by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 12:33 PM | Permalink
Qualls, Seelbach propose budget plan that would avert layoffs despite months of warnings
A budget plan proposed by two council members today would eliminate layoffs at the fire department and reduce the amount of police layoffs to 25, down from 49, by making cuts elsewhere, particularly by forcing city employees to take 10 furlough days in fiscal year 2014.Council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach are co-sponsoring the motion. If it's approved by City Council, the amount of city employee layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget would drop to 84, down from the original "Plan B" estimate of 344, by amending Mayor Mark Mallory's budget proposal, which was announced yesterday.The news is being well received by public safety advocates, but it's also vindication for some of the city's harshest critics. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley previously said the city was acting like "the boy who cried wolf" by suggesting it had to lay off 344 city employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions."In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and firefighters, and it never happened," Cranley previously told CityBeat.But avoiding the layoffs comes with large cuts and shifted priorities elsewhere: Furlough days for supervisory and leadership personnel would be bumped up from five to 10 ($250,000 in savings), all council members would be asked to take 10 furlough days ($22,700), City Council's office budgets would be reduced ($18,000), the clerk of council's office budget would also be reduced ($46,000), the departments of community development and economic development would be merged ($171,000) and the account for firefighter's protective gear would be reduced ($100,000). In total, the cuts in the motion add up to $607,000.The cuts would be in addition to larger cuts proposed by the city manager and mayor, which include reduced funding to parks, human services, parades and outside agencies.The motion will be formally introduced at tonight's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, which will also act as a public hearing for budget issues. The hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Duke Energy Convention Center.The layoff reductions come after the city manager and mayor spent a bulk of the past six months repeatedly warning that the city would have to carry out significant public safety layoffs if the city didn't lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. That plan would have opened up funds to help balance the budget for two years and pay for economic development projects, including a downtown grocery store ("Parking Stimulus," issue of Feb. 27).But the parking plan is now held up in court, and the city is apparently able to avoid most of the layoffs despite the repeated warnings.The city must enact a budget by May 31, which will give the city the required 30 days to implement the plan by fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana may be on ballot, mayor reduces layoffs, budget hearing tonight
The Ohio Rights Group could be asking voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp statewide
in 2013 or 2014. The Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati says
drug approval should be up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
but that may not matter because polls so far shows medical marijuana
getting widespread approval from Ohio voters. The Ohio Rights Group
argues its amendment would help Ohioans by opening up better health
treatments and boosting the economy. Whether that will be enough to land
the issue on the ballot remains to be seen.Mayor Mark Mallory revised the city manager’s budget plan
to carry out less layoffs but more cuts to outside spending and
recreation centers. Mallory's changes will restore 18 firefighter
positions, 17 police positions, three inspector positions at the Health
Department and two positions at the Law Department, reducing the total
layoffs to 161, with 49 of those being police positions and 53 being
firefighter positions. But it will come with more cuts to third-party
agencies, including the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Center
for Closing the Health Gap and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of
Commerce, and two closed recreation centers. The plan will also use
about $500,000 in recently discovered revenue. Mallory said the layoffs and cuts have to be made in part because of multiple outside factors, including reduced state funding and courts holding up the city's parking plan.The first hearing on the city's fiscal year 2014 budget proposals will be tonight at the Duke Energy Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. The public will be asked to give feedback on the budget plan put forward by the city manager and mayor, which would lay off 161 city employees, including cops and firefighters, to help balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit.CityBeat editorial: "Cincinnati's 1 Percent."The Ohio Department of Transportation has raised its estimated price for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project by about $10 million to $30 million after meetings with business owners in Cincinnati's uptown area. It's so far unclear how the project's costs will be divided between the city, state and federal governments. Originally, Cincinnati was looking to pay for its share of the project through its plan to lease the city's parking assets, but that plan is being held up in court.City
Council approved a resolution yesterday supporting a statewide ban on
injection wells used to dispose wastewater during the hydraulic
fracturing — "fracking" — process, a drilling process that injects
millions of gallons of water underground to unlock natural gas and oil
reserves. The injection wells are a vital part of a fracking boom that
has helped revitalize economies in Ohio and other states and could help combat climate change,
but environmentalists and health advocates are concerned about the
unintended consequences the wells could have on nearby water sources ("Boom, Bust or Both?" in issue of June 6, 2012).The Ohio House approved changes to the state's third grade reading requirement that will relax standards teachers must meet to provide reading instruction and tutoring services for young students. The current law requires teachers to have taught reading for at least three years, but the bill approved by the Ohio House would eliminate that requirement.Mayoral candidate John Cranley says choosing Cincinnati's next police chief should wait until the next mayor is elected in November.The Hamilton County Board of Elections sent two more voter fraud cases to the prosecutor, but the question remains whether the dozens of people who filed provisional ballots and absentee ballots are actually in the wrong — an issue that will be ultimately decided by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Top public safety issues are urging schools not to arm teachers to protect students from gun violence. CityBeat previously found that arming teachers is not supported by research.Ohioans, including CityBeat’s most dazzling staff member, apparently enjoy swearing.Before the IRS harassed tea party groups, it harassed gay rights groups.No further explanation necessary: "Police: Man used grenade to rob Hamilton bank."Scientists have created the first cloned human embryo.A new laser scanner can detect someone watching you from a kilometer away.
