by German Lopez
Streetcar renderings unveiled, county won't raise taxes, facial recognition scrutinized
CAF USA yesterday unveiled new renderings
for Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project. The city has hired CAF
to supply five cars, which will have four doors on each side and be
capable of moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also
completely low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and
moving around the streetcar easier. John Deatrick, the streetcar
project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s
been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in
August, and he expects to really test out the cars once the
Over-the-Rhine loop is completed in June 2015.
Hamilton County commissioners unanimously agreed
the 2014 budget won’t include tax increases. It’s also the first budget in
six years that won’t require major cuts. Hamilton County Administrator
Christian Sigman’s budget proposal doesn’t explicitly suggest a tax
hike, but it does explain how a sales tax hike could be used to offset
other expenditures, such as a cut in property taxes. But commissioners
all said they’re opposed to a sales tax hike. Commissioners will likely
retool the budget and pass the final version in November.
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper called on Ohio
to restrict access of the state’s facial recognition system to a small
group of a couple dozen specially trained law enforcement officers,
which would take calls for the system 24/7. Under Republican Attorney
General Mike DeWine, Ohio in June secretly launched a facial recognition
program that allows law enforcement to use a photo to search state
databases and connect suspects with contact information; previously,
searching the databases required a name or address. In his defense,
DeWine claimed the system is vital for law enforcement and widely used across the country. But an
investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer found Ohio’s system grants access to thousands more officials than other states’ systems.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections began a hearing yesterday on whether Randy Simes, owner of UrbanCincy.com,
can vote in Cincinnati after living in Chicago and moving to South
Korea. Simes registered to vote in the mayoral primary election through
Travis Estell’s address, where Simes says he stays when he’s in town.
Simes’ supporters say the conservative groups behind the hearing are
attacking him for political purposes because he supports the streetcar
project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls for mayor, both of which the
groups oppose. The attorney for the conservative groups said that he
doesn’t want voting “treated as a game.” Some members of the board of
elections said they were disturbed by the political undertones of the
hearing and a request for emails between Simes and Estell.
Gov. John Kasich yesterday announced voluntary guidelines
urging doctors to use caution when prescribing high levels of opioid
painkillers for long-term use to patients. The restrictions are in
response to a rise in prescription drug abuse and overdoses across the country. Some
members of the medical community say they’re concerned the guidelines
will lead to temporary disruption in pain care, but others say the kinks
should work themselves out in the long term.
Letters from State Treasurer Josh Mandel show he lobbied for Suarez Corp.
to seek relief from litigation for the company. The two letters were
obtained on Jan. 2 by a federal grand jury that later indicted Benjamin
Suarez, owner of Suarez Corp., and Michael Giorgo, chief financial
officer of the company, on charges of illegally funneling about $200,000
to Mandel and a Republican congressman’s campaigns in 2011.
Among states and the District of Columbia, WalletHub estimates Ohio is No. 32 most affected by the federal government shutdown. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in greater detail here.
Ohio gave 23 communities $8 million for local infrastructure improvements, but Cincinnati and Hamilton County were not among the recipients.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino held its spot as Ohio’s top-earning casino in September.
Enrollment to Cincinnati State increased despite a statewide decline. The university also received a $2.75 million manufacturing training grant.
Science confirmed that political extremists think they’re always right and everyone else is wrong.
Watch coffee shop customers freak out at a real-life Carrie:
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:27 PM | Permalink
Spanish company hired by city to design, build cars
The Cincinnati streetcar took another step forward on Monday when car builder CAF USA unveiled renderings for the $133 million project.
The city has hired CAF to supply five cars. The latest details
show the cars will have four doors on each side and be capable of
moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also completely
low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and moving around
the streetcar easier.
CAF, which is based in Spain, has supplied cars for a few
other U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, Houston and Sacramento, Calif.
John Deatrick, the streetcar project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in August.
