by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:09 AM | Permalink
Video provides best break for budget hearings
Here at CityBeat, we cover a lot of budget hearings, and they can very easily wear us down with their partisan squabbles and monotonous focus on details that everyone will forget about in a week or so. Right now, we're watching the Ohio Senate budget hearings, which have so far involved Democrats repeatedly bringing up amendments only to get them shot down by the Republican majority. Very repetitive, very boring.Thankfully, the Internet has given us the chance to take what we like to call "cat breaks." This video — arguably the greatest thing in the entire Internet — is the latest example:We encourage you to do the same while you're at work. If your employer ever questions the practice, just point him or her to the study that found looking at cute animals actually boosts productivity.
by German Lopez
City, county clash over law; Senate restores some school funding; Jim Berns misleads public
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.With a $3.2 billion price tag and 15- to 20-year time
scale, Cincinnati’s plan to retrofit and replace its sewers is one of
the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history, but the
program is experiencing hurdles
as the city and county clash over how to reward contracts and whether
the government should have a say in training employees. Cincinnati
recently passed and modified a “responsible bidder” law that sets rules
for apprenticeship programs and a fund for pre-apprenticeship programs,
which Councilman Chris Seelbach says help promote local jobs and job
training. But critics, backed by county officials and business
organizations, say the law puts too much of a burden on contractors.
The Ohio Senate budget bill would restore $717 million in education funding, but it wouldn’t be enough
to overcome $1.8 billion in education funding cuts carried out in the
last biennium budget. The funding increase also disproportionately
favors the wealthy, with the property-poorest one-third of school
districts getting 15 percent of the funding increases and the top
one-third getting the vast majority. The Senate is expected to vote on
the bill today.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn’t hand out “free marijuana plants”
at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media
outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his
campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato
plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.
Commentary: “JobsOhio: Something to Hide, Something to Fear?”
With 8-0 support from City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory appointed Stan Chesley
to the city’s Human Relations Commission yesterday. Chesley retired
from practicing law after he was disbarred in Kentucky for allegedly
keeping millions of dollars that should have gone to clients involved in
a lawsuit about phen-fen, a diet drug. Mallory and Chesley have worked
together in the past, particularly to raise money for the city’s
Ohio lawmakers are considering two laws
that would tighten rules about who can carry guns in schools and
encourage religious education. The changes related to guns would involve
local law enforcement in deciding who can carry guns, but it would also
allow schools to conceal the names of who can carry a firearm and
protect those individuals from liability for accidents unless there was
“reckless and wanton conduct.” The changes for religious education would
allow public high schools to give credit to students who take religious
courses outside of school.
Ohio senators scrapped a plan that would have raised vehicle registration fees.
Ohio gas prices jumped above $4 this week.
NASA is building an intergalactic GPS.
Sleep-deprived men are apparently really bad at judging who wants to sleep with them.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:04 PM | Permalink
Wealthy schools see best gains in budget plan
The Ohio Senate's budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 would restore about $717 million in education funding, but the gains wouldn't be enough to outweigh $1.8 billion in education cuts from the 2012-2013 budget, which was approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in 2011.The bill would also favor the state's property-wealthiest districts, which can already raise more money for local schools by leveraging their massive local property values. About 85 percent of the wealthiest school districts will get funding increases, while 40 percent of the poorest rural districts receive no increases, according to Stephen Dyer, a former Democratic state representative and an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio.Dyer put the regressive breakdown in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows the bottom one-third of school districts only get about 15 percent of the increases, while the top one-third are getting a vast majority of the increases.Still, Dyer points out that the budget is increasing funding for urban, high-poverty areas, while rural areas are generally getting the smallest increases.The budget would also include $250 million in one-time money for the Straight A Fund, which is supposed to entice innovation at schools around the state. When the program was first proposed in Kasich's budget plan, the Kasich administration asked for $300 million.Even with the Straight A Fund, the funding increases wouldn't be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in cuts in the last biennium budget, which is a previous estimate
from progressive think tanks Policy Matters Ohio and Innovation Ohio that includes tax reimbursements for tangible personal property and
public utility property, federal stimulus funds and state aid to
schools.Many school districts have coped with the cuts through local tax levies, which Innovation Ohio previously compared to a $1.1 billion tax increase across the state. In 2012, Cincinnati Public Schools was one of the many school districts to successfully pass a levy after dealing with years of cuts from multiple levels of government ("Battered But Not Broken," issue of Oct. 3).The changes proposed by the Ohio legislature are the latest in a chain of attempts to reform the state's school funding formula, which has a history of legal and political problems. Between 1997 and 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court issued four decisions that found the state's school funding formula unconstitutional because it relied too much on property taxes and failed to provide "a thorough and efficient system of common schools."But 16 years later, critics argue the system still relies too much on property taxes. According to them, the reliance on property taxes drives inequality because property-wealthy areas can more easily leverage their high property values to fund good schools, while property-poor areas are generally left behind.Kasich attempted to address the issues with his own rework of the education funding formula, but the rework was dismissed by the Ohio House and Senate — a victory for critics who deemed Kasich's plan regressive ("Smoke and Mirrors," issue of Feb. 20).The Ohio legislature and Kasich must approve a budget plan by June 30.
