by German Lopez
Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto
Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are
calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S.
Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of
the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and
protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated
measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with
forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s
decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving
ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by
the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a
statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our
nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”.
Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings
following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing
Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing
to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which
require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency
personnel to enter.
Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in
the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when
he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge
for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas
severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is
“silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel
on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state
treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers
against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to
come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here.
A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending
cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state
officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid.
The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt
deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked
in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework
sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican
legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here.
The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here.
Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?”
It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways.
Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine.
The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation.
Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).
by German Lopez
Governor signs budget, school funding falls short in long term, Medicaid expansion denied
Following approval from the Republican-controlled General
Assembly earlier in the week, Gov. John Kasich last night signed a $62
billion two-year state budget that makes sweeping changes to taxes
and takes numerous anti-abortion measures. On the tax front, Policy
Matters Ohio previously criticized the mix of income tax cuts and property and
sales tax hikes for favoring the wealthy.
Meanwhile, abortion-rights advocates say the budget will hurt women by
limiting access to abortion, while Republicans say they’re trying to protect the “sanctity of human life.”
The budget also makes changes to the school funding
formula that increases funding to schools by $700 million, but the
funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools got in 2009.
Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education
policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says
Republican legislators should have spent less time on tax reform and
more on education. Although Dyer acknowledges the final education plan is
more equitable than Kasich’s original proposal, he argues equity doesn’t matter much when schools are still underfunded.
One policy that didn’t make it into the final state
budget: the Medicaid expansion. Kasich strongly backed the expansion
throughout the budget process, but Republican concerns about federal
funding ultimately won out and kept the Medicaid expansion from the final version of the budget.
Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion
Coalition, says the expansion’s absence is irresponsible, but he’s optimistic
it will be passed in a stand-alone bill later on. Owens and other
supporters of the expansion argue it will help insure hundreds of
thousands of Ohioans and save the state money by placing more of the
funding burden on the federal government.
One beneficiary of the state budget: low-rated charter schools.
Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner today announced her
candidacy for Ohio secretary of state — a position she will attempt to
take from Republican Jon Husted. Turner is a vocal critic of
Republicans’ voting policies, which she says suppress voters,
particularly minorities and low-income Ohioans.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday released the first Human Trafficking Statistics Report,
which his office plans to release on an annual basis to continue
spotlighting Ohio’s trafficking problem. Law
enforcement identified 38 human trafficking victims in the last year,
but that’s only a fraction of the estimated thousands of Ohioans,
particularly youth and those “at risk,” who are reportedly trafficked
and abused each year.
The Cincinnati Park Board won the National/Facility Park Design Award for Smale Riverfront Park.
The award from the National Recreation and Park Association recognizes
the park’s design, the inclusiveness of the design process and how the
board met the local community’s needs for the park. This is just another
major national award for The Banks; earlier in the year, the project won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation.
Some Republicans are not taking last week’s U.S. Supreme
Court decision on same-sex marriage well: State Rep. John
Becker, a Republican from Clermont County, now says polygamy is inevitable.
Cincinnati is currently looking for a new police chief, and it already has 13 applications.
Ohio gas prices are down again this week.
Kasich says he’s not interested in running for president in 2016.
Apparently, the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a scientifically funky region last summer.
Here is an explanation of what happens when stars collide.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:40 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati Public Schools getting $15 million less than it did in 2009
Compared to the previous budget, the two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly Thursday increased school funding by $700 million. But the funding
is still $515 million less than Ohio schools received in 2009.
The result: Cincinnati Public Schools will receive
$15 million less in state funding than it did in 2009, joining three in
four school districts who have a net loss to funding between 2009 and
Still, Republicans are calling the funding boost the largest increase to education spending in more than 10 years.
“No school district in the state of Ohio will receive less
funding than current levels,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for
Ohio House Republicans. “Eighty percent of Ohio’s students … are in one
of the school districts that is receiving an increase.”
Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and
education policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says the claim is dishonest
because it ignores longer-term trends in funding.
“It’s like they cut off both of your legs, give you back one of them and say, 'You should thank us,'” he says.
Republicans defend the cuts by citing an $8 billion deficit in 2011, which had to be eliminated under state law. Some of the cuts from that previous budget directly impacted school funding, but the decreases also eliminated subsidies that previously benefited schools, such as tangible
personal property reimbursements.
Dyer says the state budget situation has changed since then. Instead of focusing on tax cuts, he argues state legislators should have prioritized education funding.
Another problem, according to Dyer, is how the increased
funding is distributed. Although Dyer acknowledges the plan is more equitable than the governor’s original proposal, he says some of the most impoverished schools districts, particularly the poor and rural, will get the smallest increases.
Even if there was full equity, Dyer claims there’s not enough money going into education as a result of years of
cuts. To illustrate his point, he gives an example: “If I’m going to go
see Superman with three of my friends and it costs $10 each to get in,
I’ve got $36 and I give everybody $9, none of us are getting in. Even
though I perfectly distributed the money equally, … the fact is none of
us are getting in.”
The budget’s tax changes could also impact future local
funding to schools. As part of the changes, the state will not subsidize
12.5 percent of future property tax levies — something the state does for
current levies. For local taxpayers, that means new school levies will
be 12.5 percent more expensive.
That, Dyer argues, will make it more difficult to pass
future school levies, and that could force schools to ask for less money
if they want levies to get voter approval.
“The legislature and legislators are doing a real
disservice to people to tell everybody that they’re getting an increase
and no one is getting cut,” Dyer says. “They need to be honest with
The budget also increases funding to “school choice”
options, including the addition of 2,000 vouchers for private schooling
that will be available to kindergarten students in households making
less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.Republicans argue the vouchers give lower-income children access to schools and options in education that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
But a January report from Policy Matters Ohio found the extra
mobility enabled by school choice options hurts student performance and strains
teachers and staff by forcing them to more often accommodate
The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it this weekend.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
by German Lopez
But Medicaid funding increased by $1 billion
Despite strong backing from Republican Gov. John Kasich,
the Medicaid expansion didn’t make it into the final version of the
two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General
Assembly on Thursday.
Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid
Expansion Coalition, calls the expansion’s failure a disappointment, but he
says he remains optimistic the expansion will be taken up in future
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal
government is asking states to expand their Medicaid programs to 138
percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $32,499 for
a family of four.
States are given a powerful financial incentive for doing so: For the
first three years, the expansion is entirely paid for by the federal
government. Afterward, the federal commitment is dropped to 90
percent, where it will indefinitely remain.
The federal government on average pays about 57 percent of
Medicaid costs, while states pay for the rest. So the 90-percent match for the
expansion is a uniquely lucrative deal.
But Republican legislators say they’re skeptical the
federal government can afford such a large commitment to Medicaid, often
calling the size of the expansion unprecedented.
Owens claims there is a precedent for the Medicaid expansion: Medicaid. He says the federal government has historically upheld its commitment to Medicaid, which insures 2.2 million Ohioans. There’s no sign that will stop any time soon, according to Owens.
To support his claim, Owens cites scoring from the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan organization that
scores federal policy proposals to gauge their fiscal and economic
impact. In July 2012, the CBO found repealing Obamacare, which includes the
Medicaid expansion, would actually increase the federal deficit by $109 billion
over 10 years, which means the health reform law is an overall fiscal gain for the federal government.
At the same time, analysts have found the Medicaid expansion
would be fiscally beneficial for Ohio. Earlier this year, the Health Policy
Institute of Ohio released an analysis
that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million
Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.
Instead of being concerned about fiscal problems,
Owens concludes opponents of the Medicaid expansion simply dislike the
president, Obamacare and Medicaid.
Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans,
pushes back at that notion. He points out the state budget will increase
funding for Medicaid by $1 billion, allowing 231,000 more Ohioans to
enter the system.