Unlike most other streetcars around the world, the
Cincinnati cars are particularly tuned to handle sharp turns, according
to Deatrick. That’s because the city didn’t want to expand roads and
knock down buildings just to accommodate the transit network.
Deatrick says the true test for the cars will come once
they’re shipped and tested on a completed Over-the-Rhine loop in June
2015. The streetcar is set to open for use on Sept. 15, 2016.
Check out the renderings here.
by German Lopez
Streetcar on track, initiative to redevelop homes, Pure Romance touted in tax credit debate
The streetcar project is on track for its Sept. 15, 2016 opening date, according to a monthly progress report
released by the city yesterday. Through Aug. 31, the city spent $22.1
million on the project, including nearly $2 million in federal funding.
In total, the project is estimated to cost $133 million, and about $45
million will come from the federal government. CityBeat covered the project and political misrepresentations surrounding it in further detail here.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and community partners yesterday unveiled the “Come Home Cincinnati” initiative,
which promises to make vacant properties available to new occupants in
an effort to increase homeownership and redevelop neighborhoods hit
hardest by vacancy and abandonment. The initiative will work through the
Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development
corporations to connect potential homeowners with a pool of loan
guarantees, which would pay for the home loans if a borrower defaulted.
Qualls’ office says the plan will likely require tapping into the city’s
Focus 52 fund, which finances neighborhood projects. If City Council
passes the motion supporting the initiative, the city administration
will have 60 days to come up with a budgeted plan, which Council will also have to
approve.A Democratic state legislator used Pure Romance’s troubles to criticize Ohio’s process for granting tax credits. State Rep. Chris Redfern, who sits on the legislature’s Controlling Board, repeatedly brought up Pure Romance when discussing tax credits for three companies supported by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. Redfern ultimately didn’t vote against the tax credits, but he only backed down after getting state officials to say the three companies were meeting all of the state’s priorities. Pure Romance originally planned to move its headquarters and 60 jobs from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati and create 60 jobs in the process. But since the company was denied state tax credits, it’s openly discussed moving to Kentucky to take up a better tax offer. The Kasich administration says it denied the tax credits because Pure Romance isn’t part of a targeted industry, but Democrats argue the administration is killing jobs in Ohio just because of prudish feelings toward Pure Romance’s product lineup, which includes sex toys.
Cincinnati will be honored by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) later today for connecting residents to
renewable energy sources, according to a press release from the city.
Some environmental groups have already praised Cincinnati for championing
solar energy in particular, as CityBeat covered here.
At a City Council forum last night, residents demanded walkable, livable neighborhoods that include grocery stores.Internet cafes need more than 71,000 signatures to get on the November 2014 ballot.
The cafes are attempting to overturn a state law that effectively
forces them out of business. State officials argue the law is necessary because Internet cafes, which offer slot-machine-style games on
computer terminals, are hubs of illegal gambling activity. But Internet
cafes say what they offer isn’t gambling because customers always get
something of value — phone or Internet time — in exchange for their
The Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) marketplaces will go live in one week, regardless of whether the federal government shuts down. The marketplaces will allow users to enroll in insurance plans with tax subsidies from the federal government. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote and obstruct them in further detail here.
A Democratic state legislator is pushing new requirements that would force lobbyists to disclose their annual salaries.
I-75 lanes are temporarily closing for improvements.
Step one to stopping malicious hackers: Learn their ways.
by German Lopez
Medicaid expansion vote stalls, Lunken Airport mismanaged, streetcar spurs campaigns
Republican lawmakers say they won’t hold any votes on the Medicaid expansion until October or later,
even though state officials say the expansion must be approved by
October to have it in place by 2014. Implementing the expansion at the start of 2014 would coincide with the implementation
of other major programs in Obamacare. Gov. John Kasich supports the
expansion, but he’s had trouble convincing his fellow Republicans to
join him. The expansion would be mostly funded by the federal
government, which would pay for the entire policy for the first three
years then phase down to indefinitely paying for 90 percent of the cost.
