by German Lopez
Medical marijuana advances, commissioners threaten streetcar, voter fraud report released
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The Ohio Ballot Board certified an amendment
that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio.
Petitioners will now have to gather 385,253 signatures to get the issue
on the ballot — most likely this year or 2014. CityBeat previously covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement in greater detail here.
Republican county commissioners are asking the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments to pull $4 million in streetcar funding,
but the city says OKI can’t legally do it. Commissioners Greg Hartmann
and Chris Monzel, who are also members of the OKI board, made the
request in a letter. City spokesperson Meg Olberding says OKI was simply
an agency that passed the money along as it worked through the Federal
Transit Administration (FTA) to OKI to the Southwest Ohio Regional
Transportation Authority (SORTA), and the agreement doesn’t allow OKI to
interfere any further. This morning, the city’s Twitter account
tweeted, “City has confirmed with Feds that OKI cannot pull streetcar $
bc funds are already obligated to this federal project.”
Ohio released its first ever statewide report on voter fraud yesterday, called the “Post-2012 General Election Voter Fraud Report.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted said the report shows voter fraud exists,
but it’s “not an epidemic.” That coincides with previous findings from
researchers: An extensive study of the nation’s databases by News21, a
Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Ohio Democrats are proposing more accountability rules
for JobsOhio, including adherence to public record laws, open meeting
laws, state ethics laws for employees and full state audits. JobsOhio is
a privatized nonprofit agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of
Development. They claim the privatized nature of the agency allows it to
respond to economic problems more quickly, but Democrats say the agency
redirects public funds with minimal oversight.
Cincinnati will host a march against genetically modified organisms
Saturday as part of the international March Against Monsanto. The
movement’s organizers are calling on participants that explain the facts
of genetically modified organisms, encouraging “no slandering, no
opinions or paper — just facts.” The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at
A.G. Lafley is reclaiming the top spot at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. The company says the change is not part of a deeper issue.
The 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati begins tomorrow.
Win or lose, the University of Cincinnati baseball team has a lot of fun.
An adorable Labrador Retriever puppy had her heart cured after a minimally invasive heart procedure — the first ever in the Tri-State.
Salamanders have some lessons for humans when it comes to regrowing limbs.
by German Lopez
Group ordains woman priests, Quinlivan suggests budget plan, county halts sewer projects
A group is ordaining Roman Catholic women priests despite Vatican opposition, and Debra Meyers will be Cincinnati's first woman to go through the ordination on May 25. Meyers told CityBeat the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests' movement is about pressuring the Catholic Church to be more inclusive, including with women, LGBT individuals and other groups that may feel left out by the Church's current policies. The full Q&A with Meyers can be read here.In the latest budget plan, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is asking all city employees, including cops and firefighters, to take eight furlough days, which she says would save enough money to prevent all layoffs. That plan follows a motion co-sponsored by council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach, which would eliminate all fire layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25.Hamilton County commissioners voted to stop all sewer projects yesterday in opposition to the city's "responsible bidder" policy, which requires most contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to have apprenticeship programs. City Council, spearheaded by Seelbach, passed the measure to encourage more job training options for workers, but the county government says the measure is unfair and puts too much of a strain on businesses working with MSD. The issue will likely head to court.Commentary: "Good News Reveals Budget Deception."At last night's budget hearings, Councilman Charlie Winburn repeatedly brought up the city's so-called "credit cards," which are really procurement cards that are often used by the mayor to entertain and attract businesses to Cincinnati. Winburn says the use of the cards is outrageous when the city is considering laying off cops and firefighters, and Councilman Chris Smitherman says the system needs more controls. The cards are set up so they can only be used by city employees for certain services, and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says the cards make the system more efficient, which means lower prices for the city.A bill in the Ohio House revives the Medicaid expansion, which was previously opposed by Republicans as part of the budget process. Gov. John Kasich is one of the top Ohio Republicans who supports the expansion, but it's unclear how far the bill can move this time, considering many Republicans are still opposed. CityBeat
covered the expansion, which would insure half a million Ohioans and
save the state money in the next decade, in further detail here.The Ohio General Assembly passed a bill
yesterday that would effectively ban Internet "sweepstakes" cafes,
which state officials say are prone to illegal gambling activity. State
Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says the bill is a "shoot ‘em
and let God sort it out" approach because the bill generalizes against
all Internet cafes instead of imposing specific regulations that would
only target offenders. If Kasich signs the bill, it will become law.The Ohio Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, submitted 589 petitions to the Ohio Senate opposing a measure that would force Ohio's public universities to decide between $370 million in out-of-state tuition revenue and giving out-of-state students documents required for voting. The measure was originally sneaked into the Ohio House budget plan, but Senate officials are removing it from the budget bill and appear likely to take it up in a standalone bill. CityBeat covered the original measure here.Greater Cincinnati home sales are continuing picking up. There 2,388 homes
sold in the region in April, up 22.65 percent from the year before —
even better than March's 13.5-percent year-over-year rise.Researchers are now suggesting rubbing a certain kind dirt on wounds.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 22, 2013
City officials were either disastrously wrong or misleading the public when they insisted the parking plan was required to avoid massive public safety layoffs.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Two council members are proposing a budget plan that would eliminate fire layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25 by making cuts elsewhere.
