by German Lopez
62 days ago
Bill restricts minor parties, parking contracts released, Pure Romance to get tax credits
A bill enacting new regulations on minor political party participation in state elections yesterday passed through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate
despite objections from the Libertarian Party and other critics that
the bill will shut out minor parties in future elections. The bill now
needs approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich, who would
likely benefit from the bill because it would help stave off tea party
challengers in the gubernatorial election. The proposal was sponsored by
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority yesterday released drafts for contracts
with operators who will manage Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and
garages under the city’s parking plan, which leases the parking assets
to the Port Authority for at least 30 years. Xerox will be paid about
$4.5 million in its first year operating Cincinnati’s parking meters,
and it will be separately paid $4.7 million over 10 years to upgrade
meters to, among other features, allow customers to pay through a
smartphone. Xerox’s contract will last 10 years, but it can be renewed
for up to 30 years. The city administration says the parking plan will
raise millions in upfront money then annual installments that will help
finance development projects and balance the budget, but critics say the
plan gives up too much control of Cincinnati’s parking assets.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance
in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20
years. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least
126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and
nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Pure Romance is
a $100 million-plus company that originally planned to move from
Loveland to Cincinnati with support from the state and city, but Gov.
John Kasich’s administration ultimately rejected state tax credits for
the company. Kasich’s administration says Pure Romance didn’t fit into
an industry traditionally supported by the state, but critics argue the
state government is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex
toys in its product lineup.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST),
Cincinnati’s vitriolic tea party group, yesterday appeared to endorse John
Cranley, who’s running for mayor against Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.Ohio conservatives are defending their proposal to weaken the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates,
which environmentalists and businesses credit with spurring a boom of clean
energy production in the state and billions in savings on Ohioans’
electricity bills. State Sen. Seitz compared the mandates to “central
planning” measures taken in “Soviet Russia.” A study from Ohio State
University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend
$3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years if the
mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.
Ohioans renewing their driver’s licenses or state ID cards will no longer be asked
whether they want to remain on the list of willing organ donors. The
move is supposed to increase the amount of participants in the state’s
organ donation registry by giving people less chances to opt out.
An Ohio Senate bill would ban red-light cameras.
Supporters of the traffic cameras say they deter reckless driving, but
opponents argue the cameras make it too easy to collect fines for the
most minor infractions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded $17 million in grants to crime victims services around Ohio, including more than $49,000 to the Salvation Army in Hamilton County.
President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, which would make her the first woman to lead the nation’s central bank.
Lost in their smartphones and tablets, San Francisco train passengers didn’t notice a gunman until he pulled the trigger.
Scientists are bad at identifying important science, a new study found.
by German Lopez
63 days ago
Streetcar renderings unveiled, county won't raise taxes, facial recognition scrutinized
CAF USA yesterday unveiled new renderings
for Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project. The city has hired CAF
to supply five cars, which will have four doors on each side and be
capable of moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also
completely low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and
moving around the streetcar easier. John Deatrick, the streetcar
project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s
been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in
August, and he expects to really test out the cars once the
Over-the-Rhine loop is completed in June 2015.
Hamilton County commissioners unanimously agreed
the 2014 budget won’t include tax increases. It’s also the first budget in
six years that won’t require major cuts. Hamilton County Administrator
Christian Sigman’s budget proposal doesn’t explicitly suggest a tax
hike, but it does explain how a sales tax hike could be used to offset
other expenditures, such as a cut in property taxes. But commissioners
all said they’re opposed to a sales tax hike. Commissioners will likely
retool the budget and pass the final version in November.
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper called on Ohio
to restrict access of the state’s facial recognition system to a small
group of a couple dozen specially trained law enforcement officers,
which would take calls for the system 24/7. Under Republican Attorney
General Mike DeWine, Ohio in June secretly launched a facial recognition
program that allows law enforcement to use a photo to search state
databases and connect suspects with contact information; previously,
searching the databases required a name or address. In his defense,
DeWine claimed the system is vital for law enforcement and widely used across the country. But an
investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer found Ohio’s system grants access to thousands more officials than other states’ systems.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections began a hearing yesterday on whether Randy Simes, owner of UrbanCincy.com,
can vote in Cincinnati after living in Chicago and moving to South
Korea. Simes registered to vote in the mayoral primary election through
Travis Estell’s address, where Simes says he stays when he’s in town.
