WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

New County Budget Includes $14.4 Million in Cuts

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
On Nov. 24, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts for 2013, the sixth straight year the county’s budget will get cuts. Democrat Todd Portune voted against the budget, while Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voted yes.   

City to Pursue Privatizing Parking to Balance Budget

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on Nov. 24 unveiled his 2013 budget plan. The proposal, which must be approved by City Council and the mayor, seeks to close a $34 million deficit while avoiding major cuts and layoffs. The proposed budget will only set the city’s course until mid-June, when the city will transition into establishing budgets based on fiscal years.    

Cincinnati vs. The World 11.28.2012

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Celebrity gourmand Anthony Bourdain was asked by a reader during a live chat on Gawker.com to validate the quality of Cincinnati chili; he responded that it was not good but could be “enjoyable when stoned.” CINCINNATI -2    
by German Lopez 11.28.2012
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-abortion agenda on hold, court upholds redistricting, blacks falling behind in school

The Ohio Senate will not take up the heartbeat bill and a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the lame-duck session. The heartbeat bill was called the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country when it was first proposed. It sought to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. However, there have been some rumblings of bringing a new version of the heartbeat bill to the Ohio legislature, and recent moves by Ohio Republicans show a clear anti-abortion agenda. In a statement, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio cautioned the bills will come up again next year: “Make no mistake about it, the threat to women’s health may be delayed, but it remains. We fully expect anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women’s health when the legislature reconvenes in January.” In a 4-3 ruling, the Ohio Supreme court upheld the state’s redistricting map. Democrats claimed the Ohio House and Senate districts were unconstitutional, while Republicans insisted the map was fine. The Republican-controlled government redrew the districts in a way that favors Republican candidates for public office. The Ohio Supreme Court is skewed heavily in favor of Republicans; six justices are Republicans, while only one is a Democrat.Ohio high schools have a bit of work to do, according to federal data. Apparently, the state has worse graduation rates for blacks than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. Ohio did manage to improve its graduation rates by more than 2 percent over four years, as required by the federal program Race to the Top. To avoid an estimated $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, a coalition wants to speed up the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is successful, the project will begin in 2014 — four years ahead of schedule. But the organization is pushing a public-private relationship that would likely involve tolls, and Kentucky lawmakers oppose that idea. Cincinnati and Hamilton County were picked to participate in a program that puts the long-term unemployed back to work. The program was originally started in southwest Connecticut in 2011 by WorkPlace with some success. It placed 70 percent of participants in jobs, with 90 percent moving to full-time employment. Tourism is boosting Greater Cincinnati’s economy. An impact study from the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network found tourism is responsible for one in 10 local jobs. Visitors to Cincinnati spent $4.1 billion in the area last year. Another good sign for the economy: Personal income went up in Greater Cincinnati and nationwide. In Cincinnati, personal income went up by 4.6 percent in 2011, lower than the nationwide rise of 5.2 percent. Unfortunately, Greater Cincinnati still has a lot of vacant homes. On Numbers ranked the area No. 31 out of 109 in terms of vacant homes. The Cincinnati Police Department is encouraging fitness through intra-department competition. The University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning is one of the five best design schools in the world. Councilman Chris Smitherman was re-elected to the presidency of the local chapter of the NAACP. Seven AIDS activists protested nude in U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office yesterday. The protesters were part of ACT-UP, and they were protesting federal budget cuts to HIV programs that are set to kick in next year. The bill regulating puppy mills passed the Ohio Senate. Animal advocates claim lax regulations and oversight have made Ohio a breeding ground for poor practices. CityBeat previously covered puppy mills and how they lead to Ohio’s dog auctions. The Ohio inspector general released a report criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for mismanaging stimulus funds going to southwest Ohio. The findings echoed a lot of what was found in previous reports for other regions of the state. The Earth’s core may have clues about our planet’s birth.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.12.2012
Posted In: Government, News, Economy, Spending at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
randall meyer