by German Lopez
Local job numbers improve, housing supply lags behind demand, The Banks gets price tag
Local job numbers continued their positive trend
in April, with Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropping to 6.9 percent
and the rest of the region following suit. Michael Jones, research
director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, attributed
the job gains to improvements in manufacturing and continued growth in
health care jobs. Still, the public sector continued to lag behind the
private sector — a trend Jones says could change in the coming months as
government budgets are adjusted to match higher tax revenues resulting
from the recovering economy.
Downtown’s population growth slowed last year as available housing failed to match demand,
according to Downtown Cincinnati Inc.’s annual report. In the past few
years, the city has pursued multiple actions to meet demand,
particularly through public-private partnerships. Most recently, City
Council approved leasing the city’s parking assets to raise funds that
would help build 300 luxury apartments, but that plan is currently being held up in court.
The second phase of The Banks riverfront project will cost $62 million,
according to the report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. That’s smaller
than the first phase, which cost $90 million. The second phase of the
project is expected to begin this fall, and it should bring 300
apartments and 60,000 square feet of street-level retail space to the
area by the end of 2015. The Banks also plans to build a $45 million
hotel, which is also expected to be complete in 2015. The funding for the projects is
coming through multiple public-private partnerships.
After the final
public hearing on the city budget Wednesday, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan plans to introduce her own
budget plan that would avoid all city employee layoffs. A statement from Quinlivan
did not give much in the way of details: “My plan saves all city jobs
and restores all neighborhood programs. It requires common sense and
shared sacrifice of all city employees.” Most recently, council members
Chris Seelbach and Roxanne Qualls co-sponsored a motion that would eliminate fire layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25 by making cuts elsewhere.
The Ohio Senate plans to vote
today on a measure that would effectively close down hundreds of
Internet “sweepstakes” cafes around the state in an effort to eliminate
illegal gambling activities. The cafes’ operators insist their
activities are not gambling but rather a promotional tool that helps
sell Internet time and long-distance phone cards.
Cincinnati’s zoning hearing examiner says he’s trying to reduce the time it takes to go through the zoning hearing process to less than 60 days.
Three major Ohio universities, including the University of
Cincinnati, and four hospitals, including Cincinnati Children's
Hospital, are teaming up to find out what causes premature birth.
Beginning July 1, some Ohio interstates will allow drivers to go 70 miles per hour. Find out which ones here.
At congressional hearings yesterday, U.S. senators
criticized Apple for legally taking advantage of the complex American
corporate tax system, but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put the blame on
Russia is building robots to “neutralize” terrorists, and other researchers are working on robots that will attempt to rescue people after disasters.
The creator of the GIF says it’s pronounced “jif.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I’ve become a believer in the eye test.
It goes all the way back to Thomas, the ever-doubtful disciple, who just
couldn’t bring himself to believe the testimony of his brothers in
faith following the Crucifixion.
by German Lopez
As local officials struggle with streetcar and interchange, report demands new direction
Americans are driving less, and fewer Americans are driving, according to a May 14 report
from the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), an advocacy
organization. For Cincinnati, the trend might justify a recent shift in
public policy that embraces more transportation options, including more
bike lanes and a streetcar.
“Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight
years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill
Clinton’s first term,” the report reads. “The unique combination of
conditions that fueled the Driving Boom — from cheap gas prices to the
rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no
longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Millennials — is
demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.”
The report also says U.S. transportation policy “remains stuck in the past” and needs to “hit the ‘reset’ button.”
The report, which uses U.S. Department of Transportation
data from 2012, found Americans were driving about 9,000 miles a year
per person in 2012, down from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 2004. Until the
peak, Americans had been driving more miles each year since the end of
World War II.
The report finds the driving trend at odds with other means of transportation: “On the other
hand, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public
transportation in 2011 than we did in 2005. The nation also saw
increases in commuting by bike and on foot.”
