0 Comments · Wednesday, December 19, 2012
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal”
in corporate America, but American Financial Group and Western &
Southern Financial Group are apparently exceptions.
by German Lopez
Qualls to push for federal gun regulations, UC to renovate Nippert, company rigs bid process
Metal detectors could come back
to City Hall, but local legislators can’t do much more regarding local
gun control. Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and other City Council
members will begin pushing for more federal regulations on guns starting
today. President Barack Obama is already beginning to drum up
support for more regulations on guns, including a ban on assault
weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. He also wants to close a
loophole that allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without
background checks. At the state level, a new bill loosening gun regulations in Ohio is facing criticism.
The bill will make it easier to store firearms in cars and allows them for
the first time in parking garages under the Ohio Statehouse and a nearby
office tower. Gov. John Kasich said he will sign the bill.The University of Cincinnati is launching
a fundraising effort for the renovation of Nippert Stadium. The project
could cost as much as $70 million. The university wants to offset as
much of the cost as possible to build premium seating, with the
possibility of 28 new luxury boxes and more than 1,400 premium seats
being added. Goals could change based on demand and fundraising efforts.A Cincinnati-based company and its top executive have pleaded guilty to circumventing Ohio’s competitive bid process. The actions cost Ohio taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars,
according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The company circumvented
the competitive process by submitting multiple bids on road jobs under
different names, creating the illusion of competition. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a possible candidate for the presidency in 2016, will headline
a Hamilton County GOP event. He will be a featured speaker next month
at the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club's annual pancake
breakfast.The Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy failed to follow its own compensation policies, resulting in improper over-payments of $2,325, according to Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost.Top state officials will begin pushing and outlining school safety efforts in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. State Impact Ohio has a fantastic infographic showing the growth of charter schools in Ohio. In the Cincinnati urban district, charter schools now host 6,642 students.A new state policy will automatically refund businesses when they’ve overpaid their taxes. The first round of the policy will refund businesses in Ohio $13 million.The animal takeover continues. Due to the effects of climate change, some animals are moving into cities. On the bright side, animals can be pretty cute. Here is a dog flipping over its food, and here are cats locked in deadly combat against a printer.
by German Lopez
Councilman says more gun regulations unlikely at local level
In light of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, a City Council member wants metal detectors put back in City Hall.
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas says he’s always been
concerned about security, and he hopes recent bouts of gun
violence will make it clear more protective steps are necessary.
Thomas argues City Hall should not be
an exception to a practice that’s carried out in other government buildings. He
points to federal and county buildings and other city halls around the
nation, which tend to use metal detectors.
Thomas, who was a police officer until 2000, acknowledges
metal detectors are a “little bit of an inconvenience” to visitors, but he adds, “These are times when a little bit more
inconvenience can go a long way to possibly save a lot of lives.”So City Hall could get more security, but what about the city as a whole? Earlier today, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced City Council will work on a resolution to encourage Congress to pass new gun regulations at a federal level. Beyond that, Thomas says not much is likely.The problem is state law trumps local law
when it comes to gun regulations, so City Council’s hands are tied on the issue. “I would like to see us be able to
control our own destiny as it relates to gun laws, but, obviously, I
have no control over that,” Thomas says.
Metal detectors were in place at City Hall until
2006, when Mayor Mark Mallory had them taken down to make City Hall more
open to the public.
by German Lopez
Strickland calls for gun control, Kasich to loosen gun rules, Mallory rebuts streetcar claims
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who rose to the governorship with the help of the National Rifle Association, says
gun rights and gun control can co-exist. The claim is in light of the
massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed
20 children and six adults. Many have called for stricter gun control
in light of the past year’s bouts of gun violence, but Republicans are
typically opposed to such proposals. A recent poll from The Washington Post and ABC News found 59 percent of Americans support
banning high-capacity ammunition clips, much like the ones used in the
Newtown shooting. Another 52 percent back the ban of semi-automatic
Still, Gov. John Kasich isn’t changing his mind on the Second Amendment. He says he will sign
a bill that allows guns in the Ohio Statehouse parking garage. The bill
will also change the definition of an unloaded gun, allowing gun owners
to carry loaded clips in their vehicles as long as they are in a
separate compartment from the gun, and make concealed carry permits from
other states easier to validate in Ohio.