Local efforts join state battle against sex trafficking, prostitution
2 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
In our present-day American society, the
term “modern-day slavery” sounds almost like an oxymoron. Slavery, we
think, is a dark stamp in a long American history; at worst, it’s
something we think is isolated to poorly developed countries.
by German Lopez
at 09:23 AM | Permalink
Anna Louise Inn rally today, casino revenue drops, Ohio's business climate improves
Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County
Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western &
Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court
again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to
grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to
take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its
stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below
market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to
slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly
force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot
for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and
Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of
$17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control
Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to
$12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more
Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation,
with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year,
according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The
improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce
quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013.
But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs,
considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree
Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.”
If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers
on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to
remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability
for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan
say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So
far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have
to rework the City Charter to restore the powers.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter.
Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three
kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet
sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade.
A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie.
News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak
at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States
are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act,
which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in
1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun
Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers.
A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.
3 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
To cyclists, it’s a given that Cincinnati
desperately needs more bike lanes. But recent research shows bike lanes
don’t just pose advantages for cyclists; they can also help local
economies and public health.
by German Lopez
Streetcar budget fixes detailed, Senate kills 'right to work,' county fights infant mortality
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave his suggestions for fixing the streetcar budget gap Tuesday, and CityBeat analyzed the details here. The suggestion, which include temporarily using front-loaded Music Hall funds and pulling money from other capital projects, are capital budget items that can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits in state law, so if City Council approved the suggestions, the streetcar would not be saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget.Ohio Senate Republicans seem unlikely to take up so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation after it was proposed in the Ohio House. RTW legislation prevents unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership to be hired for a job, significantly weakening a union's leverage in negotiations by reducing membership. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically around the nation. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the RTW bills and compare them to S.B. 5, a 2011 bill backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining powers for public employees and significantly reduced public sector unions' political power.Hamilton County commissioners approved a county-wide collaborative between health and government agencies to help reduce the county's infant mortality rate, which has exceeded the national average for more than a decade. Funding for the program will come in part from the sale of Drake Hospital to UC Health.With a 7-2 vote yesterday, City Council updated its "responsible bidder" ordinance, which requires job training from contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District, to close loopholes and include Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the charge on the changes, which were opposed by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn.Ohio Senate Democrats are still pushing the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found would insure 456,000 Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade. Ohio House Republicans effectively rejected the expansion with their budget bill, which the Ohio Senate is now reviewing. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.The state's Public Utilities Commissions of Ohio approved a 2.9 percent rate hike for Duke Energy, which will cost customers an average of $3.72 every month.Concealed carry permits issued in Ohio nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, following a wave of mass shootings in the past year and talks of federal gun control legislation.Real headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: "How much skin is too much skin for teens at prom?"A Pennsylvania woman who had been missing for 11 years turned herself in to authorities in Florida.New research shows early American settlers at Jamestown, Va., ate each other.