The report attributes much of the shift to millennials,
members of the generation born between 1983 and 2000, which the report
says are more likely to demand public transportation and urban and
walkable neighborhoods. The new expectations are
largely driven by Internet-connected technologies, which are “rapidly
spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans
relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected,
vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving,” according to the
PIRG finds the trend will likely stick as gas
prices continue to rise, fewer Americans participate in the labor force
and Americans demands less time spent in travel.
Even if millennials begin driving more in the future, the
report’s findings show Americans are going to be driving much less in
2040 than federal agencies currently assume. “This raises the question
of whether changing trends in driving are being adequately factored
into public policy,” the report reads.
The report concludes local, state and federal governments
should react to the new trend by planning for uncertainty, accommodating
millennials’ demands, reviewing the need for more highway projects,
adapting federal priorities, using transportation funds based on cost-benefit analyses and conducting more transportation research.
For Cincinnati, the trend could have implications for two
major transportation projects: the MLK/I-71 Interchange and the
The streetcar project uses capital funding sources — some uniquely tied to mass transit projects — that some opponents argue should be reallocated to support the MLK/I-71 Interchange project.
But the report’s findings seem to support the city’s
current plans to push forward with mass transit projects like the streetcar, even while
local funding for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project remains uncertain.
After making changes based on feedback from public
meetings, the Ohio Department of Transportation priced the interchange
project at $80 million to $102 million, or $10 million to $32 million
higher than the previous estimate of $70 million.
The higher price didn’t lead to the same outcry that resulted from the streetcar project’s $17.4 million cost overrun, likely because of the interchange project’s broader support, secure state funding and feedback-driven circumstances.
Still, the city could share some of the higher cost burden
for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. Previously, the city planned to
use funds raised by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority for the interchange, but that plan is currently being held up in court.
In 2012, the city adopted Plan Cincinnati,
the city’s first master plan since 1980. The plan advocates for more
alternative methods of public transportation, particularly light rail
and bike lanes. But the master plan does not establish means of funding,
so City Council will have to approve funding over time to implement the
by German Lopez
Public safety layoffs reduced, state unemployment drops, county agency wins award
Council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach proposed a motion
yesterday that would reduce the amount of police layoffs to 25 and
eliminate all firefighter layoffs previously proposed in budget plans
for fiscal year 2014. The huge layoff reduction comes despite months of
warning from the city administration that the city would have to carry
out big public safety layoffs without the parking plan, which is currently stalled in court.
But it’s come with large cuts and shifted priorities in other areas of
the budget, such as reduced funding to parks, health, human services, parades
and outside agencies. (For example, the Health Department warned that cuts to its
services could lead to more rats and bedbugs.) The motion from Qualls and Seelbach came just in time for last night’s public hearing, which mostly focused on the cuts to parks and public safety.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.0 percent
in April, down from 7.1 percent the month before, thanks to increases
in the amount of people employed and decreases in the amount of people
unemployed. The gains coincided with decent job growth throughout the rest of
the nation in April, which dropped nationwide unemployment from 7.6 percent
to 7.5 percent. But the state gains were fairly
mixed, and the amount of construction, professional and business services and federal
and local government jobs actually dropped. The mixed, slow growth helps
explain why conservative and liberal think tanks seemingly disagree with Gov. John Kasich that Ohio is undergoing an “economic miracle.”
The Hamilton County Public Health’s (HCPH) food protection program is apparently the best in the United States and Canada.
The Conference for Food Protection awarded the program the 2013 Samuel
J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award, which “recognizes unsurpassed
achievement in providing outstanding food protection services to
communities,” according to a statement from HCPH.
Homophobic Boy Scouts supporters are rallying nationwide today to support the continuation of the Boy Scouts’ homophobic rules.The Taste of Cincinnati and the the Cubs-Reds series may have helped downtown Cincinnati earn the No. 42 spot in Priceline.com’s top 50 Memorial Day destinations.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirmed
Ohio has been undergoing a boom in oil and gas production in the past
two years thanks to developments in a drilling process known as
fracking, which CityBeat previously covered in further detail here.Duke Energy hired a new contractor — Southern Cross Co. — to carry out gas and line inspections.
Cincinnati-based Kroger developed a new system that will convert food that can’t be sold or donated into clean energy to power one of its distribution centers.
Convergys is selling is downtown Cincinnati headquarters as the company goes through big changes. So far the buyer is unknown.
Jim Kingsbury, CEO of UC Health since 2010, is retiring.