Despite denials from city officials, mayoral candidate John Cranley and Councilman Chris Smitherman insist city government is trying to use the transit fund to fund the streetcar. But Mayor Mark Mallory in an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer said it will not happen.
Mallory said the dispute dates back to a lawsuit filed by Southwest
Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which runs the Metro bus
system. The lawsuit demands transit funds be solely dedicated to SORTA.
Cincinnati’s U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has vowed to continue trying to kill
the streetcar. Even though voters have approved of the streetcar twice,
Chabot, who also represents Warren County in district boundaries that
were redrawn by Republicans, says he would rather focus federal funding
on other projects, like the Brent Spence Bridge.
A conservative northern Kentucky lawmaker is supporting
a bill that expands prisoners’ rights to DNA testing. The bill would
allow a Cincinnati man to push for DNA testing that he claims will
exonerate him of a 1987 rape and murder in Newport. Ky. Sen. John
Schickel argued, “If DNA testing is good enough to send you to prison it
should be good enough to get you out of prison.”
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank bought
another $100 million in stock from Credit Suisse International. The
deal is part of a larger program to buy back 100 million shares.
Cincinnati State is in line to obtain $123,000 from the state government. The funding could create 51 new or expanded co-op jobs.
The United Way of Greater Cincinnati announced
$50.7 million in investments for 2013, a slight increase from 2012. The increase will help boost funding to
prepare children for kindergarten by 5 percent. It will also fund 288
programs at 146 agencies, with seven becoming new United Way agency
The Prince Hall Shriners, which describes itself as “the world’s oldest African-American fraternal organization,” is returning to Cincinnati in 2015. The convention was in Cincinnati in 2011.
Duke Energy’s local management is being shaken up. Jim Henning will take over as president for Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky.
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro is retiring.
Did you know our solar system is sort of like a phoenix? It apparently rose from the cumulative ashes of countless stars, not one supernova.
by German Lopez
More on Newtown massacre, City Council passes budget, Dillingham to run for council
By now, most of you have heard there was another horrible
mass shooting, this time in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the death
of 20 children and six adults. While everyone is hoping this is the last
time the nation has to deal with an event of unspeakable horror, it is
only a possibility if we agree to do something about it. That means
remembering the heroes
who risked their lives and, in some cases, died that day. That means
not letting the media and public drop the issue, as has been the case in the past. That means looking at more than just gun control, including mental health services. The Washington Post analyzed what “meaningful” action on gun control would look like, and the newspaper also disproved
the idea Switzerland and Israel are “gun-toting utopias.” President
Barack Obama also spoke on the issue at a vigil Sunday, calling for the
nation to do more to protect people, particularly children, from
violence. The full speech can be watched here.
City Council approved
its 2013 budget plan Friday. The budget relies on the privatization of
city parking assets to help plug a $34 million deficit and avoid 344 layoffs.
The budget also nixed the elimination of a tax reciprocity for people
who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both
cities, and it continued funding the police department’s mounted unit.
As a separate issue, City Council voted to increase the property
tax by about 24 percent, reversing a move from conservatives in 2011. CityBeat wrote about budgets at all levels of government and how they affect jobs here.Michelle Dillingham, who was an aide to former city councilman David Crowley, will seek Democratic support in a run for City Council.
Dillingham promises to tackle “industry issues of mutual interest" to
business and labor and “transportation funding, family-supporting wages
and workforce development.”
At a recent public hearing, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed a “very easy” plan for the city budget. Only problem: His plan doesn’t work.
In an email, Cranley said he stands by his ideas, but he added he was
working with limited information and his statements were part of a
two-minute speech, which “requires brevity.” He also claimed there are
cost-cutting measures that can be sought out without privatizing the
city’s parking assets and gave modified versions of his ideas regarding
casino and parking meter revenue.
Judge Robert Lyons, the Butler County judge who sealed the Miami rape flyer case, is standing by his decision.
The Greater Cincinnati area is near the top for private-sector growth.
