0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Like many politicians, Gov. John Kasich
touted transparency and openness on the campaign trail, but this year’s
JobsOhio controversies have proven that the governor was all talk and no
action when he made such claims.
by German Lopez
Homeless shelters report rise in calls, Cincinnati loses jobs, JobsOhio controversy continues
Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help
— a sign that homelessness may be trending up.
Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human
services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has
steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs
from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this
year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population
growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of
Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was
at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent
in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month
and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many
people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally
unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate
was 7.4 percent.
More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves
tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never
said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is
supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio
and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the
governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack
of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good
traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating
Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban
on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The
proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax
credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid
Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics
Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest
because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was
Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million
to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to
the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as
one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation.
No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding
cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style
accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the
investments through an independent board. City officials and unions
claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and
hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the
amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information
to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students
about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds
after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates.
Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding
of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving
permitting services to one location, according to a statement from
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more
efficiently and bring down costs.
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus.
A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that,
while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped
in the past year.
The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall.
Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters.
A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
by German Lopez
City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll
City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group
that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the
city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp
wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed
to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms
and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay
leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have
been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion
calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting
requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials,
lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post
the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a
statement that the update is particularly timely because the
Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2
billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably
involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses
New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now
stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents
still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t
sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is
affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the
2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.
Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley
that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The
trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar
to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major
garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton
County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval,
it could get federal funding.
Investors are upset with SoMoLend,
the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state
investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that
the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the
state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati
announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.
Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.
The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.
Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants
permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break
state and federal laws.
Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill
currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has
been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was
acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old
Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law,
which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal
defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.
Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.
Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
by German Lopez
Outsiders back pension reform, Requiem could be evicted, JobsOhio conflicted in interests
Local and national tea party groups are pushing a ballot initiative that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
by moving city workers from a public plan to 401k-style plans, but city
officials and unions are urging voters to reject the measure because
they claim it would raise costs for the city and reduce gains for
retirees. Cincinnati for Pension Reform paid Arno Petition Consultants
nearly $70,000 to gather enough signatures to get the initiative on the
ballot. It’s so far unclear where that money came from. Virginia-based
Liberty Initiative Fund, which is supporting a similar pension proposal in
Tucson, Ariz., is backing the Cincinnati effort, with one of two
blog posts on its website
praising the local initiative. Liberty Initiative Fund has given at
least $81,000 to the Tucson campaign. For more information about the
Cincinnati campaign and initiative, click here.
Hamilton County Judge Carl Stitch on Wednesday ruled against granting a temporary restraining order
that would prevent the trio that owns and leases the Emery Theatre from
evicting the nonprofit seeking to renovate the building. The ruling
means Requiem Project, which was founded in 2008 to renovate the
theater, might be kicked out by the University of Cincinnati, Emery
Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) and the Emery Center
Corporation (ECC), the groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre.
Still, the judge said that the ruling should in no way indicate what the
final outcome of the case will be and it could turn out that
Requiem deserves a long-term lease.
Gov. John Kasich received campaign donations from and
served on the board of Worthington Industries, a central Ohio steel
processor, before the company got tax credits from JobsOhio,
the privatized development agency. Kasich’s spokesperson told the
Associated Press that the governor severed ties with Worthington before the
tax deals were approved. Still, the latest discovery adds to a series of
conflicts of interest that have mired JobsOhio in the past few weeks.
Previously, Dayton Daily News found that most of the board
members on JobsOhio had direct financial ties to some of the companies
getting state aid. Republicans defend JobsOhio because they say its
privatized and secretive nature allows it to carry out job-creating
development deals more quickly, but Democrats say the agency is too
difficult to hold accountable and might be wasting taxpayer money.
Commentary: “Disparity Study Now.”
State officials are looking to tighten limits
for local governments passing budgets, issuing debt and funding
pensions. State Rep. Lou Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati, and State
Auditor Dave Yost say the proposal is aimed at correcting pension
problems such as the one in Cincinnati, which Yost labeled
“Pension-zilla.” Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability currently
stands at $862 million, which earned the city a downgraded bond rating from Moody’s in a July 15 report.
A task force convened by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor is set to meet again to discuss possible changes to the state’s death penalty.
The panel recently proposed eliminating the use of capital punishment
in cases in which an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary,
robbery or rape.
A record number of white women, many from rural areas, are being sent to Ohio prisons, according to a report from the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
Two City Council candidates are struggling to get their names on the ballot
because of a couple different circumstances. Newcomer Mike Moroski fell
46 petition signatures short of the requirement of 500 signatures that
have to be turned in by Aug. 22. Meanwhile, hundreds of Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld’s petitions might be thrown out because several dates were
corrected by crossing them out and writing the accurate date on the back
of the forms. The Hamilton County Board of Elections says it’s unclear
whether it can accept those signatures. Both candidates are now renewing
their petition drives to ensure they appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Candace Klein is resigning as CEO of SoMoLend,
the embattled local startup that previously partnered with the city of
Cincinnati to link local businesses to up to $400,000 in loans. City officials
Monday they were severing ties with SoMoLend after it was revealed that
the Ohio Division of Securities is accusing the company of fraud
because SoMoLend allegedly failed to get the proper licenses and exaggerated its
financial and performance figures. SoMoLend’s specialty is supposed to
be using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups
with lenders, but the charges have called its expertise into question.