Using an optical illusion to make white people look darker can diminish racial biases, according to a new study.
Earth’s super-dense core is weak.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 12:33 PM | Permalink
Qualls, Seelbach propose budget plan that would avert layoffs despite months of warnings
A budget plan proposed by two council members today would eliminate layoffs at the fire department and reduce the amount of police layoffs to 25, down from 49, by making cuts elsewhere, particularly by forcing city employees to take 10 furlough days in fiscal year 2014.Council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach are co-sponsoring the motion. If it's approved by City Council, the amount of city employee layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget would drop to 84, down from the original "Plan B" estimate of 344, by amending Mayor Mark Mallory's budget proposal, which was announced yesterday.The news is being well received by public safety advocates, but it's also vindication for some of the city's harshest critics. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley previously said the city was acting like "the boy who cried wolf" by suggesting it had to lay off 344 city employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions."In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and firefighters, and it never happened," Cranley previously told CityBeat.But avoiding the layoffs comes with large cuts and shifted priorities elsewhere: Furlough days for supervisory and leadership personnel would be bumped up from five to 10 ($250,000 in savings), all council members would be asked to take 10 furlough days ($22,700), City Council's office budgets would be reduced ($18,000), the clerk of council's office budget would also be reduced ($46,000), the departments of community development and economic development would be merged ($171,000) and the account for firefighter's protective gear would be reduced ($100,000). In total, the cuts in the motion add up to $607,000.The cuts would be in addition to larger cuts proposed by the city manager and mayor, which include reduced funding to parks, human services, parades and outside agencies.The motion will be formally introduced at tonight's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, which will also act as a public hearing for budget issues. The hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Duke Energy Convention Center.The layoff reductions come after the city manager and mayor spent a bulk of the past six months repeatedly warning that the city would have to carry out significant public safety layoffs if the city didn't lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. That plan would have opened up funds to help balance the budget for two years and pay for economic development projects, including a downtown grocery store ("Parking Stimulus," issue of Feb. 27).But the parking plan is now held up in court, and the city is apparently able to avoid most of the layoffs despite the repeated warnings.The city must enact a budget by May 31, which will give the city the required 30 days to implement the plan by fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Mayor
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
Revisions will reduce city layoffs, make cuts to outside agencies
Mayor Mark Mallory announced revisions to the city manager’s budget plan
today that will reduce the amount of layoffs by making several
additional cuts, particularly in funding that goes to outside agencies,
and using recently discovered revenue.
Mallory’s changes will restore 18 firefighter positions,
17 police positions, three inspector positions at the Health Department
and two positions at the Law Department, reducing the total layoffs to 161, with 49 of those being police positions and 53 being firefighter positions.
To balance out the restored positions, the mayor is suggesting closing down two more recreation centers: Westwood Town Hall
Recreation Center and Mt. Auburn Recreation Center. He is also suggesting cuts to the
mayor’s office budget ($32,000) and outside agencies ($1.3 million),
including the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), the
Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Center for Closing the Health Gap,
the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber
Mallory’s revised budget plan also makes use of about
$500,000 in revenue that was not located in time for City Manager Milton
Dohoney’s budget proposal.
Mallory justified the cuts by saying public safety must
come first, but he says he would keep the funding under better circumstances.
“The progress we have seen in our city cannot stand on its own without an emphasis on public safety,” he said.
The budget will have to be enacted by June 1 to give the
city 30 days to implement the changes before fiscal year 2014, which
begins July 1. It will now move to City Council, which will be able to make its own changes.
Mallory stressed that the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit
is being driven by a few outside factors, including reduced state
funding, court challenges holding up the parking plan and the recent
Gov. John Kasich has cut local government funding by about half in his state budget plans, which Dohoney estimated cost
Cincinnati about $22.2 million in 2013 (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
The city was planning to make up for some of that lost
funding by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority and using
the funds to help balance the deficit and fund development projects
around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27). But opponents of the plan, who say they are cautious
of parking rate hikes and extended parking meter hours, have
successfully held up the plan in court and through a referendum effort.
Cincinnati’s population has steadily decreased since the
1950s, which means the city has been taking in less tax revenue from a
shrinking population. That was exacerbated by the Great Recession, which
further lowered tax revenue as people lost their jobs and cut back
Still, the city has run structurally imbalanced budget
since 2001, according to previous testimony from Budget Director Lea
Eriksen. The previous budgets were balanced through one-time revenue
sources, but Dohoney told media outlets last week that, barring the
parking plan, those sources have run out.