1 Comment · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
As some council members discuss shutting down a permanent housing project in Avondale, a study finds the facility wouldn't damage the neighborhood.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
More than 36,000 Ohioans could lose out on emergency unemployment benefits this month if Congress doesn't act.
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Support for the uptown interchange project reveals the hypocrisy of streetcar opponents.
by German Lopez
122 days ago
Private backers support streetcar offer, city budget gap estimated, governor's race still close
More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities
support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) plan to
develop a private-public partnership to pay for the streetcar’s
operating costs, according to Eric Avner, vice president of the
philanthropic Haile Foundation. If the people cited by Avner put money behind their support, they could get streetcar operating costs off
the city’s books and pave the clearest path forward for the $132.8
million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took
office earlier this month. Although Cranley called SORTA’s offer
“woefully insufficient” earlier in the day, Councilman Kevin Flynn, one
of two swing votes on council, said the idea could turn into a viable option if the business and philanthropic community
provided more assurances.
Other streetcar news:• City Council will hold public hearings on the streetcar
today at 1:30 p.m., with a vote to decide the project’s fate expected
tomorrow.• Speaking about the streetcar project, Vice Mayor David Mann told The Business Courier, “I’m awfully close to saying let’s go for it.” • The Federal Transit Administration might prefer to deal with SORTA over Mayor Cranley if the streetcar is completed.
Cincinnati’s projected operating budget gap for fiscal
year 2015 is $16 million, which means City Council will need to find new
revenue or cuts to balance the budget by July. Although a majority of
council members promise to structurally balance the budget in the next
few years, a minority say it will be more difficult than most expect without hiking
taxes or cutting police and firefighters.The 2014 gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John
Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald is within the margin of
error, according to a poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling (PPP). “Although
there’s been a fair amount of movement toward Republicans nationally
since (November), the state of this particular race has seen very little
movement and Democrats continue to have an excellent chance at a pick
up next year,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of PPP.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune could challenge FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination.A task force could undertake a comprehensive review of the city charter to modernize the city’s guiding legal document.Startup incubator SoMoLend is likely to liquidate before
the scheduled Jan. 23 state hearing about alleged securities fraud. The
liquidation would be an effective end to a once-promising company that partnered with the city of Cincinnati to foster startups
and small businesses.
This year could be the least deadly on Ohio’s roadways, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.A bill in the Ohio House could require hospitals to report
the number of newborns addicted to drugs. The grim number would provide
a much-needed measure for tackling Ohio’s so-called opioid epidemic.
Ohio is doing a poor job fighting infectious diseases,
according to a report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital obtained a grant to combat brain cancer.
Two won the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.
Even the physics behind emperor penguin huddles are pretty complicated.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
123 days ago
Foundation lists more than a dozen business, philanthropic leaders in support
More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities
support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) offer to
develop a private-public partnership to fund the streetcar’s operating
costs, Eric Avner, vice president of the Haile Foundation, told CityBeat on Tuesday.If enough private contributors agree to finance the streetcar’s operating costs, they could address a major concern raised by streetcar opponents and provide the clearest path forward for the $132.8 million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took office early this month.
The Haile Foundation already contributed $1 million to an
operating reserve fund for the streetcar, but Avner cautions that his
organization’s donation is only the beginning, given all the other
entities interested in moving the streetcar forward.
Avner says 14 other business and philanthropic leaders supported the SORTA concept in person or through writing in time for SORTA’s board of
trustees meeting on Tuesday. Among other community leaders,
Avner cites Otto Budig, Cathy Crain of Cincinnati State, William Portman of the University of Cincinnati, Jeannie
Golliher of the Cincinnati Development Fund, Rick Greiwe of Greiwe
Development and Jack and Peg Wyant of Grandin Properties.
In a letter to SORTA, the Haile Foundation offers to
recruit and financially establish a commission of community leaders that
will work with the agency to create an operating and revenue plan
that will require no funds from the city of Cincinnati. The letter also promises to leverage the initial $1
million investment to secure additional contributors and build a fund
that would pay for a full year of operating costs.