Simes’ supporters say the conservative groups behind the hearing are
attacking him for political purposes because he supports the streetcar
project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls for mayor, both of which the
groups oppose. The attorney for the conservative groups said that he
doesn’t want voting “treated as a game.” Some members of the board of
elections said they were disturbed by the political undertones of the
hearing and a request for emails between Simes and Estell.
Gov. John Kasich yesterday announced voluntary guidelines
urging doctors to use caution when prescribing high levels of opioid
painkillers for long-term use to patients. The restrictions are in
response to a rise in prescription drug abuse and overdoses across the country. Some
members of the medical community say they’re concerned the guidelines
will lead to temporary disruption in pain care, but others say the kinks
should work themselves out in the long term.
Letters from State Treasurer Josh Mandel show he lobbied for Suarez Corp.
to seek relief from litigation for the company. The two letters were
obtained on Jan. 2 by a federal grand jury that later indicted Benjamin
Suarez, owner of Suarez Corp., and Michael Giorgo, chief financial
officer of the company, on charges of illegally funneling about $200,000
to Mandel and a Republican congressman’s campaigns in 2011.
Among states and the District of Columbia, WalletHub estimates Ohio is No. 32 most affected by the federal government shutdown. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in greater detail here.
Ohio gave 23 communities $8 million for local infrastructure improvements, but Cincinnati and Hamilton County were not among the recipients.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino held its spot as Ohio’s top-earning casino in September.
Enrollment to Cincinnati State increased despite a statewide decline. The university also received a $2.75 million manufacturing training grant.
Science confirmed that political extremists think they’re always right and everyone else is wrong.
Watch coffee shop customers freak out at a real-life Carrie:
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
by German Lopez
64 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:27 PM | Permalink
Spanish company hired by city to design, build cars
The Cincinnati streetcar took another step forward on Monday when car builder CAF USA unveiled renderings for the $133 million project.
The city has hired CAF to supply five cars. The latest details
show the cars will have four doors on each side and be capable of
moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also completely
low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and moving around
the streetcar easier.
CAF, which is based in Spain, has supplied cars for a few
other U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, Houston and Sacramento, Calif.
John Deatrick, the streetcar project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in August.
Unlike most other streetcars around the world, the
Cincinnati cars are particularly tuned to handle sharp turns, according
to Deatrick. That’s because the city didn’t want to expand roads and
knock down buildings just to accommodate the transit network.
Deatrick says the true test for the cars will come once
they’re shipped and tested on a completed Over-the-Rhine loop in June
2015. The streetcar is set to open for use on Sept. 15, 2016.
Check out the renderings here.
by German Lopez
64 days ago
Shutdown continues, council candidates meet at forum, county considers sales tax hike
Reminder: Today is the last day to register to vote in
the 2013 mayoral and City Council elections. Since early voting is currently underway, it’s
possible to register and vote on the same day. Get a registration form here and find out when and where to vote here.
The federal government shutdown is closing in on its second week. The shutdown has forced some services in Cincinnati to seriously cut back, ranging from Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety inspections to small business loans. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in further detail here.
City Council candidates met at a forum
on Oct. 5 to discuss their different visions for the city’s
future. The candidates agreed Cincinnati is moving forward, but they
generally agreed that the city needs to carry its current economic
growth from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to all 52 neighborhoods.
Participating candidates particularly emphasized public safety and
government transparency, while a majority also focused on education
partnerships and human services for the poor and homeless, which have been funded below council’s goals since 2004. The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Check out CityBeat’s candidate-by-candidate breakdown of the forum here.
Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman plans to
propose a quarter-cent hike of the county sales tax to pay for lower
property taxes, the elimination of permit and inspection fees paid by
businesses, or the construction of a new coroner’s lab and addition of
nearly 300 jail beds, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Hamilton County’s sales tax is currently 6.75 percent, which is lower
than 65 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Sigman says the plan would refocus the
county and allow it “to transition from a posture of where to cut to
where to invest.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach agreed to pay more than $1,200
to dismiss a lawsuit from an anti-tax group that would have cost the
city $30,000. Seelbach’s payment reimburses the city for a trip he took
to Washington, D.C., to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award
for his accomplishments in protecting Cincinnati’s LGBT community. City
officials said the trip also helped Seelbach market Cincinnati and
learn what other cities are doing to attract and retain LGBT
individuals. The lawsuit was threatened by the hyper-conservative
Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims
to protect taxpayers from government over-spending and high taxes but simultaneously forces the city to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight
Starting today, residents must use city-delivered trash carts if they want their garbage picked up. To save space in the carts, city officials are advising recycling. If city workers didn’t deliver a trash cart to your home, contact them here.
