by German Lopez
Council to discuss streetcar, bills would protect LGBT, CPS to prevent data scrubbing
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding
sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and
money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino.
None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law
between capital budgets and operating budgets.
A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law
to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The
measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the
state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the
District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to
be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican
Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February
that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal
investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the
changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The
state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over
individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing
can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to
increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.
An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups
that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the
U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a
Cincinnati field office.
Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.
The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
A new study found people can better calm themselves down
by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to
control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.
Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space:
by German Lopez
City manager proposes budget plan, budget hearings set, redistricting reform in 2014
The city manager unveiled his budget plan
to solve the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit yesterday. The plan includes less layoffs than expected — particularly to cops and
firefighters — but it proposes an increase to
property taxes. The plan also includes a series of other cuts, including
to all arts funding and subsidies that go to parades, and new fees. The
release for the budget plan says many of the cuts could have been
avoided if the city obtained revenue from the proposed parking plan, which is currently being held up by a referendum effort and court challenges.
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which uses
capital funds that can’t be used to balance the operating budget because
of limits established in state law.
The budget plan still has to be approved by Mayor Mark
Mallory and City Council to become law, and City Council will hear the
public’s opinion before a vote at three public hearings: May 16 at the
Duke Convention Center, May 20 at College Hill Recreation Center and May
22 at Madisonville Recreation Center. All the hearings will begin at
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he hopes the Constitutional Modernization Commission will produce a ballot initiative for redistricting reform in 2014. Politicized redistricting — also known as “gerrymandering” —
has been traditionally used by politicians in power to redraw
congressional district borders in a way that favors the political party
in charge, but reform could change that. Gerrymandering was used
by national and state Republicans to blunt losses in the 2012 election,
as CityBeat detailed here.
As Ohio struggles to expand Medicaid, our more conservative neighbor to the south is moving forward. CityBeat
covered the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which the Health Policy
Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million people and
save millions of dollars by 2022, here.
While some Democrats want to attach party labels to Ohio Supreme Court elections, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants to do away with party primaries for judicial elections.
Former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger, the second longest-serving president at UC, died at 76 yesterday.
New York City could soon become the first major city to let non-citizens vote in local elections.
The legislation would allow non-citizens to vote if they are lawfully
present in the United States, have lived in New York City for six months
or more on the date of a given election and meet other requirements
necessary to vote in New York state.
When one simple question makes a huge difference: “When Did You Choose to Be Straight?”
Blood may be the key to seeing how long brain tumor patients have to live and whether their treatment is working.
A new study found oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sickened fish for at least a year.
Here is a compilation of adorable animals trying to stay awake.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 10:31 AM | Permalink
Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating
budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes
lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to
help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal
year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.
The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in
property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for
the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan
would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual
property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new
pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s
bill each quarter.
The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the
Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire
personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other
departments, 64 would be laid off.
The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead
to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would
be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with
changes in revenue.
The budget release says the cuts are a result of the
city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and
legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy
makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the
local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of
revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the
majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”
With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance.
Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10
million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to
$3.5 million in the revised budget plan.
The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time
positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant
positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These
vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would
further challenge departments that have already experienced significant
funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”
The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for
health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living
adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and
senior level management positions, including the city manager. The
changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the
Other cuts in the budget were selected through the
Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used
surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important
to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from
personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental
Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation.
Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of
Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the
Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be
eliminated, along with all arts funding.
The budget plan would also eliminate various other
services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the
Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the
Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for
accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement
applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for
fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a
50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an
unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special
The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.
The city was originally planning to lease its parking
assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the
operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.
But if the city is successful in court, the budget release
claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the
The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved
by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the
budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July
Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause
to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City
Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively
eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even
laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall.
The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established
in state law.
by German Lopez
Council combats human trafficking, Medicare reveals price data, Duke tops 'Dirty Dozen'
With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem.
The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human
trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more
surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a
notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who
spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will
serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other
prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars
depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care
advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of
transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set
prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.
Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter
in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings
looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global
warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes
with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the
rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency data.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Tactics.”
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement,
Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional
zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of
cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable
places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of
Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program
that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details
of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of
the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state
time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded,
it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education
programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion,
which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half
a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars
in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report
yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and
electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy.