Metro, the city’s bus system, turns 40 today, and it plans to hold a party on Fountain Square from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in celebration.
Activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman sold a majority of his Procter & Gamble stocks.
Popular Science has the list of the 10 weirdest robots at this year’s drone show here.
Ohio set to execute Billy Slagle this week despite a prosecutor’s request for clemency
7 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Billy Slagle is going to die on Aug. 7.
The Ohio Parole Board recommended against granting Slagle clemency on
July 16, and Gov. John Kasich last week denied Slagle’s request to have
his death sentence commuted to life in prison.
by German Lopez
Human services funding falls short, state to kill murderer, longshot mayoral candidates rage
Although this year’s cuts are being undone, City Hall has been cutting resources
to the homeless, long-term unemployed, crime victims and casualties of
domestic abuse since 2004. Aid to those groups is part of human services
funding, which is supposed to receive 1.5 percent of the operating
budget but currently gets a quarter of that at 0.4 percent. To explain
the decade of cuts, the city administration typically points to citizen
surveys and meetings conducted as part of the priority-driven budgeting
process. But a CityBeat analysis of the demographics of the process found they were skewed in favor of the wealthiest
Cincinnatians and against low-income people, who benefit the most from
human services. For the agencies that receive funding, the history of cuts is even
more worrying as Cincinnati prepares for more budget gaps in the next
The state of Ohio will execute Billy Slagle on Aug. 7,
even though the prosecutor’s office behind the charges asked the Ohio
Parole Board to grant him clemency. The parole board denied the request,
and Gov. John Kasich last week declined to commute the sentence to life
in prison. Slagle was convicted in 1988 of murdering a 40-year-old
woman in a gruesome stabbing. His family says he was in an alcohol- and
drug-fueled haze at the time and has a history of problems at home, including
domestic abuse, that presents extenuating circumstances.
Two longshot mayoral candidates are really upset
about Cincinnati’s primary system: Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble
sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers, and Libertarian Jim
Berns quit the race. Under the current primary system, multiple mayoral
candidates are allowed to run. But come Sept. 10, voters will select the
top two contenders in a primary. Those frontrunners will then face off
in a final election on Nov. 5 to pick who will take over City Hall on
Dec. 1. Noble and Berns claim the current system favors the two
frontrunners — Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley — by helping
them get the most exposure through televised debates after the primary
Commentaries:• “GOP Continues Playing Politics with Ohioans’ Health”• “Is Ohio’s New License Plate the Worst or Just Bad?”
Cranley has raised more money
than Qualls in the mayoral race, according to campaign finance reports
filed yesterday. Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to $348,000
for Qualls. Cranley also has about $264,000 in the bank, while the
Qualls campaign has about $192,000 in hand.
Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children will be eligible for in-state tuition
at Ohio public colleges, following a decision from the Ohio Board of
Regents. The change will save the students thousands of dollars at the
state’s public schools, which were charging exorbitant out-of-state and
international rates before. The undocumented immigrants qualify for
legal benefits because of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama earlier in the year
that prevents the federal government from prosecuting them. The order
falls short of actual legalization on the books, but it grants many benefits under state and federal law.
In quite possibly the worst news ever, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones announced they’re leaving “Parks and Recreation” after the 13th episode of the upcoming season.
German scientists have proposed a new strategy for combating climate change: turn coastal deserts into forests.
By science, ostriches can now fly:
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Ohio officials announced on July 23 that
they’ll take a hands-off approach to promoting the Affordable Care Act
(“Obamacare”), leaving it to the federal government to inform citizens
about opportunities and benefits provided under the law.
by German Lopez
More JobsOhio controversy, Council undoing cuts, stadium improvements to cost millions
Six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial
ties to companies that have received tax credits and other help from the
agency and state government, an investigation from Dayton Daily News
discovered. The members are connected in various ways: Some are
employed by the companies, others sit on their boards and a few just own
stocks. The conflicts of interest that could undermine
JobsOhio’s goals. The privatized development agency was established by
Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the
Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized
nature allows it to move at “the speed of business” when luring
companies to the state. But Democrats argue that the agency is
unaccountable and draining state funds without any clear indication of
where the money is going.
Meanwhile, JobsOhio gave financial aid
to a company that simply shifted jobs from one city to another. The
agency gave Timbertech a 50-percent credit to create 85 jobs in
Wilmington, Ohio. The company is abiding, but it’s simultaneously
closing down a Columbus factory at the loss of 58 jobs.
Cincinnati will end up not laying off any city employees after City Council undoes $4 million in budget cuts
with leftover revenue from the previous budget year. The restorations
will reverse some or all of this year’s cuts to human services, parks,
the Health Department and other city programs. Council members called
the higher-than-projected revenue evidence that Cincinnati’s economic
strategy is working. But the reversals also raise questions about the
city administration’s original claims: When the 2014 budget was first
being considered, Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration said the
city would have to lay off 344 workers, including many cops and
firefighters, to balance the budget without the parking lease.