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. Michigan, which is also dominated by Republicans, on Tuesday approved its own Medicaid expansion.
An internal audit found the city of Cincinnati has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have gone toward improving the city-owned Lunken Airport through poor management and technology problems. In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach wrote on Twitter, “Lunken oversights
completely unacceptable. Meeting w/ City & Lunken Mngr to work on
detailed correction plan later this week.” The city is planning on
making changes that should avoid losing revenue in the future.
Streetcar supporters plan to hold a fundraiser
today for mayoral candidate Roxanne Qualls and City Council candidate
Wendell Young. The fundraiser shows the extra steps now being taken by
streetcar supporters, who have been proudly flaunting their support
every month through “streetcar socials,” the latest of which Mayor Mark Mallory attended. Ever since its inception, the streetcar has been mired in controversy and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
A central Ohio lawmaker is renewing a legislative push
for attaching drug tests to welfare benefits. The measure is meant to
lower costs and ensure welfare money isn’t going to drug dealers. As CityBeat previously covered,
the testing requirement can actually increase the cost of welfare
programs: In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of
$45,780 after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients of
their drug tests. Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9
percent, tested positive, and most tested positive for marijuana,
according to The Miami Herald.
Heavy construction and improvements that will modernize and widen Interstate 75 are expected to continue for the next decade.
Much of the work is being funded by Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which
sells bonds that will be repaid with excess Turnpike polls.
Jeff Ruby yesterday responded to a lawsuit
filed on Monday against his restaurant chain. Ruby says his servers “are
highly compensated — averaging $65,000 a year, with shifts that average
seven hours a day.” The lawsuit alleges that management at Ruby’s
restaurants took tips from three employees, which supposedly left them
earning less than minimum wage.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati plans to raise $62.8 million with its campaign this year. The organization supports Cincinnati’s human services, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Google Glass could be used to improve surgeries in the future.
by German Lopez
Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues
With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial
recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer,
DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the
program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the
public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s
initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and
privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able
to abuse the new tool.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets
once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but
it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise
revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or
the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken
steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a
reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas.
The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time
injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents
of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s
parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking
rates and hours.
Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets
will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for
Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving
forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John
Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the
demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1
A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic
will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI
claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of
that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way.
Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary
Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to
provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation
funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals,
among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today
begins its first week back to school.
Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery.
Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than
Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has
stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by
half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average.
The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial.
NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
by German Lopez
Streetcar gets executive, businesses call for inclusion, gun control group opens Ohio chapter
John Deatrick is taking over as project executive of the Cincinnati streetcar project, moving on from his previous work as project manager of The Banks. Deatrick’s hiring announcement happened in April, but it was delayed while City Council fixed the project’s budget gap. Deatrick and his team previously won an award
for their work at The Banks, and he says he will bring the same scrutiny
and success to the streetcar project. A new project manager for The
Banks is set to be hired in August. Since the streetcar project’s
inception, it has been mired in misrepresentations and political
controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Local business leaders are calling on the city government to change its contracting policies to target minority- and women-owned businesses. Advocates argue the city’s inclusion rates have greatly dropped
since Cincinnati did away with its inclusion program in the 1990s, but
the city administration points out the rates are likely understated
because women- and minority-owned businesses are no longer required to report
themselves as minorities or women. The business leaders say the figures are too low regardless,
which could have big implications since minority-owned businesses are
more likely to hire minorities, who have twice the unemployment rate as
white residents. As a result of court rulings, Cincinnati needs to first
conduct a disparity study before it makes any changes that specifically target minorities or women.
Gabrielle Giffords’s anti-gun violence organization is opening an Ohio chapter
to promote legislation that intends to protect both the public
and the rights of gun owners. Giffords, a former U.S. representative
who survived an assassination attempt, has been touring around the
country — at one point coming to Cincinnati
— to speak out against gun violence. Gun control legislation
failed in the U.S. Senate in April after it fell short of getting 60 votes to overcome
procedural hurdles, even though polling shows a clear majority of
Americans favor such legislation.