Inspector General: ODJFS Wrongly Reimbursed Companies

Hired organizations did not properly comply with federal stimulus requirements

Ohio’s inspector general released a report today criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for improperly reimbursing federal stimulus funds to hired organizations that did not follow rules. In a statement, Inspector General Randall Meyer’s office said ODJFS “failed to adequately oversee federal grant funds applied to the Constructing Futures jobs training initiative for Central Ohio.” The report released by Meyer’s office today, which focused on stimulus programs in central Ohio, outlined a few instances of ODJFS failing to oversee proper standards. In total, the department, which was put in charge of carrying out job training funds in Ohio from the stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009, wrongly reimbursed companies it hired for $51,700.81. In central Ohio, ODJFS hired two organizations to carry out the job training program, or Workforce Investment Act: Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and Construction Trades Networks (CTN). At ABC, the inspector general found limited problems with faulty reimbursements involving a newspaper subscription, travel and mileage totaling less than $100. The money was not accounted for as a questionable cost since it was so small. However, at CTN, the faulty reimbursements piled up. The organization was reimbursed $560.61 for phone calls made prior to being hired as part of the federal grant. It was also reimbursed $1,613.62 for its invoices, even though documentation was not provided to link phone calls as necessary to the grant program. Under the federal stimulus rules, CTN was required to provide 25 percent of its own funds for the program. CTN planned on using $91,800 of in-kind funds — payment that isn’t cash — by paying for trainee wages. The organization paid $60,927.70 by the end of the grant period, and the organization was reimbursed for $49,526.64 by ODJFS, even though the charges were supposed to be carried by CTN. The inspector general requested CTN give the money back to ODJFS. When the inspector general contacted the organization to explain the findings, CTN attributed the requests for faulty reimbursements to confusion caused by multiple administrative changes at ODJFS. “In addition, monitoring visits by ODJFS were not conducted until after the grant period expired, even though the partnerships were told the visits would occur as grant activities were underway,” the report said. Meyer’s office concluded ODJFS should review the questioned costs, work to keep consistent guidelines through administrative changes and monitor grant funds during the grant period. The full inspector general report can be found here. A report was released for northwestern Ohio was released on May 10, and it also found wrongdoing. It can be found here. A report for stimulus programs in southwestern Ohio will be released later.ODJFS could not be immediately provide comment on the report. This story will be updated if comments become available.UPDATE (3:28 P.M.): Benjamin Johnson, spokesperson for ODJFS, provided a comment shortly after this story was published.“As the report mentions, these were expenditures by local entities, not by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services,” he says. “We appreciate the inspector general bringing this to our attention, and we'll work to resolve the matter.”
 
 
by German Lopez 09.07.2012
Posted In: Economy, News, Government at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
us bls

Government Cuts Hurt Unemployment Rate

Facing budget constraints, cities and states cut budgets and jobs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today released a disappointing job report. Unemployment fell to 8.1 percent in August, and 96,000 jobs were added nationwide. But economists were expecting about 150,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell largely due to people giving up on the job hunt, which means they are no longer counted in the labor pool.One of the reasons for disappointment is the drop in public jobs. People are quick to look at the private sector when these kind of numbers come up, but the public sector employs people, too. And the public sector lost 10,000 jobs at state and local levels, according to today’s jobs report. That follows the trend of the past few years. The public sector has been doing poorly since the Great Recession started, according to this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: The chart shows state and local payrolls since the beginning of the recession. It proves quite clearly that governments have been making cuts to public jobs.Ohio has not avoided government job cuts. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported July’s unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, which was unchanged from June’s unemployment rate. The biggest loss in jobs for the month came from government, which lost 5,300 jobs statewide. In comparison to July 2011, July 2012 had 4,400 fewer government jobs. Instinctively, it makes some sense. As the recession kicks in and families and businesses are forced to budget for lower expectations, it might seem natural to expect the government to do the same. However, many economists argue it should be the opposite. They say the government should be used to balance out the private sector. In other words, when the private sector is performing poorly — recession — the government should step in to make up for the drop. When the private sector is performing well — boom — the government can relax and run budget surpluses. Paul Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist, has advocated for this approach time and time again. In his New York Times column and blog, Krugman has pushed for more stimulus efforts from the federal government, and he called for a much larger stimulus package than the $787 billion package President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009. The data seems to support economists calling for more action. Last month, the Brookings Institute conducted a study that found June’s national unemployment rate would be at 7.1 percent if governments hadn’t made cuts.What this means is if governments truly want to fix the economic crisis, they might want to kick the debt can down the road. But considering many cities and states have constitutional amendments requiring balanced budgets, that might be hard to pull off.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.27.2012
Posted In: Budget, Republicans, Democrats, News, State Legislature at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Republican supermajority hangs on 14 votes, city unveils budget, county passes budget

In the Ohio House of Representatives, the difference between a Republican supermajority and a normal majority is now 14 votes. That’s how many votes are splitting Republican Rep. Al Landis and Democratic challenger Josh O'Farrell. The small difference has already triggered an automatic recount and likely a series of lawsuits from Democrats over counting provisional ballots. The supermajority would allow Ohio House Republicans to pass legislation without worry of a governor’s veto and place any measure on the ballot — including personhood initiatives — without bipartisan approval. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget proposal at a press conference yesterday. The proposal will pursue privatizing the city’s parking services to help close a $34 million deficit. The privatization plan has already faced some early criticism from Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld. The budget will also make minor cuts elsewhere. In addition to the 2013 budget, the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which Dohoney passed to City Council and the mayor yesterday, also raises property tax rates. Meanwhile, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approved the 2013 budget in a 2-1 vote. Democrat Todd Portune was outvoted by Republicans Chris Monzel and Board President Greg Hartmann. The final budget was basically Hartmann’s “austerity” proposal, barring some minor tweaks. The cuts could cost 150 or more Hamilton County jobs. Councilman Chris Smitherman is facing a challenge for his spot as president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP. The councilman’s opponent is Bob Richardson, a former officer of Laborers Local 265 and former president of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council. Richardson’s son told WVXU, “I think we have seen the NAACP veer off its core principles and turn into a tool for Smitherman and his conservative ideas.” In a promising sign for the local economy, Greater Cincinnati banks are taking in more money from deposits. The 21c Museum Hotel opened yesterday. But the hotel has critics, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. Drawing a comparison to the situation between Western & Southern and the Anna Louise Inn, Spring said the hotel ended up displacing far too many people. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is taking up research into how autism develops. A new report found expanding Medicaid in Ohio could cost the state $3.1 billion. The money would be enough to insure 457,000 uninsured Ohioans. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid faced less health problems. One concern with the state's “fracking” boom: water supply. Some are worried that the amount of water needed to fuel hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique for oil and gas, will drain Ohio’s wells and reservoirs. After some sentencing reform, Ohio’s inmate population is not decreasing as fast as some state officials would like. As the state deals with prison overpopulation and more expensive prisons, Gov. John Kasich’s administration has turned to privatization. CityBeat looked at issues surrounding private prisons and the connections between the state government and private prison companies here. Ohio women are having fewer abortions in the state. The drop seems largely attributable to increased access to birth control. Better access to health care and improved health education are also factors.Ever forget to take some medication? No longer. There is now a pill that can inform others when it's taken.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, News at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

County Commissioners Approve 2013 Budget

Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts

For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes. The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs, according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least affected by cuts. With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession.  Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes. By law, the county is required to balance its budget.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Development at 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City to Pursue Privatizing Parking to Balance Budget