The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies
to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
If you can’t beat them, make it so they
can’t play to begin with. That’s been the mentality of the Ohio
Republican Party time and time again, and the latest budget bill from
the Republican-controlled Ohio House continues the trend.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
An amendment in the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House could make voting more difficult for out-of-state college and university students.
by German Lopez
City manager defends streetcar, student who shot himself identified, city to sell defunct mall
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended the streetcar project
at a special four-hour session of City Council yesterday, but the city
manager did not reveal any specifics over how the project’s $17.4
million budget gap could be closed. Dohoney revealed the price of
halting the project would be $72 million: the project has already cost
the city $19.7 million, the city would have to spend another $14.2
million in close-out costs and another $38.1 million in federal grants
would have to be returned to the federal government. Most of Dohoney’s
presentation focused on the streetcar’s economic benefits, but opponents
say the budget gap proves the streetcar project is unsustainable and
its costs are too high.
The Cincinnati Enquirer identified the 17-year-old honors student at LaSalle High School who tried to commit suicide
in front of a classroom of 22 other students yesterday, even though parents asked press to provide privacy. The student remains
alive and in critical condition this morning. No other students were physically hurt, and classes are
resuming as normal. (Update: The student’s name was removed from this post upon the family’s request.)
The city is moving to sell Tower Place Mall for $1
to Brook Lane Holdings, an affiliate of JDL Warm Construction, so the
construction company can pour $5 million into the defunct mall and
convert it into a garage with street-level retail space. Financing the
project at Pogue’s Garage, which is across the street from Tower Place
Mall, is still being worked out now that the parking plan has been
delayed by court battles and a referendum effort.
Cincinnati’s police and firefighter unions are filing a lawsuit
over the city’s health care dependent audit. The city is asking employees
to verify whether spouses and children are legitimately eligible for
health care benefits by turning over documents such as marriage
licenses, birth certificates and tax returns. The unions’ attorney told WVXU
the unions are willing to provide the necessary documents, but he said
they’re concerned the process is too intrusive and difficult.
Two firms are getting tax credits
for creating jobs in the Greater Cincinnati area: 5Me, which creates
manufacturing software, and Festo Americas, which specializes in factory
and process automation. Altogether, the credits could create 312 jobs
in the region.
A Democratic state senator hinted yesterday at letting voters decide
whether Internet sweepstakes cafes should be allowed in Ohio. State
officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, claim
Internet cafes are hubs for criminal activity. The Ohio House already
passed a measure that would effectively ban the cafes, but some are
cautious of the ban as the Ohio Senate prepares to vote.
An intelligent headlight makes raindrops disappear.
Some people may prefer death to being saved by this terrifying robot snake.
by German Lopez
at 09:23 AM | Permalink
Anna Louise Inn rally today, casino revenue drops, Ohio's business climate improves
Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County
Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western &
Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court
again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to
grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to
take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its
stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below
market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to
slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly
force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot
for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and
Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of
$17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control
Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to
$12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more
Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation,
with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year,
according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The
improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce
quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013.
But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs,
considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree
Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.”
If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers
on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to
remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability
for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan
say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So
far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have
to rework the City Charter to restore the powers.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter.
Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three
kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet
sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade.
A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie.
News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak
at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States
are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act,
which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in
1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun
Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers.
A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.
by German Lopez
Parking hearing today, police chief may go, tea party planning against GOP
The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before
— except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move
forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining
before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins
July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite
legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting
period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the
wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum
efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its
parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.
It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit,
despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously,
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed
city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because
his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a
Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from
the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions,
according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here,
and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a
gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the
2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some
areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.
In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:News: “Think of the Children: Local leaders pledge to support efforts to put more low- and middle-income kids in preschools.”City Desk: “City Manager Defends Streetcar in Light of Budget Gap.”Commentary: “The Many Merits of Cycling Infrastructure.”
A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult
for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to
decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent
out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little
about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule
suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support
in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called
“right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union
laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective
bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be
linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have
limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5
was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order
of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.
Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.
Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.
Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.
3 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
To cyclists, it’s a given that Cincinnati
desperately needs more bike lanes. But recent research shows bike lanes
don’t just pose advantages for cyclists; they can also help local
economies and public health.