Local government funding may be further reduced
as a result of recent tax cuts because the Local Government Fund traditionally gets a percent of state tax revenue. Specifically, critics are concerned
less state tax revenue will slow down “natural growth” in funding to
cities and counties. Last week, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio
found the recently passed two-year state budget already reduces local government funding, following even steeper reductions in the previous budget. The cuts since Gov. John Kasich took office have cost Cincinnati more than $22 million.
A traffic camera ban would cost Ohio cities and counties millions of dollars in revenue.
Ohio gas prices are starting down this week.
Home-schooled and private-school students have a right to play on public school teams because of a provision in the recently passed state budget.
When Columbus’ parking meters were upgraded to accept credit cards, revenue jumped by 13.2 percent. Cincinnati’s meters will be upgraded as part of the parking privatization plan.Ohio air bases are undergoing review
this week as part of Congress’ attempts to gauge whether the nation’s
Air Force is prepared for current and future missions and homeland
Slow news day, Enquirer?
Florida researchers found “fat shaming” actually perpetuates obesity.
It would probably take 300 to 500 piranhas five minutes to strip the flesh off a 180-pound human.
by German Lopez
Parking lease facing legal dispute, critical memo dismissed, mayor to attend streetcar social
In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action
to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages
to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager exceeded his authority when he
made two “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after
City Council approved the deal in March. If the city solicitor doesn’t
take up the legal challenge, COAST could sue the city by itself.
Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s necessary to fund development
projects in the city and modernize the city’s parking services, but
opponents say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking
meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown.
The Business Courier reports that a critical parking memo was supposed to provide a “strike point” for negotiations between the Port Authority and Xerox,
which will manage the city’s parking meters under a lease agreement.
But the city administration didn’t begin sharing the June 20 memo with
anyone else, including the Port Authority, until July 12, after council
members and media outlets began asking the city administration about it.
The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the parking lease agreement and overpaying Xerox. Port and city officials argue the memo relied on outdated information and made technical errors.
Mayor Mark Mallory will today join fellow streetcar supporters
at Rhinegeist Brewery to discuss the streetcar project’s latest news
and future. The city on July 15 set an opening date of Sept. 15, 2016
after finalizing a construction contract with Messer Construction, Prus
Construction and Delta Railroad, which was made possible after City Council closed a $17.4 million budget gap in June. CityBeat recently debunked some of the misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project here.
Commentary: “Zimmerman Reactions Overlook Broader Racial Issues in America.”
Public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down
following city and state funding cuts. The organization’s demise is a
great loss to producers like Rufus Johnson, who used its resources for years. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the
state eliminated a fund that was provided by Time Warner Cable, but even the local funding was fully cut in the budget passed in May. City officials
have justified the cuts by pointing to citizen surveys that ranked Media
Bridges poorly in terms of budgetary importance, but a CityBeat
analysis found the surveys were skewed against the low-income
Cincinnatians that benefit the most from public access programs like
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing multiple felony charges
related to securities fraud. A lawsuit filed in Hamilton County by
investors alleges that money invested at the request of Beck and others
was used for personal gain — specifically, Beck’s campaign — instead of a
business investment as originally intended. Beck has been in power
since 2009, and his current term is set to expire in 2014.
A former poll worker was sentenced to five years for voter fraud after she voted twice for herself and three times for her sister, who’s been in a coma since 2003.
The driver who last August accidentally hit and killed a local cyclist is awaiting his sentence.
Local bike advocacy groups are asking courts to give the maximum
penalty to the driver, who’s facing at most six months in jail and a
The local housing market is rapidly recovering in a
continuing good sign for the economy, with single-family home permits up
48 percent in June compared to the year before, according to the Home
Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Reds games are No. 3 for local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, behind only the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Xavier University is laying off 31 employees and cutting 20 currently vacant positions.