Mayor John Cranley called SORTA’s offer “woefully
insufficient” in a press conference on Tuesday. Cranley said the city will need financial assurances far above the Haile
Foundation’s $1 million to cover $3.4-$4.5 million in annual operating costs for the streetcar over 30 years.
Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of two potential swing votes
on City Council, agreed with Cranley’s assessment, but he said the proposal could become a viable option if the city receives more
assurances from SORTA and private entities that show the groups are serious in their offer.At this point, private contributors might be necessary to
save the streetcar project. Cranley and Flynn said on Dec. 12 that
operating costs must be written off the city’s budget if the project is
to move forward.
SORTA already agreed to help operate the streetcar if the
project is completed, but its decision to take up the operating costs shows
an additional commitment to the project.
The agency claims bus services will not be impacted by its increased commitment to the streetcar.
City Council expects to vote on Thursday on whether to
restart the streetcar project. Council paused the project on
Dec. 4 while the city audits the project’s completion, cancellation and
Read the Haile Foundation’s full letter below:
by German Lopez
123 days ago
Mayor, council members argue offer falls short of demands
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) on
Tuesday indicated its willingness to pursue a public-private partnership
to cover the streetcar’s operating costs, estimated at $3.4-$4.5
million a year. The announcement could provide an avenue for business and philanthropic leaders to help fund streetcar operations through SORTA in an attempt to meet demands from the mayor and some council members.“SORTA’s willingness is based upon assurances from the
Cincinnati business and philanthropic communities that they will work
with SORTA in public-private partnership to secure the funds required to
cover the short and long-term operating costs of the streetcar to the
extent other sources of streetcar revenue, such as fares, advertising,
sponsorships, etc., are inadequate,” the agency said in a press
But in a press conference following the announcement, Mayor John Cranley called SORTA’s offer “woefully insufficient.” He argued SORTA’s assurances aren’t enough to pull streetcar operating costs completely off the city’s books. Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of two potential swing votes on City Council, agreed with Cranley’s assessment. But he cautioned the commitment could become a viable path forward for the streetcar project if SORTA provides more assurances in the next couple days, before a council vote on the streetcar.
SORTA’s commitment comes less than one week after Mayor John
Cranley said he’d allow the $132.8 million streetcar project to move
forward if private contributors agree to cover the streetcar’s
operating costs for 30 years. Flynn and Vice Mayor David Mann, the two swing votes on City Council, approved of Cranley’s proposed compromise.In support of the announcement, the Haile Foundation
also announced a $1 million commitment in seed money to spur further
contributions to an operating reserve fund for the streetcar.
“We are committed to seeing the streetcar through to
completion and beyond. SORTA has stepped up and is more than qualified
to serve in this role. This is another great example of community
collaboration helping move to region forward,” said Eric Avner, vice
president of the Haile Foundation, in a statement.
Avner told CityBeat on Dec. 12 that private-sector
leaders are working to meet the mayor’s demand with some financial assurances for the streetcar’s operating costs. SORTA’s announcement could act as that assurance.
If the streetcar project is completed, SORTA already agreed
to help operate the 3.6-mile loop in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But
the public-private partnership would increase the agency’s commitment to the
SORTA cautioned that bus service will not be affected in any way by the commitment.
It’s unclear whether SORTA’s assurances will be enough to
sway Cranley, Mann and Flynn. If Cranley threatens to veto a
continuation of the streetcar project, both Mann and Flynn would likely
need to vote in favor of the streetcar to overcome a veto and restart the project.
The streetcar project is currently on “pause” while KPMG,
an auditing firm, reviews completion, cancellation and operating costs.