A bill in the Ohio legislature would ban licensed counselors
from attempting to change a youth’s sexual orientation. The practice,
known as “conversion therapy,” is widely perceived as unscientific and psychologically
damaging and demeaning. California and New Jersey banned conversion
therapies in the past year.
Ohio’s legislative leaders on Friday promised to make a Medicaid overhaul a focus of the ongoing fall session.
It’s so far unclear what exactly the overhaul will involve. Meanwhile, the Ohio legislature has refused to take up a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would
expand eligibility for the federal-state health care program to include
anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Health
Policy Institute of Ohio estimates the expansion would generate $1.8
billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans, and it’s
supported by Gov. John Kasich. But Republican legislators are skeptical
of expanding a government-run health care program and claim the federal
government wouldn’t be able to meet its obligations to the program,
even though the federal government has met its payments since Medicaid
was created in 1965.
Although insurance plans in Obamacare’s online marketplace (HealthCare.gov) offer lower premiums, the reduced prices come with less options for doctors and hospitals. But supporters argue some health care coverage is better than no health care coverage.
The Ohio branch of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of
unions in the country, today announced a slate of Democratic
endorsements for state offices, including Ed FitzGerald for governor,
David Pepper for attorney general, Nina Turner for secretary of state,
Connie Pillich for treasurer and John Patrick Carney for auditor.
A registry helps connect
University of Cincinnati Medical Center researchers with people with a
personal or family history of breast cancer. About 5,600 people are
currently on the list, which researchers can tap into to collect data or
solicit individuals for studies.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is investing its single largest contribution ever on treatments for mental health and behavioral issues.
Ohio gas prices dipped further this week.
A grandfather chastised his daughter
in a letter for kicking out his gay grandson: “He was born this way and
didn't choose it more than he being left-handed. You, however, have
made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So while we
are in the business of disowning children, I think I'll take this moment
to say goodbye to you.”
Designing an anti-poaching drone could earn someone $25,000.
by German Lopez
65 days ago
Eighteen of 21 candidates participated in Oct. 5 forum
Just one month before voters pick nine council members at the ballot box on Nov. 5, 18 of 21 City Council candidates on Oct. 5 participated at a candidate forum that covered issues ranging from better supporting low-income Cincinnatians to expanding downtown's growth to all 52 neighborhoods.During the event, the candidates agreed Cincinnati is moving forward, but they generally agreed that the city needs to carry its current economic growth from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to all 52 neighborhoods. Participating candidates particularly emphasized public safety and government transparency, while a majority also focused on education partnerships and human services for the poor and homeless, which have been funded below council's goals since 2004.The three City Council candidates not in attendance were Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn, Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman and Independent challenger Tim Dornbusch. The absences prompted forum moderator Kathy Wilson, who's also a columnist at CityBeat, to remind the audience that "a vote is a precious thing" and candidates should work to earn support by engaging the public.Councilman Chris Seelbach and challenger David Mann, both Democrats, had surrogates stand in for them. Seelbach was attending a wedding, and Mann was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his family.The forum was hosted by The Greenwich in Walnut Hills and sponsored by CityBeat and the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area.Here are the highlights from the 18 participating candidates, in order of their appearance:Wendell Young (Democrat, incumbent): Young said Cincinnati should put basic services and public safety first, but he added that the city should also help address "quality of life issues" such as providing "world-class parks." He also said Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget, which has relied on one-time funding sources since at least 2001, and make further adjustments to the underfunded pension system. Young also explained that the city needs to strengthen its partnerships with local organizations to help combat homelessness, affordable housing, child poverty and infant mortality.Laure Quinlivan (Democrat, incumbent): Quinlivan proudly pointed out she's the "only elected mom" on City Council. She said her goal is to make Cincinnati "cleaner, greener and smarter" by focusing on population and job growth and thriving neighborhoods. To spur such growth, Quinlivan claimed the city needs the streetcar project and more bike and hike trails, both of which she argued will attract more young adults to Cincinnati. Unlike other candidates, Quinlivan publicly supported potentially "rightsizing" — or cutting — Cincinnati's