by German Lopez
City manager defends streetcar, student who shot himself identified, city to sell defunct mall
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended the streetcar project
at a special four-hour session of City Council yesterday, but the city
manager did not reveal any specifics over how the project’s $17.4
million budget gap could be closed. Dohoney revealed the price of
halting the project would be $72 million: the project has already cost
the city $19.7 million, the city would have to spend another $14.2
million in close-out costs and another $38.1 million in federal grants
would have to be returned to the federal government. Most of Dohoney’s
presentation focused on the streetcar’s economic benefits, but opponents
say the budget gap proves the streetcar project is unsustainable and
its costs are too high.
The Cincinnati Enquirer identified the 17-year-old honors student at LaSalle High School who tried to commit suicide
in front of a classroom of 22 other students yesterday, even though parents asked press to provide privacy. The student remains
alive and in critical condition this morning. No other students were physically hurt, and classes are
resuming as normal. (Update: The student’s name was removed from this post upon the family’s request.)
The city is moving to sell Tower Place Mall for $1
to Brook Lane Holdings, an affiliate of JDL Warm Construction, so the
construction company can pour $5 million into the defunct mall and
convert it into a garage with street-level retail space. Financing the
project at Pogue’s Garage, which is across the street from Tower Place
Mall, is still being worked out now that the parking plan has been
delayed by court battles and a referendum effort.
Cincinnati’s police and firefighter unions are filing a lawsuit
over the city’s health care dependent audit. The city is asking employees
to verify whether spouses and children are legitimately eligible for
health care benefits by turning over documents such as marriage
licenses, birth certificates and tax returns. The unions’ attorney told WVXU
the unions are willing to provide the necessary documents, but he said
they’re concerned the process is too intrusive and difficult.
Two firms are getting tax credits
for creating jobs in the Greater Cincinnati area: 5Me, which creates
manufacturing software, and Festo Americas, which specializes in factory
and process automation. Altogether, the credits could create 312 jobs
in the region.
A Democratic state senator hinted yesterday at letting voters decide
whether Internet sweepstakes cafes should be allowed in Ohio. State
officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, claim
Internet cafes are hubs for criminal activity. The Ohio House already
passed a measure that would effectively ban the cafes, but some are
cautious of the ban as the Ohio Senate prepares to vote.
An intelligent headlight makes raindrops disappear.
Some people may prefer death to being saved by this terrifying robot snake.
by German Lopez
at 09:23 AM | Permalink
Anna Louise Inn rally today, casino revenue drops, Ohio's business climate improves
Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County
Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western &
Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court
again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to
grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to
take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its
stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below
market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to
slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly
force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot
for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and
Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of
$17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control
Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to
$12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more
Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation,
with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year,
according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The
improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce
quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013.
But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs,
considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree
Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.”
If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers
on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to
remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability
for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan
say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So
far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have
to rework the City Charter to restore the powers.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter.
Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three
kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet
sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade.
A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie.
News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak
at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States
are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act,
which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in
1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun
Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers.
A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.
by German Lopez
Parking hearing today, police chief may go, tea party planning against GOP
The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before
— except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move
forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining
before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins
July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite
legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting
period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the
wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum
efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its
parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.
It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit,
despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously,
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed
city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because
his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a
Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from
the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions,
according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here,
and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a
gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the
2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some
areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.
In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:News: “Think of the Children: Local leaders pledge to support efforts to put more low- and middle-income kids in preschools.”City Desk: “City Manager Defends Streetcar in Light of Budget Gap.”Commentary: “The Many Merits of Cycling Infrastructure.”
A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult
for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to
decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent
out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little
about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule
suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support
in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called
“right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union
laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective
bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be
linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have
limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5
was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order
of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.
Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.
Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.
Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.
3 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
To cyclists, it’s a given that Cincinnati
desperately needs more bike lanes. But recent research shows bike lanes
don’t just pose advantages for cyclists; they can also help local
economies and public health.
0 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
Convening in packed City Council chambers
on April 29, Cincinnati officials discussed the costs and benefits of
the streetcar project in light of a $17.4 million budget gap revealed by
the city administration on April 16.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Health
at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Researchers find no short-term improvements in physical health
As Ohio debates the Medicaid expansion, a new study from Harvard researchers revealed access to Medicaid in Oregon led to better mental health outcomes and reduced financial strain, but no short-term gains were found in physical health outcomes.The study, which was released Wednesday by The New England Journal of Medicine, had its most positive findings in mental health outcomes, with Medicaid recipients showing 30 percent lower rates of depression in comparison to people without health coverage. Medicaid recipients had a rate of depression of 21 percent, while those without coverage had a rate of 30 percent.But the gains did not apply to physical health outcomes. When looking at cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, there was no significant difference between Medicaid recipients and people without coverage. The three measures were chosen because they typically reveal better health results within two years and they're easy to obtain.Still, the study doesn't rule out the possibility of long-term gains. The study found increased rates of diabetes detection and management, which could lead to better physical health outcomes in the future.Medicaid enrollment also reduced financial strain, allowed patients to use more preventive services and nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to the study.The study was conducted by looking at Medicaid recipients in Oregon, which enrolled 10,000 people into Medicaid out of nearly 90,000 applicants through a lottery approximately two years ago, giving researchers the first major randomized pool of Medicaid recipients to study.A previous study
from Harvard researchers, including the lead author of the Oregon
study, found that Medicaid expansions improved mortality rates,
coverage, access to care and self-reported health. That study looked at
three states that expanded Medicaid and compared them to neighboring states that did not.The Oregon study comes at a time when legislators are debating whether Ohio should use federal funds to expand its Medicaid program. Even though Republican Gov. John Kasich supports the expansion, Republican legislators say they're concerned the federal funds will eventually dry up, leaving the state to find a solution for hundreds of thousands of new Medicaid enrollees. Democrats are joining Kasich in supporting the expansion, with Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney recently calling it a "no-brainer." The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade.The budget bill that recently passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House would forgo the Medicaid expansion while leaving room to consider further Medicaid reforms down the line ("The Chastity Bunch," issue of April 24).
by German Lopez
Streetcar budget fixes detailed, Senate kills 'right to work,' county fights infant mortality
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave his suggestions for fixing the streetcar budget gap Tuesday, and CityBeat analyzed the details here. The suggestion, which include temporarily using front-loaded Music Hall funds and pulling money from other capital projects, are capital budget items that can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits in state law, so if City Council approved the suggestions, the streetcar would not be saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget.Ohio Senate Republicans seem unlikely to take up so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation after it was proposed in the Ohio House. RTW legislation prevents unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership to be hired for a job, significantly weakening a union's leverage in negotiations by reducing membership. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically around the nation. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the RTW bills and compare them to S.B. 5, a 2011 bill backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining powers for public employees and significantly reduced public sector unions' political power.Hamilton County commissioners approved a county-wide collaborative between health and government agencies to help reduce the county's infant mortality rate, which has exceeded the national average for more than a decade. Funding for the program will come in part from the sale of Drake Hospital to UC Health.With a 7-2 vote yesterday, City Council updated its "responsible bidder" ordinance, which requires job training from contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District, to close loopholes and include Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the charge on the changes, which were opposed by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn.Ohio Senate Democrats are still pushing the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found would insure 456,000 Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade. Ohio House Republicans effectively rejected the expansion with their budget bill, which the Ohio Senate is now reviewing. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.The state's Public Utilities Commissions of Ohio approved a 2.9 percent rate hike for Duke Energy, which will cost customers an average of $3.72 every month.Concealed carry permits issued in Ohio nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, following a wave of mass shootings in the past year and talks of federal gun control legislation.Real headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: "How much skin is too much skin for teens at prom?"A Pennsylvania woman who had been missing for 11 years turned herself in to authorities in Florida.New research shows early American settlers at Jamestown, Va., ate each other.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:12 AM | Permalink
Recommendations would pull capital funding from multiple sources
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released a memo yesterday detailing how the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap could be fixed by pulling funds from various capital projects and issuing more debt, upholding a promise he made at a contentious City Council meeting Monday.The five-page memo says none of the proposed capital funding sources can be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits established in state law, which means the streetcar project is not being saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget."Neither Capital nor TIF funds can be used to help with the operating budget deficit that the City is facing," the memo reads. "They are separate sources of funds and by State Law, cannot be used for operating expenses like police and fire personnel."At least $5.4 million would be temporarily pulled from the $10.6 million planned for the Music Hall renovation project, but the redirected Music Hall funds would eventually come back in capital budgets for fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019. City spokesperson Meg Olberding explained in an email that moving funds around would not hinder the Music Hall project."The use of $5.4 million of Funds set aside for Music Hall this year is
money currently sitting in a fund for this year that will not be needed
this year," she wrote. "Funds for Music Hall will not be needed until 2016, the
agreed upon deadline for fundraising
for the Music Hall renovation with the Music Hall Revitalization
Company. Therefore, the City is still keeping its commitment to Music
Hall, while also advancing the streetcar project."About $6.5 million would be taken from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino, including funds that would otherwise go to lighting the trees along Reading Road and a study that would look at adding a turn lane from Reading Road. The memo acknowledges the trade-off, but it also justifies the redirected spending: "However, since the Streetcar passes within two blocks of the Casino Site, it is a project within the Casino Area that both benefits the TIF District and the Casino."The memo also recommends pulling $400,000 that was originally set for traffic signal replacement, which would be used for the traffic replacement component of the streetcar project. Another $500,000 would come from funding currently set for water main relocation and replacement. The memo says the water main funding is simply Water Works' share: "Of the $21.7 million cost overrun for the Streetcar project, approximately $1 million was for water main relocation (and) replacement work. Water Works' share of this is $0.5 million."The remaining $4.6 million would come from the city issuing general capital debt, which would be paid back through a small portion of the income tax that is established in the City Charter for permanent improvement purposes. The memo acknowledges this would cost other economic development and housing projects $340,000 a year over the next 20 years, but it claims the funding is justified because the streetcar project is a permanent improvement project.The memo outlines other vague capital funding options that could be used to balance the budget, but Dohoney does not explicitly recommend them. The memo also leaves open the possibility of future sources of funding, including $15 million that could be opened up if the city prevails in court against Duke Energy over who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate streetcar tracks — but this was money that was originally supposed to go to neighborhood development projects — and the sale of remaining city-owned land at the Blue Ash Airport.City Council still has to consider and approve the memo's recommendations for them to become law.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:21 AM | Permalink
'Right to work' returns; memo details streetcar funding; more money, less mowing
Two Ohio House Republicans are preparing to introduce so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation, a deceptively named type of law that would ban collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers that require union membership to be hired at a job. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the bills, invoking 2011's voter rejection of S.B. 5, a bill backed by Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining rights for public employees and hindered public sector unions' political power.The city released a memo yesterday outlining how the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap will be funded. The memo emphasizes that the capital funds being used for the streetcar project can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of state law, so the streetcar project is not being saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other public employees being laid off to balance the operating budget. CityBeat will have a more thorough analysis of the memo shortly after this article is published.The state auditor released an audit yesterday that shows the Ohio Department of Transportation could save $7.4 million in taxpayer money by mowing the lawn less often. "We need to cut back by
mowing less," State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. "Sometimes, it’s the simplest
solutions that have the greatest impact."A Policy Matters Ohio survey confirmed Ohio schools are making cuts as a result of Kasich's education funding cuts. In total, 70 percent of schools slashed budgets for the 2012-2013 school year.The mayor and city manager held a roundtable with the press yesterday explaining the merits of the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. The city officials made the same arguments heard before about how it would help balance the budget and bring economic development to the city, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.If estimates are correct, this year's Flying Pig Marathon will bring $9.5 million into Greater Cincinnati's economy.In light of grim drug addiction and overdose statistics recently released, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman says it's time to call the "war on drugs" something else. The most recent data found one Ohioan died of a drug overdose every five hours on average in 2011.Next Tuesday is primary election day in Ohio, but there isn't much to vote on in southwest Ohio.Steve Smith, who admitted to raping and killing a six-month-old in Mansfield, Ohio, will be executed by the state today, but his relatives insist he didn't do it.Gladys, the unfortunately named gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, recently got a look at her new home.Antimatter is the opposite of matter, but it's unclear whether it falls up or down.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:52 AM | Permalink
Seventy percent of schools cut budgets for 2012-2013 school year
released April 29 found Ohio schools are making cutbacks in response to
budget cuts previously approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the
Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.
The 15-question survey from left-leaning Policy Matters
Ohio, which received responses from 42 percent of the state’s K-12
school districts in 82 counties, found 70 percent of Ohio schools made
cuts for the ongoing 2012-2013 school year, 82 percent cut positions, 84
percent reduced or froze compensation and 62 percent expect budget
shortfalls next year if the state doesn’t increase funding.
“Long-term investment in education is the best way to
build opportunity for Ohioans,” said Piet van Lier, education researcher
at Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “Instead, Ohio’s cuts to school
funding have forced schools to get rid of staff, reduce pay, cut
materials and increase class sizes.”
The survey found the cuts have led to a reduction in
education quality, with 43 percent of Ohio schools reporting larger
class sizes, 23 percent reporting less course options, 57 percent
cutting materials, supplies, textbooks or equipment for the 2012-2013
school year and 22 percent reducing extracurricular activities or introducing pay-to-play for them.
Policy Matters and Innovation Ohio, another left-leaning
think tank, previously found Kasich’s 2012-2013 budget slashed education
funding by $1.8 billion.
In his latest budget proposal, Kasich proposed increasing
education funding, although in a way that disproportionately benefited
wealthier school districts (“Smoke and Mirrors,”
issue of Feb. 20). Since then, the Ohio House passed its own budget
bill that rejects Kasich’s proposal and increases overall school funding
in a more equitable way.
But Policy Matters says the increases aren’t enough. Its analysis
found school funding is failing to keep up with inflation, with 2015
funding projected to fall $1.2 billion short of what funding would have
looked like if it had kept up with 2006’s inflation-adjusted levels.
“Neither Gov. Kasich nor the Ohio House have adequately
addressed the needs of Ohio’s schools in their budget proposals,” van
Lier said in a statement. “The Senate must now lead the way in crafting a
stronger, more predictable funding system for the next two years and
Cincinnati Public Schools said state funding cuts were one reason the school district needed Cincinnati voters to approve a school levy in 2012 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue of Oct. 3). The levy, known as Issue 42, passed in the November election.Innovation Ohio previously found
Kasich’s budget cuts have led to levies all around the state,
effectively increasing local taxes by $1.3 billion since May 2011.
“By cutting taxes primarily for the wealthy at the state
level, Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature have merely
pushed the need for tax increases down to the local level,” said
Janetta King, president of Innovation Ohio, in a statement.
Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat
that the cuts were necessary to balance the budget, as required by
state law. “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit,”
he said. “We had to fix that.”