WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 06.18.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Parking at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Signs Parking Lease

Mayor, City Council could make changes

The city signed an agreement Monday to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the mayor and City Council may make changes to the plan before it’s implemented. The city tweeted the news of the signing to several reporters today with a caveat: “Changes to hours etc. can still be made.” The caveat comes after a majority of City Council asked City Manager Milton Dohoney to give council more time to make changes to the parking plan. Council approved the parking plan in March, but that was in the middle of a tenuous budget process that has since finished with the passing of a balanced budget. Now, a majority of City Council is pushing to rework the deal. Democrats Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas and Laure Quinlivan, Republican Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman support reworking or repealing the parking plan. In particular, Seelbach and Quinlivan have suggested reducing or eliminating the expansion of parking meter operation hours. The original plan expands hours to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. downtown and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in neighborhoods, but private operators wouldn’t have the ability to further expand hours. How much City Council will be able to do remains uncertain. City Solicitor John Curp previously told City Council that a supermajority is not enough for a repeal because Mayor Mark Mallory, who supports the parking plan, can hold any ordinances until Nov. 30, which marks the end of the current City Council session. Jason Barron, Mallory’s spokesperson, told CityBeat the mayor would reject a repeal, but he’s open to changes. “There will be financial repercussions to that,” he said, alluding to possibly smaller payments from the Port Authority. “But there’s a ton of flexibility in this plan.” Still, Barron says the city won’t spend any funds until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are exhausted. At the center of the legal battles: Whether an emergency clause allows the parking plan to avoid a referendum. Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures earlier in the year for a referendum effort, but the referendum may never come to pass in the aftermath of recent court rulings. The latest ruling from the Hamilton County Court of Appeals decided the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum efforts on passed legislation, on top of bypassing a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws. In other words, since the parking plan had an emergency clause attached to it, the plan is not subject to referendum. The appeals court later refused to delay enforcement of its ruling, which allowed the city manager to sign the lease within days.Opponents are attempting to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. For Cincinnati, the parking plan will provide $92 million in an upfront payment, followed by at least $3 million in estimated annual payments that the city says will eventually grow to $7 million and beyond.The city plans to use the lump sum to rescind budget cuts, help balance future budgets and fund economic development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.Opponents of the plan argue it cedes too much control of the city’s parking assets to private operators and could hurt neighborhoods and downtown by expanding parking meter operation hours and increasing meter rates.Correction: The city signed the lease Monday, not Tuesday as originally reported in the story. The city made the announcement Tuesday, which caused confusion and miscommunication.
 
 

Republican Medicaid Opposition Ignores Ohio’s Best Interests

2 Comments · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
As the state budget process winds down, it’s looking more and more likely that Republican legislators will reject one of the most obviously positive policies to ever come before them.   
by German Lopez 06.17.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Development at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Court Refuses Stay on Parking Ruling

City now waits on lower court to sign lease

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals today refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan. On June 12, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling and sided with the city over critics of the parking plan, deciding that the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum efforts on passed legislation, including the parking plan. Emergency clauses also allow the city to avoid a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws. For Cincinnati, the plan will first produce a $92 million one-time payment. Following that, the city will get an estimated $3 million a year, which the city says will eventually increase to $7 million and continue climbing afterward. Still, the city says it won’t spend any funds until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are exhausted. “The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds,” City Manager Milton Dohoney said in a statement on June 12. “Once there is legal certainty, the Administration will look at the budget to determine if there are items that may need to be revisited and bring those before Members of City Council, as appropriate.” Opponents are planning to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures supporting a referendum on the parking plan. But with the appeals court ruling, that referendum may never come to pass. The city says the parking plan’s funds will be used to accelerate economic growth, but critics argue the parking plan will hurt downtown businesses by expanding parking meter hours and increasing meter rates. City Council began discussing potential changes to the parking plan in a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today. The meeting largely focused on whether City Council could repeal or rework the parking plan with a simple majority or supermajority.Following the June 12 ruling, five out of nine council members signed a motion to repeal the parking plan. But City Council would need to pass an ordinance for any changes to be legally binding. An ordinance would likely need six votes to overrule the mayor’s veto powers. City Solicitor John Curp told City Council the mayor also has the power through the City Charter to hold any proposed ordinances until the end of his term on Nov. 30, which means the mayor can effectively stop all repeal attempts.Mayor Mark Mallory supports the parking plan. Jason Barron, his spokesperson, previously told CityBeat Mallory would reject a repeal.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.12.2013
Posted In: Budget, Abortion, News, Privatization at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Court OKs parking plan, council to vote on grocery, Kasich unclear on abortion restrictions