by German Lopez
Streetcar meeting today, Ohio Senate to modify energy law, state is no 'economic miracle'
City Hall will be hosting a meeting on the streetcar project at 6
p.m. today to figure out what the project’s options are now that it has a $17.4 million budget gap. The meeting was called by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls after City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. explained in a memo that the project has a budget gap because construction bids came in
$26 million to $43 million over budget.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the the Senate Public Utilities Committee, says he wants to “modify,” not repeal, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law
to have more clear-cut compliance standards. Environmentalists say
they’re concerned Seitz will use the review as a front to
water the law down, especially since electricity giant FirstEnergy is pushing
against the law’s energy efficiency standards. CityBeat wrote more about the conflict between environmentalists and FirstEnergy here.
It’s one issue Ohio’s leading liberal and conservative think tanks apparently agree on: Ohio is not the “economic miracle”
often touted by Gov. John Kasich. In the past year, job numbers for the
state have been particularly weak, with public sector losses nearly
making up for very weak private sector gains. The right-leaning Buckeye
Institute for Public Policy Solutions says a complicated tax system is
largely to blame for the stagnant job growth, while the left-leaning
Policy Matters Ohio is mostly focusing on governments’ budget austerity.
A student allegedly shot himself
in front of classmates at LaSalle High School today. Police say he is
currently at a hospital, and there are currently no reports of anyone
else being shot. As of 10:30 a.m., the situation was still developing.After misleading media reports sent the public into a furor, Mayor Mark Mallory agreed to rescind salary raises
that were part of his office’s deficit-reducing budget plan. The plan
gave the mayor’s top aides raises to make up for an increased workload following staff reductions. Even with the raises, the plan
reduced the deficit by $33,000 during the mayor’s remaining time in
office — a fact originally omitted by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Music Hall’s facelift is not happening just yet,
even though approvals from City Council and the Music Hall
Revitalization Company have already paved the way for Cincinnati Center
City Development Corporation (3CDC) to begin renovations. As project
manager, 3CDC will take four to six months to develop a budget, review
designs and go over the legal and financial work necessary to start the
project.Hamilton County is currently tracking to be $1.5 million over budget this year — a budget hole the Board of Commissioners hopes to plug by using the rainy day fund.
One section of the Ohio House budget bill would allow charter schools to enroll out-of-state students and charge them tuition. The policy could involve online schools, which were previously found to have poor results in a CityBeat report.
The relaxed rules potentially add more controversy to a budget plan that’s
already mired in criticism for defunding Planned Parenthood and forgoing
the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.Ohio gas prices are starting 9 cents down this week.
Bad news: The largest HIV vaccine study was shut down after patients contracted the AIDS virus more often than those who didn’t take it.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Liberal, conservative think tanks warn of bad signs in state’s economy
It’s one issue Ohio’s leading conservative and liberal
think tanks seemingly agree on: The “economic miracle” often touted by Gov. John Kasich is not really happening.
The bleak economic news has been highlighted by recent
reports from the right-leaning Buckeye Institute for Public Policy
Solutions, which supports little government intervention in the economy,
and the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, which focuses on policies
that can benefit low- and middle-income Ohioans.
The March “Ohio by the Numbers” report from the Buckeye
Institute did acknowledge that Ohio has a lower unemployment rate than
the national average, but the report was particularly hard on Ohio’s
lacking private sector job growth. It pointed out the state lost 16,800
private sector jobs in February, ranks No. 27 in the nation for private
sector job growth since January 2010 and ranks No. 47 for private sector
job growth since January 1990.
Policy Matters’ March report was similarly harsh: “Since the end of the
recession, Ohio has added 133,700 jobs, growing at a rate of 2.7
percent. But that growth leveled off in the second half of 2012, and the
reported zigzag of the last two months means that Ohio has only added
2,700 jobs over the past year, growing at a very weak 0.1 percent.”