police and fire departments to structurally balance the budget. She also said the city should provide more options for health insurance to city employees so they don't all get a so-called "Cadillac plan" that's expensive for the city.P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat, incumbent): Sittenfeld touted downtown and Over-the-Rhine's turnaround as a model for economic growth that Cincinnati should expand to all neighborhoods. He argued the model is what attracts companies like Pure Romance to Cincinnati, as the company mentioned the city's recent urban growth as one reason it decided to stay here. (Of course, the nearly $699,000 in tax incentives over 10 years probably help as well.) When asked about his opposition to the current streetcar project, Sittenfeld said the current project is fiscally irresponsible because of its previous budget problems, which City Council fixed in June, and reduction in funding from the state government, which forced the city to pick up more of the funding share. Sittenfeld said his past two years on council were a success, but he added, "I'm not done yet."Amy Murray (Republican and Charterite, challenger): Murray said her campaign is focused on creating a fiscally sound city by structurally balancing the budget and fixing the underfunded pension system. But she said she would do both without increasing taxes, which could force the city to cut services and retirement benefits. When asked about her opposition in 2011 to extending city employee benefits to LGBT spouses, Murray said she never had a problem with extending the benefits to LGBT individuals — which City Council did in 2012 — but was simply acknowledging that providing the extra benefits requires making cuts elsewhere to balance the budget. (Opponents previously said the issue should be about equality and fairness, not costs.)Vanessa White (Charterite, challenger): White said her main goals are reducing poverty in Cincinnati, providing more education opportunities to residents and expanding citizen access to city officials. When specifying her goals for education, White said Cincinnati needs to do a better job incentivizing internships for youth at local businesses and touted the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which seeks to expand preschool education opportunities in Cincinnati. To increase transparency and outreach, White said she would assign City Hall staffers to answer citizens' questions after council meetings.Michelle Dillingham (Democrat, challenger): Dillingham said the role of local government is to spur growth in abandoned areas that have been failed by the private sector. But to successfully do this, she said the city needs to engage and reach out to its citizens more often. As an example, she cited the development of an affordable housing complex in Avondale, which has been snared by sudden public outcry from a neighborhood group. Dillingham said supporting affordable housing is also more than just providing expanded services; she explained that she supports creating more jobs that would provide a living wage, which would then let more locals own or rent a home without exceeding 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs. At the end, Dillingham touted her 10-point plan to give more Cincinnatians "a seat at the table" and make the city government more inclusive.Mike Moroski (Independent, challenger): Moroski said he intends to focus on growing Cincinnati's population, reducing re-entry into the criminal justice system and lowering child poverty. He also touted support for development projects and infrastructure, including the streetcar project. At the same time, Moroski argued some development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown is pricing low-income people out of the city's booming areas — an issue he would like to address. Moroski also said he backs efforts to increase Cincinnati's human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years. When asked about his lack of government experience, Moroski said he sees it as a "gift" and "blessing" that's given him a fresh, outside perspective. "I will be the voice for the voiceless," he said.Melissa Wegman (Republican, challenger): Wegman opened by showing off her business credentials and neighborhood advocacy. When asked what she means when she says she'll bring a "business perspective" to council, she said she would like to see the city put more support toward small businesses. In particular, Wegman said underserved neighborhoods need more city help and funding. She also told panelists that she opposes Issue 4, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot and would semi-privatize Cincinnati's pension system.Kevin Flynn (Charterite, challenger): Flynn said Cincinnati's budget problems are by far the most important issues facing the city, but he also trumpeted the local government's lack of transparency and engagement as major issues. He explained he's particularly opposed to the mayor's pocket veto, which allows the mayor to entirely dictate what legislation is voted on by council and potentially block any legislation he or she disagrees with. Flynn said he would like to see more citizen engagement on budget issues and more open debate between council members during public meetings.Greg Landsman (Democrat and Charterite, challenger): Landsman stated his focus is on population, job and revenue growth, which could help him achieve his goal of a structurally balanced budget. He said the