WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
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.”
 
 
by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, Prisons, Privatization at 04:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
from the inside

CCA Loses Four Prison Contracts in June

Prison company currently owns and operates Ohio's Lake Erie Correctional Institution

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) lost four prison contracts in June as a result of rising violence and turmoil in the corrections facilities, echoing many of the same problems critics claim are found in a CCA-owned facility located in northeastern Ohio.A report from the American Civil Liberties Union found CCA lost contracts in Idaho, Texas and Mississippi this month. The most recent announcement came Wednesday in Idaho, where a prison was allegedly deemed so dangerous that prisoners took to calling the facility "Gladiator School."Two of the contracts are being sold to other companies, which the ACLU claims is a bad idea."Rather than repeatedly handing off authority to a revolving door of contractors, states need to both take responsibility for their own prisons and reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system in the first place," wrote Carl Takei of the ACLU National Prison Project. "Only then can they unshackle themselves from the false promise of for-profit imprisonment."In May, CityBeat published an in-depth report about the CCA-owned prison in Ohio, which detailed evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions first exposed to CityBeat by concerned inmates and their families.CityBeat could not reach CCA for immediate comment on the ACLU report. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, Parking at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Port Authority Signs Parking Lease

Lease moves parking plan forward

Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The agency announced today that it had signed a lease agreement with the city, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the Port would sign the lease to begin with.The Port will now move forward with establishing contracts with the four private companies it will use to operate and upgrade the city's parking assets.What remains unclear is whether the Port actually worked out the problems that supposedly delayed the lease's signing. The Cincinnati Enquirer originally reported that the Port wouldn't sign the lease until it got a financial guarantee from the city that the local government would not cut future funds to the agency. City Council had considered cutting $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funds to the Port as part of broader cuts to outside agencies in the fiscal year 2014 budget, but the cut to the Port was ultimately eliminated.Port spokesperson Gail Paul said she doesn't know whether the issue is under review, but she pointed out the agreement isn't supposed to address future funding concerns and only sets the terms of the parking lease.In return for the lease, the city is getting a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. The city plans to use that money to pay down future budget deficits and fund development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.Critics argue the lease gives up too much control over the city's parking assets and will ultimately hurt downtown and neighborhoods by raising parking meter rates and expanding meter operation hours.Update (1:35 p.m.): Added a comment from Port Authority spokesperson Gail Paul.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
streetcar

Feds Commit Another $5 Million to Streetcar Project

City Council expected to vote on budget updates Monday

Cincinnati's streetcar project is getting another $5 million in federal funding. But before the money is handed over, the city must first eliminate cost overruns that have recently put the project in danger.U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood unveiled the news in a letter to Mayor Mark Mallory dated June 19. The letter acknowledges the project's recent cost overruns, but goes on to claim the federal government still backs the project."The DOT (Department of Transportation) continues to support your bold vision for economic development and enhanced transportation choices for the city of Cincinnati, and we believe that this project is a significant component of that vision. With that in mind, I want to provide up to $5 million in additional assistance from DOT," LaHood wrote.But the money comes with two conditions: The city must first fix the streetcar project's cost overruns and restore certain aspects of the project, including a passenger information system and a screen or wall that would block power substations from public view.The $5 million will be on top of the nearly $40 million the federal government has already contributed to the project through various grants and programs.The funding bump comes just in time for City Council's Monday vote on the streetcar project's cost overruns.In February, the city received construction bids that were $26 million to $43 million over budget, effectively leading to a $17.4 million budget gap and a $133 million overall cost for the project.Since then, City Manager Milton Dohoney proposed a few fixes to City Council, including pulling funding from various capital projects and issuing more debt.At the same time, Dohoney told City Council the city administration was working with federal officials to find opportunities for more federal funding. The new commitment is presumably the result of those discussions.City Council is expected to vote on the budget fixes Monday. So far, council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young and Laure Quinlivan have vowed support, but Council will need a fifth vote — perhaps from Chris Seelbach or Pam Thomas — to pass the changes.Read the full letter below:   Streetcar Letter to Mayor MalloryUpdate (3:55 p.m.): This story was updated with additional context.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, Taxes, Streetcar, Economy at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio unemployment unchanged in May, budget overhauls taxes, streetcar vote Monday

Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7 percent in May, unchanged from April and down from 7.3 percent in May 2012, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Although the number of unemployed increased by 5,000 between April and May, the number of employed also increased by 32,100, keeping the rate relatively stable. Most sectors tracked in the report, including government, gained jobs. The final version of the state budget would cut income taxes and create a state-based earned income tax credit, but it would also hike the sales tax and make changes to property taxes that effectively increase rates. Republican state legislators rolled out the tax plan yesterday as a compromise between the Ohio House and Senate plans. The final version looks a lot more like Gov. John Kasich’s original tax proposal, which left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio criticized for favoring the wealthy. The budget must be signed by Kasich by June 30. City Council is expected to vote on the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap on Monday. The gap is a result of construction bids coming in much higher than expected, and solving it would involve making cuts for a slew of capital programs, including infrastructure projects around the Horseshoe Casino. The cuts will all come from the capital budget, which can’t be used to fund operating budget expenses like police and fire because of limits established in state law. Three days after City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement leasing the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Port Authority still hadn’t signed the lease, and it remains unclear when the agency plans to do so. City spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat she’s confident the Port Authority will sign the lease. But the delays have raised questions about whether there truly will be local control over the city’s parking assets through the Port Authority, given that the agency is already going against the wills and assumptions of the city government by failing to sign the lease. City Councilman Chris Seelbach announced on Twitter that he and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel will release a joint statement on the city’s “responsible bidder” ordinance later today. The city and county have been clashing over the ordinance, with county commissioners most recently putting a hold on all Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here. Federal data released this week shows Ohio has some of the weakest gun laws and, as a result, is a top source for guns for crimes committed in other states. Construction is expected to cause some downtown ramp closures and restrictions next week, so prepare for delays or a change in commute. A Japanese scientist may have to grow his human organs in pigs. The world’s first 3-D printed battery is as small as a grain of sand.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Final State Budget to Cut Income Taxes, Raise Sales Tax

Tax plan also creates earned income tax credit, changes property taxes

Republican state legislators today rolled out a major tax overhaul that would cut Ohio income taxes, but the plan would also increase and expand sales and property taxes. Legislators plan to add the tax changes to the $61.7 billion two-year budget. The final plan is being touted as a merger of the original proposals from the Ohio House and Senate, but none of the proposed tax hikes in the revised plan were included in the original tax proposals from either chamber. Relative to rates today, the new plan would cut state income taxes across the board by 8.5 percent in the first year of the budget’s implementation, 9 percent in the second year and 10 percent in the third year. That’s a bump up from the House plan, which only included a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut. The Senate’s 50-percent tax deduction for business owners would be reduced to apply to up to $250,000 of annual net income, down from $750,000 in the original plan. Under the revised plan, a business owner making a net income of $250,000 a year would be able to exempt $125,000 from taxes. The plan would also create an earned income tax credit that would give a tax refund to low- and moderate-income working Ohioans. To balance the cuts, the plan would hike the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent. Some sales tax exemptions would be eliminated, including exemptions for digital goods such as e-books and iTunes downloads. The plan would also make two major changes to property taxes: First, the state would not pay a 12.5-percent property tax rollback on new property tax levies, which means future levies for schools, museums and other services would be 12.5 percent more expensive for local homeowners. Second, the homestead tax exemption, which allows disabled, senior and widowed Ohioans to shield up to $25,000 of property value from taxes, would be graduated over time to be based on need. In other words, lower-income seniors would still qualify for the exemption, while higher-income seniors wouldn’t. Current exemptions would remain untouched, according to House Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz. The final tax plan is a lot closer to Gov. John Kasich’s original budget proposal, which left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio criticized for disproportionately favoring the wealthy (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20). The budget must now be approved by the conference committee, House, Senate and Gov. John Kasich in time for a June 30 deadline.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking at 04:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Port Still Hasn’t Signed Parking Lease

Delay raises questions about local control

It’s been three days since City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement to lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and the Port Authority still hasn’t signed the agreement.Port Authority spokesperson Gail Paul told CityBeat she had no definitive information on when or whether the Port Authority will sign the lease, but she said she would contact CityBeat when she learned more. The lease would produce a $92 million lump sum for the city, followed by at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. But it would hand over majority control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port Authority, which will operate and upgrade the meters, lots and garages through four private companies from around the nation. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the Port Authority has yet to sign the lease because it first wants a financial guarantee that the city will not threaten to cut future funding. In May, City Council considered pulling $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funding from the Port Authority as part of a broader cut to outside agencies. The threat apparently made Port Authority officials concerned about future funding. The city originally claimed the parking plan will keep local control of the city’s parking assets through the Port Authority. But the delay has raised doubts about local control, given that the Port Authority is going against the will and assumptions of the city government. When asked whether the delay on signing the lease raises question about local control, Paul responded, “That’s an interesting take on it.” She says the Port Authority isn’t refusing to sign the lease, but the agency’s board is getting “reacquainted” with the plan and has a few lingering questions. Paul added the Port Authority understands there’s a lot of public interest in the plan. She said the organization is paying attention to feedback and criticisms. City spokesperson Meg Olberding said she’s confident the Port Authority will sign the lease. Olberding responded to questions about local control by pointing out the Port Authority “has been at the table since the beginning.” She added, “The local control is not only through the Port, but also through the advisory board. The board members are citizens as well. So that local control will still be there.” The advisory board will be made up of five members: four appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager. The board would be able to make changes to various aspects of the parking plan, including parking meter rates. Under the original agreement, rates downtown will go up by 25 cents every three years, and rates in neighborhoods will go up by 25 cents every six years. The advisory board will be able to approve a hike or reduction in those rates, but those changes would also require approval from the city manager and Port Authority’s board.
 
 

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