Jedson Engineering is moving
from Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, thanks in part to an
incentive package from City Council that includes a 45 percent tax
credit based on employees earnings taxes over the next five years and a
$300,000 grant for capital improvements. The company was a Business
Courier Fast 55 finalist in 2008 and 2009 due to its high revenue
Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan is getting some support from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, but others are weary.
They fear the plan, which leverages the turnpike through bonds for
state infrastructure projects, will move turnpike revenues out of
northern Ohio. But Kasich vows to keep more than 90 percent of projects
in northern Ohio.
Gas prices are still falling in Ohio.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is making some concessions in fiscal talks. In his latest budget, he proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.One beagle can diagnose diseases by sniffing stool samples.
by German Lopez
Mayor candidate’s budget suggestions are inadequate, impossible
Former Democratic city council member John Cranley is kicking off his 2013 mayoral campaign by getting involved in budget talks. In a public hearing at City
Hall last week, Cranley tried to provide an alternative to privatizing the
city’s parking assets, which City Manager Milton Dohoney has suggested
to pay for $21 million of the city’s $34 million deficit.
“It’s not the citizen’s job to balance the budget, but let
me make it very easy for you,” Cranley said. “You have $12 million in
casino money that can be used but is currently being used on pet
projects, like street sculptures. The parking meters themselves produce
$7 million a year. That’s $19 million. And $5 million for garbage cans.
That’s $24 million. You only need ($21 million) to cancel the parking
privatization plan, so I got you $3 extra million to spare.”
In short, Cranley's alternative to parking privatization is using $12 million from
casino revenue, $7 million from keeping parking meters under city ownership and $5
million saved from not purchasing trash carts.
So how viable are Cranley’s ideas? In a memo, Dohoney’s
office responded. The memo points out that casino revenue is currently
estimated at $7.2 million, not $12 million, and $1.3 million is already
included in the budget for Focus 52, a neighborhood redevelopment project. That leaves casino revenues $6.1 million short of what Cranley proposed.
Regarding parking meters, Dohoney’s office says revenue
from parking meters is restricted to fund “operations and maintenance in
the right-of-way.” The memo says City Council could authorize using the money to plug the deficit, but it would then have to find
alternatives for funding operations and maintenance.
Even the trash cart proposal doesn’t work. Not buying trash carts would only
save $4.7 million, not $5 million. And the plan, which is part of the city’s effort to
semi-automate trash collection, is in the general capital budget,
not the general fund operating budget that’s being debated. The memo
concludes, “If the trash carts are not purchased, the funds would not be
available to close the gap because this is a capital budget expenditure
and resources supporting the capital budget cannot be used in the operating budget.”
In other words, Cranley’s “very easy” budget plan isn’t just difficult; it’s a mix of inadequate and impossible. If CityBeat was PolitiFact, Cranley’s suggestions would probably get him a “Pants on Fire” label.
by German Lopez
Governor reveals turnpike plan, city to approve budget, Kroger could buy Hostess brands
It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize
the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase
tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s
profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To
ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips
using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video
unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an
estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval
from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use
a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large,
statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan
because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses
that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!
City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a
one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously,
all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here.
The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax
reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.
Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.
A study found a gap
in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county
doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should
build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that
isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.
The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open
on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday
due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.
In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform
32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the
lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign
for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by
politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial
ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was
redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include
Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s
Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.
Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”
A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.
A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.
NASA discovered the largest river
ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest
moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I
encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez
Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.
by German Lopez
School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4
School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on
the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is
expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it
for it to become law. In an early simulation
of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools
dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current
system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School
retaining its top mark with an A.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary
to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there
will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in
2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge
The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.
Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.
With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in
2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its
legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.
The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether
marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent
against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of
the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex
marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.
Ohio gained approval
on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding
for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With
the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in
coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.
But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February.
As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid
plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal
government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that,
federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020
and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives.
Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money
in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.
With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.
Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.
Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down
on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal
advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a
breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
Lynchpin of city budget plan has produced mixed results in other cities
1 Comment · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The plan to balance Cincinnati’s budget
and its $34 million deficit seems to hinge on one thing — the
controversial plan to lease city parking facilities to a private
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
If someone turned on the news during the
past few weeks, it would be hard to blame him if he thought the most
pressing issues in the world right now are budgets and abortions.