City officials expect to receive the audit late Tuesday or early
Wednesday, with a council vote scheduled for Thursday.Updated at 3:23 p.m. with details from Mayor John Cranley’s press conference.
by German Lopez
123 days ago
Big week for streetcar, council OKs interchange funds, emergency jobless aid to expire
Major events for Cincinnati’s streetcar project this week:
Today, supporters will turn in petitions to get the issue on the
ballot; late today or early tomorrow, KPMG will turn in audit of the
project’s completion, cancellation and operating costs; tomorrow,
council will take public comment on the project at 1:30 p.m.; and on
Thursday, council will debate and make the final decision on the streetcar. Other streetcar news:• Mayor John Cranley is asking streetcar opponents to speak up during the public comments section of Wednesday’s council meeting.• Supporters collected more than 9,000 signatures
to get the streetcar project on the ballot. Nearly 6,000 signatures need to be
verified to allow a vote in the coming months.
City Council’s budget committee yesterday advanced funding
for the $106 million uptown interchange project at Martin Luther King
Drive and Interstate 71. The capital funding set by council will be
backed through property taxes, which, according to the city
administration, will prevent the city from reducing property taxes in
the future as originally planned. Still, proponents of the project,
including a unanimous body of council, say the project is worth the investment; the
University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center found in a May 2012 study
that the interchange will generate 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, $133
million in economic development during construction and another $750
million once the interchange opens.
Congress appears ready to pass a bipartisan budget deal
that will not extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed
through 2014, which could leave more than 36,000 unemployed Ohioans
behind in December and 128,600 Ohioans without aid through 2014. The
emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress to provide a
safety net for those worst affected by the Great Recession.
Conservatives, touting the $25.2 billion annual cost, say the economy
has improved enough to let the costly benefits expire, but liberals,
pointing to the high numbers of long-term unemployed, say the benefits
are still needed and would help keep the economy on a stable recovery.The Cincinnati area’s economy could overtake the Cleveland area in 2015.Six men were taken into custody after a SWAT team
responded to a home and engaged in a gun battle that left a
three-year-old critically injured.A Union Township trustee says he can’t believe Chris Finney would
hurt his credibility for a $850-a-year tax break to open a law firm in Clermont County.
As a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes,
Finney repeatedly spoke against tax breaks for businesses in the past.Medicaid expansion supporters announced yesterday that
they’re no longer pursuing a ballot initiative after actions from Gov.
John Kasich and the Ohio Controlling Board effectively enacted the
expansion, which taps into federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility
to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.The Kasich administration expects to hand out education
grants from the “Straight A” fund on Wednesday in an attempt to reward
innovation at the state’s schools. The grants will go to more than 150
of Ohio’s 614 school districts, according to state officials.Someone hacked The Cincinnati Enquirer’s online streetcar polls.
The Mega Millions jackpot hit $586 million yesterday.A new study finds “blind as a bat” isn’t blind at all.Watch giraffes clash in a surprising, epic one-on-one:Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
124 days ago
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
Congress will not extend emergency benefits through budget deal
Despite lingering signs of a weakened economy, a
bipartisan budget deal working through U.S. Congress will not
extend emergency benefits for the nation’s long-term unemployed past Dec. 28.
If the emergency benefits are allowed to expire, the cut
will hit more than 36,000 Ohioans in December and 128,600 through 2014,
according to left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio.Without the extension, Ohioans can tap into just 26 weeks of state-provided jobless aid. Federally funded emergency benefits give the unemployed another 37 weeks to find work before losing government assistance.
The emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress
to help Americans hit hardest by the Great Recession. The economy has
improved since then, but some question whether it’s improved enough.
“There are 4.1 million workers who have been unemployed
for more than six months, which is well over three times the number of
long-term unemployed in 2007, before the Great Recession began,” write
Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz of the left-leaning
Economic Policy Institute (EPI).Supporters claim the benefits boost the
economy by allowing the long-term unemployed to continue buying goods
and services that effectively support jobs. EPI estimates the benefits would sustain 310,000 nationwide jobs in 2014.
But at $25.2 billion a year, the emergency benefits come at
a hefty price tag for conservatives who are trying to rein in federal spending.
EPI claims the “sticker price” overestimates the net cost of the benefits.