But without any of the parking money allocated, the city managed to avert all layoffs and undo a bulk of cuts, largely by using better-than-expected revenues from the past budget
Fixing up the Great American Ball Park for the All-Star Game could cost county taxpayers $5 million.
The All-Star costs are just one part of the $27 million taxpayers will
pay to improve stadiums in Hamilton County over the next five years.
Stadiums are often touted by local officials as a way to boost the
economy, but economists and urban planners have found that publicly
funded sports arenas don’t lead to sizable economic growth.
Ohio’s job growth is so slow that it will take nearly five years to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading fundraising for this year’s Council campaigns.
The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is hosting two mayoral debates.
This year’s candidates are Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, ex-Councilman
John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are
considered the two frontrunners.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is calling on community contributions to finish the second half of its renovations. The museum has raised $2.7 million out of the $6 million it needs.
Red Squirrel, a local restaurant chain, is closing down three of five eateries.
Internet-based psychotherapy apparently works.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:17 PM | Permalink
Policy Matters Ohio finds cities, counties will receive $720 million less from state
The recently passed state budget means cities and counties will get even less money from the state, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
The report looks at “three blows” of cuts to local governments: less direct aid, no money from a now-repealed estate tax and
the beginning of the end of a state subsidy that supported local property taxes. The cuts add up to at least $720 million less over the next
two years than cities and counties got in the past two years, the report finds.
It’s even less money when looking further back in Ohio’s history — specifically before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office.
“Local governments will see $1.5 billion less in tax
revenues and state aid compared with” fiscal years 2010 and 2011, said
Wendy Patton, the report’s author, in a statement. “Fiscal crisis will
continue in many communities.”
Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government
funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest
state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra
revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that
legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts.
The Republican-controlled state government repealed the
estate tax in the last budget, but some Democrats and local governments
were hopeful at least some of the lost money could be restored this
Casino revenue was supposed to curtail some of the cuts,
but Policy Matters concludes it’s not enough. Casino revenue has also
consistently come under expectations: The state government in 2009
estimated Ohio’s casinos would take in $1.9 billion a year, but that
projection was changed in February to roughly $1 billion a year.
For Cincinnati, the previous round of budget cuts cost the
city more than $22 million in revenues — nearly two-thirds of the
budget gap the city faced for fiscal year 2014. Although the city managed to avoid laying off cops and firefighters as a result, it still had to slash other city services and raise property taxes.
Some city and county officials are trying to persuade the
state government to undo the cuts. In March, Cincinnati Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld gathered officials around the state to launch ProtectMyOhio.com, which lets citizens write directly to the state government about the cuts.
by German Lopez
Ohioans increasingly reliant on public health insurance
A poll analysis released today suggests more than 1.25
million Ohioans between the ages of 18 and 65 are uninsured,
representing about 17 percent of the state’s working-age population.
The poll also found that working-age Ohioans are obtaining
health insurance less through employers and more through public
insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid and veteran benefits.
About two in 10 working-age Ohioans use public programs in 2013, up
from 12 percent in 2006. At the same time, 52 percent now get insurance
through an employer, down from 64 percent in 2006.
The numbers are relatively unchanged from 2012, according to the analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.
Nearly one in 10 of those who did have insurance also reported losing it in the past 12 months.
“Certain groups are more likely to experience insurance
instability,” said Jennifer Chubinski, director of community research at the Health Foundation, in a statement. “Almost half of adults living
below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, African-Americans and
adults with less than a high school education were uninsured currently
or at some point in the past year.”The analysis also concluded that Ohioans with health insurance are generally healthier than those without it.
The results came from the 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll,
which between May 19 and June 2 interviewed 868 Ohio adults by phone.
The poll had a margin of error of 3.3 percent. It was conducted by the
University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research for the Health
The poll’s findings could spur efforts to widen Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, which has become a contentious political issue fueled by mostly Republican opposition and Democratic support.
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are
asked to expand the public insurance program to include everyone at or
below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a
single-person household. If a state agrees, the federal government will
pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase its support down
to 90 percent, where it would indefinitely remain.
The offer presents a great deal for the state, according to the
Health Policy Institute of Ohio. The think tank’s analysis found the
expansion would insure roughly half a million Ohioans and generate about
$1.8 billion in revenue for the state in the next decade.
But the Republican-controlled General Assembly rejected the expansion in the state budget, despite Republican Gov. John Kasich’s pleas to embrace the Obamacare initiative.
Legislators say they’re concerned the federal government won’t be
able to uphold its commitment to Medicaid in the future. That, they
argue, would leave Ohioans stranded if the
state is forced to pare back benefits.
The federal government and states have jointly funded Medicaid programs around the nation since 1965. About 57 percent of the cost is carried by the federal government.Still, the legislature will in the fall consider a
standalone bill that would take up the expansion. But that bill will
likely face continued opposition from tea party groups that are
historically opposed to increased government spending at any level.
Whatever the case, legislative approval may be politically prudent: Earlier-reported results from the Ohio Health Issues Poll found 63 percent of Ohioans favor the Medicaid expansion.