City Manager's 2013 budget proposal must be approved by council, mayor

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget plan at a press conference today. The proposal, which must be approved by City Council and the mayor, seeks to close a $34 million deficit while avoiding major cuts and layoffs. The proposed budget will only set the city’s course until mid-June, when the city will transition into establishing budgets based on fiscal years. The biggest deficit plug will come from privatizing parking services, which the city manager’s office says will bring in $40 million in one-time revenue and additional revenue over 30 years as part of a long-term contract. About $21 million of the initial lump-sum payment will be used to close the 2013 budget deficit. In the past, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld voiced concerns about privatizing parking: “I’ll await more details, but it seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to forgo a steady revenue stream for a lump-sum payment. Cincinnati needs a structurally balanced budget and can’t keep relying on one-time sources. Places like Chicago and Indianapolis have seen their parking rates more than double following privatization — that’s a bad deal for citizens, and something we don’t need while we’re experiencing an urban renaissance.” Another concern is whether the city’s current parking employees will be laid off if parking services are sold. Dohoney said the deal for privatization will require the winning bidder to interview all American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) workers. Full-time workers who do not join the winning bidder will be hired in other parts of the city government. “No AFSCME employee will be placed on the street if they are full-time as a result of this effort,” Dohoney claimed. The rest of the deficit plug will come in cuts, cost shifting, savings, revenue, embedded growth and one-time sources. Among these, notable items include the elimination of the Mounted Patrol for the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) and a $610,770 reduction in Human Services Funding. A few departments and programs, including the CPD, will face further minor cuts. The city manager’s office claims the changes in the budget are necessary mostly due to changes at the state level. Specifically, the state government cut the Local Government Fund by 50 percent and eliminated the tangible personal property tax reimbursement and estate tax; altogether, losing these sources of revenue cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in the 2013 budget. Facing the large deficit, Dohoney said he wanted to avoid across-the-board cuts and other major cuts to growth and investment programs: “You’re not competitive if that’s your approach.” The budget also includes some spending increases. The Focus 52 Program will focus on redevelopment projects in Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. If it’s successful, the new program will “grow the city’s revenue base, create new jobs and/or increase the population of the city,” according to the city manager’s office. In other budget news, the city manager will also send out the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which sets the millage rate for the operating property tax. That proposal seeks to raise the millage rate from 5.9 mills to 6.1 mills, which will provide an estimated $31 million in revenue, up from $23.5 million. For a $100,000 residential property, that means a tax hike of $46.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Voting, Development at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

City and county budgets moving forward, Cincinnati master plan approved, few voted twice

Screw Cyber Monday; it’s budget day! The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on its 2013 budget today. The initial vote was delayed when commissioners couldn’t all agree on the full details. In City Council, a memo revealed the budget should be unveiled today. One part of the Cincinnati proposal has already been hinted at by a previous memo from the city manager: privatized parking. On Wednesday, City Council approved Plan Cincinnati. The master plan, which is the first the city has undertaken in 32 years, creates short-, medium- and long-term goals. Built largely on public feedback, the plan emphasizes Cincinnati’s urban core with new transportation programs, community health initiatives, new housing options and more. CityBeat previously covered the plan in-depth here. In Hamilton County, 81 people voted twice. The votes, which involved provisional ballots, only reflects about 0.2 percent of the county’s vote, but it shows some of the confusion and inefficiencies of modern elections. One particular problem is some elderly voters cast absentee ballots before the election and then filed provisional ballots on Election Day. A California firm is using Alaskan pension dollars to buy hundreds of homes in Greater Cincinnati. The real estate will be used to provide corporate rentals. Some education advocates are worried state education agencies won't have the proper time and resources to implement HB 555. A few provisions will have to be ready by mid-2013, which some advocates see as too little time; but the president of the Ohio Board of Education remains confident. HB 555 will radically reform the state’s school report card system, which evaluates and grades schools. Some state officials are worried the new standards, which will be measured in part by new standardized tests, will be too tough. An early simulation of the new report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A. State Medicaid costs are rising, but more slowly. The slowdown may be partially attributed to Gov. John Kasich’s reforms of the program, which is one of the most prominent costs in state budgets around the country. Gas prices in Ohio have gone up in the last week. The prices were higher than they were in 2011, and some experts say instability in the Middle East is to blame. Ohio is looking good for a revival of the pharmaceutical industry. That’s good news since the industry could be on the cusp of a “golden era of renewed productivity and prosperity,” according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Unfortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, the next generation of water pollution could be flushed drugs. Here is the pope made out of condoms. Science has been hard at work in 2012. Here is a list of the seven greatest engineering innovations of the year. The list includes the world’s largest semi-submersible vessel, which can be used as an offshore dock, and a carbon-neutral office building, which is arguably the most sustainable workplace ever. The greatest public service announcement ever made:
 
 

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