by German Lopez
Another anti-abortion amendment, Kasich prevents JobsOhio audit, streetcar funds remain
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.The Ohio Senate proposed a budget amendment
yesterday that would ban abortion providers from transferring
patients to public hospitals. The rule continues a series of
conservative pushes on social issues in the ongoing budget process that began in the Ohio House. The
Ohio House budget bill effectively defunded Planned Parenthood and funded anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, while the Ohio Senate accepted those measures and added another rule that potentially allows the health director to shut down abortion clinics.
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill
that will prevent a full public audit of JobsOhio, the private
nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican legislators to
replace the Ohio Department of Development. The bill defines liquor
profits, which were public funds before JobsOhio, and private funds in a
way that bars the state auditor from looking into any funding sources
that aren’t owed to the state. Last week, Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald called on Kasich to veto the bill,
claiming, “The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill,
which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable.”
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) says the $4 million going to the streetcar is a done deal.
Republican county commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann tried to
get OKI to pull the funds, but there now seems to be a general
consensus that the money is contractually tied to the Southwest Ohio
Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and, therefore, the streetcar
project. City Council is likely to consider a plan to plug the streetcar project’s budget gap later this month.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is handing out marijuana plants
at a campaign event today, even though the event may run foul of state
law. Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally
considered the top contenders in this year’s mayoral race, but Berns
has differentiated himself by putting marijuana legalization in his
platform. While drug prohibition policies are generally dictated at
state and federal levels, cities can decriminalize or legalize certain
drugs and force police departments to give prohibition enforcement lower priority.
Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is retiring July 1
following controversial remarks about “those damn Catholics,” the
University of Notre Dame and others. Gee, a Mormon, says he has regrets,
but the gaffes didn’t compel him to retire. In a statement, OSU
credited Gee with helping the school build an academic profile of a
“highly selective, top-tier public research institution.”
Local officials cut the ribbon yesterday for the Roebling Bridge, the latest piece of infrastructure to debut at The Banks.
Fort Hamilton Hospital has a new president.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has loaned more than any other big bank in the country, according to a new study.
How do mosquitoes survive storms? Popular Science has the answer.
Researchers unveiled a drone that can be controlled by thoughts. Next stop: the Iron Man suit.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Ohio Senate Republicans unveiled a budget
plan on May 28 that would keep social issues at the forefront and
refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans.
by German Lopez
Kasich to block full JobsOhio audit, Senate to vote on budget, Democrats endorse no mayor
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald called on
Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s running for re-election in 2014, to veto a bill that will prevent a full audit on JobsOhio, but Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the governor will sign the bill.
The bill will define JobsOhio’s liquor profits, which the agency gets
from a lease deal with the state government, as private funds, closing
the profits to an audit. The bill will also prevent State Auditor Dave
Yost, a Republican who’s been pursuing an audit of JobsOhio, from
looking into private funds in publicly funded agencies. The new limits
on state audits could have repercussions beyond JobsOhio, making it more
difficult to hold publicly funded agencies accountable. JobsOhio is a
private nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican
legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development.
The Ohio Senate will vote on a budget bill
Thursday that continues to push conservative stances on social
issues and aims to cut taxes for small businesses. The bill will
potentially allow Ohio’s health director to shut down abortion clinics,
effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion. The bill does not
cut taxes for most Ohioans, unlike the Ohio House budget bill that cut
income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent.
Local Democrats are unlikely to endorse a candidate
in this year’s mayoral race, which will likely be against Democrats
Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Even though both candidates are
Democrats, they have two major policy differences: Qualls supports the streetcar project, while Cranley opposes it. Qualls also supports the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, which Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously did Q&As with Cranley and Qualls.
The parties’ slates of City Council candidates are mostly set.
This year, Democrats are running 10 candidates — more than the nine
seats available in City Council. Meanwhile, Republicans are running four
candidates and the Charter Committee is looking at three potential
Cincinnati already has some of the cleanest water in the nation, but Water Works is making improvements to its treatments. One new treatment will use an ultraviolet process to kill 99.9 percent of germs.
It’s National Internet Safety Month, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking Ohioans to be safe out there.
A 131-year-old historic building in the West End collapsed after a car crashed into it. The driver’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
Ohio State’s president, who’s a Mormon, is in trouble for making fun of Catholics.
Mason and Sophia are Ohio’s most popular baby names.