city needs to do more to attract and retain young people. Although Landsman acknowledges the city's progress, he said Cincinnati is undergoing a "tale of two cities" in which some neighborhoods prosper and others flounder. Landsman also suggested increasing human services to 1 percent of the operating budget over the next few years and improving city management in other areas, including the budget, pension system and roads.Kevin Johnson (Independent, challenger): Johnson said the role of government should be to balance out the private sector and provide a safety net for those who fall through the system. He said the city needs to do more to tackle income inequality by "investing in people." Johnson said he supports recent efforts to create a land bank system for struggling neighborhoods, which aim to increase homeownership by making it more affordable and accessible. Johnson also claimed that people are tired of party politics and would like to see more transparency in government.David Mann (Democrat and Charterite, challenger), represented by campaign manager John Juech: Speaking for Mann, Juech said his candidate got into the campaign to address Cincinnati's budget problems. Juech explained Mann will leave "all options on the table," whether it's revenue increases or service cuts, to structurally balance the budget. When asked whether Mann, who previously served 18 years on council, really deserves more time in the local government, Juech explained that Mann's experience makes him a "walking Cincinnati historian." He also argued that Mann has great relationships with county officials, particularly Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, that could make it easier to jointly manage some city services in a way that would drive down costs.Yvette Simpson (Democrat and Charterite, incumbent): Simpson said she measures progress in Cincinnati by "how well the least of us do," which drove her to start the Cincinnati Youth Commission and other partnerships that help connect the city's youth to jobs. Although Simpson said she supports boosting funding to human services and building better relationships with human services agencies, she said providing more funding is hindered by a "simple math problem" and the city needs to balance its budget before it can provide more and better services. Simpson also said the city could and should do a better job engaging the public with big ideas.Chris Seelbach (Democrat, incumbent), represented by legislative director Jon Harmon: Reading a statement from Seelbach, Harmon said Cincinnati is on the rise but still needs to improve in various areas. In particular, he said the city needs to do a better job funding all 52 neighborhoods, providing more opportunities for low-income Cincinnatians and eventually increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget. Harmon also touted City Council's progress with infrastructure issues, including increased road paving and bridge funding. By addressing these issues and occasionally making "tough choices," Harmon said Seelbach hopes to continue growing the city.Pam Thomas (Democrat, incumbent): Thomas claimed she wants local government to be open, honest and transparent. She said the city's progress should be gauged through education metrics, particularly local graduation rates and, starting next year, the city's success in meeting state-mandated third-grade reading proficiency standards. Thomas replaced her husband on council after she was appointed by him and other council members earlier in 2013, but Thomas said that, unlike him, she opposes the current streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to fund development projects and help balance the budget.Shawn Butler (Democrat, challenger): To Butler, progress means reducing income inequality, creating jobs and growing the city's population. Although Butler, who is Mayor Mark Mallory's director of community affairs, said he's generally supportive of the mayor's policies, he said the city could do a better job selling itself and reaching out to the business community. Butler also touted his experience, particularly how he's gone through eight budget cycles during his time with the mayor. To structurally balance the budget, Butler said he wouldn't increase the earnings tax and would instead pursue other options, such as tapping into money from the parking plan and cutting services.Angela Beamon (Independent, challenger): Beamon said she would ensure city services are spread out to all citizens and neighborhoods. She suggested struggling neighborhoods are underserved — not "underperforming," a term she doesn't adhere to — and the city should do more to reach out to them. Beamon also stood firm on her opposition to the streetcar project. Instead of funding the streetcar, she said city resources should go toward promoting business ownership and services that help the underprivileged.Sam Malone (Republican, challenger): Malone said his goal is to make all of Cincinnati's neighborhoods thrive with more businesses. He said since he lost his re-election to City Council in 2005, he's managed a small business and learned how it feels to be on the other side of the government-business relationship. Malone said his campaign slogan ("I love everybody, I come in peace") best exemplifies how he's led his life. When asked about a 2005 incident in which he disciplined his son with a belt, Malone claimed he's "running on issues" and his parenting tactics were deemed lawful by a court.
Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond
0 Comments · Friday, October 4, 2013
I was covering federal courts and agencies for the
Enquirer 17 years ago during the previous lockout. One impression
remains unshakable: most federal employees told to stay home were
offended by the “non-essential” designation. They didn’t think of themselves as bureaucrats, but more
as civil service; apolitical and doing the best job they could with the
resources provided by Congress.
by German Lopez
68 days ago
County shut down $3.2 billion MSD project in response to city rules
Councilman Chris Seelbach on Oct. 3 announced another
concession in the ongoing city-county dispute over contracting rules for the jointly operated Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).
At the heart of the issue is a federal mandate requiring
Cincinnati to retrofit and revamp its sewer system. The project
is estimated to cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, making it the largest
infrastructure undertaking in the city’s history.
But Hamilton County commissioners have put most of the
project on hold until the county resolves its conflict with City
Council, which unanimously passed in June 2012 and modified in May
“responsible bidder” rules that dictate how MSD contractors should train
Critics say the law’s apprenticeship program and
pre-apprenticeship fund requirements put too much of a burden on nonunion businesses. Supporters claim the requirements
help create local jobs and train local workers.
The city law requires bidders to follow specific
standards for apprenticeship programs, which are used by unionized and
nonunion businesses to teach an employee in a certain craft, such as
plumbing or construction. It also asks contractors to put 10 cents for
each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will help teach
applicants in different crafts.
The concession announced on Oct. 3 would replace a mandate with an incentive program.
The mandate tasked contract bidders to prove their
apprenticeship programs have graduated at least one person a year for
the five previous years.
The incentive program would strip the mandate and
replace it with “bid credits,” which would essentially give a small
advantage to bidders who prove their apprenticeship programs are
graduating employees. That advantage would be weighed along with many other
factors that go into the city’s evaluation of bidders.
Seelbach says the concession will be the sixth the city has given to the county, compared to the county’s single concession.
The city has already added several exemptions to its
rules, including one for small businesses and another for all contracts
under $400,000, which make up half of MSD contracts. The city also
previously loosened safety training requirements and other apprenticeship rules.
Meanwhile, the county has merely agreed to require
state-certified apprenticeship programs, although with no specific
standards like the city’s.
The five-year graduation requirement was the biggest
sticking point in the city-county dispute. It’s now up to commissioners
to decide whether the concession is enough to let MSD work go forward.
If not, the dispute could end up in court as the federal government
demands its mandate be met.
by German Lopez
70 days ago
Posted In: News
, Health care
at 01:35 PM | Permalink
Marketplace website produces waiting periods, errors
Ohioans who tried to obtain health insurance through HealthCare.gov,
the online portal for Obamacare’s marketplaces, on its opening day likely ran into a few
problems, ranging from delays to problems logging in.
Before logging in, participants typically go through a
waiting period that can last up to a few minutes. During this time, a
large message pops up that says, “Health Insurance Marketplace: Please
wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working
to make your experience here better. Please wait here until we send you
to the login page. Thanks for your patience!”
Following the waiting period, logging in can become its own challenge. After entering a username
and password, the screen often flashes a “Downstream Error,” occasionally
joined with the incomprehensible code “E501.”
Even if someone manages to get through the issues and log in,
another error message can pop up that makes browsing insurance plans impossible.
The problems aren’t necessarily unexpected — new software often
launches with glitches that are later patched up — and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking participants to be
“We’re building a complicated piece of technology, and
hopefully you’ll give us the same slack you give Apple,” HHS Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at a Sept. 30 briefing.
Federal officials also caution that Oct. 1
is just one day of the six-month enrollment period, which will last
through March. And even if someone did manage to sign up on
the first day, none of the insurance plans begin coverage until Jan. 1.
Once the marketplaces do work correctly, officials promise
that they will allow Cincinnatians to browse, compare and select from
46 different private insurance plans that range from a “bronze” plan that costs and
covers the least to a “platinum” plan that costs and covers the most.
The plans’ raw premiums are also 16 percent lower than the federal government previously projected, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office numbers.
An Ohio 27-year-old making $25,000 a year will be able to buy a
“silver,” or middle-of-the-pack, plan for as low as $145 a month after tax
credits, while an Ohio family of four making $50,000 a year will be able to pay $282 a
month for a similar plan. Without the tax credits, the individual will
pay $212 a month and the family of four will pay $768 a month.