“The 310,000 jobs created or saved by the economic
activity this spending generates will in turn generate greater federal
revenues from the taxes paid on the wages earned by those who otherwise
would not have jobs,” write Mishel and Shierholz. “They will also save
the government money on safety net spending related to unemployment (for
example, Medicaid and food stamps).”U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, last week joined 31 other Democratic senators in support of extending the benefits.“We must do everything we can to support those who are
still struggling following the worst economic crisis since the Great
Depression,” Brown said in a statement. “These are hardworking Americans
— many with children — who have fallen on tough times.”White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters
on Thursday the administration “absolutely expects” Congress to extend emergency benefits, but the extension could come after Congress reconvenes from a winter recess in January.
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bipartisan budget deal without an extension for the long-term unemployed. The Senate expects to take up the same budget bill sometime this week.
by German Lopez
124 days ago
Property taxes to remain at current rate as a result of project
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday
unanimously agreed to allocate $20 million in capital funding for the
$106 million interchange project at Martin Luther King Drive and
The funding will be backed through property taxes, which, according to the
city administration, will prevent the city from
lowering property taxes in the future as originally planned.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld argued the focus should be on the project’s economic potential, not its possible impact on property taxes.
“If the city stopped spending money and stopped investing
in things, indeed people’s taxes would go down, but I don’t think it’s a
very fair frame to think about making this very important investment,”
But Councilman Chris Seelbach said the public should know the full effects of the project.
“Believe me, I support this, and I support this through
the property tax, but I just don’t want us to be able to pass this
without saying what it is,” he said.
Council members said they support the interchange project because
of the positive economic impact it will have on the uptown area, which
includes the University of Cincinnati and surrounding hospitals.
According to a May 2012 study from the University of
Cincinnati’s Economics Center, the project will produce 5,900 to 7,300
permanent jobs. The same study found the economic impact of the project
will reach $133 million during construction and $750 million once the
interchange opens, which would lead to higher tax revenues.
The city is carrying roughly one-fifth of the cost for the
interchange project. The rest will be financed through the state and
Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.
by German Lopez
124 days ago
Feds won't extend streetcar deadline, streetcar closer to ballot, study backs housing projects
The Federal Transit Administration told Mayor John Cranley
and streetcar supporters that it won’t extend its Dec. 20 deadline for
federal grants funding roughly one-third of the $132.8 million street
project. Without the federal grants, the project would likely die
because local officials say they are not willing to make up the loss with local
funds. That means the city has until Friday to decide whether to
continue the project — a decision that could come down to City
Council’s swing votes, Kevin Flynn and David Mann, and whether private
contributors agree to pay for the streetcar’s annual operating costs over the next three
decades.Meanwhile, streetcar supporters say they have enough
signatures to get the streetcar on the ballot. But without the federal
funds, a public vote might not be enough to save the project since the charter amendment only calls for using funds allocated as of Nov. 30, 2013.
While some City Council members might vote to rescind
support for state tax credits going to a supportive housing project in
Avondale, a study commissioned by the group in charge of the project
found similar facilities in Columbus don’t harm neighborhoods in which
they’re located. The study, conducted by two independent groups, found
crime continued to increase in most areas surrounding five supportive
housing facilities, but the increases were roughly the same as or less
than demographically similar areas in Columbus. Researchers
were also told in numerous interviews with Columbus residents that the
facilities had a positive effect or no impact on the area. CityBeat covered the controversy surrounding the Avondale facility in greater detail here.Hamilton County’s shrinking government might sell off
several downtown buildings to accommodate the size reduction. The
buildings could be converted to condominiums or hotels to appease high
demand for downtown residential space.
Despite previously criticizing tax breaks for Cincinnati
businesses, Chris Finney of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending
and Taxes (COAST) will receive tax credits to open his own law firm in
Clermont County on Jan. 1. Addressing the so-called heroin epidemic is a top priority
for Ky. officials in 2014. Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky have
quadrupled since 1999, putting Kentucky’s numbers above every state
except West Virginia and New Mexico, according to a study released in
November.Some Ohio wildlife officers wrongfully
hunted deer while on the job, according to the state’s inspector
general.Ohio gas prices dropped in the last work week before Christmas.The Mega Millions jackpot could break last year’s record $656 million prize.A video game might help diabetics control their blood sugar by putting them through a genuine workout.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez