WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 04.29.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Energy, Streetcar at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar meeting today, Ohio Senate to modify energy law, state is no 'economic miracle'

City Hall will be hosting a meeting on the streetcar project at 6 p.m. today to figure out what the project’s options are now that it has a $17.4 million budget gap. The meeting was called by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls after City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. explained in a memo that the project has a budget gap because construction bids came in $26 million to $43 million over budget. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the the Senate Public Utilities Committee, says he wants to “modify,” not repeal, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law to have more clear-cut compliance standards. Environmentalists say they’re concerned Seitz will use the review as a front to water the law down, especially since electricity giant FirstEnergy is pushing against the law’s energy efficiency standards. CityBeat wrote more about the conflict between environmentalists and FirstEnergy here. It’s one issue Ohio’s leading liberal and conservative think tanks apparently agree on: Ohio is not the “economic miracle” often touted by Gov. John Kasich. In the past year, job numbers for the state have been particularly weak, with public sector losses nearly making up for very weak private sector gains. The right-leaning Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions says a complicated tax system is largely to blame for the stagnant job growth, while the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio is mostly focusing on governments’ budget austerity. A student allegedly shot himself in front of classmates at LaSalle High School today. Police say he is currently at a hospital, and there are currently no reports of anyone else being shot. As of 10:30 a.m., the situation was still developing.After misleading media reports sent the public into a furor, Mayor Mark Mallory agreed to rescind salary raises that were part of his office’s deficit-reducing budget plan. The plan gave the mayor’s top aides raises to make up for an increased workload following staff reductions. Even with the raises, the plan reduced the deficit by $33,000 during the mayor’s remaining time in office — a fact originally omitted by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Music Hall’s facelift is not happening just yet, even though approvals from City Council and the Music Hall Revitalization Company have already paved the way for Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) to begin renovations. As project manager, 3CDC will take four to six months to develop a budget, review designs and go over the legal and financial work necessary to start the project.Hamilton County is currently tracking to be $1.5 million over budget this year — a budget hole the Board of Commissioners hopes to plug by using the rainy day fund. One section of the Ohio House budget bill would allow charter schools to enroll out-of-state students and charge them tuition. The policy could involve online schools, which were previously found to have poor results in a CityBeat report. The relaxed rules potentially add more controversy to a budget plan that’s already mired in criticism for defunding Planned Parenthood and forgoing the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.Ohio gas prices are starting 9 cents down this week. Bad news: The largest HIV vaccine study was shut down after patients contracted the AIDS virus more often than those who didn’t take it.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.26.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Ohio Is No ‘Economic Miracle’

Liberal, conservative think tanks warn of bad signs in state’s economy

It’s one issue Ohio’s leading conservative and liberal think tanks seemingly agree on: The “economic miracle” often touted by Gov. John Kasich is not really happening. The bleak economic news has been highlighted by recent reports from the right-leaning Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, which supports little government intervention in the economy, and the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, which focuses on policies that can benefit low- and middle-income Ohioans. The March “Ohio by the Numbers” report from the Buckeye Institute did acknowledge that Ohio has a lower unemployment rate than the national average, but the report was particularly hard on Ohio’s lacking private sector job growth. It pointed out the state lost 16,800 private sector jobs in February, ranks No. 27 in the nation for private sector job growth since January 2010 and ranks No. 47 for private sector job growth since January 1990. Policy Matters’ March report was similarly harsh: “Since the end of the recession, Ohio has added 133,700 jobs, growing at a rate of 2.7 percent. But that growth leveled off in the second half of 2012, and the reported zigzag of the last two months means that Ohio has only added 2,700 jobs over the past year, growing at a very weak 0.1 percent.” The news may come as a surprise to those who have been reading seemingly positive job news in recent months. Policy Matters places the problem on the inherent volatility in job reports, which are based on household surveys: “This volatility should serve as an important reminder: Monthly numbers are preliminary and will likely be revised, so it is unwise to make too much over the month-to-month changes. Longer-term trends provide a more accurate gauge of the state’s economic health.” While they agree on the problem, the two think tanks disagree on the causes and solutions. Greg Lawson, policy analyst at the Buckeye Institute, says the biggest problem is Ohio’s tax system. In this area, he points out three major problems: higher income tax rates than other states, an unusual amount of municipalities in Ohio with income taxes and complicated filing for individuals and businesses. “You find nowhere else in the entire country a situation in which someone has to file multiple income tax forms ... for different jurisdictions they work in,” he says, citing the different tax rates and credits someone working in multiple municipalities might have to deal with. “That creates a drag on the efficiency of being able to set up businesses.” As far as tax cuts are concerned, another report from Policy Matters found a series of tax cuts passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2005 had little impact on the state’s economic growth. The report found Ohio experienced job losses while the rest of the country grew, and not a single Ohio sector outpaced national performance. The report concluded, “State economies are complicated and there are many reasons why Ohio’s job growth is lagging. However, it is clear that the 2005 tax cuts did not bring about the promised job growth. There is no reason to think that further tax cuts will, either.” Instead, Policy Matters has focused on austerity, which led to the public sector job cuts outlined in Policy Matters’ March report: “A private-sector gain of 16,900 jobs has been nearly erased by the 14,200 jobs lost in the public sector. Most of those public job losses happened at the local level.” Indeed, federal sequestration has already caused some damage in Ohio, and local government funding cuts approved by Kasich have also forced local governments to cut back (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
 
 
by German Lopez 04.26.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Health, Environment at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region

State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than 50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment experience and attract more customers.” Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver that would allow the state to make broader reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here. The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report. The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution reduction in the past few decades. A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of concussions and get help for students. A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C. A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet. Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.25.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Mayor, Gun Violence at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
chastity bunch

Morning News and Stuff

Budget pushes conservative policy, moms demand action on guns, mayor shrinking budget

For this week’s cover story, CityBeat analyzed the Ohio House budget bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion in favor of broader reforms. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House last week, but it still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich. Ohio Senate President Keith Faber announced yesterday that the Ohio Senate will not move forward with the Medicaid expansion — a sign the Ohio Senate is agreeing with the Ohio House on that issue. Facing the recent wave of deadly gun attacks around the nation, some moms have banded together to demand action. Moms Demand Action is using its political clout to push gun control legislation at a federal level, but it’s also promoting grassroots campaigns in cities and states around the nation. Contrary to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s “exclusive” story, the mayor’s office is actually shrinking its budget by $33,000 between July 1 and Dec. 1 despite plans to give some employees raises. The mayor’s office says the raises are necessary because the employees will be taken a bigger workload to make up for reduced staff levels, but the budgetary moves will save money overall. Originally, The Enquirer reported the raises without noting the savings in the rest of the budget plan, inspiring a wave of angry emails from readers to the mayor’s office through The Enquirer’s “tell them what you think” tool. This week’s commentary: “Streetcar’s No. 1 Problem: Obstructionism.” At the NAACP meeting today, members will ask independent Councilman Chris Smitherman to step down from his leadership position. The disgruntled members told The Enquirer that Smitherman, who is an opponent of the streetcar and often partners up with the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), is using the NAACP for his “personal and political agenda,” not civil rights. Smitherman told The Enquirer to focus on the legitimate work of the NAACP instead of a potential coup that he says isn’t newsworthy. Smitherman will not allow media into today’s NAACP meeting. City Council unanimously passed a resolution yesterday to oppose anti-union laws that are misleadingly called “right to work” laws. The laws earned their name after a decades-long spin campaign from big businesses that oppose unions, but the laws’ real purpose is weakening unions by banning collective bargaining agreements that require workers to join unions and pay dues. The City Council resolution has no legal weight; it simply tells higher levels of government to not pass the anti-union law. Metro’s budget would need to increase by two-thirds to implements the bus and public transportation agency’s long-range plan, which would add rapid transit lines, other routes and sheltered transit centers with more amenities. Two Cincinnati economic entities are getting federal funds: The Cincinnati Development Fund will get $35 million to invest in brownfield redevelopment, nutritional access and educational improvements, and Kroger Community Development Entity will get $20 million to increase low-income access to fresh and nutritional foods and fund redevelopment projects. As expected, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald officially announced yesterday that he will run for governor against Kasich in 2014. Kasich appointed former State Rep. John Carey to head the Ohio Board of Regents, which manages the state’s public university system. Carey says his biggest goal will be to better align higher education opportunities with jobs that are available in Ohio. Sen. Sherrod Brown is unveiling a bill that would effectively break up the big banks by imposing strict capital limits and other rules. CityBeat wrote about Brown’s efforts here. In a blog post yesterday, Rep. Steve Chabot, a Cincinnati Republican, criticized President Barack Obama for not calling the Boston bombers “Islamic jihadists.” Public officials typically do not publicly jump to conclusions in the middle of an ongoing investigation. A new app gives you an automatic nose job. Researchers are developing a solar dish that produces electricity and fresh water at the same time.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.24.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, City Council at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
fountainsquare-downtowncincinnati-resized

Morning News and Stuff

Day of fasting today, local joblessness drops in March, parking petition process questioned

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting today and put off lunch to help support the Freestore Foodbank. Sittenfeld’s office said in a press release that the event will allow participants to “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives.” There will be a ceremony for the event at noon in Fountain Square, where participants will be able to donate to the Freestore Foodbank. March was another decent month for jobs in Cincinnati, with the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropping to 7.5 percent, down from a revised 7.9 percent in February and 8 percent in March 2012. Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, says most of the job growth is attributable to Cincinnati’s growing health care services, but manufacturing has also provided a local boon. An anonymously posted video questions the legitimacy of some parking plan referendum petitions, but so far no formal challenges have been filed against the referendum effort. Even if somebody were to file a challenge, Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke says it would required a lot — nearly 4,000 signatures — to halt a referendum: “Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond those five or six sights shown in the video.” There is now a local effort to embrace the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, a private-public partnership that would get more local children in preschool. The current goal is to get 25 to 50 children in preschool in a pilot program this fall. Studies show preschool is one of the best investments that can be made for the economy in the long term. Local preschool services were recently cut as a consequence of federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts that began March 1. UC President Santa Ono is recommending the school freeze in-state tuition for the next school year — a measure the UC Board of Trustees will consider in June. Ono also said he will not take a salary increase or bonus for the next two years, and he is asking the school to sell the presidential condo and use the money to pay for scholarships. While testifying to legislators reviewing his two-year budget request, State Treasurer Josh Mandel said his office has been targeted by cyberattacks, and the technology currently available to his department is not good enough to hold off the attacks. Humana will hire 60 people for its customer service center in downtown. Brain cells will control the power plants of the future.In a press release, Mayor Mark Mallory proclaimed today Zips’ Cafe Day because the restaurant is finally adding bacon to its cheeseburger lineup.
 
 

Streetcar’s No. 1 Problem: Obstructionism

5 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Step one: Create problems for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Step two: Blame the problems on the streetcar project. Step three: Political profit.  

Budget Gap Threatens Streetcar

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
An April 16 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7 million budget gap is threatening to put an end to the streetcar project.  
by German Lopez 04.23.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Local Joblessness Falls Despite Slower Growth

Cincinnati unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent

Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell sharply in March, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, says the numbers, while positive, were a slowdown from previous months. “The punchline is that growth is improving, but the rate of growth is slowing down,” he says. “But up is good.” Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent in March, down from a revised 7.9 percent in February and 8 percent in March 2012. The lower unemployment rate coincided with other positive factors: a larger civilian labor force, more people employed and less people unemployed. Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate also dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent, and Greater Cincinnati’s rate dropped from 7.5 percent to 7.2 percent. Jones attributes most of the drop to the region’s strong growth in health care services, but manufacturing has also played a role. “Our manufacturing has come back stronger than the nation,” he says. In Ohio, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell from 7.8 percent in February to 7.3 percent in March. The U.S. seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate also fell, from 8.1 percent to 7.6 percent. But seasonally adjusted numbers for Ohio and the nation were widely considered weak, particularly in comparison to previous months. Job numbers at the state and national levels are typically adjusted for seasonal factors, but local numbers are not.Unemployment numbers are collected through a household survey. The unemployment rate measures the amount of people employed relative to the civilian labor force, which accounts for the amount of people looking for jobs and people employed. Since the numbers are obtained through surveys, they are often revised in later months.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.23.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Parking at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Video Questions Legitimacy of Parking Petitions