A Miami University student is getting an astronaut scholarship, making him one of 28 students nationwide to receive the honor.
Entrepreneur says Cincinnati is an “unexpected hub for tech startups.”
A new self-aiming rifle would outshoot human snipers.
Popular Science has a guide for arguing against anti-vaccine crazies here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:55 AM | Permalink
Supporters gathering Thursday to discuss project
Mayor Mark Mallory will join fellow streetcar
supporters Thursday to discuss how the project is coming along and where
The event is the monthly streetcar social, hosted by Cincinnatians for Progress.
Organizers expect to pull in nearly 100 people from around
the city to discuss topics and issues surrounding the project. It will take place on Thursday, July 18, between 5:30 p.m. to 8
p.m. at Rhinegeist Brewery, 1910 Elm St., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202. For
more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.
Mallory, who’s term-limited from running for reelection
this year, has spearheaded efforts to build a streetcar in Cincinnati.
He’s been joined by a steady Democratic majority in City Council, which
most recently approved $17.4 million more in funding for the project
alongside several accountability measures that will require the city
manager to regularly update council and the public on the project’s
In the past week, the city announced the streetcar is set to open for service on Sept. 15, 2016, after city officials and bidders finalized details for a construction contract.
CityBeat’s cover story for the week of July 10 debunked the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the Cincinnati streetcar project.
Streetcar supporters argue the project will foster
economic growth and development in Cincinnati, particularly downtown — a
claim backed by studies from advising company HDR and the University of
Opponents claim the project, which now stands at $133
million after recent cost overruns were fixed, is too expensive. They doubt it will succeed in spurring growth
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Following years of political controversy,
the Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to open for service on Sept. 15,
by German Lopez
Memo doubts parking plan, city manager defends hiding memo, streetcar to open 2016
The city administration yesterday disputed the findings of a June 20 memo
that suggested the city is getting a bad deal from its parking lease
agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but controversy
remains about why the city administration withheld the memo from City Council and the
Port Authority for three-plus weeks. Opponents of the parking plan are
now attempting to use the memo to convince the Port Authority to reject
the lease with Xerox, but the Port Authority insists that the memo is
laced with inaccuracies and technical errors. The city is pursuing the
lease to obtain a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual
payments, according to city estimates. The money will be used to pay
for future budget gaps and development projects, including the I-71/MLK
City Manager Milton Dohoney defended the city administration’s decision to withhold the June 20 memo,
but several council members are angered by what they call a “lack
of transparency.” Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls argued the
administration’s decision to keep the memo from City Council was
understandable because the memo was based on faulty information.
The Cincinnati streetcar got an opening date yesterday: Sept. 15, 2016.
The grand opening comes after years of political controversy, pulled
funding and two referendum efforts nearly killed the project. Ever
since it was first proposed, the streetcar project has been engulfed in
misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered here.
A federal judge made permanent his earlier decision that Ohio must count provisional ballots
if they’re submitted in the right polling place but wrong precinct. The
ruling is being taken as a victory by voting-rights advocates.
Cincinnati is negotiating to claw back
its incentive with Kendle International Inc., which agreed in 2008 to
keep its headquarters and create jobs at the city’s Carew Tower. The
agreement gave Kendle $200,000 over 10 years on the
condition it steadily grew jobs. The failure may add further doubt to
the value of job deals, which were criticized earlier in the year by a
report CityBeat covered here.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ
Hospital and Bethesda North Hospital are among the best hospitals in the
nation, according to U.S. News’s “Best Hospitals” feature.
Here are some of the odd things that made it into the two-year state budget.
Gov. John Kasich signed a Columbus school plan that will allow levy money to be shared with charter schools that partner with the Columbus school district.
The Senate is the best place in the country to eat hot dogs, according to Food & Wine.
More U.S. hospitals now treat gay parents equally.
Dogs apparently can watch television, which is good news for an Israeli channel explicitly aimed at dogs.