Horseshoe Casino, and issue more debt. Cincinnati and Hamilton County announced a compromise Friday that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects. As a result, the city will be required to rework its “responsible bidder” ordinance and repeal the “local hire” and “local preference” laws that incited county commissioners into passing the funding hold in the first place. The city says its responsible bidder law creates local jobs and encourages job training, but the county argues that law’s rules favor unions and push up costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in further detail here. Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials. For Cincinnati, the risks of megadeals are nothing new: In 2011, the city’s $196.4 million megadeal with Convergys collapsed when the company failed to keep downtown employment at or above 1,450, and the company agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city. As of Friday, Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Port announced it had signed the lease Friday, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the agency was going to sign the lease at all. The city will get a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million a year from the deal, according to city estimates. Current plans call for using the money to help balance city budgets and fund economic development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange. The prison company that owns and operates a northeastern Ohio prison lost four contracts around the nation in June, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In May, CityBeat released an in-depth report looking at the Corrections Corporation of America’s handling of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, finding evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions. About one in three Ohio children live in a home where neither parent has a full-time, year-round job, and a quarter now live in poverty. Although Ohio’s overall ranking improved in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual report card on the well-being of children, the state worsened in three out of four economic indicators. President Barack Obama will make a speech tomorrow unveiling sweeping plans for climate change. The president is expected to impose a series of regulations, particularly on power plants, with executive powers, which means the plans won’t require congressional action. Ohio gas prices are still coming down this week. Plants apparently do math to get through the night. Some diseases, including some types of cancer, are now being diagnosed by smell.Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Today is the last day to submit your questions here. 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 glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.23.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
convergys

Report: Government "Megadeals" Fail to Produce Jobs

Ohio ranks No. 3 for massive subsidy deals with corporations

Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials. In the Good Jobs First report released on June 19, Ohio tied with Texas as No. 3 for megadeals, which Good Jobs First defines as subsidies worth $75 million or more. Michigan topped the list with 29 deals, followed by New York with 23.In the Cincinnati area, local and state agencies agreed to pay $196.4 million to Convergys in 2003 and $121 million to General Electric in 2009 to keep and create jobs in the area. It’s no secret the deal with Convergys went sour for Cincinnati. In December 2011, the company, which provides outsourced call center services, agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city because the company’s downtown employment fell below 1,450 — the number of jobs required under the initial deal. The reimbursement deal also calls for the company to pay an additional $5 million if its downtown employment falls below 500 before 2020.The Good Jobs First report finds this kind of failure is not exclusive to the Convergys megadeal or Cincinnati; instead, the report argues that megadeals are expensive and often fail to live up to expectations. “Despite their high costs, some of the deals involve little if any new job creation,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy in a statement. “Some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company threatens to move and gets paid to stay put. Others involve interstate job piracy, in which a company gets subsidies to move existing jobs across a state border, sometimes within the same metropolitan area.” For the jobs that are kept and created, states and cities end up paying $456,000 on average, with the cheapest deals costing less than $25,000 per job and the most expensive costing more than $7 million per job. The report finds the number of megadeals per year has doubled since 2008, on top of getting more expensive in the past three decades. Each megadeal averaged at about $157 million in the 1980s, eventually rising to $325 million in the 2000s. The average cost dropped to $260 million in the 2010s, reflecting the price of deals made in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which strapped city and state budgets.“These subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report, in a statement. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.” Ultimately, the report aims to increase transparency for such subsidies, reflecting an ongoing goal for Good Jobs First. To do this, the organization has set up a database (www.subsidytracker.org) that anyone can visit to track past, present and future subsidy deals.But the report claims much of this work should already be done by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which “has been long-negligent in failing to promulgate regulations for how state and local governments should account for tax-based economic development expenditures,” according to a policy sidebar from LeRoy. “If GASB were to finally promulgate such regulations — covering both programs and deals — taxpayers would have standardized, comparable statistics about megadeals and could better weigh their costs and benefits.”
 
 

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