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.In a 2-1 ruling announced today, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed an injunction holding up the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, allowing the city to move on with the plan and continue the use of emergency clauses. The plan, which CityBeat covered in further detail here, will raise $92 million in upfront money and at least $3 million in annual increments for the city, which the city planned to use to help balance the city budget and pursue a slate of development projects, including a downtown grocery store. But critics argue the plan will lead to a spike in parking rates and goes too far in expanding operating hours for parking meters, which they say could hurt downtown business. CityBeat will have more on this story later today. City Council will vote today on whether it will move on with using $12 million in urban renewal funds to build a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue’s Garage. The Budget and Finance Committee already approved the project in a 7-0 vote Monday. If the full session of City Council approves the project, construction could begin late this year or early 2014, which means likely completion in 2015 or 2016. Gov. John Kasich was unclear on whether he’ll support anti-abortion measures passed by the Ohio House and Senate in their budget bills. The governor reiterated that he’s “pro-life,” but he said he’s not sure if the measures go too far. The budget bills would effectively defund Planned Parenthood, use federal funds for pro-abstinence, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics by making it more difficult for them to get required transfer agreements with hospitals. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital ranked No. 3 in a new U.S. News and World Report for pediatric hospitals. The hospital also ranked No. 1 for pediatric cancer care. The Catholic Archdiocese of Columbus won’t reinstate a fired gay teacher. But while Catholic institutions continue pursuing conservative social policies, some groups are pushing for the Church to reform. New research found hands-free technology doesn’t make driving safer. A study from Duke University found video gamers really do see more and better.
 
 

“Jobs” Budget Attacks Women’s Health Options

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
In a bizarre turn of events, the latest versions of the budget passed by the Ohio House and Senate focus largely on abortion rights.   

Senate Approves Budget with Anti-Abortion Measures

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed a budget that takes multiple measures against legal abortions and makes sweeping changes to taxes and education.  
by German Lopez 06.11.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Budget at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Governor Unclear on Abortion Restrictions

Kasich: “I’m pro-life...”

Speaking at Bowling Green State University in northwestern Ohio yesterday, Gov. John Kasich was unclear on whether he’d use his line-item veto powers to remove anti-abortion provisions from a budget bill. When asked about the issue by a student from the University of Toledo Medical Center, Kasich responded, “First of all, I’m pro-life.” He added, “We’ll have to see how this proceeds through the House and the Senate conference committee and have just got to wait and see how it goes, then I’ll make a decision as to whether I think it goes too far or doesn’t, but keep in mind that I’m pro-life.” The Ohio House and Senate recently passed budget bills that would defund Planned Parenthood and fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers with federal funds. The Ohio Senate, which goes second in the legislative budget process, also added a provision that could be used by the state health director to shut down abortion clinics. Under the Ohio Senate budget’s new rules, abortion clinics would be unable to set transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked at any time and without cause by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic can’t establish a transfer agreement, it could be shut down with no further explanation by the state health director. The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s much more difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious. State regulations already require transfer agreements between ambulatory surgical facilities, including abortion clinics, and hospitals, but the Ohio Senate budget encodes the regulations into law and adds further restrictions.Transfer agreements are typically used to provide emergency or urgent care to patients with sudden complications. Opponents of abortion rights, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, have praised the budget measures for promoting “chastity” and “abstinence.” During budget hearings, several Republican legislators said Planned Parenthood is being defunded in part because it provides abortion services. Planned Parenthood is legally forbidden from using public funds for abortions. It currently provides the services through private donations. Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, criticized the budget bills and Kasich’s lack of clarity in a statement: “This appalling agenda is out of touch with Ohio values and we need Gov. Kasich to pledge to keep it from becoming law.”The Ohio House and Senate must reconcile their budgets through conference committee before a final version reaches Kasich’s desk. At that point, Kasich could veto the entire bill, reject specific portions with his line-item veto powers or sign the bill in its entirety.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.11.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget, Voting at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying $12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed. The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should contribute to the pension fund continues to go up. The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102 million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2), which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an investigation. Following a report that found Ohio’s juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region. Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008. The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light. Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.10.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Budget, Development at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City advances without parking plan, Kasich on budget defense, Seelbach questions Cranley