Dogs are currently the best bomb detectors, but scientists are aiming to do better.
by German Lopez
State could block JobsOhio audit, council approves budget, streetcar budget fixes in June
The Ohio Senate sent a bill to Gov. John Kasich that prevents the state auditor from auditing private funds
at JobsOhio and other publicly funded private entities. State Auditor
Dave Yost has been pursuing a full audit of JobsOhio in the past few
months, but state Republicans, led by Kasich, have opposed the audit.
Ohio Democrats were quick to respond to the bill by asking what JobsOhio
and Republicans have to hide. JobsOhio is a privatized development
agency established by Kasich and Republican legislators meant to eventually
replace the Ohio Department of Development.
City Council passed an operating budget
yesterday that slashes several city services but prevents laying off
cops and firefighters. Human services funding, which goes to programs
that aid the homeless and poor, is getting some of the largest cuts,
continuing what Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition
says is a decade-long trend that has brought down human services
funding from 1.5 percent of the budget to 0.3 percent. The budget also
makes cuts to other programs and raises property taxes and several fees.
City Council will likely vote in June on how to fix the
streetcar budget gap. So far, the only known plan is the city manager’s
proposal, which would pull funding from various capital funding sources.
The streetcar budget is part of the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of limits established in state
The Ohio Senate budget bill increases education funding
over the Ohio House bill. The Senate bill raises the limit on how much a
school district can see its state funding increase, potentially putting
fast-growing suburban schools at an advantage. The House and Senate
bills use a model that gives schools base funding for each pupil — a
model entirely different from Kasich’s proposal, which critics labeled wrongheaded and regressive.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of Elections that will send 39 more “double voters” to the prosecutor.
In most cases, the “double voter” filed an absentee ballot and voted
in-person with a provision ballot on Election Day. The provisional
ballots always ended up being tossed out, but Republicans say they want
to find out if there were any bad intentions. Board of Elections
Chairman Tim Burke, who’s also head of the Hamilton County Democratic
Party, called Husted’s decision a “travesty,” labeling the investigation a
“witch hunt, aimed at scaring the hell out of voters.” Husted, a
Republican, said the cases at least deserve an investigation, even if
they don’t lead to an indictment.
Mayor Mark Mallory and local business leaders are calling
on Congress to take up immigration reform, which they argue will come as
a boost to the economy. “In order to continue to have the strongest
economy in the world, we need to have the most innovative and creative
ideas being developed right here in Cincinnati and across the country,”
Mallory said in a statement. “That requires the best and brightest
talent from around the globe being welcomed to our country through a
fair and sound system of immigration.”
WVXU says the list of local bike friendly destinations keeps growing.
Traveling to Mars could get someone fried by radiation.
by German Lopez
Cuts hit parks, human services, arts, outside agencies and other city programs
City Council approved an operating budget Thursday that raises taxes and cuts several city services in fiscal year 2014, but the plan avoids laying off cops and firefighters.Democratic council members Roxanne Qualls, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Pam Thomas and Wendell Young supported the budget, and Democrats P.G. Sittenfeld and Laure Quinlivan, independent Chris Smitherman and Republican Charlie Winburn voted in opposition.As a result of the budget, 67 city employees will lose their jobs.Human services funding, which goes toward programs that aid the city's homeless and poor, is hit particularly hard with a cut of $515,000 in the final budget plan. The reduced funding leaves about $1.1 million for human services agencies.Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says the latest cuts add to what's been a decade of cuts for human services funding. Originally, human services funding made up about 1.5 percent of the city's operating budget. With the latest changes, human services funding makes up about 0.3 percent of the budget."The additional cuts are deep and will negatively affect many lives now and in the future," Spring says. "It's important City Council work to reduce these cuts and citizens support that in ensuing months."The budget also cuts parks funding by $1 million — about $200,000 lower than originally proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney.The budget further trims several city services, including the city's health department, law department and recreation department. Arts funding and subsidies for "heritage" events, such as parades, are completely eliminated. Funding for several outside agencies is also being reduced or eliminated: the Port Authority, the African-American Chamber of Commerce, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Closing the Health Gap, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission.The budget is partly balanced with higher revenues. The property tax is being hiked from 4.6 mills to 5.7 mills in fiscal year 2014, or about $94 for every $100,000 in property value. Water rates will also increase by 5.5 percent starting in 2014.The budget also invokes fees for several city services: a $75 fee for
accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement
applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for
fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a
50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an
unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special
events.At a council meeting Thursday, Quinlivan, who voted against the budget, criticized other council members for not pursuing changes that would structurally balance the budget."I don't believe anybody's going to really address this problem," she said.Quinlivan has long been an advocate for "rightsizing" the
city's police and fire departments, which she says have scaled "out of
control."Seelbach defended the plan, claiming it will keep the city's books balanced while the city government waits for higher revenues from a growing local economy.Still, the city has not passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001, which critics like Quinlivan say is irresponsible.The public safety layoffs were avoided despite months
of threats from city officials that cops and firefighters would have to
be laid off if the city didn't semi-privatize its parking assets for $92 million upfront and annual payments afterward. That plan is now held up in court, and public safety layoffs were avoided anyway. But the layoffs were avoided with steeper cuts in other areas of the budget, including reduced funding for outside agencies and a requirement of 10 furlough days for some city employees and council members. The changes also increased estimates for incoming revenues with $1 million that is supposed to be paid back to the city's tax increment financing fund.Multiple council members blamed the budget problems on the state government, which has cut local government funding by about 50 percent during Gov. John Kasich's time in office ("Enemy of the State," issue of March 20). For Cincinnati, the cuts resulted in $21 million less for fiscal year 2014, or 60 percent of the $35 million budget gap originally estimated for the year.
