by German Lopez
Pay-to-stay jail policy criticized, locals react to LGBT rulings, council OKs streetcar funding
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. CityBeat
got an exclusive early look at the report, which scrutinized three
counties for their pay-to-stay policies. Among the three samples,
Hamilton County had the second lowest fees and did the second
least harm to low-income people, according to the report. Although the
ACLU was hopeful the report and the election of a new sheriff would
inspire some change, Hamilton County officials told CityBeat that no changes are planned.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage, and some local and state leaders had a few things to say about it.
The reactions seem to vary depending on a partisan basis, with
Republicans in opposition and Democrats in favor. Rest assured: Here at CityBeat, we favor giving equal rights to people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
City Council yesterday approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project
and funding for development at Fourth and Race streets, which will
include a downtown grocery store. The streetcar measures close 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,
which were initially introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, 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.
Commentary: “The Little Engine That Could.”
Make sure to check out CityBeat’s extensive LGBT coverage for our Pride Issue here, including a mini-profile of Councilman Chris Seelbach and his partner.
It’s local election season. In the next five months, City Council will meet only seven times, down from the typical 14.
Odis Jones is leaving his post as Cincinnati’s director of economic development
to become CEO of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority, a city-run utility
operated by an independent board. Jones was known at City Council
meetings for making passionate pitches for various economic development
projects, including the most recent plans for Fourth and Race streets.
He told Business Courier he wants to go to Detroit to play a role in the revitalization
of his hometown: “My mother always said, 'If you see a good fight, get
in it.' I'm in it.”
The Ohio House voted to ban red-light cameras
despite arguments that the cameras have reduced
traffic accidents and saved lives. An Ohio Senate vote is expected in
NASA is teaming up with Italy and Japan on a mission to Mercury.
Researchers found wearing a T-shirt with the letter “T” on it makes men more attractive. Critics of the study argue attractive men would be better with no shirt — or pants — at all.
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
A new report found many "megadeals" rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public
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
by German Lopez
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
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati area added about 6,400 jobs
Cincinnati-area employment shot up in May, rising by 6,400 from April and 5,400 year-over-year, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Michael Jones, research director at the University of
Cincinnati Economics Center, says the numbers show the local economy is still growing.
The unemployment rate rose from 6.5 percent in April to 6.8 percent in May, but Jones says it's better to look at year-over-year trends to control for seasonal factors.
Between May 2012 and May this year, the unemployment
rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent, reflecting 200 less people
Job numbers at the state and federal level are
normally adjusted for seasonal factors — such as increased hiring in the
summer as outdoors work picks up — but local numbers aren't.At the state level, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate increased from 6.7 percent in April to 6.9 percent in May, while the nationwide rate rose from 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent.
Jones calls the general trend good, but he
cautions that rising interest rates could make banks and other lenders
skittish about loaning money to businesses and potential home buyers, which could cause the recovery to slow down.
Still, Jones remains optimistic.
"This month has been positive, and I think we've been seeing that this is a growing trend," he says.
by German Lopez
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.