Participants must make between 100
percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level a year, or $11,490 to $45,960 in annual income for an individual, to be eligible for tax credits.
Higher income levels will get smaller subsidies; lower income levels
will get larger subsidies.
Anyone interested in the marketplaces can browse options and sign up online at HealthCare.gov, by phone at 800-318-2596 or in person at various locations, including community health centers and the Freestore Foodbank.Updated: Added more details about tax subsidies in Ohio’s marketplaces.
by German Lopez
68 days ago
Pension proposal could reduce benefits, energy bill contested, needle exchanges approved
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Local business groups, unions, progressive organizations,
the mayor and all council members are united against a tea party-backed
ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system,
and a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute helps explain the opposition.
The report echoes concerns from both sides: It finds new employees
would have their benefits cut by one-third under the tea party’s
proposed system, but it also shows that, when measured differently,
Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability might currently stand at $2.57
billion, more than three times the $862 million estimate city officials
typically use. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees contribute to and manage their own individual
retirement accounts; under the current system, the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea
is to move workers from a public system to private, 401k-style plans.
Voters will decide on the amendment when it appears on the ballot as
Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
Environmental and business groups argued in front of the Ohio Senate yesterday that a new deregulatory bill would effectively gut Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and hurt the state’s green businesses,
but the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), claims
it’s “not as loosey-goosey” as environmental and business groups make it
seem. The biggest point of contention: Seitz’s bill would allow utility
companies to count energy savings that are seen as “business as usual”
toward energy efficiency standards. That, green groups argue, would let
businesses claim they’re becoming more energy efficient without making
any real energy-efficiency investments. It could also cost Ohioans more
money: A previous report from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy coalition found the bill could increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by
$3.65 billion over 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s bill in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the deregulatory attempts here.
The Ohio House yesterday approved a bill
that expands local authority to pursue needle-exchange programs that
would provide clean needles to drug addicts. Supporters of the bill say
it would help local communities reduce drug-related infections and
perhaps drug addiction, but opponents claim it surrenders to drug pushers by enabling more
drug activity. A 2004 study from the World Health Organization
found “a compelling case that (needle-exchange programs) substantially
and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among (injection drug
users) and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at
either the individual or societal level.” CityBeat covered the war on drugs and the changing approach to combating Ohio and the nation’s drug problems in further detail here.
Some help for voting: “2013 City Council Candidates at a Glance.”
The Cincinnati Bengals want a new high-definition scoreboard
that could cost county taxpayers $10 million. But taxpayers don’t have
much of a choice in the matter; the stadium lease requires taxpayers
purchase and install new technology, including a scoreboard, at the
Bengals’ request once the technology is taken up at 14-plus other NFL
Women gathered at the Ohio Statehouse
yesterday to protest measures in the recently passed state budget that
restrict access to legal abortions and defund family planning clinics,
including Planned Parenthood. CityBeat covered the state budget, including the anti-abortion restrictions, in further detail here.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says Republican legislators should forget their fight against Obamacare
and instead focus on a deficit-reduction package. Republicans helped
cause a federal government shutdown by only passing budget bills that
weaken Obamacare, but Democrats have refused to negotiate over the
health care law, which is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s
legacy-defining domestic policy. Meanwhile, Obamacare’s online
marketplaces opened on Tuesday, allowing participants to compare and
browse subsidized private insurance plans. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote them in further detail here.
The $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project will require tolls,
according to a study released by Kentucky and Ohio transportation
officials on Thursday. Officials at every level of government have been
pursuing a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge as concerns mount
over its economy-damaging inadequacies.
A $26 million residential and retail development project is coming just north of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino.Greater Cincinnati Water Works is using an extra layer of ultraviolet disinfection treatment to make local water cleaner.
The second round of Ohio’s job training program offers $30 million to help businesses train workers so they can remain competitive without shedding employees.
“Project Censored” analyzes the stories the mainstream media failed to cover in the past year. Check the list out here.
A new study found eye contact makes people less likely to agree with a persuasive argument, especially if they’re skeptical in the first place.
1 Comment · Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The following are this year’s 21 City Council candidates at a glance. CityBeat
will cover the candidate forum and the race in more depth during the
weeks leading up to the election.