by German Lopez
Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget
Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to
the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and
independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and
rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by
official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA
accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state.
The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code,
potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s
libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes.
If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to
set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to
considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters,
but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs,
increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public
safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city
officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan
to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront
and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The
bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down
abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion,
while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going
through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away
the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor
Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes
private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have
pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators
established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she
got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is
taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is
discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital
sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits
in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the
school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.
To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
by German Lopez
Bill would cut taxes for small businesses, not other Ohioans
Ohio Senate Republicans unveiled a budget plan yesterday that would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans.The budget plan would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion. The plan would also cut income taxes by 50 percent for businesses owners while undoing a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut for all Ohioans.Republicans say the tax cuts will spur the state's economy, but Democrats were quick to argue the tax cuts will exclude a majority of Ohioans, particularly low- and middle-income earners.The small business tax cut was originally proposed by Gov. John Kasich alongside a 20-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans, but the Ohio House undid both suggestions in its own budget plan in favor of a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut.Meanwhile, the conservative push on social issues echoes priorities established in the Ohio House budget bill, which was passed on April 18 ("The Chastity Bunch," issue of April 24). But the Ohio Senate plan comes with a new addition: It would give the director of the Ohio
Department of Health the power to close ambulatory surgical centers
without cause, which could be "a thinly veiled tool to close abortion clinics
and effectively outlaw abortion across the state," according to NARAL
The other Ohio Senate measures are drawn from the Ohio House budget bill, including a rework of family services funding that prioritizes other programs over Planned Parenthood, leading to less funds for the controversial women's health program.The change has been trumpeted by Republicans who claim it will allow more programs to get funding. But the cuts have been criticized by Planned Parenthood advocates, who say other programs already compete for family planning services funding; those programs are just dismissed as inferior under the current competitive distribution process.The Ohio Senate budget plan would also shift a separate set of funds to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which essentially act as the anti-abortion alternative to family planning institutions like Planned Parenthood.Supporters of CPCs, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, praise them for promoting "chastity" and "abstinence."But CPCs have been criticized by pro-choice groups for misleading women about false links between abortion, breast cancer, mental health problems and infertility. An "undercover investigation" from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found 47 percent of CPCs gave misleading information about abortions and mental health problems and 48 percent gave false information about abortions, breast cancer and infertility.NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio criticized the measures in a statement.
"Just when you thought the budget couldn’t get any worse
for Ohio women, it does," said Kellie Copeland, executive director of
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. "This budget attacks every choice a woman can
make about her reproductive health. If she wants to avoid an unplanned
pregnancy, her family planning provider may be defunded. If she gets
pregnant when she is unable to become a parent, the abortion clinic in
her community may be shuttered. If she chooses to become a parent and
needs assistance to provide for her child, funding may no longer be
available. Gov. Kasich can stop these attacks on women’s health
care. We need him to pledge to line-item veto these dangerous measures
when they reach his desk."
Just like the Ohio House budget plan, the Ohio Senate's plan also forgoes the Medicaid expansion. Kasich and Ohio Democrats have supported the expansion, but the Republican majority in the legislature has so far stood in opposition.The expansion would use mostly federal funds from the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") to increase the eligibility cut-off for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The first three years would be completely paid by the federal government. Afterward, federal funding would be phased down to 90 percent over the next decade, where it would remain.A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade.Despite staunch opposition in budget talks, Republicans have introduced a standalone bill that would expand and reform Medicaid, which Republicans say will let them take a more "holistic" approach to the health care program.The Ohio Senate budget plan also pulled out controversial language that would have forced public universities and colleges to decide between $370 million in higher out-of-state tuition rates and providing out-of-state students with documents required for voting in Ohio.If the budget plan is approved by the Ohio Senate, it will head to the Ohio House and Kasich for final approval.Update (1:51 p.m.): This story was updated with comments from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.