WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 05.13.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Streetcar, LGBT Issues at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

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 05.10.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Government, Redistricting at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

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 6:30 p.m. 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 05.09.2013
Posted In: Budget, News at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City Manager Unveils Budget Plan

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 budget release. 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 Commerce. 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 events. 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 parking plan. 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 1. 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 30 days. 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 05.09.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Sex, Environment at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_prostitution_jf003

Morning News and Stuff

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 Washington. 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.
 
 

Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Tactics

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.    

Ohio Republicans Could Limit Voting for Out-of-State Students

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 04.30.2013
Posted In: News, Gun Violence, Streetcar, Development at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

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 05.08.2013
at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anna louise inn

Morning News and Stuff

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 accurate. 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 homicides began. 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 05.06.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Police, Republicans at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

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 turnaround. 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 Republicans. 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.
 
 

The Many Merits of Cycling Infrastructure

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.   

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