The news may come as a surprise to those who have been
reading seemingly positive job news in recent months. Policy Matters
places the problem on the inherent volatility in job reports, which are
based on household surveys: “This volatility should serve as an
important reminder: Monthly numbers are preliminary and will likely be
revised, so it is unwise to make too much over the month-to-month
changes. Longer-term trends provide a more accurate gauge of the state’s
While they agree on the problem, the two think tanks disagree on the causes and solutions.
Greg Lawson, policy analyst at the Buckeye Institute, says
the biggest problem is Ohio’s tax system. In this area, he points out
three major problems: higher income tax rates than other states, an
unusual amount of municipalities in Ohio with income taxes and
complicated filing for individuals and businesses.
“You find nowhere else in the entire country a situation
in which someone has to file multiple income tax forms ... for different
jurisdictions they work in,” he says, citing the different tax rates
and credits someone working in multiple municipalities might have to
deal with. “That creates a drag on the efficiency of being able to set
As far as tax cuts are concerned, another report
from Policy Matters found a series of tax cuts passed by the Ohio
General Assembly in 2005 had little impact on the state’s economic
growth. The report found Ohio experienced job losses while the rest of
the country grew, and not a single Ohio sector outpaced national
performance. The report concluded, “State economies are complicated and
there are many reasons why Ohio’s job growth is lagging. However, it is
clear that the 2005 tax cuts did not bring about the promised job
growth. There is no reason to think that further tax cuts will, either.”
Instead, Policy Matters has focused on austerity, which
led to the public sector job cuts outlined in Policy Matters’ March
report: “A private-sector gain of 16,900 jobs has been nearly erased by
the 14,200 jobs lost in the public sector. Most of those public job
losses happened at the local level.”
Indeed, federal sequestration has already caused some damage in Ohio, and local government funding cuts approved by Kasich have also forced local governments to cut back (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
by German Lopez
Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region
State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill
in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic
beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than
50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine
would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will
promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said
in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an
opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in
Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment
experience and attract more customers.”
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot
if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans
in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John
Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver
that would allow the state to make broader
reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the
federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.
The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation
in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report.
The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati
to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for
ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around
the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution
reduction in the past few decades.
A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the
training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of
concussions and get help for students.
A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C.
A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet.
Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.
by German Lopez
Day of fasting today, local joblessness drops in March, parking petition process questioned
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to take
part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting today and put off lunch to help support the Freestore Foodbank. Sittenfeld’s office said in a press release that the event will allow
participants to “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part
of many people’s daily lives.” There will be a ceremony for the event
at noon in Fountain Square, where participants will be able to donate to
the Freestore Foodbank.
March was another decent month for jobs in Cincinnati, with the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropping to 7.5 percent,
down from a revised 7.9 percent in February and 8 percent in March
2012. Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati
Economics Center, says most of the job growth is attributable to
Cincinnati’s growing health care services, but manufacturing has also
provided a local boon.
An anonymously posted video questions the legitimacy of some parking plan referendum petitions, but so far no formal challenges
have been filed against the referendum effort. Even if somebody were to
file a challenge, Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke
says it would required a lot — nearly 4,000 signatures — to halt a
referendum: “Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video.”
There is now a local effort to embrace the Cincinnati Preschool Promise,
a private-public partnership that would get more local children in
preschool. The current goal is to get 25 to 50 children in preschool in a pilot
program this fall. Studies show preschool is one of the best investments
that can be made for the economy in the long term. Local preschool
services were recently cut as a consequence of federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts that began March 1.
UC President Santa Ono is recommending the school freeze in-state tuition for the next school year
— a measure the UC Board of Trustees will consider in June. Ono also
said he will not take a salary increase or bonus for the next two years,
and he is asking the school to sell the presidential condo and use the
money to pay for scholarships.
While testifying to legislators reviewing his two-year budget request, State Treasurer Josh Mandel said his office has been targeted by cyberattacks, and the technology currently available to his department is not good enough to hold off the attacks.
Humana will hire 60 people for its customer service center in downtown.
Brain cells will control the power plants of the future.In a press release, Mayor Mark Mallory proclaimed today
Zips’ Cafe Day because the restaurant is finally adding bacon to its