“When people say that we’re not doing anything for
Medicaid, obviously that’s not true,” he says. “Certainly, we could have
gone down the road of not funding that particular provision.”
The increased funding is going to people who are already eligible
for Medicaid but, for whatever reason, aren’t currently enrolled. The
federal government expects the new enrollees to sign up as a result of
Obamacare raising awareness and education about health coverage.
In other words, the federal government already expects
Ohio to pay for these Medicaid enrollees. Failing to do so would have
likely violated the state’s Medicaid agreement with the federal government and,
as Dittoe acknowledges when asked, resulted in penalties.
Although the Medicaid expansion is out of the state
budget, there is a bill currently sitting in the House that would take
up the expansion. Dittoe says that bill will likely be looked at in the
For legislators, that might be politically prudent: A poll
released June 14 by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati found
63 percent of Ohioans support the Medicaid expansion, with a margin of
error of 3.3 percent. The University of Cincinnati's Institute for
Policy Research conducted the poll for the Health Foundation between May
19 and June 2.
The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled
General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it into law
Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:51 PM | Permalink
Republican legislators claim they’re protecting “sanctity of human life”
Republican state legislators are using the two-year state
budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to
The goal is “to maintain the sanctity of human life,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans.Most recently, the House-Senate conference committee,
which put the final touches to the state budget, tacked on an amendment that requires doctors to perform an external ultrasound on a
woman seeking an abortion and inform the woman if a heartbeat is
detected. The doctor would also be required to explain the statistical
probability of the woman carrying the fetus to birth.
The amendment came in addition to other anti-abortion measures in the budget that would reprioritize family services
funding to effectively defund Planned Parenthood, increase
funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and impose
regulations that the state health director could use to shut down
Under the regulations, abortion clinics would be unable to
set patient transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established
agreements could be revoked by the state health director. At the same
time, if a clinic doesn’t have a transfer agreement in place, the state
health director could shut it down with no further cause.
The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with
private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s more
difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.
Abortion rights advocates are protesting the measures, labeling them an attack on women’s rights.
“If the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly
want to practice medicine, they should go to medical school,” said
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a
statement. “We urge Gov. (John) Kasich to veto these dangerous
provisions from the budget. Party politics has no place in a woman’s
private health care decision. The time is now to stand up and lead, not
in the interests of his party, but in the interests of the women and
families he has been elected to lead.”
Dittoe insists Republicans are not attacking women with
the measures: “The women in our caucus have introduced some of these
proposals. It’s hard to say it’s a ‘war on women’ when you have women
actually introducing the legislation. It’s certainly not about an attack
on women; it’s about protecting human life.”
Abortion rights supporters rallied today in Columbus in a
last-minute stand, calling on Kasich to line-item veto the measures — a
move that would keep the rest of the budget in place but nullify the
Kasich has so far declined to clarify whether he will veto
the anti-abortion measures, instead punting multiple reporters’
questions on the issue.
Much of the debate has focused on Planned Parenthood,
which provides abortion services, sexually transmitted infection and
cancer screening, pregnancy tests, birth control and various other
health care services for men and women.
Supporters point out no public funds go to abortion
services, which are entirely funded through private donations. Public
funds are instead spent on Planned Parenthood’s other services.
Dittoe says that Republicans still take issue with the
abortion services, and it’s the sole reason Planned Parenthood is losing
“Members of the House who have issues with Planned
Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” he says. “The
rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue
with whatsoever.”About 15 percent of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s budget comes from the family planning grants that are being reworked. Not all of that money is allocated by the state government; a bulk is also set by the federal government.
The anti-abortion changes will go into effect with the $62
billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled General
Assembly passed the budget today, and Kasich is expected to
sign the bill into law this weekend.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
by German Lopez
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’
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
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
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
Posted In: News
at 01:51 PM | Permalink
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.
3 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Against all the odds, naysaying and
obstructionism it’s faced, Cincinnati’s streetcar project is moving
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