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Even without the parking plan, the city passed a budget with no public safety layoffs and is moving forward with plans for the Uptown interchange project, a downtown grocery store, a new garage to replace Pogue’s Garage, Wasson Way and the Smale Riverfront Park. The turnaround has prompted some critics to question whether city officials were being honest when they cited a list of potential problems if the city failed to semi-privatize its parking assets to raise funds, but Mayor Mark Mallory and supporters say a lot changed between the time the threats were made and now, including tax revenues coming in at $4.5 million better than projected. The Columbus Dispatch says Gov. John Kasich has found himself “playing defense” in the current budget cycle — a sharp contrast to the budget cycle in 2011. Both the Ohio House and Senate have greatly changed Kasich’s original budget plan. Instead of taking up Kasich on his plan to expand the sales tax while lowering the rate, cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board and cut small business taxes, the House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut and the Senate replaced the House plan with a tax cut aimed at small businesses. Both chambers also rejected the Kasich-backed, federally funded Medicaid expansion and the governor’s education funding plan. Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach says he was yelled and sworn at for several minutes by Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s campaign manager following open questions about whether Cranley is still a Democrat. Cranley has long opposed the city’s streetcar project and parking plan, which have both received support from a majority of Democrats in City Council, and tacitly supports Amy Murray, a Republican City Council candidate. Estimates for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino improved last month, coming in at $2 million more than April’s estimates. The $20 million estimate is still nearly $2 million less than the casino received on opening month. Former mayor Eugene Ruehlman died Saturday night at the age of 88. Ohio gas prices remain at nearly $4 this week, above the national average. The self-proclaimed “whistleblower” who leaked details about two NSA surveillance programs has revealed himself in Hong Kong. Apparently Kings Island is open, and Adventure Express was evacuated due to a “mechanical problem.” The latest design for skateboard wheels is a square. Cold War-era radiation apparently has the answer for whether adults keep making new brain cells.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.06.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Abortion, Education at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio Senate Approves Budget with Anti-Abortion Measures

Plan also cuts taxes for businesses, restores some education funding

In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget. The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals, which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down. Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services. The bill also makes changes to family services funding that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations. The bill also redirects some federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood. The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back. “Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut taxes for small businesses by 50 percent. Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses, which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal groups have criticized the plan. In an analysis, Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy think tank, claimed the tax cut will inadvertently benefit “affluent passive investors” and “partners in law firms and other partnerships.” Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy. “The fastest growing small businesses are not making money because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing, research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything, they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely to be able to benefit very much from this.” He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.” Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education and human services. The conservative Tax Foundation echoed some of Schiller’s criticisms in a blog post. “This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of ‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.” The budget plan restores about $717 million in education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011. The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts — effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local property values. Stephen Dyer, an education policy fellow at the left-leaning Innovation Ohio, captured the disproportionate funding increases in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program. Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences. As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would permanently remain. Republican legislators, backed by Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the nation. A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
 
 

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