Board of Elections looking into anonymous video, but no formal challenge filed

A YouTube video posted Sunday suggests that some of the parking plan referendum petition signatures might have been gathered without a legitimate witness, but city and county officials are so far unsure whether the video, which was posted anonymously, will amount to much.Under Ohio law, petitions require signatures from both a supporter, who must reside in Cincinnati in the case of parking petitions, and a witness, who must be an Ohio resident and witness the act of someone signing the petition. The video shows what seems to be parking petitions placed on business counters with limited supervision — potential evidence that some of the parking petitions were signed without a witness present. Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the Board of Elections is currently looking into what process needs to be followed as a result of the video. Traditionally, Burke says, someone has to file a challenge, which would then be investigated by the board. At that point, the board would rely on subpoenas to get testimony from witnesses to determine whether their petitions were valid. “Under oath, circulators are likely to tell us the truth,” Burke says. “Did you witness all the signatures on that parking petition? If he says no or she says no, ... then none of those signatures are valid.”But Burke says it’s so far unclear whether that process will happen. “The video is interesting, but it doesn’t prove anything,” he says. “Any challenger would have to link each one of those shots in the video to specific petitions that were signed by the circulator of the petition that was on those counters.” Even if someone did bring a challenge, it would require nearly 4,000 invalid signatures to halt the parking plan referendum effort. Yesterday, the Board of Elections announced the referendum effort had gathered 12,446 valid signatures — considerably more than the 8,522 required. “Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond those five or six sights shown in the video,” Burke says.Circulators who mishandled the process would not face charges; instead, the signatures would simply be discarded, according to Burke. City Solicitor John Curp says the city’s law department is taking “no side on whether there’s a vote,” and the city administration has not taken action based on the video. Curp says he would like to confirm whether those are parking petitions and if the video is factual in its presentation. “If those were parking petitions, that was certainly troubling,” he says. “I hope this gets worked out in a timely manner.” The parking plan would lease the city’s parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the city’s operating budget deficits for the next two years and fund development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). Opponents say they’re concerned the plan will lead to higher parking rates and extended hours that will hurt the local economy. With 12,466 valid signatures, their referendum effort is expected to culminate in a vote this November. City officials previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters. The full video is embedded below:
 
 
by German Lopez 04.23.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Budget, Police at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_mcmicken

Morning News and Stuff

House budget bill may suppress student voters, tax plan favors wealthy, police chief may go

An amendment in the Ohio House budget bill last week would make it so universities have to decide between providing voting information to students or retaining millions of dollars in out-of-state tuition money. The amendment would make it so universities have to classify students as in-state — a classification that means lower tuition rates — when providing documents necessary for voting. Republicans claim the measure is “common sense” because anyone voting for Ohio’s elections should be an Ohio resident. But the amendment has provoked criticism from Democrats and universities alike, who say universities are being thrown into the middle of a voter suppression scheme. An analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found the tax plan currently working through the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature favors the wealthy. The analysis also claimed there’s little evidence the across-the-board tax cuts suggested would significantly help Ohio’s economy. The plan still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich. Council members are asking Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to remain in Cincinnati instead of taking a job in Detroit, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. didn’t seem convinced that much can be done. Dohoney said Craig’s hometown is Detroit, a city that has suffered in recent years as the local economy has rapidly declined. Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is running for governor, and he will make Cincinnati one of his first stops for his campaign kick-off tour. FitzGerald is challenging Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014, who has held the governor’s office since 2010. A recent poll found Kasich in a comfortable position with a nine-point lead on FitzGerald, but many respondents said they don’t know enough about FitzGerald to have an opinion on him. Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a six-year high in March, with 2,190 homes sold. The strong housing market, which is recovering from a near collapse in 2008, is widely considered by economists to be a good sign for the overall economy. But Ohio’s venture capital investments dropped to a two-year low, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The Ohio EPA and Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District are partnering up to provide a $250,000 grant to help purchase equipment to screen, clean and sort glass — an important part of the recycling industry. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to forgo lunch on April 24 to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting. The event will let participants “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives,” according to a press release from Sittenfeld’s office. Participants are also being asked to donate money to the Freestore Foodbank. A ceremony for the event will be held on April 24 at noon in Fountain Square. The U.S. Senate is moving toward approving bill that would allow states to better enforce and collect online sales taxes. Mars One is calling all applicants for a mission to colonize Mars in 2023. The sport of the future is here: combat juggling:
 
 

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